I am with JJ: Holding our miracles and conquests

I will be with JJ
In my innocence, before life became difficult, I daydreamed about you as I listened to Beach Boys 45s in my room. California was a distant land but I knew I would marry a girl from there.

Your smile danced like light on water Your golden hair touched my face. Your skin was of sun and sweat and mountain air. Your legs dangled, bumping against mine, as we sat on a wall laughing. You giggled with me when I tickled you in the back yard as fireflies winked at us. And you picked flowers and told me their stories.

We whispered to one another in the dark. In fantasies that I never told a soul, you smiled only for me, and you smelled lik summertime and warm kitchen smells  and breezes on the water. You would hold my hand and make funny things happen In my  heart. Of course I would never get the nerve to kiss you, but the thought of it was sweet torment.

I wish that I knew back then that dreams come true.

I would be with JJ.

Girls troubled me. Their hairspray, their makeup their smiles were never for me. My shoulders tanned in the sun, eyes shot red from swimming pool days, bugs bounced against baseball park lights on muggy nights. Desire for nameless you was swampy inside me. The Beach Boys record featured the bottom half of a girl in a polka dot bikini. You must have been on some other cover because in my elaborate daydreams you were uniquely lovely, beautiful as desert sandstone and  the turquoise we hunted on the mesas of New Mexico where my first childhood memories live.

You faded in my thoughts. How could someone so real be real? I pursued and mostly failed with girls close to home. Then I found you but I didn’t know it. My daydreams weren’t so vivid anymore and I had forgotten.

We rode silver buses together and shared moments of vague friendship. Mythical California, sun-kissed skin and that laugh.
But we were passing one another on the way to someone else. I stare at a photo from that time, my arm around your waist, your hand in mine, and wonder how I didn’t recognize you right in front of me, my childhood fantasy, my childhoood prophecy. What might have been can overwhelm me if I let it.

Today I remember an inexplicable pang of envy when you and another man entered the airport the last time I saw you, more than 25 years ago. Did I want you then? Then you were gone.

All these years later, water under so many broken bridges, each of us broken in our own way— scarred by shame, regret, and wounds we buried deep in secret places, somehow deluding ourselves that we deserved fear powerful enough to keep us from living wholehearted lives, to keep us from fully cherishing every moment of the short time we have together.

But the past is also my vivid daydreams. Those were beautiful not dark.

The past is the spectacular collision when we were given no choice but to be together. Within  48 hours I walked into the kitchen and my legs buckled. I sagged into a chair and whispered, “This is what love is supposed to be.” A crash of perfection, beautiful ruin
My heart still hammers in my chest. When you are near me.
The past is picking golden flowers on the hillside where you sat in childhood meditation.
Your eyes still dance for me in blue light of a darkened bedroom. Your beauty steals my breath like hiking at timberline. Your hair kisses my face as we make love. Your skin burns me like the sun. Your legs tangle with mine in the sheets and wrap around me when desire tries to carry me away. My long ago fantasy did not know your heart. You soothe me with kindness, your generous love makes me unworthy. You smile at me. I pray it will always be for me.

You saved my life despite the confusion of watching me fall into dark, dangerous places.

This is also our past, a past of love and trust and passion, and no one or no sorrow can fade it. I simply must—we simply must— remember to go back to these memories and give them the weight of an anchor and the invincibility of armor. The longing of absence even when we are in the same house. The pain of watching each other grieve and stare into dark alleys of trauma. The temptation to hide from pain and each other. We will find our way through no doubt, by remembering where we’ve been.

Life is harder right now. It’s harder to give our miracles and conquest their proper place.  We had no choice but to fall in love and we have no choice but to stay there.
If only I had known through all the dark times? if only I had known so long ago?  Useless questions.

I do know now. I am with JJ.

A letter to my daughters — and my sons — about sexual assault

My beloved,

You are precious to me. My girls, you are vulnerable souls and fierce warriors. My boys, you are strong and protective, loyal and kind.

You are not however perfect. I would never place that burden on you. You are afraid, sometimes too concerned with the opinions of others, and you are prideful— you want to think you are unbreakable and invulnerable, that you got this life thing down.

photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

photo by Chip Smodevilla/Getty Images

These imperfections are part of what I love about you, but they are also dangerous vulnerabilities.

Men and women you know, friends, family members, have in the past two weeks cheered a national shaming of rape survivors. They shame for the same reason rapists rape, because they believe it gives them power.

They have blamed rape victims for the way they dress, for being drunk, for “putting themselves in a situation” to be raped. These people have even said they deserved it. I can’t convey to you how evil this is.

There is no “situation you put yourself in” that will ever make it ok for you to be harmed.

God, I hope you never have or ever will be sexually assaulted.

My daughters, I have given you practical advice. Don’t set your drink down. Be aware of your surroundings, never be alone with someone you don’t know and trust. Be alert to men plying you with alcohol and to their motives.

I have not suggest where to go if you need help, or stressed enough that you can trust my unconditional love, that there are people everywhere who will not judge you, or that you never have to be ashamed. You are beautiful spirits, the lights of my life. My hope is that you find people who light your life in the same way. It’s a father’s job to show his daughters what they deserve from a partner. I hope I have shown that you deserve respect, tenderness, love and safety.

My sons, I’m not sure I told you the most important thing.

Dont rape!

I don’t believe you would ever do anything so horrendous, but as I see people whom I thought I knew and loved joining the frenzy against survivors, I realize this is a more complicated command than you might think.

You may find yourself in a situation where a drunk girl seems compliant, it may even be your girlfriend—or wife—and suddenly what was black and white becomes gray. Or you may need to stand up and refuse to be a passive if unwilling accomplice to others.

You may have heard the expression, “No means no” as a standard for consent.

I call you to more.

“Yes means yes!”

That must be your code. An absolute, clear and uncoerced “Yes!”

But here is where it gets even trickier. You cannot stand by and watch other men do anything beneath your own code. Don’t turn your back on a woman in danger. Don’t let the repugnant stories and jokes about women go unchallenged, or tolerate the shaming  by shameless people.

It is often harder to stand up to your friends—and family— than your enemies.

But you must. Losing a friend or angering a family member is a small sacrifice for demanding respect for someone who could be your sister, your mother or step-mother, a cousin, friend or the love of your life. I have not been a perfect father. I have put you in harms away. I have been selfish. And most of your life I have not demonstrated the warmth and intimacy a man should show a woman. I have been given a second chance with your stepmother and I hope you are paying attention.

560DDB79-C7CC-4F33-B240-EDAFC2F7743FAround 35 years ago I was at a lake outside Maryville, Mo., I was 17, drunk, and staring in disbelief as a group of Northwest Missouri State University students tried to coerce an extremely inebriated girl into a “train,” a word that is supposed to make gang rape sound like it isn’t gang rape. I recall waiting for the right moment to step in and say stop, but the girl wasn’t giving in and I was scared. I like to believe I would have done the right thing.  But it was a long time ago. I’m not sure.

Make no mistake, if I did not ultimately  step in and stop them, I would have been party to rape.  The responsibility for that would not go away because “it was a long time ago” as we constantly hear from rape apologists. It would be a permanent blight on my character.

I was rescued from potential cowardice by a young lady, the girl’s friend, who waded into the pack of drooling men, and yelled, “Leave her the fuck alone!”

She gently spoke to her friend, helped her off the ground and took her away.

The circle of  men, and I use that only in the biological sense, flung up their arms and stomped away like petulant boys.

My dear sons, don’t lose your moral compass in  a moment that could devastate a woman’s life and define yours. Train each day by choosing to respect every woman you encounter. Make amends when you falter.

My dear daughters, surround yourselves with friends like that young lady at the lake—both male and female—who won’t hesitate like I did to wade in and protect you.

Please pay attention right now to what is happening in our country. Women, rape survivors, with the same decency and resilience I see in you, are rising up, casting off shame for the armor of purpose, righteousness, and power. Become swept up in this wave.

People who ignore and scoff at them,  who don’t listen and believe them, people who shame them,  do so at their peril.

I love you.


RAINN operates the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline: 800-656-HOPE


The hotline offers:

  • Confidential support from a trained staff member
  • Support finding a local health facility that is trained to care for survivors of sexual assault and offers services like sexual assault forensic exams
  • Someone to help you talk through what happened
  • Local resources that can assist with your next steps toward healing and recovery
  • Referrals for long term support in your area
  • Information about the laws in your community
  • Basic information about medical concerns

Also visit the Website of Planned Parenthood