“My gay mom is cool!”

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Many years ago, when Karol and I started dating we had to keep everything hush hush.  She was still on Active Duty in the Navy, it was 2004, and at that time the policy of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was alive and well.  Plus I had recently divorced my husband,  and was worried about letting my children, who were 5 and 7 at the time to know I was in a relationship with her.  They knew we were best friends, and I decided to leave it at that.

She was stationed near Philadelphia with her kids, and my kids and I lived here in Hampton Roads Virginia.  In 2006 she was up for orders, and (thankfully) came back to this area, and we bought a house together.  When we bought the house, we had still not “told” our kids we were in a relationship, (we explained that we shared a room when we visited each other because we didn’t have a “spare” bedroom at each house), and we decided it was best for each of us to have our own bedroom.

So we had these clandestine “midnight” visits, after which I would sneak back to my room or she would sneak back to hers before the kids woke up.  Neither of us was “out” at our jobs, but we were to our close friends.  Looking back on it I think we were crazy, but it worked at the time, and I suppose it made things easier for the children to get used to living with new people.

We decided after living together for a year we would tell the children that we were actually a couple.  I was totally worried and stressed about it, and when I told them, they were like, “Um, we have known forever Mom.”  They were okay with me being in a relationship with a woman, and I was amazed and overjoyed!  We had actually prepared ourselves for the worst and realized we may need to sell our house and live apart if our kids freaked out.  Our number one priority was the children and how they would feel about our relationship.

Because I had been in a “traditional” marriage when my children were young I never forced the issue about them saying anything about Karol and my relationship to any adults or to their friends.  I always introduced Karol as my “friend”, and they did the same.  I heard them call her “my mom’s friend” when talking about her to others.

When Zachary was about 15, he began telling people his mom was “bi”.  Apparently people his age thought that was cool and I scored him some “cool points”.  I suppose technically I am “bi” in his mind since I was married to his dad and am now with a woman.  However, I don’t consider myself bisexual. To be honest I don’t even categorize myself, but if it made him feel comfortable, I was okay with him choosing a way to “describe” me.

Sometime during his Sophomore year, Karol brought me a paper that had Zack’s handwriting on it.  “Uh oh”, I said.  “Is this going to be bad?” (He was not the best student…) She said, “Just read it.”  She had seen this paper lying on the dining room table near Zack’s book bag and picked it up and read it.  She decided I should read it, and so she gave it to me. I held it in my hand and braced myself.

In his English class, he had been given an assignment to write about himself and his family.  In his own handwriting I read, “I found out a few years ago my mom is in a same gendered relationship.  I think that is cool. My mom is cool.”

I cried tears of joy.  He thought I was cool! That is a pretty amazing thing for a mom of a teenager to be considered cool by her kid!

Zack is now 18, and all of his friends are very well aware of the fact that he has two moms.  He calls Karol his “other mom”, and even gave her a “mother’s” pin after earning Eagle Scout.

I guess my worry was always misplaced.  I /we should have given our kids more credit. To be honest three out of our four kids are completely accepting of us and they call us their “moms”.  I will take it!

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This photo is us with Zack and The Genius.  Our oldest son lives in Tennessee, but is with us in spirit in this photo.

 

A History of Gay Marriage in the United States

I started blogging in 2010.  Somewhere in the first year I was blogging I ran across a Blog called “Doorknobs that Lock”.  You have to read the very first post that S wrote to understand the meaning of that one.  🙂 I was intrigued because they, S and E were two women who met after S had a child and he was 10 years old.  They met, fell in love, and got married in a few years.  Their son M is in scouts like Joe Cool and is the same age as Joe Cool.  We had so much in common and I have followed her over the years.  She is even in my Blog Roll. S has been tracking the history of states allowing same sex unions and marriages over the past 10 years, and has compiled a wonderful list with details.  So I asked her if I could use her history of gay marriage in the united states on my blog and she agreed!!  So without further ado, here is the roundup, as written by S.  Check out her blog too, it is cute, and funny, and interesting.  All the things a blog should be.  And she always has awesome pictures on her blog!!!

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Carol over at Coffee, Clutter and Chaos asked if I could do a roundup of all the marriage blog entries. Thanks for asking! It’s the perfect opportunity for me to ignore the impending blizzard and exercise my Type-A personality to its max, and so I decided to make as comprehensive a listing as I could of the evolving legal landscape of same-sex relationship recognition in the US. Not only that, I decided to do it 2 different ways. This is the state-by-state version; a timeline version is in the post above. The “more” links refer back to the more detailed blog posts I’ve written about many of these changes.

Alabama : marriages began 09-Feb-2015 more

Alaska : marriages began 12-Oct-2014 more

Arizona : marriages began 17-Oct-2014 more

Arkansas: marriages began 12-May-2014 more
Arkansas: marriages halted 16-May-2014

California : domestic partnerships began 02-Oct-1999
California : marriages began 16-Jun-2008
California : marriages halted 05-Nov-2008
California : marriages resumed 28-Jun-2013

Colorado : designated beneficiary agreements began 01-Jul-2009
Colorado : civil unions began 01-May-2013
Colorado : marriages began 06-Oct-2014 more

Connecticut : civil unions began 01-Oct-2005
Connecticut : marriages began 12-Nov-2008 more

Delaware : civil unions began 01-Jan-2012 more
Delaware : marriages began 01-Jul-2013 more

Florida : marriages began 06-Jan-2015 more

Georgia: no legal recognition

Hawaii : reciprocal beneficiary registration began 08-Jul-1997
Hawaii : civil unions began 01-Jan-2012 more
Hawaii : marriages began 02-Dec-2013 more

Idaho : marriages began 10-Oct-2014 more

Illinois : civil unions began 01-Jun-2011 more
Illinois : marriages began 01-Jun-2014 more

Indiana : marriages began 26-Jun-2014 more
Indiana : marriages halted 27-Jun-2014
Indiana : marriages resumed 07-Oct-2014 more

Iowa : marriages began 24-Apr-2009

Kansas : marriages began 10-Oct-2014 more

Kentucky: no legal recognition

Louisiana: no legal recognition

Maine : domestic partnerships began 30-Jul-2004
Maine : marriages began 29-Dec-2012 more

Maryland : domestic partnerships began 01-Jul-2008
Maryland : marriages began 01-Jan-2013 more

Massachusetts : marriages began 17-May-2004

Michigan: marriages began 22-Mar-2014 more
Michigan: marriages halted 22-Mar-2014

Minnesota : marriages began 01-Aug-2013 more

Mississippi: no legal recognition

Missouri: no legal recognition

Montana : marriages began 19-Nov-2014 more

Nebraska: no legal recognition

Nevada : domestic partnerships began 01-Oct-2009 more
Nevada : marriages began 09-Oct-2014 more

New Hampshire : civil unions began 01-Jan-2008
New Hampshire : marriages began 01-Jan-2010 more

New Jersey : domestic partnerships began 30-Jul-2004
New Jersey : civil unions began 19-Feb-2007
New Jersey : marriages began 21-Oct-2013 more

New Mexico : marriages began 19-Dec-2013 more

New York : domestic partnerships began 03-Feb-2006
New York : marriages began 24-Jul-2011 more

North Carolina : marriages began 10-Oct-2014 more

North Dakota: no legal recognition

Ohio: no legal recognition

Oklahoma : marriages began 06-Oct-2014 more

Oregon : domestic partnerships began 04-Feb-2008
Oregon : marriages began 19-May-2014 more

Pennsylvania : marriages began 20-May-2014

Rhode Island : civil unions began 02-Jul-2011 more
Rhode Island : marriages began 01-Aug-2013 more

South Carolina : marriages began 20-Nov-2014 more

South Dakota: no legal recognition

Tennessee: no legal recognition

Texas: no legal recognition

Utah : marriages began 20-Dec-2013 more
Utah : marriages halted 06-Jan-2014
Utah : marriages resumed 06-Oct-2014 more

Vermont : civil unions began 01-Jul-2000
Vermont : marriages began 01-Sep-2009 more

Virginia : marriages began 06-Oct-2014 more

Washington: domestic partnerships began 22-Jul-2007
Washington : marriages began 06-Dec-2012 more

Washington DC : domestic partnerships began 11-Jun-1992
Washington DC : marriages began 03-Mar-2010

West Virginia : marriages began 09-Oct-2014 more

Wisconsin : domestic partnerships began 03-Aug-2009 more
Wisconsin : marriages began 06-Jun-2014 more
Wisconsin : marriages halted 13-Jun-2014
Wisconsin : marriages resumed 06-Oct-2014 more

Wyoming : marriages began 21-Oct-2014 more

How to survive the death of a sibling

It is almost July 24.  My younger brother’s birthday.  He would have been 45 this year.  4 years younger than me.  However, when his birthday comes this year I will do what I have been doing for the past 5 years.  I will bake a chocolate cake  and I will light a yahrzeit candle to honor his memory. Because on April 14, 2009, my younger brother Brian died from a heart attack. Technically he had “coronary artery disease”, but it was his heart that stopped working, so I call it a heart attack.

I had a tricky relationship with my mother for years before that due to my own stupidity and immature decisions so when she called me that day I knew something was wrong.  We had not spoken to each other in 4 years.  I immediately thought the bad news was going to be about my father.  Never in my wildest dreams did I think it would be about my 39 year old brother.

Brian and I.  I was 22 and he was 18
Brian and I. I was 22 and he was 18

Brian and I hadn’t spoken in a couple of years. We had somewhat of a falling out over my decision to love a woman.  He had difficulty with that choice, and we had an uncomfortable conversation about it. 

But we didn’t shout at each other.  The conversation wasn’t ugly, it was just a disagreement about my life.  In fact the last thing I ever said to my brother was, “I am sorry you feel that way. I love you and when you are ready I will be here. I love you.” No matter what I had done in my life, I am so grateful that I had the clarity in that moment to say kind and loving things to my “little” brother, and not end the conversation in a negative or bad way.

I cannot imagine the guilt I would still be feeling if I had yelled, or said something ugly or mean to him and then never had the chance to apologize. After all, who expects a 39 year old man to die??? Who expects to never talk to a family member again after an argument???

To be honest I never really thought about the afterlife, or “spirits” before Brian died. The day he died and for a few days after, it felt as though he were here in my house with me. It was a peaceful and calming feeling. I felt love and acceptance from him. It was as if he was saying he was sorry that we had an argument and he loved me. It is hard to explain unless you have felt it yourself.

Unfortunately, my brother left two teenage sons behind.  They adored each other, and those boys feel his loss very strongly to this day.  They don’t talk about their dad much.  The pain is just too much for them to handle yet.

I have learned to make sure those we love KNOW we love them. Don’t assume your loved ones “just know” you love them, tell them, and do it often. My nephews know their dad loved them tremendously.  He told them with his words and showed them with his actions.

One of the things I found difficult was the lack of information and support  groups for surviving siblings.  Surviving siblings are often called the “silent mourners”.  People don’t think about siblings when a person dies.  They think “Oh my gosh, his poor spouse.” or “his poor parents”, or “his poor children”.  People don’t realize how devastating it is to lose a sibling. 

Brian age 19
Brian age 19

A sibling relationship is conceivably the longest relationship you will ever have with anyone during your life.  It is alternately loving someone and hating someone.  Whether you love them or hate them can be a changing emotion from day to day.  In my experience with an older and younger brother, sometimes from hour to hour my feelings for them changed. 

I knew Brian his ENTIRE life, and whether we were very close or not when we were adults we have shared experiences that I don’t share with anyone else…..ever.  I “helped” my mother change his diapers, fed him his bottles.  I remember the day my parents brought him home from the hospital.  We grew up in the same house with the same parents, the same older brother and we formed bonds that could never be broken.  Losing a sibling is devastating because you feel as though an entire part of your past is suddenly missing, like a black hole appears where there used to be a person.

A few weeks after Brian died the immediate family and their children gathered at my parents house in Florida to bury Brian’s cremains and have a funeral service. It was wonderful to all be together, although the reason we were there was so incredibly sad. The military service was beautiful, (Brian was an AO3 in the Navy), and he had full military honors.  The lonely sound of the bugle and the sharp crack of the rifles are sounds I will never forget!

I had never experienced grief before. No one close to me had ever died. I wasn’t close to my grandparents, although the death of my maternal grandfather saddened me quite a bit because he was such a wonderful man, and I had fond memories of him.

What I have learned is that grief sneaks up on you when you least expect it. Mine seems to be triggered by a song, or a memory. I will be driving down the road, or sitting in a quiet moment, and the grief hits. Not your “TV drama” grief with wailing and gnashing of the teeth, but quiet tears and pain in my heart.

Missing him….the realization that we won’t talk again…knowing he won’t see my children (or his children) get married……knowing he won’t see his grandchildren. These are the quiet moments of sadness.

Having to say the words out loud to someone who didn’t already know. Having to say “My younger brother died”. That is hard. Even 5 years later it always brings tears.

Sibling grief is hard.  People often don’t know what to say.  They don’t understand the level of grief you feel when  a sibling dies. My mother provided me with an immense amount of comfort. She said that it didn’t matter that I hadn’t spoken to Brian in a couple of years. What mattered was that when the opportunity had been there for me to tell him I loved him while he was alive, I had done so.

That when we were growing up I had shown him love ( not always in a sweet way…after all, he was my bratty little brother… lol). But I had spent time with him, and we had fun together. I have lots of great memories of being Brian’s sister when we were kids.  Family vacations, days on my sailboat, walking to the bus stop. We were 4 years apart so we weren’t in upper grades together, but he did accompany me to events pretty regularly.  (I think my parents wanted him there so I would be less likely to be naughty).  A sibling chaperone, if you will.  

Memorial Day parade garb. Circa 1980.
Memorial Day parade garb. Circa 1980.

As adults, we had many great times.  We had family barbecues, and get togethers.  We made homemade ice cream at 4th of July picnics.  Our kids ate hotdogs and caught fireflies together.  They went swimming in the lake together.  We even had flag burning ceremonies to teach the kids about that.  (Brian was an Eagle Scout).   I had told him I loved him and shown him love. She said THAT was what mattered.

That was immensely comforting to me. Brian knew I loved him.

We visited Brian’s grave when we went to Florida a couple of years after Brian died. We buried stones around his headstone. My two boys and I had all picked out beautiful stones we had, and took them down to Florida with us and left them there for Brian. The Genius had a big white quartz stone, Joe Cool had a shiny smooth black stone, and I had a beautiful tiger’s eye stone I had received at a meditation seminar. We left those with him. (It is Jewish tradition to place stones on the gravestone when you visit, but we had to bury them because Bushnell Natinal Cemetary doesn’t allow them to be left on the gravestone)

It has been five years since Brian died. I am not finished grieving. I don’t think it ever ends completely. My mother gave us all a bit of Brian’s cremains, and the little box sits on my mantle with a picture of Brian and some mementos from the funeral. I see Brian every day. It makes me smile to see his picture some days. It brings tears on other days. I think that is how grief works. At least for me.

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I always remember my brother as the wonderful man he had become. I want to tell you a little about him.  He was sarcastic.  He was funny, and he had a big laugh.  After he died, my mother asked his sons what they wanted Brian’s headstone to say.  They said their dad always said he wanted his tombstone to say “Pepperoni and cheese”,  from the slogan for Tombstone Pizza, “what do you want on your Tombstone?”  My mother was adamant that she was NOT going to put that on Brian’s headstone, but the boys kept insisting.  She stuck to her guns and the boys finally relented.  However, being true to who Brian was, she did allow them to put something different. 

So as you walk down the rows of headstones in The National Cemetery in Bushnell Florida, you see things like, “Beloved Father”, “We miss you Mother”, and “Amazing son”, then you come to Brian’s and it reads: Brian Kaufman, Jul 1969- Apr 2009,  “So long and thanks for all the fish.”   If you have never heard that phrase before you can learn about it by reading the “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”.  And if you have read that book, I am sure you have a smile on your face.  That was Brian, fun, funny, sarcastic, loving father, wonderful son, bratty yet adored brother, nerd, and true Sci-Fi fan!!