Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Feathering Of The Empty Nest

I've known men who have dedicated their lives to cock. I've known others who have inadvertently serviced alcohol for most of their adult lives. Others plan their week around their perpetual search for love without ever reaching into the pockets of their souls where they'd find the note explaining why they'll never get it. Hamsters on a wheel, rats in a maze, stevedores on the clock, we all have our predisposed distractions that, unnoticed, chew up our lives. The problem with death is that there is no preview, no rolling of the credits before the final frame. We get arrested by death with no reading of the Miranda rights and no attorney to present the justification for how we spent our days. We fuss with our hair, oblivious to the percentage of our lives devoted to the maintenance of this excretion.
On Tuesday, I did get a preview of a show about priorities and choices, and these thoughts came to mind as I chatted with Soledad O'Brien of CNN, Jarrett Barrios President of GLAAD and two gay men, Gary Spino and Tony Brown, who spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to become the parents of a boy with the help of an egg donor and a surrogate mother. Soledad, Jarrett, Gary and Tony are all raising children - without sacrificing great hair. (The show Gary + Tony Have A Baby, reported by Soledad O'Brien in CNN's In America series will air June 24 at 8PM ET/PT. I highly recommend it.)

I began to wonder if there is not a nest being feathered somewhere in the heart of every queer. If not for children, for what?

Today I ran three miles in Central Park finding my usual route interrupted by the barricaded flow of thousands of energetic folks involved in a race sponsored by a bank founded many years ago by the venerable American financier J.P. Morgan. They were running in a direction opposite mine with IDs pinned to their chests and hoping for respectable finishes for some good cause. They were tiring themselves for a reason perhaps admirable. The women jostled hopeful eggs, the men bounced eager sperm and from heaven, the prosperous J.P. Morgan blessed their efforts.

Exiting the park, I passed a corner bodega where I inhaled the scent of banks of flowers in buckets on the sidewalk and I was reminded of the recent wake of the father of a close friend. He died in his 80s having raised a family and bested the drinking that had almost destroyed them. The white flowers I ordered to accompany his coffin paled in comparison.  Suffocating is the thought of mortality before accomplishment. Dreadful, like the scent of carnations, is the possibility that you'll take a path into lifelong rambles.

I ran past a prestigious address, the Prasada, on Central Park West, where I dodged film star Antonio Banderas as he exited a cab and greeted the deferential doorman who ushered him into the emblem of his success. He'll sleep on an upper floor with a view of the park and all its fervent running, half way between me and J.P.

I ran down a side street where I passed a beige leather sofa and a heap of personal oddities put out for the trash collectors. Perhaps this was the detritus of someone who had died. I imagined the relatives fussing over the trappings of a life whose resolution saddled them. I could almost hear their murmuring voices deciding what of the man's life had worth and what was simply garbage. Did they even run their hands beneath the cushions of that sofa to extract what change may have slipped in? Or were they in too much of a hurry to erase him?

Some of me will eventually end up on the sidewalk. Some of all of us will eventually end up on a sidewalk.

A few days ago, my husband and I saw a potted plant on the sidewalk outside our building. A paperclip held a note to one of its thick deep green straps. "I am an orchid. Pretty! Please adopt me." We deferred our coffee gratification for the few minutes it took to return inside, wait for the elevator and place our adoptee on a window ledge. Its flower stalk had been clipped so we don't know what color or shape its blooms will take. I wondered if it might have roaches hidden in the mulch. Will we regret adding it to our plant family?  Not so different a speculation from what Gary and Tony express as they select an egg donor and a surrogate.

I am a childless wordsmith. Although running out into the night in Manhattan may make me wonder about my personal race and my personal best, I have no regrets. My route is clear and filled with things I scoop up from the path. I wonder if eventually overburdened with what in love you've picked up in life, you eventually stop running. We'll see.


Aaron said...

I feel sad when I encounter gay men without children. They are permanently left out.

Beau RN said...

Beautifully introspective and so much bigger and relevant to us all. Typical and the reason I keep coming back to Perge Modo.

Also, I love that the depth and impact of this blog starts with the line, "I've known men who have dedicated their lives to cock." So not where I thought you were leading us.

Tony Adams said...

Dear Vieux Beau,
A blog post without cock in the first sentence is like a day without sunshine. Besides, I am aware of the cockcentricity of this extended family and must deliver the healthy doses.

John David Sturgill said...

Thank you, new blog I will now follow.

Tony Adams said...

Dear John David Sturgill,

tornwordo said...

Ahh, when I read pieces like this, it reminds me of the insomniatic nights I spent poring over your past ramblings. I still say you've got a best seller in you.

Tony Adams said...

Dear Torn,
I'm back, after taking a bit of a detour for practical purposes. I'm glad you are still here.

Anonymous said...

I have never had any desire to have children.
Ever! Isn't that why we are "GAY"
not to have children and be free?
Aaron, why are you sad for us that don't have children?
We gay men without children are not permanently left out. We are much happier without the burden and expenses of children.

TED said...

Some people are happier with children, and some are not. There are plenty of mixed-gender couples who choose not to have children. People who don't want kids should -- please! -- not have any, but men aren't gay because they don't want to have kids: they're gay because they want cock.

RawForReal said...

Dear Fr. Tony,
I think this is one of the most outstanding blogposts you've ever written. Perhaps that's because I'm in an emotionally vulnerable stage right now (yet again). Perhaps it reminds me of what could have happened in my life had I taken the time to notice it and maybe tried to have made it happen... That's water under the bridge.
Dear Anonymous,
Some day you'll grow older. After that, you'll start to feel older. After that, you'll comprehend the significance of the lack of having children. Welcome to my life.

Sebastian said...

"Dreadful, like the scent of carnations, is the possibility that you'll take a path into lifelong rambles." That is an exquisite sentence. So many of us, driven by the hormones of youth, began to see our meaning in the meetings in the Rambles, and the bars, and the piers and trucks, and other places of dalliance. We didn't know or care to know that it could stunt our growth. Stunt us spiritually and psychically if we survive, kill us if in those days we picked up the wrong guy, or the wrong virus.

With age wisdom may come. Life is to be lived by making an investment in something worth the investment. Investing in things is rarely worthwhile. Investing in a noble cause is sometimes worthwhile. Investing in people is always worthwhile, even if the particular persons prove themselves unworthy. And children are one way - maybe the main way - we invest in people, in the future.

Curving inward by investing in our own self, rarely pays off. Chasing our own pleasure directly is most often a recipe for unhappiness. Giving ourselves to someone, or maybe to something, is what pays the dividends, and when the curtain of death shrouds us, is the measure of our lives.

Patrick said...

My brother's death a year ago reminded me to pay attention to where my focus goes. He was the baby, only 41, not the one who was supposed to go first, but looking at his completed life, short as it was, we were all struck by the lessons he left us. People and relationships come first. Love is the only thing that matters, it's the only legacy worth leaving behind. And putting it off until one's life is 'in order' whatever that means, is risky. Silly even.
Thanks for putting that in another context, Tony.

Java said...

I like the smell of carnations.

There are many ways to have children, just as there are many ways to have families. I have biological children, legally adopted children, and children of choice. Children of choice don't necessarily have to be young, either. As Patrick indicated, it's our relationships with others that make a difference in this world.

Children are a crap shoot. They all look so sweet and innocent as babies, but there is no guarantee that they'll turn out OK, no matter how close to perfect the parenting is. Does this sound like the voice of experience? yep.


"I feel sad when I encounter gay men without children. They are permanently left out."

I would think that someone with so lacking in empathy would be moderated out.
So the new paradigm is the cock-centric life or children? No thanks.
Poor, poor Aaron. He feels sad.
Time to move on.

Tony Adams said...


I know Aaron well enough to know that his ironic humor was at play in that comment.


@Father Tony:
Aaron's humor wasn't carried very well in two lines.
Whatever entrepreneurial spirit we may have had is hardly discernible at all four decades into the epidemic. What does it matter? The survivors get to write history.

Tony Adams said...

Dear BILL,
I agree with your assessment of Aaron's line. He is always cryptic. I am convinced that no good can come of leaving comments after 7PM and over red wine.