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Tiny Love Stories: ‘Who I Was Without a Wedding Ring’

A Portrait of Father and Son

Growing up in the 1950s, I was an unathletic, slightly effeminate gay boy. In my late teens, I finally became conscious of my “difference.” My father sensed it and tried hard to “shame away the gay.” It didn’t work. At my mother’s urging, my parents attended Pflag meetings (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays). In June 1979, they marched in New York City’s Gay Pride Parade. My father carried an “I’m Proud of My Gay Son” sign. Someone asked to take our picture. The shutter clicked. We faced each other and laughed — until tears came to our eyes. — Mark N. Reiter

A portrait of me in 1962 when I was 7 years old and not yet out.

Thanks for Sheltering Me

The apartment was 1,300 square feet of uncertainty, the red front door welcoming me to life after divorce. For three years, it sheltered me, a single mother of two, allowing me to rediscover who I was without a wedding ring. When love came knocking again, I was ready to let it in, eventually creating a new beach-side home with my boyfriend. My old apartment empty, I ran my fingers along the walls that held secrets of my most vulnerable moments, my grief for the future I had imagined. I closed the red door behind me, moving out, moving on. — Heather Sweeney

With my boyfriend with the keys to our first house together.

My Radiant Light

My close friends know that I lost my mother to ovarian cancer. They don’t know that five years later, I lost my brother to a fatal accident — and that within months of his passing, my father also died, his lifelong smoking catching up to him. Sitting motionless on the bedroom floor, unable to accept my orphanhood and my brother’s demise, I was desperate for hope. Just then my one-year-old son’s tiny hand reached out for me. He was like a radiant light dispelling darkness. Sobbing, I held him tight, promising to acquaint him with my departed family through my memories. — Jasmine Jaksic

My son, my sun.

Biblically Old Bertie

Would I have gone on a date with my future spouse had I looked closely at her Tinder profile? Probably not. There was a dog in her picture; I’m allergic to everything furry. We hadn’t yet ordered a drink when Nina said she was a passionate veterinarian, specializing in pets with dementia. That’s how I heard about her biblically old dog, Berti. “He won’t live very long,” she said. Encouraged, I went with her to another bar and later to her apartment. Four years on, we are happily married, living together in Germany, with Berti, age 17, still alive. — Max Balzer

Outside with Berti, our 17-year-old Labrador mix.

See more Tiny Love Stories at nytimes.com/modernlove. Submit yours at nytimes.com/tinylovestories.

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