Marco in the Park
by Nick Brady
On the way home Marco asked me, "What were you talking to Father Hoover about for so long? You making a confession or something?"
"Actually, that's close," I said.
"So what's up?"
"It's about a conversation you and I had some time ago that I kind of pushed aside. Maybe it's time we had a long talk."
"What are you talking about Marty? Am I in trouble? I'm not following you."
I looked over at him, "I suppose you are aware of what has happened recently in the supreme court and with our national church."
"Right, gay marriage. Can we talk about that again? Really?"
I sighed. "You don't miss much do you?"
Marco smiled. "You know where I am with that. Is that what you were talking to Hoover about?"
I nodded. "Yes, that's it. I guess it's time you and I talked about that."
"Hey, I'm ready to go. What did Fr. Hoover say. Did you ask him about marrying us?"
"Well, yes I did, and he said he would be happy to do it."
Marco grinned. "I'm ready if you are. What's next?"
"Marco, are you sure you really want to get married? This is a serious decision." I reminded him.
Marco gave me a direct look. "Yes, I am absolutely sure. We have been living together for over a year, and I love you Marty. I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Don't you feel the same way about me?"
"Yes, I do Marco. I have hedged about this but I really do love you and can't imagine being without you. Cold feet aside, I want to make our relationship official. I guess I am old fashioned that way."
"That's good enough for me. Let's do this thing."
"Slow down Marco. There are a couple of things we need to talk about. First, you need to be legal so that means after your birthday."
"Happy birthday to me. I can wait that long. So what else?"
"Second, I have to have 'the talk' with my mother."
"I thought she was cool with us when we were in Austin."
"She didn't have a complete fit when she found out we were living together, but that's not the same as springing a wedding on her," I reminded him.
"I guess so," Marco said thoughtfully. "So do you need to get her permission or what?"
"Well, not her permission so much. But it would be nice to have her on board. Let's face it, you aren't going to have my baby."
Marco laughed, "Not from lack of trying."
That made me laugh. "Sorry, that wasn't really the right way to say that. I mean that every mother would like to have grandchildren. She'll be disappointed, that's all. Besides, you don't really know her, but she's pretty conservative. Like, it might be awkward to tell her bridge club about this."
Marco looked sympathetic. "I can see that Marty. She's a nice lady. How can we do this so we don't hurt her? I don't want her to end up hating me forever."
"I'm not really sure how to do this. Look Marco, don't get me wrong. I have thought about this a lot and I really believe I want to spend the rest of my life with you, honest I do, but I am my mother's only child and I have to consider her feelings on this."
Marco nodded. "I understand that, but you know that I don't have the same problem. I don't know if I even want to tell my mother. She wouldn't want to come anyway."
I looked over at him. "We should talk about that Marco. I know your relationship with your mother is strained to say the least, but you can't get married and not even tell her. I mean, I don't think we are going to elope are we?"
"That's when you sort of sneak off and get married without telling anybody, right?"
"Something like that. If we get Fr. Hoover to marry us and have a real wedding, we can't not ask your mother. I want my mother to be there. You have to at least tell your mom and invite her."
Marco agreed. "I guess. All she can do is say no and call me a fag. I can handle that."
We were close to the apartment but I didn't want to break off the conversation, so I pulled into the Sonic for something to eat.
I turned to Marco. "Look, this will be your wedding too. I have never been married before and don't plan to do it again. We should talk about this and try to make it nice."
Marco looked very thoughtful. "I have an idea about how we might do this."|
"How's that? What are you thinking?" I asked.
"Well, if you ask your mom to give you permission she will probably try to talk you out of it. What if you just tell your mom that we plan to get married and then ask her how to do it? Ask her to help plan the wedding."
I thought for a minute. "You know, that might be a good idea. That's what I would do if I was marrying a girl. She would expect me to make the decision and then talk to her about it."
Marco smiled. "That's what I'm thinking. If she helps plan it she would have to be OK with it, or at least that should make her feel better about it."
"Marco, you might be brilliant. That's a great idea. It just might work."
"Thank you." He smiled and gave a little bow.
"Before we turn the wedding planning over to Mom, what about you? Do you have any ideas about what you want? To tell the truth I haven't even thought about it."
Marco waggled his head from side to side. "Gee, I don't know. I have never even attended a wedding. What is there to decide?"
"It depends on how fancy you want it to be. We can just show up with a couple of witnesses and get Fr. Hoover to do the honors, or we could have a real wedding with music and everything."
"So who gets to be the groom? Do I have to be the bride or something. I don't know how this works."
I laughed. "Don't you want to wear a white wedding dress?"
"Not really. Besides, I'm not exactly a virgin, am I?"
"I think rather than being bride and groom, we would be referred to as 'the couple'." I told him.
"If you want to know, I would like to think of us as kind of equal partners in this thing," Marco said. "I don't think I want to promise to obey you. Consider your advice maybe, but I don't promise to be obedient."
"No, of course not. Just because I'm a little older doesn't mean I think I'm the boss of you. I haven't tried to be too bossy so far, have I?"
"No, you've been good about that. I defer to you sometimes just because I figure you have more experience, but you haven't tried to order me around," he admitted. "I've really appreciated that." Then he grinned. "I might be willing to wear a suit though."
I pretended to be shocked. "You aren't holding out for jeans and a teeshirt?"
"No, I guess if I'm only going to do this once, I might as well do it right." He thought for a minute. "I guess it's like when I got baptized. If I'm going to do this, I think I would like to go all out and have a real wedding."
"So who will we invite? I mean besides the mothers," I wondered. "If we have it at the church, I bet a lot of the congregation would like to attend. I don't think Father Hoover has done that many gay weddings."
"Kind of like baptism by immersion. We might draw a crowd." Marco grinned.
"Sure, and why not? Everybody knows us there and after getting baptized in a stock tank, you're kind of a celebrity."
Marco laughed. "I don't know about that. We should have some fun with it though. You could invite some friends from your office, and I can invite Mercer. We might even get Luigi to cater some food for it."
"Right. Maybe we could ask David and Wayne to be in it somehow. Wayne could be our best man." I suggested.
"And David could be our maid of honor." Marco giggled.
"I'm not sure he would go for that," I said. "But I guess we have a general idea of what kind of wedding we want. I really like your idea of asking Mom to help with the planning."
"Does Father Hoover need to be involved in the planning? I mean, he might have some requirements," Marco suggested.
"Probably. He said he wants to do pre-marital counseling with us both. If we want music we need to make arrangements for that, and maybe some flowers? We need help, I am getting over my head. I never did this before. There are too many details to keep track of."
Marco looked a little worried. "I can see this getting out of hand. I would like for it to be nice, but I vote to keep it as simple as possible. I might get scared and leave you at the altar."
I agreed. "That's true. And don't forget that we need to work this around your school. You have a full load and don't want to get sidetracked."
"How can I forget that?"
"OK, if we are serious about this we both need to talk with Fr. Hoover as soon as I have gotten Mom on board. I know he wants to counsel with us."
We finished our lunch and drove from the Sonic back to the apartment. "I think we have enough to go on," I said. "I need to break the news to Mom and give her time to get used to the idea. Do you want to go down there and talk to her with me?"
"Do you really want to drive all that way just to give her a heart attack?" Marco asked. "Why don't you talk about it on the phone with her first, and then we can go from there."
"You may be right," I said. "I'll call her tomorrow night when we're both home. I want you to be with me when I talk to her."
"OK," Marco agreed, then he smiled. "Are we really going to do this?"
"It looks like it, if we don't chicken out." I said.
Marco shook his head. "Not me. I'm ready."
"Me too." I agreed.
We talked more about this at the apartment then Marco walked over to Luigi's for his Sunday evening shift. I decided I needed to talk to somebody about this and called our friend Wayne.
"Hi Wayne, this is Marty."
"Hey Marty. What's up with you?"
"Well quite a lot, actually. Marco and I are talking about making our relationship official. We're talking to Father Hoover about getting married."
"Wow, that's great. You guys are made for each other. Congratulations!"
"Thank you. I was wondering what you and David did when you got married."
There was an awkward pause. "Well to tell the truth, we never did anything. Like a lot of gay couples, we just live together. A lot of things are changing but when we first decided to be a couple that seemed like the easiest thing to do."
"I see. I guess that's what Marco and I have done up to now, but we thinking about a more formal arrangement. We're talking to Father Hoover about actually having a wedding and he said he would be happy to marry us. I was going to ask about your wedding, but I guess there wasn't one."
"No, not yet at least. You make me realize that we need to talk about that again. At the time I guess it was just easier to cohabitate. David's parents are very conservative and we didn't want a hassle."
"I understand. I'm trying to figure out how to break this to my mother. Do you have any suggestions?"
Wayne sighed. "I think if David and I had done this right we should have been honest about our intentions and been willing to take the heat. Our parents aren't thrilled that we live together as it is. I wish we had gotten that out of the way years ago. It is sort of the elephant in the room, you know?"
"Marco suggested that we announce our intentions to my mother and then ask her to help with the wedding planning." I told him. "Not ask for her permission but ask for her help now that the decision has been made."
"That's a great idea," Wayne agreed. "I wish we had done that. I'm sorry I can't be more helpful."
"No, actually this has been very helpful. I think we are on the right track."
Wayne had questions about what sort of an event we were planning and I shared what little we had decided.
"We wondered, would serve as our best man?" I asked.
"I would be thrilled." He replied.
I chuckled. "Marco wondered if David would like to be our maid of honor."
Wayne laughed. "I don't know, he might. He likes to dress up."
"We'll have to talk about that," I said.
It was a helpful conversation. Later I relayed his remark about David to Marco.
Marco frowned. "I was just kidding. I want the wedding to be fun, but not a drag show." End of discussion.
The next evening after Marco and I had cleared the dinner table, I sat down to make the call to Mom. Marco was sitting next to me on the sofa and I turned the speaker on the phone so he could hear.
"Hello Marty. How are you?"
"I'm fine Mom. I have some news for you. Marco is here with me and I turned the phone on so he can hear our conversation. This is about the two of us."
"Oh?" She paused. "Well, how is Marco?"
"We are both just fine, thank you," I hesitated a moment, gathering my courage. "Mom, when you met Marco last Christmas, we told you that we loved each other."
After a moment of silence she said. "Yes?"
I took a deep breath. "Mom, we are going to get married, and we want you to help us with the wedding."
There was a long silence then she asked. "Can you do that?"
"Yes, we can. We talked to Father Hoover, our priest, and he said he'll be happy to perform the ceremony. It will be a nice church wedding, and we want you to be part of it."
Another long silence. "Are you sure about this? I mean, are you both sure?"
"Yes Ma'am. We are very sure," I paused. "Mom, we love each other and we make each other happy. Please be a part of this."
She was quiet and we could hear her blowing her nose. Finally she said, "Well I suppose I should have been expecting this."
She clearly was struggling with this news and I waited for her to speak.
"If you are sure this is the best thing for you Marty. I do want you to be happy." She was quiet. I let her gather her thoughts.
Finally she asked. "What do you want me to do?"
"Mom, we want a nice wedding. I think this will be the only wedding I will ever have, and I want it to be really nice. We don't know anything about planning a wedding. Will you help us?"
"Well honey, if you're sure about this."
I looked over at Marco. His face was in his hands and I could swear he was praying. "Yes mother. We are sure, but we both want you to be with us on this. We need your help."
We could hear her sniffing and knew she was weeping. "Marty honey. You know this is hard for me, but I did think Marco was a very sweet boy." We heard her blow her nose again. "If that's what you want, then I am very happy for you. I will do what I can to help you with the wedding. I do love you honey."
Marco looked up with tears in his eyes and gave me a double thumbs up.
"Thank you Mom. We knew we could count on you," I said gratefully. "We want a nice church wedding, nothing elaborate, but traditional. We would like to have some music, and maybe some flowers, you know. We have a friend who will be our best man, and we have a few ideas."
I could hear her shift into planning mode. "I don't know how traditional a gay wedding is going to be, but it can be nice, I think. Will there be many people there?"
"We will invite a few friends, but we know a lot of people in the church. We thought we would sort of make a blanket invitation to the congregation. I don't know how many will come, but it seems appropriate to invite them. The people at St. Jerome's have been wonderful to us."
I could feel her begin to realize that we had made a life for ourselves in a church community. I knew that was something that would please her. I told her about Marco's baptism, about the stock tank and the cold water. The story made her laugh.
"Oh my, there is nothing half way about that boy is there?" I could feel her mood changing.
"Well," she said, "You should have a rehearsal dinner for the wedding party."
"That's right, I didn't think about that. You know, Marco works for a very nice Italian restaurant. I bet they would do a dinner for us."
"And a cake," she said. " You have to have a nice wedding cake, and refreshments for the reception."
"Sure Mom, we need to do that too. I hadn't thought about any of that. This is going to be really nice. Can you write some of these things down so I won't forget?"
"Yes," she said. "I can do that Marty. I will help you all I can."
We talked awhile and the conversation became more positive.
"We will talk to Father Hoover and set a date for the wedding then get back to you," I told her. "We want you to come up a few days before the wedding so you can whip us into shape. I will find a nice place for you to stay. We have such a small apartment that I don't think we could make you comfortable here."
"Oh that's fine," she said. "I don't want to put you out. Marco doesn't want his mother in law staying with you."
Marco motioned that he wanted to speak to Mom, so I handed him the phone.
"Irene? This is Marco," he said.
"Yes? Hello Marco."
"Irene, I want to thank you so much for helping us. Marty has been wonderful to me, and so have you. I think I told you that my mother and I are estranged from each other. I hope you will be like a mother to me, like you are to Marty." He paused. "I love you very much Irene."
I could hear her voice tighten. "Oh Marco. You are such a sweet boy. I love you too and I hope the two of you will be very happy together. I should thank you, really. I'm sorry to be such an old poop about this."
"No, not at all," he said. "I know I'm not who you would have chosen for a son in law, but I really want you to like me, and I will try to make Marty very happy, I promise."
We could hear her sigh. "I know you will honey. I just know you will."
I took the phone back and wrapped things up with my mother.
"Thanks Mom. I love you very much."
"I love you too honey, and I know I will love Marco. I do give you my blessings. Bye bye."
I clicked off the phone and turned to Marco. "What do you think?"
"Wow. I think your mother is a real sweetheart. She really loves you Marty. You are so lucky to have a mom like that. I wasn't just saying that, you know. I do feel like she is going to be more like a mother to me too. I do love her, I really do. I think she's great."
I nodded my head. "Yeah, she is something else. You know, she has been through a lot with my abusive father and trying to raise a boy she always figured was probably homosexual. But all she has really cared about was seeing me grow to be independent, and become a happy person. I am very thankful for her, and never more than right now."
Marco slid over and put his head under my chin. I kissed him on the cheek and told him. "I think she will come to love you as much as I do. I knew she would if she just gave you a chance." I laughed and hugged him. "I think your cream gravy won her over. Who can help but love someone who can make really good cream gravy."
The final hurdle had been overcome. Now all that remained was for us to have our talk with Father Hoover. I called him the next day and asked for a time when we could come in and talk about our plans. He made a time for us after school was out on Thursday afternoon. I arranged to leave work a little early and picked Marco up at our apartment.
I drove us over to St. Jerome's and we sat in the car for a few minutes before going in.
"Any last minute reservations?" I asked him.
"No Marty. I am more sure of this than anything in the world. I've just been waiting on you. I've known this is what I want for a long time."
"OK then. Let's go." We got out of the car and went to Father Hoover's office to find him waiting.
He stood and greeted us. "It is very nice to see you fellows. I understand that you are making some plans. Please tell me what you want to do."
I started to speak, then nodded to Marco. He smiled and said. "It is pretty simple Father. Marty and I love each other and want to be married."
Father Hoover looked at both of us. "Are you both agreed that this is what you want to do?"
"Yes sir." We both nodded our agreement.
Fr. Hoover leaned back in his chair. "I want to tell you that I am very fond of you both. Marty, I have known you for some time and seen you be quite faithful in attending the services. I have watched as you brought Marco into the church and encouraged his faith journey. Marco, I have seen you grow and embrace the church in a way that has frankly surprised me. I found your desire to be baptized by immersion to be quite refreshing."
Marco smiled. "I found it to be very refreshing."
Hoover laughed. "That little teakettle of hot water didn't do much for a stock tank of cold water, did it?"
"No sir," Marco chuckled.
"Be that as it may, you clearly were looking for more than a routine ceremony. I gathered that this was something that was very real to you."
"Yes sir," Marco said. "In our talk before you agreed to baptize me, you told me that going under the water was like dying to my old life and being born into a new one. Did I get that right?"
"You got that exactly right Marco. If I had held you under long enough you would have died for real. That part is more than just symbolism I suppose. When you rise up out of the water you are returned to a new life in Christ. We do that symbolically when we baptize by pouring water over the head, but you chose to take that a step further. I was very pleased to have the opportunity for the congregation to see that. Many churches routinely baptize by immersion but you had the option and chose that for yourself. I did respect that. I have to tell you that many in our congregation have expressed the same thing. I think you won our hearts by that choice."
Marco nodded his head slowly, not quite expecting to hear that. "Yes sir," he replied politely. "I think I really wanted to start over. My old life was not all that great. At least until I met Marty."
Father Hoover hesitated a moment then told us. "As I'm sure you realize, marriage is a very important decision for any couple. I'm afraid that many times people go into marriage expecting everything to be wonderful and are then caught short by the challenges that marriage can bring."
He continued, "While that is true of any marriage, in the case of a marriage between a same sex couple, the challenges can be even greater. Although public acceptance of same sex marriage has increased a great deal in recent times, there are still many who view it as an abomination. The acceptance of marriage by society in general is an element of support for a new married couple. In the case of a same sex couple, that is not always present. You will need to prepare yourselves for that."
"That may be sir, but Marco and I believe very strongly that this is the right decision for us," I assured him and looked toward Marco.
"Yes sir, I agree. I have never been more sure of anything in my life," he agreed.
Fr. Hoover looked at me. "When we had our initial conversation, you indicated two potential obstacles to the marriage. One was in Marco's youth and the difference in your ages, and the other was with your mother's acceptance, something that was important to you. Do I recall correctly?"
I turned to Marco. "What about the age factor?" I asked him.
Marco did not hesitate. "I will turn 18 on my birthday in October. While I don't see that as a problem, we have agreed to wait until after my birthday to get married." He smiled. "It will make a really nice birthday present for me."
"How do you view the difference in your ages, a difference of 8 years I believe?" Hoover asked.
Again, Marco responded. "If I was looking for a father or for a big brother, I think I would be looking for the wrong thing. Marty is neither to me. He is my friend, an older friend for sure, and I respect his experience sometimes, but he never tries to tell me what to do. I feel like we are equal partners in this thing."
Hoover looked at me. "I agree absolutely," I said. "So much of the time Marco is the wise one. I respect his intellect and good judgment. He is my junior only in terms of years, and that will become much less significant as time goes by. I see this as a very long, hopefully a permanent partnership."
"And how about your mother? Have you discussed your plans with her?" Hoover looked at me again.
"Yes I have. Last week Marco and I talked with her on the phone. At Marco's suggestion I advised her that we have decided to marry, and needed her help in planning the wedding. We were not looking for permission but rather assistance. I have to say that put that way, she struggled a little but ended up giving us her blessings."
"Excellent! That was rather a good way to approach the situation I must say." Hoover seemed pleased.
"And how do you feel about that?" he asked Marco.
Marco smiled. "I feel great about it. I think I told you when we were preparing for baptism that my own mother and I are hardly speaking. I told you what the situation was with her. I think Marty's mother is awesome. I hope she will be willing to be a mother for me, and I told her that."
Fr. Hoover smiled broadly. "You fellows seem to be way ahead of me. I think you have done the work. I did suggest that you pray about your decision. Have you done that?"
Marco nodded vigorously. "I was sure praying when Marty talked to his Mom."
Hoover boomed with laughter. "I would have to say that you did a good job." He smiled at us in a loving way. "I can find no objections to marrying you. I think you will do fine and I predict you will be very happy with each other. Now there is the matter of setting a date."
He pulled out a pocket calendar and flipped through the pages. "I am assuming that you wish to be married here in this church?" We nodded. "Do you intend this to be a small private affair or will you consider opening it up to the congregation?"
I looked at Marco before I replied. "I think it would be nice to invite the congregation if you think that any would be interested."
"Oh, I suspect that you might be surprised," he said as he checked several dates and scowled. "I think that the first good day I have here is the Saturday before Thanksgiving. How would that work for you?"
"I think that would be perfect. It gives us time to get ready." I said and Marco nodded his agreement.
"Sure," he grinned. The sooner the better."
Father Hoover looked very pleased. "I would like to speak to you several times between now and then. I insist on counseling with all my marriage couples. I want to go over some things that all married couples need to consider. And too, we have some changes to our marriage rite that will interest you as a same sex couple."
Before we concluded I had one other question. "Sir, we appreciate very much the generosity that you have shown to us, but I do wonder. Will there be members of the congregation that will object to this? We would not want to create any difficulty for you."
He looked genuinely surprised. "I think you underestimate our community. Have you encountered any animosity by attending worship here? Was there any lack of enthusiasm at Marco's baptism?"
"Well, no sir, but not everyone approves of gay marriage."
Hoover smiled. "Then they may choose not to attend the wedding. But I predict that you will be very warmly received. The two of you are not strangers to us. I happen to know for a fact that you are greatly loved and respected. You have shown yourselves to be very gracious members of our congregation. Please do not be concerned. If there are any who object, well, my hide is probably thicker than you realize, and I approve of your marriage very strongly. Nolo Timere, do not be afraid."
Father Hoover stood and shook hands with us very warmly. "We will talk again soon. Go and make your plans for this happy occasion. It is nearing the dinner hour and I am getting hungry as no doubt you are. Go in peace and with my blessings."
We walked out on a pink cloud. Certainly we felt like rejoicing. I drove us to the Viet Houng, a small family owned Vietnamese restaurant out on east 21st Street to celebrate.
"I had no idea that would go so well," I admitted to Marco.
Marco laughed. "I feel like I have been hugged and kissed by somebody really nice."
"I have to say that I thought you spoke very well. I think Hoover was impressed and I know I was. If he was concerned that you might be too young to know what you were doing, you relieved him of that notion."
"I just said what I thought."
"I love you Marco. You never cease to amaze me."
Marco looked at me in a puzzled way. "I guess it never hurts to be honest. Father Hoover was really nice though. He made me feel great, but then, he usually does."
"Hoover is a very good man, and an excellent priest. We are blessed to have him."
"Do you think he's right about the congregation? I mean about a lot of people wanting to come to the wedding?"
"I don't know," I admitted, "But we might want to get a big cake for the reception."
I called Mom the next day and gave her the date. She had obviously been thinking about the details and had a lot of suggestions. Now that the decision had been made, she was in planning mode and being her usual good old Mom self. I was a lucky guy.
I talked to Wayne and he was frankly excited about the wedding. We wanted to find a part for David to play, but it would involve a suit and tie. We decided that under the circumstances we would have joint best men, giving David an equal part to play. As our oldest friends, it seemed appropriate. I talked to Marco and kept him posted on the way things were going, but left him to his studies. He was busy enough with 18 hours at Tulsa Community College and his job at Luigi's.
Marco made a point of dropping by Mercury Courier Service and talked to Mercer. He said that Mercer was a little surprised but very supportive and assured us that he would be there. He did ask if he could bring his wife and was assured that she would be most welcome. Mercer had a little boy 8 and a girl 10, and they were recruited to be our ring bearer and flower girl. Things were falling into place.
Luigi agreed to cater the reception dinner. He said he was not surprised at our decision and wished us well. That was a big thing for a good Catholic guy and we were quietly appreciative. Marco of course said he was not surprised. He was convinced that we were supposed to be doing this and that somebody was looking out for us. I couldn't argue with him.
With some nervousness I made an informal announcement at my office and asked several friends to attend. I added a blanket invitation to them all, but had no idea who would accept. I was pleasantly surprised that it was so positively received. Again, Marco was not surprised. They are your friends he told me, besides, we just think nobody knows we are gay. He seemed to have enough faith for both of us.
Marco's midterm grades were posted and he was nailing everything. I was tending the home fires and trying to give him as much time for his studies as possible and just as he had promised, he was making it work.
In no time his birthday rolled around and we had a small celebration. We invited our old friends Wayne and David for dinner. I grilled some steaks, one of the few things that I could do fairly well, and we accepted a small glass of champagne that our guests brought to toast the occasion. Marco wrinkled his nose and sipped it cautiously, leaving most of it in his glass. I did the same but we insisted that it was delicious and left most of it for them. My gift for Marco was a matching pair of simple gold wedding bands. We passed them around to be admired and Marco grew quite teary.
The only rough spot was in early November when Marco caught a bad cold and sniffed and sneezed his way through a week of congestion. He was fine, but it made me grateful to realize that once officially married, he would be eligible for coverage under my medical insurance. He had been very fortunate not to have suffered any real illness during his time with no health coverage.
We spent several sessions with Father Hoover talking about the challenges of married life. He joked that he could skip quickly over the usual discussion of changes that the advent of children might have on the marital relationship. As usual Marco was able to amaze me when he pointed out that adoption could be a possibility. It was an idea that Fr. Hoover took quite seriously, assuring us that we would make good parents if and when that were to happen.
Marco finally decided to call his mother and tell her about our plans. I was sitting next to him listening when he explained that we were planning a wedding and asked her to attend. He was nice as pie even though I knew that he was not expecting much. From his end of the conversation I could tell that he was as diplomatic as he knew how, but in the end she refused, although she wasn't rude and did not say anything insulting about either of us. When he hung up he just shrugged and said that he was glad he had tried. I felt bad for him.
The week before the big day was to arrive, my mother came with her list of details to be attended to. I fixed her up with a nice room at a nearby hotel and she was pleased with it. She saw to it that a list of guests was drawn up for the rehearsal dinner, and that a large cake was ordered and all the other ingredients for a lovely reception. We could not have done without her. She was gracious and thorough, supervising the purchase of nice matching dark blue suits for both of us, corsages, centerpieces and personally selecting a nifty groom and groom decoration to go on top the wedding cake. Any reservations about my mother were dispersed with. She was great.
We rehearsed the wedding with Father Hoover's supervision and agreed on appropriate vows, identical for both of us and with no promises to obey anything. It was turning out to be a lot of fun. I was a nervous wreck but Marco sailed through everything with his usual good humor.
The dinner at Luigi's was small, Luigi's food was delicious and beautifully served. Wayne and David were invited of course, as well as Mercer, his wife and their two children, who turned out to be quite charming. Luigi reluctantly agreed to sit and eat with us although he protested that he was only the caterer and should have been busy in the kitchen. My boss from the office had accepted my invitation, drank a little too much wine and was very funny. Marco and I stuck with iced tea but had a fine time. It was all good.
The next day was the wedding. We rejected the custom that as the married couple we should not see each other before the ceremony on the grounds it was pointless, since we were already living together. I was pacing like a cat.
"What's the matter with you?" Marco asked. "You nervous or something?"
"Well yes, aren't you? I never got married before."
"Well, I'm kind of excited I guess. But there is nothing to be scared of. Everything is ready," he said. "I just kind of want it to be over with."
We had put on our new suits and I was helping him with his necktie. "You look really nice Marco. You should wear a suit more often."
"I never had a suit before," he said, admiring himself in the mirror while I fussed with his tie. "I look pretty good, don't I?"
"You look gorgeous," I assured him. "Are you going to leave your hair in a ponytail?"
"I don't know," he said. "I think maybe it looks better that way with a suit."
I stepped back and looked him over. "I think maybe you're right. I like it either way."
"Eventually I will have to get this cut off, I guess."
"Why? I love your hair long."
"Maybe I would look more grown up if it were shorter. What do you think?" he asked.
"Well, you might trim it up, but I love it long."
He smiled at me. "I had it trimmed up a little last summer and you didn't even notice, but I will wear it to suit you Marty. I don't really care. I don't look at myself that often."
"Well, not today. It is too late to change anything today," I kissed him on top of the head and brushed off the shoulders of his new suit. "I think you look fine."
I stepped next to him and looked at the two of us standing together. "We make a nice looking couple," I said.
"Nice enough to get married," he grinned. "Relax, this is going to happen whether you are ready for it or not."
I looked at my watch for the third time in the last 3 minutes. "Do you think we should go on over to the church? The service is about to start."
"It's not for another 45 minutes," Marco corrected me.
I sighed. "If we drank I would suggest having a stiff one."
"Good luck with that," Marco chuckled. "There is nothing in the apartment but some cooking sherry and that tastes pretty shitty by itself."
I fiddled with my necktie again. "Does Mom have our flowers?"
"Oh relax," Marco laughed. "Go in the bathroom and jerk off or something."
I laughed and sat down on the sofa, leaned my head back and took deep breaths. "I'll be OK. I just have a bad case of wedding day jitters."
Marco sat down next to me and leaned his head on my shoulder. "Are you happy?" he asked.
"Insanely," I replied.
"In an hour we will be married," Marco pointed out. "we will be Mister and Mister."
I laughed. "That still sounds ridiculous to tell the truth."
"I like The Couple better."
"Yeah, that's what's in the marriage rite Father Hoover is using for us." I recalled.
"Everybody has been great. Especially your mom. She has pulled everything together for us."
We sat like that for a couple of minutes then I couldn't stand it any more. "Lets go. But first I need to go to the bathroom again."
"You have the nervous tinkles," Marco laughed.
"We stood side by side emptying our bladders one last time. "Here we are joined together in the eyes of God..." Marco giggled as our twin streams of urine splashed together in the toilet.
I laughed again. "Marco, I don't think you are taking this seriously enough."
"Oh I'm serious alright," he turned and kissed me on the cheek. "Come on, let's go. We'll screw around and be late."
"They would wait on us though." We giggled again, and drove over to the church.
We let ourselves into the side entrance to the Parish Hall where the rest of the wedding party was waiting. My mother swooped down on us and began pinning red rosebuds to our lapels. She was dressed up fit to kill.
"Wow Mom, you look terrific."
"Well don't sound so surprised. Now hold still both of you boys, and let me look at you." She smiled proudly with a little mist in her eyes. "I have two handsome sons."
We both hugged her and murmured thanks. Mercer's kids were dolled up in their Sunday best and were very excited. They had been coached, and looked ready to go. The boy was in a little suit only a bit too large, and carried a white cushion with two gold rings pinned on top. The girl was in a white dress with a basket of red rose petals. They were vibrating with excitement.
"You guys look terrific," Marco told them, earning himself a pair of beautiful smiles.
David and Wayne were looking good in their own matching suits, smiling expectantly. "I was afraid you guys were going to chicken out," Wayne joked.
"I almost did, but Marco dragged me over here," I joked back. There was the sound of nervous laughter.
Father Hoover swooped in looking resplendent in gold and white vestments. "Are we ready?" he sounded like the voice of authority.
We walked around to the entrance of the church for our first look inside. "Holy shit!" Marco said in a whisper. "Look at all the people!"
We were amazed at the number of people sitting expectantly for our wedding to begin. Mercer and his wife, Luigi and his wife, at least a dozen people from my office and what looked like half of the congregation of St. Jerome's all waiting to see a pair of gay guys tie the knot.
"Holy shit!" I echoed in a whisper. "Look at all the people."
The organ swelled and Mercer's kids led us down the aisle. The little boy and girl walking side by side, just as pretty as you please. He was carefully balancing the cushion with the rings, she was tossing clumps of rose petals damp from her nervous fingers. David grabbed my arm and Wayne took Marco's and they guided us down behind the children, all four of us abreast. There was no turning back now. The die was cast.
We stopped in front of the altar. Marco and I were left standing together as our best men stepped aside. Father Hoover stood before us with great dignity. I had never realized before just how tall the man was. He looked terrific.
The organ stopped and for a moment it was very quiet. Then Father Hoover began in a voice much like that of Moses.
"Dearly beloved: We have come together in the presence of God to witness and bless the joining together of this couple in Holy Matrimony."
The wedding rite continued with a few words changed here and there to eliminate references to husband and wife and substitute the term the couple. If there were other references I was oblivious to them. At one point we were each asked in turn,
"Will you have this man to be your companion; to live together in the covenant of marriage? Will you love him, comfort him, honor and keep him, in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all others, be faithful to him as long as you both shall live?" To which we were to reply, "I will."
Then the congregation was asked,
"Will all of you witnessing these promises do all in your power to uphold these two persons in their marriage?" To which all those present answered very loudly, "We will!"
Then we stood while the service proceeded in the usual manner with readings from the old and new testament, and a gospel reading as well. Some prayers were read and I wondered if we had been forgotten. But soon we were turned to face each other and vows were exchanged. Father Hoover asked both of us to repeat in turn.
"In the Name of God, I, Marty, take you, Marco, to be my companion, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until we are parted by death. This is my solemn vow."
"In the Name of God, I, Marco, take you, Marty, to be my companion, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until we are parted by death. This is my solemn vow."
Now Mercer's little boy stepped up with his cushion and Father Hoover unpinned the rings and handed them to each of us, taking care to get the proper size to the right person. He solemnly blessed the rings, and one by one had us place them on the hand of our beloved. That done, only one thing remained.
"Now that Marty and Marco have given themselves to each other by solemn vows, with the joining of hands and the giving and receiving of a ring, I pronounce that they are a married couple, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."
Then he said, "Those whom God has joined together let no one put asunder."
And all the people said, "Amen."
Then more prayers were said, followed by the Lord's prayer, followed by yet more prayers.
Father Hoover said a beautiful blessing.
"O God, you have so consecrated the covenant of marriage that in it is represented the spiritual unity between Christ and his Church: Send therefore your blessing upon these your servants, that they may so love, honor, and cherish each other in faithfulness and patience, in wisdom and true godliness, that their home may be a haven of blessing and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen."
And then, finally, we got to kiss each other, right there in front of God and everybody. The organ swelled and beautiful music poured out and we were free to walk hand in hand down the aisle between scores of applauding people, then down the front steps of the church where Wayne was snapping photographs like crazy.
That is the way we felt, crazy with joy. I looked over and saw my mother, smiling from ear to ear with tears streaming down her cheeks. I could only guess what mixture of emotion she was experiencing, but she looked happy.
We were congratulated by those nearby then raced to the Parish Hall containing a long table of goodies, set in the center with a magnificent wedding cake. On the top were a pair of grooms dressed in dark suits with tiny red roses fastened to their lapels, one miraculously shorter than the other and wearing a long black ponytail. It was beautiful.
We formed a line and began to greet our guests. A few we knew and many that looked vaguely familiar but whose names were unknown to us. They introduced themselves as members of the church but recalling the names was hopeless. Nevertheless, we were able to tell them with the greatest sincerity how much we appreciated their joining us for this most happy day.
We cut the cake and fed a small piece to each other, resisting the temptation to play the mean trick of pushing it up our companion's nose. This day was too happy to spoil with any such pranks. There was such a swirl of cheerful activity that it was quite disorienting. So many hands were extended with smiling faces wishing us congratulations, best wishes and telling us how pleased they were to have us be a part of them. It was quite overwhelming. Marco and I smiled until our faces hurt, shook hands until our fingers were turning blue, and glancing at each other with mutual looks of astonishment. It was unlike anything we could have imagined.
We had our photograph taken by scores of people who were nearly strangers. One of the photographers seemed to be connected with the Tulsa newspaper and we said some things which were written down although we had no idea what we had said that could have been newsworthy.
Several times the great smiling face of Father Hoover appeared to be floating on the periphery of the room, looking on with a combination of pride and amusement.
At last we were free and ushered out to my waiting car. Marco and I were pushed into the back seat and Wayne drove us to our apartment after loading an unbelievable number of cards and nicely wrapped gifts into the trunk, finally overflowing into the front seat and in our laps. It was a day we would never forget. We clung to each other and were rendered temporarily speechless.
Once back in our apartment Wayne shook our hands one more time then disappeared into David's car which had followed us to take him away. We were somewhat shell shocked, but supremely happy. When we found ourselves alone at last in our apartment we turned to each other, and said almost in unison.
"What the hell just happened?" Then we erupted in peals of laughter.
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