Little love stories: who were you without a wedding ring

Growing up in the 1950s, I was an unathletic and slightly effeminate gay boy. In my late teens, I finally realized my “difference”. My father sensed this and tried really hard to “keep the gays out”. It didn’t work. At my mother’s urging, my parents attended Pflag (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) meetings. In June 1979, they marched in New York City’s Gay Pride Parade. My father was holding a “I am proud of my gay son” sign. Someone asked to take our picture. The shutter clicked. We faced each other and laughed – until we had tears in our eyes. – Mark N

The apartment was 1,300 square feet of uncertainty, the red front door welcoming me to life after divorce. For three years, it housed me, a mother of two, allowing me to rediscover who I was without a wedding ring. When love came again, I was ready to let it in, and eventually built a new beachside home with my boyfriend. My old apartment is empty, I ran my fingers over the walls that held the secrets of my most vulnerable moments, my grief over the future I had imagined. I closed the red door behind me and, outside, moved forward. – Heather Sweeney

My closest friends know that I lost my mother to ovarian cancer. They don’t know that five years later, I lost my brother in a fatal accident — and that within months of his death, my father had passed away, too, and smoking haunted him for the rest of his life. Sitting motionless on the bedroom floor, unable to accept my antagonism and the death of my brother, I desperately needed hope. Just then I reached out to my little one year old son. It was like a radiant light dispelling the darkness. Sobbing, I held him tight, promising to show him my late family through my memories. – Jasmine Jakesek

Would I have gone on a date with my future wife if I had looked more closely at her Tinder profile? Mostly not. There was a dog in her picture. I am allergic to all things furry. We hadn’t ordered a drink yet when Nina said she is a passionate vet who specializes in pets with dementia. That’s how she heard about her old dog, Bertie. “He won’t live long,” she said. Encouraged, I went with her to another bar and later to her apartment. Four years later, we are happily married, living together in Germany, and Bertie, who is 17, is still alive. – Max Balzer