Friday, November 29, 2013

The Thanksgiving That Almost Wasn't

Another Thanksgiving has come and gone. One more day of thanks for all the good in the past year. Just one more day? Shouldn't I be thankful everyday?

Last year we celebrated Thanksgiving in the desert mountains of Picacho State Park. It was a wonderful time that was to be remembered as the start of a new tradition. You can read about it here  To my disappointment we were unable to continue the new tradition this year for a variety of reasons, but our time together was no less precious.

Since there was no camping this year, we opted to accept my brother's invitation to join with his family for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. But even still, Nichole and I wanted some way to make our family time special.  Early in the morning we decided to take the boys to a movie. They don't often get to go to a theater showing since movies are so expensive these days.

The hot ticket this year is the Hunger Games - Catching Fire. Its a good movie, but not to be seen without having watched the first one.  After the movie and a quick stop at home to gather a few things we headed north for dinner.  Fifteen minutes into our 1 hour drive we found ourselves stopped in traffic. I could immediately tell this was more than an holiday traffic jam; Something was wrong.

Resigned to an extended wait, I turned off the engine and we sat... and sat.  Many drivers became impatient and tried to exit the freeway by driving backwards down the shoulder. I cringed every time a car maneuvered to turn around or back up. Using the shoulder to drive against traffic or during an obvious emergency situation just isn't advisable. How else will the emergency crews get through?

Some at least had the good sense to turn their cars around and drove forward... the wrong way down the shoulder.  Including a Santa and his elves who should no longer be allowed to drive on roads. 

As if to prove my point, one hour into our wait, the bomb squad drove past us, along with one or two members who'd obviously been called out from their own family celebrations.

The boys were surprising well behaved and calm in spite of the time spent cooped up (if ever possible, don't get stuck with three boys of ADHD in a car on the road for 2.5 hours). In fact everyone was. Among the many people strolling through the freeway parking lot there were jokers of kinds. Cries, of "lets have a potluck" and "what did you bring?" rang out as we recognized we were all most likely on our way to dinner somewhere.

Traffic was finally freed to move 2.5 hours later, too late to make the 1 hour drive to brother's house so we headed home. Isaac was distraught that Thanksgiving was "ruined" until we reminded him that Thanksgiving was about us being thankful and spending good time together. I even suggested we have a Charlie Brown thanksgiving of leftover movie popcorn and toast.  He liked that idea until we remembered the boys were to spend the night at Auntie Lisa's.

When we arrived a Lisa's we discovered she and her sister Charlene were prepared for us all. We gathered in front of a movie and ate Cornish hen, potatoes and stuffing. Everyone needs an Auntie Lisa.

What I really want for "traditions" is for the boys to have good memories to carry to their own children. Maybe we didn't get to go camping this year, but it is definitely memorable. In the end, I did have a Thanksgiving feast with my family and look forward to next year's adventure (as well as any to be had in-between.)

Monday, November 4, 2013

Family is as Family Does

Nichole and I got married last week. Okay, so we've been together 11yrs. In fact, 11yrs to the day (10-26-2002) we held a grand commitment ceremony. We stood before family, friends and God to declare our love and commitment. Back then, that was all we could do. Same-sex marriages were not "legal" then. Instead we were allowed to register as Domestic Partners. Separate and almost equal. 

Objectors to the idea of same-sex marriages continually stand by the idea that commitments of partnership are the same "after all, they grant most of the same rights as straight couple marriages." Most is not the same. I don't know of any married straight couple who has to file separate legal declarations to ensure their rights of spousal benefits, survivor benefits, medical power of attorney, or spousal privilege in legal matters. I don't know of any straight married couple who must prepare (but not file) an extra joint federal tax return in order to accurately file their joint state taxes.  These are a few examples.

Now that I am off of the legal soap box, lets get back to the wedding. In 2002 we held a large celebration. Several extended family members joined us in our moment of joy. Aunts, uncles, brothers and sisters - but no  parents. It hurt like hell that our parents wouldn't join us in one of the most important events of our lives. Like dutiful children, we sucked in our hurts, forgave and moved on.

I can't speak for Nichole's hurts, but I must put mine out in the open.

In 2002 my parents stood on their principals and chose not to attend. According to my father, the ceremony was not sanctioned by the church (and therefore not by God), nor was it a "marriage." In fact, my father accused us of just "playing house."  My oldest brother attended out of a sense of duty to support me. Duty, not joy or love. His wife refused to attend and they forbade their children from attending.We were told by my brother and his wife that they did not want their children exposed to such an event - as if we were dirty, salacious abominations.

On the other side, my sister and other brother did attend - genuine in their celebration of our love. His children attended and to this day they remain "normal" and unscathed by our commitment.

Okay... there is the history. History, as we know repeats itself. Mid year 2013 the U.S. Supreme Court upheld challenges to California Proposition 8. Prop 8 was an anti same-sex marriage declaration. It was narrowly passed by vote and promptly challenged as unconstitutional.  I don't know or understand all the legal mumbo-jumbo but the bottom line is that the U.S. Supreme Court has made it possible for homosexuals to legally marry in California. Now we finally have truly EQUAL rights to marry.

As it happened, our anniversary of commitment (10-26) fell on a Saturday this year. Nichole and I decided it fit perfectly for a marriage ceremony. We planned a small ceremony this time and sent out only a few notices to family and friends.

We knew that extended family from out of state would not attend. It was never expected (although one could always hope).  Besides, we knew these were the same family member who have always stood with us and who attended the original commitment. What came as a crashing heart rending blow was the fact that NOT ONE SINGLE BLOOD FAMILY MEMBER ATTENDED!

My father, brothers and their families live barely one hour from us. Father originally told us he wouldn't attend, then he surprised us to tears by saying he would. "The church has softened its position and the marriage is legal." I was ecstatic. Up until the day before our wedding Father declared his intent to join us. Then, as he often does these days, he decided he wasn't up to it. He didn't feel good and wouldn't be there for me once again in my important time.  I wish he'd just maintained his first impulse to not come, rather than raise my hopes.

The younger of my brothers, and his children - all who'd attended the original ceremony - each sent in their regrets that they were out of town an unable to attend. But my oldest brother and his wife - well they too had a convenient other thing to attend. I guess something more important than a sisters wedding.... worse still, is the fact that their three children, all of whom I've supported through their major events and such, didn't even have the courtesy to send their regrets! Because these three had been forbidden 11yrs ago, I made sure that each one received their own invitation so that they could feel free to make their own decision.

Now I know where I stand.

Okay so back to the good stuff. I want you all to know that despite the heartbreak, MY wedding to Nichole is the greatest event of my life. Being legally married makes us a complete family now. I have blood relatives, extended family, and I have my family.

My family consists of:

Nichole - my WIFE
Isaac - my oldest son
Nathan - my middle son
Austin - my youngest son
Lisa - because everyone needs an Auntie Lisa.

I am thrilled to have this family and the friends who all showed their love and support for us on our special day.  To those far away who couldn't attend - I love you all and thank you all for your kind words and support. I know you were there in spirit.

I will never forget my wedding day. It will stand as one of the happiest days of my life. It will also stand as a reminder that family is not about blood. Family is as family does.