Normally, this weekend (and week and month) would be a time of celebration. But this year, as the entire world suffers from post-traumatic stress from the COVID-19 pandemic, it feels anything but celebratory. It didn’t hit me until I was walking home from Hudson River Park and saw the Pride flags along Christopher Street, and then it hit me like a punch in the stomach.
I know that there will be various “virtual” Pride events happening this year, but it won’t be the same. I will be “virtually” not attending.
This weekend (and week and month) is also triggering some very personal memories for me of one year ago.
It was one year ago this week that my partner, Jerry, spent his last few weeks as someone who didn’t know he had cancer.
I remember visiting him at Ty’s, the bar where he worked, after my catering job, and I could see he was miserable. He had been suffering from back pain, but we didn’t know that it was caused by a tumor on his spine. (We thought it was from working out.)
But Gay Pride Weekend was the most profitable weekend of the year for him, so he couldn’t afford to miss work. The next day he checked himself into New York-Presbyterian Hospital and, three weeks later, found out he had cancer.
Gay Pride Day is one of those days, like New Year’s Eve, where you feel almost obligated to be happy. But it can also be a day of immense sadness. I’ve often wondered how many couples break up on Gay Pride Day, what with all the eye candy that’s usually on display.
This year, at least, those who are in relationships won’t have to worry about any competition.
I know that, in the past, I’ve complained about the deteriorating production values of the Gay Pride March but, as Joni Mitchell said, “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone?”
Now I miss the crowds that normally make me claustrophobic, the corporate floats, the assless chaps, the whole lot of it.
And I’m reminded that, even though I thought I was doing OK in terms of getting over my partner’s death, that grief is a process, and I will probably have difficulty on other special occasions like our birthdays, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Two days ago, I met with Jerry’s social worker, Daniel. I wanted to thank him personally for going above and beyond the call of duty, and we wound up talking for an hour and a half. It was interesting to hear his perspective on things. (I guess we didn’t have time to talk about it when Jerry was actually sick.)
It was interesting to hear him say how much Jerry loved me (even though I already knew that). He said that Jerry wanted to make sure I was “taken care of” after he passed away. (As usual, Jerry cared more about me than he did about himself.) Daniel also said that I helped him, because he knew that I would always be there for Jerry and be an advocate for him.
I suppose all of this is a reminder that I have a long road ahead.
So if you’re not feeling particularly “proud” this weekend, you have company.