Last night Stacey and I got home from our trip to Maryland to bury my father. Except we didn’t bury him. Joyce, my stepmom, will do that in the spring. She’ll take his cremains to Albrightsville, Pennsylvania, and inter them in the same plot that holds my mother and my first stepmother, Carol.
My father and I had been estranged for several years, beginning when I was outed to him as transgender. But I was able to speak with him last week on the phone, and we reconciled. We told each other we loved each other, and I began making plans to drive down to visit him.
Alas, that was not to be. On Tuesday, February 9, as Stacey and I were about two hours out of Rochester, my father died.
When my mother died, I knew it immediately. And later, talking with my brothers, it turned out that they did, too, as did several other close family friends.
But with my father, nothing. I wonder if it had anything to do with the way each of them went: Mom’s passing was peaceful, in her sleep, while Dad had a hard time of it, struggling for each breath.
My daughters were there as well. Both the one I’ve been in constant contact with and the one who, like my father, had stopped speaking with me—and for the same reason. But when we saw each other, and hugged each other, that separation, too, disappeared, and all is well with us again.
Then there was my cousin—daughter of my father’s brother. I was worried how she would react to my changes, as I had not really been in contact with her for a long time. But I needn’t have worried: she said when her son came out as gay, they had no problem accepting him for who he was, and the same applied to me—no matter who I am, she loves me still.
It’s a strange state, this Maryland. It is considered the birthplace of religious freedom in the United States. Facts about the state are far too numerous to mention here, so I suggest you do what I did when I started my research, and check out its Wikipedia page. Ironically, despite the fact that Maryland remained on the Union side during the Civil War, it was a slave state, and as such, was not affected by the provisions of the Emancipation Proclamation, as that decree only applied to those states in the Confederacy…a fact that wasn’t taught when I was in school.
Driving around the state—especially on the back roads Stacey and I frequented—you’ll see numerous old barn-like buildings in various states of disrepair. They’re not barns but in fact old tobacco-curing sheds. Maryland had a large tobacco industry at one time, but a state buyout greatly reduced its presence. It’s curious to note that although the sheds are no longer needed nor in use, it’s illegal to destroy them. And so they stand, mute witnesses to a past era.
Controversy Over the State Song
Periodically, efforts are made to change the state song to something less martial. As Wikipedia says,
Due to its origin in support of the Confederacy, it includes lyrics that refer to President Abraham Lincoln as a “tyrant”, “despot”, and “Vandal”, and to the Union as “Northern scum”, as well as referring to the phrase “sic semper”, which was the slogan later shouted by Marylander John Wilkes Booth while assassinating Lincoln. For these reasons occasional attempts have been made to replace it as Maryland’s state song, but to date all such attempts have met with failure.
For these two Northerners, Maryland’s road system was a nightmare…and we weren’t the only ones to think that. Navigating via GPS didn’t help: it was always a case of “Turn left in 200 yards…Duh! You missed it! Make a U-turn at the next intersection.” There were many cases where it told us to make a turn onto a given street even though we knew from past trips that we still had 1/4 mile to go before we would even reach that street.
It just validated my own strongly-held belief that GPS will never entirely replace a decent map.
Thanks for reading,