Friday, June 12, 2015

Virginia Louise Hart: Post-[Straight]-Marriage Years (45-70)


Pre-Script:  What you are about to read is a narrative many people I know would never share publicly.  I'm very aware of this.  However, it's important to me, as I face a new decade, to be up-front and honest, for the record.  I leave it up to you to read in between the lines...or not.

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Bill and I watched our 21st wedding anniversary come and go on Thursday, 6 September 1990.  That Saturday all four of us, as a family, drove Amy from Atlanta to her freshman year at Flagler College in St. Augustine, FL.  By the end of that next week, I had moved out into a brand new condo.

Our divorce was finalized on 21 December, 1990.  I had "come of age" after 21 years of marriage and, at 45, was ready to live my life as an openly gay woman...for the first time.

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My condo was absolutely the most wonderful place for me in my first years of "coming out."
I had been working in Accounts Receivable at a nearby computer company.
But I wanted more and thus initiated the option of becoming a Licensed Massage Therapist.
It took me a full year of evening school, plus Saturday clinics, at Atlanta School of Massage,
all while still working a 40-hour/week job!
I continued as an LMT for the next 7 years, to supplement my income.

 In March of 1991, Mom and Dad celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.
My family of origin kept growing!

But this was the real family of origin...and the "Step Sisters."
Nobody knew that I felt so lonely and lost during that celebration, just recently divorced.

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Remember that I had fallen in love with our church's choir director when we moved to Atlanta.
Everything about her was 6 years younger than I, including her 2 children.
At the same time as my divorce, she, too, was going through her own divorce.
However, for her to keep joint custody of her children, we weren't "allowed" to live together.
So it meant Glenna and I were "together" in alternate months for the next 2 years.
During that time she graduated from Candler Seminary at Emory University in Atlanta.
A year later she was ordained by the Metropolitan Community Church (gay).
Together, we started the second MCC church in the Atlanta area.

However, at the end of 2 years, Glenna left me for another woman in our church.
I had been her first gay experience; I had hoped she'd be my last.
But the "candy store" had just been opened to her.
Besides the break-up of my family, this was the most devastating experience of my life.
I cried for days on end, finding comfort only in the minor chords of Enya.

Ironically, I have no photos of Glenna from that time.  These are 25 years after the fact.
It took 15 years before we became friends again and have since stayed in contact.
She eventually married Claire from England and now pastors a UCC church in Tennessee.
We're both happy for each other.

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Within one month of Glenna's break-up with me, I met Jo and started dating her.
If you had told me then that she was a rebound, I would have laughed in your face.

 Many milestones were celebrated while I was with Jo.
Amy graduated from Flagler in 1994.

Mark first graduated from Norcross High School in 1993 (left),
and then from the University of Georgia in 1997.
Jo also was a Georgia grad, so they had lots of memories in common.

 In 1995, the Wednesday before Easter, my preacher dad died of lung cancer, age 78.
The following year in February, 1996, my brother Bennett died of heart disease, age 47.
On Easter Eve the next year, 1997, my mom died of Alzheimer's, age 80.

And on 27 April 1996, Jo and I celebrated our civil union.
It was a huge thing, especially for our gay-friendly United Methodist church.
I had been leading seminars all over Atlanta on "Homosexuality and the Bible,"
similar to what I had done in Madison on "Women and the Church."
We were all so ready to be recognized as "real" couples.

A year later, 12 April 1997, Amy and Nick got married.
Jo and Nick worked together at the same sporting-goods store,
where the connections were made.

But by the Fall of that year, a year after our civil union, I made the decision to leave Jo.
There were too many cracks.  We were from different zip-codes.
By then I realized she really was a rebound from Glenna.
Older brother Nelson said he knew I had been more in love with the ceremony than with Jo.
Maybe I was with her more for her than for me, he said.
It was true.  I had brought her back to financial solvency...and to her faith roots.

I was with Jo for 5 years, during which time my condo building burned down,
the week before Christmas 1994.  Within 6 months it was rebuilt and we moved back in.
Within a year I bought a house to give us more room.

I will always love Jo but I was not "in love" with her.
After our "divorce" in 1997, she moved to south Georgia and lost contact.
We both, sadly, just went our own ways.

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By that time, in the summer of 1997, I had met Donica on our bowling and softball teams.
She was the one who helped me "see" the cracks in my relationship with Jo.

Donica worked for a local pharmaceutical company in a low-level position when I met her.
In the next 11 years of our relationship, she became one of their highest-paid VPs.

Together we built a house in a northern suburb of Atlanta on 3 acres of land, in the woods.

My kids had just gotten used to their mom living with a woman,
so the break-up with Jo threw them for another loop, though I detected the loss of her wasn't hard.
They quickly grew to love Donica...and all the benefits of her life with me.

 And now we were a new couple at our same gay-friendly United Methodist church.

With more than enough money to spare, we took cruises:
Alaska's Inside Passage, New England-Quebec, Scandinavia, and the Mediterranean.
We visited Prince Edward Island, Barcelona, Rome, Venice, St. Petersburg, Tallinn, Corfu,
Helsinki, Copenhagen, Stockholm....  All on Royal Caribbean.

We also took trips to places like New Orleans, Provincetown, New Hampshire, California, etc.
All the travel/wander lust I ever had was being filled to over-flowing.

 In 2003 I left the computer company to work in assisted living as a resident staff coordinator.
By 2005 we made the decision for me to stop work to join Donica on her frequent trips to Europe.
First it was two years in Hannover, Germany, two weeks of every month.
Then it was 2 years in Amsterdam, two weeks of every month.

At the same time that I retired from work, and with Donica's technical expertise,
I started this blog, at age 60.  It's all here, in other words, from that point on.

During that time, all kinds of things happened,
like the birth of grandson Nicholas, 12 July 2000.
18 months later, Amy divorced Nick and was on her own as a single mom for the next 6 years.

We were our own little family at this point in time, 2002, in "our" woods.

 I now had three kids.

And by 1 June 2008, I had four, when Amy and Dennis married.
Donica and I flew Nicholas with us to Honolulu, HI, and took care of him for them.

 Though Mark wasn't with us that day, he's always been with us.

 In 2005, when sister Susan married Rodger in Chicago, Donica was part of my extended family.

But when we weren't in Europe, we mostly did everything with Nicholas.
In fact, you can see it all in the book I made in 2013 of his pre-teen years.
[I'm so glad I no longer have that bazooka lens!]

 For several years we together visited sister Ruth's farm in Michigan and met up with family.
This was one time when all 7 of us sibs were together, minus Bennett.

But by the fall of 2008, there were cracks in this relationship.
I no longer knew Donica on almost every level.  I was no longer in soul with her.
I went back to my very first post here to see it through Thomas Moore's paraphrase of Ficino:
"What we need, he said, is soul, in the middle, holding together mind and body, ideas and life, spirituality and the world." 

I had absolutely everything I could possibly want materialistically with Donica, but without soul.  
I was empty in spite of a life filled with travel, financial security and ease.

  Once again, I made that terrible decision to leave a relation that wasn't working for me.
And once again, the loss, the loneliness, the disappointment, the disillusion.
What was wrong with me????
[I have a theory about the maturation process of gays who come out in later years:
it takes longer because we don't have role models around to mentor us.  
It's all by the seat of our pants.] 
 
 Donica legally married Cindy in Massachusetts in June of 2010.
Amy, Dennis and Mark meet up with them monthly in Atlanta where they all live.
After all, Nicholas knew Donica as my 'partner' for the first 8 years of his life.
However, Donica is not yet ready to have personal contact with me.  

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At niece Lesley's wedding the summer of 2009, which Donica also attended (apart from me),
we "step sisters" posed with our daughters:
Susan-Shari, Ginnie-Amy, Ruth-Lesley, Nancy-Jennifer (l-to-r)

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Now enters Astrid, the Dutch lady I met on our Shutterchance photography blog in August 2007!

Because I was in Amsterdam 2 weeks of each month, we started getting together for photo hunts.
I guess this is when you can say the rest is history...except Astrid did not know she was gay.

She had a son, Jeroen, and a husband of 27 years, Jaap.

It's a longer story than this but after she met me, she started scouring the internet about being gay.
I helped her when I could but I knew it was not my place to "persuade" her.
When she recognized who she had always been (everyone else knew she was "different",
including her son), she started pursuing me.
It has always been important to her to say that she made the first move,
even though I suppose I could say my love for who she is wooed her.

Once we started talking about being a couple, I said "NO."
I did not want the same thing to happen as with Glenna.  I was Astrid's first.
I told her she needed to go out into the "candy store" to figure out what she wanted.
But she would have nothing to do with it, saying, "I'm too old for that s**t."

Before I moved my entire life to the Netherlands at the end of 2009,
we were starting to be a couple.

And two months after I moved, we got legally married at the city hall where we live in Gorinchem.
Astrid's son Jeroen and best friend Ingeborg were our witnesses.
Cora was our city-hall officiator and there were 34 of us altogether.

To be officially recognized as married in the Netherlands, you must get married by city hall,
but can also add a church celebration before or after, if you wish.
The Dutch do a good job of separating church from state.

Now the rest really is history, all here on this blog, which I won't repeat.
 The culture, the dancing, the travel, the photography, the love...all of it.

I firmly believe that had I not been gay, Bill and I would still be married, 46 years in September.
Now that I am legally married as a gay woman, I firmly believe this marriage will last. 

All those stepping stones to find my soul's delight and resting place.  
Finally.

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This now completes the 3-part saga of my 70-year journey.  Tomorrow I turn 70.
I wrote the first and last parts with relatively little emotion, true to my Gemini nature.
"Just give me the facts, Max."
It was the middle part that wrenched me to the bone.  The break-up of my million-dollar family.
There was a long, primordial groan that finally escaped the core of me....

And while I know I have put my kids through the wringer since my divorce,
I am finally learning to live my life in love and in soul, not based on what people think.
My belief now is that when we do what's right for ourselves, it WILL be right for everyone else.

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Post-Script:  It is not lost on me that, as we speak, the US Supreme Court is making its ruling about Marriage Equality nationwide (13 states remaining, including Michigan and Georgia), by the end of June.  Is it possible that I will have the best gift of my 70th birthday with a YES decision?!  We'll soon know.

14 comments:

  1. Bravo Ginnie for your sincerity and bravery for baring your soul! Tipping my SF Giants cap on a true Atlanta Brave.

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    1. Very kind of you, Marie. Thank you. I hadn´t thought about it but I will always be an Atlanta Brave. HA!

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  2. I had an ah-ha moment when you wrote that the middle part was the hardest. It read that way too. This one is so matter-of-fact, as you say. Wow, so many things Ginnie, superficial and deep. I loved the stunning beige suit,the home you built in the woods outside of Atlanta, the story of your kids, Amy's wedding, hearing a bit of Astrid's story, and, and, and.....you have just had an amazing life! If we cannot be completely real at seventy, when do we plan on doing it? I'm very much in awe of your life story and very happy for you and Astrid. (BTW, Great comment Photo Cache...)

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    1. Sometimes I have a way of being matter-of-fact to a fault, Susie, I´m afraid. I´m learning of late to allow my emotions to surface, something that isn´t always easy...or, should I say, conscious. I´m not usually aware that I´m not feeling things. Maybe with this new decade before me, and after the long, primordial groan from the middle post, I will hone my emotional skills. That would probably be good!?! (Be careful what you wish for?)

      Thank you!

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  3. Boots, all I feel able to say is: What a life! You know that I say that with deep feeling: empathy, love, and admiration.

    Your ability to synthesize all of this astonishes me. It's sort of like a move maker's ability to condense a book and retain the feeling and importance of what happened in it. I feel that it's all here in these three posts, even though each part has depths we can't see, or know.

    I love you.

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    1. Thank you, dear sister, not only for being there for me but for feeling the empathy, love and admiration. What you think and feel is very important to me, even at the same time I'm really trying not to care what people think. The thing is, I DO care. And I'm very thankful (and lucky) to have you alongside me in the Journey.

      I love you, too.

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  4. I repeat, as in my last comment, that I truly admire your honesty. You did not play games and kept going with what you felt was the right thing to do – not so easy for many of us. Now you have reached your happy ending. Your life reads like an engrossing book and the ending is glorious. I hope that sharing all this lightens your past for you, just like when one cleans drawers full of old papers and memories, and that now you are even happier than before. You and Astrid are so lucky to have found each other. I am not religious as you know, but I’ll say that the force was with you.

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    1. You really have said everything, Vagabonde, in saying that the Force was with me. What a beautiful way to describe this entire saga. I love it. THANK YOU.

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  5. I’m so glad I got my adolescence done mostly in adolescence. We’ll soon see what the Supreme Court does on several issues. I never knew that about marriages in Holland. State marriage license absolutely ought to be a separate document than a religious marriage certificate.

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    1. You're very lucky that you did everything more or less within the "normal" maturation periods of your life, Ted. And yes, we'll soon see how our Supreme Court moves ahead at this critical time in our country. I can almost taste it!

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  6. Today you turned 70 and what a life you lived, looking back. Doing so, each relationship brought you a little bit closer to your destination. A good friend of ours once said: maybe Astrid is your destination and you needed all these people to know that you found what you were 'looking' for. Not that you (nor I) were looking, you never want to hurt the other one in breaking up or you don't want to feel the hurt once the other one thinks she can do better/different. Our paths just crossed. With you being 70, I can say you are happy and you are in a good place. How many people can say that. I know in the back of your head will always be the pain of breaking up the family. It is a hard choice we both made. Life is not fair, life is not always nice.However in the end we can say, life is good and we are very very happy with what we have. Happy birthday, I think you are an example of how to live your life to the fullest and I am glad I am part of it. IHVJ.

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    1. I couldn't have said it better, MLMA! In looking back, I can really see the importance of each and every person in my life. I wouldn't change a thing, except for wishing my kids didn't have to go through so much pain and confusion. I'm also glad I didn't find you earlier, because I have a feeling I may have totally missed you. It's strange how these things happen. The timing was right! Thank you for "accepting" the change that has allowed us to be together as wife and wife.

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  7. And yes a happy ending with your marriage finding your soul mate and the SC decision today....an amazing journey and an inspiration to us Ginnie to speak your own truth.

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    1. When I did these three posts, Donna, I never once thought about the SCOTUS deliberation in this month of June affecting Marriage Equality across our land. Talk about timing. I couldn't have received a better 70th birthday gift. WOWSER!

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