I was eight years old when my mother gave birth to her seventh child. This ended my position as the baby of the family. I can remember very well the day my mother was due home from the hospital. I walked back and forth in front of the house waiting for the arrival of my new little sister. This was the first time I was so close to the process of birth. It was really the first time I had ever even contemplated it. Exactly one year and one month later in Belleville, New Jersey another birth took place which would have the most profound effect on my life. When I look back now, I can imagine that there was this great plan which connected all of these events. Within the following year I would witness the death of my best friend from grammar school who would die during open heart surgery. This was the time in my life when I came to understand spirituality. I had been given, through my life experiences, the whole picture of life itself. I was not completely aware of the implications at the time it was happening, but I remember very well the impressions . 

When my little sister first began to walk I can remember watching her on the sidewalk in front of our house on Collett Street. I was so afraid that she would walk out into the street and be killed by a passing car. I never let my attention be distracted by anything else lest I be responsible for her death. I remember thinking that this was love. If you love someone the worst thing that could happen is that they would die. I couldn't even entertain the idea in my head. The tears would stream down the front of my face at the very thought. From the experience of my school friend Sandy dying, I had an idea of what it meant to have someone disappear from my life forever. As I mention her name, now fifty-nine years later, I know that people don't really disappear.

My little sister Chris and I developed a unique relationship. She was the first in the family to know that I am Gay. We had talked about the way other people perceive the world, knowing that it was not a perception that we shared. We had created a language of our own, a code if you will, to describe our perspective. Chris and I divided the world into two groups of people, those who know and those who don't know. When I met Robby in 1980 I called my sister to tell her that I was in love. When she asked me to describe him I simply said, "he knows!" What we were talking about was consciousness. Rob was the first relationship where I could talk about how to live in the world in a conscious way and he got it. He and I developed our own code for knowing. We would see someone, look at each other and smile, "he's a dancer!" we would say in unison. We were beginning to understand the connection between consciousness and creativity.

Rob and Chris, Chicago 1987

When Rob and I bought our first VCR in 1980, Rob forced me to watch his favorite movies over and over again. We actually purchased Cabaret but rented All That Jazz and a 1979 movie called “A Little Romance” with Laurence Olivier. A Little Romance was Rob’s all time favorite. He explained that this movie represented his idea of romance and real love. It was a story of two precocious children who run away, aided by Laurence Olivier, to seal there love for eternity by kissing in a gondola beneath the Bridge of Sighs in Venice at sunset as the bells toll. Watching this movie with Rob gave me an important insight into who he was. It endeared me to him in a very special way. This movie and romance in general would be a theme repeated throughout or relationship. This represented the child in Rob that never died.

After Rob died on June 1, 1995, people kept telling me I was lucky to have had that kind of love once in my life. Most people never have that kind of love. Now, 23 years after his death, I agree wholeheartedly. After watching other relationships in Rob’s absence, I would like to explain in more detail.

Rob and Bob were able to design a relationship in a vacuum that had been created by culturally sanctioned intolerance, hatred and ignorance. We were able to draft a contract that would eliminate all the struggles of so called traditional relationships or marriages. First and foremost we agreed we did not own each other, that neither would be the dominate partner. We agreed that jealousy was not a measure of love, but a sign of insecurity. We understood that trust was the best foundation for a permanent relationship, so we would always tell the truth. We agreed to have no secrets from each other, because there would be no need for secrets if we were true to the other aspects of our agreement.

In September 1991, we arrived on the south coast of Crete in the Greek Islands. In the tiny village of Loutro, we experienced something we had never found in our native America. The village accepted us as a couple. They respected our commitment to each other because they had not been taught the kind of prejudice that is taught in the U.S. For the first time in both our lives, we felt like a whole part of a community. That is why my heart will always be in Loutro and Rob's spirit resides in the castle ruins where we taught yoga.

So yes! I had 15 years in a relationship that most people only dream of. And yes, Rob’s death ripped my heart out in a way that took nearly another 15 years to heal. I do believe the stars and planets lined up in the late 1950s to bring us together to allow us to realize our true lives instead of the expectations of others. Those 15 years of life with my soulmate are the basis for my strength to carry on outside the expectations of a world I’ve always seen as unnecessarily sad. I’m still living by the rules Rob and I agreed to. In the 23 years since his death, they have served me well. It has been a lonely road in many ways. But I still talk to my sister Chris and to Rob. I have the feeling they are both watching over me, even now.

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Comment by Boanerges on May 26, 2018 at 12:38pm

What a swell sister. And your love for Rob shines through. I'm happily hetero, but I could wish I'd met you guys back in the day -- we'd've had some interesting discussions (although by the sound of things, we'd have been preaching to the choir).

Comment by koshersalaami on May 26, 2018 at 5:24pm

I like when you write about Rob

Comment by Robert Starkey on May 26, 2018 at 6:18pm

Thanks kosher and Boanerges

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