Brian McNaught launches new column for SFGN.Two guys and a dog started for us in 1976, when I drove from Detroit, with my Irish Setter, Jeremy, and met my husband, Ray, in Boston. I was 28, he was 25, Jeremy was 2. I’m now nearly 71, Ray will be 68 on his next birthday, and our Labradoodle, Lincoln, will be 2 on New Year’s Day.
When we met, Ray and I had no sense of what aging for us might be like. It wasn’t even on our radar. Aging is what one’s parents and grandparents do, along with old TV and movie stars. We were vigorous, happy dancers and warriors in the gay movement, both poor but ecstatic.
We cried 11 years later when we put Jeremy to sleep on Halloween, and buried him in our yard in Gloucester. We had stepped up in life, living in a mini-estate, furnished with some of the same treasures we had found in the rafters of antique shops, but adding to them such things as club chairs upholstered in high end designer fabrics.
Ray worked for Lehman Brothers and I was the mayor of Boston’s Liaison to the Gay Community. We hosted dinners in our home for people with AIDS in 1983, as well as all of the gay Democratic luminaries in the state, and we purchased a yellow Lab puppy. Young Brit helped us continue to imagine ourselves as youthful, with walks in the woods, and thrown balls on the beach, but we were more preoccupied with the image of living well than we were aware and grateful for what we actually had.
It was so painful for us to put Brit down at 15 that Ray swore we’d never get another dog. By then, we had two homes, one in Provincetown and the other in New York, San Francisco, Naples, and then Fort Lauderdale. We sold the Provincetown place after 16 years, and bought in the Adirondacks of New York. Thirteen years after Brit was buried in our yard in Provincetown, Ray relented and we brought Lincoln into our lives.
We have a lot of nice stuff north and south, and Lincoln is the first dog allowed to sit on it. He actually sits wherever he wants, which is often where I sit. He sees me coming and up on the sofa or bed he leaps, not in defiance but to get my attention and make me laugh.
Ray is retired, I’m semi-retired, and in our clearly aging bodies, we’re very aware of how privileged we’ve been in our lives. For 42 years, as our friends will attest, Ray and I have held hands at dinner, and expressed gratitude for what we had. When we first met, we prayed to God, then to Love, and then to the Universe. Raised Catholic, we’d probably be labeled today as Taoist.
Ray hopes he dies before Lincoln, not because he hates life but because he loves Lincoln, and can’t bear the thought of watching another dog look him in the eyes as he’s given an injection, and then buried on a piece of property we keep leaving.
In the beginning, as mentioned, in our young bodies, we were grateful for the bounty of our lives, starting with our mutual love, our close friends, the family members we were speaking to, recovery from alcohol addiction, world travel, successful careers, and princely living. Now our gratitude is about becoming aware that nothing that happens outside of the present moment has significance, including all of the aforementioned reasons for gratitude.
Ray now is significantly disabled by all the metal, wires, and battery packs in his back, all trying to relieve him of pain, but causing as much as they cured, if not more. We don’t travel easily, nor dance, nor make love, the latter more to do with the medicinal drugs we take than the pain we’re both in.
Where did 42 years go? But, here we are, two guys and a dog, now focused on the final years of our lives, and of how possibly they will be our best. I like being my age, despite my awareness that I’ll probably grieve the deaths of Lincoln and Ray, before others grieve mine.
Brian McNaught has been a leading educator on LGBTQ issues globally since 1974. He has made his many books and DVDs available for free at Brian-McNaught.com. The New York Times named him “The Godfather of gay diversity training.