And like that, the road trips were over, I was back in Birmingham, and it was time to get back to work. If I were a few years older, I might have toyed with early retirement, but 56 is just a bit too soon. I’d been through all this before, but with Steve’s death, I had had a couple of years to get used to the idea before he died and was able to do a lot of my grief work in advance. No such luxury this time around with Tommy who went from functional to deceased in just over a month.
And so I’m returning to my usual patterns with mixed success. The first UAB day back on Monday went well, thanks to the kindness of multiple colleagues who had handled most of the clinical issues while I was gone. I was more or less back in the saddle and up to speed by lunch time and there are no major issues on the horizon. The first day back at the VA today was not as smooth.
My biggest issue is trying to figure out how best to spend my downtime without Tommy and Tommy’s unending stream of projects that usually required a factotum to follow him around and lend the extra pair of hands to make sure it all happened on schedule. I do have a show coming up, but it doesn’t go into rehearsal for a few more weeks. I have a house to clean out, but I can only do so much of that so fast for emotional reasons. (I went through all his clothes and sorted everything out this weekend. It wasn’t as hard as I thought it might have been – except for the shoes. Those held a lot of memories. Tommy had tiny little feet (Mens 7 1/2) so fitting him in shoes was always difficult. When he found some he liked and that fit, he always bought them so his closet tended to resemble that of Imelda Marcos. But, it’s done, I just have to get things to where they need to go.) I’ve got some writing projects to work on, but I often don’t have the energy after a full day at work to get too intellectual. I’ll probably do that more on weekends. I can write these little epistles to the world and I need to get back to writing my MNM columns more routinely as well.
The current decision, so I feel like I am getting something constructive done, is to do my CME for the year. I have some computer courses that expire at the end of the month so I need to get them done and then I can forget about those hours for another year or so. I hate the years when I realize it’s December and I have another ten hours I have to get and I’m up late with the laptop trying to cram the difference between Eschericia coli and Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae into my brain. I figure if I can get an hour or two in on weeknights the next few weeks before turning on Netflix and becoming a vegetable, it will be a good thing.
The Chaka Khan story. This is another Steve story. Steve and I used to travel a lot with the gay travel group Atlantis Events and, in January of 1999, shortly after we had moved to Birmingham, we were booked on one of their first Caribbean cruises on the Norwegian Wind. This was before Steve became ill so he was in fine form, making sure he was noticed by the other guests and staff alike. The special guest entertainer on the cruise was Chaka Khan and one evening, she did her set. Later that night, there was a white party up on the deck and as it was a lovely warm night, most of the men weren’t wearing a whole lot. Steve decided to attend wearing a white sailor top and sailor hat and a white jock strap. The top was long enough to cover most of his rump, not that that crowd cared and he and I were dancing under the stars. Chaka came out on deck and sat at a table at the side of the dance floor to watch the dancing and Steve spotted her. He immediately took off his jock strap, tossed it to her (she nimbly caught it) and then proceeded to flash her. Her response was uproarious laughter and something along the lines of ‘Honey, a girl likes it when you leave something to the imagination’. He laughed back and she invited us to sit down with her. Steve and she were roughly the same age and knew some of the same people in LA and soon were having a high old time together, even if he wasn’t wearing any pants. He always adored African American women and they him. Once we moved to Birmingham, he would say the most outrageous things to African American women we would encounter and they would all laugh, and then fix him with an amused, but steely gaze and say “You’re so bad” to which his standard response was “I didn’t know any better” and they would all laugh again.
For those of you who were wondering, yes, I had my pants on, thank you very much. If I recall, I was wearing white jeans and some sort of sheer white top. Yes, there are photos. No, I’m not publishing them…