My friend, Ravn over at Nightwatcher seemed taken by my story about my ex-partner so I thought I'd share a few things about my first and longest relationship.
In a nutshell, I met Ex on a gorgeous September Saturday afternoon in 1978, went home with him the next Sunday evening, and stayed until 2001. While I don't think we were/are soul mates, we spent the entirety of those 23 years in a relatively harmonious state. We've both been asked many times why break-up after 23 years, especially when - at first glance anyway - there was nothing wrong with the relationship.
Well, that's not exactly true. There was plenty wrong, most of which we simply didn't bother to acknowledge or talk about. By the time one of us wanted out (me), there was no repairing it. However, if I were to boil it down to a single, easily digestible, reason, I'd say that the 41 year old man I had become could no longer live with the decision made by the 18 year old boy I had been.
Leaving Ex was the hardest thing - to date - I've ever had to do in my life. The process was an extremely long one. I probably knew I wanted to leave the relationship 10 years before I did so which is proof that the human capacity for discomfort is vast. My father has a saying: never believe your own press clippings. Ex and I had extremely good "press" as gay couples go. Our 20 year age difference made us a successful intergenerational couple. Our racial difference made us a successful interracial couple. And, of course, as the years piled on, our longevity made us a shining example of a long-term gay couple. Everybody thought we were perfect and with all of that affirmation, who actually needed to work on the relationship?
In October 2000 while returning from a visit to see an amazing collection of Faberge eggs, I told him I wanted to end the relationship. He was surprised, shocked, hurt, and angry. Later, he was amazingly understanding and, on some level, it was a conversation he had been expecting since he found himself shacked up with a man 20 years his junior in 1978. Because of his profession, we remained together until the middle of the next year, sleeping in the same bed right up to the night before we moved to separate residences.
If we had stayed together, we would have just celebrated our 30th Anniversary. I sent him a letter I'll share here:
My dear Ex,
It's Official! We've been friends for 30 years! Certainly, in 1978 we both had expectations that things would turn out differently, but we are still friends and still looking out for one another (even with a little distance) - proof that not a one of our 23 years together were wasted.
I sometimes wonder where I would have wound up musically had I not met you. Would I have come to know a Mahler symphony (with more than a passing familiarity with at least three of them)? Would a Stokowski Bach transcription be one more thing I passed up on my way to the choral section? Would it all have sounded as good without a big brown mug of coffee from the industrial-sized urn?
Thank you for your wonderful music collection, your encyclopedic knowledge of symphonic music, our Friday night trips to Tower, and the open heart with which you shared all that with me.
Every weekend, I sing for 700+ people. Over the years, I was lucky enough to sing at the Vatican, the Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and other venues large and small all over DC. Along the way I amassed a small stack of recordings of which I am very proud. Somehow or another, I've actually managed something of a career as a singer in Washington!
Thank you for your encouragement when I was starting out - braving the rats in Old Towne, driving to upper Northwest late every Monday night in the Paul Hill Days, and dodging water-wielding Princes of the Church. You have always, always been my best and most loyal audience. It meant a great deal to me then and now to know you were out there, applauding for me, and giving me one more reason to do my best.
Remember how taken Stef used to be with my being a "WSS Girl"? Somehow a brief business English class in secretarial school cracked open the door to my own writing talent and how much I truly love expressing myself through words.
Thank you for being my best editor and encouraging my first efforts. I will never forget 1981, the year you gave me so that I could go to school unencumbered by a job or financial worries. That year established a rock solid foundation for my entire working life and benefits me right up to this very minute. How could I have known that a one-year certificate program would lead me to such adventures – Supercomputers, Charity Balls and Jackie O., Georgetown University, and now ringside seats at the meltdown of the entire f'ing world financial system!
Finally, thank you for our friends – Fred and Wilma, Jasper and Juliette and, most especially Tom and Jerry, who have been with both of us at not only our best times, but also some of the worst. We could not have asked for or been blessed with better, more supportive men in our lives. Thank God we were smart enough not to divide them up with the Christmas decorations! Seriously, could we have been luckier?
The year we lost Mitch and Murray to AIDS is never far from my mind. Your support as I helped care for them - more than two months of nightly trips to sit with Mitch and later weekly trips to Pennsylvania to be with Murray towards the end - made it possible for me to be the best kind of friend I could be to them at the end of their lives. All these years later I am moved by the care and love you extended to me during the resulting depression.
23 years is a long time and the hot little 18 year old with big hair you picked up at MCC is fast approaching 50 - I don't have the memory to recount your every kindness to me, every moment of teaching, every impact on my life. I want to be sure you know that they are remembered in my heart – each and every one - whether or not I can readily call them to mind.
Happy 30th Anniversary, Ex.
Thinking of you always with love and gratitude,
Yeah...30 years is a long, long time . . .