My youngest daughter, who graduated from the University of Georgia, came to Atlanta to see me this weekend. On Saturday, we drove to Athens to see the first game of the football season. We even went over early to tailgate with about 20 other folks. It was fun, though I clearly was old enough to be everyone else’s father. So, it was a bit awkward for me … and perhaps just a bit for everyone else. Still, it was opening day, and Georgia won pretty easily.
It was fun, but I felt guilty about enjoying myself too much. That is just wrong. Oh, if you are having fun doing something unethical or immoral or illegal then you ought to feel guilty. The trouble is, though, too many of us feel guilty for having fun and feeling happy, and that is disrespectful to Life and the joy it offers.
I felt guilty because Bill wasn’t there. When we met in the fall of 1980, we quickly discovered that one of the things we had in common was college football. Back then there was no such thing as a gay sports bars, and most of our friends thought we were weird. We knew all about the teams and got too excited when one of our teams was playing. It simply wasn’t what gay men did, at least back then. Over the years, we managed to find lots of gay and lesbian friends who also love football, and it became something we all enjoyed talking about as much as our straight “frat bros.”
Saturday’s game was exciting and fun, but I kept thinking how much more fun it would have been if Bill had been there. I missed him intensely, but I still had a good time. There were moments when I thought I shouldn’t be having such a good time, because exactly one year ago I was in Sonoma scattering part of Bill’s ashes. I didn’t keep track of college football last year. I just couldn’t. So many good memories and fun habits that Bill and I enjoyed were around this relatively wholesome and “butch” activity.
This year, as the season began, I thought, “I should not be enjoying this so much without Bill.” Then a phrase I’ve used in sermons over the years suddenly came back to confront me. I heard myself saying to previous congregations that they had to resolve to include in their self-talk, on a regular basis, the injunction, “Today I will not should on myself.”
There are too many dark nights of grief and loss and anxiety and regret. When Life offers us a moment or two of pure joy, regardless of the source, resolve to enjoy the heck out of it and create a memory. In those moments, never “should” on yourself!
Rev. Michael Piazza