It was May 1980 and Gelledge’s 1975 canary yellow volkswagon bug sat out in front of the small aparment complex on Circle Court East road. Jane Snitly and her youngest son Snickle of eleven years stood on the cement porche with big eyes, the two of them. They looked at each other, to the right and then the left, not sure how to deal with these next few moments. Gelledge was finishing up loading the small bug with his belongings, helped along with his boyfriend Zoe (pronounced zo ee). It was a sunny californian day with no wind & blue skies.
“Well, I guess this is it Mom,” Gelledge looked at his Mother, excited for this new beginning, a new start with the man he loved. But it was bittersweet as his role in the family had been so much more than just a son. Jane Looked at him and though she knew she had been on a tirade these last few months, totally unprepared for her son’s departure, now, well, she still wasn’t ready, but she could let him go. Her heart felt clogged up, her breathing too. Her son Gelledge was really going to leave home. She didn’t want to believe it. But had taught her kids to be independent, they had to go out and make their own way in the world. For her gay son, it would be very tough in so many ways, she couldn’t imagine (and didn’t really want to) all of the many bad things that could come about, but living in a society that hated homosexuality, well some of it was easy to imagine without trying.
“Oh honey, you know how much I love you. You’ll always be my son and I’ll always be here for you. If you ever need to come home or what ever, I’m here. You know that right?” She reached out and clam held her son to her. He had always been her strength too, somehow. Taking over much of the role as caretaker of her youngest son Snickle. They were so close too.
“I love you too Mom. Don’t worry, I’m gonna be just fine. And I’ll only be in San Diego – it’s only 6 and a half hours drive away.” Their tears were abundant already, goodby’s like this were once in a lifetime goodbyes; something that you never forget.
Snickel and Gelledge turned to each other and hugged. Gelledge loved his little brother more than anything, had sacrificed already a great deal in order to help his Mom take care of him. Three years earlier he had let go of an amazing opportunity in Morro Bay and returned to Fresno with his Mother. A disastrous engagement to a high school sweatheart, he had turned out to be an alcoholic (again!) and unstable. Gelledge had never been so happy living in Morro Bay; an excellent tennis program with possibility of winning their high school division plus making best friends. It had been a a life changing decision.
“You know what little guy? We’re gonna see alot of each other! You’re going to come and visit me, we’ll go to the zoo and see the dolphins at Seaworld. I promise!” Gelledge was being stronger than he felt.
His little brothers’ eyes brimmed with tears, it was overwhelming for him. Gelledge had always been there. Had replaced a Father that had never been there, had never cared. They hugged each other tightly. Their connection was a strong one. Zoe stood off to the side a bit, not expecting so much emotion before leaving.
“Yea,” he added and we’ll be back before you know it! It’s not that far! We’re not going to the moon”. Everybody smiled and lots of well wishing was said between the tears, smiles and the seemingly never ending hugs.
“I love you,” they said.
“I love you too,” Gelledge replied. Their voices cracking, their tears steam rolling down their faces, Zoe had taken the wheel and slowly pulled out.
“Drive carefully Zoe! You take good care of my son – or you’ll answer to me! Get there safely….We love you!!” And away the little beetle drove off. Gelledge would never forget the image of his Mom and little brother on the lawn waving goodbye, their faces puffy from crying, but well wishing at the same time…
The drive was a long one, but finally the tears subsided and the joy of being in love, being together took over from everything else. Zoe and Gelledge held hands, talked about their future life together. It was going to be wonderful….Several hours later they had arrived. The secret was kept until the last minute! Zoe drove into the small city known as Ocean Beach, parked into a small driveway of a tiny apartment complex. There were palm trees and succulents.
Gelledge couldn’t believe it: salt air! They were only a 30 second walk to the ocean!! It was gorgeous!
Life was beautiful! And they were so much in love…