On June 4, 1968, I was a young man of Boys Town. On June 5, 1968, I was a young man on his own.
I took my one way bus ticket and returned for a visit to the Monshors in Detroit. During this trip Robert Kennedy was shot and killed in Los Angeles. "Bobby" had visited Boys Town just days prior to my graduation. His assassination brought back memories of hearing of John Kennedy's assassination while I sat in a 8th grade science class at Boys Town; how we were rushed immediately to the chapel to pray for our president and after his death, how we all sat silently watching the events unfold on a small black/white television screen. Only two months prior, Dr. Martin Luther King was also assassinated. THIS WAS THE WORLD BOYS TOWN SENT ME OUT INTO!
After returning to Omaha to work for the summer at a local Ford dealer, a classmate of mine (Renato) and I decided to get an apartment together for the summer. I couldn't really call it an apartment as it really was a dump! It contained a kitchen of decent size, a bathroom and a semi-large room that a divider had been placed down the middle of to make a small living room and smaller bedroom. It came furnished with old furniture. This we were to call "home" for the summer. In July I lost my job and ended up spending the balance of the summer on the streets surviving in anyway I could..
In late August, 1968, just before the start of what was to be my frshman year in college I had second thoughts about college and attempted to enlist in the U.S. Army, thinking it would be a better place for me as it provided a degree of regimen that Boys Town had. I did not feel comfortable having the total freedom I had desired...some say I was "institutionalized."
I passed all the tests prior to induction and was told to report the following Monday for my physical and departure to boot camp. The physical went smoothly, as I was in good shape for an eighteen year old; until it came to my eye exam. I failed the eye test. I had been born with a "lazy eye" meaning it roamed but also, I was born for, all intents and purposes, legally blind in that eye...left (now 20/400). I was reclassified and told to go back to what I had planned as my services would not be needed....thus ended my almost military career.
As a child I had five surgeries, on my left eye in an attempt to correct it. I have no memory of the surgeries but they are part of my records. I do remember, however, at 5 and 6 years old having to wear a patch over my "good eye" when watching television or reading at night for an hour in yet another attempt to correct it. It failed as the surgeries did.
I was warned early, that due to the stress on the right eye because of the left eye problems, I would eventually see a diminishing of my right eye. This has proven to be true, as today my right eye is 20/200. I have started wearing bifocals, since without them, I would be totally unable to read or be at this computer composing this web site. My vision seems to have stabilized now, but in time, further diminishment may occur...just another fact of life I may have to deal with. However, I digress :)
I entered Midland Lutheran College in the fall of that year on a debate/cross country scholarship. I think the school either was confused or made an exception for me as though I had run track I had never competed in cross country.
I was off and running in college life. Within a few weeks of classes starting, I had decided to once again enter the political arena and run for Freshman Class President. This time you had to first get enough votes to be nominated and actually run a campaign. I did not receive enough votes to be placed on the ballot, but those who supported me insisted I run as a write-in candidate. I spent two weeks making signs, posting posters and talking to whoever I could stop and get to talk with me. I ended up losing in a very close vote. I decided maybe politics was not for me; thus, in just a matter of months, both my military and political careers came to an abrupt halt.
Two experiences stand out in my college career. The first happened within a month or so of my entering college. I received a phone call late one evening from a Mrs. Robert Wagner. She indicated she had been a foster parent who cared for me as a small youngster and had something that belonged to me. I told her that "parents weekend" was coming up and if she wanted, she could come and visit me then...she readily agreed. I must tell you that I had no recollection whatsoever of her.
Mrs. Wagner arrived early on the Saturday afternoon of parents weekend. She had a check for me in the amount of $1,000.00 which came from a savings bond bought for me when she and her husband cared for me and said it was rightfully mine.
Mrs. Wagner seemed rather distant and cold. She would only talk in the lobby of the dorm in which I was living and would not attend the football game. She spent only a few hours at school before arranging to return to Omaha to catch a plane back to Detroit.
I wrote her after her visit to thank her for the funds which were much needed by me. I never heard from her again.
Years later, I found records indicating that she had been a "boarding parent," which means "foster parent." I have spoken to others just recently that have a different bend on the situation...which I tend to agree with.
I stayed with the Wagner's for 16 months between age 2-4. It is extremely unusual for foster parents to purchase a savings bond, unless an adoption was planned, while caring for a foster child. Also, I was now 18 and had not heard from the Wagner's in 14 years. She also had to spend time in finding out what happened to me during those 14 years since I left her home; contact Catholic Social Services, Boys Town and finally Midland Lutheran College. No ordinary foster parent, would go through all this. It is felt that the Wagner's could have been prospective "adoptive parents," who, for whatever reason after a period of time, could not follow through on the adoption. However, after realizing I was now 18 and considered an adult she wanted to see for herself what happened to me; how I turned out. Once that was determined by her visit with me, her curiosity was satisfied and she was ready to move on.
The second experience that stands out of my college days; my needing to accept myself as the person I am! I had, as many young boys do, experimented with other boys, but never seriously considered myself a homosexual or gay, as it is called today. I had dated girls, and yes, I was sexually active in my senior year of high school.
However, a question of my sexual identity haunted me throughout my freshman and sophomore years of college. I was tormented by even the thought that I might possibly be gay....as I had been throughout my years at Boys Town, from time to time. I had to find the answer to the question: AM I GAY?
In answering this question please let me make it clear...this is NOT an attempt to convince anyone on this subject...it is MY answer! You have a right to disagree with me and I know many will...however, this is my story and not yours. Please respect my opinions as I will respect yours and your right to express them
If you are heterosexual and reading this; stop and think....WHEN DID YOU DECIDE YOU WERE HETEROSEXUAL?
Was there a moment in your life when you said "I will choose to be heterosexual" or did it come naturally? I believe if you are honest with yourself, you will answer there was no moment and that it just came naturally.
I believe I too was born who I am. I was born gay. Just as you cannot pinpoint a day or moment you made the decision to be heterosexual neither did I wake one day and decide...I am going to be gay! I did not choose to be gay...it came naturally...though I fought and battled it for many years until accepting who I was. In truthfulness I have thought I might be gay since I was 7...but did not accept it. It is not choosing to be gay that a gay person does...it is rather accepting yourself, as a gay person!
Think for a moment: who in their right mind would choose to be gay considering the following:
Being gay can mean a life of verbal insults and abuse by others
Being gay can mean being the subject of physical assaults
Being gay can mean death at the hands of another for simply being who you are
Being gay can mean the loss of a job or housing...it can't happen to you but it can to me!
Being gay can mean rejection by your family and friends. My birth mother wishes I would contract AIDS so I would die rather than she have a gay son
Being gay can mean being rejected by those who have never even taken the time to get to know you, except they have found out you are gay.