The Padrino is Getting Married

May 5, 2014

If you grew up in a small town in the 1970s and 80s, and you related to the supporting characters in a John Hughes movie way more than you ever could to the actual, breathing individuals around you in your real life, then pull up a chair. Because this is our story.

And this story started before the Internet allowed us to find one another, before smart phones reconnected us every second, and before said phones were also TVs and alien tracking devices. Back when we waited all afternoon for our favorite song to be played on a radio station with terrible reception, just so we could quickly push record to capture it. Because you didn’t have a record store. You didn’t have a world wide everything to download anything. You had the people and things you could see, hear and touch within about a 10-mile radius. Small, safe, sound. Sorta. And that was your world.

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And I was lucky enough to have Ken in my world. We met in first grade because we were put in the same reading group. There were probably about 150 kids in our grade, and three of us…Ken, Russell Merka and I…were put together to start reading the Rainbows anthology while everyone else tackled Lions and Tigers. Basically, what this means is, at recess Ken was Luke, Russell was Han and I was Leia. Obviously.

We survived, as we all tend to do, throughout the steady course of birthday parties, friendship bracelets, backyard campouts, Juice Newton, swimming lessons, choir performances, Footloose, weird feelings about boyfriends/girlfriends, puff paint, braces, his mom’s funeral, argyle socks, Purple Rain, lockers, love notes, marching band, Police concerts, youth groups, pool parties, student council, pep rallies, The Smiths, car dates, and things.

Lots of things.

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He went to the giant University in Austin and worked at the coolest job in town. And I went to a smaller private school about two hours up the road. We visited each other regularly, as self-appointed siblings do, and marveled at the differences between a large state school and a smaller private Christian gathering. Even though I was the one at the “Christian school,” I always knew he was a way “stronger Christian” than I was. (That’s how people talked back then, I guess they still do.) He was extremely involved in Campus ministries, attended countless hours of bible study and discussion, moved to Brazil to help orphans. And then five seconds after graduation, he moved to DC, got a law degree, and helped a team of amazing people start International Justice Mission to rescue victims of individual human rights abuse. All the while, I stayed around Central Texas, for the most part, fiddling with press releases and working through a variety of life experiences.

ken-and-me

Fast forward 10 years and 10,000 stories later, and I was pregnant with a little boy who needed a godfather…a Padrino as we call them around here. And Ken was the obvious choice.

“Does it bother you that he’s not married?” said some out loud.

“Um, no…,” I said. “If he does marry someone eventually, then Harry will have a godmother. If not, then not. Whatever.” I figured it was more important for a little boy to have a godfather than a godmother, and it would all sort itself out.

I also figured Ken wouldn’t marry someone for a while, if ever. He was extremely picky. Like all the Seinfeld characters. He dated always, tons of darling girls, but in the end, there was always something wrong. With the exception of a few girls, I can count three over three decades, there were always a lot of dates with perfect women that just sort of ended for a variety of random reasons.

It didn’t matter.

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Harry had the perfect Padrino. He came to Harry’s baptism and stood up at the front of the beautiful, towering church with me and James and we all promised that we’d raise Harry up to know he is a beloved child of God in whom God is well pleased. The pastor asked Ken, “Will you keep this child in your care and prayers so that he may grow in the love of God?” Ken swore he would. And I knew he meant it.

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And then when Harry was about three, the perfect Padrino took me to the Cedar Door for Mexican Martinis. He said I might want to reconsider the whole Padino thing. And then he told me he was gay.

He didn’t breathe. He didn’t move. He just looked at me.

“Good. Harry can have two Padrinos then.” This was my first response.

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I think I also blabbered on about how much I loved him and how much I didn’t care about all the things people care about and how I had no problem with any of the things and we talked and talked and talked about his story and his struggles and his studies and God and the Bible and the church and family and probably more things too.

And he said, “You never suspected?”

And I said, “I always just thought if you were, you would be.”

But it makes complete sense that he wasn’t. I mean, he was, of course. He knew that he was when we were reading Rainbows and playing Star Wars. He always knew. But in a small Central Texas town, where parachute pants were considered “really out there,” you could not be gay. It was not allowed. He would not survive. I completely get it. And I can not imagine.

But I do know someone who can imagine, someone who knows exactly what that’s like.

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And if we would have known enough back then to know to drive down I-10 for about three hours, to the land of Beyonce…Houston and Sugar Land… we would have known that there was another person going through the same thing. And I’m sure that this young man, in this much larger Texas town, has 10,000 stories of his own about growing up Gay in Texas. And I capitalize Gay, because that is also his last name. Yay adolescence.

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But as things happen, these two met in DC…well, technically they met on a bus to Scranton. But that’s another story. Along with 100,000 other stories ready and waiting to be told. Finally.

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Last year, Jeff asked Ken to marry him, and Ken said yes, and Harry thought that was a good plan.

And so here we are, finally, to this week. This week with two guys. Getting married. In Texas.

Jeff & Ken Wedding Teaser HD from Jeff Gay on Vimeo.

This is my favorite video right now. Did you watch it? Are you kidding me? How cute are they? Whenever I’ve been stressed or sad or bored or working too hard in the last month or so leading up Mom 2.0 Summit, I’ve watched this video. It makes me happy.

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I’m so thankful that I live in a world where my son can grow up with two outstanding people like this as godparents. I’m not one to easily tear up, but just thinking about these fantastic individuals in our extended family…and that Harry will always have them and they will always have his back, well, I just feel that we are incredibly lucky and I am grateful.

Family, man. They are everywhere…sometimes where you least expect it. Sometimes you get it. Often you choose it. And if you’re very brave and very lucky, it grows.

I feel so lucky and beyond thankful (and proud and happy) that I know Ken and Jeff and that they are now a part of our family. I’m inspired by them, by their lives, their humor, and that they both have to courage to be themselves everyday.

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And I wish that always for you, my dear Ken and Jeff. I’m so glad that you found each other….and that you are now together, safe and sound.

Soundtrack: Safe and Sound by Captial Cities

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45 Comments

  • Reply Heather May 5, 2014 at 3:12 pm

    I am crying all the tears. They are so lucky to have a friend like you, Laura, and you are so lucky to have them. Congrats, Ken and Jeff! So happy for you.

  • Reply Kristen Howerton May 5, 2014 at 3:20 pm

    Wahhhh!!!! Weepy as I read your story. Grinning ear-to-ear at the video. Much love to Ken and Jeff.

  • Reply Jeff Gay May 5, 2014 at 3:47 pm

    We’re lucky to have a friend like you. And this guy Harry is the cutest. So glad I get dibs on him out of this deal.

  • Reply jamie May 5, 2014 at 4:15 pm

    Thanks for reminding us that Ken’s a good egg after all! 🙂

  • Reply Ben May 5, 2014 at 4:42 pm

    What a beautiful tribute — sounds like Ken’s lucky to have a “self-appointed sibling” like you just as well. (and I’m totally stealing that description for my best girl friend from school, whose beautiful daughter is my god-daughter) Have a blast at what I’m sure will be a brilliant event and congrats guys!!

  • Reply Lana May 5, 2014 at 5:10 pm

    Laura, Thank you for sharing this with us. I am so happy that Ken has finally found that special someone in Jeff! It’s been a long time coming and is very deserved. Harry is indeed a very lucky young man to have 2 Padrinos who will be there to love and guide him and most importantly show him what courage and love really is.

  • Reply chelsea hudson May 5, 2014 at 7:05 pm

    So. So. So. Perfect. Laura this brought tears to my eyes. What a precious bond you two share… and I am so happy and excited to see my “very favorite first cousin Jeff” marrying such an awesome man. Have fun this weekend… I will be pouting the whole time wishing I was in Austin… But sending lots of love and hugs from MD!

  • Reply Mary P. Stitt May 5, 2014 at 8:13 pm

    So very very happy for you Ken and Jeff, and Ken, I’m so proud and happy to have found you, a true friend and neighbor, living upstairs from me back at Yarling Court. Thank goodness Facebook has helped our friendship to continue and grow through the years. Jeff, welcome to Ken’s huge extended family. Hope Governor Perry attends the wedding and has a glass of champagne in your honor. I salute you on your wedding day!

  • Reply Laurie May 5, 2014 at 8:34 pm

    So lovely. I met Ken a few years ago and knew from minute one he was the kind of person I’d just want to be around, anytime, just like you. That you’ve had each other all this time makes my heart happy. I wish these two all the goodness in the world. So, so glad they found each other.

  • Reply Cynthia May 5, 2014 at 8:57 pm

    Beautiful. I love him, too.

  • Reply Amanda May 5, 2014 at 9:14 pm

    “And I said, “I always just thought if you were, you would be.”
    Just about the best friendship line I’ve ever read. Destined for a happy ending with the loving beginning it had. Felicidades!

  • Reply Sherry Carr-Smith May 5, 2014 at 9:17 pm

    You describe my town perfectly, just a couple hours’ further south. Harry is lucky to have such great guys in his life.

  • Reply Barchbo May 5, 2014 at 9:27 pm

    Cheers to Ken and Jeff! What a beautiful tribute. Here’s to the start of a great journey together!

    PS: This post did not contain any 70s or 80s photos of you and Ken…just references. Please rectify.

  • Reply Jenny, bloggess May 5, 2014 at 10:21 pm

    Love those guys.

  • Reply Amanda May 5, 2014 at 10:58 pm

    That video, this story, you, and these guys. The best.

  • Reply Karen May 5, 2014 at 11:01 pm

    Love this story of love and friendship. Thanks for sharing, Laura!

  • Reply Jill (mrschaos) May 5, 2014 at 11:17 pm

    Love this so much. Congrats to everyone!

  • Reply Daffodil Campbell May 6, 2014 at 1:35 am

    I just love a happy ending. And speaking as someone who’s kids are also blessed with an amazing pair of uncles (from TX, no less) I can assure you, they will knock this padrino thang out of the park. Bravo and blessings all around.

  • Reply BOSSY May 6, 2014 at 4:07 am

    Great story. Great great great. Sigh.

  • Reply Roxanna May 6, 2014 at 5:16 am

    Beautiful. Congratulations, Ken and Jeff!

  • Reply Karen from Chookooloonks May 6, 2014 at 6:36 am

    I’m still threatening to crash that wedding. Just saying.

    (Just kidding. Happy, happy to Ken and Jeff, two dear friends I have yet to meet!)

    (Also? This post is EXACTLY why I count you in my top 5 starting lineup. You’re the best, Laura Mayes.)

  • Reply Robin Plemmons May 6, 2014 at 6:49 am

    Dang. This is all kinds of beautiful. I bet that’ll be one fun, heart swelling wedding (& life together)!

  • Reply Suebob May 6, 2014 at 7:45 am

    I indeed think it is so groovy now that people are finally getting together. A beautifully told story of a beautiful friendship.

  • Reply Kathi May 6, 2014 at 10:12 am

    Weepy happies!! That’s a wonderful story, told through an incredibly loving and supportive (and hilarious) voice! What a blessing for Ken. And Jeff. And Harry… especially Harry. And you. And us.

  • Reply Jessica B May 6, 2014 at 10:25 am

    Cheers! Good wishes to all!

  • Reply Judy Woods May 6, 2014 at 10:28 am

    Oh my God, Laura, read all the beautiful comments about this story. I’m grinning and happy and can’t see what I’m typing because I’m weeping over all of this. The story, the order of words, the pictures – all beautiful. Tell Ken we wish him and Jeff the very, very best. Harry is lucky to have such strong people in his life.

  • Reply Margit May 6, 2014 at 10:34 am

    Beautifully written Laura and congrats to Ken & Jeff!

  • Reply Sarah Hubbell May 6, 2014 at 10:43 am

    Great great story. Your happiness is palpable and Harry is lucky to have two great Padrinos.

  • Reply Laurie Johnson May 6, 2014 at 10:47 am

    Pat Benatar didn’t know it at the time;but,she was writing two songs in particular that described Ken and Jeff’s life before and after their first meeting-“LOVE IS A BATTLEFIELD” and “WE LIVE FOR LOVE”.Congratulations to Ken and Jeff on this most special day.So glad that you found one another!

  • Reply Asha Dornfest May 6, 2014 at 10:57 am

    What a truly beautiful story. Beautiful in the telling and in the living. Best wishes to you all as friends and family.

  • Reply Leahpeah May 6, 2014 at 11:03 am

    Oh, I love this. So wonderful. xoxo

  • Reply GirlsGoneChild May 6, 2014 at 11:17 am

    SOBBING. THIS IS BEAUTIFUL. So so happy for them and for you.

  • Reply Allison May 6, 2014 at 12:18 pm

    Congratulations!!! Such a beautiful story that will continue on forever.

  • Reply Allison Allen May 6, 2014 at 12:22 pm

    Cheers all the way around! But I’m with Barchbo, I NEED 70s and 80s pics of the two of you, please!!

  • Reply Roy Sanson-Mosier May 6, 2014 at 12:41 pm

    Thank you sweet sweer Laura for such a beautiful tribute to your friend and what he means in your life. I’m thrilled for the two if them and happy too that they have such a beautiful and supportive person in their life. And thanks for the tears…happy tears!

  • Reply amy volk May 6, 2014 at 1:25 pm

    love this story.

  • Laura Harrison Mayes
    Reply Laura May 6, 2014 at 3:13 pm

    All, oh my gosh I WISH I had some 70s and 80s photos. I’m sure my mom does somewhere. I need to raid her house.

  • Reply Stacy May 8, 2014 at 3:19 pm

    This was absolutely beautiful. I think that if more people told stories like this then the walls between sides could eventually go away. Thank you for being an amazing ally to your friend (your brother, etc). Also, that is probably one of the best pre-wedding videos I have ever seen. 🙂

  • Reply Janey May 10, 2014 at 10:27 am

    Beautifully told Laura H Mayes. Yours is the sweetest of friendships. I love that guy too…he is one in a million. I know the weekend will be so fun. Lots of love.

  • Reply The Spohrs Are Multiplying… Surfing Sunday 5.10 May 11, 2014 at 12:50 pm

    […] to The Padrino on his nuptials! This post by Laura gave me happy […]

  • Reply Lise May 13, 2014 at 8:39 am

    Laura, I just love your blog.

    I thought at the end of that video that the whole bar would be full of wedding guests!

  • Reply Jeannine May 14, 2014 at 1:58 pm

    Crying happy tears at your beautiful post and these two beautiful souls Harry is fortunate to call his Padrinos.

  • Reply Rachel May 17, 2014 at 9:21 pm

    I hope you give this toast at their wedding!

  • Reply Tim Holt June 29, 2014 at 4:55 pm

    This is really beautiful…I am glad they look so happy and have such supportive friends( who sound more like family)

  • Reply Naomi May 5, 2015 at 3:20 pm

    Love this. Although I always thought Waterloo was supposed to be the cool Austin job, which never seemed quite right when I worked the cassette wall.

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