Tag Archives: grandparents

Parenthood: Childless

9 Sep

ParenthoodMy husband and I watched Parenthood last night.  It is one of my favorite movies. It was also the first time I fell in love with Diane Wiest, who does a great job of showing the difficulties of being a single parent with unconditional love for her two children.  The movie does a fantastic job of showing the tensions, troubles, and triumphs of being both a child and a parent. While I still loved watching the movie, I was also quite mournful.  As a middle aged gay man, I had always wanted children.  I always saw myself as a parent before I saw myself as a spouse. I was quite comfortable not having a husband and thought I would just adopt a child and live my life out as a parent.

My world changed about 15 years ago and I fell in love with a man who is nothing less than wonderful and amazing.  He is so amazing that I chose being married over being a parent.  Of course, there are times I still break down in tears that I don’t have  children.  in fact, a short time ago, my husband and I were at a restaurant and I saw this young child with dark skin and really curly hair and thought, “this could be my child.”  I started to weep over my hamburger.  While my husband was quite supportive, he did not feel the loss I was feeling.

Sadly, while watching the movie, Parenthood, I reflected on how neurotic I would have been if I had children and how overly involved I would have been.  Fortunately, we have some very dear friends who allow us to watch their four children — we love them dearly!!!  However, I am able to observe my neurosis even while spending time with the kids.  For example, when one of the kids wants to show me her head stand, it takes everything I have not to say “please don’t do that,” for fear she will hurt herself.

I am so elated that same-sex couples have children.  The same-sex couples I know who have children love them so dearly. Regardless of sexual orientation, children need structure, guidance, and most of all love.  How sad that Justice Scalia and his  merry little band of homophobes try to justify their homophobia under the guise of bearing children.  Where does that leave all of my heterosexual friends who either choose to be childless, or are unable to bear children?  Again, we see Scalia and his fellow haters on the wrong side of history.

Finally, I am also grateful for all of the children (now adults) that I have had the honor of teaching.  It is an amazing honor to see students grow up as adults and still keep in contact with you.  While I don’t have biological children, I am very lucky to have generations of kids in the past 25 years.

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A Message From Grandma…

16 Feb

I’m sure that all of you that follow this blog are following all the drama in Iowa. You are no doubt taking note of  the courage that we are also witnessing in that state. This youtube video message by Jean Argus will remind all of us of the great courage, love, and compassion that I hope will drown out the ugly voices of hate. Bigots around the country do NOT get to define what a family is.  I applaud Jean Argus ! Please share her video.

Courage in Iowa

Learning How to Learn: An Homage to My Grandfather

14 Feb

My grandfather would have been 101 today. William E. (Bill) Hulshof was born February 14, 1910 in rural South Dakota. I was born 56 years and one day later in Albany, Oregon. I was very lucky to have grandparents that lived close to me the whole time I was growing up. Grandma and Gramps were regular fixtures in my life; I took that for granted for years but have learned later just how rare that is. Because of our shared birthday celebrations, Gramps and I had a special bond.

Gramps finished his coursework for high school but never formally graduated (for reasons that are lost to time and his natrual reticence). Despite his limited formal education, he was one of the brightest, most informed people I’ve known. As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to appreciate that the secret was his undying curiosity. Gramps never stopped being engaged in the world around him. He always wanted to know how things worked and why they were the way they were. When I was a boy, he encouraged that same spark in me. I credit my career path to his strong but subtle encouragement to always look not just for the right answers, but for the right questions. What better foundation could a budding librarian have?

The Nascent Librarian and His Lifelong Tutor, May 1966

Gramps taught me my times tables in 2nd grade. He asked how big a number I wanted to learn and I said “12” (which was my favorite number at the time). So I learned to multiply up to 12 x 12. I proudly told my teacher what I had learned and she said, “We’re only learning 9×9 this year. You don’t need to know the rest.”  I was crushed. When I told Gramps what had happened, he said, “Well…you should always respect your teachers. I think you’ll find these extra numbers handy, though, so you hang onto them until you need them.” That was a magical moment for me in understanding the different kinds of authority and learning in the world. I’ve used those lessons over and over again.

My grandfather was an old-fashioned conservative. He liked things to be done in ways that made sense and while he was always interested in learning more about how things worked, he wasn’t keen on fundamental changes. Where he differed, dramatically, from today’s conservatives, was a willingness to live and let live, to let people be themselves as their best selves, and to accept that the world could change and grow, even if that made him a bit uncomfortable some days. He also really engaged in the political world. Each election, he would learn all he could about the candidates and the issues, reading everything he could get his hands on, and making decisions based on what made the most sense, not what party label was attached. That discernment, integrity, and investigation is sorely lacking in both politics and journalism now.

I was always good in school and I learned how to work the educational system to my best advantage. I had some very good (and some not-so-good) teachers along the way who gave me a lot of great information. But the best lessons I learned were walking through the park or helping in the kitchen or out chopping firewood with Gramps, discovering that the ordinary world had so much to teach me. I discovered how to love learning and that gift lasts a lifetime.

I was able to visit Gramps in early 2005, just before he died. I was so glad to spend a few last days with him. Even though he was on many medications and slept a great deal, we still were able to chat occasionally. His last words to me were, “You were always my jewel.” Jewels are beautiful because they refract light, and the light I refract every day is the love of learning my grandfather shone through me. Happy Birthday, Gramps. I miss you, but you’re always here.

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