Fairmount Cemetery

From the beginning of time, Denver’s Greek community buried their family members  in Fairmount Cemetery. This made it extremely easy for the Priests. On Church holidays they could go and bless everybody in mass. So it only made sense that when we moved to the Denver metro area that my dad wanted to make sure that we would spend eternity with the rest of Denver’s Greek population. Not only that but there was a Greek man working at the cemetery ( How lucky can you get?). My dad went to discuss with him the details of our final resting place.

We never found out what exactly happened but my dad became very angry with this man and determined that his family would not be spending eternity at Fairmount ( What are the odds of two Greek men having an argument?).  My dad decided that we would all be buried in a cemetery far away from the rest of the Greeks ( I still don’t see the downside in this). My dad decided to go to Hampden Gardens, lovely place, lots of room for expansion and no Greeks on the staff. We were set for life.

My mom didn’t like the idea of being buried in the ground, so he purchased a tomb on a side of the wall in one of the buildings. He also purchased my grave but never solidified an exact location. Because of this every few years I get a call ” Mr. Kelaidis your grave has been moved to a new location”.  This last time I told them to just put wheels on the coffin and they could move me around where ever they wanted. Colorado has such beautiful mountains, the only request I made was as they moved me around, to try and have me facing the mountains each time.

Colorado Aids Project

(Or CAP as we called it) was created by the gay community and its many straight allies. Something had to be done while the government remained silent and was content to let gay Americans die. Cap existed because of volunteers and donations.

One of the volunteer positions I did was the speakers bureau. Two people, the speaker and a person with aids , would go and talk to anyone who would listen ( schools, churches etc.) about aids. We would be seated in the front of the room at a table. We would ask for a glass of water and when given our water we would take a sip. I would stand up to speak. During my talk, I would reach back and “accidentally” take a sip from the wrong glass. The crowd would gasp and someone would say ” You drank from his glass”. A good teaching moment. I would then explain that aids could not be contracted that easily and that people with aids should be hugged and embraced, not feared and shunned and isolated.

I also volunteered at the free clinic, signing people in at the front desk. The clinic existed because some of the doctors, nurses and interns at the CU Medical Hospital convinced the Hospital that the clinic was desperately needed. These medical professionals donated their time freely, in the evening after their shifts. This provided a space for anyone to come and be tested free and anonymously.

The anonymous part was the tricky part because ,at the time, state law required a name and phone number when people signed in. We had a Denver phone book on the front desk and people would pick a name and phone number randomly. The state auditor never questioned the sign in sheets. He knew the good that was being done having the clinic open and the chaos that would be ensue if the clinic was closed. This place was packed every night. It also remained open long after the 9PM designated closing time. Even after working a full day at the hospital, these medical professionals stayed and made sure that everyone was seen and treated as best they could. To me this exemplified “Christian” “family values”.

A.I.D.S.

I hope Ronald Reagan is rotting in hell. Now this may not seem very nice or very Christian but let’s look at some facts. When the aids crisis first started in the USA, the Reagan White House decided to do nothing. After all it was only gay Americans dying and the weren’t “that important “. When non gay people started to die Reagan decided to act. ( how nice).

His name was Mike. Blond hair, blue eyes and a great body. I fell hard. According to him he felt the same way and I never had any reason to doubt him on that. The biggest problem facing us was Mike being HIV positive and sure enough a few months later this turned into full blown aids. We spent the rest of our relationship in Hospitals and Dr.s offices ( how romantic). Mike came from an Evangelical Christian background. He told me that his family had disowned him once he came out and that they had not spoken since.

One night , in the hospital, I very stupidly convinced Mike to phone home and tell his parents what was happening. l told him once they found out how sick he was, everything else would be forgotten. After all they were his parents – right? I dialed and put the phone on speaker. Mike’s mom answered. Once she found out who it was, she told us in no uncertain terms that we should never call her again. She ended the conversation by saying that she felt Mike would be better off dead anyway. When I hung up the phone we were both in tears. How do you comfort someone after this kind of conversation ( you can’t ). Mike died shortly after.

Back in the day it seemed like my friends and I were going to funerals on a weekly basis. I have often imagined that Mike’s family is resting in hell ( with their Christian ” family values”), right there beside Reagan.

Coming Out

For some stupid reason I didn’t come out to my family and friends until I was in college ( like no one new right?). So, here I was at the University of Colorado in my dorm room. I had just come back from the campus gay and lesbian student alliance meeting. The topic of discussion at this meeting was coming out. So, I decided to pick up the phone and call home. My dad answered and I said ” Dad I’m gay”. His reply ” That’s nice would you like to talk to your mother?”. ( A man of few words ). My mom said that they would love for who I was and that didn’t change a thing.

My mom wasn’t lying. They met many of my boyfriends and treated them with love and respect. Of course they were always especially excited when I dated a Greek guy. There was this one young man in particular, very nice guy, good looking and he spoke excellent Greek ( Apparently this was a plus ). This young man ,invited us over for dinner, cooked a delicious meal and entertained my parents perfectly. After a while I decided to end the relationship. My dad was heart broken. I told him that we just weren’t that compatible. He reply was ” But he’s Greek”. I told him “Yes, but we just don’t seem to agree on many things that are important to me”. My dad replied ” You are never going to agree all the time with someone, you have to compromise and besides he’s Greek!”. I could see where this conversation was headed ” But dad he’s a serial killer”. ” That may be but he’s Greek!”. It took a while for my dad to get over this disappointment and move on.

Colorful Colorado

When my parents moved  to Colorado, they decided that they did not want to live in Denver. They had doubts about the quality of the Denver public schools. They chose instead to buy a home in the suburb of Aurora – upper middle class and at the time the best school system in the greater metro area. At that time Aurora was also very Lilly white. Now I have nothing against white people since that is also how I am classified ( until I get out in the sun). By the end of summer I could easily play the part of Martin Luther King.

At that time the only minorities in Aurora came from Fitzsimons Army Hospital Base. Because of my darker skin, I was often taken to be Hispanic. I very early learned that the word Spic was not used as a term of endearment. My two best friends were a Filipino kid ( who became a Catholic priest ) and a Jewish kid ( who became a Rabi ).  The best I achieved was altar boy ( go figure). And no the rumors aren’t true – the Priest did not throw a party when I finally left the Altar.

Today , Aurora is the most diversified city in the greater Denver metro area. We were told after the last census that Aurora was only second to New York in diversification. Over two hundred and sixty eight languages are now spoken in the city of Aurora. Many things have changed in Aurora since we first moved here. One thing that hasn’t changed, I am still at times presumed to be Hispanic ( only now I am not the only one ).

Selma

Over the weekend I had the opportunity to see the movie Selma. It brought back many memories. I remember as a Greek Orthodox kid watching on TV ( black and white ) as Archbishop Iakovos marched arm in arm with Martin Luther King. However, I had become aware of civil rights and discrimination many years earlier.

In 1959 we lived in Wichita Kansas. At the time my dad had become manager of the F.W. Woolworth store. Those that remember back then know that Woolworth was known for its lunch counters. At this particular store there was a sign on the lunch counter that stated ” We do not serve Colored People”.  The first thing my dad did when he took over as manager was to take down that sign and tell the people working there that everyone , as long as they could pay ( being Greek this was the bottom line ), were to be served.

Within a week the district manager paid a visit to the store and my dad. He told my dad that it would cause to many problems and that there had already been complaints with this new policy. My dad then proceeded to tell this individual that as long as he was store manager “Colored folks” would be served at his lunch counter. Well, one week later the Kelaidis family found themselves moving to Colorado. My dad was assigned to a Woolworth store in Denver where his “ideology” would  be more acceptable. We have lived here ever since. Go ahead ask us how much we miss Kansas.

Darcy Is Lost

Figuratively not literally . Poor Darcy lost his best two buddies and life just isn’t the same for him. Yes, we give him hugs and love him up and he still gets his rawhide bone but things still aren’t the same for him without papou and Apollo around.

Darcy came to live with papou when he was about 3 months old. The first time he went into the back yard there was a ceramic burrito that became his sworn enemy.He barked at him and made us all laugh with his goofy puppy behavior. Eventually the burrito broke and Darcy remained king of the back yard. Darcy was also the first dog my dad let sleep on his bed ( with his own pillow).

Before I bought the house and moved in with my dad , I would bring Apollo over when I went to work. Even though they were only 8 months apart, Apollo was a lot smaller than Darcy. From the beginning we told Darcy take care of the baby. Boy did he take those words to heart. When Apollo would go into the back yard, Darcy would follow and watch his ever move. When people would come over and try to pet Apollo , Darcy would stand in between them and bark ( No one touched Apollo without Darcy’s permission).

Of course Apollo also took advantage of this. We learned quickly that we would need two food dishes because Darcy would watch Apollo eat all the food in their dish and not say or do anything. When I would give them their rawhide bones, I would sit down to cut Apollo’s into pieces. While I was cutting Apollo’s rawhide, he would go over to Darcy and take the rawhide from his mouth, come back over to me and sit on Darcy’s rawhide. Darcy would just watch and do nothing, not growl, bark or anything. Of course every time I made sure Darcy got his rawhide back. I have never seen a dog let another dog get away with that type of behavior.

So now Darcy still gets lots of love and hugs and still has his rawhide bone but it just isn’t the same. Anyone who says that dogs don’t have feelings and don’t understand just simply doesn’t know or hasn’t been close to dogs. At times they can be more human than some people.

Apollo

Many people have encouraged me to continue the blog and I have decided to proceed. I am not sure what direction it will take but I thought I would start out talking about my dog Apollo. I got Apollo when he was only six weeks old. Actually , he choose me. When I went to choose my puppy, I sat on the floor in the house and two puppies came running and jumping into the room.  Then a third puppy , half their size slowly walked across the room, looked up at me, sat down and rested his head on my leg. ( I had no choice). He was the runt of the litter and he fit perfectly in my shirt pocket.

I never once spanked this puppy ( who would hit such a small creature?). When he was getting housebroken and looked like he was going to pee, I would quickly pick him up and say no, no, no – outside. In spite of me ( he was very smart ), he learned to use the dog door and pee outside. When I first gave him his rawhide bones to chew, his teeth were still too small so I would cut them up for him. This continued the rest of his life. Several times I cut my self and had to go to the ER much to the amusement of the staff. (Who cuts a grown dogs rawhide into little pieces?)

Apollo slept on a corner of my bed and snored so loudly the walls rattled ( apparently he had sinus issues). Then he got sick and it happened so quickly. Sunday , he was happily eating his food and getting his rawhide bone. By Monday he had stopped eating and only wanted to sleep. I was told that his red blood cells were being destroyed. He was pale and listless. By Tuesday, I had no choice. My sweet little dog with the continuous wagging tail and kisses was dying.

I stayed with him when they gave him his injections ( I couldn’t let him die alone). He looked at me one last time and then was at peace. The vet sent me a sympathy card with his paw print on it. It probably sounds a little silly, but I think dog lovers know how much a gesture like that means. Boy I sure miss the little guy.

My Dad

As all of you know by now my dad has passed away. My heart is broken and I am still in a daze.  I just wanted to thank all the terrific family and friends that have read this blog and enjoyed reading about my dad. You guys rock. The love and support that we have received today has been incredible. To say thank you and I love you all doesn’t seem nearly enough.  THANK YOU- LOVE YOU ALL!!!

I’m So Sorry

As everyone knows by now my dads surgery was postponed. His last scan showed some spots on his lung and the doctor wasn’t sure what those spots were. The surgery was cancelled and another scan was scheduled for Monday. While we were all extremely disappointed at the news, my dads doctor seemed to take it worse than we did.

When he was talking on the phone to my niece and sister, telling them the situation, he started out by saying ” I am so sorry, I feel like just crying”. Then the conversation went on. At another point he said ” I am just so upset about the way all of this has turned out”. There was a brief pause and then ” Oh, I imagine you are all upset too” ( ya think ).  Finally he ended with ” You know I just love George so much “.

After talking it over we decided that we would find a grief counselor that we could recommend to poor Dr. Maroni.  Of course my dad wasn’t much either. After hearing the news that those spots on his lung might be cancer, he said ” I probably should quit smoking”.  Of course then less than five minutes later, there he was out on the patio ” not smoking”. The scan will be Monday. Hopefully Dr. Maroni will have recovered by then. And we will also know which direction we will be going in with my dad. At least we have football on Saturday.

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