Thursday, June 4, 2015

'This is not my beautiful wife'

My life is dated by the automobile I was driving when events occurred. The year was 1988, and I was driving my second Plymouth Valiant, the first one having been killed in a dramatic accident involving failing bridges and large trees but no injury to me. On U. S. Highway 64, in Jackson County, Tennessee, David Byrne spoke to me. It was not a large automobile, but neither was it my beautiful house nor my beautiful wife. It was time for a change. There was water underground. I had become a Methodist minister in a bizarre attempt to reconcile my guilt from a baptist boyhood and some livable religiosity. There had been a Episcopal period, but I was too offended by their pretenses; as a pretender myself, the cuts were too close to the bone.

I had just voted in the conference (Methodists will know what I mean, others can guess well enough) to condemn neither Oral Roberts for soliciting Methodists for funds, nor the Bishop of Colorado for ordaining 'practicing, self-professing, homosexuals'.  It seemed to me that the church has other business to do than condemning. The conference disagreed somewhat, blessing Mr. Roberts and condemning the Bishop. Neither self-profession nor practicing, I knew condemnation when it was all around me. And there were young folks in my parish whom I knew would feel the condemnation as well.

It was a messy few months. I took a leave of absence, and there was a special meeting of grand poopahs to say that there had been no charges of any kind against me,  that I had never made unseemly advances towards the [female] secretary. My wife said it couldn't be true, but if it were the only option was divorce. Silly me. I had thought our marriage of convenience might continue. After coming out to my family, I went back to one of the grand poopahs to tell him about the real reason for my absence. His response: 'We don't care about that, Dale, so long as you don't tell anyone. What you do in your private life is your own business."

So. Fat, forty-two, single again: what was I to do? My mother's pressure that I mate was still strong, apparently, because in very little time I was living with a man who were I one who mates for life would have been just about perfect. He was finishing up a master's degree, and after that, we headed to Santa Fe, a city I had loved from a few visits and to which he had never been. He thought Albuquerque was cool, so Santa Fe was a safe choice.  Oddly enough, Bellingham was our second choice.

It was 4 July, 1989, and Lin and I rolled into Santa Fe in a large Ford cargo van we called St. Antony of the Desert. We went to the roof of La Fonda for beers and sunset. Independence Day.

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