Death Becomes Her
Because I was dealing with so many conflicts from church and school, I would pretend to be sick just to stay home and get away from it all. I would go as far as to heat a thermometer up to make it look like I had a fever, and stick my finger down my throat to make myself vomit. Becky started to "get sick" a lot too. My parents started to catch on and began to accuse my sister and myself of faking, just so we wouldn't have to go to church or school. I stopped pretending to be sick, because my parents started to crack down on my delinquency, but Becky seemed to be getting really sick, all the time. She would get severe colds and was throwing up quite a bit.
"I was at Ralph's Market in Pasadena when I got a message to call home immediately. Your mother asked me to meet her at the Kaiser Hospital in Bellflower. I went straight there and the doctor was with your mother. Becky was in the Hospital Room on the I.V. The doctor took us to a private room to talk to us. She said Becky had Acute Lymphatic Leukemia. I asked if it was terminal and the doctor was not about to give us any hope, she said it was FATAL and we could expect three months. You asked me if I had any self-blame or just what my feelings were. Brian, I do not believe that anyone is responsible for another persons’ fate unless that person directly causes it. I don't feel that the Lord was punishing any body. He just had a greater calling for her at that time. I certainly had no anger toward God. I knew for sure that I had to try to pick up the pieces and get on with life."
My sister was sick with Leukemia and was going to die. Needless to say, the teasing stopped. Suddenly, all I could see were the times when we fought and argued. Although, one of the interesting things about fighting with your siblings is that if there really is true love there, you make up and become each other's best friend again. I wish I could go back and erase every bad thing I ever said or did to my brother and sister but everything in this life has a reason and a purpose no matter how unfair it seems at the time. Now as I reflect over these things as an adult, I realize that the good times out number the bad times ten to one. And that every moment, good and bad, was worth it.
This was devastating and heartbreaking news for my entire family. How could such a beautiful, sweet young girl suddenly become the victim of such a horrible decease? Why would God allow such a terrible thing to happen to her? Surprisingly Becky was the strong one that helped us all through this difficult time. She had a positive attitude and a sense of humor about it that helped ease the tension.
I was thirteen years old and in the eighth grade when the bottom fell out of our lives. I didn't have much interest in school and began feeling uncomfortable at church. I was maturing and going through puberty and began to realize that I really was different. But I didn't have anyone to talk to. Anything that had to do with my sexuality was kept inside as a deep, dark secret. The topic of Homosexuality was never spoken of except in derogatory terms so instinctively I knew I had to hide my thoughts and feelings from my family and friends. At this point in my life it didn’t even occur to me that I was a homosexual. I knew I had homosexual desires and feelings but was too young and naïve to make the connection. More likely I was in denial and just plain confused and scared.
My prayers became more personal and intense than ever before. I was afraid that because of these secrets I had inside I was bad and evil and my dreams and goals of living to see the second coming of Jesus Christ were all in vain. I had a passionate deep vision that I was on this earth for a reason and somehow I had a mission in life to fulfill in order to help prepare and pave the way for the second coming. That may be hard to believe but that is how I have always felt. I never thought I was a prophet or savior but I knew that I had a calling and that I would play a part in preparing for the second coming someway and somehow. I felt I was doing what was expected from me according to the teachings of my religion. I was a Latter Day Saint for goodness sake and that title is very discriptive in describing what my purpose and mission in this life was. As I grew older and started having sexual thoughts and feelings that I knew were not looked upon as decent and religiously respectable I began to think that my dreams and goals were in jeopardy. I knew I was not a bad person and I knew my only hope and salvation would be through prayer.
Becky was a strong willed tomboy. She could climb a tree and run faster than I could. She had an open mind and honest personality that allowed her to blend into any situation with ease. She had a big, full head of long, blond curly hair, crystal blue eyes and a dash of freckles on her nose and cheeks. During the summer we would practically live at the beach and Becky would always blister and her nose would peel.
After Becky was diagnosed with Leukemia, there was no separating her and Corina. They became closer than ever. Becky, Corina, Shirley and Danita had a bond that was enviable. It seemed like our family was getting closer than ever as well, but it was bittersweet and unfortunate that this tragedy facilitated such closeness. Mormons are encouraged to pray a lot. They pray before meals, before going to bed, before church, during church, at the end of church, before making decisions, and so on. We used to have an evening family prayer were we kneeled on our knees, formed a circle and held hands. We usually thanked God for giving us so many blessings, asked for his spirit to protect our house and to help give us the strength to get through such trying times. Now we really had something to pray about.
In many ways Becky was the only friend I had. Curtis Hayes had moved away by now and because of my secret sexual feelings, I didn't feel all that comfortable hanging around with Dan or Robin as much anymore. I knew I had a crush on Robin and didn't want to expose myself. We began to spend a lot more time together as a family. We were always taking family trips and vacations but now there was something special about every minute we spent together. Time was in a bottle and that bottle could be broken at any moment.
Even before Becky got sick we would go on family outings frequently. We lived by the beach so that was always a popular destination. There were Sunday drives to nowhere. We would just get in the car and drive. In the winter we would go inner tubing in the snow at the mountains. We would go to museums, sightsee in Hollywood and of course there were our trips to Arizona to visit Carol and her family. Every day was an adventure full of laughs, togetherness, education and just plain fun.
My prayers became about as intense as a thirteen-year-old boy could express. I asked my father if he felt like God was punishing us. That was because I believed God was punishing me because I was different and because I was letting him down. All because I liked boys in a romantic and sexual way. Ever since I can remember, I was sure that I would be alive to see the Second Coming of Jesus Christ and somehow be involved in the events leading up to it. but if I were a homosexual, then I would not be able to live in the presence of God because of this impurity, this abomination. At least as far as my religion was concerned. I truly was innocent and naïve in my beliefs and opinions about sexuality and relationships. I can not express in mere words the pain, anguish, embarrasment and shame I dealt with on a continous basis because of what I believed was God's truth. Mormons do not talk about sex except to discourage it outside of marriage. My parents did not talk about sex. My grandparents obviously did not talk to their children about sex or else there would not have been so many unplanned and out of wedlock pregnancies in our family.
I was convinced that my burgeoning sexuality was not the cause of my sister's illness, but had something to do with it. As an adult, I can see how utterly ridiculous that way of thinking is, but the truth is that at the time this is what I believed and how I felt. The ironic thing is that with all this chaos and confusion going on in my head, my sexuality was never spoken about with my family or friends. I never spoke to a soul about what I was feeling inside. Even though every night I would spill my guts to God through prayer. I had no secrets from God. I believed and I knew that God could see everything and even knew what we were thinking so I prayed to God from my heart as if he literally knew what I was talking about.
I had always assumed and believed that God was all knowing and knew what I was thinking, even in my deepest most inner thoughts. Over the years I had picked up enough general information to know that homosexuality was something you just did not talk about. Just so no one forgets, homosexuality was not as tolarated and accepted in the 1960's and 70's as it has become in 2015. Homosexuality was always an awkward subject to talk about and usually elicited rude and vulgar remarks and attitudes. And growing up as a professional teaser, both the giver and taker, I knew instinctively not to add fuel to the fire so I hid.
As an actor or even as a person, we all like it when people laugh with us but not when they laugh at us. I knew I was not going to except and embrace the predisposed image and preconception of what people think being a homosexual means. I did not want to be the limped –wristed lisping sissy that is a stereotypical Homosexual icon, but at the time, I had no idea if my mannerisms would be learned and adopted or if they would be instinctual or uncontrollable. I did not want to live a life where it was acceptable to laugh at, tease, ridicule and harm a homosexual. I knew I was not a bad or evil person because of the thoughts in my head. But I also knew that other people especially Mormons did not feel the same way. My religion believed that I was being decieved by Satan for some preverse and irrational reason and I believed it too, but I also knew I was full of love and hope and dreams. Keeping all these thoughts and feelings I had inside of me, felt like the right thing to do at the time. I didn't know any better. I was afraid of what would happen if my family or church leaders knew the truth about my sexuality. There were so many unknowns it consumed me. Would I get in trouble and be punished? Would I be ridiculed and ostracized? Would I be unloved and unwanted. Would my family be disappointed and disgusted with me? The one thing I knew for sure was that no one was going to be jumping up for joy and telling me that everything was going to be okay.
An amusing and funny thing happened during my eighth grade graduation from Dwyer Junior high…The graduation ceremony occurred on the Huntington Beach High School football field. Just as my name was called to walk up to the platform to get my diploma everyone in the stands stood up and started cheering. This took me by surprise because I was not very popular at school but I was caught up in the moment and started to wave and bow. It wasn’t until I grabbed my diploma and exited the platform that I noticed there was a streaker running behind me stitch stark naked.
As I started High School, Becky started chemotherapy. High School was not easy for me but I am sure it was a piece of cake compared to what Becky was going through. One of the most visible side effects of chemotherapy is the loss of hair. When we were little, I remember my mother would sit for hours brushing the tangles out of my sisters’ hair and then braiding it. Sometimes Becky’s hair would be so tangled she would cry. There would be no more brushing or braids anymore. There was something immediately drastic and devastating about seeing Becky bald and going through such a tragic time. However, something happened that helped ease the burden my family and I were going through. Something special happened to my sister that affects me to this day. She became a spiritual entity. She would touch people, not with her hand but her heart. There was something special about her that brought calm to the storm. It was as if she knew something we didn’t and it was her job to reassure us without giving away the plan.
Towards the end of summer vacation before I started high school I decided it was time for me to actively pursue trying to have my first real sexual experience. When I was about nine years old I experimented with a neighbor in his garage but I was just a child and it was mostly just curiosity. Then when I was about eleven I talked my neighbor Robin into laying down in my bed with me and taking our pants down. We didn’t get very far because my mother came in and interupted us. I told my mother that we were just playing but she knew better. I don’t think my mother told my father about it but my mother did her best to explain to me in her own way that it was wrong.
I was 13 going on 14 now and I had made up my mind that I needed to finally have my first real sexual encounter. The only problem is that I didn’t know who, how or where to do it. I remembered that in a local mall called South Coast Plaza I had gone to a public men’s room there and seen writing on the bathroom wall. Things like, “For a good time call…” and “meet me here at 3:00 for a blow job.” I took the bus and proceeded to cruise the bathroom. As I stood at the urinal pretending to pee I noticed an attractive man in his early twenties looking at me. He smiled and said, “Do you want a blow job?” I pretended like I didn’t hear him and then someone else came in the bathroom and interupted us. Then he motioned me to step outside the bathroom and I followed him. He asked me again if he could suck my cock and I said, “no thank you” and walked as fast as I could away from him. At the last minute I chickened out. But minutes later I returned to the bathroom but by now he was gone.
I still had a desire to try again but I had to get my courage up. I was scared. I had to find out if I really was a homosexual. I decided that next time I would cruise the bathroom at Corona Del Mar. Corona Del Mar was between Huntington Beach and Newport Beach and my family and I had gone there quite often. They had changing rooms next to the bathrooms that we would use to shower off the sand and change out of our swim trunks. I used to notice that guys would smile and check each other out. I made eye contact with a young man in the changing room and followed him as he rode his bike to his house.
As soon as he entered his house he motioned me to follow him in. At the last minute I chickened out again and started to walk away. After a few minutes I changed my mind and walked back to his house. I knocked on the front door and a different man answered the door. I didn’t know what to say and then this man asked me if I was looking for his roommate. He told me his roommate came home for a few minutes but had just left again. As I started to walk away again the man I had followed came around the corner on his bike and motioned for me to follow him.
I followed him into the alley behind his house and then into his garage. He asked me what I wanted to do and I just shrugged my shoulders and said I didn’t know. Then he started rubbing my crotch with his hand and I started to get an erection. He tried to unbutton my pants but I wouldn’t let him. At this point he pulled down his shorts and started to masturbate while he continued to rub my crotch. After he was done pleasuring himself I got on the bus and went home. I didn’t actually have sex but I had finally had my first official sexual encounter.
I wish I could have been open and honest about my sexual desires. I wish I had someone supportive and understanding to talk to. I wish someone would have told me that cruising public restrooms was not the best or most respectable way to go about meeting men. I remember whenever I would go shopping or to the beach with my mother, Becky, Shirley, Corina and Danita they would check out guys and howl and whistle when they saw someone cute and I had to pretend I wasn’t interested but inside I thought they were just as cute as they did. I grew up in an atmosphere and a time that did not encourage or appreciate a twelve or thirteen year old boy coming out of the closet. The term “coming out of the closet” did not even exist yet.
I was always concerned about my appearance and particularly about the way I looked, and the way I dressed and the way my hair was combed. I was polite and had good table manners. I was interested in acting, I loved to dance and everything about me screamed, “Gay, Gay, Gay” but no one ever brought up the subject or questioned me about it except when I was being teased and bullied. Maybe I was weak and timid and didn’t have the strength of character to admit to myself or anyone else that I was a homosexual. All I know is that I was convinced that I could not be open and honest about my feelings and that’s just the way it was.
Once summer was over I started going to Huntington Beach High School. High School was a lot more enjoyable for me than grade school and Jr. high had been. I started to make new friends including Bud Barber. Bud was my new best friend much the same way Curtis Hayes was when I was younger, but Bud was a just at school friend. We never hung around together outside of school. Bud and I had previously become friends in junior high school at Dwyer. My family and my neighbors were my “afterschool” friends. I also started to go to Seminary. Seminary was at church everyday before school. So now I was going to church at least six times a week. Seminary is similar to Bible study, but as Mormons we also studied the Book of Mormon as well as the Bible.
I met a guy in my seminary class named Randy and I immediately had a crush on. He was talking to me about how he was taking a drama class at our high school. Until that minute it never occurred to me that if I wanted to be an actor I needed to study acting. The next day I switched my schedule around and enrolled in my first acting class. My acting teachers name was Al Magdelleno and he really inspired me to pursue my interest in being an actor. He opened my eyes and instilled in me that acting is a passion and a skill that you need to train at.
Soon I was singing in the school choir and performing in school plays. I enrolled in a journalism class and worked on the school paper and yearbook. After all these years I finally knew what school was all about. It was not the place you go to be picked on; it is the place you go to learn and sometimes, to have fun. One morning as I was walking to school with some friends from seminary a group of boys walked past us and as they walked by one of the boys looked at me and said, “Faggot.”
I had been called names before from skinny bones jones to sissy but this was the first time in my life someone had called me a faggot and in front of my church friends no less. It was the first time I realized that my thoughts had betrayed me. My emotions, my persona, my feelings and thoughts about being homosexual had manifested itself in my persona and mannerisms. By the way I spoke and by the way I presented myself. I could keep all my thoughts a secret but I could not hide who I really was even though I never spoke about it to anyone. Luckily the friends from church I was walking with told me to just ignore them because they were ignorant bullies.
Homosexuality has been around since the dawn of man. At different periods of history homosexuality has been prevalant, accepted, tolerated and condemned. Many of the greatest and most talented artists, poets and philosiphors throughout history were homosexuals. In modern times homosexuality has been condemned by many religions as an abomination of God and looked upon as sinful. Many individuals and organized religions seem to be overly concerned, angry and hateful in their passion against homosexuality. Bigotry and prejudice against people of different races, religions, skin color and sexual orientation has been the motivation for wars, murder and hate crimes as long as there has been recorded history. Even though things were slowly changing in 1974 it might have well been the stone age.
Bigotry, hatred and prejudice are never justified and are an indication of ignorance and uneducated and misguided ideas. When governments and religions encourage and promote any kind of bigotry, hatred and prejudice it is a crime against humanity and civilization. In my personal experience of being homosexual I have seen both enormous compassion and an ugly disturbing side of human nature. It is socially acceptable to tease, laugh, snicker and physically and verbally attack anyone thought or suspected of being homosexual. In the grand scheme of things I don’t know if prejudice against homosexuals is any better or worse than the unthinkable atrocities against Jews, native Africans, African Americans, Tibetians or any race or religious group that has been victimized in ancient and modern times. The fact that these injustices continue on any level is a sad commentary on the current state of evolved civilization.
One of my classes in high school was a journalism class but I wasn’t doing very well at school. I was preoccupied. Becky was in and out of the hospital and was getting sicker by the day. Becky was getting worse and the pain and pressure was getting to my family as well. I found out I was going to get a D in my journalism class because I wasn’t completing assignments and not doing my homework. I knew I had the talent to write and was learning a lot about writing in this class but I was just too distracted. But I did have an idea to help me improve my grade so I could at least pass with a C.
I managed to get an editorial in the school paper that was about a boy named, Randy, who was skinny, small and quite. Because of the personal nature of my story I submitted it anonymously. At the end of the semester, I was going to get a failing grade in my journalism class, so I told my teacher that I had written the anonymous editorial about a boy named Randy, and she ended up giving me a C-, instead of a failing grade. She told me that she figured out I was the author and encouraged me to keep working on my writing skills. When the editorial came out, my journalism teacher read it to our class and just thought it was wonderful. I wasn’t very disciplined in academic studies and very rarely did homework. My parents never forced us kids to study and as long as we did not bring home D’s and F’s, they were happy. Now I was learning that I had a passion and desire inside of me that I could freely express through the written word.
Letter to the Editor:
“Randy was a normal boy. But he was skinny, small and quiet. He had problems like any other boy. Ever since he was in the first grade Randy was made fun of. Kids thought that he was weird. They would call him names like: Skinnybones, Toothpick, and … well you know the rest. These names stuck. Since he was skinny, he could not really defend himself. Randy used to like sports. Only he never got to play. The kids would leave him out because they ‘only wanted the best.’
As he grew older, he learned to do things by himself. He wasn’t part of the ‘crowd’ so why should anyone bother with him? Maybe his teachers were to blame. They knew there was something wrong, but just didn’t do anything to help.
By the time Randy got into high school, he had been put into a stereotypical cage. Randy just acted normal. No gimmick or status was part of his life. Because he was different, he was a ‘fag.’ He wasn’t really. People just said that because he didn’t act the way others did. Because of all the ridicule, Randy wanted to make something of himself. So, he became involved in the Theater class. He finally found something he was good in. Only he had to do it alone. Because of this acting ability, it only gave the kids more reason to call him ‘fag.’
Why is Randy a ‘fag?’ Is being a male having to be something in a rough sport? Is it masculine to be strong and bold? Also, was he weird because he didn’t use drugs, or didn’t need them? Other kids didn’t need them, but they used them to be part of the crowd. Whose fault is it that Randy became a part of the Stereotype?
In a way, we are all like Randy, only were afraid to admit it. Some of us fit perfectly in society, but do we think about people like Randy? We should try to help people like him. Because were the ones who made him what he is. We could ask Randy how he feels. We could. Really! Only Randy’s dead.
All anybody knows is that one day he was here and then the next, well you know it man! Nobody knows why or how Randy died. There was no reason at all. I know why he’s dead! He’s one of the many people who die every day from the same thing. What is this disease? It’s loneliness.
Randy died from one of the fast growing diseases called loneliness. How did Randy get this disease? It started when he was in the first grade. From being a ‘skinny bones’ to a ‘fag.’ All because he wanted just to be himself and not a part of the jigsaw puzzle called Society.
It’s too late to help Randy now. But what about all the other ones just like him? You can still help them. When you see someone like Randy, give them a smile and say ‘Hi!’ It may seem dumb at the time, but you could just be saving a life!”
While I found an outlet for my frustrations and problems, my father, on the other hand, was a basket case. He was so devastated by my sisters’ illness that he became desperate in his attempts to help her. Someone at church by the name of Sister Hearst had told my father that she was cured from cancer by drinking carrot juice. My father started buying carrot juice by the gallon. Becky was not happy about this and usually dumped the carrot juice into a potted plant when dad wasn't looking. My father tried wheat germ and vitamins, but the sad reality was that it wasn't going to cure the Leukemia. The only benefit was that we had a very healthy houseplant.
Becky could always find a way to break the ice and turn a bad situation around. My parents bought Becky a really tacky looking wig. She did not like to wear it because it would itch and fall off and was just plain ugly. Sometimes she would lift her wig off in the car or in public places and startle complete strangers. It wasn't really funny but it was good for a laugh and God knows we needed it. It was a little strange for me to be so nice and friendly to my sister all the time now. It's natural for brothers and sisters to fight but now there was nothing to fight about. Now we were simply fighting for life. Becky was in and out of the Hospital for about a year when her Leukemia went into remission. She wasn't cured but she no longer showed signs or symptoms of the disease.
The first Christmas we had after my sister was diagnosed with Leukemia was tough on everyone. It had to be extra special but at the same time it couldn't seem obvious. Family Affair was my sister's favorite TV show. On the show, the character of Buffy had a doll named Mrs. Beasly. Several years earlier, Becky had a Mrs. Beasly doll that was chewed to pieces by one of the many dogs we had over the years. My parents looked high and low to find a replacement and finally found a Mrs. Beasly doll in time for Christmas. On Christmas morning when my sister opened the package with her doll in it, there wasn't a dry eye in the house.
My parents also bought a tape recorder that Christmas, and unbeknownst to me they recorded my sister opening her Mrs. Beasly doll for prosperity and memories. Later on while there was a lull in the Christmas morning activities I decided to take the tape recorder into the bathroom where I proceeded to record my own little radio show complete with commercials and musical interludes. After dinner my parents decided to play the Christmas tape for everyone. They rewound it and pushed play. You could hear each of us kids opening our presents with surprise and glee. Then all of a sudden my little radio show starts up and everyone thought it was quite funny at the time until my parents realized what I had done. I was recording over Becky opening up her Mrs. Beasly doll. My whole family sat around the tape recorder bewildered, stunned and laughing nervously, and the fact that it was a little funny and the fact that my radio show ended just as Becky was opening her Mrs. Beasly doll, kept me from getting in really big trouble. It would end up being the last real Christmas we would spend together as a family and I almost ruined it.