My Turn: Anniversary greetings

  • Kevin Maloney, left, and Barry Adams with their Chihuahuas. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Published: 6/18/2021 2:18:34 PM

I woke up this morning astonished to find a text message that simply read, “HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!” It was the first time in 33 years that anyone has ever remembered our anniversary.

It was June 1988, in Boston, long before “gay marriage” seemed a possible reality in our lifetime, that I met my partner, Kevin, at the Names Project AIDS Quilt display at the Park Street Castle armory. Eventually, after being together for over a quarter of a century, we married at Brattleboro, Vermont Town Hall, in April 2014.

But happy anniversary wishes have never followed in April, either.

We never thought about this, until this morning. Probably because we always thought of our first “official” date on June 16, 1988 as our anniversary, a night where we enjoyed wot served on Mesobs at Addis Red Sea, an Ethiopian restaurant on Tremont Street. This followed a German film of which the title, when translated, fortunately did not prove prophetic; “Love is a Dog from Hell.”

So, why, after so many years, did our first happy anniversary remembrance come as such a surprise this morning? Because it came from a 63-year-old, conservative Christian, heterosexual man. In my sleepy dismay, I thanked him profusely and asked how on earth he ever remembered it was our anniversary? He replied, “I entered it in my calendar last year.” Such an intentional act of goodwill, I thought. Last year, on this very day, “Tim” had deliberately planned a thoughtful act of kindness.

The deeper story here is that several years ago, following a very heated online debate, in which we were in strong disagreement, I invited Tim to come to my home in Heath for a beer. I had not seen him in about 37 years. We were not great friends even back then, but I remembered him from high school as a very intelligent, kind, polite, and always cheerful guy. So, I was intrigued, and more than a bit surprised, by his strong conservative views with which I so strongly disagreed. Tim happily accepted my invitation and, after finding a weekend that worked, drove more than 372 miles over seven hours to visit me.

We spent that weekend catching up on our very different lives that played out over the decades since high school. We shared delicious meals and drank beer at the People’s Pint in Greenfield and the West End Pub, in Shelburne Falls. We laughed raucously. We disagreed more than we agreed, including on topics such as guns, Christianity, love and human sexuality.

Yet, Tim was still all that I remembered: intelligent, kind, cheerful and, now, very well educated and well read. Before he left, we took a photo of ourselves with an arm around each other, laughing, to share with those very likely to balk at such an unlikely reunion. This made us laugh even more. Despite our vast differences, we forged a respectful and caring friendship rooted in our past, a sincere interest in considering our differences, and our ability to still laugh in spite of them.

In the years that have passed since, I’ve only seen Tim once at his home in western New York State, where I even held one of his guns in my trembling, sweaty palms. But largely we have stayed in touch via an occasional spontaneous text inquiring how one another is, asking about our families, or to wish each other well at holiday time. Today, it was Tim’s planned act of kindness to wish Kevin and I happiness, and it came from a conservative, heterosexual, Christian man. I can’t get that part out of my mind. I don’t want to. I want to savor it as a sort of reprieve from a world now torn apart by differences.

Discussing activism, novelist Alice Walker once wrote that small acts toward changing the world can often seem like a “paltry offering toward the building of an edifice of hope.” I suppose it’s the same with small acts of thoughtfully planned kindness. Unless, maybe, when such small acts of kindness are offered to those so very different from ourselves? Then they can seem huge.

Barry Adams and Kevin Maloney have lived in Heath for the last 20 years. They are spending winters these days in Tucson, Arizona. Their family includes three beloved rescue Chihuahuas: Taco Lee Maloney, Milo Shamus Maloney, Sybon Klum, as well as the late Chili-Bob Maloney and Spike Michael Maloney, a Boston terrier.


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