Tuesday, July 29, 2014

I Miss You, Danny

Yesterday would have been my brother Danny's 58th birthday, and how I wish he were here with us still. He died when he was 44 years old in a hospital room in Columbus, Ohio. I can picture it as if it were yesterday, all of his family gathered for a vigil. Up to the very end, he was flirting with the nurses. Laughing as long as he could. But then, things suddenly changed and he was gone within a few hours.

Danny had a gentle heart, a heart that I know would have been accepting of me as I came out - I'm sure he knew I was gay when I was a teenager - but a heart that, so, so tragically, longed for love and acceptance - something that eluded him all his life.

My Dad holding me as a newborn, with Danny (left) and my brother Mike looking on.

Danny in the bedroom I shared with him in our house in Salem, Illinois.  (Note my bed was made.) 

Danny and I were constant companions when we were very young.  He was the very personification of the term “mischievous”: he got me into all sorts of trouble and, like most brothers close in age, we quarreled – and even fought – quite a bit.

Yes, that's me on the bouncy horse.

In our back yard in Salem. I was wearing Dad's old Army helmet. Danny was improvising.

Danny (center), me (right) and my best childhood friend, Chuckie Horseman

As we got older, we sort of came to a fork in the boyhood road, and he turned one way with his group of friends, and I turned the other with my group of friends. That’s the way it is supposed to be, I guess.

Dad took Danny and me to Colorado in the spring of 1973 to pick up our sister Karen from school in Denver.

Danny and me with Grandma Broom around 1973 or so. She was approaching 90 then. He had that incredible blond hair and, damn him, blue eyes. I was just brown/brown.

Dan, though talented athletically, never did very well in school. Unfortunately, he received no end of grief from my mother about this as well as his “antics.” Truth be told, she was cruel to him, something I'm sure she later came to regret, whether in this world or wherever she is right now. As Dan got older, he started to get into more serious trouble, which involved alcohol and then drugs. 

He eventually married (above), but that didn’t last too long. He was an attractive man, and with his big blue eyes – what my fraternity brothers would have jokingly called “bedroom eyes” – and his long eyelashes that he could bat at just the right moments as required, he charmed many women.

Unfortunately, Dan always seemed to pick the wrong kind of girl. To use a common phrase, he looked for love in all the wrong places, inevitably getting hurt after he had been used time and time again. I could see what was happening: he was trying to fill a gigantic hole in his heart that had been created when he was just a boy. He turned to alcohol to fill the void; he turned to drugs; he turned to women and "friends" who took advantage of his giving nature then left him. His hole was never filled, and he died as the direct result of the way he had lived his life, still looking for the love that had eluded him all his life.

He loved my children, his nieces and nephews, and I loved that he was able at times to visit, both in Vancouver and once we moved to Utah.

Dan and me shortly before I left on my mission to France in 1984.
Three generations of Brooms - Dad, Dan and me and my son Adam, in 1990.

Dan with Hannah and Rachel

Danny with Adam, Sarah, Hannah and Rachel in the late 90's

At his funeral, a song was sung by my sister Karen that poignantly reflected the tragedy of Dan’s life.  The words to the song have for years both haunted and inspired me. Inevitably, they made me think of Dan.  The song: “The Rose,” by Bette Midler. Here are the lyrics:

Some say love, it is a river
that drowns the tender reed.
Some say love, it is a razor
that leaves your soul to bleed.
Some say love, it is a hunger,
an endless aching need.
I say love, it is a flower,
and you its only seed.

It's the heart afraid of breaking
that never learns to dance.
It's the dream afraid of waking
that never takes the chance.
It's the one who won't be taken,
who cannot seem to give,
and the soul afraid of dyin'
that never learns to live.

When the night has been too lonely
and the road has been to long,
and you think that love is only
for the lucky and the strong,
just remember in the winter
far beneath the bitter snows
lies the seed that with the sun's love
in the spring becomes the rose.

I'm sorry Dan missed so much of his life. I'm sorry he looked for love in the wrong places. I'm sorry that he wasn't here when I came out, just as Dad and Mom weren't. They all never knew the real me.

But as I think of Dan, I also think of my dad, who never turned his back on Danny. Despite many disappointments, those two shared a sort of love that I think all of us kids knew was somehow special. So I also pay tribute to my dad, a father who has taught - and continues to teach - me much even though he is gone.

This part of this post is for my family. In the closing months of his life, Dan wrote a couple of letters to Dad and Ruth that bring (many) tears to my eyes even now.

"You know," Dan wrote, "I have let you both down so much. Ruth, I want you to know you have been more of a mother to me than the one that brought me into this world. For that, I want to thank you. Dad, you're a father anyone would love to have, and I'm proud to call you my dad ...

"[Dad,] you know it bothers me how much I let you down because, all I tried to do, was to make you proud. Instead I've been a failure. All my life I have always tried to please other people and not myself and ended up helping takers. The end result is that it has cost you. You don't know how much it hurts me to realize what I've done to you and Ruth ... I hope you can forgive me."

Dan, I love you. I'm sure Dad forgives you. He loved you so much. I miss your smile and your love. I so wish you were here now. I wish you could have found the love I now experience. There is so much I'd like to share with you. Peace to you.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Precious Moments On the Oregon Coast

Mark and Hazel share a Pringles moment while Ajax looks on

On Tuesday, we were able to move to a bigger cottage with beautiful views of the ocean. It featured two bedrooms, plus an extra bed in the living room, along with a big kitchen and eating area. Again, Ester Lee quaint. I mean, when was the last time you saw an original glass block shower? And the tile? And dig the faucet above the kitchen sink.

After a late breakfast, we spent most of the afternoon and early evening on the beach. It was a little overcast, but we experienced breaks in the clouds. The wind was so relatively calm that Mark and Nathan weren't able to get the kite up. The next day, however, the day of our departure, it was raining like crazy. We were so, so lucky.

I just *might* have had something to do with Hazel chowing down on Pringles. Maybe.

Uncle Nathan and Hazel

Cary and Hazel

Hannah and I had more time to talk

Meanwhile, the "boys" and Hazel played Bocce ball. Close by ...

... and further away where the sand was firmer. Hazel commuted ...

 ... with her can of Pringles

Eventually, we headed back to the cottage for enchiladas and watching the sunset through the picture window in the living room.

It. Was. Amazing. Beautiful. Fun. Magical. What life is supposed to be like.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

To the Oregon Coast

Our party split up on Monday morning: Mark and I headed out to go for a ride in the Willamette Valley while Hannah, Cary, Hazel and Nathan set out later for downtown Portland and then on to the coast. The plan was to meet in Lincoln City late that afternoon.

We rode on a bike path / trail that day that had been recommended on an Oregon cycling website. It was pretty ... but we were enveloped in towering trees most of the time, and that did get a little old after a while. Nevertheless, we got in about 43 miles. 

We have a goal of cycling 1000 miles in July. Mark will probably reach that goal before we head west again later this week to ride in the Marin County Century, but I'll need that 100 miles to reach my goal. Why are we doing this? Because we are headed to France in three (!) weeks for a three-week cycling trip. The first week will be spent on our own in the area of Bourg d'Oisans in the French Alps (see, e.g., here and here), then we will be joining a two-week organized cycling tour from Geneva to Nice. Thus the heavy training all summer. (There are a numbered of archived posts from September 2012 [see bottom right of blog page] about a similar trip we took that year.)

Wheat field in the Willamette Valley

Our destination that afternoon was the Ester Lee Hotel and Cottages, a place Mark and I had stumbled upon in September 2011. We were captivated by this quaint, "retro" place that is on a bluff overlooking the ocean. The beach is just a short walk down a (very steep) hill.

Mark standing in the doorway of our cottage in September 2011. I could never have imagined at that time that we would one day return with my son, my daughter, my son-in-law and my granddaughter.

One of our favorite pictures of us, taken by a couple of lesbians on the beach who were both from
- you guessed it - Utah (Salt Lake and Tooele as I recall)

When we arrived, Hannah, Cary, Hazel and Nathan were settled in their cottage "suite." It had a patio outside that we enjoyed sitting out on that evening. Mark and I got a room in the hotel next door because we had not been able to reserve a place big enough for all of us that night. (We would all move the next day into a bigger, nicer cottage.)

Old postcard showing the patio suites. The Stewart Suite was where the two blue lounge chair are in the foreground.

After getting settled in, Mark and Nathan enjoyed a walk along the beach with the dogs while Hannah and I sat and chatted on the patio outside their room. Below are some pictures that Nathan and Mark took while out for their walk. As is obvious from these photos, we continued to enjoy amazingly good weather while on the coast.

The view of the Esther Lee from the beach

Hannah and Hazel ready to watch the sunset

We had lasagna from Safeway in the Stewart Suite that evening, then sat outside to watch the sunset. It was glorious ...

and magical.