10 January 2013

Good-bye, I love you

Carol Lynn Pearson is the godmother of gay Mormons. I’ve never met her, though interestingly enough, I do have a round-about connection. Many years ago, she briefly stayed at my wife’s family’s house in northern California. My mother-in-law, who was then stake Relief Society president, had invited her up to speak to the women in the area.

“Good-bye, I love you” is the story of Carol Lynn and her gay husband, Gerald. They met at BYU, married, and started a family. Though Gerald had had some degree of same-sex experiences prior to marriage, he developed strong feelings for Carol Lynn and wanted to be married. Both Carol Lynn and Gerald were performers. Carol Lynn was also an aspiring poet. Her poems would go on to win awards and she has published many books over the years.

Despite the tenderness of his feelings for Carol, over time, restlessness stirred in Gerald. He grew distant from the Church and had several affairs with men. Carol learned of his unfaithfulness from a friend while Gerald was away. She was devastated. For some time, Gerald had been dropping hints about new ways of thinking about his sexuality and about relationships, but Carol had long believed that Gerald’s experimentation with homosexuality was a thing of the past. Being raised in the ignorance and vilification of gays that was more common 1-2 generations ago, she could just not believe that her husband was of those gays.

The couple tried their best to make their relationship work. They moved to the Bay Area in California from their home in Utah, but there continued to be strains on their marriage. They eventually decided, after about a dozen years of marriage, to divorce. The final pages of Carol Lynn’s poignant book relates their separation and the lives that Carol Lynn and Gerald led over the next several years before his death – independent lives, yet lives intimately intertwined because of their children and their strong abiding friendship.

I’ve known about the Pearson story for awhile, but it was last weekend that I finally read the book. Well written, powerful, honest and with a compelling narrative, it took me less than 2 days to finish. By the end, I was in tears and choked with emotion.

The story of the Pearsons touched me deeply. There are superficial similarities – their dozen years of marriage to my 11; their 4 children to my three; Gerald’s increasing distance from the Church like mine. But there are also other ways that I connected to the story. I can relate deeply to Gerald’s persistent restlessness, for instance, and his insatiable need to capture more from life. I understand the need to search for meaningful male intimacy and the sense that one cannot put that off indefinitely. I also note the strong similarities between Carol Lynn and my wife. Both of these remarkable women seem to have an almost infinitely deep well from which to draw love and compassion for others. Both have dug deep emotionally to make the best out of challenging situations.

Of course my story continues; it is unknown where it will lead. But regardless of romantic matters, if my wife and I can keep love and friendship between us as the Pearsons managed to exemplify, I think we will have done at least one thing well.

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