All in the Family
My wife and I drove three hours each way yesterday to attend her grandfather’s 90th birthday celebration. In eastern Washington. In the local Elks’ Lodge. In 91 degree weather that had no business showing up in the middle of June. My laptop just about did a Dali from the heat, and our 7 year-old was limp and sweaty in the back seat.
But for heaven’s sake, the man’s turning 90—you gotta celebrate that!
The Elks’ Lodge was full of family. My wife’s cousins, aunts, uncles, parents, and third-nephews twice removed. Some of them we see at the annual family reunion (featuring a loosey-goosey trampoline and port-a-potties that gave me nightmares the year I came pregnant and it hit a hit 100 degrees in the shade), so they know about us. We’ve been the scandalous city-folk for a long time now and our bumper stickers are legendary.
The thing is they love us. And our three kids (the teenagers were sleeping the day away at home and getting ready for finals). And who would have thought that could be the case all those years ago when I started showing up at family functions and my wife was supposed to be straight? It’s hard to imagine that once upon a time we weren’t allowed to tell those relatives we were living together.
Her grandfather is legendary in his own way. He’s a small town man. Lived there his whole life except when he went into the military. Before I met him I’d heard that he said that “the military was the best thing that ever happened to me” even though he’d been a prisoner of war. Let’s just say that I made some assumptions based on that statement and my own grandfather’s conscientious objector status. My assumptions weren’t true. He believes that he fought so that all people could be free and equal in this country. And preaches the same when he has coffee with his cronies each morning. Amen.
Coming out to our families can be such a risk. Even the most successful lesbians quake a little at rocking the familial boat. Strong women shy away from presenting a loved one as a partner. Good human beings stay in the closet rather than hurt, or be hurt by, the people they love.
Families can surprise us by their “la-la-la this isn’t happening” denial, their rejection based on a loving God, their seemingly surreal acceptance of something they’ve openly disdained their whole lives because the despised “other” is now one of their own. Self-identified red-neck cousins can think you have an awesome marriage, even though the nation doesn’t think we’re worthy, and grandparents who wouldn’t acknowledge your kids in Christmas letters in the early years can become proud proponents of gay rights.
It’s risky though. No one can hurt us like the people who matter most. And no one can make your heart sing like family coming through. Embracing your liberal, tree-hugging, tattooed, latte drinking lifestyle, even though they’re more the beer-drinking, truck driving, elk hunting, fiscal conservative kind for the most part, means a ton.
Definitely worth driving six hours in a Volkswagen bug to give a 90-year-old legend a kiss on the cheek and his wife a hard time because she’s a spark plug that gets a kick out of us holding hands in an Elks’ Lodge. They’re family after all. We need to come through for them.
Blogger Bio: Beren deMotier is a Carol Brady in Levis/tattooed lesbian mama in a mini-van, obsessed with safety, doing the right thing and the amount of dog hair on her wood floors. She is a regular contributor to both Curve and Black Lamb, and has written for Hip Mama, And Baby, Pride Parenting, ehow.com, and for her blog, “That Lesbian Mom Next Door.” Her multi-award-winning book, The Brides of March: Memoir of a Same-Sex Marriage, recounts her giddy leap through a legal window, straight onto the barbeque pit of public debate when she and her partner married in Oregon in 2004, their three children along for the raucous ride. (berendemotier.com)
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