After 42 years together, our first Pride
July 3, 2012 | 12:00 am
(Updated: February 25, 2013 | 5:19 pm)
By Cecil Bethea
Carl Shepherd and I have been together as partners for 42 years. I am 84, he’s 71. Back in December, Carl was stricken with dementia.
Last year was my first Pride parade. If anybody had thought that I was still in the closet, he certainly learned the truth, what with me riding in a parade of gays and waving a rainbow flag. Remember, I am so old that I can remember when we snuck into the three gay bars in Denver. Back then we would never have thought of a PrideFest attended by 300,000; much less likely than going to the moon.
I have been taking Carl out on brief expeditions for the last month. Two weeks before PrideFest, he decided that he would like to see the parade. As he is now in a wheel chair and I no longer drive, the logistics had to be solved.
We are both veterans of the Air Force, so John Kelly arranged for us to ride in Ray Sylvester’s convertible.
The parade is now a pleasant memory – it couldn’t have gone better for Carl and me. Ahead of time, I had all sorts of horrible imaginations. First I had asked him whether he wanted to go strictly as an onlooker. I had agreed to be with the veterans, so I sent John Kelly, the president of the group, a message of regret. Then John called to say that we could ride in Ray Sylvester’s convertible. Carl readily agreed. Having difficulty remembering which day it is, he had asked me almost every day when was the day of the parade – which probably means that he really did want to go.
He also stated that he needed a hat and dark glasses, which I bought at a thrift store.
Then came organization of the transportation. It ended up with my leaving our house at 7:15 a.m. because there’s only one bus per hour. Carl dressed himself and then wanted to shave. His razor is kept at the nurses’ station. Before 8:30 a.m. the taxi which I’d ordered the night before arrived. We reached the assembly point before nine.
Ray met us at the gate of Cheesman Park where the parade was to start. Carl had seldom participated with gay doings, so most people did not know him. Some might have thought that he was my imaginary playmate before then. Many, a dozen, came up to meet him or to greet him. First he sat in the rear seat of the convertible. Before the parade started, he decided to set up on that area between the seat and the trunk. I had brought a cushion for him because he doesn’t have much padding down there. Carl’s caseworker was worried that the crowds and noise might upset him. Before the parade moved out, I told him, “All these people are your friends. They are cheering, not booing you.” I don’t know that these words were necessary.
Jokingly I had told Carl to watch how Queen Elizabeth waves, and he waved all the way down Colfax Avenue, frequently doffing his hat. In front of us were the color guard bearing seven flags, then the marching veterans and cars carrying the non-marchers. We were in the third car. Governor Hickenlooper marched with us. I don’t know how many thousands had come to see a parade. They had brought folding chairs, sun hats, ice chests filled with soda pop. The temperature, if not in the 90s, was mighty close.
The crowds were enthusiastic returning our waves, cheers, and many yelled “Thank you!” Of course the protesters were carrying signs: “Repent,” “You are going to burn in hell!” and other such felicitations. A young woman was standing to the right of them with her own sign: On it was painted an arrow pointing at the protesters and saying, “Just Kidding.” Now that was an original sign.
After the parade, Ray took us back to the Center. I left after Carl said he was sleepy. People who had known Carl before said he looked really good. I’ve never seen anybody treat someone so nicely as they treated him. He kept telling people that he had been a nuclear weapons technician. Evidently he thinks that was a high point of his life. I disagree. The best!