Real Love

I’ve loved Ted for 52 years.

Aside from my birth parents, this is the longest relationship of my life. The fact that it’s a relationship with an inanimate teddy bear does not change the fact that I truly and deeply love this hunk of fabric, fiber, and buttons.

Love is mysterious.

My teddy bear and I met 52 years ago when I was only two years old, shopping with my mom at a garage sale in North Platte, Nebraska. At least that’s what I’m told. I don’t remember. It was 1967 and I was two years old.

Grandma Derra found two buttons in her ample sowing kit that became perfect eyes for my new best friend.

Knowing he had already had his eyes and most of his fur loved off of him (at least that’s the story of his haggard appearance that I choose to believe) I felt that he brought important wisdom to our relationship. He had been there for another young boy or girl and was now ready to handle the needs a new little boy, a boy whose parents were about to divorce. 

I named him “Ted”, an act of irony I felt was unappreciated by the adults and other children around me.

This ode to Ted was written 12 years ago as a writing exercise. I had recently broken up with a man I was not ready to let go. Using the writing prompt, “who or what was an early love?”

This is what poured out.

My boyfriend Dennis took this when I introduced him to Ted.

Ted, you have been with me for 42 years now.

Your fur is mostly rubbed off and the holes I did surgery on when I was six years old, meant to keep your stuffing inside, have reappeared.

You’re back on my bed again.

Back because Keith left me and went back to San Francisco, back on my bed again because someone has chosen to leave me, just like mom did when I was two.

Were you in my bed back then too Ted?

Smelling like garage dust because we had bought you second hand at a yard sale? It must have been you there keeping me company when my young parents argued and ended their marriage.

Mom is the only one who has told me the story of their breakup. How her drinking and crazy nature were the cause of it. It’s interesting that she is the only one who told me how it all played out since I ended up living with Dad.

Ted, you must have been there in that tiny bedroom I can now barley remember, first door on the right, off the living room in our single wide trailer home.

Ted, you must have been there because you are still here with me today, waiting patiently, if not a little decrepitly, on top of the boxes I store thousands of dollars worth of cycling clothes in. You usually sit facing my new fancy mattress that sits in my new fancy West Hollywood condo.

You sit patiently and wait with unconditional love even though you have been shut away in closets while I lived with Steve Chaison, and Tony Peruzzi, and John Nieto, men who shared my bed for five-year stints or died in a hospital room leaving me no one to come home to except you, Ted.

Ted, you have soaked up tears of a child left behind, have been pushed aside to make way for fucking, you have endured my private shame as a bed wetter, and you have placidly worn satin outfits I made for you out of scraps found in my step-mom’s sewing basket.

You came with me to Tucson to visit Mom in the psych ward. Your presence told her instantly that consoling love had arrived. She pulled you close to her heart and soaked in twenty-five years of reassurance.

She was unhappy when the attendants would not allow you to stay with her overnight, but I was secretly glad to be able to hold you while waiting for her to find enough healing to be released.

You see Ted, between my parents and you, it’s been you that’s been there the most for me.

You were there to calm my 8-year-old nerves when I was alone in bed and monsters in the trees threatened to crawl through the window of our first house on 6th Street in North Platte, Nebraska.

You were there to commiserate with when my stepmom gave her daughter the bigger room and the canopy bed in Cheyenne Wyoming.

You were there when I unpacked the box marked “Mike’s Room” in Pocatello, Idaho after my parents moved (unannounced) from Wyoming to Idaho, couching the information in a birthday card they sent to their son who was five thousand miles away on an adventure picking pineapples on Maui.

Nearly hairless and formless, you have never given up on me Ted.

Your fancy button eyes sewn on by Grandma Derra have steadfastly kept their gaze on me for over four decades. Watching and waiting for my need of comfort to return. Your threadbare head is ready to be nuzzled by your boy. I know you can’t help it that that wire pokes out from your ear and jabs my tender lips.

Nose-less and mouth-less you exist only for my solace, seeking nothing for yourself.

How could I possibly not love you as fiercely as I do?


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Dad no longer on death’s door

At least we know he’s out of immediate danger. Dad is looking and sounding much better. 


Or have I just gotten too immersed in the sterile and ill environment of the hospital fugue? Has my objectivity been compromised by sitting in his hospital room with my mom for three days?

No. It’s true. He’s better and no longer flirting with the keeper of death’s door. He’s with us and will likely be leaving the hospital soon. 


How did this happen? What caused my father’s lung to collapse and thoracic cavity to fill with so much fluid that it needed to be drained with tubes inserted into his chest and his back for more than a week? The four doctors working on his case don’t know. They only know that he’s getting better and doesn’t need emergency surgery. That he will most likely be home soon. 

I board the airplane home to West Hollywood in the morning twilight with guarded optimism. I’m grateful for this time with my dad and the wonderful demeanor of my mom and my sister and her wonderful family. The Gerle and Grider tribe is one I’m resolutely proud to be a member of. 

Hello LA. Hello home. I know you’ll understand when I tell you that a big part of my heart is anchored here in the green rain drenched floor of the fly over states. 

Head of the table

Half unpacked. 

Woke up at my parent’s with only my mom occupying the large property, she on one side of the respectable house she and my father literally built with their own hands, while I was on the other. We came together in the kitchen. She cooked us eggs and bacon as I made small talk about music. 
Then she asked me to sit down and eat. 

“Why don’t you sit in dad’s seat,” she said. I moved into the seat I’d never sat in before, fell silent and swallowed the emotions that came up. “Do you mind if we say grace,” my Mormon mother asked me. We’d never eaten a meal at home without praying first. 

I reached over and gave her forearm a squeeze. “Please do. Really, mom, I’d really love that.” 



Our Father

Dad’s been in the hospital for a week now, and even though he wants me to wait, something inside me yesterday said, just go now. As the plane descends into the plains of my native region (Nebraska born, but KC, MO is close enough culturally juxtaposed to WeHo) I’m feeling more happy to go “home” than I have in decades. 

This serious illness has brought into vivid clarity how much I love and appreciate the man who raised me. For two years I was one of his two boys as he did the work of a devoted and loving single dad. Not once during my 51 years of life has he ever cited his efforts and sacrifice. Not even when I was railing him with lists of reasons I’d judged him a failure as a parent.   

We were both lucky to live long enough to grow and let go of what separates and focus on what brings us together. Love.   

Now my sister will pick me up at the gate (almost nearly, it is the KC airport) and we will revel in our father’s goodness and scheme on how to keep him healthy so that he’s here with for as long as possible. 

No Cross Talk

How much is too much to share? Four hours there and four hours back. Just mom and me in the car, Omaha, Gothenburg, return.

The basics covered and so much more – details of her life her gay son will never share with his nonexistent children, only his offspring of thought, written and launched into the social stream, attended to by nothing more than faith, not knowing where or really even why I’m sharing them. Her stories end, she quiets, and it becomes my turn. How much do I tell mom about my life?

Was the talk of marrying my boyfriend too much? Our ideas on fidelity? Why gay men need a discussion group in West Hollywood? I know my politics rail against the notions shared by the right wing women who occupy her chair as she regularly rebuilds what is left of their hair in her private beauty shop.

I think she is biting her tongue, uncomfortable with my upload. Then she reminds me that she would like to see more of me. That my gaps in communication make her worry. I know the absences pain her.

Do I spend so much time out of this culture that I don’t know how to speak to her? Is this what all adult children go through or is it a gay thing? Oh if only I had the lives of my children to drone on about so we wouldn’t have to look at our relationship with each other!

MikelGerle.com