Never say never

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Photo provided by author

Recently I told the story of learning at age 47 that I have a sister (“A Hidden Letter Brought Me A Secret Sister”). She is the product of an affair my dad had when I was a baby. Until then neither my brothers nor I had any idea she existed.

Meeting a sibling for the first time as an adult is new emotional territory. Adults understand the sibling relationship in a three-dimensional way, the familiarity that comes from sharing the same surroundings and norms during formative years. To superimpose that relationship onto a stranger feels awkward. …

Even long-forgotten dreams can come true

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Photo by Russ Richner

Most days, we wake up in the morning innocently expecting a replay of the uneventful day before, unaware, when an exceptional day comes, that this is the day the gods will throw a zinger at us, after which life will never be the same. On July 22, 2015 a phone call as I walked in the door from work turned an ordinary Wednesday into such a day.

“Hey Dale,” a voice said, “are you sitting down?” It was my brother Russ, one of three siblings, all brothers, in my home state of Minnesota. I set my laptop down beside the chair and keys in the ceramic bowl, the way I always did. My eyes canted skyward as possibilities flew through my mind to explain what caliber news could warrant such a melodramatic opener. Somebody died? No. It’s probably nothing bad because he didn’t sound distressed. But he didn’t sound lottery good, either. Family gossip? Someone is pregnant? Someone is in jail? …

What would MLK say?

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Photo by Florian Olivo on Unsplash

Among the debates raging in response to widespread riots after the May 25 death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police is whether rioters are protesters justified in their actions or thugs harming communities and negating progress made by peaceful protest. By the time you finish reading that sentence, you likely know which view you favor.

People have been citing a particular Martin Luther King, Jr. quote a lot:

‘A riot is the language of the unheard.’

By itself, it sounds like a justification for rioting. Rioters are driven to it, it’s not their fault. The quote is from MLK, after all, and he is the ultimate authority on civil rights in America. …

Pondering another life

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Original image by Tony Mikols, Mikols Photography

You know those “what if” thoughts, wondering how life might have turned out had you: taken that job, stayed with that partner, pursued that degree? Everyone has those. Life brings forks in the road, each path leading to a new reality. But have you ever thought of a life you might have had resulting, not from different choices but, from a different version of yourself?

For example, what if you had been born into extreme wealth? Would you be stronger, having enjoyed the advantages money can buy? Weaker, from having things handed to you? Or neither stronger nor weaker?

What if you were born a different gender? Women: what kind of man would you be compared to other men? Men: what kind of woman would you be? …

Learning the hard way in the locker room

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Photo by Raúl Lazcano on Unsplash

Not to stir up trouble, but do we understand what we are doing when we send gay students into locker rooms filled with naked people of the same gender?

Normally, erections don’t present a problem. When discretion is warranted we boys can hide them with baggy clothing or tight underwear, or we remain seated, or hold something in our lap to cover up. It is a lesson every boy learns on his journey to manhood.

Eighth grade gym class was different.

That fall we had a four-week program on swimming. My school did not have a swimming pool, so kids from my school were bused to a school across town and back again after. On the first day I thought nothing of it, following along as usual, taking a seat on the bus for the short ride to the other school. Upon arrival, boys and girls were directed to their respective locker rooms. …

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Illustration by Todd Wiseman

Not long ago I found a jury summons waiting for me in the mailbox. My face lit up when I realized what it was. Unlike seemingly everyone, I adore jury duty. The legal system fascinates me, the courtroom part most of all, and my employer pays for the time so it’s like a field trip.

The case was a murder trial. Jackpot. (Criminal court has it all over civil court.) Before I knew it, it was time to begin voir dire.

For those who don’t know, voir dire is the process of selecting a jury from a pool of candidates. Potential jurors sit in a courtroom and twenty or so are called up from the gallery to sit in the jury area where they are questioned by lawyers for both sides to determine each one’s fitness to be fair and impartial. Some are let go. More are called up to fill their seats. More questioning, more let go, again replaced from the gallery. …

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Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash

Aunt Clare and cousin Sara came to visit in the fall of 1977 when I was nine years old. I was bubbling with excitement in the days leading up to their arrival. Clare was my favorite aunt, and Sara a treasured cousin. Sara, close to me in age, was hip and cool, far more in touch with pop music, movies, fads and fashion than I. Growing up, I dreamed of having a sister, imagining her to be just like Sara. …

Should we forgive someone who isn’t sorry?

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Photo by Mantas Hesthaven on Unsplash

The heart of forgiving is a belief in the other person’s understanding of what they did as seen from your perspective. Without that, what is there to forgive? General malaise over things having gone awry? There is a world of difference between a person who is sorry for what they did and one merely lamenting the inconvenience of hurt feelings.

But what if the other person can’t understand your perspective? What if they are an otherwise good person who just doesn’t get it? Or, what if they do get it but still stand by their actions? …

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Photo by frank mckenna on Unsplash

My first foray into romance came in second grade. It wasn’t romance, exactly, because we were only seven years old, but it was boy-girl interaction of the kind expected of boys and girls.

It was with a girl, which, even though I am gay, should surprise no one. We were too young to know about sexual orientation, let alone know what ours would be, and the world is a pretty heteronormative place. Modes of human sexuality other than hetero are often viewed as aberrant. …


Dale Richner

Fifty-ish gay introvert, wannabe writer

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