Please read my preceding post for necessary background.
I was completely in the closet until I was almost 35 years old. I never acted on – or even thought about acting on – my attraction to women. I told no one.
I love my family. My mother is a devout Catholic. She was hurt when I left the Church and became a Protestant, but accepted it. But I thought she would never accept that her daughter is a lesbian.
I didn’t fear my mother. But I did not want to destroy my family.
My decision to move to New York excited my family, but left them apprehensive. They were ambitious for the opportunity, but none of us had ever lived in a city, let alone New York City.
They wanted to meet the woman who was helping me with my New York venture.
When my Love was out West for a visit with her family, they invited her for afternoon coffee and cookies. To them, she was just a friend who had already been down that trail.
I was more nervous than I have ever been, even for the defense of my thesis.
My Love was, as always, beautiful and beautifully dressed. Her essential, sophisticated, understated, brilliant self. As easy as I was nervous.
She was utterly charming. Mixed an observant and honest gravity with a light humor I had rarely seen. Despite her genius, success and sophistication, she came to my parents as equals, never condescending or patronizing.
First, my Love put my parents’ minds at ease about their little girl in the big City. My Love talked about its safety, its culture, its sanitation, its distractions, its temptations, its energy, its diversity, its food. She talked about the subway, Central Park, Riverside Park, Times Square, Madison Avenue and her neighborhood on the Upper West Side. She admitted that she had never been in the Empire State Building or the Statue of Liberty. She talked about the theater and the opera. About just walking around.
About how a girl from the end of the road outside of West Jerkwater could thrive on brains and guts and hard work. About opportunity and competition and promise. That nobody cares where you’re from or who your parents are or what you did yesterday. All they care about is what you can do for them today and tomorrow.
She sold them on the City. She let them know that she would be a friend I could call on for anything. She convinced them that I would thrive in the deep end of the biggest pond of all.
My parents told funny and sad stories about me and about our family. My Love told funny, self-deprecating and sad stories about herself and her family. We talked about the importance of family and friends and self-reliance, hard work and faith, honesty and dedication.
The hour stretched to dinner and into the evening. I loosened up enough to contribute.
My Love was comfortable and confident enough to engage my mother in a serious discussion of theology, the differences between Catholic and Protestant approaches to grace, tradition, authority and Scripture. She talked about her own conversion from atheism to Christianity.
The more my family grew to like my Love, the more relaxed I became. I began to believe that perhaps, maybe, someday, my mother might accept that I might love a woman, this woman.
As my Love was getting ready to leave, my mother took us aside from the rest of the family. She asked if we were more than friends.
My Love seized the nettle.
She said that she loved me and hoped, God willing, someday to marry me and have a family with me. For my whole life I had buried my attraction to women for my mother’s sake. My Love would not be a wedge to separate me from my family. My family meant too much to me, and therefore to her. While my Love did not expect my mother’s blessing, she hoped that at least my mother could tolerate us for the sake of my happiness.
She wouldn’t – couldn’t – ask my mother to reject her Church or compromise its tenets. After long and prayerful study, before my Love recognized that she was gay, she came to believe that homosexuality is not a sin. She would be happy to discuss her belief and its basis with my mother, but she would not ask my mother to accept that. All she asked was that my mother recognize that, if it is a sin for her daughter to love a woman, her Church recognizes that we are all sinners. Christ preferred the company of sinners to the company of the pious. If Christ could love sinners, perhaps my mother could still love a sinner, too.
My Love did not want to break my mother’s love for me. That was too precious. What my Love wanted most in the world was for my mother to continue to love me as she always had, to recognize that we are all sinners in need of God’s and each other’s grace. She would understand if my mother could not accept that. She hoped that my mother could accept it: It would otherwise break my Love’s heart, and she thought it would break mine as well.
My mother took it all in, quietly. Her face never changed from a stern fortitude. My Love stated her case and stopped. She didn’t babble on. I wanted to fill the ensuing silence, but my Love stopped me with a squeeze on my arm.
My mother finally spoke. Her Church says that homosexual acts are acts of grave depravity. But she would always love me. If my Love loved me, then my mother loved my Love, too. She didn’t think she could bless a wedding, or bring herself to attend a wedding, but she could – and did – bless both of us.
She said the most peculiar thing: That she could bless our love, too. She believed that God condemned homosexual acts, but she could not believe that God condemned love.
Had I been too afraid of my mother? Too ready to judge her? Too ready to believe that she would reject me? Too small minded to realize that her love would always envelop me?
Or had I always been right to fear her disapproval, but the reality of love opened her mind?
Or was she just happy that someone loves me, and that I love someone?