Norman came into my bedroom and sat down in the wing chair by the fireplace. "Something's wrong with me," he said. ""I tried to dial the phone and I couldn't figure out the numbers. I don't feel right." He spoke very slowly and with some difficulty. His voice was a monotone, lacking its usual energy. "I think something has happened to me. I better go to the hospital." I rushed to the phone and dialed 911. When I described the symptoms, the man told me to lay Norman on his side, if he started to throw up, and that the ambulance was on its way. I called our doctor and his nurse said he would make arrangements immediately at the hospital.
We waited for what seemed like an eternity. Norman sat looking visibly frightened as i talked to him saying I knew he was all right and it wasn't serious. I asked him his name, who I was, banal questions all of which he answered correctly but with his now slow, loose lipped speech. Finally some men and one woman burst into the room, having come in through the other part of the house. They immediately took over and one man asked Norman his name and his age to which Norman answered correctly. He had trouble with "Who is the president of the United States?" but at that point I knew he was getting even more frightened and couldn't concentrate. I suggested they bring the stretcher around the house and into the sun porch door that was just outside my bedroom. "Who are you?" the man asked. "A friend," I said. "What is your relationship to him?" "I live with him," I replied.
Norman and I had been together more than fifty years and even been married in Massachusetts eight years before, but I still couldn't say the words "He's my husband" or even "spouse" to these people who were helping us. I instinctively felt that these men, and the woman, would be shocked. They were rough townspeople and I was afraid they might not help us if they knew our relationship. They quickly got Norman, who was barely able to walk, to the stretcher when it arrived and took him off to the hospital. I went after them in our car and by the time I reached the emergency room, Norman was hooked up to an IV and seemed to be resting more comfortably.
I had to fill out papers for Norman and when it came to the question as to whether he was married or single, I checked "single."
We live in Connecticut where marriage between two men is legal and yet I couldn't say it or write it. Having grown up at a time when love of one man for another was either a crime or an aberration, it still wasn't easy for me to say it out loud to strangers. Norman and I had written a book about our life together but it was as if that book was separate from us. As freely and openly as I wrote my part of the book, once it was finished, I wasn't concerned with what people would say when they read it. But now I was confronted with not being able, in an emergency, to make clear what our relationship was. It's true that everyone treated me as the care giver so it wasn't necessary to spell it out. I'm sure that if there had been a decision to be made I would have said that we were married and I had the right to speak for Norman. But I began to think, as I waited for Norman to have his tests, all of which came out well, that this was a great example of why we must have marriage recognized for gay people throughout the country. Of course there must be equality of marriage as well as everything else in a country that stands for equality. But there is something that is just as important: we must have the emotional security to be who we are openly with everyone. Without marriage, we will still be an outside group that is not a full part of society. To be gay should just be a description like brown eyes, blond hair, Latino, Italian, Jewish or Christian. Only through the legal right to marry can LGBT people be recognized as just another piece of the great puzzle that is America.
Norman is now completely well.