“You know…in time for God to forgive him. For being gay. So he won’t go to Hell.” Stephen drank the last of his juice, and then flattened the paper cup with the palm of his hand. He tossed it toward the trash bag duct taped to the end of the table but missed by a few inches. He threw his head back and said, “Aw, man,” then got up to retrieve the cup.
I went back to scraping, staring at the inside of the pan, my lips pressed together. My ears felt hot. I didn’t understand. Why would John Patrick need to be forgiven? He went to church more than I did. We’d met in church choir. His mother taught CCD classes.
“But he believes in God,” I told Stephen.
He yawned and stretched his arms above his head. “That’s not enough, though.”
I felt my heart beating faster and my throat went dry. “Don’t worry. I’ll pray for him,” Stephen assured me.
I hear Uncle Joey’s voice over the sound system he arranged for the reception. “Ladies and Gentlemen, let’s give a warm congratulations to the happy couple. Rosie and KiRa Fritzky-Randolph!”
We enter the tent and all I can see are smiles, all I can feel is warmth, all I can hear is applause set against the main riff to Pearl Jam’s “Amongst the Waves.” My brother stands on stage, waiting to sing. All the design ideas and notes we’d been jotting down in our wedding notebook for months comes alive as we make our way toward the dance floor. Thousands of white lights, hundreds of candles, mason jars filled with dried lavender and yellow roses, even the centerpieces made from the slices of two fallen trees—one from KiRa’s parents’ yard and the other from mine. Everything is just as we imagined.
We’re supposed to go right into our first dance, but we can’t help but stop to hug those we pass. Things seem to be occurring in slow motion and I’m overwhelmed with all that is happening, all that has happened to get us here.
I didn’t have to come out to most of my family. Once my mother and father knew, the “coming out” part was pretty much taken care of; what scared me was waiting to see how people would act when they saw me next, waiting to see if things would change. I remember walking up the hill of my parents’ long driveway after parking on the street and seeing my younger brother standing at the top, about to get into his car. I held my hand up in a frozen wave and he smiled and shut his door without getting in. When I reached the top, he hugged me, lifting me off the ground, and held me there until I realized he knew. When I called my aunt and told her over the phone, she responded with, “Oh darling, I’ve known since you were in high school,” which was as much a validation as it was a gut punch. Over a decade had passed since high school. It seemed unfair that she knew before I did.
I wasn’t surprised by the support on my mother’s side. They’re an open-minded bunch and other than one older cousin who began using Facebook as a forum to preach the word of God, and who believed my “choice” was sinful, most on that end of the family accepted the news without hesitation. Still, it was the ones on my father’s side, the devout Christians, the ones I thought would take it the hardest, who amazed me. No matter what they believed, I was shown nothing but love. My Aunt Joanie, a sixty-six-year-old woman who came close to becoming a nun in her younger years but had five children instead, called her youngest daughter and one of my closest friends, Mary Anne, to discuss what she’d heard. Mary Anne called me right after their conversation, excited to tell me her mother had said that “she knew Jesus loved me,” and that “if God made me this way, he must be okay with it.”
It’s not until we pass by the table with my ninety-four-year-old Aunt Dot that I begin to tear up. She hugs me close and says, “God is good” before I let go. I wonder if she knows how much it means to have her here and I think about Uncle Billy. What is it that keeps him away but not her?
The reception is a whirlwind but KiRa and I make sure we keep finding each other. We let everyone know that we won’t be walking around to say hello to our guests while they eat their dinner, but ask instead that they find us on the dance floor. I sing a song I wrote for KiRa and almost make it through without crying. Toasts are made, our fathers give speeches, and my three-year-old nephew steals the show by jumping up on stage to play bongos during the concert. But, John Patrick steals the show back with his unbelievable rendition of “Origin of Love.”
Weeks later, we’ll look through the album of over 2,000 photos that Aunt Karen sent us, trying to choose our favorites. We’ll come across a photo of Uncle Billy’s sister-in-law standing in the middle of his three boys and their significant others. They’re all laughing and giving thumbs up to the camera. Everyone but their parents. We’ll end up calling this the “Fritzky Represent!” photo, the one we’ll go to when we’re feeling sad that Uncle Billy wasn’t there, because it will remind us that things do change.
I’ll think about how Uncle Billy will feel if he ever sees the picture— whether he’ll be disappointed in them for coming or feel regret for being absent. I wonder if he’ll pray for me.
Rose Fritzky-Randolph lives with her beautiful wife and awesome pitbull in Ithaca, NY and is in her final semester of the MA program for Creative Writing at Binghamton University. She’s currently working on her thesis, a memoir told through a collection of short stories. Rose strongly believes that if the narrator of Janet Fitch’s White Oleander, Astrid Magnussen, was real, they would have been roommates at some point— roommates with a fierce friendship expressed through art.