Your Story Matters (Tell It)By Linda Bunker
This story was a finalist in the 2013 SAGE Story Contest.
Picture this...the year is 1958, and a young girl of 16 meets a 24-year-old woman, and they fall helplessly, completely and passionately in love. I was that girl of 16 who is now 72, and my love is 80. Yes, we are still helplessly and completely in love with a hint of passion on the side. The biggest shock, however, is that we just CAME OUT in 2013, after being together for 55 years.
I know the young folks will find this hard to believe, but way back then if it was discovered that you were "queer" you would be subject to indescribable rejection from parents, friends, church, all of society. In fact, back in 1958, the position of clinical psychologists and psychiatrists regarding homosexuality was that it was a disorder of a serious degenerative psychopathology that required years of intense treatment with possible hospitalization. Experimental treatments such as electric shock to the testicles, and, in really bad cases, surgical lobotomy, were practiced. Due to the illegality of homosexuality, jail rather than mental hospital treatment was always a possibility. I rest my case for not coming out all these years. We lived in fear of being found out, although being together year after year, friends and family must have most certainly suspected, but no one had the courage to speak out—us included.
Over the years we enjoyed a very successful business together, several real estate investments, cars, vacations, and gorgeous homes. Material things kept us going forward, but never filled the sadness and fear we faced every day of our lives. We had to examine every word and every action. Sad situations outnumbered happy situations. One example is when my love's father passed away. She was grieving so badly. At the funeral home, her sisters and brothers had their spouses beside them, but she sat alone. My heart was aching to hold her and comfort her, but I remained on the sidelines and watched. Another incident was when a niece got married and I was not invited because it was for "family" only. I could go on and on, but every challenge we faced and succeeded in getting through made our love deeper and stronger. Believe it or not, I would do it all over again—even without any changes. Our love has stood the test of time.
Today we have given ourselves permission to enjoy "our time," and every moment is a precious blessing. We are too old to pretend. We show our love and appreciate for one another whether alone or in a crowd. I never hesitate to tell anyone how happy I am and that I am living the best years of my life right now... this day... and will continue to do so for every day we have left. We will live in truth to the end. "What lies behind us, and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us." —Ralph Waldo Emerson