My parents were a lifelong mystery to me. Whenever I was alone in their house, I would go through their chests of drawers in hopes of finding clues to their behavior, which seemed so alien compared with the love and affection I witnessed among my friends’ parents.
In my father’s bureau, I found pills in a small, metal container for treating venereal disease. In his bookcase, he kept several novels by Gore Vidal and a copy of Great Cases in Psychoanalysis, which I found fascinating because of the kinky sexual case histories.
I believe that my father was trying to understand himself and come to terms with his homosexuality. Our WASP culture harshly frowned on the psychiatric profession. Our culture said: Fix yourself. Self-reliance above all.
Many years later, I saw the extraordinary Richard Kiley in “Man of La Mancha,” based on Cervantes’s “Don Quixote,” at an outdoor theater-in-the-round in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. I will never forget the lyrics, and in a strange way, how I identified with Dulcinea emotionally; she accepted cruelty with equanimity, but tenderness she could not bear.
The musical affected me like no other…the cynic/romantic always tilting at windmills and dreaming and hoping for the impossible with a perseverance and determination unrecognized by others.