Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Beni



It’s ten days until Christmas and 16 days until 2011.  I can’t believe it.  Where has the year gone?  As others in my life have noted, time goes by much faster when you get older.  Both Christmas and the New Year, but especially the latter, always make me think about the people who have been good to me.  This time of year puts me in a thankful mood.

I want to put down here the people to whom I am most grateful as a way of documenting not only their gifts to me, but also as a way of reminding myself why my life has been so good.

The one person to whom I am most grateful now and always is Beni.  She and I are married still after 32 years, but I hesitate to call her my wife.  She is that, officially, but in reality she isn’t.  She is my best friend, and has been my best friend since 1975.  I met her on Christmas Eve, 1975.  She and I both were deeply into Catholicism then and she was in Virginia visiting a mutual friend, Fr. Benedict Simeone, a Capuchin Franciscan Friar.  On Christmas day, after Mass, we climbed Short Hill Mountain in Lovettsville, Virginia, where my parents had their home, and where I visited each weekend.  Climbing a mountain, as it has turned out, was a good metaphor for the life she and I have shared in the years since 1975.

In 1976, I went to California to visit Fr. Ben, and Beni, who lived then in Riverside, was there, too.  She and I, along with Ben and two other friends, spent a month together.  Since I was about 8 years old, I had always wanted to go to Disneyland.  Beni and I did that.  That Disneyland day still is one of the happiest days of my life.  We also went to San Diego, Tijuana, San Francisco, Yosemite, Lake Havasu, Las Vegas, and Lake Tahoe.  I had an incredible time.  We got drunk at a winery in Sanoma where they were giving away as much wine as we cared to drink.  Beni and I slept on the ground in freezing temperatures in Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite.  We walked around San Francisco, up and down those amazing hills, and ate in Chinatown.  We went in a boat all over Lake Tahoe, and got to know Emerald Bay there, a gorgeous place.  One of the best months of my life was spent with Beni.

She is the first person—other than priests and shrinks—to whom I attempted to come out as a gay man.  I flew to California in 1977 specifically to try to come out to her.  I did, sort of.  But priests and shrinks assured me that, were I to marry, I would find my true heterosexual self.  So, in 1978, loving Beni as much as I have ever loved anyone, we got married and have been together, in our own way, ever since.

We have four beautiful and very different daughters.  Each has been a gift to us, and each has caused us grief.  We’ve lived in Virginia, California, and West Virginia.  We’ve owned (or had a mortgage on) seven houses.  We’ve been to Europe twice, across the country twice, to New England, to Florida, to Colorado, New Mexico, and points in between.  We’ve had friends in common, and friends not in common..  We’ve hurt each other and argued incessantly.  As the years have gone by, we both have changed, and we both wonder what the hell we were thinking when we got married.  Both of us, I think, are happy that we are together, and we certainly are happy to have had the great blessing of children, but neither of us is a big fan or marriage, our own, or anyone else’s.

When I finally and forever came out as a gay man, I moved out of the house and lived on my own.  Beni and I never divorced because we saw no reason to.  During the five years we lived apart, Beni came to be an even better best friend to me.  She was, and is, my rock.  When, after five years alone, I decided that I was too screwed up ever to find a gay love of my life, and when we decided that we needed more money for the girls’ college expenses, I moved back with Beni where I have been ever since.  Beni seemed happy to have me back and bent over backwards to re–incorporate me into family life.

Now, the girls all have their own lives.  Beni and I are getting old together and that process is working just as all the other parts of our shared life have worked: with agreement on most of the big issues and disagreement over where to set the thermostat.

Of all the gifts I have been given in my life, I am most thankful for the gifts of Beni.  She’s as bad a wife as I am a husband, but she is the best and most loyal friend anyone could ever hope for, and I am happy that she still seems to want to be with me.  What a sweet life we have.

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