Today is the final day of the University of Alaska system’s annual Open Enrollment period, when we have the opportunity to make changes to the various options in our benefits package. And so it came to formalize what Rozz, now Ptery, & I had come to agree to — that we’re not quite partners anymore. So, with the simple filling out of my Health Plan Enrollment Form removing Rozz (still his legal name) as my financially interdependent partner… well. There it is. Filled it out, walked in the rain to the University Lake Building where our HR office is nowadays, & made it official.*
Is this how heterosexual couples feel when they get copies of their final divorce papers? Surely at least those who still love each other but for whom circumstance or life paths have led them in different directions, as happened with us.
Rozz & met in January 1993, moved in with each other later that year, & became financially interdependent partners (FIPs) as soon as the university made the program available, sometime in the mid-1990s. To become FIPs, we had to fill out a form checking off on a number of statements establishing our relationship to one another, & also had to meet at least five criteria (for example, having a joint checking account) which established proof that we were financially interdependent.
What did this get us? As stated in the University of Alaska’s explanation of its FIP policy:
financially interdependent partners and their dependent children will be provided the same benefits as those provided to married spouses and their dependent children, except where expressly prohibited by law. All University of Alaska Policies and Regulations and benefit plan documents that affect employees, spouses and their families also apply to employees and their financially interdependent partner and dependent children.
Through the FIP program, then, Rozz had access to UA-provided health benefits, along with other benefits such as the employee tuition waiver, which enabled Rozz to take classes at UAA. (I used the employee tuition waiver myself to finance my masters’ degree.) Had we legally adopted Rozz’s nephew Jesse, he also would have come under my benefits. (As it happens, it proved too legally complex to put through an adoption; & he fortunately had health insurance through other means.)
Our benefits weren’t exactly at the same level as for our legally married heterosexual counterparts, however. For one thing, unlike for married folks, the value of the benefits that Rozz received count as income for me — so I had to pay additional taxes on them.
Not quite the same as marriage, then.
But for all that, it was the closest thing we had to a legal recognition and honoring of our commitment & love for one another.
And so filling out my Health Plan Enrollment Form removing Rozz as my FIP is the closest representation we have of a “divorce.”* (It also, to my great regret, means that Rozz-now-Ptery no longer has any health insurance at all. C’mon, President Obama & Congress, we need universal health coverage now!)
I picked these particular photos for this blog post because my memories of Rozz making that apple pie on a beautiful snowy Thanksgiving Day in 2005 is one of memories that went through my head as I walked in the rain to University Lake Building at lunchtime today, feeling pretty rainy inside myself. Thanksgiving 2005 was a beautiful snowy winter day, & I remember Jesse (who is partially seen behind Rozz in the upper right pik) spending some time outside with the neighbor shoveling driveways & throwing snow up in the air that the neighbor’s dog would jump up into. Later, after the pies were done, we headed across town to have Thanksgiving dinner with Mark (my brother) & Linda & Lauren & Miles — finishing off with pumpkin, pecan, & Rozz’s apple pie.
It was a wonderful day. I miss days like those, & all the other days & nights that we spent together as friends, lovers, & partners over the past 16 years. I feel lucky to have spent so much of my life with you, my love. Knowing I’ll have less income tax to pay next April 15 is only partial recompense for not being able to spend more years the same.
Postscript: By coincidence, just as I was finishing up this post, I got a call from Ptery, who just came into cellphone range again after a week & a half out of it. I told him the news of our ex-FIPness & about the blog post I was writing, & the sadness I was feeling. But also, how glad I am that he’s happy doing what he’s doing & following the life he’s chosen. With or without marriage or FIP, whether or not we live together or are partners, the love is still there, strong as ever. And that feels pretty good.
* Found out later I need also to sign a “Termination of Financially Interdependent Partnership” form in front of an official UA HR representative, so I’ll trot back over to University Lake Building on Monday & do it.