one year ago, I left the town i’d always lived in.
you spend your whole life in basically the same, small town—time flies.
and then you bravely reach a point where you set out to go somewhere new—time flies.
of course, I only flew 80 miles—but time has flown nonetheless.
in the course of 365 days, I left the only town I’d ever lived in as an adult, embarked on a new relationship, began life in a metropolitan city, joined a new church family, and lost my mother.
when I moved, I intended to write a sortof “goodbye” to my old town. for whatever reason, though, I never did.
so I’ve had it on my calendar to write something one year later. and that day is today, August 22.
ah, Granbury. the place I raised my children. the place I came of age and became a father. the place I made many mistakes. a place I found community. and forgiveness.
it’s been easy—and sometimes tempting—to mock the town I lived and occasionally I do, but only gently so, much like I treat the memory of the framed photo I used to keep on my desk of the boys when they were little posing with soon-to-be president George W. Bush. and my “W” sticker. and my affiliation with the Republican party. and a few other…moments.
but I digress.
upon the baby’s high school graduation, I had intended to fly much farther than Dallas. but after she caught onto my plan, my mother—and a particular someone…and ok about 18 close friends…and ok my sons too—are the reasons I did not.
for my whole life, I felt constrained in Granbury–though most people probably remember the opposite (“Todd, you were the last person to know you were gay”). Like the church I had grown up and raised my family in, the macho-dominated youth sports clique, the straights, the “no gay tourism in our town” mentality—I just never fit. but I sure tried and many tried their darnedest to include me.
I laugh about my country upbringing in nearby Tolar but I wouldn’t take anything for it. I may ridicule, now and then, the “backwards” sensibilities of Granbury–and ohhhh the rumor-mill!!!–but I’m so glad I raised my family there.
because I—and I hope, my sons—learned a great deal there.
this burgeoning little town flooded with people looking for a “simpler” way of life had a kindness about it that I’m not sure exists in an urban town; here we kindof just come and go and do our own thing, ignoring everyone who isn’t in our circles. but in Granbury, you knew your neighbors and they knew you. their mothers knew you. and your mother knew everything that went on.
they were generally easy-going, save the occasional scandal—which I’m afraid to say I was involved in more than my share of. looking back, I have to say that Granbury’s citizens were remarkably forgiving, enduringly friendly, and sincerely dedicated—if not almost cultishly so—to the ideals of community. and during the time my mother—a 60+ year resident of Hood county and a proud Granbury citizen—was sick and after her passing, the my family received an enormous outpouring of sympathy and love. (More, here.)
in Granbury, we were dedicated to our children and their education. supported our teachers (well most of us). advocated for the elderly and in some places, the poor. we would get worked up to a frenzy for our youth sports teams (I will always shout “Go Pirates” first!). always in wal-mart or chili’s. committed to our church communities—well, a huge percentage of people anyway, and those who weren’t—and I say this tongue in cheek—were still some of the finest, most upstanding, generous people I’ve met.
and that’s considering that I lived there the last five years as an openly gay man. and shopped in the stores and went to school functions with my African-American partner. yes, I got a lot of dirty looks and stares, but overall, if people disapproved, they just ignored me or talked behind my back. (I’ve spent my whole life getting used to that!) one of my west coast aunts would say more than once, “todd I don’t think it’s safe for you there.” I was never worried. my church severed all ties with me as did most of the people who went there but I stayed in the community and stayed involved, continuing my involvement with my son’s school programs. many youth ridiculed my sons but they were taught again the importance of taking a stand and I believe, as a result, had a huge impact on their peers. we modeled to many people what a family with a same-gender loving parent looked like (which is “not that much different from anyone else’s family”), what gay neighbors looked like (ok our yards might be better), and invalidated many of the reasons people feared gays—or at least removed many of the justifications for their bigotry. I dunno, maybe I proved them right, who knows. but I hope that because of my time there, people learned to be more loving and tolerant, were prepared for the day a son or daughter or grandchild or friend came out, and maybe will take a stand for equality for all Americans—even the ones in “diehard red” rural towns.
for better and sometimes worse, Granbury loves its heritage, its small-town feel, its history, and aimed to be somewhere people would want to go to raise families and grow old. there’s lots I could say about problems it has—particularly the socio-economic disparity and classism—but I think those are even more prevalent where I live now.
I’m glad that I have never not known a sense of community—even if that meant my mother knowing everything I did and everywhere I went by the next morning or the next phone call. it would truly be harder, I think, to find that where I live now, without being part of a community.
I have readily found community here, too—through the proud and active LGBT community, through my church, through the arts, and through volunteer opportunities. I think maybe, what it is, is that part of Granbury that will forever be inside of me, leads me to find that same type of culture. Only with more rainbows.
yes, I like that I can be around more people who are like me, not just identity-wise but also politically and socially. (I want to say “who are also generally more accepting” but trust me: bigots are on every street corner.) I love the adjacency to the city life, to cultural opportunities, to a bustling social scene that doesn’t close down at 9:00 p.m., and the fact that our parade is filled with all colors of the rainbow.
and yet: I am proud to hail from this rural community. so thank you, Granbury, for all you provided me and mine. and when you see me drive around town with my HRC-stickered car, know that i’m just visitin’ and headed back to the big city soon enough.
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Thank you so much for this post, Todd!! I love you dear friend and am happy to have you in my life. I agree that the sense of community is very different when being from a small town, in compared to a city. Thanks for reminding me of the simple things to be thankful for, as I sit in Granbury and lonnnnnngggg to be out of here. Hahaha!!
There is a reason for and a purpose in you being there. Hang in there and visit the city when you can!