Saturday, November 23, 2013

FAMILY by Joey Spinelli

The holidays are approaching.  This means a lot of things to my family and me.  Most Importantly it means we are going to North Dakota for Thanksgiving.  What?  North Dakota?  I know, I know, its sooo Middle America, but that’s where my partner is from and that’s where his family is.  Since this is the time of year where we remember to be thankful, I want to give you and idea of what his family means to me. I look forward to this trip every year.  My partner can take it or leave it.  He loves his family but he is more concerned about spending that $1000.00 on new landscaping or updates to the house, not plane tickets.  I love all that stuff also, but to me family time is more important. 

I remember the first year T and I were dating. We went to ND to visit for Thanksgiving and I got to meet a big part of his family.  There was his mom, his step dad, his sister, her husband and their two kids.  The kids were pretty young, I think about 6yrs and 2yrs.  The family was very welcoming.  His mom cooked a fantastic Thanksgiving turkey dinner with all the trimming and I remember thinking how large the table looked with all those place settings.  It looked like she was cooking for everyone she ever met.  I had taken the liberty of bringing a recipe for sweet potato casserole that became a yearly staple for that dinner.  The whole trip went well and I felt like I really got the chance to learn about his family and about where he came from.  For instance, his mom just wanted to be included in his life because she missed her son.  To this day, I keep her in the loop on everything here at home.  His sister had her hands full with two beautiful kids and her husband that likes to hunt but she was really into Black Friday shopping.  On the day after Thanksgiving, She woke us all up at 2:30am to be at the stores by 4am.  She opened my bedroom door at 2:30am and was like, lets get going, the stores open up in an hour.  I thought, “You have got to be joking”.  But no, we all got up and went shopping Friday morning at 4am.  And, if that wasn’t bad enough, it’s like 4 degrees outside.  By 9am that day, I was wiped out and we all needed a little naptime. 

The second year I went back was slightly different because in October of that year, right before Thanksgiving, I became a vegetarian.  I never really ate red meat or fish anyway so I just decided to give up eating poultry.  I had been a month into it and then the Thanksgiving trip got here.  Again, we get to Thanksgiving dinner and it’s a large meal for everyone.  I guess my partner told them about me being a vegetarian because while they were passing the food around his mom announced loudly “Now everyone, it’s Thanksgiving so nobody is on a diet today” as she look right at me.  In a low whisper type voice, I said to her across the table “I’m not on a diet, I’m a vegetarian”.  His sister’s husband almost dropped his fork, looked up at me, stared me in the eye and said “but you eat deer meat, right?”  ummm no, sorry.  I swear I heard him crying in the bathroom later on that night. Poor guy.  The next day was Black Friday morning, and you guessed it, we were at the stores by 4am to get the bargains.

When we first talked to his family about being parents, we spoke with his mom first.  We told her we were going to take on the responsibility of a child.  I could tell that his mom always wanted him to experience being a success in life but that she was sad that he would probably not get married and have a family like the rest of her kids because he was gay.  Even when he met me, his mom was apprehensive because she didn’t want him to get hurt.  I remember when I first met T, I would write him some poetry (hey, I was young), and he would tell his mom about it.  I’ll never forget what she said to him.  “Oh son, be careful, this one sounds dangerous”.  He told me about that when it happened.  Someone else might have gotten upset about that but not me.  I knew immediately that she loved her son very much and didn’t want him to be hurt.  She and I had that in common.  As the years went on before our boy came along, she came to love me.  One of the reasons was because I kept a dialog with her all year long.  Her daughters are all married to good men, but I am pretty sure that none of their husbands text or call the mother-in-law on their own just to say hello, or to ask her opinion on things or to plan trips.  In fact, it’s kind of a running joke in our house that when his family wants something, they call me, not him. 

As the years went on for Thanksgiving, his mother and the rest of the family would treat me like I was a spouse.  There was no difference other than I felt like I had a much better relationship with his mom than the other husbands did.  They watched football and I help with the dishes and talked with her about life.  This went on for a few years and I still have that relationship with her. The real wake up moment for me, when I knew this was the real thing was when my boy was about 3 years old.  I had sent T’s mom a photo from day care that the photographers took for school photos.  I was a proud parent and didn’t really think anything other than I wanted to share the photo with grandma.  That same year, during the Thanksgiving trip. We had just all had Thanksgiving dinner (and his mom was now making a separate stuffing casserole just for me with no meat, Woo Hoo!) and we were sitting in the living room relaxing.  I noticed the photos of the grandchildren on the fireplace.  She has 4 grandkids from her daughters.  There were 5 photos.  I thought that was odd.  I got up, went to the fireplace and I couldn’t move.  I started crying. Nobody noticed because I didn’t want them to see me.  When I went up to the fireplace, there were photos of all the grandkids from their school photos, including our little 3yr old boy.  I left the group and went to be alone for a while.  I wasn’t sure what to say.   I was very happy and proud.  My boy was part of a real family, and now he was part of an extended family that treated him no different than the other kids in the family.  I told T about it later on that day and he felt emotional about it also.   Its funny, I spend every day fighting on the front lines at school, swimming, restaurants and everywhere else we go as a family to show people that we are here, we are a family and we are just like everyone else so accept us and move on.  Now, here we are, in Middle America, where there are more bibles than you can count, and we are accepted unconditionally, with no convincing needed by me.

I already loved T’s family before this ever happened, but I will forever love his mother because of how she treated her adopted grandson.  She recognized her son is happy, that he has a family, and that she is part of his family.  That is true Christianity.  Loving, accepting and non judgmental.  I don’t agree with his family on everything, especially politics.  I am an atheist and more of a liberal because of my fight for gay rights and some of his sisters are more republican because of their fight for fiscal conservativeness.  We definitely have our differences of opinion.  But, I know when the going gets tough, his family is in my corner and that I could call them on a moments notice if I needed them for something.  Each one of them means a lot to me.  Each one of them has treated my boy like part of their family and sure I am an activist for what I believe in, but when it comes down to it, I believe in family first and I know they feel the same way.  I have much to be thankful for this year.  And hopefully, I can get some good deals Black Friday morning at 4am.  It’s now my favorite part of the trip!

"Who am I? That’s simple. I am a gay parent that’s treated like a second class 
citizen and I am done taking it. 

Every day I am in the battlefields, in my kid’s school, PTA meetings, swim team, birthday parties with
other parents and I am forcing people to meet me.
Every day I stand right next to them and even if it’s just in my mind, I say “ Look at me will you! I am a gay man, right in front of you. 
I have a partner of 8 years and a 6r old boy. 
My kid is in your kid’s class and will be for the next 11 years. 
I am not going away so now would be as good a time as any to accept me and everything that comes with me."
Joe also blogs at 1 regular joe

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Joe! That blog just made my day! There really is something special about our families that people on the outside don't know about. I hope you and your husband and little one have a blessed Thanksgiving!