Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Everyone's Gone to the Moon (Jonathan King)

My parents were kids of the 1960s. It was when space exploration began. It was when Neil Armstrong first set foot on the moon. Years later, in his work as a lawyer my father would meet John Glenn. Actually, it was Senator Glenn. Like everyone else in the whole world it seemed he was friends with my Uncle Mack. Well, he wasn't really my uncle but he was a near and dear friend of my dad's we called Uncle Mack.

 Uncle Mack lived with his common law wife Felicia, who invented earrings. The earrings she invented were designs that covered one's whole ears. Ballroom dancers and women of that variety typically sported my aunt's creations. Felicia had a son who was gay. Her explanation for this was that when he was sixteen years old, he was abducted by aliens. It had all begun in a supermarket parking lot. He had gone to return the cart to it's rightful place and disappeared. Her son Donny turned up six months later. Apparently Donny was wandering the street with his head shaved speaking in tongues. The once proud cassanova was now after men. He came out to his parents and they were shocked. The father disowned him. Felicia shrugged and blamed it on the UFOs.

Donny and Felicia became notorious on the party circuit. Felicia would tell the story about the UFO abduction, and Donny would show off the scars in the back of his head where he claimed they put on brain plugs. Felicia would say this was the exact moment Donny became gay. Donny would talk about how a huge alien came up to him and this is where it happened. Conversion Therapy was a constant course of action but always failing. My father's theory was that Donny wasn't abducted by aliens. Instead he was just doing a lot of drugs as a result of being raised by his mother. This is why he went along with the alien story so willingly.

When my dad would talk about Felicia, he would grimace. He put up with her because he loved my Uncle Mack like the surrogate father he never had. Uncle Mack would respond by changing the subject to an exciting story about his days as a Teamster, like the time he dodged a car bomb Jimmy Hoffa planted in his car. Everyone would be entranced and the conversation would not be so strange.

Once my sister Skipper made the mistake of asking what planet the aliens were from. She was seven and didn't realize Felicia was cukoo for coca puffs. My brother Wendell elbowed her and that was the end of that. It was an excellent question, so excellent that I think it's better even to this day that the answer remains a mystery.

Felicia went so far as to take this theory to my Pop Pop. Yes, my dearly departed grandfather. He was a Navy Vet from World War II that served in the Pacific Theatre. After the war, he married my Nunni and served as a swim coach for his six children and meet ref. A mild mannered guy who loved to laugh, my grandfather was generally easy going and accepted everyone. Felicia found herself speaking to my Pop Pop. She got to the place in the story where her son got abducted by aliens and turned gay. My Pop Pop had enough and walked away. He said to my mother, "What is wrong with that woman? On second thought I don't want to know. Keep her away from me."

"Oh you mean Felicia. She's crazy." My mom replied apologetically. She and my Pop Pop were quite close.

My Pop Pop just took a breath and said to my mom, "Annie, she says her son got abducted by aliens."

"I know." My mom said.

Pop Pop then told her, "She says that's why he's gay."

"I know Dad. I know." My mom repeated. She had heard the story a million times like we all had. It got more bizarre every time.

"You know, her kid's gay. He isn't hurting anyone. Why can't she just deal with her gay son and stop making up some stupid story? It makes the kid's life worse and it makes her sound like an idiot." My grandfather observed. He was right.

Felicia's son might or might not have been abducted by aliens, but accepting that he was gay was difficult for her. This was still the 90s, the age of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. My grandfather despite his advanced age had more insight than anyone at the party. He could cut through the crazy story to see the truth, and wouldn't stick around to hear any of the bullshit.

This week my grandparents would have been married for sixty something odd years had they both lived. For the record, I have a cousin who has been struck by lightening three times and survived. So we are good at knowing which crazies are real and which aren't.

RIP Pop Pop.

I Came, I Saw, I Sang: Memoirs of a Singing Telegram Delivery Girl
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