Donny's Ramblings

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“That Summer” – Pure Hypocrisy

Having been raised all my life in a world of legalism, when I reached my teenage years and began critically thinking about things I’d been taught, I began to feel resentment.  I eventually followed that resentment down a path of rebellion.

I feel that same resentment now, from time to time. I won’t allow it to lead me to a loss of faith in God, however.  But I will admit I sometimes feel a loss of faith in his people. Before going on, I must say that my sins are forever in front of my face. I acknowledge them. I just feel enormously disappointed at the abandonment that has come along as one of the consequences of my actions. I want to believe in grace and redemption.  I know God offers it, but I really wish his people were also capable of the same. It sucks to be on this side of the fence.

I wish I could go back and change things.  I can’t. I want to let go of all that bad-gunky and move forward. Often times, I think I’m on the right path to do so. But then something random triggers a very negative reaction inside and I realize I still have much to work on.

The very latest trigger was a song by one of my favorite country music artists. Now I am going to ramble a bit and express how I feel inside at the moment (feelings which will undoubtedly change in a short amount of time).

Tonight on A&E a Garth Brook’s concert was aired.  As I type this, the concert continues.  As he sang the following song, the words of which I am about to share, the crowd screamed.  In the song, a teenaged boy is “taught” the ways of love by an adult female widow.  Here’s what I think about that song, which many of us have sung along with since it was first released in 1992.

I think it reveals a lot of hypocrisy.

Listeners celebrate a song in which a teenage boy is taught “the ways of love,” but those same listeners sent me to prison for a year and 11 months because a 16 year old female (whose own father said to me “I’d be proud to call you my son-in-law”) told investigators that the two of us were in a relationship.

If we resided in Nevada at the time, or in one of more than 30 other states in this country in which 16 years old is still the “age of consent,” I would not have to wear a despicable label or appear on a website that tells everyone where I live so that they can choose to seek me out in order to break my face or attempt to rape me (both of those things have happened to me). I would not have lost my entire business and livelihood.  My son would not have to be ashamed that his father is branded as a “sex offender.”

Crossing imaginary lines referred to as state boundaries somehow magically changes a person from being unable to choose who she’s in a relationship with into one who CAN make such choices. Beth was 16.  My grandmother married younger than that.  Most people personally know someone who married younger than that. So many people have said things to me such as, “Just a few decades ago nobody would have batted an eye at your situation.”

But these days we live in a world that loves to denounce people and find reasons to make others out to be horrible monsters, and once that type of judgement starts, it’s unrelenting.

“The People of the State of California” (along with many others, of course) demonized me, took my life as I knew it, nearly all of my friends abandoned me, my freedom was taken and to this day I remain painted as some monster because I loved a person with whom I spent most of my time and whom I cherished very, very much.

She exaggerated, which is common in such a situation. But let’s say you believe what was claimed.  If you are one of those who choose to believe the claim that we had a sexual relationship, please ponder this for a moment: in your own romantic relationships, what percentage of what goes on between you and the person you love is sexual in nature? In real life, doesn’t most of your relationship-reality involve non-sexual matters? Don’t you simply live life together, talk, laugh, argue, experience things, make plans and just… LIVE?

Do you think what happened between Beth and me was different than that?

It was not. We spent nearly 24 hours a day together, 7 days a week.  We talked.  We did homework.  We went places.  We ate things.  We cooked.  We drove.  We laughed.  We cried.  We acted goofy. We gave money to homeless people. We volunteered time feeding the homeless. We fostered animals.  We lived life.  We made plans.

Those of you who knew us back then knew a Beth who was happy and bubbly and full of life. She was loved.

Then one day around this same time of year I opened the browser on one of our computers and found out she was smoking marijuana with a 38 year old man, who was not me.  I found out she was going to the movies with him.  In jealous anger I said things to her that were very mean, I demeaned her, and I told her that she needed to move along.  She retaliated.  I ended up imprisoned.

I knew the laws of the State of California and am definitely not saying it was “alright” to have let down my guard as I did.  I am not saying concerns are invalid. I am not saying there should never have been a reckoning.

But I AM saying it’s hypocritical to sing along to a Garth Brooks song called “That Summer” and in the next breath say I am scum for loving an amazing, beautiful girl more than any other in my life. I am saying that the price has been paid and it’s time to let me live a normal life again. I am saying it is unnecessary to condescend to me and see me as less than human.

I’m not a danger to your daughters. Loving Beth was not a matter of an “age group” to me.  I wasn’t attracted to an age: I loved a PERSON with whom I spent a lot of time. When I wasn’t traveling or speaking, I was with her. I put a lot of time and effort and money and literal blood and sweat and tears into her life.  She was not related to me by blood but she mattered to me very, very much. I wanted to see her succeed in life beyond her wildest dreams.

I believed the lie that I was the only one who could make her life great and that I was the one who could best protect her from a dangerous world. I was wrong. I made a huge mistake.

“Friends” have abandoned me. My former-friend Bill, for example, preaches “max grace” from a pulpit but cannot find it within himself to extend grace to a “friend” who is “made an example of” by a world of changing whims, where what was okay yesterday is horrible today. I get it, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it. It seems pretty darned hypocritical, from this perspective.

I find it interesting that Christians claim their life is founded on the Bible within whose pages one reads about Mary, the mother of Jesus, who was impregnated by the Holy Spirit at an age younger than Bethany.  Bethany was older than the virgin God himself chose to impregnate. The Bible is full of stories of men we think of as heroes, who married women younger than Bethany when they were older than I was.

But I’m a pariah?  I am a threat? Because “times are different now”?

I loved Beth.  I really did.  She exaggerated what happened between us and I chose not to fight what she decided to say, because she had her entire life ahead of her, and I had much less of mine remaining.  But those who choose to pretend I don’t exist because I loved her are, from my perspective, heartless and hypocritical.

A person does not have to agree with anything that happened in order to think critically and comprehend how I reached such a place. I have re-lived that time period over and over in my head, literally thousands of times. I see how the paths I took led to the place where things ended. It was not okay, but it makes sense how such a thing happened.  I had no business living as a single man raising two beautiful teenagers that had no blood relationship to me. It was an enormous mistake to spend every moment of my free time with one of them who kept telling me she was going to marry me one day.  I should have removed myself from that scenario.  But I didn’t.  At first I thought I was strong enough to resist any temptations that might arise, and then a point came where I no longer wanted to resist, but instead wished to find reasons to justify why it was okay to love a sixteen year old.

I could have made better choices in whom I chose to let my guard down and love.  I do not dispute that fact.

I could have guarded what I was given with more diligence.  Absolutely ZERO dispute.

I could have sought out help long before things went bad, to make sure my own insecurities, fed by the need to be needed, didn’t lead me to a place where I chose to fall in love with someone 24 years younger than me. No dispute.

I was wrong.  There is no disputing it.

None of that changes the hypocrisy of preaching grace, claiming to believe in grace, yet extending NO grace, largely influenced by the worry about what others would think if you did.

Here are the lyrics to Garth’s song.  Don’t tell me you’ve never sang along to it, repeatedly, as the crowds did tonight with smiles on their faces. That would likely be a lie. But when you next listen to it and sing along, realize Garth is describing a situation with many similarities to mine, and because he is a male, his listeners don’t think much was wrong with it (no matter what they might claim if directly asked). Change the genders, and the widower would be seen as a criminal and a threat to society. That is hypocrisy, my friends.

That Summer

I went to work for her that summer
A teenage kid so far from home
She was a lonely widow woman
Hell-bent to make it on her own
We were a thousand miles from nowhere
Wheat fields as far as I could see
Both needing somethin’ from each other
Not knowin’ yet what that might be

‘Til she came to me one evenin’
Hot cup of coffee and a smile
In a dress that I was certain
She hadn’t worn in quite a while
There was a difference in her laughter
There was a softness in her eyes
And on the air there was a hunger
Even a boy could recognize

She had a need to feel the thunder
To chase the lightnin’ from the sky
To watch a storm with all its wonder
Ragin’ in her lover’s eyes
She had to ride the heat of passion
Like a comet burnin’ bright
Rushin’ headlong in the wind, out where only dreams have been
Burnin’ both ends of the night

That summer wind was all around me
Nothin’ between us but the night
And when I told her that I’d never
She softly whispered, “That’s alright”
And then I watched her hands of leather
Turn to velvet in a touch
There’s never been another summer
When I have ever learned so much

We had a need to feel the thunder
To chase the lightnin’ from the sky
To watch a storm with all its wonder
Ragin’ in each others eyes
We had to ride the heat of passion
Like a comet burnin’ bright
Rushin’ headlong in the wind, out where only dreams have been
Burnin’ both ends of the night

I often think about that summer
The sweat, the moonlight and the lace
And I have rarely held another
When I haven’t seen her face
And every time I pass a wheat field
And watch it dancin’ with the wind
Although I know it isn’t real, I just can’t help but feel
Her hungry arms again

She had a need to feel the thunder
To chase the lightnin’ from the sky
To watch a storm with all its wonder
Ragin’ in her lover’s eyes
She had to ride the heat of passion
Like a comet burnin’ bright
Rushin’ headlong in the wind, out where only dreams have been
Burnin’ both ends of the night

Rushin’ headlong in the wind, out where only dreams have been
Burnin’ both ends of the night.