This day is for you, Al
He was a tall man, jet black hair, worked hard at the Christian Science Center in Boston, managing the Buildings and Grounds. He loved the summer when he could cultivate the flower beds around the reflecting pool. In the blizzard of 1978, he stayed on duty for 7 days straight keeping the triangle between Belvedere, Huntington and Mass Ave open and passable.
When my dad died at Christmas of 1953, I was just a boy, he took over my dad's responsibilities and vowed to make a man out of me. He did so consciously and intentionally. He and Jimmy, took me to ball games at "Fenway Pahk", and hockey games at the "Gahden". We went on day trips to Cape Cod and Cape Ann and Horseneck Beach. I loved being with them. They never seemed to mind having me tag along. We went out for dinner at Giuffrida's Steak House on Rt. 1. It was always a treat to go out with Al and Jimmy.
He was not fond of the Church. It was, as he put it "full of malarkey". He was a good solid working class kind of fellow. He didn't mince his words, and if the air turned blue when he spoke, that was just for emphasis. The word "malarkey" was the mildest word he used. For him the Church was a bastion of bigotry and prejudice. Its history was violence and bloodthirsty belligerence. He was rejected by it and so was his love for his partner Jimmy. He was perplexed by what Jesus taught verses what the Church practiced.
He was not pleased when I went into the priesthood. He didn't really understand my love for God and for Jesus. He had a high regard for Jesus. But he also had a high regard for Mohammed, Moses, and Buddha. But the Church! The church said "NO" to him and to the love of his life. So did much of the world around him at the time. I remember one night, he was beaten to a pulp and he called me up to minister to his wounds. No use calling the police. Who needs another beating? This is what it meant to be gay in America at the time. It still does for too much of America.
When he died, it was just Jimmy, Al's coffin and me. I read the Burial Office. It was the one thing he loved about the Episcopal Church and he said so often. "Kings and little ones" as the practiced poker player put it, "we are all buried before God with the same words!"
There was a time when he was in his cups. That happened with some frequency. He was particularly animated and in a fit of ennui this day. "You with that turned around collah", he said with exquisite disgust. He despised everything that stood for. But me he loved.
"I know what your G-D Church thinks of me and Jimmy" he said, as the ice cube clanked against the side of his glass, "but I don't give a damn about that. I want to know what YOU think of me".
I told him I loved him very much. I told him he was fine with me just the way he was. I told him I would always love him.
He said to me; "Then stand up for me in that G-D Church of yours someday!"
As a matter of fact I did that in a book I wrote with you in mind; "Everything You Need to Know About Sex in Order to Get to Heaven." I wrote that book with a certain amount of irreverence and impatience with the Church, but, like I say, I had you in mind when I wrote it. It was important for me to know that you and mom and dad and all of us got into heaven. I worked out the particulars in that book.
Al, today is your day.
The Roman Catholics, the Methodists, the Lutherans, and the Presbyterians have all said "NO", but the Episcopal Church has said "YES".
This day is for you, Al. I lived to see it. Your nephews, two of whom happen to be gay, have also lived to see it. Both of them sing in the Church. The song they sing tonight is a song many of us are singing in our hearts!
"Hail thee Festival Day!"
Blessing on ALL,