“… my only sunshine.”
Okay, first… I need a better way to start sentences in this blog other than, “in my book…” but until I find one…
In my book, I wrote long and lovingly about Gerhard, my mentor, in art, in life. In true apprentice to Master Artisan relationship, Gerry continues to teach me as much about line, form, light and shadow as he does about lines (of thought), forms (of reason), light (of human spirit), and shadow (of human soul). And… I really have not begun to accurately describe how important he is to my life today. I was regarded, along with a small handful of students who went on in life to remain as close to Gerry as I am, as one of Gerhard’s Sons. As a transgender woman, it was even harder to give up that title than it was to give up the title of my father’s son. Especially since, I am convinced, tho’ my own wife and sisters think me crazy, that my father would’ve welcomed me as his daughter, had he lived to see me.
But I digress.
I am the woman I am today because of almost 40 years of Gerry’s love, support, and really shitty jokes.
I’m not exaggerating.
Seriously, his jokes are really bad. But as bad as they are, his love and support have literally blown my mind with the vastness, the strength, the… sheer breadth.
Tho’ Gerry, like the rest of the world, believed me to be the boy and then man that I was expected to be, when I finally set him straight (pun intended) he said so many things (about me) that became instantly clear. And our relationship didn’t skip a beat. I can tell him the scary things I’m facing, the “one little victories” that I’ve won, and everything in the middle. I know he doesn’t understand for even a second what this journey is for me, from Scott to Scottie – BUT, as an artist (“freak” in our lingo), he knows with his heart what’s true about it, and in that his understanding is growing. Who could ask for more than that?
But I have a confession to make. Gerhard is also prone to the “right-er” things of life. And, prior to this election, I always wrote off his hyperbole as… well, let’s just call it waaaaay outside of the box thinking. Okay, that was a bit cowardly. But in his defense, I was never sure the world would end in an apocalyptic dystopian breaking down of society that required stockpiling ammo and dry goods. Then again, I have always lived a somewhat sheltered life here in La La Land, in the People’s Republic of California, and yes, I’ve spent time (too much) in the redneck south (Survival TV needs them) and saw that Gerry wasn’t wrong about how people felt. So, tho’ I saw that a Michael Bay produced end of times was possible, it never felt probable.
But that’s not my confession. I was worried since Gerry had been outspoken about how messed up the last 8 years were (look, I said Master and apprentice, we almost never agreed on just about anything except line and form, light and shadow). And it hurt a little when I thought… well, that Gerry could’ve voted against all I stand for. So when November 9th dawned, and the apocalypse looks closer than it had ever been… I couldn’t bring myself to call Gerhard. I couldn’t bear to hear anything that poured salt in my wounds by the most important man in my life.
So I didn’t.
But the reality of that decision was compounded by the above fears and one little splinter in my mind that I allowed to fester into a sore. It went something like this. I had last spoken to Gerry when I asked for some help getting to Seattle to speak at the Trans*Pride event and promote my book. He was, of course, as supportive as ever. But, he also got to see that I was really, really, really handling my transition as I do everything else – both feet on the gas and all in. And, tho’ he wasn’t surprised in the least, I think he was for maybe the first time… scared? Maybe? For me?
But what ever it was, I called after the trip to tell him how successful it had been, and to thank him for once again being… well, Gerhard. But no answer. So I left a message and waited for his reply.
Which never came. And the longer time passed, the more that splinter of doubt started to fester. And this is really one of the main reasons for “baring all” in this account – to say to you out there that Ms. Scottie is a professional denial-er (if it ain’t, it is now). Don’t try this at home. You see, Gerry and I have never gone that long EVER without speaking to each other. I called him almost as much as I called Marcy, even when it was sat-phone from some mountain peak or jungle river. And, lest you think I’m paranoid, I left a few more messages between July and October just to double check. Nuthin.’ Was Gerry distancing himself from me? Was he having issues with my transition? Was he, on second thought, not onboard the Scottie train? Was my being trans too much of a muchness?
In other words, were my deepest fears coming true? Was he just not going to tell me/hurt me by saying anything (he’s not a monster) but would instead, let the wire slip from our connection and we silently drift apart?
See how this works? You take a little hard evidence, like not having a call returned for three months, stir in your own doubt, and sprinkle in some irrational fear… then ice it with this recent cataclysmic shift in our country, and… could you blame me for being worried?
You should. It’s not how this girl has ever played, but it is unfortunately a new normal as I spread my pink wings. I see only my flaws. I wonder if people are really okay with me, do the people I love love me, accept me, hold me as a woman, or just as “Scottie doing whatever.”
And, yes, yes, YES!!!!! I know it’s all me. I know, I know, I KNOW it’s my fault, my doing, that I’m being silly, childish, and paranoid or all three at once! I freakin’ KNOW!
But the splinter was there.
Which brings us to the present, or at least a week ago. I couldn’t stand myself anymore. I hated being all of the above. And the truth was I missed Gerry horribly.
So, I called.
And, long story short (which is something I forgot to say about Gerry. I never call unless I have a few hours when we can, and will, talk about everything. He has an opinion about anything, and I can conjure one out of thin air. It’s one of my super powers honed at the master’s knee), Gerry had been fighting an infection in his ear for, wait for it, three months! Yes, for those of you out there keeping score, the three months of silence was because he literally was in pain!
So how small do I feel for not being able to get over my other fears?
And then he said it. He was laying low, staying off Facebook. He couldn’t bear to hear another person thumping their chest for Trump. Including his own wife…
Wait, what? Does that mean he didn’t? Does that mean I’ve been wrong about Gerry totally?
Yes. He said, “I am German. We’ve seen this movie before. It doesn’t turn out well.”
Well, I can work with that. And then he confirmed that I also wasn’t being paranoid (a relief?). His wife Mary did have an issue with my transition. Now, before I go all feminist judgmental on a woman who voted for Trump (which I will on her, but I’ll spare you here), I have to say that I usually like Mary and… as I said “in my book,” Mary had been one of my role models. Now, I use that a lot, in this blog, and it’s fairly obvious with the women I’ve written about why. In Mary’s case, she is a subtle model, one of the “how” to conduct oneself, kind. Mary’s got “comportment” down, a real, refined, Downton-Abbey-ol’ school British-aristocratic-ladylike Grace. And she’s my mentor’s wife, so I am seriously bummed that she’s got an issue with my… me-ness. Because that’s gonna make stuff awkward to say the least.
And to be, ahem, fair, I’m not sure if she has an issue with my being trans so much as she has an issue with me “keeping it” from Marcy for 20 years of our marriage and then “springing it one her from left field.” Which, is her analysis of our situation, despite Marcy telling her clearly that she doesn’t see it that way at all.
So, whatever. I made a note to figure out what to do about Mary, and bulldozed my bruised feelings into the so-what department, and, instead, made plans to see Gerry as soon as I could get there.
But, I realized that we had been speaking for two hours and his pain meds were starting to really kick in. I was disturbing his rest, and I so I started the good-bye process for the 20th time, and this time, he said:
“Alright, you’re right, I’m really starting to babble now, let me go, bro.”
The misstep rumbled off both of our receivers like a gunshot – and it made me instantly realize that, up until to this time, he had gone a full two hours without ever tripping on a pronoun. In fact, he had referred to me several times as “Darlin’” or “Honey,” and I was reveling in his actually holding me in his heart as a woman, but before I could even stammer a response, he said,
“God damn it Honey, I am so sorry. It’s just that… you’ve always been my son… I’ve always called you ‘sunshine.’ Hey, that’s it, you’re sun with a ‘u’. You’re still my sunshine.”
You’re right, Gerry. I don’t have to give up being one of Gerhard’s suns. I’ll always be there, just like you have for me, even when skies are gray.
Scottie Jeanette Madden
Screenwriter, Author, Cook and Lover. Author of "Getting Back To Me, from girl to boy to woman in just fifty years"