Happy “Legal” Anniversary
“If someone could reach into my chest and tear out my heart and turn it into a living, breathing person, “Melody” would be it..”
– Airicka Pheonix
February is a month on my calendar that will always be remembered specifically because of Sarah’s passing. There are very few dates that I remember that hold so very close to my heart. Mel and I have been “legally” married for 4 years now. I really don’t know what the exact date is not because marrying her wasn’t important but rather that was the day that the government said we were married. The horrible date of May 17, 1997 when I legally signed my own “abuse warrant” by marrying my “EX” husband, was replaced by a beautiful date of May 28, 2007. This was the date that Mel and I married each other in our hearts. There are soul mates as friends and family. Nothing can compare to soul mates with the right spouse.
We were instantly friends and devoted to each other. I have always been one where the term “friendship” isn’t just thrown around like a household word. There was something different about her and I knew it but was afraid to admit that I loved her. Firstly, I hadn’t stepped out of the elusive closet as being gay. All I knew was that there was this person who I was finally “safe” with both emotionally and physically.
I told her at the beginning of our relationship that I had a lot of emotional baggage from a very long and very abusive relationship. She didn’t care. She loved me for me and everything that would come with it. I’ve tried pushing her away in every way possible to prove to her that I’m not worth loving. I was someone’s “sloppy seconds” after a 14 year stretch. I felt as though there was nothing good left of me. I knew that I could be her friend, but “marriage” scared the absolute hell out of me.
I had a hardness about myself that was meant to keep people away. For some reason, she had me melting like butter on the inside. I knew how the rumors, comments and bibles would be thrown at us as a couple. I had dealt with that for many years and really just didn’t care. This was a whole new experience for someone that I loved dearly. I told her I could handle it again and I tried to help paint a picture of what this would look like as word got around. She didn’t care about that either. She just wanted to be with me. Needless to say, I just couldn’t understand that. What I had just experienced for many years was totally the opposite. My idea of a “marriage” was one that had nothing but fear attached to it. My thought was that no one is accepted for who they are without strings attached. And once you’re legally married, that means you’re property.
Things have been difficult to say the least about us being a gay couple. People were not going to be happy for us because we each had found someone who loved and respected us. To put it quite bluntly, our genitals were put on display instead. As you can imagine, our families were not thrilled. I actually think my mom went and put her head in the oven and turned it on. Not really, but pretty close. Even at the thought of being rejected by family members couldn’t deter us from wanting to be together. Have she and I both lost “friends” and “family” because of our relationship? Yes, of course. However, neither one of us are responsible for their feelings nor how they choose to act. We CAN determine whether or not we will be an audience to their ignorance and hatred.
Six months later, in the privacy of our house where we living together, on Christmas Eve, I proposed and she said YES! We wanted to get “legally” married and have children. We had no idea what all was involved both financially and legally to make this all happen. She very eagerly said that she had always wanted to carry a child. I very eagerly said, “Good because I didn’t.” I wanted to be a mom, but I had no desire to be pregnant. My ex-husband took the joy out of wanting to start a family which turned out to be a blessing in disguise. We didn’t have to really tell anyone because you could just see the happiness that we both shared. We also didn’t have the luxury of proclaiming our engagement because of such conservative views in that area of the country. And so the journey of being each other’s only support when it came to our relationship began.
My mental health issues seemed to get somewhat better from just being in a supportive environment with someone that genuinely loved me. We were both in graduate school and that was our first priority to finish. What was becoming increasingly evident was the PTSD that had developed from a lifetime of abuse. The safeness that I felt with her slowly started to reveal just what kind of damage had been done. All I wanted to do was finish school, get as far away from that area of the country and start a family. So, in June of 2009, Melody and I headed out to Albuquerque, NM to begin a new life. We didn’t know how anything was going to turn out. We just wanted to live life as a couple without all the stares and harassment. That, I can say, has happened since we moved west. Do we both miss friends and family? Yes more than anyone will ever know. Moving back there would come at a cost that we’re just not ready for as a family yet.
We would soon realize firsthand what the long term effects of abuse would manifest. She was fortunate to get a job with a company that provides fertility insurance. This was how we would make our dreams of having children a reality. On December 3, 2011, our little 5 lb preemie baby boy was born. Here we were as brand new parents to a preemie that we knew nothing about. We were out here by ourselves and had just entered the world of parenting. No one could’ve ever prepared either one of us for the feeling of having to leave the hospital without our baby boy. Every day I would drop Mel off at the hospital to spend the day at “Camp Marshall” while I went to work and then pick her up on the way home from work. Mentally, I couldn’t handle the thought of losing our newly born son so I just avoided seeing him at all costs. I was terrified of our son dying and tried to distance myself. This I now regret. We were both on auto pilot in different ways.
She continues to be the same very sweet and kind hearted woman that I initially met. She has a beauty within her that is hard to find in most people. She loves me despite my mental disorder and continues to want nothing but the best for me. What she and I have been through as a couple and now as a family is more than a lot of couples go by themselves in a lifetime. We can read each other like we’ve been together for 30 years or more.
People often wonder how we have made it as a couple. The truth is, since the very beginning of our relationship, we have always had to depend on each other for support. When you’re 18 hours from where you were raised and have no desire to go back to small town living, you’re forced to sink or swim. We have struggled both emotionally, physically and financially just like “straight” couples. We are in the process of raising a very energetic, superhero of a kid that only knows one thing….he is loved by his mommies and that he’s not going to have a baby “sisser” much to his displeasure. Mel melted my heart when I met her. Now 8 years later both she and our son continue to melt my heart. The way I try to make sense of a deep traumatic past regarding a marriage is that there will always be challenges in any relationship. Had I not had a horrible and abusive marriage, I wouldn’t be able to fully understand how my mom and dad have their own loving connection.
Thank you, Melody Landrum-Arnold for just being you! Thank you for continuing to love me despite the hatred for myself. Thank you for helping to make our dreams of becoming mothers a reality. Thank you for always having my best interest in mind while we walk this treacherous road of trauma recovery side by side.
My mom always told me growing up, “If you find a man a tenth of what your daddy is, you’ll have a good man.” My answer is, “I did find HER.”