Wednesday, October 29, 2008

What I remember... What I miss

Love is an amazing "resource." It is not exhaustible. There is plenty to go around. When given away, it increases. The more you give, the more you have. We do not need to be frugal with it.

Which is another way of saying that marriage is not something anyone needs to hoard. Or protect by not sharing. Which does not really protect it at all.

Since today is Blogswarm for No on Prop 8 Day (and don't forget Prop 2 in Florida), I would like to reflect a bit on that seemingly terrifying thing: gay marriage.

I want to do so by reflecting on the 24 years I spent living with another man. Perhaps if more folks knew what a gay relationship is like they might lower their anxiety level.

One might begin by making it clear that that majority of our life was not in or about the bedroom and most of the time spent there was spent sleeping. I will return to that.

We had to work on all the compromises that two persons under the same roof have to deal with, with mixed success (like most folks also, I would guess). Once we had two bathrooms we were spared having to deal with how much time either of us spent in the shower or hogging the bathroom, how toothpaste tubes should be squeezed, whether the toilet paper should come forward over the top or under the bottom, etc. We both hung up our towels. Hiring people to clean our home probably extended our relationship by quite a few years.

We were an odd couple. I was the Oscar to his Felix as I am a slob and he was compulsive. I am grateful for his helping my life be more in order (though I am not sure I ever told him that).

I was terribly surprised the first time I said I loved him. It was January 24, 1978. Yes, I am a romantic and I remember the date. He told me our relationship could no longer go on (not a surprise as we had been wrestling with this explicitly for a couple of years) on February 12, 2002. The next morning was Ash Wednesday. It was a tough Lent for both of us. Two days later he brought red roses home for me for Valentine's Day and I wrote a sonnet and inscribed it in a card for him. Our relationship changed, but it did not end. We could not maintain a healthy intimate relationship and, in retrospect, both doubt it could ever have lasted indefinitely, but we did not fail to love.

I remember coming home to our home after work. He, unfortunately, remembers a grim anxious face on me as I did so in the last years but I recall the larger reality, the joy of coming to our home, to him, to a place of love and growth and healing - the home we had built together for ourselves and for friends and guests who could experience it as a place of welcome and blessing.

I know that our home was an outpost of the Kingdom of God. We did not tear each other down (though we did hurt each other), or carp in either public or private. We rejoiced in welcoming others, honoring them, feasting them, celebrating people and the events in their lives. I remember ironing the immense linen tablecloth, so large I had to go up one side and then back down the other, flip it over and do it again to get the linen pressed and dry. He would cook for two days when the big feasts approached. I would set the table and arrange flowers and play sous chef. When we brought out the crystal and china and silver(plate) there was no intent to be pretentious; we wanted to share a beautiful and festive meal with folks we love.

It is true that without the expense and responsibility of children we could do this more easily since we were DINKs (double income no kids) - the part of "the homosexual lifestyle" my very straight nephew thought had a lot going for it. We never had the joys or challenges of raising children though we rejoiced in the children of our friends and in watching them grow up.

When I was working on sermons he would ask me what the lessons were, then probe what I thought they meant for "Joe slob in the pew." (Hah, Joe the plumber is a latecomer here.) When he said that, he was not putting down the people who sat where he sat but making me aware that I could not get lost in lofty theology. What did I have to say for someone going through painful times? For someone seeking an anchor, a compass, a way to get through one more day or a direction to journey for a lifetime. I would offer my preliminary thoughts and he would push back, hard. I think he easily altered two thirds of my sermons and always for the better. We were a good team (and it still happens though less frequently).

We shared interests and so could enjoy discussions of history and philosophy, concerts and plays, museum trips, travel, creating a beautiful garden where once there was only dirt.

We complained about our jobs and encouraged each other when cast down. We stimulated each others's thoughts and feelings. We were there to accept each other, no matter what. We helped each other heal of old wounds (and are still working on that project together). We enjoyed each other's mind and heart. We still talk together in our own mode, full of polylingual word plays and historical references. In thirty years I have always found him interesting and enjoyed his company. It never mattered whether we were working on something together or companionably doing different things just knowing the other was there.

When we split these are the two things I consciously missed immediately. (1) Snuggling up and falling asleep in each other's arms. (2) Doing dishes together and discussing the day - or the party we had just thrown, usually with opera or a symphony playing in the background.

I sleep like a baby when cuddled with him. And recently, after dinner at his place, I stayed to help with the dishes. He put on the Saint-Saens Organ Concerto, a frequent musical accompaniment to our doing dishes in years past. We also remembered the time a friend, the organist at our church, was going to play it with the San Francisco Symphony, only to fall very ill at the last minute. A young substitute was brought in and we watched in fascination and dread as the terrified musician counted measures to make sure he did those big entrances on time. It is this sort of story that is part of a shared life that creates a common experiential vocabulary and brings pleasure in reminiscing.

Forsan et haec olim meminisse iuvabit.*
--Aeneas, encouraging the troops after shipwreck on the coast of Carthage

This, my friends, is much of the basic reality of gay marriage - except that we did not have nor were allowed to have all the automatic benefits of marriage. We had to write wills to protect each other and our shared investments, have powers of attorney for healthcare, and make sure our doctors and families understood our wishes in case of emergency. Nothing would have been automatic. It would all have had much more complication if we had adopted children.

Had we married legally we would now be one more divorced couple, but it would have been nice to have the option. And, as I said last night, we are more blessed than most divorced couples. We still have the love. For which I thank God and all our friends. It is all grace and always was and always will be.

Proposition 8 is driven by ignorance. Ignorance kindles fear. Fear leads to hatred. Hatred incites violence.

One cannot quell fear and its sequelae by force. But "perfect love casteth out fear."

Let love happen, my friends.

Let love flourish.

Let love be, unhindered.

Share it. It will grow.

Yes, this was a different kind of sonnet from a heart full of love.

Nobody's marriage was cheapened or threatened by our love. Nor ever would be.

Stop the lies by speaking the truth. Speak the truth in love. Let the whole world know the truth. Hold fast to the truth.

These three abide: faith, hope, love. And the greatest of these is love.
--the BB

*Perhaps some day even these things will be a joy to remember.

Hat tip to FranIAm for alerting me to the blogswarm. You can learn more and check out what others wrote through the link. Way to go, Mombian.


FranIAm said...

Oh Paul. Oh my- what words, what sentiments.

Love is love is love is love. What is so hard for people to understand about that?

Thank you for this most generous outpouring of your life for us here.

The Cunning Runt said...

Paul, each time I come here and read what's in your heart, I have more respect for you, and admiration for your integrity.

I wrote a Prop 8 post yesterday and may have to link it to Mombian as well.

Paul said...

Thank you, dear friends. Oops, here come the tears.

Thank you for standing up, repeatedly, for truth, for justice, for peace, for respect for all people and all creation.

Earthbound Spirit said...

Paul - you've moved me to tears at 7:00 am. So I'm starting my day out with a good cry. And the feeling of having my heart opened wide once more. And an open heart is a good thing, even if everything is felt more intensely.

Bless you for your generosity in opening a window onto your life and experience. Bless you for your courage in doing so. If only everyone would understand that love is love - and relationships are much the same, no matter the genders of the partners.

I posted on Prop 8 (and 2 and 102) yesterday, also as a result of reading Fran's blog. Rights are rights - Nobody voted on whether I could get married - and they shouldn't vote on whether you can, either.

Devin Tait said...

An absolutely beautiful story. I enjoyed reading. Thanks for speaking out.

IT said...

Indeed. We must grasp each other in the face of the onslaught and hold on to love: married love, friendly love. There are times I feel we are in Matthew Arnold's poem:

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.


Paul said...

Thank you all for your wonderful comments. Devin, welcome to this space. (I used to live in WeHo.)

Bless you all, fellow travelers, in our journey toward equality and full inclusion.