Decades ago, a university friend I hadn’t seen for five years appeared while I sat outside my neighbourhood pub enjoying a solitary after-work beer.
“I always admired the way you ignored everyone and followed your muse,” Susan said after a brief hello, how are you.
I stared, bewildered. Since high school, I’d lived in fear of bullies insisting everyone should adhere to their narrow definition of proper behaviour. “Nothing admirable about my conduct. I was a misfit who avoided interaction with others.”
She shook her head. “You stuck to your principles, but I didn’t. For years I lived a lie, pretending to be someone I wasn’t. But don’t let us argue. I found you because I need your help.”
She sipped the glass of wine she brought to the table while I nursed my beer. I’d applauded her bravery when she acknowledged a lesbian relationship during our senior year. Hiding her orientation earlier when it was illegal was sensible, not cowardly.
“What sort of help?” I asked.
A smile brightened her face. “You remember Patricia?”
I’d met her partner in 1969 at our university graduation ceremony. After the diploma presentations, we bypassed the formal reception because I wasn’t comfortable in crowds, and they wanted to avoid bringing attention to their relationship. We sauntered to the campus pub for a quiet celebration before I flew away to graduate school.
“You’re still together, living happily ever after?”
“And we need your help with baby-making.”
I damn near dropped my glass. “You mean sperm donation?”
“Not on. The clinics only accept married couples.”
“At-home do-it-yourself insemination using a turkey baster?”
“Well, sort of. Come to supper on Wednesday. We can discuss the details.”
A few minutes later, she strolled away. I ordered a second beer and contemplated my first serious open-ended commitment to anyone. Have courage, I said to myself; this may complicate your simple, well-ordered life, but it’s the right thing to do.
Now, forty-five years later, I’m sitting next to Susan on that university quadrangle, watching our granddaughter accept her diploma.