My grandmother on my father’s side worked very hard for her entire life. She worked multiple jobs to make sure that her 8 children had food, clothes, and opportunities. My grandfather also worked multiple jobs including working many years at Alcoa. They were married for 56 years before he passed away over a decade ago from complications from Alzheimer’s.
If you are a regular reader, you know that I got married this past summer. It was a small wedding and we were trying to keep things low key. That didn’t work, so we went full public with our response. I purposely didn’t invite extended family to my wedding. My siblings were the blood relatives that attended along with one cousin and one aunt who I count among my closest and most supportive family.
Although I have not hidden my sexuality, at the request of my family, I’ve been very evasive when I visit my small home town. Until I met my husband, David, I never brought anyone home for any family event, homecoming, or holiday. In fact, I was the only “single” family member and frequently got the sofa in my family’s small home at the holidays.
At Thanksgiving, I received a box of Christmas ornaments and decorations from my grandmother. She is downsizing and doesn’t want them thrown away. Included with them are things that I gave to her or my grandfather over the years.
Along with the box came a lovely note from my grandmother. I’ve never officially come out to her. Although I have aunts who have had “special friends” for many years, I wasn’t sure how to tell her myself. I know through stories in my family that she was aware that I was gay, but we just avoided the topic. I was evasive when we visited and used gender neutral pronouns when speaking about my dating life.
Although I have not hidden my sexuality, at the request of my family, I've been very evasive when I visit my small home town
In the note at Thanksgiving, she mentioned that although she doesn’t have a computer, use the internet, or check out “the Facebook,” my aunt Debbie told her about my wedding. Gram mentioned that she missed hearing from me. To be frank, I hadn’t written to her since meeting David other than a Christmas card the year before. Prior to meeting him, I would try to write once every month or so.
David has become such an important part of my life that I couldn’t figure out what to write without including him in any note to her.
After reading her note, I decided that it was time to bite the bullet and just tell her. No more hiding. I sent her our Christmas Card with a note inserted.
The gist of the letter went something like this:
I apologize for not writing sooner. Things are going well for me in Brooklyn. Yes I did get married this summer. I kept the wedding very small and only invited close friends, mom and dad, and my siblings. I wasn’t sure how you felt about me being gay or gay marriage. I know that it isn’t the most comfortable thing for mom, dad, or our family. I married a Nigerian man in Rochester. I’ve decided that regardless of what other people think, I need to live my life for me, and not them. David is a social worker and he models part time. I’ve taken up photography outside of work and frequently go with him to shows. I’ll try to be better about writing more often. I sent your Christmas gift directly from the company and you should get it soon.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
I also included my new last name. I put a stamp on the letter and was shaking when I dropped it in the mail. How was she going to react? What would mom and dad say when they found out I told her. I know they are both still learning to accept who I am.
Well, Gram didn’t disappoint. I got a letter back from her shortly after.
Dear Eric and Friend,
First I received your two packages on Friday, December 9th. I haven’t opened them as I don’t open my gifts until Christmas. Thanks very much. I hear from you more often than I hear from my grand children close by. Anthony calls about every two weeks and came to see me when he was up in October for a wedding.
As I don’t have a computer, don’t do email, facebook, etc. I heard about your wedding from Aunt Debbie who saw it on Facebook. Your mom hasn’t mentioned it. One day when your dad came alone we had a little visit. He seems to take everything in stride and doesn’t get too concerned with things that he can’t change.
So many things have changed in my lifetime of 85 years and can’t imagine the ones to come. Grandpa and I were married 56 years when he passed away 11 years ago. God created us all different and some things are harder to accept.
Things here are fine and I count my blessings and am thankful for my family and friends each day.
I’m still playing cards Monday, shuffle board on Tuesday, and of course the dance twice a month. I went on a bus trip to St. Catherine’s Ontario to see an Irish singer. Yesterday I went to Morrisburg to see a play with 45 on a bus.
It’s snowing here 3” so far so I moved my car about 8:00 a.m.
With love, Happiness, and Prayers, Gram
p.s. - Thanks again.
I’m not sure how I can describe in words how that made me feel. I’d like to say that relieved was the first emotion that came over me. I also teared up a little. I know that my life isn’t easy for some people to understand, especially people who grew up in small towns far from cities that are not very diverse or accepting of people who may be different. Just seeing a letter addressed to “Dear Eric and Friend” brought tears to my eyes and a little belly laugh. My dear aunt who passed had a “friend” for many years who she lived with. We love that “friend” who is still an important part of our family.
I’m also glad that now when I go to visit my parents, I don’t have to leave David somewhere or make him hide when Grandma visits. Our family photos that include him can be sent to her too. All of this has been causing me stomach aches since I met him. My siblings, too, have not been sure what to do. We always take a family photo and send a copy to Gram.
I hate to lie. I hate to hide. Now it can all be in the open.
So that was my Christmas gift from my grandmother. I hope that you all have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I’m off to Christmas Eve Service.
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