11 Years and Counting

Buck & Michael in the CatalinasBuck & Michael in 2008
Image by jessebucksc via Flickr
Today Michael and I celebrate our 11th anniversary. On New Year's Eve 1997 we spent a beautiful night in Charleston, SC on the beach at Sullivan's Island. We did not have a "wedding" or "commitment ceremony" but we did have a beautiful moonlit beach, dolphins playing just yards offshore, the lights of the city across the harbor and the bells of an almost 200 year old church ringing for us.

The night was cold and I had brought along my wool 18th Century cloak that I used for living history events to keep us warm. We both wrapped into it as we strolled the beach and talked of our lives and our hopes and dreams. At one point we stopped near the large rocks forming a bulwark against the harbor and shared a long kiss. In that moment I knew I had met someone incredible and someone who would probably change my life.

Later over dinner it seemed we had known each other forever, despite the fact we had known Buck & Michael PicnicBuck & Michael in April 1998
Image by jessebucksc
each other barely two months and had seen each other in person less than 24 hours before our beach walk and kiss.

Michael had found my old style "personal web page" through some gay site link and sent me an email in November. I was surprised since most emails I got from gay guys included a description of their various body parts and often a picture or two of those parts. Michael's did not. In his email he told me about himself and wished me well. Intrigued but not particularly hopeful, I replied and apologized for taking several days to respond since I had been away at a living history event.

Over the next weeks we exchanged emails frequently. We still have those emails in a binder that Michael presented to me along with a complete printed version of my website when we finally met in person.

He also sent along a photo of himself. After all these years I can now honestly say that it remains my least favorite picture of him ever taken. I don't know who shot the picture (need to ask, although I'm sure he's said before) but it was an unflattering angle shot slightly below his line of site. He is standing with arms crossed wearing a brownish shirt against a tree. Still, he radiated kindness and love.

Finally, he called me and we began to talk frequently by phone as well as email. He sent me a copy of his music on tape and I listened to it often and even shared it with my mother. I can still remember her reaction to his treatment of the Aramaic first line of the "Lord's Prayer" translated as "Abwoon d'bwashmaya". Listening in the car one day she turned to me and remarked "What in the world is he saying? Bring me some marshmallows?"

Over New Year 1997 a friend from Canada was supposed to be coming down to visit me for a few days. He called at the last minute and said he was stranded by weather and car trouble and would have to turn around so he would be back in time to return from his leave (he was Canadian military).

I was saddened that my plans to spend New Year with a friend had fallen through and when I spoke to Michael he suggested maybe he could come visit. I thought it was a great idea and he made plans to fly into Columbia, SC the day before New Year's Eve.

Michael, Janis & Tom 1974Michael in 1974He rented a car in Columbia and drove to Newberry since I was working. He arranged his own hotel room for the trip and met me at my office just before I finished up for the night. He was wearing a tan baseball cap, a blue jacket and brown corduroys when he walked in that night. After I finished up we stopped by his hotel room where he gave me the book of our emails and then had a late dinner. When we returned he didn't seem to expect me to fall into bed with him. That was quite different. I'd never met a man who did not expect sex within 15 minutes of the first "hello". Besides, I was still very unsure of getting involved beyond friendship with anyone because of a horrible relationship in the past year.

Then we went to Charleston for the night and shared our moment on the beach. Returning to Newberry we continued to "date" and at the end of each night Michael would drop me off at my house and return to his hotel.

Finally, as I realized I was madly in love with this man, I decided to spend the night at his hotel with him and we talked about how much we enjoyed being together (among other things). We joked about him moving to South Carolina because he knew that the long distance relationship I had ended in the past year and left me very unsure about relationships.

When he left for his flight back to Arizona I realized how terribly I would miss him. The next day he called and asked how I would feel about him moving to South Carolina. I didn't even hesitate, strangely, and said I thought it would be great.

While he made plans to pack up his life of over 20 years in Arizona, I began looking for a house for us to share. In February he arrived in his little pick-up truck and his belongings including two grand pianos followed a few days later.

Buck 1983Buck in 1983
The rest, as they say, is history. It's funny to think how much we still love each other and how much we've been through together. I am still amazed by the depth of his love for me. He knew from our talks that I refused to be with anyone who was in the closet because of past experiences. So, he came out fully to his parents and family who were the only people not aware he was gay. This simple act created a rift with his father that has only begun to heal in the past two years.

We took care of each other during my transplant process and his cancer treatment. We have loved, laughed and yes, fought over the years but we have always managed to let our love for each other overcome.

I still realize how much I am in love with him as I still find myself watching the clock on days he works in anticipation of his arriving at home. He can still make me laugh and even though we are both solidly in middle age now, even watching him standing at the sink washing dishes barefoot can make me have butterflies of desire.

So, for all those who say the "homosexual relationships" lack staying power I say: 11 years and counting and just as in love today as on day one.

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