Last Saturday my partner came over to the house that I moved out of three years and nine months ago, to meet my wife and her parents for the first time. This gathering was a long time in coming and was driven by my desire for my partner and my wife to meet. The timing was precipitated by my wife’s increasing decline from terminal cancer. She soldiers on with a new chemo regiment that begins today, with the hopes of slowing down or shrinking the tumors that increasingly inhabit her abdominal cavity and lungs. These new drugs may only slow down the inevitable, but they will not stop cancer.
My wife is in constant pain and her consciousness is dulled by strong pain killers that make her sleepy and groggy. I wanted her to meet my partner before there was too much more decline and before the new chemo sapped what little strength she had remaining. I wanted this meeting to occur now, while she was still healthy enough to participate.
I planned to bring lunch over to make it easy on my in-laws. I brought cold cuts and chicken salad, and some pre-made salads. I picked up my partner at the strip mall near the house and we drove over together. I was a little nervous but mostly confident the day would go well. I looked over at my partner and could see he was a bit nervous as well.
My in-laws are wonderful people and I had hoped that their love for me and how I was supporting their daughter would carry the day when they met my partner. When I mentioned to my in-laws a few days before the visit that I would like to bring over the man I was seeing, they warmly welcomed it. Her father told me I would always be his son and they both told me how much they loved me. Who could ask for anything more from these two people?
Overall the lunch and the time we spent at the house was about three hours. It was a great success. Lunch was lively with my in-laws telling old stories. After lunch, my partner and wife got to spend some time together while her mother and I planned for my wife’s upcoming care. Everyone got along well. My wife told me the next day that she liked my partner. It was a very good first meeting.
All through the fall of last year, after my wife was diagnosed with cancer, I worked tirelessly to get her care. No one asked anything about my personal life. All discussions were about my wife and her cancer. I felt my new life as an out gay man was invisible to my wife and her family, even though my wife, I learned later, had told her family I had been dating a man for some time. Their silence was understandable given my wife’s condition, but now I wanted to break through that silence and establish something new.
If the new chemo drugs are not successful, my wife may only have a few months left to live. If the chemo is successful, it may extend her life by another six months or so but it is not a cure. Even if this new chemo is effective, and she can tolerate it, one of the two chemo drugs has a maximum number of treatments, because of the toxicity to the heart, and that equates to about six months of chemo treatments. Once the drug is stopped the tumors will begin to grow again unless a new effective drug can be found.
After my wife is gone, life will continue with holidays and birthdays and milestone events. It is not likely that she will see her son graduate from college, a thought that makes me terribly sad. As I contemplate the future without her, her welcoming and accepting of my partner is a great message to her family and allows me to include my partner in future family events.
The new future is already beginning. I have invited my partner to join my wife, her sister, and one of her friends for Passover next Monday. It is truly the beginning of something new, bringing my old life and new life together.