Thursday, May 10, 2012

Can't Go to Bed Prior to Breathing a Sigh of Relief Here

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Re-posted from internal IBM community for LGBT IBMers & Friends

As I pulled up to Cousin Joe and Joy's house in Tenafly, New Jersey, I recalled all of the times I spent there with my contemporary cousins, their kids, when I was a kid. Who knew then that Johnny and I would grow up to be gay and lesbian respectively? Johnny and I did, each within ourselves, but no one else was allowed to know, including each other.

Johnny's dad Joe died a few nights ago. His mom Joy died several years ago. Johnny, Teddy, Carol and Lizzy all are orphans now -- too grown up a status for this age and not a club I want to join anytime soon. My mom is 86.5 and I'm praying that she's around for many more years....

When I arrived, Johnny was out, taking another relative back to the airport. I had only a few minutes, as I needed to return to Armonk for a colleague's retirement party, and since I planned to go back again this evening. In the very short time I was there for Joe's shivah, Lizzy said to me, "Did you hear that our president said he believes in same-sex marriage today? sent the news to my phone, right in the middle of the funeral."

Ahhh. How could I feel any relief and joy in the midst of a shivah for a relative I loved? And ultra-energized, too.

Johnny's and my dad used to go to Joe's study and look at the cool maps that Joe collected and talk about who knows what. Johnny and I used to walk around their neighborhood during family visits, as dissatisfied adolescents, but not confiding in each other about our ultimate discontent at that point. When my dad (z"l) died in 1982, Johnny was the only relative tall enough to inherit my dad's gorgeous winter coat. Here's a photo that Pat took of Johnny and me in San Francisco, where Johnny lives, a few years ago on Twin Peaks (it's not winter-time and I bet he still has the coat, which was built to last):

Driving back to Armonk, I listened to National Public Radio, which was interviewing a gay journalist Andrew Sullivan, who said he felt that his president was acknowledging his humanity finally. That's just how I feel, too. I couldn't go to bed without breathing an extra sigh of relief here among our community.

I recognize this is just the U.S. president, but certainly, I celebrated when Spain enabled same-sex marriage to happen, even though it was "just Spain" because anywhere in the world -- whether local or distant -- that acknowledges all of its citizens' equality and humanity seems worth celebrating.

Joe's obituary appeared in the "The New York Times" today and as I ripped it out of the hard copy, I noticed that on the back was children's author Maurice Sendak's obituary. Fortunately, I had already read it online last night. I was so pleased to learn that Sendak had a companion of 50 years, and that he was gay, but was sad that he did not tell his parents.

My dad died four years prior to the time I was willing to acknowledge my sexual orientation, but Johnny's parents both knew and supported him. I wish our dads and Johnny's mom had lived to see this day and I thank God that my mom did.

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