3 months now my marriage is recognized and still I’m waiting for guests to arrive at the reception

Daddy’s Day at Charlie’s church-based preschool class. The man who plays the title role in our grandson’s life can’t get off work for the hour-long program. Dave and I shoulder grandfatherly duties and attend in his stead. Charlie’s mom ushers us to the classroom door, chats briefly with the teacher, then leaves. Charlie takes over from there.

“This is my Papa,” the four-year-old says, pointing to Dave. He turns to me. “And this is my Iso Papa.”

The teacher laughs. “Your evil papa?”

Charlie looks daggers at her. “EESO-Papa,” he says, and leads us over to a stack of wooden blocks.

Maybe the teacher spoke her truth in referring to me as Evil Papa. Later she makes an elaborate point of there being a “special friend” in the room. She uses her voice to draw quotes around the term.

“Children, you may ask your father or grandfather or ‘special friend’ to join you at the craft table.” “Boys and girls, I want you to sing your best for your father or grandfather or ‘special friend.’” “Students, you may now offer your father or grandfather or ‘special friend’ a half-doughnut and glass of juice.”

I seethe with anger. Does it matter that she and others locate me outside the family? Label gay people as wicked? Feign inclusivity? Broadcast such messages to four- and five-year-olds?

Sure, it does.

Even before they’re taught to use the potty, children receive training in societal prejudice, gender expectations and roles. I learned at a young age to despise a deep part of myself. I’m coming to realize a lifetime is too short for me and others to undo all those early lessons.

Not that we should quit trying.

Since July, Dave and I have frequented a local film club. We’re the young ones in a crowd of 15 or 20 who gather once a month to watch old-time Western movies. At the club’s 38th anniversary celebration this fall we cakeweb2learned they’ve cancelled meetings only twice—once for the blizzard of 1977 and again for the blizzard of 2014.

Last month we decided to ante up the annual dues, only $10 per person or couple. We approached the treasurer, an amiable white-haired man of short stature and warm smile, and told him we wanted to become official members.

“Do you have change for a twenty?” Dave asked.

“Um, it’s $10 per person.”

“Not $10 per couple?”

“Well, are you two brothers?”

“We’re married, actually,” Dave said.

A bystander chortled loudly, then flushed when neither Dave nor I laughed. He quickly retired to his seat.

The treasurer checked his wallet and waved us off. “I don’t have change.” He, too, beat a hasty retreat.

“That was a conversation stopper,” Dave whispered.

I nodded. “You sure know how to clear a room.”

We talked about it on the drive home, how Indiana’s marriage equality played a role in our actions. “I’m feeling bolder,” Dave said. “More ready to publicly claim you as my husband.”

“Me, too,” I said. “Most of the time. Not the other night at that new theatre. You dropped me off at the door. The usher wanted to seat me. I told the her I was waiting on another person. When you came in she asked, ‘Is this your friend?’ I didn’t correct her. I could have said, ‘He’s my husband.’ But I was in new territory, didn’t feel safe. I kept mum.”

Maybe this happens to others, too—the club treasurer, the preschool teacher, my evangelical pastor brother, my deceased mother, my children. Marriage equality is new territory for them, may feel unsafe, scary. I want them to get over it. Buck up, duck. If our conservative state legislators have to accord me the dignity of marriage, you should, too.

But it may a hard pill for them to swallow. Maybe instead of scorn I can offer a glass of water. While still holding them accountable to treat me with respect, I can offer grace instead of judgment. After all, I’m asking the same of them. For me and my special friend. For every last one of my grandchildren. And theirs.

Advertisements

Brief Matters

cotton-underwear-briefs    1. “A walnut killed him,” a relative says at the family reunion this summer, speaking of my great uncle. “He had a lot of food allergies,” says a second cousin. Apparently, Uncle Louie was deathly allergic to walnuts and didn’t know it. I stare at a sepia photograph of a young married man with big ears and bigger plans. Live like you mean it, Louie. Hear me? Love like you’re gonna die at 31. ’Cause guess what—

.
2. Blend the peel of an orange, a patch of velvet cloth and a gold doubloon with a Georgia peach and you’ll approximate the color of day lily my husband Dave has growing out back. Gorgeous blooms. But don’t blink. As their name implies, each blossom lasts but an afternoon.

.
3. The pain is intense, and it isn’t as if I haven’t been warned. Dave pointed to the hornets’ nest being built above our barn’s double doors, said he planned to kill its inhabitants. I made a case for living and letting live. They’ll interfere with our painting the barn this summer, he said, and will probably sting us when we go in and out. Not if we don’t bother them, I said. I’m reminded how physical pain rivets my attention, even as I mutter, “this, too, shall pass.”

.
4. After our long cold winter, the attack of the mayflies didn’t happen at my workplace this year. There are usually one or two days the entrance to the building is heaped with mayflies that have expired beneath its bright security light. These creatures spend most of their life as nymphs in the nearby Missinewa River. Come spring, they transform en masse, unfold new wings, fly, mate and die—all within a few hours.
5. Love me, love my cock. My hens, too. Our barnyard chickens are more pets than livestock. I was stricken last fall when a dog maimed my favorite hen. Three weeks ago she went broody, determined to hatch a clutch of eggs. My heart swelled to think of this scrappy survivor bringing life into the world. Yesterday she responded in soothing tones to the peep-peeps of her lone new arrival. Today her nest is empty. No sign of her chick anywhere; only a broken eggshell to prove she is a mother.

.
6. My oldest son is seven years old when I come out to myself and others. I lose my court gambit for joint custody, then see my visitation hours cut and cut again until finally a judge issues an order barring me from seeing my children altogether.

.
7. Pride Day in Indianapolis offers a flash of rainbow warmth and dazzle. Then it’s over. Back to life as usual. Yet for one brief Camelot moment, a shared sense of acceptance and freedom.

.
8. Life itself might well be an orgasm, fast as it shoots by. I’m at the age now where years collapse into months, months into hours. My elders assure me the pace only quickens from here on out.

.
9. In the wake of a recent federal judge’s ruling same-sex couples here in Indiana are allowed to marry. No having to travel out of state or out of country (as Dave and I did when we wed in Canada in 2005). For three days I revel in the notion my state finally has to accord Dave and me this measure of dignity, humanity and equality. Then the 7th Circuit Court stays the order. Now, a colleague bustles over to tell me what she heard on the radio: same-sex couples who wed here are to return their marriage licenses and collect a refund of fees paid.

.
10. All things change. All things change. My crib notes for living in such a world: (a) Live as fully alive and fully aware as possible. (b) Choose love. And gratitude. (c) Laugh often. (d) Avoid nuts.