Still Learning How to Fly ~ Chapter Fifteen: "Goodbye Ever After"

Ken Painter By Ken Painter, 26th Oct 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Biography & Autobiography

After I take my estranged wife back to Michigan from Arizona after our home sells, I find myself footloose for the first time in thirty years. I go through a prolonged period of re-adolescence reliving the missed years of gay life I should have lived during my college days. Uh-oh!

The Graveyard Shift and UFO's

There was only one drawback to my new job as a security officer. The job was on the 3rd shift. Overnight. Graveyard duty. It would take me some getting used to. A few years earlier I’d taken a part-time job for a few months back in Chicagoland as a clerk in a convenience store back in my last few months at Allstate when times were still rough before I’d begun teaching again. And this had also been a 3rd shift position, one in which I’d had difficulty adjusting to, but somehow I’d survived for awhile. I felt I could do the same with this. At least I was up for the challenge, and being a security guard was something new to me so I was up for learning new tricks.

I began on Memorial Day in a junkyard or more descriptively an auto parts salvage yard. I drove one of the company trucks to the location in town, punched in the access code at the gate I’d been given and drove back to the central rear of the property as I’d been instructed with a good view of much of the area which needed the closest scrutinizing. For the next ten hours I sat in the cab of the truck watching the area making certain that nobody tried to make a desperate attempt to climb over the high fence and try to make off with anything. Additionally, once every hour I would make a perimeter check of certain portions of the fence which were out of my view just to make sure that all was okay. I had no incidents, and at the end of my shift, I went home.

My job with this security company would locate me throughout the greater Tucson area at such sites, mostly building locations where thieves liked to make off with loose lumber and copper pipe. Those were the hottest items.

Working the 3rd shift did provide for one peculiar experience though . . . my first and only UFO sighting to date. And I wasn’t the only one. Many of us 3rd shifters at various sites in the area saw it and suddenly the chatter on our mobile radios grew intense. I forget which one of us started it off, but one of us guys noticed it looming in the very early predawn dark sky to the east as a huge bright light, way too big and bright to be a star (and certainly not a weather balloon). So I and one of the other guys began talking about it, and soon three or four others who by then had discovered it were chatting about it too when suddenly it shot straight up into the air like a bullet! Immediate acceleration from zero to God knows what which would have been impossible for anything known to this sphere (at least that we the public are aware of). Fortunately, my buddy whom I’d been chatting with on the radio got a shot of it on his cell phone. I’d neglected to be so thoughtful. However, that was the end of our UFO days.

Moving Nancy

Sure enough, as the calendar was about to turn July our house in the mobile home community sold, and for a decent price. Fortunately this was 2006 and not 2008 or it may never have sold. But we had thirty days to leave and while we’d already prepared to some extent by paring down some of our belongings, there was still much to do. I had to locate an apartment. We had to contract a truck. And we had to schedule everything around the closing so that we could move me first, and then move Nancy long-distance to Michigan. Hers was so much more complicated because I was going to drive her back, and then this time I would be the one flying back to Tucson.

Somehow it all occurred relatively smoothly. I located a nice apartment in north-central Tucson reasonably priced and with good people. We rented a local truck and moved my portion of the already agreed upon stuff a few days before the closing, and I stayed there immediately. Nancy and I finally had become completely separated at last. How strange.

Just a few days later right about the end of July we went to closing, transferred the assets, and it was all done. Our dream retirement home was no longer ours. Somebody else’s. We still had a couple days to finish clearing out, but with Ben’s help we’d already secured the help of a number of the brothers to load up the long-distance truck for the next day. Nancy was even spending a night in a motel.

Loading day and moving day were two separate days, because, of course, once the truck was completely loaded we still had to completely clean the house which we did, and after its completion it was back to the motel for Nancy for one last night staying at the motel at the foot of “A” Mountain (Sentinel Peak) from which we’d spent many a time atop looking down upon this most beautiful of cities. It was a fitting place from which she would make her departure the next morning.

Of course, she was still on oxygen, and she would remain so because of her physical disability the rest of her life. Because of this we’d flown her out when we first moved there, but life in Tucson which sits at an elevation of approximately 2600 feet above sea level had acclimated her somewhat, and so we’d consulted her physician about the return drive back to Michigan. He said that if we stuck to the southerly route across the mountains which would take us across the continental divide at an elevation of only about 4500 feet she should be fine, and that’s what we did. We would be making that crossing in southern New Mexico on our very first day out before we even got to Las Cruces. And even though the route was still a little up and down up through Albuquerque, once we made the turn east toward the Texas Panhandle it was pretty much all downhill from there, and she never had any trouble at all.

However, it became impossible to ignore the fact that our 31st wedding anniversary occurred during the drive back to Michigan. We didn’t cry. We were way, way beyond tears at this point, but we did talk about it, and our conversations were all bittersweet. We’d decided that whatever happened in the future, we would remain friends forever. I was gay, and nothing she could do could change that. The route we drove, became the route that gets driven by most couples like us in such a situation. Divorce.

After a few days we arrived at her aunt and uncle’s in Michigan, and we managed to get the truck unloaded and her room set up. Roy, to his credit, was as kind as always. Karyn however could barely conceal her cold contempt, but I had expected nothing less. She was true to her nature. She was merely being honest.

After the unloading Nancy and I gave each other a quick hug, and we promised to keep in touch. I quickly departed to the waiting car where my sister, Sandi would whisk me into town to the motel and to the airport in Detroit the next morning for my flight back to Tucson. Though we haven’t seen each other since that day, not a month has gone by over the intervening years where Nancy and I haven’t spoken on the phone at least once with the sole exception being her bout with ovarian cancer a couple of years ago which kept her hospitalized for months during which time we very nearly lost her (and, of course, Karyn would not allow me access). Once sufficiently recovered, our correspondence has resumed.

The Tale of Two Kens

Once back home in Tucson became a period of time I can only refer to now as the Tale of Two Kens if for no other reason than it was the best of times and it certainly was the worst of times. For the next year and a half I was to go into an emotional adolescence I was totally unprepared for, one which would take me some time to come to grips with and get a firm handle on. Basically I was eighteen again but in a much older body.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, I was totally afraid to be alone though I hadn’t come to understand that at the time. I came to that realization about three months later.

Recall if you will that I’d never really been out on my own before. I’d never gone off to live in a college dorm. Big mistake. I’d moved out of my parents house at the age of 24 shortly before my impending marriage to Nancy, and we’d just broken up after over thirty years together. Even during our year of separation we were still living under the same roof still sharing meals together daily. So here I was at the age of 55 finally footloose and free, and it scared the shit out of me more than I was willing to admit.

I’d taken a two bedroom apartment at this new place I’d moved into because the price was right, and it was huge, and I’d found the opportunity to take in a roommate, a non-sexual relationship though he was also gay and a few years younger than me, so I jumped at the chance. Bryan would be able to help with some of the expenses.

Bryan turned out to be a leech. Other than paying for his own food, he was a lazy lout who cost me more money than he was worth. I knew after the first week or two it wasn’t going to work, and I asked him to leave at the end of the month. It took me two more whole long months to get him out of there, and by then I was more than ready to be alone. God was allowing me to learn something.

Third Shift Problem

My job with the security company continued. This company was wonderful to work for and with. I was working about 50 hours a week so there was always overtime pay. My assignments were manageable. There was only one problem and as time wore on it kept getting worse and worse, and that was working the 3rd shift. I just was not adjusting. No matter how hard I tried I just wasn’t sleeping well during the daytime never getting more than four to five hours of sleep. I’ve always been a light sleeper to begin with, but to make matters worse, where my bedroom was located on the first floor happened to be right where the kids played when they got out of school in the afternoon thus helping to bring about an early end to my sleep period. Every single day this went on. Only on the weekends could I sleep right, and I just wasn’t adjusting. I hated the thought of leaving this company but I began looking for other opportunities during my off time.

Filing For Divorce . . . Twice

All of this and I was single and living the single life which meant that I still played around with one guy or another once in awhile from BOTOP or someone I may have met elsewhere or had been introduced to. I was dating on occasion and dating led to other things and fun, fun, fun, plus some of the fun kept me tired (or rejuvenated depending on how one looked at it), but it was all a part of my growing up process, because I was doing all of the things I hadn’t done in college . . . at 55. Delayed response.

And then there was the not so small matter of obtaining the divorce. I filed around the first of September, and by prearrangement. I was obtaining it and paying for it. In Arizona there is a no-fault decree which one can do-it-yourself, and if all parties are in agreement, and we were, all it takes is 90 days and $250 if no children are involved. Well, I did something wrong with my first filing, I forget now what it was, and I wasted a little over 40 days, and so I had to start the whole thing over again (without paying anything extra). This is one of the things you run into if you do-it-yourself, and you read the instruction packet, but you don’t thoroughly understand the instruction packet. Sometimes one has to ask extra questions of the clerk at the window for clarification which I did the second time around, and once I did so, I finally got the whole thing right when I filed the second time, and so our no fault divorce decree became final on January 17, 2007. Actually it ended up working to our advantage, because for those extra two weeks of that new year, we got to claim married filing separately for the tax year 2007 when we later filed rather than single for our tax status, and we each got a few extra bucks as a result. Happy mistake.

Surviving Crazy Ex-boyfriends to Arrive at Some Semblance of Sanity

It’s easy to read how crazy and confused I was during this whole period. While I can see it so clearly now, I suppose even I knew it then myself deep down, yet there was nothing I could do to stop it. I had to let what was going on inside my head run its course. What I had earlier started, it was necessary to finish. Any sex I had was always safe sex. I hadn’t escaped the AIDS epidemic of the 80’s to go that crazy now! But with that filter in place, I was still acting somewhat reckless for my age, I felt. I mean, some of the guys were half my age, and I was loving it! But I drew the line at anonymous sex. Never! Everything was prearranged. And after Bryan left my apartment very often it was at my place.

Just after Bryan left, I was able to switch jobs to an even better paying job, and one on the 1st shift. I was to become a customer service representative for a company that took calls for a major worldwide parcel company. I was about to go into the shipping business. And it was good.

And I could sleep again.

And I would move up the ranks of the company for the next year to earn high marks for my work. However, behind the scenes I remained very, very lonely. I had many highs and lows during this period of time. I had a couple of crazy boyfriends, and I finally figured out that I wasn’t doing myself any favors by having them. So I made crazy ex- boyfriends out of them, one at a time of course. I figured out that I loved myself more than that. That it was okay to be alone, and maybe I should be alone. And I had karaoke and lots of good friends there because after all I could still sing. I’d been singing all along. There was always karaoke on the weekend at IBT’S!

And then I got fired. One week after my first anniversary on the job as a CSR. I’d made a serious mistake at the company, but they hadn’t handled me properly, and they knew it, and I knew it. They couldn’t fire me! Write me up, yes, but fire me, no way! This was not dismissible! I was phoned up by my friends and told point blank it was because I was gay, that’s what all the scuttlebutt was about, and my boss was a known gay-hater on the street. While I knew this, I didn’t think she’d be so bold. I took the only offensive I knew how. When I applied for Unemployment Benefits, I answered all of their questions truthfully and thoroughly and I didn’t pull any punches when it came to how the company had mishandled me when it came to my firing. You’d better believe I got my damned unemployment compensation!

And it was just a month later sometime in December 2007 that I did what any lonely gay man sooner or later gets around to doing. I joined an online dating service. A reputable one. There are a lot of them, but so many of them only cater to straight couples, but there are a few that also do same sex couples too. One of them had taken to sending me ads though I can’t recall why. Singlesnet. It looked good and interesting, and so I bit. I put up my profile and what kind of man I was looking for in a relationship. I was casting a net within a 500 mile radius so that would take in from Los Angeles and San Diego to Las Vegas to Phoenix To Albuquerque to El Paso. I figured that was far enough to roam and covered a lot of real estate.

It didn’t take me long to start getting replies, and I responded to more than a few of them. Before the new year came in, I’d met Lane.

(This concludes Chapter 15. In the next installment, I begin my first serious relationship with a man.)

Link to next installment . . .

Link to last installment . . .

Link to beginning of book . . .


Autobiography, Coming Out, Coming Out Of The Closet, Divorce, Gay, Gay Community, Gay Experience, Gay Lesbian And Bisexual, Gay Men, Gays, Glbt, Lgbt, Non Fiction, Non-Fiction, Nonfiction, Serial, Series, True Experiences, True Stories, True Story

Meet the author

author avatar Ken Painter
Retired Chicago public school teacher. Singer, songwriter, musician, author, & opinionated old curmudgeon. Married to my husband & living in Colorado, USA. Also a father & grandfather.

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