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A most excellent man

We’d gathered at a friend’s place for gaming, and we were reminded not to turn on a particular light switch because the fixture needed replacing. My husband, Michael, pointed at it and said something along the lines of, “Is there a hardware store nearby?”

“We were going to get someone to come in and—” the friend began.

Michael had already pulled a multitool from his pocket and was checking the wires. “Naw, this will take me a couple minutes, tops.”

Michael and the friend walked to a nearby store while the rest of us set up food and reviewed what happened the previous gaming session. When they got back, Michael set to work.

One of the other friends there looked at me and said, “You’re married to MacGuyver!”

Before I could answer, another one of the friends there said, “You’re just now figuring that out?”

Fixing some badly mangled wires and installing a new fixture is not a super complicated task, obviously (though the number different kinds of things my husband can repair, refurbish, or build is a quite impressive). No, the extraordinary thing is how blithely and eagerly he jumps into such tasks, and the fact that he’s always got a number of tools, spare parts, et al handy.

Sometimes I think he physically feels pain when he sees a machine not functioning correctly. He certainly empathizes strongly with people who are struggling with a device that isn’t working properly. I’m constantly finding computers, phones, or other gadgets stashed around the house in various states of repair he’s got in process. When I ask, about half the time he says, “so-and-so needs a better computer/phone/iPod so I’m trying to get them something newer and more reliable.”

When he doesn’t have someone specifically in mind for a device, he says, “I figured if I get it fixed, I’ll start checking around to see if someone could benefit from the upgrade.”

And those are just a few of his more obvious sterling character traits. I’ve written a few times before about what an incredibly sweet, kind, smart, talented, knowledgeable, skilled, patient, and funny person my husband is. And I am hardly the only person who thinks he’s awesome.

I hope you have a happy birthday, Michael. You’ve more than earned it!

I remember…

Gene and Michael standing in a living room.

Picture taken at my Aunt Silly’s house circa 1999.

I don’t remember the exact moment I fell in love with Michael.

I remember meeting him, at the Northwest Science Fiction Convention, in 1996. I remember meeting him at a room party I was co-hosting. He tells me we actually met the day before, at a panel discussion. I do remember discussing the cute, shy guy from Missouri with Ray after the party. I remember meeting him again, a year later, at NorWesCon. I remember him showing up for a Red Dwarf Marathon Party Ray and I hosted a couple months later, and because by the time the party ended there were no more buses going back to Tacoma, he crashed at our place and we drove him home the next day. By that point, he and Ray had bonded like they had known each other for years. So we started seeing him a lot more often.

When Ray died suddenly (only days after the doctors had given a cautiously optimistic report on how the second round of chemo had gone), Michael was one of many friends who kept me from falling completely to pieces in the aftermath… Read More…

Get them to the church on time

AlaMarriageThe New Yorker calls it “The Moment for Marriage in Alabama,” while the Religion News Service says, “[the] Handwriting [is] on the wall for gay marriage.”

And they’re both right, at least in the big picture sense. Though we must remember the proverbial warning about counting chicks before they’re hatched. It is clear which way the arc of history is going, but Alabama shows us yet another example of how smooth sailing isn’t in the immediate future—even though In 17 Words, Justice Clarence Thomas All But Declared Marriage Equality Inevitable.

Lots of people have drawn a parallel between the Alabama Chief Justice’s declaration that state officials don’t have to follow the federal court orders about marriage equality to George Wallace’s refusal to let schools integrate racially back in the 1950s. Enough people have drawn that parallel that now op-Ed prices are being written to claim that it isn’t merely “Alabama being Alabama.” According to those pundits, this is somehow not merely prejudice but a manifestation of a deeper-seeded conflict between local and state control versus federal control.

The only way you can make such a ridiculous argument is to be completely ignorant of the history of the struggle for racial equality. Because the argument that it wasn’t prejudice but rather a states’ right claim is exactly what Governor Wallace and the other opponents of segregation and the civil rights movement claimed at the time.

Alabama isn’t the only state where officials are fighting tooth-and-nail against equality for gay people, so in that sense it isn’t just Alabama being Alabama—but it is most definitely bigots being bigoted. If the opponents of LGBT rights were merely (and really) concerned with local control, they wouldn’t (at the same time as they’re making these states’ rights arguments) also be passing state laws to overturn individual cities’ gay rights ordinances.

So, the haters are gonna hate. They’re going to lie and defy. They’ll impede and interfere. But in the end they’re going to lose. Justice will triumph. Equality with reign. Love will prevail.

So, get those lesbian and gay couples to a church, chapel, or courthouse, and let love win the day! And then, let’s dance!

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here!)

Four Childhood Crushes

Clockwise from upper left: Race Bannon, James West, Mowgli, Major Don West.

Clockwise from upper left: Race Bannon, James West, Major Don West, Mowgli.

Last week lots of people were sharing lists and sets of pictures of their childhood crushes with the hashtag #4childhoodcrushes. I was thinking this might be too late for me to come to the party, except that when I did a google search on it, I found a big cluster around the tag dated in 2010. One thing that was a bit disconcerting was how many of the people I follow on social media were posting pictures of TV and movie characters that didn’t come into existence until I was in my 20s or later. Clearly I’m the old, old man of several online social circles. Read More…

Two years ago today…

Feeding each other at the wedding.The sweetest, sexiest, most capable man I know said “I do” with me…

Trying to maintain

Ray unpacking after we moved into our second apartment.

Ray unpacking after we moved into our second apartment.

If Ray had lived, today would be his fiftieth birthday. Unfortunately, Ray died when he was 33. I try to maintain a good perspective on it. A bit more than three years before, the doctors had said he had maybe 6 months to 2 years to live. He’d beaten their expectations. It hadn’t been pleasant for him. There had been surgery, chemotherapy, and various side effects of various drugs.

When we’d met, he’d been this tall, thin (skinny, really) grinning goofball with a mop of curly hair usually dyed in multiple colors. As his illness had destroyed his lung tissue and caused painful lesions to erupt on his bones, making movement ever more difficult and painful, he’d gained weight and lost all that manic energy. The chemo didn’t make all of his hair fall out, but it got very, very thin, and he hated how it looked. The pain had slaved his sleep schedule to his pain pills. During that last year he would take his pain pills, wait for them to kick in enough to let him sleep for a couple of hours, then wake up and try to occupy himself for about four hours until he could take his next dose, sleep for two more hours, wake up and wait, et cetera.

Read More…

He’s my guy, and I love him

Copyright © 2014 Gene Breshears

Michael posing with his Easter basket.

When I first met Michael, I was part of a small group hosting a room party at NorWesCon. He came into the room, gave me a big infectious smile, and said, “Hi! I’m Michael.” Even though more than half the people in our fannish project are introverts, he was a lot quieter than everyone else in the room, coming off as very shy. He had very recently moved to Washington state from Missouri. He didn’t know many people at the convention.

I have to be honest, here, and say it wasn’t love at first sight. He seemed like a really nice guy. I thought he was really good looking, that’s true. My late husband, Ray, was still alive then, and Ray commented (later, when we were cleaning up after the party) that “the new guy, the super shy one from Missouri? He’s cute. Too bad he’s straight.”

Because Michael had mentioned his girlfriend when he was introducing himself.

I didn’t see him again until the next NorWesCon. We here hosting a room party again. For whatever reason, that year the room party (our room parties were always more like a writers’ group or artists’ jam than a party—for one thing, we didn’t serve alcohol) was more crowded and busy. And the shy guy from Missouri showed up again… except he didn’t come off as shy that year. He’d grown his hair out, he was much more outgoing. And he managed to mention the fact that he worked as a bartender at a gay bar a couple times.

But the first thing he said to me when coming into the room was once again, “Hi! I’m Michael.”

A couple months later, a new season of the British science fiction comedy, Red Dwarf, premiered in the U.S. with marathons on PBS stations. Ray and I hosted a watching party, which we had announced on a couple of fannish e-mail lists. And once again, when I opened the door, I got that irresistible smile and he said, “Hi! I don’t know if you remember me. I’m Michael.”

That was the last time he introduced himself to me. He hung out at the party (which got pretty crowded), and since he’d taken a bus up to Seattle from Tacoma, and the party went a bit longer than he had anticipated, he wound up crashing on our couch. By the next day he and Ray had bonded as if they had been friends for years. We gave him a ride back to Tacoma after we found out how long the bus ride would be.

He and Ray started corresponding online after that. So several weeks later, on a Friday night when Ray picked me up after work because we were going to go out, Ray said, “I think we should drive to Tacoma and surprise Michael at work.” We had a great time hanging out and meeting the regulars at the small lesbian bar where Michael was a bartender.

It got to be a fairly regular thing, where Michael would take the bus to Seattle on a day off (which were usually in the middle of the week) and meet up with Ray, or we’d go to Tacoma to meet up with Michael. Ray had had his first round of chemotherapy by then, and was no longer working. I was grateful that someone was available to hang out with Ray at least some of the times when I was at work.

He was a great friend.

And then, not long after the second round of chemotherapy (the first one had appeared to help a lot, but it hadn’t gotten everything), Ray had a seizure in the middle of the night and fell into a coma. Michael wasn’t able to make it to Seattle before Ray died.

Michael was one of a rather vast group of people who helped me deal with the aftermath of Ray’s death.

I have another confession to make. I don’t remember when I fell in love with Michael. There’s a lot during that first few months after Ray died that is very fuzzy and confused for me. I remember Michael meeting me a couple of days before Christmas to give me a Christmas present and to tell me he hoped I managed to have a good holiday at my mom’s, even though I wasn’t in a holiday mood at all that year. One of my favorite pictures of Michael was taken that holiday season in my living room, next to the Christmas tree that I almost didn’t even put up (except I had a frantic moment where I became convinced that Ray would be upset at me if I didn’t put up at least a little bit of Christmas; which was followed by a bigger panic when I thought about digging into all our Christmas stuff in the basement because I knew I would start crying and never stop, so I bought new decorations that didn’t have any memories with Ray attached to them). I don’t remember that visit at all. For various reasons, I know I didn’t take the picture that time he came up just before Christmas, but I don’t recall the visit where I took his picture.

Somewhere during all that upheaval, I realized I had fallen for him. We had one awkward week where I thought that maybe he was spending so much time with me because he felt obligated because I was grieving, so I tried extra hard not to do anything that might be considered flirty or otherwise showing that kind of interest in him. And he took my sudden emotional reticence as a signal, and he worried that the earlier signs of interest had actually been because he was taking advantage of me when I was in a fragile state. So he tried extra hard just be be a friend and nothing more. Which I interpreted as a sign that he really was not at all interested. And so on, and so on. It was like the middle act of a romantic comedy for a bit there.

But eventually I asked him out on a date. And he said, “yes.”

It was soon enough after Ray’s death that I was more than a bit nervous about how some of my other friends would react to the news that I was dating someone already. I was incredible relieved when I told Kristin, and her reaction was to grin, make a little victory motion with her hands and say, “I hoped something like that was happening! He lights up whenever you come into the room!”

Sometime long after that, he overheard me explaining to someone why I never called him Mike. “Because every time he introduced himself to me, he said, ‘Hi! I’m Michael.'” He interrupted to say that wasn’t true. So the next several times I heard him answer the phone with, “Hello, this is Michael” or saw him introduce himself to someone at writers’ night or a convention committee meeting by saying, “I’m Michael” I would catch his eye and mouth silently, “Hi, I’m Michael.”

A lot has happened since first meeting him at a science fiction convention in 1996. I could go on and on with stories about what a wonderful man he is. I know that over that time, to the extent that I have become a better person, it’s because of Michael. He’s wonderful, smart, capable, kind, unselfish, funny, and constantly helping people. He laughs easily, and he always finds ways to make other people laugh or feel better. I often suspect that most of our friends only put up with me because my weird opinions and annoying quirks are a small price to pay compared to how awesome Michael is.

And I’m okay with that, because he is so darn awesome. And I’m not just saying it because it’s his birthday.

I have one more confession to make. When I started writing this post, I titled it, “He’s my guy.” But that isn’t true. I could never “have” a man as incredibly talented, sexy, warm, loving, kind, smart, giving, compassionate, practical, unwaveringly cheerful even when he’s being cynical, unselfish, funny, charitable, or just plain incredible as Michael.

He’s not mine. I’m his.

Happy Birthday, Michael. You deserve to have the happiest and most wonderful day all of the time, but especially today.

What’s the big deal about Valentine’s Day?

Together forever.

We’ve never made a super big deal out of Valentines Day. I think we’ve both had more fun, the last couple of years, meeting up with friends to celebrate Jared’s birthday, instead of doing the Valentine’s thing. Nor have we ever been really over the top on any of our anniversaries. In fact, both of us frequently forget them altogether. It could be argued that it’s because we have too many. One reason we have so many is because for the longest time, we couldn’t agree on what constituted our anniversary, since we weren’t able to legally marry until very recently. I favored February 7, as the anniversary of our first date. Michael leaned toward Easter, because we first met (nearly three years before that first date) at the NorthWest Science Fiction Convention on an Easter weekend. There was also a strong argument to be made for the date we signed and notarized the domestic partnership papers and had a party with friends, of course.

Now that we are finally legally hitched (and given what a struggle it has been to get it legal here), shouldn’t our wedding anniversary be the one we observe?

Or course, it’s impossible to forget about Valentine’s Day. I know this because I have been told many, many, many times by various people how the way our society deals with Valentine’s Day amounts to oppression or even abuse of people who are not in a relationship… Read More…

In the end…

I had something else planned for today, but between being sick (again? still? I have no idea), and long hours, I’m going to leave it to others:

To truly master the Way
we must pass through all life’s hellish cycles;
at last, we reach the higher heights.
Only three things necessary for paradise after all:
endurance, alertness,
and a righteous heart.

from The Book of the Heart by Loy Ching-Yuen

Love is in the bear

A kitty and his teddy bear.

I’ve written before about some of the disasters in my early attempts at dating. In some ways those disasters seemed worse than usual because most of them happened in my late twenties and early thirties. I didn’t date much in high school, and what dating I did do was with the gender I wasn’t actually attracted to, and while some things about navigating relationships are universal, there is a big difference between the awkwardness of trying to learn how to make things click with someone you’re attracted to, rather than the awkwardness of trying to make yourself feel desire for someone when there wasn’t any underlying physical attraction at all.

For a while I thought things were going so badly simply because I was playing catch-up. Other people had made these kinds of mistakes as teenagers, whereas I hadn’t. Other times I wondered if maybe the cliches about most gay men not wanting commitment had a grain or more of truth (this despite the fact that I was also hanging out with gay couples who had been together for many years). I wondered if I’d just had bad luck and kept meeting guys who only wanted a fling.

And then, eventually, I had to admit the truth: that the only thing all the failed relationships had in common was me, and I needed to figure out what I was doing wrong… Read More…

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