Today, April 25, marks the 21st anniversary of the date that I met the man who fundamentally improved and changed my life. Yep, 21 years ago there was an event called the “March on Washington” for LGBT rights. It was an amazing, life-changing time for me and for the man I married one year and three weeks ago.
Thirty-seven and one-half percent (37.5%) of my life has been spent loving one man. Where have we been? What has become of this relationship?
Starting on the day we met, we both knew there was something intriguing about that other guy. Smart, funny, attractive, secure, romantic, honorable, honest… all of these adjectives describing characteristics that we both wanted in a mate.
At the time we met, neither of us were looking for a long-term partner. My man had relocated to Washington DC for career advancement in 1992 and joined a so-called “MC club” to see what the leather/levi gay masculine DC crowd was like.
I had lived in the DC area my entire life, and in 1993 I was finally secure enough to begin to come out of the closet, realizing that as a gay man, but also as a man who needed someone to guide him, love him, and share intimacy — it was time for me also to “look around.” I joined that same so-called “MC club” and that is how we met.
The club turned out to be filled with drama queens, and my then-partner and I soon quit. But we realized that characteristics of the guys in that club that we did not like — gossipy, back-stabbing, frilly-froo-froo silliness and lots and lots of drama — were exactly what each of us were not. We thank the guys in that club for providing a way for us to meet, so it wasn’t all bad (smile — that’s me, always making lemonade out of lemons.)
Five years after we met, we built the house of our dreams in the general environs of where I grew up in a safe, tolerant, accepting county and state. I was working more than full-time and traveling a lot for that job. But each trip away became harder and harder to do because it took me away from the man with whom I was building a future and a life.
I found ways to bring my man with me on some of those trips. He had not seen much of the United States before we met. I introduced him to our wonderful country, from small towns to big cities. We went to international destinations, too. Sometimes I would rent a Harley and we would take an extra week in a special place to see sights two-up on two wheels. Pacific Coast Highway California; The Great Ocean Road Australia; the entire South Island of New Zealand; Vancouver and British Columbia Canada; the Amalfi Coast, Italy; back roads of my old boot-stompin’ grounds of rural Oklahoma; the annual motorcycle rally in Sturgis, South Dakota; Route 1 and the Florida Keys. All of these wanderlust trips by motorcycle were adventuresome and bond-building.
In 1994, I bought my first Harley. Tens of thousands of miles we rode two-up to explore and visit our home state and surrounding areas. There is nothing that builds bonds better than riding together on the same motorcycle for pleasure and on trips to destinations that were fun, beautiful, and enlightening.
In 2004, my life changed when I left my job and that experience was much like a divorce. I had a very bad adjustment. But my partner held me close, and helped me explore methods that I could apply myself in new ways. His support and love, along with being financially secure, allowed me to take 18 months off and care for my loving uncle during the winter of his life and help him fulfill his “bucket list” of things he wanted to do before he died. This is where I learned about my calling for caregiving.
My partner developed a serious disability in 2005, and had several major surgical procedures. Those surgeries and that disability prevented him from riding with me any more on my Harley. I have missed having him every.single.time that I ride. I realize now that our two-up riding will never happen again, so I cherish our memories of our two-up adventures all the more. (Life is short: you never know what you have until you don’t have it, so enjoy the hell out of what you have while you can!)
I found another placeholder job from 2006 – 2010, but it was unfulfilling. I liked my employer, but was dead-ended and my capabilities were not engaged. I was bored. But that job provided a transition from that past “bad divorce” (with my former employer) while giving me opportunities to enhance my skills, take more advanced training, build a wider professional network, and position myself for a better job in the future.
Meanwhile, my partner remained steady as a rock. He was always there. Helping to maintain our home, sharing our lives, building our future. Dependable, reliable, and a man I could count on to keep me focused.
He supported me during a brief foray into a local non-partisan elected position where I served four long years. He helped me prepare for a transition out of political life by encouraging me to mentor an up-and-coming leader who was subsequently elected in that position when I stepped down.
He also supported me when I wanted out of that dead-end job, and to take more time off to care for my wonderful aunt (my uncle’s wife) when she was declining from Alzheimer’s Disease. I was never so enrichened in spirit and in soul while caring for my lovely aunt. It was hard work and difficult emotionally. But I knew that my partner was always there and supported my caregiving calling.
In late 2010, I was headhunted for another job — where I work now — and while that job had its challenges brought on by some people who were not-so-easy to work with, it turns out that the training and experience that I built while in that other job were critical to success. My credentials, skills, experience, and capabilities are highly valued. I was promoted and am soaring. I love my job. I credit my partner (now spouse) for quietly but persistently supporting me renewing passion again in my work life.
My aunt died in early 2011. Once again, my partner helped ease my pain and did what he always does — just loved me and helped me feel better.
In late 2011, my partner developed symptoms of what we now know as a late-stage chronic infection by two nasty bugs. We went through hell in 2012 dealing with those medical problems. I took a leave of absence from my job to care for him. Through thick and thin. Disastrous and emotionally painful times. I learned that 70% of couples divorce where one member of the couple has that illness. I consider us the fortunate 30% “survivors.” We survived that experience because our love remained steadfast and solid, though I admit our relationship was tested severely during that time.
November 7, 2012, when we learned the results of a referendum on same-sex marriage in our state — that for the first time, same-sex marriage was upheld by popular vote — I proposed and he accepted with a remark I will always remember, “of course I’ll marry you, silly!”
In early 2013, my partner retired after 40 years with the same employer. He transitioned rather well, but I was there for him as he was there for me as he went through the experience of rather suddenly having a “new life” without work. Built him a greenhouse so he can putter with plants. Built him a pond and patio so he could return to the simple joys of watching the wildlife in our backyard forest.
In April, 2013, we married. Short, private, closed marriage ceremony to confirm our commitment to one another. Rather anticlimactic after all we had been through, but monumentally life-changing again in our hearts.
Today, my spouse remains ill with that persistent infection. I continue to work with medical providers to seek appropriate care and treatment. I have adjusted my home life to be all about caregiving again. I ride my Harley mostly now for commuting to work and to run errands, with occasional day trips with my straight, no-drama, safety-oriented riding club. I work-work-work at a job I love and where my skills are valued and put to work every day.
But most of all, after 21 years, I can say that I am in love more than ever with the man of my dreams, my heart, and my soul. I know that he feels the same way about me — demonstrated in an email that he sent to me this morning:
Happy 21st, my wonderful spouse. I really am overwhelmed by all the love and care you give me every day. I can only try to match that love and devotion to you as well.
Life is short: it’s all about love.