Sarah, my niece, is heading off to St. Louis on Wednesday to begin her first real job. John, my nephew, is a senior at St. Ed’s. Their parents are in London with Grace, their sister, who is studying abroad. I told Sarah and John I would take them out for dinner while the others were traveling and, boy, am I glad I did.
It was one of the best conversations I have had in many years. There, at Wahlburgers, in kitty-corner to Jack’s Casino, we talked and talked and talked. About so many topics. Taking a knee. Political parties and the purpose of government. The consciousness one needs in this diverse world. What it is like to pigeon-holed. Sexual orientation. College choices. Abortion. Gubernatorial races. Grant funding. Apprenticeships. Unintended and intended stereotyping. Calculus. Hockey players.
These were my two favorite sentences of the night. When we were talking about putting and being put into boxes, Sarah said (and I am paraphrasing), “Our brains want to do that. They are programmed to look for patterns. But what needs to kick in is the soul. That part of you that asks you to see beyond the pattern.”
Later John said, “My morals matter more than my political views.”
God, I love these kids. And now, not because they are related to me, but because of who they have grown to be, with their own well-developed thoughts and personalities. They are lovely, loving, aware and committed young people. Easy to admire.
We were talking about homophobia at some schools and how it is hard to be clumped into a group of people who behave that way. And for the first time in my life, I explicitly said these words to Sarah and John, “As a gay person, I spent so many years worried about what people thought of me. ” I started to tear up as I continued, “And I grieve those years that I wasted.” John nodded, and Sarah gave me that look – like she knew we had just crossed an edge we had never wandered before.
What I really wanted to say, but could not because I would have lost it right there in that burger joint, was, “And I grieve the years I missed with you, even afraid of what you would think.” Thank God we have found our way back to each other.
This talk tonight made me realize that I want to do this kind of thing more frequently. I have been thinking for years that I wanted to have some kind of Supper Club.
It would work this way. I would post the place on Facebook and whoever could come would come. I’m thinking a medium priced place, not typical (because honestly, as someone who lives alone, I want to go to more places downtown). The 1st and 15th of every month so the dates would be known. Always at 6. We would probably cap the number at 6 per dinner.
We would gather – everyone would know me, but many would not know each other – and we would talk about a question that that’s month’s host would pick. Possible questions might be: What one decision did you make that shifted your life in an unexpected direction? Or, what trip made the largest impact on your life? Or, when did you feel a breach in your civil rights? The host job would float around and be given after the location was posted.
I want to do this because a) life is short and we might as well eat at good places, b) I want to know the layers beneath the layers, c) I think people are craving this kind of thing, d) tonight’s dinner with Sarah and John completely energized me and gave me hope, e) why not?
Give me some feedback – if you’d be in, let me know.
I am so thankful to know Sarah and John in this new way, as fellow journeymen in life. Helen and Grace too. I am so grateful to have had a chance to talk as we did tonight, person to person, idea to idea, feeling to feeling, fear to fear.
I want to have this happen every time one of them is in town. Every single time until they are middle aged and I am old, old, old. Maybe, the Supper Club will still be going on and they can be my guests. Until then, thank you, Sarah and John. I am so proud to be your aunt. I am happy you are on this planet, thinking and feeling what you think and feel.