love matters most

Dear Uma: A mutual friend of ours, Daniel Galen, told me the news he is in love. Apparently it happened about six months ago; he wanted to know it…

Dear Uma:

A mutual friend of ours, Daniel Galen, told me the news he is in love. Apparently it happened about six months ago; he wanted to know it was going somewhere before he told family and friends. Now that he and Gordon are moving in together, he wants to have a huge party to celebrate.

That’s right — Gordon is the name of his new love. And yes, Gordon is a man. As you can imagine, this has set the fox among the hens, so to speak.

Daniel’s ex-wife is livid, his daughter is confused, and his mom is tentatively thrilled; I think she believes Gordon is a New Age sort of woman with a man’s name. She has yet to meet Gordon face-to-face, though they have spoken over the telephone and are said to have gotten along very well.

His friends are in various stages of hilarity, disbelief, or pleasure at his happiness.

I have decided to be of the latter group; Daniel has been lonely, and he is too good and sweet a man to be alone. Besides, in one of those “it’s a small world after all” stories, I happen to know Gordon. I know him fairly well, having worked with him some years ago in London. He is gay, and fabulous; very bright and talented, well-liked by all who know him, straight or gay.

I telephoned Daniel to congratulate him. I asked him when he knew he was gay and he said, “I don’t know if I am; I was married, I have a daughter, I was amiably (till now) divorced, and when I dated, I dated women. Then I went to a party where I met the most wonderful person I’ve ever known. I fell in love; the person happened to be a man.”

Lately I have been hearing love stories: unexpected people, difficult circumstances, and sometimes a colossal determination on the part of the protagonists simply to be together.

Romance is usually presented to us in the form of two attractive people, one from each gender, in comfortable financial circumstances, who find their way into one another’s arms for the happily-ever-after without ever having to overcome much more than a misunderstanding.

Here are some more true tales, illustrating that love sometimes affects every sense but the common.

Jane and Arthur were best friends for more than 20 years, helping one another through every crisis and celebrating every joy. Most of the crises were to do with relationships as the two of them managed to rack up an impressive four marriages and divorces each in those years.

It came as no surprise to any one but them when one day they realized the person they really wanted to be with was and had always been each other.

Another friend, Joan Forth, was a woman who had a List and refused to deviate from it. The List enumerated the characteristics and qualities possible in a man that she found intolerable.

She was a person blessed with good looks, a successful career and a lot of charm but her many friends watched and worried, as over the years, she turned away many a good man because (a) he was shorter than she, (b) he was bald, (c) he didn’t practise a profession, (d) he was a smoker, (e) he ate meat, (f) he wore a wristwatch (don’t ask; I never did, so I have no idea).

Last week she telephoned to tell me she’d gotten married. She let me blather on, berating her for not sharing all the fun and excitement of the romance and then, to add insult to injury, withholding an invitation to the wedding, and so on and so on. When I’d stopped to draw a breath, she announced the ceremony had occurred two years ago.

Her husband was a man made for her flip side; he’s managed to represent every item on the List. She was too embarrassed to introduce him to her friends, keeping the marriage a secret until recently when their efforts to have children had borne fruit — she is pregnant.

This conversation left me quite dumb with shock and awe; not only has she married the List, Joan had historically expressed a rather fierce determination to never, ever procreate.

For yet another kind of love story, I offer Brock and Lily. They met and married and had a son, all in a glow of happiness marred only by Brock’s father.

The man had not only refused to come to the wedding, he’s refused to meet Lily, or later, his grandson. He is upset by the fact Lily is from the Philippines.

Lily’s family is huge; her parents still live in the Philippines, but she has brothers and sisters, aunts, uncles, and cousins, who live in or around Edmonton, where she and Brock make their home. This large and close-knit tribe instantly welcomed Brock and have made him feel one of them. His mother was also absorbed into the family; she makes frequent visits to be with her son, his wife, and her only grandchild.

Brock and his mother have felt healed and made better by their inclusion into a family scene opposite to the chilly aura created by his father.

Shortly after their marriage, Brock and Lily went to the Philippines to introduce Brock to Lily’s parents. Almost immediately upon arrival, he was taken ill, the sort of ill that meant staying in bed and being mostly helpless. Lily’s dad took over the care of Brock, moving into a room with him in order to tend to him day and night.

The tending involved bathing and feeding, and in a few days semi-carrying Brock to the veranda where they would sit together in silence; neither man spoke the other’s language. Brock told me of the love that grew between them; he said for the first time in his life, he knew what it felt like to be fathered.

Angie is bipolar, undiagnosed as she fought her way through an unhappy and destructive adolescence, vilified and ultimately rejected by a family and a medical system who failed to understand her behaviour was not driven by evil but by illness.

She washed up on the shores of a small town on the coast where she serendipitously came to the attention of a doctor who recognized her condition and treated her. With the help of drugs, she was able to hold down a job and live independently. The real Angie was given a chance to emerge, and a formidable Angie she was, extraordinarily perceptive, tough, and determined.

David found himself in that same small town, after enduring foster homes, jail and a heroin addiction that nearly destroyed him. He, like Angie, was unprepossessing in appearance, both of them wearing the hardships of their lives on their faces and bodies.

They found each other, and some measure of peace, these two scarred and weary survivors.

Together, they constructed a quiet life together, buying a modest home and working their modest jobs. Their devotion to one another spread to include other people who’d been lost in the shuffle of the world and needed a place and some time to regroup.

He died recently; her grief was of a sort so wide and deep there were concerns she might choose to follow him.

Angie has shown an innate propensity for wellness; she has withdrawn herself from her role as provider for those who needed her strength, and her resourcefulness. She is taking care of herself for awhile, with a total awareness of how necessary that is to her own continued health and well-being. She is alone, but not lonely, using this chosen time to grieve, and learn from the process.

It’s late and I am going to go to my bed, but first I am going to have a drink, a drink to toast love, in all its many manifestations.

Love,

Heather

Heather Bennett is a writer

who lives in Watson Lake.