I recently visited my Dad, who's in the late stages of Alzheimer's. He was born in 1929, the year of the stock market crash. Growing up during the Great Depression shaped him into the hard-working, frugal, honorable, and compassionate man I am proud to call my father.
Years ago, when I came out to my parents, my Mom, who I thought would have an "easier" time with the news, mourned and struggled for what felt like years. My Dad, who I deemed so "old fashioned," surprised me with his gentleness and patience. He asked lots of questions, expressed concern for my personal safety, and then quickly seemed to reach a place of acceptance and peace.
The man made a life out of constantly surprising me.
Because Alzheimer's has rendered him unable to hold a conversation or comprehend much of what I'm saying, I often find myself with so much I want to say and wanting nothing more than to share it with him. Especially now, when so much is happening in the fight for GLBT equality.
Recently, New Hampshire recognized marriage for same-sex couples. New Hampshire joins Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont (effective Sept. 1), and Maine (effective Sept. 14, pending a possible referendum).
Currently, civil unions or domestic partnerships grant same-sex couples in Washington, D.C., New Jersey, Oregon, Nevada (effective Oct. 1), and Washington State (as of July 26, pending possible repeal effort) with access to the same state-level benefits and responsibilities available to heterosexual couples.
Hawaii provides same-sex couples with limited rights and benefits. New York recognizes marriages by same-sex couples validly entered into outside of New York. In fact, the New York state legislature is currently considering a bill that would permit same-sex marriage in the Empire State, and the D.C. Council has passed legislation that would recognize marriages by same-sex couples legally entered into in other jurisdictions.
And then there's California, where the Supreme Court recently upheld Proposition 8. If my Dad were to hear about that, he'd probably shake his head and say, "What a bunch of crumb bums." That said, there's a silver lining to the California decision: the 18,000 marriages of same-sex couples performed before the passage of Proposition 8 remain valid.
And, just so we're all on the same page: same-sex couples do not currently receive federal rights and benefits in any state.
Actually, I'm sort of glad my Dad doesn't know that. He'd be mad.
I mean, come on, even Dick Cheney supports gay marriage. "If that's what the people of the state want to do, that's fine by me," he said during a recent interview. He calls his lesbian daughter Mary's long-term relationship with her partner "commendable." Geez, Dick, you almost sound ... proud.
Which brings me back to my Dad. A man who saw people standing in breadlines as a child, a man who played trumpet in a jazz band, and worked the graveyard shift in a hospital to pay for college. This is the same man who never missed an important soccer game, taught me how to change a tire, and sat on the edge of my bed when I was afraid.
The truth is, my Dad is supposed to walk me down the aisle someday. Our dance is Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World."
I had it all planned.
But like my Dad, life is full of surprises.
He won't walk me down the aisle. But he will be there.
Because one day, I will be there.