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Jeff Baker, Boogieman in Lavender “Found Family”

Found Family

by Jeff Baker

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” —-Chas. Dickens

2023 was either an awful year or a good year where some bad things happened. War, violence, death, political upheaval. Open bigotry and divisions everywhere. But an awful lot of years are like that.

On the other hand, there were births, triumphs, love, bliss. Continuations of lives. All the things that make the world and its people go ‘round.

And little personal discoveries that sometimes “make” your day, sometimes without our knowing it.

A concept very well-known to the LGBT Community is “Chosen Family” or “Found Family.” The idea is that many of us upon coming out are disowned by our immediate family, parents, siblings ect. And so the community that embraces us becomes a sort of default family. To use a TV example, all though the series had no Gay references the old TV show “Happy Days” had Fonzie who didn’t have a lot of family, essentially having the Cunninghams as a “found family,” as a contemporary newspaper article referred to it “surrounded by a loving family group.”

My late husband Darryl Thompson would have approved of the media reference. He and I were a sort of “Chosen Family,” in that we were not officially married until several years after we moved in together (but we felt married!) Also, my family has been hugely accepting of all this and welcomed me and Darryl. That family was mainly my Mom & Dad, as I have some second and third cousins but they largely live out of town and we hardly ever contact each other except for Christmas cards.

Then, within the space of a few years, I lost my Dad and Mom (who had lived full lives into their nineties) and then Darryl. Suddenly, I was without any immediate family in town. (It sucked!)

But I had Chosen and Found Family before I realized how much I would need it.

We go back now thirty-five years to the days when I had a nowhere job in a mall food court having been screwed-over for a promotion I’d been promised. Bad year. I met a kid, a few years younger than I was (we both were in our twenties) who had likewise been screwed-over. We hit it off almost immediately and we had a lot of time to talk there in the mall. We became good friends, definitely like brothers and we kept in touch and hung out after we left the job. We loved each other like brothers and said that.

And we definitely became family.

Keep in mind, thirty-five years ago I still had a lot of older relatives around. Grandmother in town, Aunts and Uncles out of town as well as Mom & Dad. But I also had this “extended family” as I called it. My friend got married, had kids, I was “Uncle Jeff” to the kids (still am!) and my being Bi was no secret. And they all loved Darryl.

And I have clung to them during this year of need, visiting them on a regular basis and been embraced by this warm, loving, stressed-out, very busy family that now includes their Grandkids and a lot of pets. It has meant the world to me and made a year that could have been consecrated to grief and loss something that included celebration, love and fun. As I said earlier, it made it a year where some very bad things happened instead of just a very bad year. A year when I kept busy and didn’t realize how emotionally messed up I was.

And this found, extended family is the reason I will not be alone on the holidays or any time, even when I am by myself at my own house.

Not every one in the LGBT community or every one period has been that lucky. I read recently about supermarkets that have a “Slow Checkout” line, where the checker takes their time and can talk to the customers. Generally these are older people who have outlived their families and really have nobody to talk to. (I have missed having somebody in the house to talk to.)

I’ve lucked-out in that I have a nice-sized network of friends online who check in on me and who text and chat and some even phone. It helps, believe me.

The holiday season can be incredibly stressful with it’s emphasis on commercialism and family, especially for those people who have no family. I am luckier than I have any right to be but I know others are not so fortunate. So those of us who do gather with our loved ones ought to breathe a prayer or have a thought for those who do not have anybody.

And to all my friends out there who are reading this; thank you!

Jeff Baker’s fiction and non-fiction have appeared in the online ‘zine “RoMMantic Reads” https://rommanticreads.wordpress.com/among other places, and he has a story in the latest QSF anthology “Rise.” https://www.otherworldsink.com/book/rise/ He blogs about reading and writing sci-fi, fantasy and horror around the thirteenth of each month in this same space. He wishes all his readers and their families (in whatever form) all the best for the Holidays and the New Year. Jeff regularly posts fiction on his blog https://authorjeffbaker.com/ and wastes time on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100063555483587

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