A Season of Grief
Losing Joe was the thing I feared the most. I had known him for only five days when I told him I loved him. This was in 1980. I was twenty-six and didn’t know any better. I never could have guessed then how deeply I would still love him twenty-one years later. Or how much I would fear for his safety.
He flew for American Airlines for eighteen years, giving me ample material for a short story chronicling my anxieties as a flight attendant’s spouse. In December 2000, we celebrated when “Widow’s Watch” was published in the Baltimore Review. In the back of my mind was another fear—had I tempted fate by writing this story? How would I live with myself if something did happen to Joe?
But, he survived September 11th. Then, on November 12th, reports came of another crash. I turned on a cheap portable radio in my office and when I heard his flight number I screamed. It was my brief moment of private, unscripted grief. I looked up to find people standing in my doorway. I said, “My partner was on that plane.”
From that moment on, grieving became my full-time job. Writing was essential. It kept me connected to Joe; it organized my life.
Writing was vital for another reason: to both celebrate our long-term bond and to document its irrelevance. Joe and I were married in every sense of the word except the narrow, legal one. Yet, from the point of view of federal and state law, Joe left behind no surviving spouse. I did not exist.
I wrote A Season of Grief for Joe, and for myself. But also to bear witness to a few basic truths: Gay people exist. We lead full and meaningful lives. As committed couples we marry, and will continue to do so. It is time that our laws reflect that reality.