On Moments and Marriage (For Angie)
This past weekend, I witnessed the marriage of my sister-in-law Angie to her longtime girlfriend, Megan. I can say that it was a beautiful event, but that doesn’t really do the event itself justice. I’ve been there to catch glimpses of Angie’s journey — definitively, the event that I witnessed was the pinnacle of very serious and precious moments locked in time; the summit of a mountain conquered.
I know how moments work, how they are locked in forever and ever, the shape of them in space-time. They exist everywhere and always, but we seem to move past them, so that all we can do is remember them. We just move through moments — the moments will always exist. It’s we that are fleeting.
Angie’s story is one I can’t imagine living through, as I’m sure she can’t imagine living through mine. She shouldn’t face discrimination because of who she falls in love with. She and her wife are consenting adults. Others may say that she should deny who she is and fight back that urge — but can you? Can you fight the urge of who to fall in love with? Can you deny yourself that way?
Still others say that these two beautiful, wonderful people, whose relationship I’ve seen blossom over the years, don’t or shouldn’t have the same rights that her sister and I share. That marriage is somehow a sacred institution only to be used for procreation of the species and family lineage. Maybe that’s true and maybe it’s not. Maybe marriage is simply a legal institution, which allows certain benefits for taxes, income, and certain inheritance rights. Or maybe the other half is right — maybe we have marriage so that we can spend an unknown eternity together after death.
But we already share that eternity. Every moment we spend together, that moment will always exist.
Angie’s a complex portrait of a human being. As is her new wife, Megan. So are their moms and dads. And my wife, Angie’s sister.
Angie’s a soldier. She’s a teacher. She’s a musician. She’s gay. But all these labels don’t really capture the person that Angie is, do they? No, the moments that pile up, that Angie moves through, those are what define Angie. The moment she shared her first kiss with another girl. The moment she came out to her sister, holding the conversation almost entirely by rearview mirror. The moment she came out to her mother and father. The moment she graduated college, or enlisted in the National Guard, or taught her first class. The moment she became a lieutenant in the Army and quoted Newton, about standing on the shoulders of giants.
I can tell you jokes about Angie’s life — once, when she was a kid, her sister locked her in the closet, and she didn’t come out for 20 years. When she came out, she asked her sister, “do you still love me?” Her sister responded, “Angie, I never loved you.” I could tell you about how mad Angie was that Justin Bieber stole her haircut. Actually, we told her about a website devoted exclusively to lesbians who look like Bieber. Jokes like that might give you a glimpse into the humor of our family, and what a good sport Angie is.
You calculate all of those moments, and you arrive at the wedding, the culmination of her relationship.
Before the wedding, Angie said, swigging from a bottle of Yellow Cake Vodka (yes, Vodka that tastes like a yellow cake), “I feel just like I did when I was about to jump out of a plane for the first time.” At least it wasn’t the same as when she was maced in the eyes.
During her vows, she wept, “I never thought I could have this.”
The wedding itself was a statement, a beautiful statement — an officer in the military, following the repeal of DADT, in a state that recognizes the validity of gay marriage. She can live how she wants and no one can take that away from her. But that’s not available for everyone. In fact, the same weekend she was married, the governor of a nearby state vetoed a measure that had passed the legislature condoning gay marriage.
It doesn’t help that the argument against marriage equality usually involves protecting the sanctity of marriage. One of these is a presidential candidate, married 3 times, who also left his first wife while she had cancer. Another presidential candidate is a devout homophobe, who pins that homophobia on his religion.
We spoke to the officiant of the wedding after the ceremony, who noted that it was a wonderful time to be alive, especially in the state where the ceremony was held. I remember her saying, “it certainly is a beautiful world.”
But that’s not true for everybody. Angie’s being deployed to Afghanistan in August. It may not always be a beautiful world for her, and she knows it, too. We live in a world where everything ends, where we’re doomed to lose everything that we gain, everything that we love and hold dear.
Time is a callow bitch. We move through her, and she takes and takes and takes. It’s no wonder we want to believe in a permanent heaven when all the world is transient. “All flesh is grass.”
Her mother’s a cancer survivor. Her father’s been diagnosed with Parkinson’s in recent years. Both were in attendance, smiling and dancing with some of Angie’s friends. It’s not even so much that it was a struggle for Angie to get to this day — it was a challenge for the whole family. But we were all there.
My wife was Angie’s matron of honor, but they got into quite an argument months before the wedding. Angie told her that she could have any kind of dress, and she chose a black dress that fit nicely. Angie didn’t want her in black… “like you’re in mourning,” she told her. This is when I reminded my wife, “In 5 years, you’re not going to care about the color of some stupid dress. You’re going to care that you were there to share that day with your sister.”
During the reception, my wife gave quite a speech. “Few people outside the room can understand what a journey it’s been for them to get here today; the hard work, determination, and love. There simply aren’t enough words to describe the way they support each other.”
Today, Angie can look out at Long Island Sound in the morning and hold hands with the woman she loves. She can wake up and look out the kitchen window to the water. The rings on their fingers will bind them forever. Megan punctuated her vows to Angie, “I will never leave you.” And to make sure the message was received, she repeated those words again.
- Grant Piercy 2/23/2012