This morning I took my son, Dante, to a doctor's appointment. When I went to check him in at the front desk, the secretary handed my a clip board, and asked if I would please fill out the forms. She then added, "they are important in case we need to reach you or your partner." I found this kind of odd. I don't remember ever having Michael to go the medical appointments. Maybe his name was on prior forms, or it could be that she had an older copy of Dante's insurance card that listed both of our names. In any case I found it odd.
It's kind of funny. At first I wondered why she assumed I was gay. Was it the way I was dressed? Was it that I'm not as butch as I'd like to think? Maybe she is one of those rare straight people who have a well developed gaydar (gay radar). What ever the case may be, it kind of threw me for a minute. I was caught off guard, and then sat to think about how I miss being part of a couple. I also thought that Dante must miss having his second dad around. Being that Michael was the kids' step-father, it has likely been easier for them to deal with losing him than if it had been me, who they have known, and depended on all of their lives.
After regaining my focus I went to work on the forms. The first was a standard form about patient rights, so I just signed it on Dante's behalf, and moved on. The second asked for the parent, or guardian's, name. Just below this was a heading that said "Relationship Status." Below that was a selection of possible choices, and little boxes next to them in order to identify your situation. They were as follows:
Wait a minute! Where is my box? None of these adequately describe my current relationship status. Well, at second glance, I suppose I have identified, or can identify, with 4 out of the 5 choices. I guess many would say that I am once again single. I was married, but some may say that the marriage ended when Michael died. We were domestic partners for a year prior to being granted the right to marry. And, unfortunately, I do find myself separated from Michael, permanently.
What's a widow(er) to do? Fortunately for me, there was room in the margin to write in my own category.
I thought that this situation was a shame. There I was, as valid a person as any other parent in the room, yet some how I didn't feel like they expected me. If there isn't a category for me, then how can they address concerns that my relationship status might have on my child? I did appreciate that there was a category for domestic partners, as I have gone most of my adult life without that having a place on such forms. I have to assume that they might ask this in case my child is having some problems, or concerns, that might be related to his parents' status. In any case, what it did was once again make me feel like the outsider.
Maybe I should have put a small asterisk, with a note saying,
* "Thanks for assuming I was a gay man, but didn't you notice the black veil that coordinates with my brief case, and hides my grief?"
Well, maybe not.