For most of my youth and high school years, I was groomed to teach history. It seemed the natural course for someone who loved all things historical and whose talents lay in the arts rather than in mathematics. Although I showed a penchant for both chemistry and biology in school I was assured by guidance counselors it was best to stick to the liberal arts since I had no aptitude for math. So, I left high school planning to major in history and become a teacher.
Life had different plans. I attended Clemson University and loathed it. I was on a floor with party animals, I was fat, studious, quiet and I was gay. That's a fatal combination at a party school and a party dorm. After becoming ill my first semester and having to leave, I completed the next semester and was at a loss as to what to do. I looked west to my brother and his partner who lived in San Diego.
San Diego had been my summer escape from small-town boredom since 1977. As a young person coming to terms with my sexuality and what that meant, I thought a large city might be a nice change. My parents agreed. So, I went to San Diego to attend college and "find myself." It was there I "officially" came out while working at a travel agency in Hillcrest.
Alas, it did not last. My brother's 10-year relationship fell apart and he moved back to South Carolina. I did not return to San Diego after my summer break doing a theater production and visiting "home." I knew, though, that I did not want to be stuck teaching high school. I could not fathom living my life in the closet as so many gay teachers I knew did. What to do?
I eventually attended Piedmont Technical College and became a Surgical Technologist. For the next 10 years, I worked at a Level I Trauma Center and then a small local hospital. I specialized in trauma and orthopedics. Finally, an accident put an end to my career when I fractured my back.
For a number of years, I bounced around different jobs. I volunteered with the SC Democratic Party working my way up to sitting on the Executive Committee. I served on the Rapid Response Team for President Clinton's first campaign in '91 and '92.
We eventually bought a house, raised 4 dogs and a cat together, saw the deaths of our mothers, my brother, and my grandparents. Michael struggled to continue his songwriting and composing and tried to teach. Unfortunately, in the close-minded south that wasn't easy. I was well known as the only outspoken gay person in the area. Meanwhile, I wrote for About.com and a few small periodicals here and there.
In 2005, I was working as a corporate trainer and systems tester when I got very sick. I eventually had to leave work completely. By July of 2006, I was deathly ill and discovered my liver was failing. I would have to have a liver transplant to survive. But, I was without any insurance after having to quit work.
After much work, including a call by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, I was finally approved for disability and Medicaid. I received a transplant on January 28, 2007, at 3 in the morning.
At the same time, I was going through all that, Michael was diagnosed with anal/rectal cancer. He also was without insurance at the time because he was self-employed and all available policies were too expensive. After my transplant, he agreed to seek treatment. He underwent almost 8 weeks of chemo and radiation and it made him sick enough he was hospitalized repeatedly. I tried to keep things going with his business while he was sick and also take care of him and recover from my ordeal as well.
Unfortunately, it just didn't work. We eventually lost our house because of medical bills and loss of income. We had to give up our beloved dogs and cat and we moved into a two-room cabin in the middle of nowhere thanks to the kindness of a friend and tried to figure out what was next.
Michael had been trying to sell his prized possession, an 1885 Steinway Concert Grand piano, for months. We kept hoping it would sell in time to pay off our mortgage but that didn't happen. After about 5 months of living in a two-room cabin, we got word the piano had sold. We had enough to relocate and try to find a better life.
I lobbied hard for New England so we could marry and get away from the right wing claptrap. Michael, however, felt the pull of the desert. So, since he'd given up Arizona for South Carolina I decided I could give up New England for Arizona. We moved to Tucson in early 2008.
Thanks for joining me on Southeast to Southwest and I hope you enjoy my unique and outspoken point of view.