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Wednesday
Jun262013

The Guncles 

Today the Federal Defense of Marriage Act was struck down. Prop 8 was dismissed. The shifting sands of bigotry are filtering through a system of opening eyes. Gay rights is not just a movement I support. It is a story that lives within my heart because my best male friend is gay. This is our story.
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I had left the party and forgot to pay for my auction item. So I walked back into the courtyard and ran into a couple. Two men standing close to one another. Something happened we can't explain. We started talking and that was the beginning of a friendship sent from John Edwards. Not the politician. That would be bad. John Edwards the psychic. That's why I was going back into the party. To purchase the basket of DVD's and tickets to his seminar. If I hadn't forgotten to pay and returned to the party, I never would have run into the couple who would become my children's Guncles. Their gay uncles. 
Terry and Phil were fresh from Seattle. With raindrops still on their shoes they'd arrived in sunny Southern California. The party was at Eric Close's house, he was starring on Without A Trace at the time. It was a fundraiser for Africa Foundation (USA) that Phil's best friend Wendy Wood was heading. The evening was in support of building a school in Africa. We began talking about my mother's foundation event that weekend in support of wounded warriors with Rebuilding America's Warriors and immediately Terry was in. He showed up the next day and has been supporting our efforts ever since.
So here's the Kevin Bacon of it all. The first wedding I ever photographed was at Eric's house. It was his brother's wedding. Eric was the Best Man. I shot the wedding on a Saturday. On Sunday Eric called and said he loved the images I had sent his brother and wanted to show them on Martha Stewart during his appearance on Tuesday. He did. So my first wedding was on a Saturday and three days later they were on Martha Stewart because of Eric. Then my whole world changed. It's funny how one moment can change your life. Like when I met The Guncles. In the same place that changed my life. 
Phil's partner was Terry. Terry had just left a six figure job in Seattle to come with Phil to LA to follow a dream. Phil is a mortgage broker, but also an incredible singer and screenwriter. Terry had been in Corporate at Starbucks in Seattle and immediately became my most over-qualified assistant ever. He wouldn't accept payment, so I snuck Pottery Barn gift cards in his pocket at the end of the night after a long wedding or Mitzvah. Every job, no matter how large or small, became a play date with my friend in a sandbox. Like little kids, we giggled in the corner about something inane, then put on our work faces and continued through rigorous shoots knowing we were a team and nothing could bring us down. Until finally my spine did it for us. 
Job after job he would watch me through the evening. His hand on my shoulder and that look in his eyes. That he knew it was happening again. My back was giving out. But we still had the first dance and speeches to get through.  He would bring me water, sit me down. Give me a random hug. Because that's what friends do. Every job was an adventure. Every drive home was an animated recap of the day, complete with anthropological analysis  of guests. The brides and grooms were never the problem (barring one particular groomzilla). I was the luckiest photographer in the world to have the couples I did. It was the guests that could make me cry. And I did. Especially if I was having a difficult night physically, there would be one dismissive tone or remark that struck my heart, and made me wonder why I shot events. Then Terry would be the one to take my hand and gently remind me that I was meant to do what I did. That he believed in my work as an artist. I never thought of myself that way. But he did. And that was all that mattered. 
As my spine broke down more and more, I felt myself giving less. Feeling more vulnerable. My skin thinned with every job. And I realized my days were numbered as a wedding and event photographer. I'd built my business to a six figure salary of my own. A rare feat for my field. How do you walk away from a job that takes you from Cabo to Venice in five star hotels to shoot imagery? You walk away, when you can't walk anymore. When your best friend looks in your eyes and sees you're not there. 
December 26th, 2011 was my last event. I drove home with the numb exhaustion that comes after heaves of tears. I called my husband. I was done. The pain was too great. My right arm electrocuting me as I drove. My lower spine filled with razor blades. It was time to reassess. Stand back and know that life will go on, even if I stop. 
I stopped. Terry and Phil were always there, showering our children with visits and treats. Flowers after my surgeries and cards filling my days with gratitude. 
Everyone has a story. Terry's is a book in its own, but really not much different than mine. He'd built a career, a life, that to others was success. He had a wife, a son. Married for 20 years, he finally broke down. His world came to a halt. He could no longer carry the burden of pretending that everything was ok. He came out to his family and his co-workers that he was gay. His world shattered and expanded at the same time. He met Phil, moved to LA, has a loving relationship with his son and grandchildren, and works at Cast and Crew, one of the largest payroll companies in the entertainment industry. 
To wrap up the Kevin Bacon, Eric Close now stars on "Nashville". My husband was Production Supervisor of Season One. Perhaps they are even paid by Terry. Who knows. But the circle of our friendship is one we no longer question. That besides my husband, my best male friend is an example to my children and myself of how good a person can be. He's the person who passes out a ten dollar bill randomly just to make someone smile and wonder why they don't do that too. His hand still remains on my shoulder, even if I'm not shooting events any longer. We are both embracing our lives of discovery and thanking John Edwards for the serendipity of our friendship. 
Life is a twisted mass of random connections. I am grateful for mine in all its convoluted glory. And for our Guncles.My children gave them a rainbow prism this that hangs in their kitchen, in the hopes that whenever they see the colors dancing on the walls, it will remind them of the joy they've brought to my family's life. Every family should have Guncles. And every friend should have a Terry, who holds your shoulders so the weight of the world has no place to go. Who turns you away from the raindrops on your shoe and shows you the rainbow in the sky, reminding you that life is magical, even when it stops.
 The Guncles at Emma Jane's Family Dance

 

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