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Getting Over the Loss of a Love

Jack & Josh, wedding night.

It’s been years now. I should be over it, right?

Yes, actually, I should. And starting with this post, I’m over it.

There was this guy, see? He was smart and nice. I was in love with him. If that’s too much for your brainwaves, get lost.

I don’t apologize for being Gay and I don’t apologize for loving Jack Ferguson.

But I am starting to rethink my marriage vows, and wonder what the hell I thought I was doing.

I’m not going to retell Jack’s story now; you can click on the Jack category in the sidebar. Take it from me, he was a great guy.

I was 33 when we met; he was 38. He died a couple of years ago, having suffered for decades with a terrible disease that disabled him and put him in a wheelchair as an amputee.

There were many times I thought he was a goner; the guy was so sick. In the midst of one crisis I proposed to him, and he accepted. We were married in front of an Episcopal priest named Wayland Melton and 40 guests in, what, 1991? That long ago? I should check my wedding ring, because we had the date inscribed inside.

The price of gold is through the roof these days but I’ve never given up that ring. I remember when we bought those matching rings, at a chain jewelry store in the Western Hills Shopping Center in Cincinnati. We didn’t apologize, we just bought ’em, and the guy who waited on us barely blinked an eye.

They’re pretty rings; classy, elegant. We mighta spent 200 bucks plus tax.

My mother came to the wedding; so did Ronn Rucker and a whole bunch of friends. We were Gay and AIDS activists then, publishers of a Gay newspaper that was fierce in its defense of queers.

We may not always have been right, but we sure felt our power. He gave me the nickname Stud Reporter.

That little bit of power we claimed — every newsroom in the state subscribed to us, and if Josh got pissed about something there was always a story in it — was due in no small part to the masculine man I married, ex-Navy, Vietnam, high school track star. He was an analyst, not an initiator, but I relied on him. We were two minds, not one; that changed everything. Journalism is a collaborative craft.

Three or four years later we separated. We’d moved to Columbus, Ohio and he got homesick. I didn’t see it coming; I thought it was the happiest year of my life.

Maybe he also got sick of me, but he never said so. As far as I’m concerned we were close the rest of our lives.

When Gay marriage isn’t legal, what do you do when it’s time to divorce?

What do you do when you promised God, a priest and 40 faithful people that you’d love this man to the ends of the earth?

I did the only thing I knew; I loved him to the end.

A few years ago now; maybe it’s time I stopped mourning.

Maybe it’s time I finally started living for myself again.

I’m never going to have another lover; I’m old and ugly and I’m too out of the loop. For years I prayed to God to give me a lover, but God didn’t and… that part of my life is over. I’m okay with that now, kind of, though for the first decade and a half, After Jack, I used to beg God to give me someone to love.

I was born for marriage; I was born for love. I’ve loved well in my life, so don’t feel sorry for me. Jamie, John, Frankie, Eddie, Randy — I’ve been well loved by incredibly nice guys. (All were kinda hot, too!)

But now I am alone, and this is my state, and I want to come to grips with it now.

I’ll never really know whether Jack said one thing to his friends about me and another thing to my face. Some evidence says he did, but no one’s ever come out and said as much.

I didn’t go to his funeral. The people who were taking care of him in his last days pretty much shut me out, and his plans, or theirs, for the final disposition of his body offended me. His ashes are supposedly ensconced at sleazy little dive bar on Walnut Street in Cincinnati.

Guys used to fuck in the bathroom there, if that tells you anything. I bet they still do.

Here is the current reality: when Jack left, I lost everything important to me; my lover, my home, my job, my business, my career, my status and role in the GLBT community. I was a leader, with an aggressive voice, a talent and a venue.

Then he got homesick, and a year later it was all gone.

He was important at the newspaper; I couldn’t do it without him. Together we made enough money that I could support him; but apart my life fell to pieces. I tried to keep the work alive for another year, but then my mother got sick, she needed a live-in caregiver and I was relieved to move back home.

She died shortly afterwards, and I immersed myself in the ecstatic but not remunerative task of composing novels. One actually sold fairly well. The other bombed.

Nothing’s been the same since. I wonder if my great artistic fulfillment (and modest trust funds) meant I postponed doing the emotional work of mourning that I ought to have done. Grandiose fantasies are very entertaining while they last.

I have managed in the post-Jack era to do a couple of things I’m very proud of; a few years of working as a suicide and homicide prevention specialist in Gary, Indiana and starting a website that helps people to pray online every morning, noon, evening and night.

That site and its blog have reached 800,000 page views in five years. It sure isn’t Twitter but it’s not bad for the Book of Common Prayer.

I plan to keep doing it at least until a million hits. It’s the second-largest Episcopal church in the world, although it’s only virtual.

That’s the kind of thing Jack and I used to do together; not the praying, but the public impact. We had so many successes together; mostly my work but man, was he essential.

But that was then, and now is now, and what did I mean when I stood up next to my double amputee and promised God and the whole world that I would love Jack for better, for worse?

I stayed married when Jack did not. (I’m told he later had sex as an amputee that he’d never have with me, who loved him because he was still the same person he always was.) I was no saint, but I made a commitment and kept it.

I’ve always thought that was the finest thing I’ve ever done, but maybe not. It doesn’t serve me today.

Three times in my life I’ve stood up before God and the Whole Company, and made vows; confirmation, commissioning and marriage. I meant what I said every time, in sickness and in health.

If you take God seriously and you’re about to solemnly swear, you’d better mean it. And I always have.

My job now is to recognize that my marriage vows are over, and Jesus is my Lover from here on out.

I don’t sexualize the Second Person, but Julian of Norwich knows what I’m talking about.

The mistake I’ve made is to deny the depth of my mourning. Jack and I were never rich and famous but God, we had the perfect life!

“Let justice rain down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” And we got to live that!

Then one day we didn’t.

The man’s dead. I need to stop my self-destruction. As if I could somehow share his, by empathy.

I’ll never be rich and famous, or influential, or have any power as a spokesman or advocate for marginalized people. Those days are gone. I live in obscurity, without much media access and no one clamoring for my defense.

What I’ve got are the prayers. And those are quite enough.

I can’t fully tell you why Jesus moves me as he does; that’s a product of childhood, a young adult encounter with beauty, civil rights, social work, social justice; the firstfruits of Gay liberation, a period of peer recognition and the experience of being loved by a succession of gorgeous Gay personalities, of whom Jack was the ultimate. Not perfect, he couldn’t stand confrontation, but Gay and masculine, brave and funny, courageous and garden-variety heroic.

Scratch me a millimeter and you’ll find that’s what I think ALL Gay men are like. My term is the “shared Gay personality”—and the women are much the same. Good God, what women have done in my lifetime!

Now I’m entering a new phase, the start of my last one, as a “young old” guy. No more self-destruction; now it’s time to live for God. We’ve got a pretty nice relationship, but up to now I’ve resisted going deeper into “the cave,” that depth in every soul where the Divine dwells in us. I’ve had more work to do; I’ve left mourning unfinished; I’ve left sadness unfelt.

I have to let go of things that don’t exist anymore; my own aspirations, I suppose. I’m never going to be on Rachel Maddow; I used to be Rachel Maddow, young and smart, goodlooking and funny, utterly without fear.

So you go, girl, all the way. I don’t need to be you. I’ve already been you in 1986, so now I can sit back in my rocking chair and wave at the parade.

I also don’t need to be married to Jack Ferguson anymore. Fuck him if he can’t take a joke. He was married to young, smart, courageous and ambitious and he wanted to move back to the Ludlow. Now his ashes rest 30 feet from a toilet that stinks.

I divorce you, I divorce you, I divorce you. Such a sweet man.++