Back in my teaching days, Dottie was a girl in my English class, different in ways I could see made her proud, an athlete in a time when girls mostly primped, an honest person who admitted when she hadn’t done the reading. She hadn’t done the reading quite a lot in fact, ditched school a lot too, still in mourning over the sudden death of the dad she so adored. In the years after high school when she realized she was gay, her life began to blossom: she played on a softball team, worked as a nurse’s aide, and fell for a woman who worked on a suicide hotline. At one point in the 80s she moved in with us and taught our little girls how to safely climb of stairs in their floor-length Strawberry Shortcake nighties. She was wiser than I will ever be and when she died young, like her dad of an inherited illness, we all missed her so, godmother as she was to our youngest child.
Back in my teaching days, Barbra was a girl NOT in my English class who came anyway, though not even enrolled at the school; just came and sat in the back of the room, listening and sometimes asking questions. Barbra knew she was gay from the get-go, I’m pretty sure, though she didn’t date as far as I know. She went stag to the prom in a tux though and a brave thing that was in the spring of ’74. The summer following she got her GED, joined the Army and came home from Basic Training alive with excitement to tell David and me all about it. We lost track of her for a while but in the late 90s there she was in San Diego, with a degree in Molecular Biology of all things and a Master’s on the way. For some years she ran the big AIDS Walk there and is today a part of the administration at UCSD.
I think of them both oh I think of them all the time and how lucky I was to have known them when I was just embarking on adulthood myself. If you can now, watch this very-short performance by the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles. Watch it even if you’ve watched it before. Note the most touching part of all when the families join in during the final 60 seconds and think a while about what it means to have a family; and allies; and companions on the journey.