Sent in by Stevie P
As I watch continuing coverage of Atlanta's evening news, I feel a tinge of anger. Recent headlines of the elderly woman shot dead in her home by police, is disheartening & disturbing. The incident kind of gives meaning to a conversation I had with an eighty-year young man at the community ballpark. His conversation gave me the hope we aren't all helpless to adversity as we age. The gentleman was sitting at the end of a metal bench which I happened to prop my bike on. It's an easy place to stand my mountain bike up as I get a drink of water from the nearby fountain. On this day, the little league games were in session and the park was crowded as usual. I enjoy riding my bike in the park. The paths are more challenging and it's excellent exercise. When I reached for my bike, the gentleman asked me if I would pick up his glasses which had fallen beside the bikes rear wheel. I introduced myself as he thanked me, and I was rewarded with an unusual question. He asked me if I knew the woman sitting above him to his left. I answered that I didn't and thus his story began.
Having a moment to take a breather from biking, I listened to his story and was equally amused by his character & charm. His story wasn't unusual in today's society as it might have been in previous decades. This woman, as he lowered his voice for fear she might hear, was a hell-raising bigot. Hearing those three simple words, ‘hell-raising bigot', caught my attention and awarded him my afternoon exercise time. So, I took a seat and listened. According to his account, she had demonized his friend, and his friend would no longer watch his grandson play ball. His friend, obviously his life partner, as the man later admitted to being gay, was timid and shy. Larry, being the man whose conversation was entertaining me, said his partner's name was Joe. I hesitate to use last names, as I haven't spoke to him since and honestly wouldn't know if he felt my recount of his story would be appropriate for print.
The woman, who he identified simply as Mrs. Nut-Case, was responsible for getting the team mothers to rally against his partner's attending the game. The sad tale of why she did this is not amusing. From how he explained, Joe's grandson is not going to win any friendship points from his teammates. Larry defines the kid as a bit of a rebel. His dad died, leaving a mother with little free time to attend sporting events, thus, Joe took him. The grandson told his teammates that Joe was gay, and that's when Mrs. Nut-Case opened fire. First, when Joe attended a game without Larry, she approached him and asked him to leave. She said "As Christians, we don't allow perverts to watch our kids in this town!" Joe was taken back by the comment and didn't know how to respond. He didn't leave until the game was over, but as he and his grandson got into the car, some teammates and their parents joined forces with Mrs. Nut-Case and shouted epithets and homophobic slurs.
I admit, at this point in Larry's story, I glanced at the woman, who by the way was equally staring at me, with a questionable eye! At the time, Joe was eighty-two, which isn't to say he is too old for getting out and enjoying a ballgame, but I feel it is a bit old to have an unjustified and highly disrespectful approach from Mrs. Nut-Case.
Larry continued his explanation of events by assuring me that he attends every game he has the energy too, because he enjoys the games and too make a statement. Larry's story easily provokes thought, thought which speculates if we allow women such as Mrs. Nut-Case to judge us for our sexuality, that we can easily be judged by our age, race, and nationality. I agreed. He was a bit taken back when, after hearing his tale, I told him I was gay and proudly partnered. He asked me why I chose to live in the area, which by the way, is the most religious area of the state? My answer is simple. I live with my partner and it shouldn't matter where we choose to live. If America is the home of freedom and democracy, then under our constitution, my partner and I have the right to reside where we do. He isn't the only individual who has posed that question to me. Consequently, I returned the question. His reply was that both men were retired military and chose not to move from an area they have lived since childhood. We both agreed that it would be inappropriate for folk to suggest we live openly in an area more accepting of gay men. Not everyone has a choice where to reside, nor should they live any differently due to society prejudice.
Mrs. Nut-Case was successful in her attempts to keep Joe from attending the games, but not his grandson, nor Larry. The grandson's sportsmanship carried him throughout the rest of the season. Larry now sits in the stands, albeit alone as Joe waits at home. However, Larry admits he's breaking Joe down and pretty soon they will both attend the games together again. Especially since his grandson won over his teammates by standing up for his grandfather and actually beating up the one teammate whose mother was equally as vocal as Mrs. Nut-Case. According to Larry, Mrs. Nut-Case can cry "Pervert" and have "Parents shout hateful epithets" all she wants, but he said it would take a court order to remove him from the bench.
I made a friend that day, though I haven't been the "good friend" and dropped by for poker night like he asked, but I'm marking the next poker game on my calendar. Age should be irrelevant in friendship, but with Larry, I learned one thing in my thirties. I learned that activism and pride in oneself is not fleeting with age! Oh, and as I rode my bike the rest of the summer, I continued to wave at Larry and return "the stare" of Mrs. Nut-Case. Should she rally her Christian troops again, I'll do my best to keep abreast of the situation and be a supportive friend on Larry's team! We should never have to fight injustice alone, nor remain fearfully locked in our homes. Thankfully, Joe's grandson is among many of our nations' youth who are sick of oppressive behavior from people who claim the love of God, Christians. Perhaps as we continue to age, things might get better?