Looking Back and Looking Forward

JP Leddy

September 14th comes every year and I turn another year older.   This year I find myself thinking over my life ,  looking over my past and thinking about my future.  In some ways the journey has seem long and in other ways it has moved swiftly.

My first memories take me back as a little boy under five years old to Coronado Island where our family was stationed while my dad was serving in an aircraft carrier. I was the eldest of my siblings.  We had moved from Guam where I was born and lived shortly.  My parents actually got married there.  My dad had lived there all his life. My mom had moved away from there when she was 11 years old and met my dad in the bay area when she was 20.  She was 21 when she had me.

JP Leddy

I was an active child , I was told.  Some of my memories confirmed it. I remember playing a lot in the adjacent playground  on slides, merry-go-rounds and swings.  When my dad was on leave, he would take me to community softball games which I loved or watch him play competitive volleyball tournaments .   I remember liking being with him. I loved being outdoors.

For an active kid, it was hard for me because I was suffering from severe asthma and had several attacks.  One attack almost caused me my life.

It did not keep me from doing some crazy things.  One incident was when I was  about three years old , I wandered from my mother when we were briefly stationed in Long Beach and walked right into a major highway and sat in the middle of it stopping all traffic.  A kind gentlemen picked me up.  He asked me where I lived and I pointed him to the military housing area. There was already a search going on for me.  My mother relates that she saw the man holding me and me pointing the way.

Another time I was on Coronado Island and I loved the Ferry Boats.  They were the only transportation to and from San Diego before the bridge was built.  I took a neighbor girl and we walked from the housing area down to the ferry docks.  I was a little over four years old.  We went up to the toll operator and tried to board. We had no money, of course.

Port authorities detained both of us and called the police.   The police officer asked us where we lived.  Apparently I was so excited to meet real live cops that I explained the best I could where we lived. The little girl was terrified.  One of the police officers asked us to get in the police car to take us home.  Of course. I jumped in because it was so exciting.  Wow! A real police car!

The little girl would not do it.  So she walked on the sidewalk all the way home while the cop drove beside her slowly  ( with me riding in the car). We finally get back to the residential area where we lived.  I still remember our distraught and weeping mothers running to the police car and grabbing us, more frightened than mad.

My dad was probably your typical navy dad who was on the ship a lot and did not really know how to parent children as well at that time. He took me to see the movies one night.  The movie was  Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte.   It was a thriller movie that had a very visual murder scene for its time.  For a young boy  under 5 , it was pretty intense.  I had nightmares in my sleep when we got home.   My dad got in big trouble with my mother.  I actually remember it with some fondness.   My dad was still young and so green in fatherhood.  He just saw me as his eldest son and that he thought the movie was no big deal.  I am sure , if my mother were not around, I probably would have been exposed to explicit sex scenes by the following year.   He learned over the years and soon it was just Disney fare for awhile.

He passed away when I was 24 years old due to a rare form of neuromuscular disease.  He was a few years younger than I am now.  I miss him.  Sometimes, I  miss him terribly, especially on milestones days like a birthday.

After my father was medically discharged from the Navy due to his illness, our family returned to Guam.  There we settled into a life on the island surrounded by extended family and the native Chamorro culture.   I am grateful I grew up there with both sides of my family that gave me a foundation of family and security.

My mother started working to help support us.  My dad got a job, as his illness did not progress yet to the point of him not working.  He initially  worked as a Security Guard at the Guam Port Authority but later became one of the most prolific Truant officers in the Department of Education in Guam. My mother started civil service work at Andersen Air Force Base and now has served as Executive Assistant to a slew of Generals of the base. She is still working there until this day.

I went to public school for Kindergarten and 1st grade.  I remember loving this song called the “Helicopter Ride”  I still remember it until this day.   I also remember getting in trouble with a bunch of kids in first grade because we wandered into a restricted area on school grounds.  We had to sit in a circle in the sun for a while.  I know, it was cruel.  However, we were a stubborn bunch. We made a game of it and started laughing . We made it through and it did not seem like punishment.

My Grandma Charo ( My mom’s mother) babysat us. She used to bake all the time and was an excellent cook.  I loved her homemade doughnuts.  You could smell their deliciousness wafting through the air.  I have never tasted better doughnuts than her. She was more loving than a disciplinarian.  She loved to play bingo and she loved her soap operas. She loved to play Tom Jones and Englebert Umperdinck songs.

We lived with Grandma a while until our home was built in Kaiser, Dededo. It was a new subdivision of prefab concrete homes. They were strong enough to withstand the regular Typhoons that hit Guam.

I started at Santa Barbara Elementary school.  It was Catholic and run by the Sisters of Mercy.   My mother was and is very active in the Catholic Church.  By this time , my siblings included my brother Phillip, David and my sister Michelle.  Later my brother, Timothy will be born.

Like I said before , asthma took a toll on me.  it turned the active boy inward and caused me to lose self confidence in my physical abilities.  I also was dealing with feelings that made me different from the other boys that I will deal with much later in my life.  It was at Santa Barbara School that I started learning about being different and about being bullied.  It was not extreme. Thankfully, I had friends, I had my family, I had academics and I also had the church.

However, it was when I went to Bishop Baumgartner Jr. High, it got worse.  Much worse.  Another Catholic school.  Here it was almost a daily occurrence. It was mostly verbal.  I was so convince that turning the other cheek was the right thing to do that I only made it worse for myself.  Plus, I was going through adolescence. It was also the time period that I was sexually abused by an adult once.

What saved me? Going to public High School.

I entered John F. Kennedy High School.  That open the door to more acceptance and freedom.  I actually got in my first fight there.  It felt good. My dad taught me how to fight and I actually used the skills.  I know that sounds so Neanderthal but the other guy started it.   I excelled academically and also had a great social life.  I was still not like the other guys, but so what?   I was still trying to figure things out.  I graduated.  I did more that that.  I changed religions.

I became a Mormon.

It is a long story.  I have written about it in other posts.  However, it was a time in my life when I was trying to develop spiritually.  I went to Brigham Young University. I served a mission.  That was one of the most wonderful experiences of my life.  There is something about service to people in terms of giving your time and in volunteering to assist them, that gives you growth in a way that no other experience does for you. I went on my mission when I was 19 and came back I when I was 21.  There is so much I can write about it and I have done a lot in other posts.  It is one of the hardest things I did and one of the happiest times of my life.

When I went back to school ,  I met this wonderful girl.   She, too, had served a mission.  If you could put beautiful heart and beautiful person together, it was her.  I connected with her as if we were soul mates. We spent hours talking together about many things.  I fell in love with her. I married her when I was 22.   Yes, I was still dealing with the same issues I had dealt with since I was younger but all my church leaders ( who I trusted and from my deepest beliefs) told me that I was doing the right thing and that God will help me get pass all of it.

Fourteen years later and four beautiful children later, I was going through divorce.  I had been dealing with same sex attraction since I could remember. I had grown up in a deeply Catholic way and believed in its tenets and I also believed in my conversion to Mormonism when it happened.  Yet,  despite all the faith and prayers, it never left me.  I got more depressed and it affected my marriage.  I finally went to counseling ( provided by the Mormon Church).  In that counseling,  it came to the point that the counselor told me that in order for me to heal I had to accept that I was gay.   I did.

The journey since then has been difficult.   But in spite of that difficulty, my children and I are  very close. They are my joy.  My ex-wife and I are amicable and we still care deeply about each other.

I did find love after the divorce with a man.  We met in Oregon.  It was true love.  I thought it would last a lifetime.  It lasted a little over 11 years.  It broke my heart. I almost gave up on finding love after that.    Those were the happiest times of my life. I truly was myself and I know what love really is like. I am grateful for that experience.  I have learned  many things since then that I now look into the future.

So now what?

I am about to make a career change , again.  Yes, it is a lay off.  Here I go again.  My career has always had this theme. However, I am optimistic. I know who I am and what I want to do.  I have some great job leads and my confidence in what I can contribute is so strong. I simply look like another door is opening for me.

I have loved many men and ( women) in my life in different ways.  I have been lucky.  They have came into my life and I have been better ( for the most part) because of it.  Do I hope for one true love to share the rest of my life with? Yes.  However, I am enjoying the journey of starting this new era of discovery and life for me.

Despite everything,  there is so much in life to enjoy, to learn to and to live.

So this birthday is a celebration.  My life is so much better than I ever thought it would be surrounded by friends and family where I feel loved.  I am honestly living who I am truthfully and openly.  Now that is life!

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