Some people know, some don’t, that while I used to live in downtown Toronto, I have lived for the past seventeen years outside a little farming community called Warkworth, Ontario (pop. 700., about 100 miles east of Toronto.
I also write for Warkworth Words. The post which follows which first appeared there has attracted a lot of positive feedback locally so I thought I’d repost it here.
The affirmation of non-traditional family values is hardly a new concept for PositiveLite.com readers I’m sure, although the concept may be a little bit more challenging for some in the rural community in which I live. The article was prompted in part by a need to counter homophobic attitudes which surfaced here a couple of years back.
Of course it was all about religion. The local United Church had. rather courageously, I thought, became a congregation officially affirming of LGBT people, a church ready and willing to conduct same-sex marriages. Just up the road, the local Free Methodists didn’t approve, and their minister said so in quite strong terms, branding all us local LGBTers as sinners. (OK, I do sin regularly, but that’s beside the point.) Worse the Methodists said they would not take part in any inter-denominational services involving the local United Church.
That stain on our otherwise accepting community has since faded, but the memory lingers. So I wanted to write a post for Wartworth Words which might just promote healing as well as a common understanding of what the word “family” can and does mean.
Here it is.
We don’t have (human) kids, but as a family unit we are much like yours. And our family portraits are much like yours too, but without yours truly who is always behind the lens rather than in front of it. Anyway, here is our family, minus one.
Much like in some traditional families, it’s been a bit of a tumultuous year. Head of the household Merion (centre) was in recovery from cancer surgery in the early months of the year – he’s now doing fine – and then our oldest basset hound Peggy died in February. We waited just one whole day – mourning in our household is profound but short-lived - and then went out and filled the hole left by Peggy with Ruby, the embarrassingly cute young tan and white basset hound you see in the middle of the above picture.
Ruby has been doing what puppies do ever since, all over the house actually, but her lovability factor makes up for it. A brief pause while she was spayed last week has left her as puppy-like as ever. Meanwhile our other basset Dudley (right) took a turn for the worse last week with a severe allergy reaction which left him near death. We pulled him through with the help of antibiotics and topical steroids and he’s now in recovery mode.
Meanwhile it’s back to school time for Ruby. (Sound familiar?) She needs to learn how our invisible fence works. And to clean up after her. (Sound familiar too?)
Both of us parents work a lot. Some of it is paid, and it’s seldom less than a 9-5 day, but we pay our taxes, abide by all the laws of the land and do our bit for society
It’s odd to think though, isn’t it, that some even here don’t consider us worthy of being called a family, that we don’t deserve the same rights, privileges and protections as our neighbours next door. But we hold few grudges. We like it here. The people are nice and we feel the winds of change blowing on our cheeks. They will too.
We have a relationship much like yours. Our pets are our children.
How much are pets like children? In the case of dogs, I’d say quite a lot. One forgets how high maintenance they can be when young. Certainly their first few months of life can involve the same sleepless nights for the adults of the house, mopping up spills and providing ceaseless vigilance. True human babies don’t usually chew the legs of furniture or fray the edges of any carpet they can get their teeth in to. And human babies don’t head for the hills at any opportunity they can get or bark when horses go by. But there is the common parental experience of watching life grow and evolve, learn and amuse itself, make us laugh, make is cry.
Nor is either kind of parenthood to be taken lightly. It takes commitment, oodles of patience and sometimes quite a bit of money to raise a dog or three. Same with raising kids. Never ever try it if you can’t follow through. Get a goldfish instead.
Families come in all shapes and sizes. This is ours.
If you are interested in hearing more about what it is like living out, gay and poz in a rural community, I put together a long photo essay for the literary journal nomorepotlucks which was subsequently republished as a two-parter in PositiveLite.com a few years back.
Assimilation in the land of cows Part one is here.
Assimilation in the land of cows Part two is here.