Sunday, November 2, 2003

Impressions of David's and Gerard's Wedding

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Note: Originally posted on the EAGLE online community site, behind IBM's firewall on 2 November 2003, at 3:24 pm, and posted here on 24 May 2007:

Gorgeous day for a wedding. "The Tide is High" by Blondie plays in the car from the airport. Windmill by the Lake reminds me of my 7th grade Connecticut State Science Fair project, "An Answer [to the energy crisis] is Blowing in the Wind." Thought my 7th grade dream was being realized in Canada, but the driver suggested that it was more for show than anything. I hope he's wrong.

No security on duty on the ground floor of 79 Wellington when I arrive at ~9:30 am. New York City, by contrast, is still fully paranoid.

Richard's office is art-filled and book-filled and has GLBT signage on parade. I love it. Nice of him to agree for me to use it while he's in Orlando. The sunflower painting by Richard's late partner's remarkable, beautiful.

I'm looking up at the walls when Esther appears at the doorway to make sure I'm settling in all right and to plan for our GLBT Leadership Conference women's reunion lunch. We eat at Marche, a Swiss restaurant....

During lunch, one of the women says that getting involved in the GLBT network at IBM is " jet-fuel for your career." She's referring to all of the neat people she's meeting since coming out and getting involved, to whom she might not otherwise have had exposure at this stage of her career.

"A lot of people don't know what they're missing," I say.

Another: "I used to be one of those people, insisting that I had more in common with straight people. I didn't realize for a long time...."

"I think we crave one another[, we need one another in a way that is perhaps less common among non-GLBT IBMers,]" I say.

We talk about how much better even our network would be if it included even more women and also more people of color. I learn that the South Asian diversity network group (DNG) is Canada's largest.

We talk about the series, "How to Be an IBM Leader" as a way to partner with other DNGs (see Reference section of the EAGLE database). It could be revived in Canada, I suggest.

One of the women has to leave early to meet with an openly gay customer and see if he's amenable to IBM's helping him with a large project. I learn later that he wants to start with perhaps commissioning an evaluation of the concept of the project and if it makes sense after the evaluation, then he'll consider spending the multi-millions.

Back at the restaurant, one of the women offers some unconventionally packaged hard candies to all of us. "What is it?" asks one of them.

The one who offers responds, smiling, "It's a clothes-remover." Everyone laughs....

I reach the wide-open courtyard approach to the ultra-ultra-modern Toronto City Hall and think of how gorgeous the day is and how auspicious for David's and Gerard's wedding, which is in 15 minutes. On my way to the entrance, I see a big, white bull-terrier, who reminds me of a bigger version of the dog Pat used to have before we got together, Megan Jonquil, may she rest in peace. Seeing the dog also seems like a good sign.

As I come to the entrance, I think to myself, if we hadn't suffered the indignity of being second-class citizens in our own country, none of us would have had this beautiful adventure.

Brad sees me enter the building and ushers me over to the area, where David and Gerard and David's mother and younger brother are being photographed, pre-wedding. It's so great to see someone I know in such a new space. Also present are Jim and Roberto, and by process of elimination, another Brad, whom I've not yet met. He's impressed when I say, "Hi, Brad," before he introduces himself. I disillusion him that it's really just by process of elimination that I know who he is.

David comes over to greet us and I'm dazzled and very moved. I touch the right side of his face with my palm and he smiles warmly -- I'd never do that in any average setting.

I know how David disdains ties and even sport-jackets/blazers; I'm floored by the transformation of David in an elegant tuxedo with patent-leather shoes. Brad starts looking at down at David's shoes and fixing his own hair in the near-mirror of them and David's a sport.

David explains that he's wearing something borrowed, something blue, something old and something new. The something borrowed is a set of Tazmanian Devil cuff-links that are Peter's; the something blue is his tie; the something old is his underwear -- which he reassures his mother is just old, not tattered; and the something new is a gold Canadian maple-leaf tie-tack from Gerard.

We all go up to the Wedding Chamber, where we need to wait for two heterosexual couples, who are ahead of David and Gerard. While we wait, we learn from David's mother that she was 22 minutes late to her wedding because her father kept taking photos of her. The minister got worried in her husband-to-be's behalf, but the soon-to-be husband, David's late father, wasn't worried at all. I realize then that I haven't seen [David's mother] since David's dad's memorial service more than a year ago.

[David's mother] shows us a charm bracelet she's wearing, which includes a heart-shaped stone that her friend found on the beach and which she was holding between her hand and her husband's at his death.

Then I think of my own father, who died 21 years ago, and of his death anniversary, which will be in two days, on November 1st. He was comatose during his final days of six months of common bile-duct cancer, so I suppose my mom or any of us could have put something in his hand and held it, but we were too in despair, since he was no longer himself at all. Well, at least something happy's happening finally around this time of year, as I'm always sad around this time of year typically.

It wasn't that way before my dad died. As a toy and game designer, he was extra-fun when it came to Halloween, helping my two older sisters and me with creating costumes, which many of us even wore to Stamford High School -- one year, he made me an S.H.S. [Stamford High School] School Spirit costume out of a floor-length sheet of silver mylar. The year he died, he made no costume and I didn't even go to school. He died the next day.

Sad that David's dad can't be here with his mom, and for David.

The service is about to begin. Roberto's operating the video camera and the rest of us from IBM sit in a row behind David's mother and brother, along with a dear friend of Gerard and David, Ken, who it turns out takes part in the service.

The judge begins in a soothing, gentle voice, welcoming everyone. He lets David and Gerard and Ken take over and add meaning prior to fulfilling his official role of marrying them.

They invite [David's mother]to say a few words, and [his brother] to read a poem, and they explain the significance of part of the flowers they're wearing on their lapels: They've got pure white freesia surrounded by rosemary, which is a common herb of the Czech Republic, where David's mother's family's from, and they are enwrapped in a thin, white, Mexican wedding-cord, which is in a figure-eight around them, to signify infinity; Gerard's family's from Mexico.

David's mother is so clearly, selflessly present and joyous for David; she says during her remarks, "A mother's fondest wish for her son is that he grow up to be happy and successful."

Their friend Ken says that prior to the wedding, he asked David and Gerard what the occasion meant to each of them and Ken wants them to tell us as well. David talks about how important it is for Gerard and him to be able to marry legally. Gerard talks about the day being the culmination of more than a decade of wishes -- on cake-candles and shooting stars -- how he always wished for nothing more than to be able to marry David.

The judge begins the official part, saying, "I was among the people, who made the decision [to agree to same-sex marriages under Ontario law] because it was just a human thing....The day of the announcement, the first people were two girls and a baby, but they were uncertain, so we sent them away. The next day, the comedian Maggie Kasella(sp?) came with her partner and since we weren't yet used to doing these, I called her the husband by mistake."

She said, "Don't worry. This is all going into my next routine."

He is not being intrusive with these anecdotes, but rather wants to help everyone see that he has had a role in David's and Gerard's wedding being possible, and that indeed, it is still new for everyone, both the couples and the officiants. Afterwards, I ask him how many same-sex marriages he's officiated at and he tells me, "About 150." Well, he is smooth and lovely for David's and Gerard's ceremony. No faux pas.

For the entire service, my throat catches and I have tears that seem to be waiting at some gate, and then they say such loving vows to each other, which they have written themselves and exchange rings, and I burst quietly into tears finally. I look to my right and all of us are crying. Everyone.

For me, it isn't just about how moving their love is -- and it is deeply moving. It is from relief at seeing two of my people being respected as a couple by the Law. I feel so hopeful. They sign the marriage license, with Mrs. Chase and Peter as witnesses, also signing, and I think of my parents and their witnesses. This is just like it was for my parents. This marriage is real.

At David's and Gerard's intimate reception in New York City this past Saturday -- which includes close family, and only a few IBMers from the early days of the GLBT Executive Task Force, all women -- David's brother Peter reads a note from a heterosexual friend of theirs who can't be there in person. She writes of how steadfast their relationship has been while all of the "straight folks" around them have fallen in and out of such crazy relationships.

It is only right, she writes, that they, who have been happy together for 16 years, are able to marry. Her note ends with, "Now that David and Gerard are married, all is right with the world."

I am honored that David has also asked me to say something at the reception in New York and here's what I say:

I love David and Gerard. I was so privileged to be able to attend their wedding ceremony in Toronto on Thursday.

Between the ceremony at the Wedding Chamber of Toronto City Hall and our dinner at the Four Seasons, colleagues of ours, Richard and Roberto, hosted a gathering in their loft.

I overheard a moment between David and his mom while we were there that I know they won’t mind my sharing. David was looking around at the lovely almond wedding cake topped with orchids and the gorgeous, pure white flowers of all sorts that Roberto had arranged around their home in honor of the occasion.

David was marveling wordlessly and his mother said, “You deserve it. You’re a good man.”

Ultimately, I flew up to Toronto for 30 hours because I had been at David’s father’s memorial service and felt that I wanted to be there as much for a happy occasion as for a sad one. I only wish that David’s father could be here physically as well as in spirit to acknowledge how wondrously grown-up and boyishly-happy David is now.

At the ceremony in Toronto, David’s mother said a few words and among them if I remember correctly, was a reference to Gerard’s quiet strength. It can be true that whenever David and I are together, it’s challenging for anyone else to get a word in edge-wise, but Gerard manages and when he does, I’m humbled because it’s never, ever just chatter.

Gerard was so beautifully-declarative when he told everyone on Thursday that the wedding was the fulfillment of more than a decade of small wishes. He said that every time he blew out candles and every time he saw a shooting star, what he wished for each time was to marry David.

David and I met through IBM nine years ago. Along with Carol Vericker, everyone agrees that David is among the original agents for all the progress we’ve made at IBM with welcoming gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender customers and employees.

What most people don’t know is that David also has impeccable taste in selecting the perfect lesbian gift. When I worked in Schaumburg, Illinois nine years ago, I took a business trip to New York City and if I remember correctly, I asked Carol ahead of my trip if there were any kindred spirits I could contact while in Manhattan.

Carol gave me David’s contact information and David agreed that he and his partner Gerard would take off an afternoon to show me around Greenwich Village. They didn’t realize what a mitzvah, what a good deed, they did; until we met, they didn’t know that I had grown up in Stamford, Connecticut and used to take the train into New York in high school and take myself to Greenwich Village because I knew that was where all the gay and lesbian people lived and I wanted to be among them, if even just for an afternoon at a time.

Unfortunately, because I was deeply closeted then, I never asked anyone to direct me anywhere, and just got off the subway in the vicinity of where, ironically, my parents and sisters had lived before they moved to the suburbs before I was born. I never did find Mecca, and so David’s and Gerard’s walking tour hit the spot.

It became time for me to head to the airport that day, but I knew I couldn’t come home empty-handed and so I asked David and Gerard to help me find a gift for Pat. We happened to be in a silly novelty store at the time. David came over and said, “How about this?” and picked up a beer or soda-can-handle that looked like the curvy blond female character from “Li’l Abner,” in a midriff and Daisy Dukes hot-pants.

Pat is a big Diet Coke fan. I looked at David and at the plastic woman he was clutching and said, “It’s perfect!” and kissed him on the cheek enthusiastically. I knew we’d be friends then. And of course, it was a hit at home.

I’m so pleased that these two, good, profound, thoughtful and playful men have joined their lives to each other’s and are generously in Pat’s and my life, too. I’m also happy to be reminded that wonderful things happen along with sad ones. Today is the 21-year death anniversary of my father and usually, for the several days that lead up to it every year, I’m quite sad and contemplative.

This year, and from now on, I will have a happy association with this time of year, too. I want to believe that both of our fathers are here in spirit, smiling.

Besides the privilege of having their friendship, I’m most grateful to David and Gerard for being role models for Pat and me. Their love for each other urges us on in ours as well. If there’s a bouquet here today, I hope to catch it.