In June 2009 they celebrated their 40th Anniversary and, as the eldest son, I was charged with saying something nice in front of their friends and family at the party. I fretted and fumbled with a couple of biographical sketches, a couple of sincerely written, but ultimately dull and hackneyed speeches about love and the lessons of a life-long marriage. I read Shakespeare (which I rejected as too easy and too often tragic) and I read Albee (ok, I know, but he says a lot of good things about marriage) and I listened to Sondheim (Being Alive, Marry Me a Little). And finally one of my wise friends said to me, "Aren't you a writer? Don't you have some fiction that's about marriage or love or something?"
I blinked and sputtered. More surprised that she had called me a writer than that she was right.
I dug out a piece that had just been accepted for publication in Richard Labonte's Best Gay Romance 2010 and found the perfect passage. I had written a scene in which the main character discussed the nature of love and marriage with his aging grandmother (a character based on my father's mother).
I called my friend D in Texas.
"Dude, I think it's a good idea," he drawled. (God, ya gotta love a smart Southern Boy.)
So I read a bit of the story and gave a short toast and watched tears sliding down cheeks. My parents, their friends, my aunt, my sobbing little brother (the emotional one). It was a fine moment.
One night when I’d just turned sixteen, I remember the two of us sitting at the old Formica table in my mom’s kitchen. It was late, maybe one or two in the morning. My grandmother was chain smoking and drinking coffee from a mug shaped like an owl. There was an Ellery Queen on the table in front of her, spine bent to mark her place, and Fred and Ginger were twirling around on the television, the music soft beneath the sounds of the ceiling fans and my grandmother’s smoky breath. She leaned forward and said, “Bishop, your grandfather used to say marriage is like a mystery. You keep looking for clues and hoping for the best.”
“Smoke Gets In Your Eyes,” she said.
“I guess so,” I mumbled, wiping the tears from my eyes.
Give in to the romantic fool that dances in your heart.
So buy the book already. See how it begins. See how it ends. Read all the romantic, sexy stuff in the middle. Come on. Give in . . .