Means To Me
the sweet summer of 1973, when I was in my late 20s, I
met the love of my life. He was a cream-de-cacao man my age who reached out and
gently took my arm as I circled past him for the tenth
time around a large busy bar; and he said, "You might as
well say hello...." I was smitten even before we
spoke; so tongue tied by his handsomeness that had he
not reached out, the next twenty years together might never have
could not have been more different ethnically,
culturally, racially, religiously, and linguistically.
He was an upper class Filipino of Spanish heritage,
Catholic, from a South Pacific seaside province so
remote that they did not get electricity until the
1970s. Born in the post WWII era into privilege
and education, he was a prince of provincial Philippine
royalty. He spoke several Tagalog dialects,
Spanish, and liltingly accented English. In
America, he was a mid level corporate executive, very
well paid, responsible for millions in financial
the child of WWII Holocaust Jewish refugees, who grew up
in the impoverished inner city urban immigrant ghetto.
My mother had been an illegal immigrant who cleaned
toilets to earn a living when she first arrived in
America. I grew up speaking German and a mish mash
New York public school dialect of Yiddish,
Spanglish, Harlemeese, and 1940s Noo Yawk English.
When I met him, I was a reserve Army sergeant, active
duty veteran, and DoD employee, used to being on my own and self
reliant to a fault. And suddenly, there was
someone else whom I wanted to hug for the rest of my
Opposites attract. We were both
intoxicated with each other's otherness and profound
compatibility. The torch of love was lit, and I
was no longer "I;" we were "we."
had a closetful of elegant tailored suits; I wore jeans
and plaid shirts when I wasn't in uniform. My
ideal decor was rustic college-dorm bricks and boards;
he loved crystal and suave elegance. He spent
money like water via credit cards, self assured that his
income was limitless. I was accustomed to counting
every quarter in my pocket to make sure I had enough
money to buy lunch. My idea of a gourmet meal was
my mother's homemade meatloaf and mashed potatoes bathed
in gravy. He was a self taught master chef whose
cooking won my heart through my stomach in addition to
the way he tasted when we kissed.
were so in love, we made it work for nearly twenty years
of bliss. If I could have I would have married
him; but back then that was unthinkable. We didn't
need a piece of paper; we simply had unlimited love.
And yet, the danger of permanent separation was a daily
fear. My military superiors would have had a
security heart attack if they had known that I had a
same sex foreign national partner. And he could
have had his green card revoked at any time by some
bureaucratic bigot. A heterosexual military man
applying for citizenship for his Filipina wife was as
common and routine as could be. But, because we
were both men, that was forbidden and had to be kept top
today, in 2013, there is no equivalent right for a
married same sex couple to apply for citizenship for a
foreign spouse. That is because of the Defense of
Marriage Act (DOMA) enacted in the mid 1990s to impose
religion based prejudice upon America's civil law,
forbidding federal recognition of same sex marriages.
my partner died some twenty years ago, my world came to
an end. Suddenly, I was a middle aged widower.
But, instead of his family doing the normal thing of
embracing his spouse, they came in greed to collect his
stuff, OUR stuff. After all, they could pretend
that we had merely been roommates even though absolutely
everyone knew that we had been more in love than any
piece of official paper could demonstrate. But it
was the lack of such a marriage certificate that allowed
them to show up with a truck and cart away more than
half of our home, including gifts that I had bought for
him. You might think, "Wait a minute; why didn't
you say anything, why didn't you stand up for your
rights?" Well, I was a wreck! I had just
lost my entire reason for living. Half of my soul
was gone; I didn't really want to live any longer.
I had cared for him night and day for the last four
years of his illness; I was drained of will; I had lost
the battle to keep him with me; I had forgotten how to
care for myself. And then there was the money, of
course. Not being married, I had no right to a
single cent of his substantial corporate benefits; and
his family forgot I existed when it came to that.
When we were "we," when we were together, we didn't need
any damn piece of paper to be in love and live together.
But, when he was gone, not having a marriage certificate
made all the difference in the world.
During happier times, we had planned for many years to
bring his old mother from their distant province to live
with us. It was a perfectly normal family thing to
do. But, because we could not be married, he had
to do the immigration paperwork all on his own with his
precarious 'resident alien' status. As a corporate
executive, however, he was not without resources; and
eventually the day came when she was to arrive at long
drove to the airport, I asked, "So, ah, what did you
tell her, about us?"
"Nothing," he said.
blurted, "But, but..., I mean how ...., what will she
think for God's sake?"
"Don't worry," he laughed; "It will work out.
First she'll look around at all my crystal and elegant
things and say, 'You are wasting your money.' And
then we'll see what happens."
my God!," I thought.
we brought dear old mom home. She came
in; looked around at his crystal elegance, and said,
"You have been wasting your money!" Then she
looked at me, she looked at him, and again at me.
And then this precious old woman opened her arms, hugged
me, kissed my cheek, and said, "My son!" That was
that. She didn't care one bit about what other
people might think; if I was the one her son loved, that
was good enough for her. We became inseparable; we
hardly spoke the same language, but her love was worth
more than any words or piece of official paper.
When he died, she and I held each other up at his huge
grand funeral. It was a scandal, but neither of us
cared one bit about any of that. We needed each
other and no one else could understand the loss we
of this was decades ago; I've rebuilt my life, sort of,
and have grown old sadly without him. I miss him so very much,
even now, after all these years; but if this story can help people understand what today's
quest for marriage means, then it will be worth having
bared my soul.
Meyer, Gay Veteran
© 2013 Gay Military Signal