Thursday, January 31, 2013
Were my maternal grandmother alive, would she rejoice in Jim Nabors, a.k.a. Gomer Pyle, getting married...to his love of 38 years, his new husband?
Out to his friends and colleagues, but no one else, the 82-year-old actor figured it was time, while he had time. He and partner Stan Cadwallader flew from their Hawaii home to Seattle, where such doings are legal.
Pic note: Public domain from Marine Corps.
Licit or not, my grandmother 1) adored Nabors on The Andy Griffith Show and other TV, particularly where he'd sing, and 2) was befuddled by and hostile to homosexuality. She was born at the very start of the 20th Century and lived her whole life in the hills of central Maryland and the Eastern panhandle of West Virginia.
Mable didn't consider herself a hick. After all, they lived in Romney, the Hampshire County seat, with a metropolitan area population of over 2,000. The hicks and ridge runners came from the real hills to downtown Romney with its several restaurants, department store, groceries, and menswear shop (run by the mayor, head of the only Jewish family in the county).
Yet the wild, the citified, and sexually remarkable were not an admitted part of her world. Yet, it turns out, gays were about. A very familiar relative by marriage was one, several family members I learned had bi relationships, and my best friend in the town where I summered and spent my holidays my whole childhood and youth was gay. Had she known things I did, she likely would have denied it each and all.
One of her daughters, my mother, was more candid but still befuddled. Two of my longest-term friends are gay men. She knew them both, one from my sandbox days and one from college on. They would visit her on swings through the Southwest, with their partners. She and they all enjoyed their meals and conversations for many years. She would tell me how much she loved the four of them, but always add that she just didn't understand homosexuality.
She didn't live long enough for the full circle. I have solemnized both couples' marriages.; I suppose she would have said she didn't understand same-sex marriage either.
Her own mother though was never in a state of mind to discuss homosexuality. She read her Bible and The Upper Room daily as well as attending and serving in church. Without the obnoxious aspects, she was a fundy, and I have no doubt she knew same-sex love to be sinful.
Gaydar jokes aside, Nabors was fairly plainly gay at least to us boomers. That was fine enough. What I had trouble with was what my grandmother adored, his drama-queen singing. He favored lugubrious ballads, huge, round-mouthed tones and virtually no feeling involved.
Yet, every week, she'd invariably say if Gomer was on with Andy, "I hope he sings." Also, when the Cumberland Times or TV Guide would list him as a guest on some other program, she was elated because it invariably meant he'd do a number or two. She loved the songs even if she would have hated the sin.
She'd be well over 100 now. I have to wonder whether she would have grown at all with the times. Surely she never would have left Romney. What would it have meant to her to know I'd performed several gay weddings, of people she knew and liked? What would the growing national support of SSM meant to her? Could she have talked about it with me?
Grandmother Mable taught several generations to think for ourselves, to speak up at every lunch and dinner on every subject, to be well read and informed. She had her huge blind spots. I have to wonder whether she would have shifted over the decades. In particular, Jim Nabors was a hero of hers. wouldn't that be something fine?
My blessings fall on Jim and Stan, newlyweds.