Category Archives: contemplations

My 50th birthday

~Friday, 10/13/17~

Birthday day countdown

Here are 4 highlights of my life that stand out over these last 10 years. I just couldn’t narrow it down to 3—too much has happened this decade.

50 – 59 years old (2007 – 2016)

CELEBRATING TWO MILESTONE BIRTHDAYS. For my 50th birthday, I went to 3 places in Australia that were listed in the book, “1000 Places to See Before You Die.” One was in the Blue Mountains just outside of Sydney, one was Seven Spirit Bay on a private island in the outback that you had to be taken to by private plane, and the third was Heron Island on the Great Barrier Reef. For my 55th birthday, I saw Barbra Streisand in concert in Brooklyn. It’s something I’d wanted to do all my life and had been willing to spend up to $1000 for a ticket. You can just imagine my delight when I scored a seat for $399.

RETIRING (THE FIRST TIME). On my October 13, 2014, I gave myself the birthday gift of a lifetime—I retired. My boss and my team were so gracious and supportive of my decision and they gave me a wonderful send-off, complete with limericks, haiku, and love. I enjoyed being retired for one year and three months, and then as it so often will, life happened. Eventually, I’d have the second biggest coming out in my life, coming out of retirement in February of 2016. You can read why if you’re interested.

LOSING A PARENT. On Tuesday, September 8, 2015, I had the hardest conversation in my life with my dad about entering him into hospice. He died three days later.

LEGALLY MARRYING A PHENOMENAL HUMAN BEING WHO JUST HAPPENS TO BE A MAN. On June 26, 2015 the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in favor of same-sex marriage and that night, I asked Robert Anthony McVeigh to marry me, which he did on November 28th. With Bob’s family of 14 siblings, I picked up a cool 108 in-laws in one day, while he inherited a grand total of 8. We had an unbelievable November weather day and married in our backyard with heartwarming support from family who traveled near and far to be there, including my ex-wife.

Other reflections: Birth – 9 years old | 10 – 19 years old | 20 – 29 years old | 30 – 39 years old | 40 – 49 years old

The penultimate day leading up to my birthday

~Thursday, 10/12/17~

Birthday countdown

As I countdown to my 60th birthday tomorrow, here are 3 highlights of my life that stand out for these years.

40 – 49 years old (1997 – 2006)

CRUISING THE GREEK ISLES. In 1999, I toured the Greek Isles on the now-defunct Renaissance Cruise Lines. Our itineary consisted of two days in Athens, port calls in Santorini, Rhodes, Kusadasi, and one day at sea cruising The Dardenelles. It ended with two days in Istanbul.

A SURPRISE PARTY FOR MOM AND DAD’S 50TH ANNIVERSARY. In September of 2003, my sister and I organized a suprise party in Orlando for my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. We had invited several of their brothers and sisters to join us there, offering to pick up their 3-day, 2-night hotel tabs and dinner the actual anniversary night. We hadn’t told anyone that we were eating at Emeril’s Orlando , and since some of them came to the event from Fall River, MA, and my parents were born and grew up in that city, and that’s where Emeril is from, and we’re all Portuguese… well you can imagine how excited everyone was when we arrived there. I picked up the tab, which to this day remains the most I’ve ever paid for a dinner at $1503.00, which included the $364 tip. Worth every penny. Read about the details, including the exquisite customer service.

CRUISING ALASKA WITH FAMILY. In 2005, I went on an Alaskan cruise with my sister, my parents, my aunt and uncle and their daughter, and my aunt’s sister and her husband. The itinerary included: one day cruising the Inside Passage, a Ketchikan port call, a Juneau port call, a Skagway port call, a Wrangell port call, and a final day at sea.

Other reflections: Birth – 9 years old | 10 – 19 years old | 20 – 29 years old | 30 – 39 years old | 50 – 59 years old

The antepenultimate day leading up to my birthday

~Wednesday, 10/11/17~

Birthday countdown

As I countdown to my 60th birthday on Friday, here are 3 highlights of my life that stand out for these years.

Note: The coincidence is not lost on me of this post falling on National Coming Out Day.

30 – 39 years old (1987 – 1996)

TOUR OF EUROPE WITH OUR PARENTS. In 1987, my wife and I treated both sets of our parents to a 13-city bus tour of Europe with stops in London, England; Paris, France; Italy (The Italian Lakes, Rome, Ostia, Florence, Venice, and Verona); Innsbruck, Austria; Germany (Munich, Heidelberg, and a Rhine River Cruise); and Amsterdam, Holland. It was challenging at times, but so worth it as my mother still gets a charge out of saying, when someone mentions one of those European cities, “Oh, I’ve been there.” As I write this, it occurs to me that that was 30 years ago this year, and my parents were 5 years younger than I’ll be on Friday.

QUITTING IBM AND WORKING ON MY NOVEL. In 1993, IBM offered the first “package,” in which they paid employees to leave the company. Since my wife worked there, too, and we were DINKs (double income, no kids) making a ton of money, I applied for it and was accepted, taking a $30,000 payout to do what I wanted to do anyway—leave. For the next year, I worked on a novel, got as far as chapter 9, and then couldn’t figure out a believeable way to get my protagonist pregnant. Shortly after that I came out.

COMING OUT. One day in 1994, on my way home from IBM to our quarter-of-a-million house, in our BMW, I wondered, “Is there any way I could drive this ‘ultimate performance machine’ into that roadside ravine in such a way that I could be sure I wouldn’t have to live with an ‘intending to die’ for the rest of my life?” That’s when I knew it was time to start living my authentic life here. My beautiful, loving, and incredibly generous wife’s response to my coming out? “I’m so sorry that we live in a society where you’ve felt like you couldn’t be who you really are your entire life.” As we were packing to sell the house we’d custom built, we glanced at each other from the rooms on opposite sides of the upstairs shared bathroom while Whitney sang, “I Will Always Love You.” I can still tear up when I hear that song today, especially the lines, “Bittersweet memories – That is all I’m taking with me. So good-bye. Please don’t cry: We both know I’m not what you, you need…”

Other reflections: Birth – 9 years old | 10 – 19 years old | 20 – 29 years old | 40 – 49 years old | 50 – 59 years old

The preantepenultimate day leading up to my birthday

~Tuesday, 10/10/17~

Birthday countdown

As I countdown to my 60th birthday on Friday, here are 3 highlights of my life that stand out for these years.

20 – 29 years old (1977 – 1986)

GETTING MARRIED. I got married at 20 to a 21-year-old woman, whom I truly did love, even though I knew I was gay at the time. It seems hard to believe nowadays, but I truly didn’t think coming out was an option, and I truly believed I could “make it work.” We had a lot in common—both military brats, both Catholic, both with the same financial aspirations and willingness to work and save to achieve them. We really were a good team—right up until we weren’t. I’m grateful for many invaluable lessons I learned about being in a relationship, most of which transcend gender and time. See wedding pictures from another time and place.

STARTING A CAREER. I got hired by IBM right out of college, and I remember that first day, Monday, May 19, 1980, taking the Alexander Drive exit off NC-147 in the Research Triangle Park, turning into IBM, and thinking, “I have arrived.” Over the course of 21 years there, I would do programming, test software, manage 9 software testers, work on quality (Six Sigma, The Defect Prevention Process), track service tickets and test fixes, become a member of the network performance team in IT, and then work on the IT communications team. In the later years, I would become an information developer writing software documentation and eventually become an editor.

GETTING A VASECTOMY. At age 29 and 9 years into our marriage, we’d known all along we didn’t want kids, so I got a vasectomy. The Duke surgeon wanted me to get permission from my parents, which of course, I refused to do. I said, “I no longer get permission from my parents to do anything.” On the day of the procedure, with my legs up in stirrups and my junk pulled through a hole in a sheet, the surgeon said, “We have a group of interns that we’d like to watch the procedure, if that’s okay. Having already attained “maximum shrivel factor,” and with the valium beginning to kick in, I said, “Why not? Pop some popcorn and give them all front row seats.”

Other reflections: Birth – 9 years old | 10 – 19 years old | 30 – 39 years old | 40 – 49 years old | 50 – 59 years old

The propreantepenultimate day leading up to my birthday

~Monday, 10/09/17~

Birthday countdown

As I countdown to my 60th birthday on Friday, here are 3 highlights of my life that stand out for these years.

10 – 19 years old (1967 – 1976)

GETTING MY LICENSE AND GRADUATING FROM HIGH SCHOOL. I learned to drive on a car with a stick shift, and I got my license as soon as I could at 16. One time, as a newly-licensed driver, I parked in the inclined driveway of a girl’s house, and after we’d kissed for about 30 seconds, I opened my eyes to see that we’d rolled down the driveway and into the street because I’d had my foot on the clutch instead of the brake. I graduated 4th in my high school class in 1975 to Pomp & Circumstance and our senior class song, which was Stairway to Heaven.

GOING TO COLLEGE AND THE FIRST TIME FEELING LIKE AN ADULT. I didn’t do very well on my SATs (verbal higher than math—no surprise there), but I did get accepted into East Carolina University. I initially planned to major in Music before switching to their Math with a Computer Science Option degree. This was before there was a separate, accredited Computer Science degree, and I “wrote” Assembly and Cobol programs on an IBM punched card machine and later learned to program a PDP-11 computer. The first time I felt like a bonafide adult was shortly after moving into a dorm, when someone asked me to play tennis at 10 o’clock on a “school night,” and I realized it wasn’t “too late to do that” if I wanted to, and I didn’t have to ask anyone permission anyway.

WORKING MY WAY THROUGH COLLEGE AND BUYING MY FIRST CAR. For the first two years of college, I rode a bicycle from my dorm to Burger King, where I worked 40 hours a week at $2.37/hour while carrying a full class schedule. I once got a ticket for riding my bike home from work with no light on it after dark, and I remembered being outraged that someone working as hard as I was “just to make it,” would be “penalized” in that way. Then, I bought a brand new 1977 Toyota Corolla, and my car payments were $79 a month.

Other reflections: Birth – 9 years old | 20 – 29 years old | 30 – 39 years old | 40 – 49 years old | 50 – 59 years old

The suprapropreantepenultimate day leading up to my birthday

~Sunday, 10/08/17~ And so begins the countdown to my 60th birthday on Friday. I’ve been thinking about this for the past couple of months, and it’s been an interesting exercise trying to narrow down 3 things to highlight about a whole decade of your life. It’s made me think of Jonathan Larson’s Seasons of Love from Rent, the musical, a few times, too.

So, without further ado, here’s today’s reflection.

Countdown

Birth – 9 years old (1957 – 1966)

BEING A MILITARY BRAT. My dad was a 30-year career marine, and we moved around a lot in my formative years. Most of it was between the ages of 4 and 13, and I attended 9 different schools between kindergarten and 7th grade. Most of the paces were in Massachusetts, where all of both my mom’s and dad’s families lived. See a list of all the schools I went to and where.

LEARNING ABOUT AMBITION AND DETERMINATION. When my dad went to Vietnam for a year—his second tour there—we lived upstairs from my aunt and uncle. My uncle was building his own home, and I watched him cut stone that he had previously measured to fit its neighboring pieces already up. He cut the stone by hand, with a chisel. If I remember correctly, it took him over 10 years to finish that house. See a picture of the house.

REALIZING I WAS GAY. At age 7, I began to realize that I was gay, although I didn’t know that word then. It was more like coming to the frightening realization that I was a freak—one of those kind of people—and although I didn’t know it then, it was the beginning 28 long, and at times exhausting, years trying to hide it.

Other reflections: 10 – 19 years old | 20 – 29 years old | 30 – 39 years old | 40 – 49 years old | 50 – 59 years old