Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Happy Anniversary!

Bill and Ron - 48 years today


Forty-eight years ago today, on a rainy Friday night at the Westbury Bar, a gay bar at the corner of 15th and Spruce Streets in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania I decided to go over to the other side of the bar and thank the man who had been sending me drinks for the past two months every time he saw me in the bar.

Bill Kelly - 1963 - the man who kept sending me drinks from the other side of the bar

I wasn't particularly attracted to this man even though he was very handsome.  He wasn't "my type."  Even though he had been trying to get my attention that he was interested in meeting me by sending me drinks via his friend Jerry the bartender, I was more interested in Jerry than I was him.  I especially wasn't interested in meeting this man because he was very popular in the Westbury and it was quite obvious that I was "next on his list."  I had no intention of just being another notch on his bed post.

Me, with cigarette in hand, at my efficiency apartment in Coatesville, just prior to going out to the Westbury bar with my friends Ron and Ed who came by to pick me up 



Usually when I went to the bar I was with my friends Ron and Ed.  However, this night for some reason I can't remember I was by myself.  I remember the first time that Jerry the bartender sat a drink in front of me and said to me "This is from the gentleman over there" which he indicated with a nod of his head.  I looked over and I saw this handsome man with a wide grin on his face and my first thought was "Oh no, I'm not that easy."  My friends and I had a chuckle over the whole situation because they too knew me and knew this situation was all wrong for me.  They knew I wasn't looking for an older man (he was 35 to my 22) and I definitely wasn't a pickup for a drink.

As the months went by, my erstwhile suitor would invariably send a drink my way, sometimes two a night.  He was unrelenting as we were by making fun of him behind his back.  Of course I took the drinks (I'm no fool and besides I had little money) but I had no plans to go any further than that.

Then, on this rainy Saturday night, July 3rd, 1964 my suitor sent me another drink.  My friends weren't with me and I did feel a bit guilty for never having thanked him for the many drinks he had sent over for the past few months.  I could at least be polite, that's the way my Mother raised me.  Believe me, I had no other intention than of just thanking him and moving back to my regular spot and looking for Mr. Right.

So I move from my "spot" (we gay guys all have our "spot" when cruising in gay bars) to the other side of the bar near the Skeet Ball machine which was his "spot."  He sees me coming towards him.  A small (knowing smile) creases his face.  I stop in front of him and say "Thanks for the drink." 


Now, I don't remember exactly what he said but what I do remember was he wasn't at all like I thought he would be, arrogant and pushy.  In fact he was pretty damn nice.  And he was even better looking in person.  Uh huh.  Well, well.  His name was Bill Kelly.  I decided to stay a while and chat.  He was interesting.

Me with a staged shot changing a flat (I don't know how to change a flat, are you kidding?) on our first road trip Skyline Drive, Virginia - 1964

Yes, I succumbed to his charms and did go him with him that night.  He lived in a garden apartment in Pennsauken, New Jersey. I lived a furnished efficiency apartment in Coatesville, Pennsylvania, 52 miles and an hour away from Pennsauken.

I stayed with him that weekend.  Bill drove me home to my apartment in Coatesville, Pennsylvania on Sunday.  I had no car. I had depended on my friends Ron and Ed for transportation to the Westbury Bar for my weekend outings looking for Mr. Right. That summer weekend my life changed forever.

For the next seven months Bill would make the one hundred mile round trip and pick me up at my apartment in Coatesville, PA on Friday to spend the weekend with him at his apartment in Pennsauken, NJ.  On Sunday he would make another one hundred mile round trip to return me to my apartment in Coatesville, PA.   Who else would do that for me?  No one.  Absolutely no one in this whole wide world.  I do believe I met my Prince Charming who treated me like a prince.  Every gay boy's dream come true. Mine just came true.  And has been true ever since, except for maybe a few little "bumps" here and there, for the past forty-eight years.

Me at our first house in Philadelphia - 1969 - our fifth anniversary
Sometime around Christmas of that year Bill asked me to move in with him.  I always wanted to get a job in Philadelphia and I told him that I would once I got a job in Philadelphia.  The following year in February, through the help of my friend Ron who worked at Girard Bank in Philadelphia, I got a job at Girard Bank.   I quit my job in Coatesville, left my apartment and moved in with Bill at the Penn Manor apartment complex where he lived in Pennsauken, New Jersey.  And as they say, "the rest is history."

Bill in the living room of our house in Philadelphia - 1969

So what have the past forty-eight years been like?  Well, to quote the first president Bush after he left office  and he was asked about his presidency he said "It's been quite a ride."  And indeed it has folks.

Bill Kelly, my friend/lover/partner/spouse of the past forty-eight years has literally been the best thing that has ever happened in my life.

Today, the anniversary of our meeting forty-eight years ago, finds us to both way past our prime.  In fact, we're both OLD MEN now.  But you know what?  We have a love that is undying.  I know I am one of the lucky few in this world to have been granted the blessing of meeting and sharing my live with someone who truly cares for me and someone I care for very much.  And to me friends, that is what life is all about. Love.

Bill's card to me this morning



Below are photos of Bill and me in 1951 when he was 23 years old and in the Army and stationed in Bamberg, Germany and I was a 10 year old third grader at the East Ward Elementary School. Can you imagine if I met this man when I was 10 years old?  Oh yes, I knew I was gay then and I would have definitely fallen head over heels in love with this man.  Twelve years later I did.
Bill, my Prince Charming - Bamberg, Germany - 1951
Bill was 23 years old and in the Army

Me - third grade East Ward Elementary School, Downingtown, PA - 1951 - 10 years old

39 comments:

  1. Congratulations Ron & Bill!

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  2. Thank you Cubby! Two more and we make it to fifty! Hard to believe. Same man, still love him.

    Ron

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  3. Congratulations! we just had our 16th last month (I Know--seems kinda lame in comparison but hey!)

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    1. oldewave,

      Congratulations on your 16th. That's a long time too! I hope your next 32 are as good as ours. The only thing is that they go by so fast.

      Ron

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  4. You go Ron & Bill!
    Congrats on 48 years together.

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    1. Thank you slugmama. The past 48 years seem just like...uh well...48 years. :)

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  5. Happy anniversary!
    And what a great story!

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    1. Bob,

      If I do nothing else in my life meeting and living with Bill has been my one, great success. He has treated me like a prince all those years. How many people can say that? And I love begin spoiled.

      Ron

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  6. Happy Anniversary, Guys!!!
    It'll be great to see you two reach the big 5-0 and beyond!!

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    1. Russ,

      The Big 5-0 is our goal. We want to be married for real, when marriage between same sex couples is a federal law. That would indeed be a dream come true and a perfect ending to our fairy-tale life (no pun intended).

      Ron

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  7. Happy Anniversary to the both of you.
    Ron, that was such a great post. It gave me goosebumps thinking/hoping that Fred and I will one day celebrate 48 years together.
    I truly loved the story of how you two met all those years ago.
    Your Friend, m.

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    1. Thank you Mark! I have no doubt that you and Fred will be together a LONG TIME. Both Bill and I had that sense of you and Fred when we met you both last year. We know the real thing when we see it and you and Fred have it.

      Happiness to both of you always my friend.

      Ron

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  8. Anonymous2:49 PM

    Happy Anniversary! I think you two have a lovely story. Lynne
    PS I thought Anderson came out a long, long time ago.

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    1. Hi Lynn!

      Always good to hear from you. I thought I offended you with one (or more) of my blog postings. I'm glad that wasn't so.

      A lot of people thought Anderson came out a long time ago. I think the way he came out is just right, low key. No national magazine covers or anything like that. I am so glad more people of prominence are coming out. This way straight people will see that we're really no threat to them or their families. Progress, one step at a time.

      Ron

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  9. This is a very nice story. It is great that it all worked out so well. Congratulations to you both. I am so envious, I wish I had had the same experience.

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    1. Brian,

      Much of the success of our long term relationship I have to give Bill credit. He realized early on that we would have to have a relationship not based on possessiveness and jealousy (and sex) but mutual love and respect. That doesn't mean we haven't had a few rocky times in our relationship, we have. But one thing has remained constant, I could never leave Bill and he could never leave me. I would always wonder where he was and he would wonder about me. I know it sounds corny but we were really meant to be together.

      I have never taken for granted my good fortune in this good man finding me and being so persistent in pursuing me. He knew when I didn't. My only concern now is that my life will be over if he dies before me. I cannot imagine being by myself. I just can't.

      Ron

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  10. You found each other, love each other after all these years. There is probably nothing else more important than love, being loved and being happy! Have a wonderful anniversary!

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    1. Thank you Nadege. You said so well in a few words that some people try to say in a book. You are right, nothing is more important in life than love, being loved and being happy. I am one of the fortunate ones!

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  11. happy anniversary to both of you! i love your telling of the story of how you met. i guess we just never know what is going to happen when we decide to "take that chance". sometimes it goes nowhere, sometimes it goes somewhere for a night, and sometimes it changes our lives forever. i wonder from time to time if i have missed the chance to change my life by not acting when someone shows attraction. i will never know, i guess, but it is good to think about. of course, there are those chances i wish i had NOT taken! we just never know.

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  12. Tony,

    You bring up a very good point which I often think about. I've often wondered what would have happened if I hadn't of went over that night to thank Bill. As I said, I wasn't attracted to him physically so I would never have made the first move. But once I started to talk to him I realized that he was different. He wasn't at all the way I thought we would be. My attraction to him at that point superseded the physical and became more.

    I do believe in Fate. There were so many times in my life up to that point where it could have taken a different turn and I would never have met Bill. I've often wondered what my life would have been like had I taken a different road.

    There isn't a day that goes by I don't realize how fortunate I was to have Bill pursue me so persistently and not give up. My only worry now is that should he die before me, I will have no life. I do worry about that. But for the time being I treasure each day.

    Bill is out mowing the grass now. After he is done he'll come in and have some ice cream to cool off. We'll talk a bit and then he'll go to bed early like he usually does. I always stay up late. That's out routine. Perhaps boring and dull to others but to me (and Bill), it is heaven.

    Ron

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  13. What a fantastic and inspiring story. Forty-eight years is a long time and I think very few people, gay or straight, have been so fortunate. Congratulations on a lifetime of devotion! Your story is truly remarkable and I also love the photos!

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    1. Thank you Jon. I think one of the reasons we have lasted as long as we have is because we're almost total opposites. Another reason is probably because our relationship wasn't based on sex.

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  14. anne marie in philly7:27 PM

    and they said it wouldn't last! happy anniversary, you two love birds! such a lovely story!

    my 20th is in october; I have often wondered if I will make it to 50 years...I will be 88 by then...eeeeeek!

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    1. Thank you Anne Marie! I hope you and your hubby make it to 50 years. If we do, Bill will be 85 and I'll be 72. Who are these two OLD MEN anyway? I would never have predicted we would have lasted this long.

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  15. HAPPY ANNIVERSARY !

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  16. Such a sweet and lovingly told tale. Where's Ron and what have you done with him?

    Seriously, Happy Anniversary to you and Bill and many more years of health and happiness!

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    1. Thank you so much Sean. "Where's Ron and what have you done with him"" Great question Sean! :) I know Bill must love me because he's put up with me all these years. No one else could have done that. And I'm not the only one who has ever said that. Life with Bill, each day is an adventure. Sometimes I have to pinch myself to make sure this is all real.

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  17. Anonymous11:55 PM

    Happy Anniversary Ron & Bill! Isn't love grand? You have my husband & I beat by 4 years. I wouldn't change a thing either. We want to make it to 50. The problem is it seems just like yesterday that we were married. Where does time go?
    I hope you had a wonderful day & many more.

    Fran

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    1. Thank you Fran! Maybe someday you'll get to meet Bill and find out for yourself why everybody likes him. Me? Not so much but Bill likes me. Must be love. The best to you always Fran and I hope you make it to your 50th anniversary.

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  18. Congratulations.

    You have worked together, accepted each other as you are, and supported each other in following the 'what ifs?' at the forks in the road of life. That nutures growth and exploration; that leads to adventures full of the richness of life.

    Good job gentlemen!

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    1. Will,

      Thank you. You hit upon a very salient point, "you have worked together, accepted each other as you are, and supported each other in following the 'what ifs:' at the forks in the road of life". How did you get so smart Will? :)
      You have the answer when you say "that nutures growth and exploration' that leads to adventures full of the richness of life." I have indeed been more fortunate than many by spending most of my life with this man, Bill Kelly We were meant to be.

      Ron

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  19. Happy anniversary Ron and Bill!

    What a wonderful story and a wonderful life together. Here's to more of the same forever! :)

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    1. Walt,

      Thank you very much. Bill and I have had a magical life. I don't know what I did to deserve Bill. No one else would put up with me. I wouldn't put up with me. It must be love!

      Ron

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  20. Ron,

    Congratulations, Ron. You are right marriages that last aren't based on physical attractions and sex, although those can be a nice bonus, they fade over time. A good marriage has to go deeper. I'm sure you'll make it to your 50th. You both look in good shape.

    Bill is a nice guy. Give him my congratulations as well. It must be love, because how else would he have put up with you that long?

    Lar

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    1. Lar,

      You know I HATE to admit this but you are right on EVERY point you make in your comments. Successful marriages are not based on physical attraction and sex, although that could be a nice bonus. I've been in relationships where the physical attraction and sex was out of this world but I could never live with that person. As you said, good marriages go deeper. Your partner has to be not only your best friend but your partner in life's journey, through the good times and the rough times. They have to be somebody you respect and care for and they have to deeply respect and care for you also. Your parents are an excellent example of what makes a successful marriage. You and Lois are another good example. And on your last comment "it must be love because how else would he have put up with you that long?" Exactly right my friend! I don't know anyone else who could put up with me. I couldn't put up with me! Thanks for your good wishes.

      Ron

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  21. Happy Anniversary! Thanks for sharing your story.

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  22. Anonymous12:47 PM

    Congratulations Ron and Bill!
    Thanks for sharing a beautiful and interesting story.
    ARF

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