Saturday, August 12, 2006

I Live With a Lesbian!

The secret is out! One of my last closet doors has apparently been opened!

My paternal grandparents (Omi & Opa) are in their 80s and have never been a particularly cheerful couple. Throughout my childhood they were never quite as welcoming or as cuddly as my mother's parents, whom I adored. When I was a toddler Omi started experimenting in the kitchen and then complained when I wouldn't eat her spicy and creative dishes. Building forts -- aka moving a throw pillow from the sofa to the rug in the living room -- was strictly prohibited. And only in my late teens could appreciate being sent to sleep in the deep, dark basement guestroom. (Of course, if the complete lack of natural lighting let you sleep too late, the dreaded doorbell would buzzzzzzzzzzz to get you up in time for breakfast.) In 1995 I spent a semester studying in Germany and was able to spend several weekends with my grandparents -- we gently butted heads on political issues as I told them about my classes on German social inequality and the world refugee situation.

My grandparents may well be the most pessimistic people I know. Each visit is a mirror of the last with the same litany of woes about getting old; how isolated they are living in a small suburb--a bedroom community without stores, banks, or even a post office; how hard it is to drive to the store when construction keeps changing the traffic patterns; etc. etc. The modern world is clearly a shocking and difficult place for them. Poor health on both their parts has not made life easier -- my grandfather has struggled with heart disease and my grandmother has been fighting bone cancer for a couple of years now. Yet they fiercely cling to their independence—insisting on staying in their home, no matter how extra-large and inconveniently located it is and largely refusing any help from either my father or my uncle and the rest of our families.

So coming out to my grandparents after I met Monica was not high on my list of things to do. Once my grandmother became ill in the spring of 2005 everyone decided that it was a good idea not to rock the boat with any shocking news. This decision was further reinforced when I went to visit and was told that their neighbor's daughter (my childhood friend) had - gasp!- married a Turk! and was pregnant! The horrors! To pessimistic add judgmental.

Of course, no matter how much you want to protect the people you love, shocking news has its ways of worming its way out, doesn't it? It has come to this point where pretty much their entire family has assaulted all propriety and may as well be driving a knife into my grandfather's back and twisting it around. They seem to have come to terms with, but are certainly still pained by, my uncle's divorce (some ten years ago now)—although my grandfather notes that they might have expected this of him, a liberal, always going against the grain from the days of his youth. My father's trespasses against my mother, on the other hand, are fresh news and shocking to the core—he was the golden boy, the first-born son—how could he do this to them! So at this point I was definitely not going to pull out "by the way, last year I married a woman!"

No need, apparently. As the story goes, a week or so ago my uncle was visiting his parents and in their devastation over the recent revelation that my father is seeking to divorce my mother after 37 years of marriage, my grandfather said something along the lines of "well, now Patrick is our only hope!" (Never mind that my cousin, Patrick, is but 17 and just starting down the road of difficult himself.) Apparently surprised at this statement, my uncle asked what their disappointment in me was. "Well, she is living with that Lesbian!"

Ok, so maybe the closet door isn't ALL the way open. Perhaps I'll have to send them some wedding photos.

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