Two things I’ve been planting a flag in for years rose up last week and showed me, once again, there’s almost no such thing as “never.”
So Boy Scouts. I’ve been vocal about Boy Scouts. I’ve been vocal TO the Boy Scout organization. Their ban on gay Scout leaders is cruel and wrong-headed. Certainly it’s on the wrong side of history, and I doubt it can hold much longer. Last year a sent a message to the organization saying I really appreciate the spirit of the Scouts and deeply hope that they will abolish this vicious and discriminatory policy so my boys could participate. They certainly wouldn’t be participating before that.
As I write this, as I can see Alden’s Cub Scout uniform hanging in the bedroom doorway. The reason why is simple. It’s really hard work for Alden to do anything unfamiliar. We’ve got a fresh diagnosis of sensory processing disorder that explains much of that. Knowing, though, doesn’t change the fact that he had an epically bad day of first grade. That he suffers significant anxiety in new and group situations. That he turns down almost every offer that involves leaving the house.
Last week someone from the Cub Scouts came and talked to Alden’s class. I wish I could have seen it, because I’d love to know how he managed to sink the hook into my reluctant boy. Alden came home with a lot to say about it, including that he is ready to be a Scout and when can he go to his first event. “We are going to cook hamburgers and shoot a BB gun.” I am not exaggerating when I say that this is the first thing Alden instigated for himself. We drag him to things on the regular, and sometimes he really enjoys them when he gets there. (We do need to perhaps examine our methods there, in relation to this new SPD thing, but that’s a thought for another day.) I can’t remember a single time, though, where he has spontaneously asked us to take him somewhere. All of that backstory is why, when he came home that day, I said, “Of course you can be a Cub Scout!” while Damon and I made amazed faces at each other over his head.
I’m not trying to white wash a breaking of an ethical stand. Clearly, my values on this had a price. I hope to mitigate the incidental support we give by association as well as I can. I’ll be sending another message up the chain to Scout leadership. And I’m going to keep track of any money that goes to the Scouts and double it in a donation to a gay rights association that I’ll pick after consulting Charity Navigator. (Full disclosure: This is partially possible because Scouting is amazingly inexpensive — something I really do appreciate philosophically and practically.)
Part 2 of eating my words is smaller, more personal and, honestly, harder.
When my Dad died I inherited the little cabin he lived in for many years. It’s not fancy, but it’s a sweet little place right on a beautiful lake. It is very much my Father’s home, to me. I wish everyone in the heartbreaking time after losing a parent had the luxury this gave me. I didn’t have to pack up all my Dad’s life. I can go to the cabin and see it just as he left it. I’ve spent years carefully protecting that status quo. I know that can sound a little Miss Havishamy, but I promise it isn’t creepy. When we go there, I feel my Father’s presence. It’s infinitely comforting.
It’s also almost five hours away, which means we don’t get to go there nearly as often as we would like. During the months in between visits, sometimes many months, I have a low-grade worry gnawing at me that something has happened. A pipe has burst. An animal got in. We’ve done what we can to protect it, things like putting on a tin roof so that we didn’t have to read every storm report as a promise that water is pouring in. It’s not the cash value, it’s the emotional value. If the place burnt down we wouldn’t get a dime because we can’t afford to insure it. It’s so remote from a fire department that the premiums are, while understandable, not in our budget. I don’t mind that lack of insurance, though, because what would kill me would be the loss of Dad’s home, not the loss in value. That’s why I’ve always sworn I would own that place forever. There are some people who have a cabin nearby and they’ve made it clear they’d love to buy ours for their kids. I always thank them and tell them my kids will some day inherit it as I did. Except. Except. I was making a list of end-of-summer things I need to handle a few weeks ago, and on it was getting back to the cabin to prep it for winter. I looked and looked at my calendar. It looks like Work Work Kid Stuff Work Kid Stuff Kid Stuff Kid Stuff Work ad nauseam. I spent two weeks sweating it. I could always hire out all the chores, but that would move caring for the the cabin from “somewhat problematic financially” to “unreasonably problematic financially.” My Dad would have a fit if he could have seen me fretting over it in that way. Damon, to his eternal credit, has never made a peep of protest about the hassle or cost of keeping that place.
I could have worked it out. I guess I did work it out. My Dad originally bought the cabin with his sister and brother-in-law. They were wonderfully close, and many of my early memories of being there include all of them. He bought them out many years later, but I’ve always thought of it as belonging to the larger family. We still refer to the two bedrooms as “Dad’s” and “Aunt Pat and Uncle Jack’s” rooms. I sent the family an email, asking if maybe anyone was interested in accepting the torch I was feeling ready to pass. One of my Aunt’s kids is in, shall we say, a more fortunate financial position than most of us. More importantly, he loves that cabin. And my Dad adored him. He stepped right up and said he’d take the cabin and care for it “as if it is our family’s only home.” I am not the softest touch, but that is message I will never forget. So, next week I’ll start the paperwork. I know we can still go when we want to, even if I’m not in charge of it anymore. I’m sure some things will change. That’s okay. What I sacrifice in museum-like worship of the past, I gain in once again sharing this place with my family.
Stay tuned next week for my sudden embrace of professional sports and a new passion for going to the mall.