And so it was, on the day of November 29, 2011, my partner Keith and I took a further step in our relationship; in fact, it was the step that is considered the biggest, most mac-daddy step of them all. November 29 has long been the anniversary of the beginning of 'us' and now that date would come to commemorate an even deeper commitment.
This came about on an innocuous drive back to my hometown in September; at night, as we were crossing the border from Missouri to Illinois. We spoke of the impending anniversary date and how it would mark the twelfth year of our relationship. Twelve is a noted number to us for various reasons and we sought a way to celebrate it in notable fashion. While I was thinking along the lines of a weekend away, the K-Man instead brought up the idea of getting married. As is my wont, I followed that frozen moment with several reasons of why it wouldn't work; reasons that ranged from personal worries to national and societal concerns. None of these concerns were based on frets over our relationship; of that I was rock-solid. My anxiety meter regarding everything else continued to sound off alarms as we drove on, but when I turned back to him and saw his face, lit by nothing more than the dashboard lights, I realized that the proposal came from such a pure, uncomplicated, genuine and loving place that I regrouped and of course, said "yes". He sealed the deal later with the offer of a cookie, as the question was indeed spontaneous. Greatest chocolate chip cookie of my life.
We would announce the news to some of our closest friends, who responded in joyous manner. We stealthily planned the big moment to occur in Des Moines, with our friends Kara and Drew as witnesses at a hotel where we had formerly attended a wedding. Keith, ever the positive one, could have sang the news from the rooftops but I grew ever more grave as the date approached; not in fear of the commitment itself; but of all of the external issues...you know, like driving to the home of family over Thanksgiving past billboards that "define what marriage is". Keith maintained his positivity as if he were steering a boat on the most still of waters.
A few days before we left, we received a wedding gift from my hometown friends Kristy and Lydia. As the card read, they regretted that they couldn't join us on the special day so they hoped that the gift they offered would serve as the next best thing. Would it ever...they sent an iPad 2, which was more than generous enough solely as a gift, but the reason behind it was the showstopper: the iPad 2 is equipped with Facetime and they would have their own iPad and would be able to virtually join us on our big day. The iPad came packed with videos of well-wishes from many old friends and even a wedding song performed by two of my favorite kindred spirits and musicians Connie and Nancy. Lyd and Kristy even shared a video of themselves as bridesmaids, hilariously clad in tutus and on roller skates. The sheer love, humor and generosity shown in this gesture nothing short of blew me away and inspired me to start anticipating the big day.
We arrived in Des Moines on the 29th and picked up the license at the downtown courthouse and might I add, every single person we dealt with during this process was beyond cordial. We checked in at the West Des Moines Sheraton and I still had niggling little bouts of negativity creeping up my spine. The bullied kid still wants to just run away sometimes.
We were soon dressed for the ceremony; my blazer pockets carried my Dad's watch and a photo of Mom and Dad. Drew and Kara, my friends whom I affectionately call "The Kids", met us at the suite and soon so did Rev. Peg Fiddle, our officiate. The ceremony was appropriately technocratic: Keith set up his iPad to play some Elton John, Rev. Fiddle read the vows from her Kindle and Drew finagled my iPad into position so my friends from WV could watch. Once again, my breath was taken away as the folks back home had an actual "virtual reception" going on. Many of my friends, including my sister, had gathered to watch the nuptials.
Soon we began, and Rev. Peg started speaking vows she had written for us. I have to admit that if ten years ago, someone had told me that I would be getting married by a tattooed, pierced officiate in an Iowa hotel suite while my friends threw a "virtual reception" by iPad, well, I might've thought that crazy. Unconventional and non-traditional it may have been, but as those vows were spoken by Rev. Peg, with us repeating...
Greg, repeat after me: I take you, Keith, to be my partner & spouse in this marriage. I promise to love you without reservation, comfort you in times of distress, encourage you to achieve all of your goals, laugh with you & cry with you, grow with you in mind & spirit, & always be open & honest with you. As I have given you my hands to hold, so I give you my life to keep.
...there was an epiphany forming in the back of my mind. I have spent many a moon in this existence of mine on shaky ground, desperately trying to hold on for dear life and in some really low moments, not even trying to hold on. On this day, in this moment, during those vows, life became crystalline; every detail felt crystal-clear. I had never, and I do mean never, felt more sure-footed and steady as I did in that moment. The rest; the "external" stress, just melted away. As the ceremony concluded, we tearfully hugged and popped open a bottle of Prosecco to celebrate with friends, both new and old, in person and through Facetime.
In retrospect, the day was perfect in its unique way. Rev. Peg was awesome, in words and personality both. Kara and Drew, newlyweds themselves, were very special witnesses who we went out to celebrate with afterward (details on that culinary tour in a later post). The hotel, which we last visited as wedding guests, provided us with some great, unexpected details...the waterfall in the lobby that served as our "water theme" (see the post Water Babies) and our background was a print of a clock; another recurring theme established by Keith's clock collection. Most importantly, the relationship of 12 years that I have always held most sacred was now officially a sacred union.
In the process, the bullied kid may once and for all have found his resolve. This relationship may be confounding and indeed blasphemous to some but to me, it is the most precious gift of my entire life. There will always be those who will see us undone and could even see to it that the marriage, like many others in Iowa, be overturned. Whatever is said or done to us, of this I am certain:
This union; in marriage or not, is forever. 'Til death do us part.