Ave atque vale, Ronald Watts

I struggled, before and during the writing of this. Ron didn’t want anyone except a chosen few to know about him. And yet I’m writing this. He’s dead, so I can. Hence the struggle.

Part of this is selfishness, because this is a story I want to tell. Part is principle, because this is an important story.

Peter has written about his father’s life. I had none of this context. In 2009, I met a sad, sweet old man whose dentures were never quite anchored, who could never even half finish the Admiral’s Platter at Red Lobster, though he always asked for it. A man who was stolid and steady and almost entirely non-defensive about his faith, which meant that he and Peter had chronically unsatisfying but also reliably non-violent conversations about it. He kept chocolates in the fridge. He was handsome and frail. One evening while Peter was in another room, he spoke earnestly to me of the importance of having let his sons make their own choices, then said, in low tones, “But it is my greatest regret in life that none of them found God.” He tried to order port at the Oakville Oliver & Bonacini, and the server thought he said “pork”, and laughter ensued. Sometimes these dinners were all Peter and me, trying to make conversation. On rarer occasions, his dad would speak suddenly, apparently out of the blue: “Does she know about me? Have you told her?” “I think a lot about how hard it must have been for you when we moved here.”

He always wanted us to come back to his place after dinner and watch a video (yes, VHS) or DVD. Peter brought Alien along, once, and his dad watched it (and napped a little), and when it was over declared the guns implausibly big and noisy. After one dinner, though, we didn’t go straight into the living room; he ushered us into his office and eased himself into his desk chair. He cast about in his computer files until he found the one he wanted: a podcast by and for young, gay Christians. We listened to the intro for a minute or two, and then Ron said, “What I want you to hear is later on…” and clicked until he found the place. “Time for listener email,” one of the hosts said. The other: “We have a really special one for you tonight.” And he read a message from a 92-year-old, who wrote of his longing to be “normal”; of his hope, as much younger man, that marriage would “cure” him; of his remorse at having caused his wife pain when he could no longer hide what he was. Though, he stressed in his email, he had never had any homosexual encounters. Not a single one. And now he was so old that he knew his dream of companionship would never be realized.

Ron had hardly spoken during dinner. Now his hand shook a little on the mouse as we all listened to what he had to say—to the young, gay Christians whose lives were so different from anything he’d known; to us.

This post would have horrified him—yet all I want to do is honour him. I hope that’s OK.

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Photo by Rebecca Springett

Release Date - October 2015

Published by: ChiZine Publications

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