if I’d stayed in Wisconsin

If I’d stayed in Wisconsin and grown up as was expected of me I would be worried I might not have enough savings to retire past 80, and if there was any extra money, I’d take that trip my wife and I always talked about taking once the kids are on their own to Ft. Lauderdale in February, the most brutal month But I didn’t stay in Wisconsin and while I kept its common sense I got far away and ended up with everything a man needs to retire with two homes to an Audi. I also been blessed with a fine clever son and a bright college sophomore granddaughter.

I am 71 but not settling in with ice fishing in winter and mosquitoes the size of birds in the summer. I’m writing a novel for a publisher in my cozy writing studio and as of yesterday renovating a kitchen that was not designed by someone who cooked. My mind has not retired, and I don’t plan on letting it retire.

My past glows and I frequently visit memories as a weekend hippie camping on the Navarro River and in Desolation Wilderness with Clay Grillo one of the handsomest of men. I fondly remember watching my son Seth sketching away while I entertained friends at the flat I shared with Michael the most beautiful man in the world and my partner of eighteen years. I remember Michael’s birthday gifts of a night in a suite at the Mark Hopkins and riding the Orient Express from London to Venice and his love on the nights we slept naked under on the stars on the deck of his cabin I don’t remember the bad times: the years I worked in city hall for three mayors and Michael’s final days. The hundreds of friends who died of AIDS remain in memory but I’ve put the agonizing part of their lives in a separate chamber. I don’t feel I’m diminishing them in any way by doing that because when I do visit them I can open the chamber of sunny days and smiling faces and relive the
communal joy we shared. When events force me to open the painful chamber I see the gaping hole they left and weep for them.

My father said he wanted to die with his wife in a fall from a ski lift, but he outlived her by 20 years and died in his sleep after dining with his favorite person, his granddaughter. I would like to die in my sleep after writing something I was proud of. Death are the velvet drapes in the background of every day, and when they open I’ll accept it. I’ve accomplished more than I dreamed of as a kid, and while I did not make the cover of Time magazine as I hoped, honors on the walls of my office say I did something. As I kid I knew there was an exciting world outside my home town, and I was so right, and as a gay man I’ve enjoyed all of the drugs and sex in San Francisco, and as a volunteer made the world of gay men and lesbians a bit richer. Most important I’ve loved and been loved. What remains is falling in love again.

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