Sunday, May 31, 2015

Gratitude for a Love Unbroken

Andy Mobley, December 31, 2014
annual New Year’s Eve walk down Cape Canaveral beach together
Gantries of Kennedy Space Center in background 

Today my husband and I celebrate our 41st anniversary of loving relationship. In August, we will celebrate our fifth year of legal marriage.

In many, many ways the fact this relationship has lasted so very long is a miracle. It has survived multiple separations for school and work. It has survived the interminable period of coming out that I had to work through for about 20 years, discerning who I was and what I was about. It has survived competing partners, disapproving parents, family members and coworkers and discriminating employers. It has survived the selling of one home as a part of uprooting to move across the country and back and it has survived the loss of another home to a hurricane and the seemingly endless process of rebuilding it.

It has survived much that most relationships never have to face and still remains intact with all the scars to show for it. But it has survived.

There Were No Manuals….

I met my now husband at our fraternity in Gainesville in 1973. In all honesty, neither of us much liked the other to begin with. His upper middle class roots in Georgia’s country club society were everything this hippie reviled. And he had never met anyone as dangerously curious – and as willing to simply reject the conventions of society out of hand – as me.

The brothers assigned me to Andy as his little brother during my pledge period because no one else thought they could deal with me. Little did either of us know where that would take us.

There were no manuals on how to be a gay couple in 1974 when Andy first told me he loved me. And there was an awful lot working against being a couple, not the least of which was the law that criminalized it.

At the time I was in a relationship with a woman I planned to marry and everything in my world of 1974 pointed in that direction. On my recent visit to Tallahassee to visit my 93 year old aunt, I passed the wealthy neighborhood where the woman I once loved now lives with her attorney husband, her children now grown and one grandchild already on the scene. I thought to myself how different my life would have been had I lived into those same dreams I once thought I held in undergraduate at the University of Florida in the mid-1970s.

As I pondered that driving down the oak-shaded canopy roads of Tallahassee it quickly dawned on me that I was very fortunate that my life had turned out as it had. At a basic level, those dreams of practicing law and living a conventional professional middle class life in a plush neighborhood in Tallahassee were probably never my dreams to begin with. Perhaps I knew that at a basic level and, as I usually do, followed my intuition. Perhaps my guardian angels had been nudging me to be true to myself at the right moments while prompting my then girlfriend to find herself another frat boy who wanted to be a lawyer. Or maybe I was just lucky.

Regardless of the reason, life would have been very different had Andy not come into my life so unexpectedly in 1973. And for that I will be eternally grateful.

In all truthfulness, I could not imagine my life without Andy. As all couples approaching old age do, I find myself worrying about things I never worried about before – What was that cough about? Why do you always have headaches? When are you going to the doctor about that cyst? When are you going to be home? I’m concerned about your diet….

No One Gets Through This Alone….

Sometimes all I need
Is the air that I breathe
And to love you

The Air That I Breathe, The Hollies (1974)

If I had to pick any given moment of our 41 years together as a highlight of our life, it would be my ordination to the diaconate in December 1994. Andy always talks about this moment. The service had been elaborate – the Gospel in several languages, Crazy Horse’s grandson singing an honor song, the Buddhist nun who taught the sangha I attended and my Jewish friend who occasionally attended classes with me at seminary in the audience. The loving multicultural community of St. Philips had gone all out for this event.

At the conclusion of the ordination portion of the service, Bishop Richard Shempfky turned to the congregation and said, “No one gets through this process alone. So I want Andy, Harry’s partner, to come up and stand by him so we can show him our appreciation for all he has done to make this night possible.” Andy came to stand by me and the entire parish rose in standing ovation. It was a rare moment of affirmation in a stormy sea of rejection. My eyes tear up as I type these words remembering that unforgettable moment.

You see, the truth is, it was precisely Andy’s steadfast, grounded presence that has loved me through virtually all of the crises of my life over these past 41 years. It was an unbroken love which at times was unmerited by my own behaviors and held together by the glue of Andy’s determination to make it work.

He has been the unheralded, trustworthy one securely holding the tethers for the hot air balloon floating above the concrete canyons of the parade route that has been my life. As a colleague has often said of our relationship, “If you want to really see family values, you need to look at Andy and Harry.”

The 1974 hit by the Hollies, “All I Need is the Air that You Breathe” was the song that expressed our love when we first met, trying to get past our own internalized homophobia to bond with each other. When it would play on the radio, I would often find myself breathless and teary eyed. It was a frightening yet thrilling reality we were encountering in those days. Even today when I hear that song played, I lose my breath, transported almost immediately back to 1974, scared, bewildered, and deeply in love.

Happy Anniversary, Beebee. You are the love of my life. If I ever wonder whether G_d loves me, I only have to look at your gentle face where the image of G-d is so deeply and beautifully imprinted. And I will be eternally grateful to that gracious G-d for the wonderful gift that is you.

The Rev. Harry Scott Coverston, J.D., M.Div., Ph.D.
Member, Florida Bar (inactive status)
Priest, Episcopal Church (Dio. of El Camino Real, CA)
Professed Member, Third Order Society of St. Francis (TSSF)

Asst. Lecturer: Humanities, Religion, Philosophy of Law
Osceola Campus, University of Central Florida, Kissimmee

If the unexamined life is not worth living, surely an unexamined belief system, be it religious or political, is not worth holding.
Most things of value do not lend themselves to production in sound bytes. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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