Putting politics on hold

9 11 2011

Florida’s Democrats gathered inside Walt Disney World last weekend to plot a course for the 2012 elections. Twenty-one of us from Bay County were in attendance, including former mayors and state representatives.

‘Former’ being the key word.

It’s no secret the Republican Party has taken a dominating hold of the Sunshine State. The midterm elections gave the GOP a sweep of cabinet positions, the Governor’s Mansion and a ‘super’ majority in both the House and Senate. Simply put, these are tough times to be a Democrat in Florida.

And yet there is no place to go but up.

I was excited just to be getting out of town and to be surrounded by true believers. David and I shared a ride with Don and Fran, two wonderfully honest and caring men, whose conversation made the seven hour drive to Orlando go by effortlessly.

Don handled the driving and Fran, with his effervescent personality, was quick with the quips. As a gay interracial couple living in the Florida Panhandle, nobody had to tell these two about adversity.

We arrived at the convention just as Vice President Joe Biden was addressing the delegates who were fortunate enough to afford the $175 ticket for Friday night’s opening dinner. We would have to wait for the second hand reviews Saturday morning.

Vice President Joe Biden, Senator Bill Nelson and Jill Biden at the 2011 FDP Convention

Being my first convention the entire weekend seemed a tad overwhelming with more issues at play than glad handing politicians and overzealous activists. David was not in good health and frankly I was amazed he decided to make the trip.

The man who nursed me back to health — who has supported me through the toughest period of my life and stood by me when everyone else scattered, was now suffering and in pain.

His condition was never far from my mind and faced with this, I felt helpless in room after room full of power.

Earlier in the week, I had tried to talk David out of making the trip. He was battling a case of the shingles and it was not pretty. My vanity would have never allowed me to attend this convention in his condition, but David, as I have so fondly come to learn, is nothing like me. He’s an Aries and much like the domesticated symbol of the Democratic Party, he’s stubborn.

Much of the focus during the weekend centered around getting out the vote efforts in various communities. Outside the general assembly, there were a host of caucus meetings and parties designed to bring people together around one central theme. We tried to make as many as we could, but there would be no late night hotel room hopping.

On the drive home, David’s condition began to worsen. Don, ever the sympathetic driver, must have pulled off on the side of the road 20 times so David could run into the bushes in an attempt to relieve himself from the pain. His plight put a lot of the weekend in perspective for me.

Politics has consumed too much of my life. In seeking to make a better community, I have neglected my own household. No more.

As I prepare to go down a new road in my life and open a chapter of caregiving, it is time to put things aside that are out of my control. Politics can wait. My partner’s health and well being is of the utmost importance.

Your thoughts and prayers are much appreciated.





Retreating into the Heart

25 10 2011

The word ‘retreat’ has always bothered me.

I don’t like the whole concept, really, as it puts one into a defeatist attitude. Nevertheless, I went on a retreat this weekend — deep into the North Florida woods — where a group of gay men gathered to talk about their past, present and clouded future.

Baggage was brought and left and I am much more enlightened for the experience.

The group was assembled across generational lines. I wasn’t the youngest there, but not nearly the oldest. Some of the men were accompanied by their significant other, partner, lover or husband. Whatever term you prefer.

Others came alone and it showed.

We were assigned cabins and received three meals a day inside a mess hall style kitchen that reminded me of my summer camp days as a happy go lucky youth. I was so care free then, unaware of the issues awaiting in grownup life. Now those issues were staring me in the face.

Each day of the retreat featured a ‘heart circle’ in which the participants would gather under one roof and talk about whatever came to mind. Sometimes, the confessions carried tears.

As legend has it, men are supposed to be strong, especially men of the wilderness, but, true is, we are all granted a few tender moments. As I listened intently to each man tell his story, I searched for empathy and, at times, it was difficult.  The last few years have hardened my heart and I wonder if I have lost the ability to grieve. Or maybe, I have grieved too much. Is this what a doctor experiences?

Death and mortality, subjects of popular discussion during the weekend, and yet I came away from the retreat feeling more alive and empowered than ever.

On the final night, we were asked to gathered around a fire pit. A cold front had sweep into the Florida Panhandle over the weekend making conditions unusually chilly this time of year. Such made the fire pit an even more welcome venue.

The facilitator asked each of us to write down something that we wanted to give up on a notecard and throw it into the fire. David had passed me his note just after dinner. He would not make it to the fire that night, but both of our notes went up and flames and, God willingly, we are both free of weighty problems.

All in all, despite a somber feel, this weekend was a good experience inside a valuable support group. I learned a lot, but above all, I learned that gay men face many battles throughout life and because of that, a retreat, however difficult, is required.