Grandpa is Marrying a Man

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A father and grandfather, Dr. Olson came out when he was 40, after an 18-year opposite-sex marriage. In 2009, he and his long-time partner, Doug Mortimer, married — six months after the state of Iowa overturned a 10-year-old ban on same-sex marriage.

 

Doug and I love the state fair, and the historical Agriculture Building, home of the butter cow, seemed like the perfect setting for two Iowa farm boys to have their wedding reception. The caterer was available and agreed to serve pomegranate martinis—probably the only time in Iowa they have been mixed in gallon jugs—and beef from our own farm. I hired the Blue Band because it was a tradition for Doug and me to listen to this group every year at the state fair. The New York Times decided to print our wedding announcement, and the women at the Madison County Courthouse hugged us when we applied for our license. The clerks at the jewelry store fell over us to help us pick out rings. We kept the ceremony intimate, but the guest list for our reception quickly grew to more than three hundred people, and a flood of accepting RSVPs proved that we were in for a big celebration. Iowa has a long—but little known—history of being on the cutting edge of issues of social justice, and we were richly blessed by the many people who celebrated with us in this new era of acceptance. —Excerpted from Dr. Olson’s book Finally Out: Letting Go of Living Straight (inGroup Press).

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Photo courtesy of Loren A. Olson, MD

Doug and I love the state fair, and the historical Agriculture Building, home of the butter cow, seemed like the perfect setting for two Iowa farm boys to have their wedding reception. The caterer was available and agreed to serve pomegranate martinis—probably the only time in Iowa they have been mixed in gallon jugs—and beef from our own farm. I hired the Blue Band because it was a tradition for Doug and me to listen to this group every year at the state fair. The New York Times decided to print our wedding announcement, and the women at the Madison County Courthouse hugged us when we applied for our license. The clerks at the jewelry store fell over us to help us pick out rings. We kept the ceremony intimate, but the guest list for our reception quickly grew to more than three hundred people, and a flood of accepting RSVPs proved that we were in for a big celebration. Iowa has a long—but little known—history of being on the cutting edge of issues of social justice, and we were richly blessed by the many people who celebrated with us in this new era of acceptance.

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Loren’s daughter Krista and her youngest daughter
Photo courtesy of Loren A. Olson, MD

One relative asked, “Who will be the bride?” She had no experiential framework upon which to build an understanding of same-sex marriage, but just a few months earlier, neither did Doug or I. As we work through our coming out, those of us who are gay have resolved many of the issues regarding the nature of our relationships, but we often forget that others are just beginning to examine the essential meanings of same-sex partnerships. Our homo-naive relative was just trying to understand us. Gay marriage can be legislated, but understanding, tolerance and acceptance cannot be.

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Loren’s grandkids with cousins (the granddaughter who asked about the cake is wearing the silver hat) | Photo courtesy of Loren A. Olson, MD

 

  Stereotypes and prejudices are only dismantled when others begin to understand the essential meaning of gay relationships, not by legislation or judges’ decisions.

Doug had been a fundamental part of the lives of my grandchildren their entire lives, but thoughts about the potential impact on my granddaughters slowly eroded my wedding planning excitement. I worried they would be taunted when they returned to school in their small, conservative Ohio town and told their friends their grandpa had just married a man. I wanted to protect them from the pain I had felt when my coach told me I should be wearing a bra.

I called my daughter Krista to discuss my concerns. She responded, “Of course, we all want them to come to the wedding.”

“What will you tell them?”

“We’ll tell them that two people who love each other very much are getting married.” I was embarrassed at how much I can underestimate my children.

Krista said to my granddaughter, “You know we’re going to Iowa soon. We’re going because Grandpa and Doug are getting married.”

  In a child’s mind, the most important issue about gay marriage is “Will there be cake?”

My granddaughter responded, “Oh? Who are they marrying?”

Krista answered, “They’re marrying each other.”

After a beat, my granddaughter said, “That’s weird.” She thought for a while longer, and then she asked, “Will there be cake?”


grandpa-is-marrying-a-man-finally-outLoren A. Olson is a psychiatrist in private practice in Des Moines. He is the author of Finally Out: Letting Go of Living Straight (inGroup Press). A father and grandfather, Dr. Olson came out when he was 40, after an 18-year opposite-sex marriage. In 2009, he and his long-time partner, Doug Mortimer, married—six months after the state of Iowa overturned a 10-year-old ban on same-sex marriage.

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