Ever have one of those days when you aren’t sure how it is you’re supposed to be feeling? You’re happy, and yet, your mind wanders to events that aren’t quite so happy, and then it wanders back to events that are happy. Happy, Sad, Happy, Sad, Happy…
July 15th is that sort of day for me.
- My father’s birthday was July 15. He would have been 86 today.
- Herb Valentine – my Uncle Herb died on July 15th.
- I was married on July 15, 1972
- I arrived in San Diego on July 15, 2002 to be with Susan, and finally live the life that was really mine.
I miss my father on this day. 9 days from now – July 24 – it will be two years that he’s been gone. Doesn’t seem possible that so much time has passed, and yet, there are days that the pain of his loss is as fresh as it was two years ago. I miss picking up the phone and singing to him on his Birthday. He loved it when I would sing the second verse of the Happy Birthday song to him.
- May your days all be bright, and filled with delight
- Happy Birthday, God Bless You, Happy Birthday to you.
Herb Valentine was a man larger than life in my younger years. He was a big, burly man who, when he laughed, had a belly that just shook. Sort of like Santa Claus! He was a big part of my youth, and when he died a part of me died with him. Those care-free happy days of picking cigarette butts out of the alley, and throwing stones and twigs in my doll carriage, and those glorious days on the Chesapeake Bay on his boat – the Dot-V-Dot – so named because I called his wife Dorothy – Dot-Dot. It was those days that defined my youth, and my Uncle Herb was a major part of that. When he was gone, there was a huge void that has never been filled. Perhaps that’s because I never let anyone fill it. That space belonged to my Uncle Herb, it still does.
My wedding day in 1972 – well – what can I say about that? I knew it was a mistake, I knew I could never be what my husband needed or deserved and yet… I did it anyway because I could think of no way not to do it.
It wasn’t all bad, there were happy times, however; it was a lie on my part. I feel sad about this. I should have been more honest, more open, and less afraid of facing the world as an out Lesbian. Thing was, I was only 19, it was 1972, and my conservative, Republican, small-town family would have never embraced me as anyone other than the married family clown who worked at Ferguson and Hassler’s selling shoes!
I remember the evening was hot & humid and as happy as I thought I was – I knew that I wasn’t. As much as I tried to be a good wife – I knew that I wasn’t. As much as I tried to be that small-town, conservative, Republican, church-choir singing wife – I knew it wasn’t ever going to work.
Even after my husband joined the Navy, and we left that little town and found ourselves in San Diego, I knew it was never going to work. How could it? I cared about him as a friend, but I was never romantically in love with him. How could I be? I feel sad for him, and for me for the years we spent pretending.
The thing is – those years spent pretending brought me to where I am right now – with Susan. It’s the happiest I have ever been in my life. When I got out of my car with my Cocker Spaniels Max and Molly ten years ago, my life was finally what it was supposed to be.
In those 10 years with Susan, Max and Molly have both passed away, friends have come and gone, and my family – well – they are what they are. Some have embraced Susan and me; others have turned their backs and walked away, as I knew they would. Small-town, conservative, Republican religion doesn’t always interpret the Bible in a way that is kind and gentle to homosexuals, it’s more the fire and brimstone – I’m going to hell sort of religion they embrace!
Life is meant for the living, for the here and the now, although I do believe that your body somehow remembers trauma, both physical and emotional. For on this day – this July 15th – I feel like a child losing a beloved Uncle, a daughter missing singing Happy Birthday to her Daddy, a young girl looking at her future husband in a church and knowing it was wrong, and an adult woman looking into the eyes of the woman who would make her life happier than she ever dreamed, and my body laughs and cries at will.
This is what remains of this day…