We would always pull up a chair when Ron began to tell a story.  It wasn’t so much because he knew how to weave words together in a way that held us in breathless anticipation; nor was it because he was a master of the surprise ending.  It was more because we wanted to be comfortable while he rambled, often losing sight of the story’s point.  After a good amount of time, he would reach the end of the story and invariably end it with his signature dismissive phrase “And all that kind of stuff.”  Story over.

Ron was a tall, thin man with a large nose, big heart and a warm smile.  You couldn’t really mention Ron without adding “and Dean”.  The two were inseparable.  When Paul first introduced them to me, he referred to them as his gay fathers.  They were not, in fact, related to him by blood, but they were by heart.  After I met them the first time Ron issued an uncharacteristic short reply when Paul asked him what he thought of me.  “He’s a keeper.”

If I can’t separate the words Ron and Dean, it is even harder to split apart the words Ron and summer. Paul and I would drive up to southern Maine on summer weekends and watch our cares wash away with the tide.  The days seemed to stretch out wider than the blue sky.  At night we would always meet Ron and Dean, who called Ogunquit, Maine their weekend home.
I should correct myself.  It wasn’t Ron and Dean, but Ron and Crystal Chandelier that we would meet.  Dean is a slight, quiet man, but his alter ego, Crystal Chandelier is like Oprah, all hair, make-up and personality; but whiter, blonder, much thinner and a vision of glitter, feathers and sequins. Ron always coordinated his suits to match and would stand tall and proud, nodding and basking in the glow.
One summer the four of us rented a cottage together.  It would be the first time that I met Dean as himself.  I am ashamed to admit it now, but during the early part of our relationship, I often wondered why a man would find another man who sometimes dressed as a woman attractive.  While we sat on the deck on a sunny afternoon that summer, Ron began a story with twists and turns and diversions that taxed my ability to find a point.  Every time I thought the story had reached its conclusion, Dean would join us on the deck with a drink; each time looking more like Crystal.  When I asked Ron how long it took Dean to complete the transformation he quipped “Four hours and a bottle of booze.”
Finally, Ron reached the conclusion which was a story about the first time he saw Dean. “He was wearing only a pair of jeans, a feather boa and walked right past me.  I thought, that’s the guy for me.”  Just then Crystal appeared, a blinding vision, and said “If you are going to do something, it’s only worth doing if you do it all the way.”  I could then see what Ron saw in Dean.  It wasn’t the hair, make up or glitter.  He loved him because he bloomed in the light radiated by Dean's fierce heart.
When we went into the club, people clamored to have photographs taken with Crystal. They were celebrities. Ron stood lovingly by Dean’s side reveling in the glow.  At one point during the evening I began to notice more men join us offering to buy me and Paul drinks.  After we left, I mentioned to Ron that their celebrity had benefits.  He looked at me and flatly said “They didn't buy us drinks because of Dean.  They bought us drinks because when you were in the restroom, I told them you used to be a gay porn star.”
Eventually summer ended and Ron’s own story reached its conclusion. His knee started acting up six months ago. Cancer had spread from his lungs to his entire body.  He didn’t burden us with this knowledge.  He simply stood in the background nodding like a sunflower until the end. But, I know something now that I didn’t know then.  I underestimated Ron's ability to weave a wonderful story, capable of great humor and a surprise ending.
And all that kind of stuff.

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