Saturday, May 07, 2016
A Normal Heart
Gary was one of my best friends. Our parents met at the YMCA back in the early 50s and would get together on a Sunday evening to play cards. Gary and Scott were my sister's and my ages, so we would play together. When it would be bedtime, my sister and I would be put to bed in the parents' room, soon to be carry-walked out to the car when it was time to go home. Dad would run the car long enough to warm it up.
As we grew older, Gary and I would hang out together. Gary could name the year and model of any car he saw. He was a personable multi-freckled carrot-top, outgoing and ready for adventure. When he got a car--a big boat of a Chevy--we would cruise around Los Angeles. We would cruise along Mulholland Drive along the Hollywood Hills. We'd cruise along Sunset Blvd. One of the most fun thing we would do is drive along the hills, passing the gated houses. When another car would come along, we'd turn into a driveway like we lived there. Yeah bet no one else thought of that one ;)
We supported one another like no one else has. For example, I went out with a friend of his in my senior year. When I wouldn't sleep with the guy, he spread a vicious rumor, telling Gary that I was pregnant. Gary immediately offered to marry me. It was the sweetest thing :)
When I got my first apartment, Gary was a constant visitor. We'd sit up--the 22 stairs--in my little place, waxing philosophy, playing records, protesting the war, and generally just being 18 year old kids. He worked at the Jack-in-a-Box on the corner of Arrow and Towne...or was it Garey...doesn't matter now because it isn't there anymore. At that time, there was no inside seating at Jack-in-the-Boxes; they were only drive-through. So I'd play carhop between the customer window and the car. There might have been maybe a foot space, but the hamburger-hungry would play along, even giving me a tip on occasion.
Gary was my elder son's godfather.
Gary was part of my family.
Gary came out to me when I was a senior, him a junior. This was in the late 60s, a time when being gay meant you were sick. His parents sent him to a psychiatrist in order to turn him around. He was just confused, right? Well-over a long year or two of therapy...a long year or two of medications...an unhappy young man who couldn't just be who he was. Ashamed and tortured, Gary took his life at age 19.
Some days I miss him as much as I did when he died in 1970. Something will trigger a memory, especially when I am down in Southern California, and there we would be, laughing at something ridiculously stupid. There we'd be, sitting in a little teen club, listening to the Turtles play their delightful music, or just having long deep discussions.
Gary wasn't sick, depraved, wicked. He was just a wonderful young man with a broad open face full of freckles and mischief, a young man with a normal heart, living, loving, being. I wish we could have just let him.