Wednesday, April 30, 2014

From The Draft Post File

I have been doing a lot of research on my father lately by tearing through old pictures and slides we have of growing up. Recently My Uncle Les passed away and I found a group shot and thought I recognized someone. 'Oh there's that picture" said my Mother. "That's Uncle Lester' when he was much younger. He and your father made wine together every winter." "Was he related to you or Dad?" I asked? "He belonged to us all. We sorta adopted him. That's what happens with people in the Army."

He was a Peacekeeper like my father was and was sent to Egypt at the same time that we lived in Germany. When Lester returned from Egypt he brought me books on all the treasures of the pyramids and taught me about mummification and how the Egyptian revered cats.

Later on he was posted to the base we lived near in Germany. On Saturday mornings he would show English language cartoons and sports programing at the Jr. ranks club to all us kids while running a pool, darts or shuffleboard tournament. He always coached a hockey team in the winter and a baseball team in the summer.

When I asked if he was married my Mother gave me a look and said that he was what they called in those days 'a confirmed bachelor'. A few months later some kids were talking about gays and fags and 'bachelors' and how they wouldn't want to be in a foxhole with one.

I had to find out what was so wrong about having an unmarried man taking cover with me in a hole in the ground. My Uncle Les always had bubble gum on him so frankly, in a pinch, he would have long been in my top three foxhole mates.

Wouldn't being shot be a much more enjoyable thing if you had some bubble gum?

I think of this many years later and how my father told me that the reason Lester is in so many of our family pictures is that he had no family of his own to speak of.

They had kicked him out of his home when he was 15 because he told them who he was inside. Together he and my father had joined the military by lying about their ages.

My father always felt it was sad that he lived in a time that, if given the choice and acceptance, Les couldn't have found someone to love him like we all deserve. My Father never felt fearful of leaving us with Les because he knew the only important lessons we learned from this gay man was humor, generosity and kindness.

As a child I spent many times in the company of a gay man who gave me military dolls as presents, taught me how to sing harmony and put together the most kick ass pirate costume any kid ever wore.

None of that made me gay. It just makes me grateful.


profsafety said...

He sounds likes like a true gent and a great man!

Wings1295 said...

Touching post, Cal. He sounds like a great guy and your dad was wise beyond his years.

Debra She Who Seeks said...

How common it used to be when all straight people thought they didn't know any gay people! And of course we are everywhere.

Timothy S. Brannan said...

That is a great story.

It's happy with a touch a pure tragedy (he could not be who was inside) but he had found a great place to belong.