Editors' Note: Guest blogger Jeff Lutes is a psychotherapist who lives with his husband and their three adopted children in Austin, Texas. He is the principal consultant for ContemporaryCouples.com, where he teaches online dating and relationship workshops to the LGBTQ community.
I recently found an old photograph that reminded me of a magical evening several years ago. That night, I went to dinner with three very special gay couples. The "youngest" had been together 19 years at that point. The second - 39 years. The third couple was about to celebrate their 53rd anniversary.
Before dinner, we had drinks in the lovely home where the pair with the most years together had created over five decades of memories. I sat in their living room (decor unchanged since the 1970's) and observed the kind and compassionate ways they treated one another. They told story after story and vividly recalled the day they met in 1948 as if it was yesterday. Meanwhile, I did some quick math and realized that my parents were just six-year-old children when these two men first started dating.
All three couples agreed that staying together had not always been easy. They said it took hard work, dedication, and tenacity. One of the elders (the other men called him "Granny") smiled at his partner with a twinkle in his eye and said softly, "I would gladly do it all over again. You were worth it." Overcome by this tender moment, a tear fell into my Merlot.
Later at the restaurant, one elder pulled out a chair for his partner and pushed him gently to the table (while I made a mental note to be more of a gentleman to the one I love). As we were leaving, one of the men stopped to admire a plant in the restaurant lobby. He touched the leaves gently to see if they were real. An elderly woman noticed and said, "I thought only ladies did that!" We giggled. If only she knew.
These men shared a home with avocado green appliances and loved each other for more than half a century, despite all the social and religious pressures that tried to tear them apart. If only we were more open to hearing their voices. Maybe these two aging gay "grannies" could spare a straight couple from divorce. Maybe they could teach young gay and lesbian couples the true meaning of commitment.
There was a time in history when we looked up to the older generation, went to them for words of wisdom, and understood that their life experiences served as a powerful source of knowledge and sound advice. Nowadays, it seems our culture has become obsessed with youth and physical beauty. Too often we treat our elders with disregard. We don't want to see them, so they become invisible. We'd rather not be reminded that, we too, are getting older. What a shame. We are missing out on so much.
On this National Coming Out Day, I count my many blessings. I pray that I will age gracefully; live my remaining years with gratitude; and love my family, friends, and community with as much love as I witnessed on that beautiful evening years ago.