Thursday, November 09, 2006

Facing East

I just learned we’ll be attending the play, Facing East, by Carol Lynn Pearson, this month.

FACING EAST is a world premiere parable for our place and time by noted LDS author Carol Lynn Pearson.

Ruth and Alex McCormick are an upstanding Mormon couple reeling from the suicide of their gay son. In FACING EAST, they are stuck between the comfort of their faith and the unfamiliarity of their new reality when they encounter their son’s partner, Marcus, for the first time

One could read more on it from this link.

We’ll be attending with a group primarily composed of PFLAG parents (Yep, it’ll be voluntary emotional punishment). I’m sure I’ll leave the play in quite a mood.

My parents actually told us about it and invited us after themselves being invited by PFLAG. I wonder if it seems odd, though, that my parents never joined PFLAG when I came out. I never even knew anyone involved in the organization until the Amendment 3 debate. I think my parents and I both thought PFLAG was only for families in turmoil. What would we want with it?

Our opinions changed after R and I participated in a panel discussion. A bunch of PFLAG parents were there, and we were to discuss being parents ourselves. The grandparents came along to take care of the twins, then barely toddlers. We gave the short version of our lives, and answered a bunch of the typical questions.

Afterwards, a group of parents came up to us to give their regards, all wonderful, friendly people. One woman stood out as soon as I saw her approach. She waited behind the others, and once she reached us, she congratulated us and went on about how beautiful our family was.

She then got to her point by asking what she could do to help her son into a monogamous lifelong union. I should have known to be more careful by the emotional signals she radiated. But I wasn’t careful; I assumed too much. My initial response, which I now regret intensely, was some weak generic answer: “Be there for him. Make sure he knows nothing changes but the sex of the person he loves by his being gay--not your love, your support, what’s right in a relationship... Make clear why you think monogamy and family is important, regardless, for all relationships.” And so on. I even gestured to my parents and accredited them with why I have the family I now had. Once I got off my soapbox, I could see I’d done her wrong.

She paused and looked at our boys over playing with my parents, with the look of a person about to cry, emoting the great effort it took to hide her emotion.

“My son,” she finally said, both loosing it and catching herself at that comma. She then explained, speaking quietly and matter-of-factly, trying to keep decorum, but it was clear she was trying; every word was pregnant with urgency. It was as though she didn’t want to scare us off, but knew her problem deserved hysteria. It did.

She said she knew her boy was gay from very early on in his childhood. By the way she once saw her faith, she was zealously against the “sin”, but still loved her “sinner”. She had decided to wait to see what he’d choose; having taught him homosexuality was evil. Eventually the kid told her what she already knew, a couple years prior to that day, and she was prepared. She took a tough love stance, wanting him to try to change in therapy, and forbidding any contact with other gay kids.

That drove a wedge between her and her son and he subsequently hit back. He left the home for days; went through boyfriend after boyfriend… The “gay lifestyle”. Evidently, their once loving mother-son relationship devolved into a cycle of tit-for-tat of emotional punishments, and a once model son became an angry, self-destructive stranger.

A couple month before our meeting she had a dramatic change of heart, a moment of clarity as she put it. She knew she was wrong about her past morality, and choices, and was now going to PFLAG meetings, apologizing, wanting to help, and ready to accept her son’s orientation. But the boy wasn’t changing, wasn’t letting her back in either. Her guilt was palpable, but her son, evidently, wasn’t ready to put down his arms.

Why, exactly? I can guess but I wished he could have been there.

Once the situation became clear I apologized over and over for my rude and careless assumptions, but by the end I was left with that familiar helpless feeling, wanting to fix it but not knowing how. She could see it on my face.

I don’t know how parents can help their child get from that point B to point C, once point A has passed. I suggested they get professional help, and that a couple months were probably too short of time to heal what had occurred between them. I told her of others we know, now parents in long-standing relationships, who’ve made that change, and put that past behind them. Their once hostile parents were now happy grandparents, some even living with their son’s family in their old age. While I certainly know why they did choose the slow family life, I only knew how by guessing.

She gave an undeserved “Thank you”, complimented our family again, and made her way back into the crowd. At that, a very pleasant experience became one of the most somber and humbling of my adult life. I think of her and her son often, along with all the others.

I find myself wanting at least another hour with her, thinking of new ideas, angles. I wanted to talk to her son, tell him to let it go, “She’s you mother!” and so on, and I wish I’d thought of getting her number. Maybe it did work out in the end, and all it took was a couple more weeks of assurance for him to forgive and stop being such a smuck. That’s what I’d prefer to imagine, but I want to know.

Anyway, I realize now all families with GLBT members have a reason to be in PFLAG. It’s not just for families in turmoil; as long as parents such as that woman are frantic for help, it’s for all our families. I wish my parents and we could devote more time.

Oh yes :-), off the tangent, my impressions of the play should be forthcoming, for those interested.


Silus Grok said...

I'm going, too!


Scot said...

Excellent. Look for me. I’ll be the one trying hard to be stoic even when I know my emotions are being purposefully manipulated :-).

I hope it’s artistically enjoyable. Not having read her book and mainly knowing what I’ve read from L, I’m not sure what to expect.

santorio said...

having met c.p. and read her works, she is very emotional, sentimental, it will be interesting to see if she can pull off real drama instead of a tear-jerker.

although the woman you talked to is at one end of the pendulum, most of us will eventually face some disappointment with our children and their spouses. my brother had to deal with the fact that his son-on-law watches sports on sundays. my children have made decision i would not make. sometimes its a difficult choice between tough love confrontation and passive acceptance.

Scot said...

No doubt. With A, I hit a struggle for that balance near every dinner. :-)

It all hinges on what one thinks is right or not.

The thing that struck me with her was her change regarding that, and that regret refused by a now recalcitrant son. She was not merely even giving passive acceptance now; she was desperately trying to apologize and giving active support (of course her husband wasn’t there, so who knows if I was getting a full picture and I didn’t ask). It seemed though the genii was out of the bottle; most of us know how deeply one can get hurt in this arena. She started with active opposition, and that, as she knew it would, caused her son pain. Ultimately, he retaliated and did the opposite of her intentions.

I just wish I could know if it was as bleak as it seemed, if he ever shaped up or gave up on his anger. I’ve known too many who have not, and it ain’t healthy.

I guess I also wondering how one would take it back, repair that, and hoping I’d not make a similar choice I’d come to regret. A long look at my kids now can stop time in worry and hope. How’s that going to be in those teen years :-)?