A Love Letter To My Queer Family
As you fight for your life in a CCU hospital room too many miles from me, I think of you on this Valentine’s Day. Not because we are romantically involved, although we have been. Like so many other queers, we began as lovers (okay, we really kicked it off with a hookup) and then bloomed into family.
Valentine’s Day, like so many other holidays, is a day that I peer into the cultural well and don’t see myself. The way I love and make family makes no appearance in commercials. I have never heard a song about it. I guess those “urban tribe” sitcoms of friends should tide me over, but for the most part, the cultural tide prefers the bonds certified by the State and the blood.
But I am thinking now of the ways we have handcrafted our own holidays and days of note. The Day the Pickle Jar Was Hurled In Anger. Days of eating crabs on the dock. The day we saw the road runner in New Mexico. That funny, scary day that was the Dildo v. Airport Security. Days of morphine and pain with no bottom, key lime pie dates on Barracks Row, and falling out of the car because you made me laugh so hard. The day I thought I would never talk to you again. The day I discovered I was wrong.
What about that day I realized that you gave me my first felt experience of unconditional love? You know, the kind of love-room I could lay my burdens down in. Rest awhile. Take off my muddy boots and air out my stinky feet.
I have felt like a stranger, a guest in so many of love’s rooms. But not yours, never yours.
You have welcomed me deeply and relentlessly. You have invited me in your physical home, so many times–and, really, all of your homes. All of your hearts and hearths.
You received me with unstintingly open arms when I would travel from another city just for a hug from you. You and your dog waiting for me at the train station, no matter how late it was. She would bark when she saw me. I could’ve wept when I saw you.
As you battle for your life, I realize that between us there are no unsaid declarations of love, no intimacies unspilled, no uncorked rage or resentment. Now, we know how to have some nuclear arguments. Remember that time I was so pissed at you I tried to get out of the car on Lee Highway…in moving traffic? There were never any cut cards between us, and now we wait to see what fate has dealt us. How long will I have you? No diviner can or will tell me.
None of your three caregivers are bonded to you by blood. Two of us are ex-lovers, and one of us is a college pal you adopted about 40 years ago. We tell the nurses when they ask–and they always ask–that we are sisters. We have to tell the hospitals and the nursing homes this “lie” to be legible to the medical establishment. For access. To care for you. But it’s not a lie. You are my sister, my ex-fuck buddy, my chocolate love bunny. My family.
Sometimes you occupy the office of My-Annoyance-In-Chief. You do annoy the hell out of me sometimes, and I know I return the favor. I don’t really care. I don’t worry about losing you to my imperfection because I know I have you for life, and all of the unmarked time (eternity?) after that.
I haven’t found home in the “usual” places. Truth to be told, I’m still pissed about that. But one of your sayings is “you never know where you’ll find love.” My God, you sure do love to roll that out when I talk about my future partner needing to be x or y. I always felt annoyed and dismissed by those words, but today, I hear them anew.
You never do. But I am grateful to have been found, by you.