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Couples Chronicles ó Interview 28
So Grateful to be Next to Him Every Night
by Demian
First published in July 1989
© January 7, 2018, Demian

Frank Mapson, 67, and Ken Mondshine, 52, have lived together for 17 years, and have known each other for 25. Though they are now retired, they keep extremely busy. Frankís expressionistic acrylic paintings were recently exhibited in a one-person show, and Ken writes for the local senior center, gay center and disabled society. Ken has ataxia, an inability to coordinate voluntary muscular movement, and, because he is largely deaf, he added his comments in writing after Frank was interviewed by phone. They jointly own a home in Long Beach, California.

Before retirement, what did you do for income?

Ken: Eleven years of newspaper editorial work, 10 years writing for non-profit and welfare agencies, 10 years market research. I once ran off to be a merchant seaman. Now I write for the gay press and have been an activist for four years.

Frank: I was an actor and had been on Broadway. I was with Olivia DeHavilland and her tour of ďCandidaĒ by G.B. Shaw. For about four years I was in The Theater Guildís National Shakespeare Company. I did small parts on film and television, including the Ann Sothern Show, Kraft Theater and Playhouse 90. I was in television before they taped it, when you ran from set to set.

I love the theater, but most people in the creative fields donít make any money in America. I really believe that the arts are what itís all about. You not only have fun, but a kind of satisfaction that is indescribable to a person who is completely materialistic.

Both Ken and I did market research for a living. Then I became a private investigator. All of these jobs sound so weird, but if youíve been an actor youíre used to just popping in one job and out the other, and never telling anyone youíre an actor ó they wonít hire you. The biggest acting job you have is acting like youíre not an actor.

Any previous major relationships?

Ken: My first serious relationship was with a sweet Tennessee boy (he was 10 years older than me). His guilt and my selfish physical appetite drove us apart.

My first ďsoul mateĒ was a woman, Mary Lou, who became my wife. We were deeply entwined. At that point, I realized that gender doesnít make any difference; youíre dealing with the spirit and the soul. She died of cancer in 1969.

Mary Lou introduced me to Frank.

Frank: When I was in my twenties, I had a deep love affair with somebody in New York. We were together eight years and I still see him. That was my big romantic thing.

I think you really only have one of those unless youíre ultra silly. You go through all this turmoil. That first love affair really stuns you.

My second lover and I were also together for eight years.

What about your family backgrounds?

Frank: I come from the home of a terrifically alcoholic father. Drunken fathers (or mothers) promise everything when they are drunk, then canít remember it. It makes you suspicious.

Ken: I was from a nice Jewish family. Though my grandparents were orthodox, my father wasnít very religious and my mother could take it or leave it.

My father was in the Hollywood glamour world, working with the studios. He was quite amoral, business-wise, so he never was a guide for me.

Do your blood relatives support you being gay and your relationship?

Frank: Coming out was difficult on my mother, she was resentful.

When I was about 19 she wanted to know who all the men were that were phoning. I told her I was homosexual and she said, ďDonít be ridiculous, weíve never had anybody over-sexed in our family!Ē She wouldnít speak to me for a couple of years. Finally she just got over it.

I think my father was probably bisexual because he once told me that he had a friend from England, but that friend wanted a farm and he wanted to go to the city. He said this in connection with the guy I was living with.

Ken: Iím only in contact with my sister, a teacher near Los Angeles. My relationship to her and her husband is pleasant but shallow.

So you met through Kenís wife?

Frank: Yes, I was a good friend of Mary Lou. She knew a lot of gay people and both she and Ken were bisexual. After she died, Ken and I lived together in a Hollywood penthouse over a gay bar.

What did you first think of each other?

Frank: When he was married I didnít think that much about it. After Mary Lou died I consoled him because he didnít have a lot of friends in the gay world. We became intimate and he decided to move in with me.

Ken: I thought that there was something beneath his gruff and sarcastic exterior that was beautiful and understanding.

Why did you want to live together?

Frank: We started our relationship sexually and we lived together to save money. Iíd like to be romantic about this, but we looked at practical things. We needed each other.

Ken: I realized I was an aging queen and I had to find myself a nest.

Frank: We eventually became very fond of each other. You know what happens. At the end of the first year you get mad and say ďWell, Iím moving out,Ē which both of us have done. But then you realize the person means more to you than a lot of other things in life. Thatís when you really love somebody.

Ken: Heís right.

What were your fights about?

Frank: Ken was an obsessive-compulsive, for want of a nastier term to use. For example, every time I would rebuild a room in the house there would be an enormous fight. He didnít want anything changed.

Do you fight fair?

Frank: Weíve been together too long to pull tricks. Ken said the other day that we know each other so well there isnít any subterfuge left. Which makes it better, if youíre my age.

Another thing we fought about was his roving eye. In the early days I thought it very serious, but those people didnít mean anything to him. Either you say ďI will not put up with a philandererĒ or you decide that what you have together is stronger.

Did you ever come to an agreement about the degree of sexual openness in your relationship?

Frank: No, we never did. He always considered anything extracurricular to be improper and he would try to hide it. But after all, I was a private investigator.

Now, with AIDS and everything, he doesnít do that anymore. Weíre not the only ones affected by the great plague. It keeps people a little bit more faithful.

These are difficult times, and AIDS is nothing to be light-hearted about. I think young people today have a dreadful thing to face when they are at their highest sexual activity. The fact that weíre older means we donít have the awful trouble young people have.

Ken, any resentment from having to cut out your previous behavior?

Ken: Not really. Maybe I got tired of having too many bathhouses doors slammed in my face or donating $500 for a few minutes of gratification.

Donating $500?

Ken: That is to say being arrested by the Vice Squad.

I donít feel resentment about the changing sexual activity because, as in most cases, the sexual appetite diminishes and the meaningful portions of a relationship increase.

How did you resolve your arguments?

Frank: I would just think it over.

We have had terrible verbal fights and a few physical, but after an hour or so, if you really care for someone, you want to get back together. We always have.

What do you have in common?

Ken: Creative understanding.

Frank: My painting and Kenís writing are creative and we understand each other. Very often non-creative people donít understand what in the hell youíre doing. They donít see all that much money coming in.

Ken: The most important thing is to take care of a soul-mate, his life and being, to share and own a house together which is our home!

Frank: We both have a sense of humor. Letís not kid ourselves. Straight or gay, you go with someone you can tolerate in the long run.

After all these years we both have a very fond feeling for each other. In some cases I feel very protective of Ken, but Iím very careful not to interfere with his independence.

Has your age difference been a problem?

Ken: Iím becoming more of a klutz, so I need him for support in more ways than one. He has become a strong link to the outside world as I become more deaf.

Frank: Even though Ken is strong and active, his ataxia affects his hearing and sense of balance. Because he is disabled and Iím older but in excellent health we are at about the same place.

A lot of people think that because his locomotion is affected he is mentally deficient, which he isnít.

Ken, do you find people, gay or not, treat you differently because of your balance or hearing problems?

Ken: Yes, but because physical beauty plays a larger role for gay men, itís more difficult to cope with in the gay world.

Frank: There are a lot of gay people who do not want to associate with someone who is disabled, or who canít hear.

I give Ken credit, he doesnít sit in the corner. He goes over and talks to people.

Frank, does Ken require more caretaking than if he were able-bodied?

Frank: Yes, I have to do a lot for him.

Do you resent it?

Frank: I donít resent it.

I do resent it sometimes, because I have to take him down to Social Security and straighten these things out. Do you know what bureaucrats are like? In order to get him a TDD (phone for the deaf), I talked to 12 people on 12 different occasions and they kept forgetting to mail this or that. Itís all this bureaucratic crap that takes a lot of my time.

Another problem is that Ken wants to know what I say to friends in conversation. Itís hard to drudge up the conversation and Ken may think Iím withholding something.

Have you signed legal papers on each other?

Frank: Yes we have. In California you can do a ďholisticĒ form, a handwritten will. We donít have powers of attorney but we own the house jointly. It is held ďin trust forĒ (ITF). All the bank accounts are ITF as well. ITF means that, if you die, it goes directly to the named party without going to probate or lawyers.

Have you been politically involved with the gay community?

Ken: I went to the March on Washington and have been involved at the local community center, creating a group for gay elders (Center 55), the third gay and lesbian art competition, and working on the gay library.

Iím still very much involved with the cause; but individuals, I can take them or leave them. Frank: I donít march. Heís always been much more active that way. But we both helped get a pro-gay member of city council into office. Ken went door-to-door for him.

What do you see as the future of your relationship?

Frank: Ken is worried that I might die, since Iím 15 years older, or that I might leave him.

Would you leave him?

Frank: I think of it every once and a while because it gets to be too much. And then when I get over it, I donít think I could. I just couldnít. As Ken says, what would happen to him? And I wouldnít feel right.

His needs are really quite significant. Sometimes I have so much input that it drives me nuts. You get to a certain age and you canít handle it all.

Itís been a rough trip, and it still is. Yes, we have our little fights. I get mad and tell him in sign that Iím going to leave him, but I never do and I think he knows I never will.

Of course, when we fight he doesnít sign back. He gets to scream, but I donít. Heíll just say, ďI canít hear a word youíre saying.Ē

However, I do get a lot of benefit. After all this time, we have too much together. Iím not interested in picking up with anybody else.

So, what is the future of your relationship?

Frank: I see a very good future. We go on and on, and things really do get better.

Thereís no point in trying to figure out five years ahead. Itís one day at a time, as the alcoholics say.

Ken: Yes, one day at a time. Iím so grateful to be next to him every night. But then I think of 22 years ago when I went to bed with another person and said, ďI love you forever!Ē That forever ended the next year with her death.

Frank: One possible change on the horizon is that we are thinking of selling the house and going to a more desolate area. The house is worth so much money, ten times the $11,000 we paid ten years ago, but itís so comfortable here with the yard. The trees we planted are now about hundred feet tall.

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