The April 9 incident of a Missouri man, Roger Gorley, being forcibly removed from the hospital bedside of his husband, Allen Mansell, once again brings into focus the consequences of laws such as the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a 1996 federal law restricting marriage benefits and cross-state marriage recognition to same-sex couples.
Same-sex married couples are denied more than 1,000 federal rights and benefits—including many medical benefits and protections —afforded to opposite-sex couples.
According to reports, Gorley was visiting his husband, a patient at the Research Medical Center in Kansas City, Mo., when a family dispute occurred involving Gorley and his brother-in-law. Even though Mansell requested his spouse’s presence, and Gorley possesses medical power of attorney, security and police were called. Gorley was handcuffed and forcibly escorted from the premises. Gorley cites the couple’s sexual orientation as the cause for his removal. The American Civil Liberties Union is looking into the situation.
The Research Medical Center posted a public statement via their Facebook page stating, “In accordance with HIPAA, all Research Medical Center can report is that this is NOT a Gay Rights issue but an issue of disturbance where a patient was not able to get the care he needed.”
In February 2007, Janice Langbehn suffered a similar experience with her wife, Lisa Pond. The Washington residents and their children were on an R Family cruise when Pond suddenly collapsed and was rushed to Ryder Trauma Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, Fla. The 39-year-old—a Girl Scout leader, PTA volunteer and active participant at their local church—suffered a traumatic brain bleed. Langbehn, Pond’s partner and wife since 1988, was denied visitation. Pond died the next morning.
In direct response to the Langbehn-Pond family’s experience, President Obama sent a memo to the Secretary of Health and Human Services in April 2010 directing HHS to address hospital visitation and other health care issues surrounding the LGBT communities. The following November, HHS announced new regulations that broadened hospital visitation and banned discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender, etc. The revised federal regulations took effect in January 2011.
However, with the Defense of Marriage Act on the books codifying the definition of marriage to exclude same-sex couples, it weakens efforts to safeguard rights such as hospital visitation. The U.S. Supreme Court is deliberating a portion of DOMA now, and a ruling expected in June.
Langbehn shares the details of her experience and thoughts regarding the future of LGBT rights.
Windy City Times: What was the situation when you arrived at the hospital?
Langbehn: It was me, our three kids (then ages 9, 11 and 12) and seven pieces of luggage. I went to admissions and asked the woman, “They just brought my partner in. Are there forms to fill out?” She told me to just sit down and wait. Being a medical social worker myself, I figured they were still getting things settled. About 10 minutes later, a gentlemen came out, Garnett Frederick, a social worker. He said in a warning tone, “Just so you know, you’re in an anti-gay city and state. You will not get to see her under any condition.”
[Langbehn was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1999. Due to her medical situation, she and Lisa knew the importance of having advance directives, living wills, etc. They already possessed all the appropriate legal documents and Langbehn had them faxed to the hospital within 20 minutes of Frederick's comments.]
WCT: How long before someone came to discuss Lisa’s status?
Langbehn: At about two hours in, a surgeon came out, scrubs and cap on, and said Lisa had a massive bleed in her brain and they needed to put a pressure monitor on her … I said to do it. He left and I didn’t see him again.
About an hour and half later, two surgeons came out and explained that she had a massive bleed that had pushed one side of her brain into the other. One pupil was already dilated, which meant there was already some brain death. They explained that surgery could drain some blood and we could wait and see, but they felt it likely wasn’t survivable with any quality of life. They received a page, left and came back to say that her other pupil had blown and the major part of her brain was dying.
In her living will, she didn’t want heroic measures, but she was an organ donor. I said that I needed to see her. I was making decisions in a vacuum. I needed to lay eyes on her to know that it was as dire as they said. The doctor told me they’d get me back there and then left. I never saw them again either.
WCT: When were you finally able to see her?
Langbehn: At about five and half hours into this ordeal, I said that I needed a priest to do last rites, what they now call anointing of the sick. I also wanted to see her first before the children so I would know what to explain and so they wouldn’t be terrified by the machines. When I finally saw her, I was trying to take everything in. Lisa was restrained to the bed, unconscious and on a ventilator. The trauma room/OR wasn’t busy. It was fairly quiet. After last rites were done, the priest gently guided me back to the waiting room and I never saw him again either.
By then I was getting a little frantic because I knew how serious it was. I kept saying that the kids needed to see her. The receptionist, who’d been telling me for six and half hours to sit down, became even more forceful and said, “Honey, they’re too young to see her anyway.” She told me to go sit down and they’d get me if I was needed.
At seven hours in, around 11:30 p.m., I finally let myself quietly cry a little. I felt so defeated.
[Lisa's sister and brother-in-law drove from Jacksonville immediately after Langbehn notified them of Lisa's collapse. They met Langbehn at reception and were told that Lisa had been moved to ICU over an hour earlier. No one had informed Langbehn.]
WCT: Did the hospital administration’s attitude change after Lisa’s sister arrived?
Langbehn: I really don’t know what would have happened if her sister hadn’t arrived or if I would’ve had to wait until her dad arrived the next day.
At 12:15 p.m., that was the first time I was able to hold her hand and stand next to her. It was the first time the kids saw her since 3 p.m. that afternoon.
Lisa was pronounced (brain) dead at 10:45 a.m. the next morning.
WCT: You’ve been a tireless advocate and spokesperson to raise awareness. Are most people shocked to learn this happened so recently?
Langbehn: There is a sense of disbelief that this could happen in 2007, that somebody—multiple people—could be that cruel. Holding the hand of your loved one as they’re dying is not a gay right, it’s a human right. Lisa should have been able to feel and perceive us as much as possible so we could make her last moments peaceful. What remains in my mind is that she was alone and restrained to a gurney. How horrible. That’s how I remember her last moments.
WCT: Lambda Legal, an organization that works on behalf of civil rights for the LGBT communities, filed suit against Jackson Memorial Hospital in 2008. The federal court dismissed the lawsuit. What was the reason for the lawsuit’s dismissal?
Langbehn: In the judge’s opinion, he cited that because of the five minutes I saw her with the priest (during last rites), that was all the duty of visitation the trauma center owed me since we weren’t a legally married couple. Also, because the surgeon consulted me about possible surgery while in the quiet room, that was all that was owed me and therefore did not violate power of attorney. However, he also said that, by all accounts, what happened to us was unbecoming of such a renowned institution.
WCT: Many states, including Washington, already have legislation that protects couples against experiencing your medical situation with Lisa. Especially considering the Supreme Court hearing regarding the Defense of Marriage Act, why is it important to have more universal standards?
Langbehn: We live in a society of planes, trains and automobiles. We’re a movable society. What (rights), domestic partnerships and so on that might be recognized in a state such as Washington, may not be recognized somewhere else such as Florida. As soon as you go to another state on vacation, your rights stop at the border. This patchwork of rights throughout the United States is crazy. When DOMA is finally stripped down, it will mean that when you say “this is my wife” here (in Washington), it will mean the same thing (legally) in Kansas, Alabama and California.
In October 2011, Langbehn was awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal, nation’s second-highest civilian honor for her ongoing advocacy.
(Grammar and spelling will be corrected once I’ve had some sleep)
It is only 6:30am here; however I am unable to sleep because historical arguments begin at SCOTUS in just 30 minutes (10am EST). Today Prop 8, the California law reversing the CA Supreme Court decision allowing for marriage equality in a narrowly defined window. The proposition was defeated by manipulative and flat out lies to scare the public into voting ‘yes’. Lies including that children will be taught all about “gay sex” in their classroom and everything in between. Thereby overturning marriage equality (by the passage of Prop 8) only 18,000 couple were allowed to keep their marriage licenses. Two very important couples close to me are my sister, Marilyn and her wife Scarlet as well as Kelly (Lisa and my college friend – all the way back to 1986) and his husband Bill. All the other California couples who didn’t seize the opportunity narrow slit of history allowing for marriage equality effectively became second class citizens under the law.
Wednesday SCOTUS hears oral arguments about the constitutionality of DOMA (defense of marriage act) signed into Law by President Clinton in the mid1990′s. when Clinton signed DOMA, Lisa and had been ‘wed’ ( a formal holy union ceremony) for nearly 6 years. We had raised a foster teen from 14-18 yrs old beginning when we were only 23 & 24 yrs old ourselves. We were transitioning Michael our oldest son to live with us, he was 6 yrs old and severely mentally challenged. I will be honest, Lisa and I didn’t give a whole lot of thought to O!A at the time – now it’s all I can think about. In recent years, the Obama Administration stopped defending DOMA also finding it unconstitutional; however Boehner finds it his more and public servant calling to defend DOMA.
When Lisa was forced to die from an catastrophic brain aneurysm in February 2007, my reoccurring feeling of not being good enough slapped me in the face. For 8 hours, I begged and even tried to sneak my way through the code locked doors to be with Lisa. I think of how terrified Lisa felt in her final hours – restrained and unable to use the entire right side of her body. As they sedated her, drilled a hole in her head to relive the rising pressure in her brain, was she able to ever ask for the kids and me verbally or with ASL? I will never know. What I do know are my repeated attempts to reach the hospital operator no less than 15 times in 8 hours, according to my cell records. I did this in an attempt to bypass the lazy and apathetic admitting clerk who wanted nothing to do with my family. In the first 20 minutes of our family’s arrivals, I was told I was not the same as other families by Garnet Fredericks words “you are in an anti-gay city and state”. This was not some cautionary warning because even after Ryder Trauma received or family’s legal documents including advanced directives, living wills, medical power of attorney and wills – we were ignored and I watched or the other families at Ryder Trauma, at Jacksin ‘memorial (Miami) escorted behind those code locked doors to their loved ones.
Even today 6 years and county since Lisa’s death, I relive those eight hours in my waking thoughts and nightmares. Not a ‘poor is me’ but the pain for the pain our children endured at JMH that day and the fear I have that Lisa thought I abandoned her in her greatest time of need.
You would think out story ends there because waiting 8 hours to be with your wife, partner soulmate is cruel enough;however that was just the beginning . The children and I are still treated as “less than” for the ensuing 6 years by our government.
First, came Lisa’s Death certificate from Florida, which I can’t even request myself. It’s true I have to go through the Connecticut funeral home who provided the initial services for Lisa’s Funeral Mass in her hometown. That death certificate it self is also one big slap my face… it lists Lisa’s status is listed as “single” effectively erasing 18 years of commitment to each other and our children.
You might think its not a big deal but having jointly adopted our four children (from WA state foster care) with both of us listed as “mother” and “mother” it is a legal quagmire that I still battle every day. The children’s death benefit couldn’t start from SSA until I could get the death certificate.
Then an even more difficult piece, which I am reticent to delve because it pulls the veil back on strained family and friend relationships. Lisa and I planned it would be me that died first- I am the one with MS after all. I can count on more than 2 hands the number of people who shook my hand or hugged me at Lisa’s funeral and Memorial who said “anything you need- just ask”. The sad truth is the number of people I can still count on today, 6 years later, only fills up one hand. Don’t get me wrong those five people I cherish everyday and thank God they are there for the kids and me.
There was only a bit of debt we took on separately – credit cards or student loans only in Lisa’s name. It would stand to reason, if I signed now promissary notes, I shouldn’t be responsible for them. However, even after providing these companies like Radio Shack or Mary’s with Lisa’s death certificate – they said that I was responsibility for the debt also and so those have been charged off as bad debet even though I had nothing to do with them, negatively effect my credit report regardless.
Probably the worst of all is SSA. When I fell down 11 stairs, while working, in August 2007 and then had emergency back surgery several months later- it was apparent that my employer of nearly 20 years wouldn’t/couldn’t want to wait the time necessary to see if I could come back given this devastating injury coupled with my MS. So as I drew Workman’s comp and the children received Lisa SSA benefits from March 2007-2012) we were getting by. Then almost a year ago, SSA decided by some rule they are unable to give to me- the children should draw on my SSA disability instead of Lisa’s. wouldn’t seem like much of a big deal until they offset the SSDI benefits from my Workman’s. the end result – I lost over 55% of my gross income with only 30 days notice. Not easy with 3 teens and one in a 4 year university.
The kicker is that SSA says they haven’t dealt with a case such a mine with a deceased mother, disabled mother – with jointly adopted children (not second parent adoptions).
Now our family becomes a test case for all those coming after us – both with hospital visitation and now the SSA (and the other federal rights I’m not entitled to). If you still don’t understand the need to overturn DOMA, my hope is that you see it goes way beyond just a marriage license. 6 years after Lisa’s death I still have to go through the funeral home to get a certified copy of Lisa’s death cert, it took my 3 years to get copies of her medical records in Miami, whereas her parents received Lisa’s records in just 3 months (even though I’m the executor of Lisa’s estate) in just 3 months without her parents even requesting them. I have never received an apology from JMH, and now SSA arbitrarily decides that some rules require the children to draw on my SS# and that I may have an overpayment by almost 50K due to rule change.
Marriage Equality and finding DOMA unconstitutional means so much more to the millions of LGBT families than many of even know until thrown into a situation where it is obvious we are second class citizens, and at the federal level, we have no legal recourse.
Please wear the color red today and Wednesday to show your support of SCOTUS hearing these cases – a historical event I will have to follow from 3000 ,lies away, but I am there with all those I have met along my journey.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Nadine Smith, Executive Director, Equality Florida
(727) 386-8123 / firstname.lastname@example.org
BIPARTISAN SUPPORT EMERGES FOR STATEWIDE DOMESTIC PARTNER PROTECTION;
SENATE COMMITTEE SET TO VOTE TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 19
With widespread bipartisan support from government and community leaders throughout the state, the Florida Senate Committee on Children, Families and Elder Affairs will hear the “Families First” bill on Tuesday, February 19. The bill, introduced by committee chair Senator Eleanor Sobel (D), would allow gay couples and unmarried Floridians access to key legal protections for their families.
Nearly half of Floridians already live in a community that has a domestic partnership registry, including Palm Beach, Pinellas County, Volusia County, Orange County, Broward County, Miami-Dade County, Key West, Tampa, Orlando, Gainesville, Tavares, Clearwater and North Miami.
A statewide law would ensure all Floridians access to protections. Leaders who have voiced their support include Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer (D), St Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster (R), Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn (D), Kissimmee Commissioner Cheryl Grieb (D), Orange County Commissioner Jennifer Thompson (R), Gainesville Mayor Craig Lowe (D), Orange County Comptroller Martha Haynie (R), Miami Beach Mayor Matti Herrera Bower (D). Former elected leaders are weighing in too. Former Orange County Commissioner John Martinez (R), former Gulfport City Council member Bob Worthington (R) and former Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti.
The Families First bill will simplify the process for providing important legal protections to domestic partners, no matter where they live in the state.
“In the past year, Florida has seen a wave of support for domestic partner registries – affecting both gay and straight couples – through the passage of legislation in numerous municipalities,” said Nadine Smith, Executive Director ofEquality Florida. “It is vital that there is a cohesive, statewide policy in place, eliminating obstacles and hardships that no one would want inflicted upon their own family.”
The hearing comes six years to the day that Janice Langbehn’s life partner of 18 years, Lisa Pond, died at Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital. Janice was denied access to visit Lisa, who had collapsed as the couple and their four children prepared to leave for a cruise.
The case drew national attention and eventually prompted President Obama to issue an Executive Memo requiring hospitals that receive Medicaid funding to treat domestic partners as family. The President called Janice from Air Force One to announce the change. That memo makes creating a means to establish a domestic partnership all the more urgent. (In 2011 the President presented Janice, a self-described “accidental activist,” with the Presidential Citizens Medal).
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2450 NE 135th Street
North Miami, FL 33181
tel: 305.974.2201 / cell: 305.458.3639
Communicating with Integrity
The holidays are behind us. Danielle started her second quarter at EWU and is learning to adjust to the snow of Spokane. David just returned from a school sponsored trip to DC watching the second inauguration of President Obama. Katie is playing basketball and about to turn 16 and take her driving test (Yes, my 4th and final teen I taught to drive). Michael is hoping to move in with a more able-bodied roommate so they can do outings together. I am signed up to take the State Guardian Ad Litem program to expand on my volunteering CASA duties with Thurston County Superior Court.
I received an invitation from the White House, Office of Public Engagement to attend the inauguration of President Obama. Unlike David who planned his trip to DC for over a year, I only received 9 days notice – apparently after an oversight it was assumed, as a Presidential Citizen Medal recipient, I already received my invitation. Since I spent much of 2012, close to home and not engaged in public speaking, I didn’t want to ask for sponsorship from any of the LGBT groups. However, once I posted on FB that I received an invitation – and my step-sister Teresa said “you better get your ass there” others jumped on the band wagon. Airline miles were donated, a “chip-in” account was started for expenses and best of all – Tom Sullivan, who since its inception on the Health Care Quality Index at HRC, offered up his sofa bed. It seemed a hastily planned trip might be possible. And then, GLAAD’s (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) Charlie Wells called and generously offered two round-trip vouchers on Southwest Airlines a corporate sponsor of GLAAD. I am blessed. I asked Katie to come with me but she didn’t want to miss school or more importantly basketball. So I asked Sarah Jane to come with me but she was just recovering from surgery and it didn’t seem like a wise idea. So I asked my crazy bare-foot running friend Christine to come along. I jokingly call Chris, “my straight ally who knows more gay people than me”.
Chris has never visited DC. What an adventure we had. Tom and his husband TJ were amazing hosts – feeding us great home cooked meals and driving us to Mt. Vernon and then to the Washington Mall. The guys also made sure we had our metro cards all ready for the big day so we could get down to the Capitol. We visited the Lincoln Memorial, and looked out at the mall were Martin Luther King Jr, gave his speech at the March on Washington 50 years ago. Then hearing the President call for full equality for the country’s “gay brothers and sisters”. It was a truly historic day with the Inaugural Address, the Poetry and the Benediction all call for full equality for all Americans. It was electric to be among the crowd of 1 Million people there to witness history.
I am grateful that this trip to DC allowed me to finally see places I have missed because of only being in town 2 days at most and being caught up in meetings – I am not complaining, it was pleasant to experience DC in a different way this time.
Thank you to Tom, TJ, Chris and all the individual donors on the Chip-In account that help pay for food and expenses. A huge thank you to Southwest Airlines and GLAAD for sponsoring my trip to DC and allowing Chris to come along to help me get physically get around with my MS.
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 5,400 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 9 years to get that many views.
For over two years, Danielle was certain that the Mayan’s were right and the world was going to end on 12.21.12. Now that it’s the 22nd, she breaths a sigh of relief and so do I – because I don’t have to present logical analysis against the illogical fear or a teenager.
We started out 2012 with a huge bang down in Pasadena for the Rose Parade and the Rose Bowl (Oregon Ducks v Wisconsin). Lisa’s portrait was placed on the float as an organ donor and I received the honor of riding on the “Donate Life Float” – with last year’s theme: “For one More Day”. Very fitting.
Our springtime brought knew people into our lives – Fash and Susan the Director/Producer and Actress of the short film (31min) loosely based on our story. It’s beautiful and wonderfully done. Hopefully 2013 will see the feature film.
As David worked and worked at improving his golf game – he made it to Leagues and did outstanding. He earned his Varsity Letter – and he never takes his Letterman coat off. Then before we knew it – Danielle was graduating – with honors and with passing all the State required tests.
And in just five minutes, 15 years of worry, loss of sleep and nearly bribery was all washed away in those 5 minutes with Danielle receiving her honor cords, and her fresh Hawaiian Lei from above protecting her. I had a lot of help in getting Dani to this momentous occasion and if I start to name some of you and leave others out – I’ll never hear the end of it – so you know who you really are.
I had great plan for the summer – take the kids to all the places we used to visit – the zoo, NW trek and on and on. I hoped it would help all of us. However, Danielle got her first job, David was referring soccer matches 2-4 a day on Saturday and Sunday while Katie played soccer and completed her Lifeguarding course. So the summer slipped by me and I didn’t achieve nearly what I hoped.
Shortly after Katie’s swim season started, David began volunteering with YMCA K-1 outdoor soccer team as the assistant Coach. And then of course there was driving to Spokane/Cheney to send Danielle off to college.
And here is Danielle with her Freshman class – she reports she is somewhere in the “W” of EWU.
Swimming ended with Katie adding more patches to her letterman jacket. David referred 24 Youth Soccer Games as well as coaching the little ones from the YMCA.
We hope our end of year letter find you well in health and in life. As I went through pictures there is one from our last family vacation in San Diego in 2006 that I have to share – because Lisa is never far from my thoughts. Merry Christmas to all.
The Langbehn- Pond’s
My Family – complete. How I am choosing to remember my life – for now
December 6, 2012
History happened at 12:01am in the State of Washington. Not only did same-sex couples line up to get their legal marriage licenses all over the state BUT Washington State marked a wave of change in the fight for equality. Washington along with Maine and Maryland broke the long running streak of 32 voter losses over the years when marriage equality was a ballot measure. Minnesota also defeated an attempt to change their state constitution to define marriage between one man and one woman. National polls are also turning in the favor of marriage equality with percentages running just over 50% of the population who support marriage equality. However, as my community celebrates these historic moments, there is still so much to do both Nationally and Internationally.
I have tried for weeks to think of what to say about this event and trying to update my blog, which as been silent for too long. And I find myself incredibly stuck because of my personal loss as well as what also needs to be accomplished. We still need to have ENDA (Employment Non Discrimination Act) to a pass congress. Then there is DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) defining marriage between one man and one woman. LGBT individuals still face housing discrimination in way too many states and jurisdictions.
Do not get me wrong – my heart is overjoyed as I see all the pictures of couples getting legal marriage licenses in Washington last night and from here on out. I feel some amount of guilt because I didn’t fight hard for equality and sooner in my life. Lisa and I had our Holy Union back in 1991. We committed ourselves to one another in front of family, friends and God. We took our vows as seriously as any committed legally married couple. Maybe that was my mistake? Lisa and I worked in jobs were we could be “out” beginning in 1994 and when she left her State Social Work job to stay home and raise our foster/adoptive kids we only had to pay one year of health benefits separately for her because WA state allowed for Domestic Partners to receive life/death/disability and health insurance as long as we signed a paper and provided our Holy Union certificate. So since 1998, we felt “equal” to our straight friends and co-workers. How could I be so damn naive?
Very early on in 1988 and 1989 when we went to buy a car together we drove up and down car row in Tacoma and dealer after dealer said they would not sell us a car “together” until we met Preston Glaude at South Tacoma Honda. It was about our 8th dealership in two days and before we even got to the application – we both were blunt and said will you sell a car to two woman, both of us on the title? I said I don’t even want to look, get our hopes up maybe even do a test drive and then get to the application and be told sorry only one or the other can be on the title. Preston looked at us like we were aliens and said ”why wouldn’t I sell you a car?” So since 1988 we have bought all our new and used cars at STH from Preston. It never occurred to me until recently, that I let opportunities for bigger change slip through my hands.
Foster Parenting was a bit nerve-wracking also but only because we were only 22 and 23 when we applied for our license and what the heck did we know about raising kids. We were more worried that the child’s room was suitable in our rental house than we would be turned down because we were gay. Adoption was our next step and we made a calculated decision on two fronts to guarantee we could start a family – one we wanted a child with disabilities which we felt capable of handling and second a child who was considered hard to place. We already knew a gay couple in Tacoma who adopted from WA state and besides I worked for the agency that did adoptions. We literally picked Michael from a book of hundreds of kids just waiting for a forever family. Once we adopted Michael and “proved” ourselves as very capable parents – well 3 more kids came without hesitation and truthfully we could have just as easily wound up with 6 kids and 4, being gay was not an obstacle in the adoption process. Again, I feel as if I did a huge misstep with my community – this was back in 1996 to 1999, why didn’t we ever think to go and apply for a marriage license and push the issue socially. I have no good answer and definitely feel I let our community down as I look back.
So here it is 16 years AFTER our first adoption and we have marriage equality in WA state. I wonder if all my missed opportunities played into my decision to speak up when Lisa died. As I try continually process my decision to go public – my guess is that I am trying very hard to make up for all the times Lisa and I could have stood up for our community. We lived in such a bubble – besides being denied to buy a car together 24 years ago, we didn’t face direct discrimination for our relationship. Our school district understood that we were mom and mom and when it came to Father’s day – to ask the kids which Uncle or Grandpa they were make a gift or card for. Especially once David and Katie went to Waldorf and only had 12-14 kids in their class and they knew other kids with two moms it was an issue lost again because of who we surrounded ourselves with. Both our families readily accepted our kids as their nieces, nephews and grandkids.
I admire anyone who is “before their time” on social justice issues. I truly hope that the momentum for equality continues and the waves of change ripple out to all communities until everyone enjoys true freedom and equality for who they are as a person and that is all. Happy Marriage Equality Day Washington State!
I know what you are thinking. I am talking about Thanksgiving, since I can’t cook, or Christmas because of the memories. Nope, I’m referring to the one with ghost, goblins and carved pumpkins.
You are saying to yourself – what a “kill joy”. Yep I am. I remember my first halloween vividly when Mrs. Sprague, my childhood friend Jill’s mom, sewed me the greatest witches cape and made a pointed hat. I was in Kindergarten. I love putting on the cape. It hung carefully in my mom’s closet that ran the full length of a wall in her room. It was a closet where I could walk in one side and creep along the slanted roof to the other door and come out the other side of the closet. Great for hide and seek…. but I digress.
I don’t remember much about the first time I went treat or treating, my brother Gary, 7 years my senior was in charge of taking me. The candy was great and all, I think but don’t really remember – what I do remember was the witches costume.
So what is there to hate about Halloween? After Kindergarten, the celebration went down hill rapidly… In first grade, I again looked forward to what I would “be” for Halloween. Kimmi and Kati from across the street were planning their costumes and as I queried my mom, I don’t remember a response. What I do know is that the witches costume, hat and all, waited in her closet. It would have been “ok” I suppose except that I grew enough that the cape that once hit me around my rear end now was up near my waste when I put it on. But it a witch was all I had and so I obediently put on the costume. Back in the 70′s kids wore their costumes to school and it was clear that my witch cape was much too small and I received stares from classmates. I don’t even remember going door to door. Gary may have taken me, my other brother and sisters were out of the house (9-12 years older), so taking “Janny” fell on Gary’s shoulders.
Now as second grade approached and the witch’s cape still hung in my mother’s closet, I already knew the answer to what I would be “if” I chose to go trick or treating and dressing up for school. I feigned to my teacher that “I forgot” my costume. So my disdain for Halloween began and only worsened from that year on. As Kimmi and Kati went up and down the block with Donnely (and older boy from our neighborhood) with pillowcases full of candy, I sat at home.
In 4th grade, I received an invitation to a Halloween party. I showed Gary who by now was a Sophomore in High School and very creative. He decided he would dress me as a bum. He had me put on one of his flannel shirts and stuffed it with a pillow. He then used some twine as a belt and had me roll up my pants to make them look like I was “waiting for a flood” as Gary like to call it. Then for added effect, Gary put Vaseline on face and took coffee grounds and gave me a 5 o’clock shadow. I looked amazing for this party! Gary took the invitation and drove me to the house where the party was happening.
I ran the doorbell in anticipation of finally not being in a costume way too small and seen by everyone at Jefferson Elementary. The door opened and the mom said “well hello”. I said proudly, “I’m here for the Halloween Party”. A puzzled look came over her face and she said “honey, it’s next Saturday, I’m sorry”. I apologized profusely and as she shut the door I walked back to Gary waiting in our blue Chevy. As I opened the door he asked “what’s wrong”?
Flatly I said, “the party is next weekend”. I swore off Halloween in 1977.
After the debacle of dressing up on the wrong day, when I did go with Kimmi and Kati – without the escort of Gary, my step father would inspect my candy for what I thought was razor blades. In fact, my step-father took 3/4 of the candy and said that the rest was his and was throwing it out because I “didn’t need it”. It was clear to me there was really no point in going door to door to only receive a few tootsie rolls. Call me greedy but when you only go to about 15 homes – 25% of your candy didn’t amount to what everyone else treated as an early Christmas gift.
With my own children, Lisa was the Halloween fanatic and tradition make. Sure I did the prep work. I bought the costumes for fear my kids would be recognized in a costume from a prior year or God forbid it was too small. I bought enough candy to hand out to an army of children. We also went to the pumpkin farm and corn maze rain or shine – always with my niece and nephew – Justine and Alex (Gary’s children). I even carved pumpkins with amazing skill. Beyond that, while Lisa was alive, that was the extent of my involvment. Lisa always brought the kids to the Governor’s mansion to wait in the 2 hr line to see how the Locke’s or Gregoire’s were decked out. I did try the first Halloween after Lisa’s passing but after waiting for 45 minutes I couldn’t stand any longer because of my MS.
Halloween is just another day on the calendar. I don’t even buy candy, make sure the porch lights are out and put up a note that “no one is home”. I am a “kill joy” when it comes to Halloween and now you all know why.
What a Friday night 8/10/12. First time seeing “quiet” on the big screen. Yep I cried. It’s a beautiful story. I’m blessed to know all of the cast and especially the writers Lauren Fash and Susan Graham.