Monday, June 20, 2011

RIP Dusty

Ever done something long, long, ago that still makes you flush crimson with embarrassment when you think of it?

Unfortunately, I've got a few of those memories. I guess it means I've lived an unabashed, unafraid existence, and that most of my youth and young adulthood I acted frequently on impulse. But I've been lucky. There's no arrest record to answer to and nobody has a bounty on my head. At least as far as I know. And as age 40 creeps closer on the near horizon, the number of embarrassing mistakes has diminished significantly.

But news of the death of someone I marched in drum and bugle corps and attended junior high and high school with reminded me of an embarrassment that later helped change my views about homosexuals and homosexuality. Dusty was gay and when I was in high school I called him a "faggot." As far as gay-bashing goes, that's quite tame, especially in light of the treatment that many small-town gays suffer. But taken in the context of who Dusty was and what he did for me, my calling him a "faggot" was one of the worst things I've ever done.

Many people know that I was never really that popular in high school. I didn't feel any sense of belonging until my senior year. Once, in junior high, a group of bigger kids were picking on me, shoving me around in a circle. Dusty stood up for me. He broke up the group and interrupted them long enough to let me escape. Time has erased most of the details from my memory, but I do remember him standing up for me. He probably knew what it felt like to be picked on, though I remember him being popular and well-liked in high school. He certainly must have known what it was like to be misunderstood. I don't know what his motivation was for standing up for me, but he did, and I never forgot, even though I never became his friend.

Nor do I remember much about the actual incident of the slur I said against him. I just remember hearing a rumor that he was involved in a relationship with another man, a drum corps instructor. And at the time I attended church regularly and was caught up in the silly Old Testament doctrines against homosexuality. I just remember that when I said it, I instantly regretted it because I knew he had stood up for me once, and that I'd repaid his kindness with scorn.

But as the years have gone on, and I've grown tolerant and accepting of gays and support gay rights, I am less embarrassed about what I said. After all, teenagers are malleable creatures and can adhere to some silly viewpoints that are only seen as such in retrospect.

No. What hurts most is that I never said, "I'm sorry." I've gone to drum corps shows over the years and have looked for Dusty, just so I could say that. No doubt he doesn't remember the incident. I needed to say it, not for his sake, but mine. But now I'll never get the chance.

And what's even stranger is I know no details of his life since high school, or his death. All I know is he had no Internet presence to speak of. No Facebook or Twitter, no photos, nothing but generic people search web sites. The guy had a non-existent web presence. I found out about his death from a mutual classmate and Facebook friend.

The mystery of his life and death is almost as galling as knowing that I'll never be able to apologize for a 21-year-old slur.

2 comments:

Greg Locascio said...

I found Dusty's obituary on Facebook. Don't know where it was originally published. It was nice to get some details about him. It looks as if he had a rich an interesting life.

Dustan Lee Drolsum, 39, Barcelona, Spain. Dustan Lee Drolsum formerly of Loves Park , IL died Saturday, June 4, 2011 in Barcelona, Spain. Dustan was born January 31, 1972 in Rockford, IL to Janell (Forry) Drolsum. Graduated from Harlem High in 1990, then moved to New York, New York where he worked for Swatch Watch, Simon & Schuster, F...orbes Magazine and America OnLine. In 2000 he moved to Barcelona, Spain where he pursued his love for film and music. In 2006 he founded a DJ/Film company “Déjame Vivircon Alegriá (Let Me Live Joyfully). For the last few years he focused on 3D animation, being a teacher then created his own post-production school, Class.BCN which became very successful. Dustan is survived by his partner Jordi Inglada of Barcelona, Spain, his mother Janell and her partner Mike Molander, Aunt Beth and Uncle Roger Kane, Aunt Linda and Uncle Cornelius Moriarity, Cousin April Kane and his god-father, Ron Weber. Predeceased by brother Al Carpenter and grandparents Bud and Colleen Forry.See More

Christina said...

The obituray is in the Rockford Register Star and I marched with Dusty for many many years. He was a great guy and will truly be missed by his Phamily. I'm sure he has forgiven you because he was the type of person who did not hold grudges. Say a prayer and I'm sure he will get your message.