My old friend, who I will call Joe, welcomed me at his door today, and I was so glad I stopped to see him. Several years ago, his wife came out as gay, and she was one of my close friends. At the time, I didn't know how to respond, and I probably didn't do it right. When I asked Kim (not her real name) why she didn't talk to me about what she was going through, her answer was, "I was afraid you would not understand." I have to admit it, I didn't. That was in about 1992 - or about then. Kim's and my girls were the same age, and they were in high school.
In the 15 years or so leading up to this time, Kim and I had gone to church together. We'd each had two kids at about the same time, and she was the go-getter who started our first Junior Church, which was for our pre-schoolers. She was an AMAZING teacher and organizer, and I admired her for the way she had a knack for teaching little ones. Her husband, Joe, was an "elder," in our independent, charismatic church. In those years, Ray was one who did "special music," when he'd have a new song - songs like, "Watch the Lamb," "I will praise the Lord," and, "Thank you."
When I heard through the grapevine that Kim was saying she was a lesbian, I had no clue how to respond, but I saw how NO ONE from our church stayed close to her or Joe. I still recall how people talked about her, and it embarrasses me. Somehow I had the wherewithal to at least try to stay close with Kim. When the girls each graduated from high school, I attended the open house parties, and I invited Kim to come to my kids' events. I welcomed her friends (several of whom I saw as rather obviously butch) and was glad when she introduced her partner to me. I wrote Kim a letter once, telling her that I still didn't understand, but that she was my friend, and I'd always love her.
Finally, in early 2005, I was the one with no one to understand what we (Ray and I) were going through. I drove 2 1/2 hours in hard rain to get to her house, only to find her not at home. Fortunately, I didn't drive too far BACK before I reached Kim by cell phone, and I turned around. Soon I was able to fall, sobbing, into her arms, telling her, "Ray's gay. I need to talk."
Now, I am so blessed - when Kim introduces me, she says, "This is Carol, my oldest and dearest friend." I could never say enough to convey how much that means to me!
And so it's been all these years, and the last time I talked to Joe it was to ask him to go to a local concert, where Lawrence Chewning (main composer of, "The Anchor Holds") was to sing and play, mainly on the "piana." Lawrence, a North Carolina friend from the days of Jesus people, coffeehouse concerts, and he's one of my favorite song-writers. Joe turned down the offer to attend, and I never held it against him.
Today, though, Joe opened the door and smiled broadly, inviting me inside. It didn't seem to bother him that I'd interrupted his noontime nap! I've heard of having face-to-face talks with other straight spouses, but this had even more meaning! This was my old college friend, the one who'd married Kim after having served on the mission field - and who, it turned out, had unknowingly fallen in love with and married a gay spouse. Talking was tearful, and that surprised me. I keep thinking I'm doing pretty well.
I'm so happy to say that "Joe" is now remarried, and he seems truly happy. We talked for nearly an hour, and he said to tell Ray, "HI." Reconnecting was good.