by Richard Schneider
Two weeks before the 2018 SF Pride Parade, my oldest brother, Irv, and I were having another one of our all day events consisting of a Mountain View Cemetery visit where our parents and one brother are interred, lunch at Fenton’s in Oakland, a double feature movie and dinner. At Fenton’s, Irv asked me if I would be marching in the Gay Pride Parade in San Francisco again this year (2018). I said yes and he said he would be watching it as usual on TV. He said every time he watches, he tries to spot me in my contingent but he always misses me. He said he would love to see me marching.
Several days later I was thinking about what he had said about wanting to see me in the parade and I thought there is one way to fix that. I called him up and asked him if he wanted to go to the parade and he immediately said yes but he wouldn’t know where to go or stand to get a good view of the parade. I then told him not just go but to be in it and marching down Market Street. There was a silence on the phone and then he said are you kidding? I said no, be in it all the way in the Planned Parenthood contingent. He immediately replied “Oh God yes, I would love that”.
I made the arrangements and he took BART to the Embarcadero station in the city. I met him there around 10:15 a.m. after taking the 9:30 Larkspur Ferry. Immediately we started walking around Market Street and the adjoining streets where all of the contingents were gathering and warming up. Irv could not believe his eyes or the sounds he was hearing. He said he could just feel the energy building everywhere we went and that it was absolutely amazing. We got to our Planned Parenthood contingent staging spot on Main Street and met our fellow marchers, some of whom are congregants at our Rodef Sholom synagogue. He was amazed at how happy and joyous and friendly everyone was all around us.
As we walked around again, we came upon a large group of San Francisco Police officers who were all set for marching themselves in their own contingent. Irv could not believe it. Police in the Gay Pride Parade!!! He slowly walking up to a group of them and nervously started talking to them. He had me take several pictures of him with some of the officers and his nervousness disappeared quickly. He didn’t think this was possible.
You see, my oldest brother was 82 years old then and had been closeted all his life and the door was firmly closed. No one knew he was gay except me and my husband Marty. He had been married, had two lovely daughters but eventually got divorced. He moved to California in 1968 and remained in his dark hiding spot.
Now here he is at the biggest Gay Pride Parade in the world and he was IN IT. The door to his closet burst open and he was free to be who he was without fear. He was alive and I saw him blossom before my eyes. As we were marching, I took several pictures of him riding in our trolley on our way down Market Street. He stood the entire way, leaning forward against the safety rail waving his gay pride flag and his blue pom poms as he eagerly looked ahead of the trolley at the throngs that came to see the parade (and him). It was an emotional event for me to witness the utter joy he was having.
Days after the parade he was still going on about what a wonderful time he had and he still couldn’t get over the fact that he did it and was in it. He said it was one of the happiest days of his life. I realized it was one of the best decisions I had ever made to invite him to be with me in the parade. I will never ever forget it.
I will be marching in this year’s Pride Parade but I will be alone. I got a call on June 17 from the San Leandro police saying that Irv’s landlord found him dead in his apartment and that he may have died on Father’s Day. I wasn’t going to march this year in the Pride Parade due to a painful spinal problem I have. Now I am going to march again to relive last year’s parade with Irv. It is going to be a very emotional event for me.I will be marching with our Rodef Sholom members in the URJ contingent.