"I'm sorry for your loss."
It was unexpected.
I was standing at the membership counter at Costco last Friday. The time had come. The renewal had been processed last year before I realized what was happening: Mark's Costco membership, with me added to it. I had had one with my ex-wife, but then she inherited it with the divorce. After Mark and I got together, he added me to his; except for a few frustrating experiences, it had worked well enough. But now, after almost two years, the time had come to terminate our joint membership and to open one for myself.
"I'd like to get a membership," I told the man behind the counter.
"Have you ever had one before?" he asked. "It'd make things easier."
"Yes," I replied, "with a former spouse."
He nodded, seemingly knowingly. I assumed he thought I had been divorced, which was true.
I handed him my old membership card, the one with me on Mark's account. He took it and started typing on his keyboard. I watched him, waiting for the furrowed brow.
"It was under 'Mark Koepke,'" I said, then added, "but he passed away."
The man stopped typing and looked up from his keyboard, briefly making eye contact with me. "I'm sorry for your loss," he said before returning to his typing.
It was a loss. After almost two years, it is still a loss I experience every day, to one extent or another. But it was obvious, I thought, that I am a gay man. He knows the name of my former "spouse." My husband. I was at a Costco in Murray, Utah, and I had just been offered condolences on the loss of my husband. I wanted to cry, but I knew I couldn't.
We went through the rest of the formalities. He ran my debit card for the new membership, then beckoned me down to have my picture taken for my new card. He asked me if I wanted to keep my old card. I shook my head, and he dumped it in the shredder. I kind of wish I'd kept it. He then handed me my new card and said, again, "I'm sorry for your loss." I didn't expect that. I knew he didn't have to do that. I was grateful and thanked him before I walked outside, my eyes wet.
I'm grateful that I live in a time and place where I can be afforded moments of dignity such as I experienced that day in Costco, of all places. Where my marriage, my love for my husband, can be affirmed and dignified in such a simple way.