A couple of summers ago, Chris and I had the pleasure of meeting Bill and Lloyd at Il Terrazzo, a shi shi restaurant in an extraordinarily old and beautiful red brick building in downtown Victoria. Along with us, Bill and Lloyd were dinner guests of Connie, Chris's sister, and Brian, her boyfriend at the time, both from Vancouver. It was summer, the weather was beautiful, and both the company and the dinner were delightful.
Part way through the meal, I had to find out if Bill and Lloyd were a couple. My gaydar had gone off when I'd walked into the restaurant and had seen them sit across from each other at the dinner table.
Turns out Bill and Lloyd were (are) a couple. If I had to guess, I'd say both of them are in their late sixties or even early seventies. Bill looks like a grandfatherly type, someone you might see in a old, comfortable leather chair, surrounded by doting grandchildren. Bill, on the other hand, is old too but doesn't look his chronological age. He's mischievous, funny, and spritely--the true definition of bon vivant.
And here's what floored me. Lloyd told me that he and Bill had just celebrated their forty-sixth anniversary together and were looking forward to their fiftieth. They had been together since 1962. To put that into perspective, I was but a mere three years old then. For most of my life, they've been a gay couple. They were a gay couple when it was most difficult to be one, when they would have had to hide their love for each other, their living arrangement, their connection, unlike many gay couples today, because it just wouldn't have been accepted then.
What an incredible achievement. Chris and I were fortunate enough to spend a few more occasions with them, and we learned more about their long and richly textured life together, which I won't betray here. Perhaps, one day, they'll tell their own story, in their own words.
When I think about Bill and Lloyd, I think not only of how much a struggle it must have been to be a gay couple in the 1960s, '70s, and '80s, but also of how far Chris and I have to go to catch up to them. I used to think that Chris and I had achieved a lot being together then fifteen years, but Bill and Lloyd certainly have us beat. There is much to admire about the trail they blazed before us, but also about their enduring commitment to each other and what it says about the love that is possible between two men.
A funny story: That first night Chris and I met Bill and Lloyd, all of us were invited after dinner to their lovely condo in downtown Victoria, located on the Inner Harbour. They paid a lot of money for their home, but the previous owner had had it professionally decorated, and it must truly be a beautiful place to live.
In anticipation of the evening, Lloyd had made some yummy dessert to serve to his and Bill's guests. The food put out in serving plates, he went in search of napkins. He looked through several drawers in the kitchen, finding nothing, and finally located an unopened package in a drawer in their dining room. I heard him mutter that he hadn't had the opportunity to use these napkins yet, but they were perfect for that evening and everyone who was gathered there. He tore open the package, handed a number of napkins to me, and asked me to hand them out to everyone.
I took one look at the napkins and lost it. Written in bold letters on the face of them were the words, "WHO INVITED ALL THESE TACKY PEOPLE?" I laugh about it even now. Given how much fun the dinner and evening were, and what I increasingly learned about Lloyd, not only were the napkins perfect for all of us, but they were perfect for him to hand out to a room full of guests.
I must have been in a particularly giddy mood that night because the question on the napkins hit me in such a way that I couldn't stop laughing. I laughed so hard, I cried, soaking many tissues trying to dry my eyes, and I'm certain there were people in the room who thought I was on something. The only thing I was on was the good feelings of the evening, the honor of meeting Bill and Lloyd, true inspirations in the longevity of relationships, gay or straight, and on the possibilities for Chris and me all those years down the road, God willing.