Weeks after we met in 2003.
Tomorrow is our 13th anniversary. One week after my father's death in a Boston hospital, I met Peter for the first time in the lobby of that same hospital. Peter coincidentally lived in an apartment building adjacent to the hospital campus. We made an immediate connection.
We walked from the hospital across a foot bridge to the Charles River where we sat for a long while watching the flow of the river traffic. I walked with a cane, just weeks away from 24-hour IV therapy for sepsis which had infected a heart valve. Peter was also frail. He was having a long recuperation from cancer therapy. This same cancer therapy had led to my sepsis. We were cancer brothers.
I found Peter on a gay men's sex site. I was not in any condition for having casual sex, but I was tired of solitary recuperation. The greater gateway to gay male connection is still based in sexuality. We are a sexual minority. There was Peter, my same age, stating that he was the only person on the site with my own issues. After checking to make sure I wasn't hallucinating on my medications, I contacted him.
Resurrection is a theme in our lives. Peter and I both came to the lethal edge of AIDS in the 1990's. We have both been infected with HIV for decades. We have lived through "The Band Played On" times. We have lived through the AIDS Quilt times. I administered and worked as a nurse in an AIDS hospice. Peter lost more friends than I did to the disease. Both of us lived in Manhattan during the epidemic. We are both from the Boston area. I had seen Peter twice before our meeting in that hospital lobby. Both times were about a decade earlier when our disparate paths happened to cross in the city. I have that kind of memory for faces.
Thirteen years have passed very fast. It's just like that when you get older and have had so many personal challenges. They age you. Time accelerates. We speak of our personal ends of time. Peter eccentrically purchased his funeral arrangements and locale already. This says a lot about his childhood with alcoholic and neglectful parents. My experience as a hospice nurse, a facilitator for thousands of individual deaths in my career, has made me much more laid back about funerals. Actually I think the funeral industry is an insult to the environment and the survivors of loved ones.
Peter and I are not married. We do not intend to be. We're old-school gay men, who feel that the state has no business getting between us in any shape or form. We do not need the approval of the state or religion to love and remain committed to one another. I happen to think marriage has more to do with social approval, money and property than love and commitment. We each deal with government on our own footing as retired working people and taxpayers. It's just fine that way.
Four years ago we decided to live together. We were both confirmed live-alone guys after having several previous relationships. Nine years together at that point seemed to me to be enough to consolidate households for both our sakes. Peter eventually agreed, so he and his two elderly cats moved in with me. Aside from my cat allergy, there were some serious adjustments for the first year or so, but we have worked it out. I think our home is a peaceful and welcoming environment.
We both keep up with politics and social trends from afar. We laugh about some of the absurdities we see younger and more passionate people embracing. The worsening environment troubles both of us. We are canaries in the city air which more and more resembles a coal mine. As urban children of the 1950's, we are both aware of density and overpopulation. The near-collapse of urban transportation infrastructure is a frequent lunchtime topic after we have gone to the gym or done some shopping.
I used to think maintaining a gay male relationship was very complicated in a potentially hostile world. I now realize that some of my partners along the way were themselves very complicated in ways that made my life more complicated. We tried. It worked while it worked. I have no negative feelings about the impermanence of relationships. In fact, it is often very healthy for both people. Peter and I will face impermanence, even if we remain committed to the end of life, mine or his or both. Part of learning about love and commitment through honesty is letting go of absolutes. Keeping the heart open today, in this moment, with practiced caring and generosity is itself the prize of being together.