When I first started dating Dan - who would later become my husband - he surprised me only a couple of weeks into our dating life by asking me over to dinner with some of his family: Kate and Jan, his sister and his sister's girlfriend. When I arrived, I was a nervous wreck, but I figured I was hiding it well (turns out later they told me I was not succeeding at all in this regard.)
Jan turned to Dan, and said, "Wow - he's tall."
Dan said, "I know. I'm not used to being the short one."
"How do you think I feel? I'm not used to being the dumb one," I said.
They laughed, and I relaxed (slightly) and we had a great night. I sent a thank-you card after, even though Dan mocked me for doing it, telling them how welcomed I felt.
A couple of weeks later, Dan upped the ante once more: time for dinner with his parents - though at least his sister and her girlfriend would be there, and I knew them already. I was even more nervous at that point, and I'm sure it showed. I was sure this was some sort of "test" - if the boyfriend can handle the family, this might go somewhere.
Thing is? That wasn't it at all.
Dan's parents just wanted to meet me. I quickly learned that they weren't going to grill me, that they made their Gin and Tonics very strong, that they were smart and funny, that I had a lot in common with Dan's mother - she and I being the two people in the room who understood nothing about computers or networks - and most importantly that - despite my worries - they were great people who were actively interested in the lives of their children. I relaxed.
I'd never imagined a wedding day for myself. Being gay, it really hadn't seemed like a worthwhile imagining, but when the laws changed in Canada, Dan was in San Francisco at a Java conference. It certainly hadn't made the news in the US where he was, and due to a brown-out, the airport was dim and quite warm. It was Canada Day. When he finally walked down the frozen escalator in the airport, I dropped to one knee, pulled out my late father's wedding band, and said, "while you were gone, the laws changed. Marry me."
He blinked a couple of times. Then, grinning, he said, "You crazy man!"
I stayed down on one knee. To my delight, people were murmuring and a few people were laughing or saying supportive things. There wasn't a negative voice nearby.
"Is that a yes?" I asked.
"Yes!" he said, and we hugged, and I was engaged.
We had a small wedding, only forty or so guests, and we'd decided from step one that we'd wanted something simple, but happy. A celebration of our friends and family - a tricky thing for me - though my mother and sister, and my favourite cousin were there. You are supposed to remember your wedding for the rest of your life. Exchanging vows, declaring your love in front of everyone, and of course, I do. But the moment that I'll remember the most had nothing to do with myself or my husband at all.
When my brand new father-in-law got up to the podium, I marveled at he and his wife. She smiled at him and there was such love in that look, that I had to actually pause and take a breath.
Then he said the first words of his speech.
"Not many parents are blessed with two gay children," he said.
I don't actually know what the next sentence was. Or even the one after. It took everything I had not to burst into tears on the spot. It had obviously occurred to me, over the time I'd been with their son, whether or not his parents ever felt like they'd missed something, or drawn a poor lot. Does anyone really want their child to be gay? I'd never had the guts to ask, though Dan had mentioned once or twice how much easier it was for him to come out given that his older sister had led the way. I wondered if they lamented the very unlikely possibility of grandchildren. If they censored themselves around co-workers or friends.
If anyone had the right, it was they. One gay child, sure. But both? Unfair.
As I'd gotten to know them, I knew that they were wonderful parents. They weren't tolerant - tolerance is what we give something we dislike but recognize as not deserving ill will. They weren't accepting - acceptance is something you reach, something you learn about, roll around in your mind, and then come to terms with. They were - simply - loving. They were parents. They wanted their children to be as happy and as loved as they themselves were.
They felt blessed to have these children.
I caught most of the rest of my father-in-law's speech. He said that he and his wife had never seen Dan so happy. He spoke about his daughter, and her finding Jan, and how he was so happy that both his children had found someone. By the end of this speech, glasses high, I'd given up on pretending not to cry, and there was that ache in the back of my throat that comes from being moved.
The speeches, and the meal, continued. At our table, I sat with my husband and thought about that old joke: don't think of it as losing a daughter, think of it as gaining a son.
I got a whole family that day. And some phenomenal parents.