Edie Windsor and Thea Spyer: When Edie Met Thea

1.9.2011

By Aaron Hicklin

Her lawsuit overturned DOMA, which was ruled 'unconstitutional' by the Supreme Court

I met Thea at the Portofino, a restaurant in the West Village. There was a place near it called the Bagatelle, over on University Place, and I used to go to there five nights a week. I would read the Saturday Review of Literature; I would have my coffee there -- me and a bunch of buddies. I thought she was sensational, and mostly she was a great dancer. And we really danced. And then we met over the next two years. We always danced together. But it wouldn't have occurred to me to make any moves on someone who was with someone. And she was always with someone. And then one summer she was not with someone. I knew she had a place in the Hamptons, so I wrangled an invitation through a friend. I was wild for her. I don't know how to describe it. It was everything. It was just more so. We were profoundly in love and stayed that way. Many, many years later, I said to her, 'When did you really start to deeply love me?' And she said, 'Mrs. Fordham's house,' which is the house we rented one summer in the Hamptons. We had very different passions, but we both had enormous love for each other's passions. She played the violin. She played golf. And she did them both obsessively. With golf I had to make certain rules, because if she came home talking her head off about every shot, I would say, 'The idea is for you to go and enjoy it and discuss it completely and then come home.'

Thea was diagnosed with MS the day before my mother died. That was in 1975, and by 1980 she was using two Canadian crutches. The first time we ever danced using the wheelchair -- I would sit in her lap in the wheelchair -- the song on the radio was, 'There's a place for us, there's a time for us.' I can't even sing it because I cry. When I'm sick now -- I have a lot of angina -- that's when I miss her the most. I say to myself, 'Honey, what's become of us?' And I lean against the full-length picture that I have of her. But she had this angina increasingly, and the doctor had said, 'If you can last for two more years, they're very close to having this noninvasive blah, blah, blah,' but it was clear that she wasn't going to survive open-heart surgery to get to the valve. And she said, 'We only have two years at best that they could give me.' And one of those years would be lying in a hospital, and she just said, 'No. I want the summer.' She said, 'I'm not coming to the hospital.' I made her get on the phone so the doctor would know, and asked if there was anything else we could do, and he said, 'Nothing -- give her a little morphine.' And she elected it. That's one of the greatest things, the part of the picture that's most meaningful to me, where she's sitting there saying, 'I had my summer.' And that was her last summer.

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