Grateful, too, for the echoes of holidays past

This Thanksgiving, I am especially grateful that my Dad is still alive, after these frightening roller-coaster few months.  Now, things are settling into a gradual, if at times still bumpy, decline.

Around our table, there were four people over 85, and all in need of home attendants (but only one, Dad (now into his 90s) has someone), 10 people near or over 50 (but younger than 60), and 2 around the age of 10.

I couldn’t help but wonder when and how all those hordes of young children, young-ish parents, grandparents and assorted aunts and uncles and great aunts and uncles of past Thanksgivings vanished, as if in a flash.

Where have all the others gone?  Long time passing.  Where have all our younger days gone?  Long time ago.

But our mothers, our grandparents, our aunts and uncles, great aunts and great uncles — and even the younger versions of us — were all with us at Thanksgiving, reminding us of the past, giving us perspective on the present and, maybe, a little hope for the future.

Happy Thanksgiving.



The day the questions started

SOS has this elective class in school in which the kids, guided by teachers, debate various subjects, ranging from what are effective recycling methods to whether adoption records should be sealed. 

Adoption.  Yes,  Our lives.  It had to come up.  I didn’t think it was going to be age 10.5.  And for a debating class, no less. 

SOS has always known that a sperm donor helped us have him.  There was never a time he didn’t know that.  He has also always known that POB is his biological mother, but somehow he always thought (however irrationally) that he was connected to me in some way that was in addition to nurture.  Until today.

So we brought out the old records.  Together, we read through the information we had on the donor — his medical history, his academic achievements, his personal statement about funny things that happened to him and his hopes and dreams for his own children.  POB described his voice.  

We showed SOS the petition for adoption and report by the social worker which was submitted to the Court, as required by law.  I didn’t tell SOS this, but the social worker interviewed me for 4.5 hours and made me cry.  She asked about my recently dead mother and other pressure points in my life.  At the end, she asked how would I deal with having a straight son.  I was so emotionally and mentally exhausted that I responded honestly, “It happens in the best of families.  And I understand attraction to women, so I would be totally good with it.”  The social worker was stunned and I thought, “oh, no, I have blown it now.”

Luckily, the social worker’s report was strongly in favor of the adoption.  The judge who originally contorted New York law to allow same-sex couple adoption was the judge who heard SOS’s petition and, as her last act before retiring, she so-ordered our joint adoption of SOS.  We told him that this was a big deal to have this judge approve his adoption.  He asked to feel the official seal on the certified copy of the order.

SOS told me earlier in the day, in anticipation of this afternoon’s discussion, that I am just as much his mom as POB.  I think he was scared and, yet, he was trying to protect me.  But new information can change things.

At the end of the discussion, SOS was concerned because he finally realized that it is “only” nurture that connects him and me and that 50% of him is the donor’s genes.  So we talked about the power of nurture, love and commitment.  I told him that before I adopted him, I could have walked away, without legal liability for his well-being.  But I took on that responsibility and I can never undo that.  I chose to be responsible for him.  That had some resonance, but I could hear the wheels of his brain turning about the donor’s genes.

“Dude, this is not the only conversation we are going to have about this.  You may need to seek out the donor.  It is ok.  I am ok.  You are my baby.  Ok?”

“Ok, [Blogger], I love you.”

“I love you, too, buddy.  More than you will ever know.”

And so ended the first episode of “The Questions”.

Fatigue Fatigue

Election fatigue.  Fiscal Cliff fatigue.  War fatigue.  War hero sex scandal fatigue.  Bomb Iran or not fatigue. Crazy politicians saying psycho things fatigue. Human-engineered natural disasters fatigue. Finger-pointing fatigue.  European debt crisis fatigue.  Stock market sinking fatigue.  Living in precarious economic times (controlled by others) fatigue.  Dealing with a failing parent fatigue.

Wow, I am tired.  If one or more of these things come to fruition, it (or they) will dwarf the others and can send our nation, our society and/or just me into a tailspin.

In fact, I was too tired to get all excited that President Obama was re-elected.  I was more relieved that the months of uncertainty were over.  And BOB, who lives in a Red State, wrote a poignant Facebook post just before the election that made me re-think any self righteous glee after the president’s re-election.  BOB wrote:

I don’t post, particularly about politics. Others do, for whatever reason. I am certain that whoever wins the election tomorrow, and his supporters, will continue to be reviled and mocked by those that did not vote for him. I do not care who my friends vote for and will respect the fact that they believe what they believe. I do not try to lobby them and I ignore any efforts to lobby me. The diversity we have is what makes us a unique place in the world and what makes no sense to one makes all the sense in the world to another. So, my hope is that on Wednesday morning we get back to (or start) respecting each other, doing good in our own way and not just complaining about what others are not doing the way we see fit, and working together instead of bullying and demeaning, recognizing that it is too late to take all of that money that was spent (read: wasted) campaigning on all levels to help feed hungry mouths here and elsewhere around the globe. And that’s all I have to say about that.

BOB is a good and smart man.

But Nate Silver ( is my new pin-up boy (ok, so many levels of complexity there).  Nate:  you have gotten far too many love letters from straight and gay men and women for a numbers geek.  I think Brad Pitt’s agent is trying to have the exact tally sealed.  It is a Hollywood thing.  And that guy with a girl’s name who is really popular now is soooooo not loving you right now.  Neither is Karl Rove and that is just fine with me.

But, I digress, comme d’habitude.

I am so tired of our national issues being treated like a really bad reality TV show that masquerades as news.

I am hungry for good news, for hope, for public service without political advantage.  I am hungry for good things happening to good people who work hard and do the right thing.  I am hungry for a commitment by those of us who have more to share with those who have less.  Not wealth redistribution; rather, compassion.

Good policy and hope come from searching, sometimes emotional, debates about our national values and our common future and how we best meet the challenges ahead.  It involves compromise and respect.  It is not a winner-take-all game.

Until then, the fatigue will slowly, but surely, become indifference or powerlessness.  And, assuming it spreads beyond just me to the greater populace, that will bring a good and mighty nation to its knees more surely than any war or any economic crisis could ever.

Getting Out the Vote

Yesterday, POB, SOS and I joined a group of well-heeled, mulit-cultural (I might add) Upper West Siders on a bus to West Philadelphia to get out the vote for Obama.

We arrived at an Obama field office.

We were given clipboards with lists of voters who hadn’t voted in 2010.  We had to knock on doors to make sure that these citizens knew that their vote was important, what they needed for proper ID (and that the Pennsylvania voter suppression law was struck down) and the location of their polling booths.

POB and I were given names on opposite side of the street.  SOS tagged along with one of us.  People were so welcoming and glad we were out in the cold making sure that they knew where to vote.  Many people weren’t at home; the people who answered the doors said they were at work.

West Philly is not exactly the cushy part of town.  It was working class until the Great Recession.  Now, parts are boarded up.

High unemployment.  Crime skyrocketing.  See the sign in the pizza place below.








When I was in there buying a pizza, someone came in with a hoodie, and the cashier said, “take off your hoodie, or I am calling the police.”  The management is serious about the hoodie thing.

It seemed (to my white, upper middle class, eye) that many needed a reminder that their vote counts.  Certainly, with all the attempts at voter suppression, a person could give up hope.  But, more than anyone else, their lives are literally on the line — the poverty line — depending on the outcome on Tuesday.

Some places were scary and creepy.  SOS was a little unnerved by these places.  Especially, a young boy who was outside with no one minding him.  (Yes, sweetie, I thought, please think about this when you re-enter your rarefied world.)

Among the three of us, we knocked on 120 doors and got some very enthusiastic responses (once they realized we weren’t canvassing for Romney).

POB, SOS and I talked about our adventure over dinner tonight.  I tried to make the point to SOS that his great-grandparents were the working (or sometimes not working) poor who lived and raised their children in tenements and then, later on, in nicer places.  But his grandparents had a great public school system and there were jobs for them when they graduated.  And that I am one generation removed from this neighborhood.  And Grandpa got mixed up with a gang before his brothers intervened (and then beat the crap out of him).

I don’t know if he understood the importance of what we did, as citizens of this country, and as a way to pay forward our family’s good fortune and opportunity by re-electing President Obama.  I believe this.  And I always will.