Saturday, September 18, 2010

Facing an Ugly Past

Some of you reading these posts have been asking what drove me to the "caves".  I really don't like facing some of the bad memories from my past.  It has taken over a year to finally write this ugly post.   Moving to a small town and living in quiet peace was my way of not dealing with certain things and people in the place where I grew up.  Sharing these memories with you is probably the most difficult thing I have ever done.  I thank the Holy Spirit for giving me the courage to share this particular dark memory...

'Please help my son,' Mr. Thomas had said to me.  'You two were the number one doubles tennis team in high school.  My son looks up to you and he is struggling.   Will you help him?' 

I thought about the plea for help as I knocked on the door to the condo his parents had purchased for him just off campus at Arizona State University.  Thoughts raced through my mind.  How can this kid who has was given everything be struggling?  They spent thousands of dollars on tennis lessons and now he has his own condo.  He doesn't have to worry about working while going to school. 

Scott's room-mate answered the door and invited me in.  "Where's Scott"? I asked.  "He's probably out partying again.  Most nights he does not come home until late," he told me.  "His dad asked me to check up on him.  I heard he's having trouble with his grades.   Do you know what the problem is?" Scott's room-mate answered with a look on his face that frightened me, the kind of look a person gets when he takes a bite out of a rotten apple.  His room-mate responded,  "He disgusts me.  He is out every night having sex with strangers...with other men".

I froze.  No words came from my mouth.  All through high school, others accused Scott of being gay and I was his number one defender.  We talked about girls we liked, we even went on double dates.  How could this be?  My blood was boiling.  Scott had once asked me what I thought of homosexuality.  I went beyond church teachings, telling him that I hated gays and they should all be killed.  The truth is, I hated everybody that was not exactly like me, but gays were at the top of my list, just ahead of communists.  How could this be?

I walked out the door, exhaling strongly, symbolizing one more person ex'ed out of my life, forever.  Scott became non-existent.  I chose not to report back to his parents even though they had treated me like their own son.  Mr. Thomas was a splitting image of the Wendy's founder, Dave Thomas.  Scott's mother had a sense of humor that made me laugh when laughter was much needed in my life.  Once I discovered what was really up, he and his entire family became locked out of my life.  I ignored phone calls, letters and birthday cards from Scott.  He was a non-person.

When I got my big tennis job after college, Scott's mother called to congratulate me.  I thanked her but never asked about her son.  One day, the phone rang.  My brother asked, "did you know that your friend's name is in the paper?  Scott...Scott Thomas, your buddy from high school.  He died...Aids."  Silence.  "Are you there?  Did you hear me?"  I could not speak.  In fact, I never spoke about him again until many years later, after my confession and conversion experience.  I even had trouble walking onto a tennis court, especially to play doubles.  I would think about how I turned my back on him and his family.  I would think about the loneliness he must have endured while suffering from Aids.  I was his closest friend from high school and I was nowhere to be found when he needed a friend.  I hated myself for being so cold and callous.  My guilt deepened when I tried to contact his parents after learning of Scott's death.  Mr. Thomas had a heart attack and died shortly after his son passed away, probably from all the pain and stress he endured.  Mrs. Thomas moved away with no forwarding address or active phone number.  Like me, she escaped to the caves. I never got the opportunity to speak to Mr. Thomas.

Over the years since Scott's death, I have spent a great deal of time looking in the mirror.  I have judged myself for my shortcomings just as I judged so many others.  Since inviting Jesus into my heart, these past prejudices have completely disappeared.  I have finally learned that it is not my place to judge others.  Jesus tells us to love others.  There are no limits to this command.  Even our enemies or people who are different from us need to be loved.

To all of you from my past that I judged, condemned, or hated just because we were different, especially my first doubles partner, Scott, and his family...please forgive me.  You were all created by God and it is not my place to judge you.  Forgive me for turning my back on you, for not being there when you needed a friend the most.  I am deeply sorry.  God has already forgiven me.  Do you have it in your heart to do the same?

Heaven's Gate
(dedicated to Scotty)
by Mike Mulligan
SHS ~ class of '78

At SHS we played doubles,
we talked about girls,
we had few troubles,

When it came to tennis,
you were number one,
I looked up to you,
you always won,

Later, you moved on to ASU
your parents asked me to look out for you,

When a friend told me that you were gay,
I turned my back and walked away,

The years passed and I stayed out of touch,
although your family had helped me so much,

One day my brother called to say,
your name had made the paper the other day,

Please tell me it's good news I cried,
then something inside me suddenly died,

As soon as I heard the distressing news,
my heart and my soul were filled with the blues,

When you got Aids, you turned to Heaven above,
but your sickness had won, 6-luv, 6-luv,

So now we are left here to face our fear,
maybe it's us who will be gone next year,

To Scotty, this message I write,
please forgive me for staying from sight,

I hope and I pray that before it's too late,
you will wait for us all at Heaven's Gate.


Anonymous said...

Mike I had no idea either about heart goes out to you and his family..I have learned in my old age not to judge people like I did when I was young...I think at one point or another we all having kids later in life has given me a new look at things and life...

Michael said...

Life is a learning process.
Romans 11:32 "For God delivered all to disobedience, that He might have mercy upon all."
Your mother told me once that sin is your grace and grace comes from sin.
<3 A. M.