An Informed Eye

Tuesday was National Coming Out Day. Who knew? Well, my daughter knew, and she came out. On Facebook. I have known about her sexual orientation for years so this was not a surprise to me, but I suspect it will come as a surprise to many of my friends and family. She wrote: “Happy coming out day! FYI I’m pansexual and polyamorous. Not that this is news. Love and hugs to all my LGBT, poly and ally friends!”

My first thought was, “Oh Lord. I’m going to have to explain what ‘pansexual’ and ‘polyamorous’ mean,” but then I thought that I was probably underestimating my Facebook buddies. Even if they have difficulty in imagining how pansexuality and polyamory are lived, they all know how to use a dictionary.

I did wonder, though, how my many brothers, sisters, nieces, and nephews would react to this news. I expect that most of them will not care very much about her sexual orientation, but it’s complicated because she is married. She and her husband have an open marriage and it has been a happy marriage for over ten years. I suspect that will raise an eyebrow or two. How does one sustain a happy open marriage? For most of us, it’s hard enough to maintain a happy closed relationship and, as you know, I have trouble maintaining a new relationship beyond three months. So, maybe we (well, I) have something to learn here.

Something else happened this week that made me stop and think. Every year about this time I go to visit Geoff’s tree. Geoff died in 2006 and in 2007 I had a tree planted in his name in a memorial garden. This year when I went to see the tree, I saw that it was dying. It is a Colorado Spruce and it has stunted branches, no new growth, and it is turning brown. It’s a very odd feeling to know that a memorial tree is dying. I had expected this tree to turn into a mighty flourishing giant, but it turned out to be a Charlie Brown tree.

Prior to this, I had been thinking I would move away to a new city next year but the fact that Geoff’s tree is here was causing me some discomfort. I felt as though I would be abandoning his tree. I know that loving memories are not tied to symbols like trees, but I’m also afraid that if I don’t visit the tree I’ll forget to have those loving memories. But then, with the tree in decline, I felt as though the tree was abandoning me. If I believed in signs, I’d say this was a sign that it’s ok for me to leave.

Anyway, I contacted the director of the hospice responsible for the memorial garden and told her that I thought Geoff’s tree was dying. She asked someone else to check it out and today I got her report. She agreed that it seems to be struggling, but she doesn’t think it is dying. She is planning to put in fertilizer stakes next spring and to have the tree thoroughly watered at the same time. She said, “This year’s growth is good and the bud set for next year looks good as well.” Clearly, having an informed eye draws a different conclusion. She can see the tree’s promise where I only saw its problems.

Perhaps it is the same with open marriages. Those of us who are used to the joys and trials of traditional monogamous relationships can only imagine that the problems of an open marriage would multiply the problems we know about. We don’t see the promise. We don’t see more joy, more people to help out, more people to solve dilemmas, more people to love.

So, I’m going to support the nourishment of both Geoff’s tree and my daughter’s marriage. I wondered how best to respond to her Facebook post, and I could have said something soulful or serious. In the end my response to her post was: “I’m coming out as straight and monogamous. At least I would be, given half a chance! Not that this is news.” Humour is always nourishing. So is love.

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