My partner Frankie and I had been dating for over fifteen months when he finally met my grandmother, Nanny. He'd first met my parents the spring before when they came up for a weekend visit, and while that was an important encounter, him meeting Nanny was much more important to me.
Nanny raised me. My mother and birth-father (often referred to as sperm donor) had met, married, conceived, separated, and divorced all within the course of a year. After mom became a single parent, we moved in with Nanny and Papaw (my grandfather). He was a full-time Southern Baptist pastor of a church in Campton, KY. Mom found a job. This left Nanny with the responsibility of being my primary caregiver, a role she gladly filled.
After Papaw died in '90, both Nanny and mom worked. Being older and living on savings, Nanny was able to take more time to be with me than mom. Sure, other extended family members helped, but if Nanny could be with me, she was. Even after mom remarried when I was nine, not only did we have weekly conversations with Nanny over the phone, but whenever school was out, I was in KY staying with her.
During college, we talked nearly every day. Coming out to her was not easy for either one of us, but deep down, I believe she always knew who I was and in what direction my life was headed. Finally, after Frankie and I started dating ('09) and things became serious, we knew it was time that she met him.
It took Nanny awhile to feel comfortable with the idea of having my same-gendered partner come to stay with her. She really wrestled with it. Being a Southern Baptist herself, there were certain beliefs she maintained about relationships and sexuality; but when the rubber met the road, her love for and relationship with me meant more than dogma or doctrine.
Three days before Christmas, Frankie and I loaded up the rental car for the six-hour drive to Falmouth, KY where she lived. Knowing that having Christmas at my parents' home would not be a wise idea, Nanny opened her home to us, on the condition that we slept in separate rooms... a compromise I was willing to make for the sake of having her meet the man I loved.
It was a Wednesday night when we got there. Not too cold. Not snowing yet. As expected, Nanny met us at the door, hands full with suitcases, bundled up in our coats. I wasn't sure what her demeanor towards Frankie would be, but when she introduced herself and offered him a hug, I was both surprised and comforted. This was huge for her, and I had made it clear that I didn't expect it to be easy.
None of had eaten dinner yet, so in good Southern fashion, we went to the nearby Lee's Famous Recipe to pick up fried chicken, biscuits, and all the fixin's to bring home. We sat at the table after spreading everything out, and Nanny said grace. Here I was in my childhood home with the woman who made me who I am and the man who meant the world to me. It wasn't awkward. There was no tension. There was simply just... family.
Mom and Dad (my stepfather) arrived the next day, and while they were kind and cordial, there was a marked difference between their interactions with Frankie and Nanny's. For those two days, she set aside her beliefs and biases and simply just loved on him, making him comfortable, feeding him, hugging him. When we left the next day, during our goodbyes, she told him she loved him, giving him a hug as big and long as the one she gave me. So much more happened those two days, but these are the moments I remember most vividly and hold most dear.
Unfortunate to say, that was the only time she spent with Frankie. The following June, she died in a car crash two days after I'd returned home from a visit with her. When Frankie and I got married this past April, we asked a friend to bring a lantern with a Kentucky blue candle inside to be used to memorialize her at our ceremony. I'd like to think that as the years went on, she'd grow to love him as I have. I'd like to imagine the Christmases and the phone calls, the cards filled with coupons, the meals around the table. While these are but dreams that will remain unfulfilled, I can rest knowing that, at the very least, she met him and she loved him. As far as "meeting the parents" goes, I could not ask for more.