In college I took exactly one sociology class. It was called Silence and Social Power and focused on how minorities were silenced as a way to keep the status quo and power structure. We also focused on how using your voice gave you power and could help lift your people… however you define, “your people.”
As a final project, the class was divided into two groups and given the instructions to get the oral history of a group of people, then bring their stories to life in a final presentation. Our team was assigned LGBT and we went to work.
I remember interviewing one of my residents about how she came out in high school, but I also interviewed a woman who was in her 50s. She said that she was married to a man, or maybe she was getting a divorce, when she saw a photograph of a lesbian couple on the front of a magazine.
“I want to be in love like that,” she said to herself. There was something in the photograph that communicated straight to her soul and she recognized what she wanted from her life. By the time our paths crossed in that interview, she was in love like that.
I assume the primary lesson wasn’t supposed to be that sometimes a photograph or essay will suddenly focus your needs, wants or desires, but for years I’ve heard that sentence ring in my head. “I want to be in love like that,” and wondered what or who my “like that” could possibly be.
Roger Ebert died today. Only yesterday he published a noticed that his cancer had relapsed and he would be taking a “Leave of Presence” from the Sun Times. As I watched the remembrances fly by on Twitter, I didn’t really have a similar story as many of my friends.
I remember growing up watching him give a thumbs up or a thumbs down on TV. I certainly watched on a regular basis. When he joined Twitter, I remember tweeting once that it was a shame he had fewer followers than I did at the time. There was a hot second when I was almost hired to teach him how to better use Twitter, but then he learned how to tweet on his own.
There was one of his epic blog posts that stuck out in my memory. My Name is Roger, and I’m an Alcoholic. Reading that post gave me a window into the sixth member of my immediate family – AA. My dad recently had a public celebration of 30 years of sobriety and volunteer leadership among the friends of Bill W.
An A.A. meeting usually begins with a recovering alcoholic telling his “drunkalog,” the story of his drinking days and how he eventually hit bottom. This blog entry will not be my drunkalog. What’s said in the room, stays in the room. You may be wondering, in fact, why I’m violating the A.A. policy of anonymity and outing myself. A.A. is anonymous not because of shame but because of prudence; people who go public with their newly-found sobriety have an alarming tendency to relapse. Case studies: those pathetic celebrities who check into rehab and hold a press conference.
That was the post that made Roger E. someone I could have met at a New Years Eve or Super Bowl party down at the Old Jail… had Roger E ever attended meetings in my hometown.
Today when I found out that he died, I read his obituaries and started reblogging quotes onto my Tumblr.
About his wife, Chaz…
“She fills my horizon, she is the great fact of my life, she is the love of my life, she saved me from the fate of living out my life alone,” he wrote.
About traveling with his wife,
Romance in the winter in Venice is intimate and private, almost hushed. One night we went to the Municipal Casino, carefully taking only as much money as we were ready to lose, and lost it. In a little restaurant we had enough left for spaghetti with two plates and afterward lacked even the fare for the canal bus. We walked the long way back through the night and cold, our arms around each other, figures appearing out of the fog, lights traced on the wet stones, pausing now and again to kiss and be solemn.
About choosing a partner,
Never marry someone who doesn’t love the movies you love. Sooner or later, that person will not love you.
Chaz and Roger about marrying each other,
Chaz had been married before, so she knew what taking that step would mean. “I think that I am better in marriage. I like taking care of people and having someone there in my corner and being in someone’s corner.” Roger, on the other hand, had been single into his forties. But looking back, he doesn’t recall any trouble adapting. “I had been single long enough,” he says.”
Finally, a friend posted a link to his epic 20th anniversary post Roger Loves Chaz. Just go read all of it. I’ll wait.
I want to be in love like that.
We formed a serious bond rather quickly. It was an understood thing. I was in love, I was serious, I was ready for my life to change. I had been on hold too long.
I want to be in love like that.
I saved every one of her letters along with my own, and have them encrypted on my computer, locked inside a file where I can’t reach them because the program and the operating system are now 20 years out of date. But they’re in there. I’m not about to entrust them to anyone at the Apple Genius Counter.
I want to love like that.
We were sitting there talking in a little cafe at the end of a happy day and I became overwhelmed with the desire to propose marriage. Chaz filled my mind. She excited me physically. She was funny. She made a reading of my life rather quickly, understood what I did and how I had to do it..
I resented her unceasing encouragement. I was lazy. It was ever so much preferable to sit and read. But she was making me do the right thing. She did it all over again after my next three tours through the Rehabilitation Institute. Four times I learned to walk again…
And I want to be in love like that. To be in either shoe. And like Chaz seemed to so gracefully do today, to say goodbye to the love of my life when our time together is over.
Roger Ebert didn’t teach me to love movies or inspire me to write, but he and Chaz certainly inspire me to love and show that there is room for love and partnership in the dizzying space of a demanding career. Maybe, just maybe, I can make room and let a man into my life and have a love like that.
May his memory be a blessing.