“I’m Sharon, Mark’s aunt, and this is my partner, Ann” Sharon gently patted the arm of the woman next to her.
I prepared for the explosion.
At first, it had seemed a harmless gesture to invite my family and his. After all, with two large families a picnic seemed appropriate. We had never expected Sharon to show up, we barely saw her once a year, and that was generally just a fly-by.
But there she was, leaning over to introduce herself to my mom and dad. I wanted to climb under the lawn chair and hope that my father would not catch my eye and sear my brain to my skull in his outrage.
I had known about Sharon and Ann before Mark and I were engaged. They had been together for nearly twenty-four years and Mark referred to them both as “aunts”. I found it odd sometimes that Mark, always Mr. Proper, spoke of Ann as though she were an equal member of his family; even rationalizing their sin by speaking about their regular attendance at “church”.
Had my father even known that Mark had relatives that attended “that” church he would have gone off in a rage about apostasy; quoting John, choice selections from Romans, and a heaping dose of “Sodom and Gomorrah” thrown in for good measure.
I could see it in dad’s reddening face: Homo aunts to my princess? The meltdown was about to begin.
My dad isn’t a bad guy; he just sees everything as black or white, with no room for gray. When I was still at home, I remember him spending hours watching the evening news, intently taking notes and ruffling through his King James. He was always gleaning any examples of immorality so that he could impress the other men at Sabbath class with his extensive knowledge. And whenever we had dinner together as a family, he would regale us with extended “fire and brimstone” sermons about Satan’s hand in the world.
Most particularly, he enjoyed railing on the “homosexual agenda” in the schools. That was definitely his favored topic in the Tom Farrell “dinner sermon” series.
“Aunt” Ann stepped forward with her hand extended. I could see my father begin to suck wind as he began to grab for his heart, which seemed give Ann a start for a moment, until he brought out the Bible tucked in his shirt pocket.
As I mentioned before, Mark was always defending Sharon and Ann, and used to share stories of his youth and teen years about the amazing stories Sharon and Ann would tell about their work. Mark talked about Sharon’s time in Zimbabwe and Sudan, and how, even when he was going through his judgmental period, she was always sending him letters encouraging him in his faith.
Once when I got a little hot over the fact that she called herself a Christian even though she obviously couldn’t be, being a “Lesbo” and all; Mark got really ticked:
“You have no idea what you’re talking about! Listen to yourself! Who are we to judge her? We didn’t wait ‘til marriage! Was our adultery less of a sin because we got married?”
Needless to say, we didn’t do anything for awhile after that little outburst. We eventually got over it, and didn’t talk about Sharon and Ann; until we started obsessing about the terrifying possibility unfolding now before our eyes.
Dad, by this time, had found the very spot in the Bible that he wanted and was preparing his brutal rebuke of their lifestyle. Just then, as he leaned forward to get out of his chair, my mom reached over and touched his arm. My dad gave her an angry shrug and their eyes met. After a fraction of a second, my dad deflated like a balloon back into his seat.
Mom stood up and reached out her hands to greet Ann. “It’s so nice to meet you, I’m Carol and this is Tom. Forgive him; he always likes to be ready with a verse when he meets new people, so today has been busy for him”
“How about I give it a try, honey?” she patted dad’s knee “’ make the most of every opportunity…’”
“’…Let you conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.’” Sharon finished the verse.
“You know your Colossians!” Mom laughed. “Grab some chairs and sit with us awhile.”
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