By Ruth Gadebusch
In this time of same-sex marriages still somewhat of a novelty I share with you the message given in one such wedding. The message is loud and clear that all humans have the same dreams, emotions, hopes and fears regarding finding the right life partner.
This story, “I Dreamt Anyway,” is told by a brother and sister of one man. It is the same as any shared by the human majority except for the extra roadblocks that have had to be overcome. Sadly, one brother could not share in this occasion indicating just how diverse we humans are no matter the origin of our birth and parenting. This wise family has agreed to respect those varying views developed within the same home.
(Author’s note: The story is quoted substantially as presented, but for reasons of space and privacy alterations have been made. Also eliminated is the repetition of “I never thought it possible, but I dreamt anyway,” thereby losing a bit of its poetry.)
Ken and Bob marry today because it transforms their union and adds value to their already rich relationship. In marriage, goals and dreams shift from individual to collective. You and me become us. Any challenges that lie ahead are met with the power of two bonded in faith. And they marry today in part because like so many others, Ken said, “I’ve always dreamt of sharing my life with that special someone before the eyes of God. Even though I never thought it would be possible to marry the man of my dreams, I dreamt anyway.”
They are dreams inspired by their role models of love and marriage. For Bob, that is his Grandma Fannie and Grandpa Harry. Together for over 60 years till Fannie’s death, they kept all the Jewish traditions giving Bob a cultural identity. Dedicated to his dreams, they funded his education.
For Ken, grandparents My and Pa, as well as his parents, laid out a positive, respectful, loving and nurturing vibe with a strong faith in the Lord and a life time of commitment to each other. Long cherished for keeping his dreams alive when all he had was his dreams is the copy of Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking given to him by My.
It is faith and dreams that Ken and Bob leaned on as they dealt with the realities of being gay in a straight world, as well as the medical realities and social shunning associated with HIV. Imagine, keeping a part of yourself, your feelings of romantic love for another, in a closet for 30 years, then opening the door to find depression and discrimination. Imagine, living with the knowledge that if your employer learned of your medical condition or orientation, you would lose not only your job, but your career. These social and health challenges gave both an appreciation for life and made it possible to pursue the dream of love when they noticed that rapid heart, sweaty hands and “Wow, this guy makes me feel different” signs of love.
Bob describes falling in love with Ken, when after the third date Ken asked if he could bake cookies in Bob’s kitchen. In Ken’s “joyful innocence,” Bob saw “Innocence in its true sense—absence of guilt,” believing Ken incapable of guile or deceit. In turn, the joy Ken derives from his depth of faith has renewed Bob’s faith in ways he never imagined possible at this stage in his life.
Unlike heterosexuals, until July 2013 the best Ken and Bob could hope for was a domestic partnership, which Bob says “sounds more like a housecleaning business than a marriage.” Now they can and are marrying in the very church where Ken’s parents, brother, sister and countless cousins married. This “Big Red Church” refuge for Ken voted some 16 years ago not only to be open to, but to affirm the love, faith and life of same-sex unions. Now welcoming Bob, it is the church and altar Ken dreamed of when he dreamed that dream he never thought possible. Now is front of loving witness the dreams of Ken and Bob really have come true.
In California, this story has a happy ending still denied in all too many states. Nor will all share the faith of this couple, but the human dream of someone to care for and, in turn, be cared for is common to us all. When that dream culminates in marriage something special happens. As the writers put it in tribute to their brother and his chosen life partner, “Goals and dreams shift from individual to collective. You and me become us. Any challenges that lie ahead are met with the power of two.” Dreams do come true!
Ruth Gadebusch, a community activist, is a veteran, a former member of the Fresno Unified School Board and the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, and an emeritus member of the Board of Directors of the Center for Civic Education.