When I was a young man, it didn’t occur to me to be grateful for my life. Maybe it was because I imagined everyone else had the same life as mine, and my focus was on succeeding, but I’m not sure at what. As a gay elder, my days start and end with gratitude, not forced or feigned, nor because I believe that if I don’t say “Thank you” now that I’ll pay for it in the next life.
There doesn’t need for there to be a God, a Universal Force in order for me to say, “Thank you.” My gratitude for my life comes from my heart, not from superior knowledge or science. Is there such a thing as fate, as predisposition, or luck that makes one’s life appear happier than another’s? When it comes to my career as an educator on LGBTQ issues, I say, “I was the right guy, at the right place, in the right time,” but I didn’t plan one aspect of my professional or love life, and I’m grateful for it all.
I’m grateful for being born when I was to the family I had, to the nuns, brothers, priests and lay people who educated and guided me, to girlfriends, and handsome TV stars, and past boyfriends, and my husband, Ray, and for the dogs we’ve had, and the close friends who were there and then were gone, to the activism of others, including the Suffragettes.
Who I am is a reflection of every encounter I’ve had in life, from children’s stories, and songs old and new, from conversations on planes and silences in church. There is incense in my being, flickering candles, hula hoops and the Twist, our holiday traditions, and the lights put up by people I don’t know.
We started watching the series “Fellow Travelers,” and the first episode was so intense for me that I realized I wasn’t breathing and that my arms and legs were twisted tightly around me. I’m grateful that I wasn’t an adult during the McCarthy witch-hunts, but I’m grateful that I went through the AIDS epidemic. The Quilt is stitched to my heart. I’m thankful for the site of fall colors, the roar of ocean waves hitting rocks, and the sounds of the mockingbird.
No one needs to keep track of the things in this life for which I’m grateful, not you, not Ray and not God. That’s my privilege to do. If I don’t do it, it doesn’t mean I’m ungrateful, but one could be ungrateful and be grateful they have the option.
It doesn’t matter to me if there is an afterlife, but I’m grateful for the thought there might be. I’m also grateful for the people who think I’m foolish for courting such a belief. I’ve not done so yet, but I think it would be fun to write down all of the people, places and things for which I’m grateful.