Tribute to Lester
“The Road Less Travelled” by Robert Frost is actually called “The Road Not Taken” it seems.
Yesterday I gave a young man of 27 a ride to the Portland Jetport. We had a lively and meaningful two hour conversation. Part of it was about languages, poetry and literature. Two of the poets we discussed were Robert Frost and Edna St. Vincent Millay.
Since I dropped the young man at the jetport I’ve been pondering our meeting.
Both of us shared an appreciation for ‘ “The Road Less Travelled” ‘. He recited it to me, word for word in the tone of a poet. It caused goose bumps all over me to hear this. It reminded me of my stepfather, Lester, who married my mother when I was 4, and raised me as his own.
I realized the pricessless legacy Lester gave to me when I was young – a love of poetry, literature, music, books and reading. After he died I found in his belongings a handwritten poem that I had penned at age 9, titled “Spring”. I never really knew of his regard for me until then, and I never really knew that he loved me until the few weeks before he died.
His first birthday after we were reunited I found a card with the famous words of the last stanza of the poem and I paraphrase here “I chose the one less traveled and it made all the difference”. I gave that card to Lester and he cherished it. It was my way of acknowledging him and appreciating him for his courage to choose to travel “the road less traveled”.
Lester “came out” as a gay man in the 1970s. I was not a direct observer of this but I learned of it through other family members. Later on I was gifted with his scrap books, a collection of all things gay that were puplished in public places during the 70s, as well as all the letters to the editor he wrote, responses to them, comments by the editor. His work was published in a conservative Maine newspaper, The Bangor Daily News. I think he was very brave given the place and time of his revelation.
This life-changing event brought him much joy and happiness in his latter years. At the same time it brought much chaos and pain to his wife, my mother, and to their 3 sons, and to 2 of his four still-living siblings at the time. All of these family members have dealt with it or not in their own ways, and of his siblings only one is still with us, his youngest sister who adores him still but doesn’t like to hear about his being gay.
Lester told me himself that he knew he was gay since he was a boy. He did what he thought was the right thing to do at the time. He made the choice to hide that part of himself from everyone else, even from himself. He was in the U. S. Army for 4 years, and went to Italy during WWII. He returned to the farm in interior Maine where he had been born and raised, the 4th living child of 5 in a hardworking household, to help his ailing arthritic mother to manage the care of the house and her laying hens. His father had a herd of dairy cows, and sold his milk and his mother sold eggs. I have so many memories of these two step-grandparents even though I did not spend a lot of time with them.
My heart and mind are still so full from the encounter with my young traveling friend yesterday it is as if my words are clogged. Thoughts are tumbling all over each other trying to get out while my inner critic is at work trying to make sure I say nothing that will offend any living family member.
So I will end this piece for now knowing it is way unfinished, and come back to it another time. Just in rereading it a lot of questions come to mind that raise more issues that all fit together as if in one giant jigsaw puzzle. Until then I must leave the pieces lie were they be. I will publish this in hopes that will somehow ease the flow to fruition of so much that is begging to be told.