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A lesbian couple reminiscences on a pivotal Thanksgiving, 38 years ago

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A MARTINEZ, HOST:

Time now for StoryCorps. Today we hear from 84-year-old Mary Ostendorf and her spouse, Leslye Huff. They first met in 1983. And like many LGBTQ people back then, Mary hid their relationship from her family. Leslye went along with it but wanted to be open with them. The couple came to StoryCorps to share how they kept their secret until Thanksgiving that year, when they decided it was time to come out to Mary's mom.

MARY OSTENDORF: I was debating whether I would say something at dinner or before dinner. I was still scared.

LESLYE HUFF: I have to tell you - the closer it got to Thanksgiving, the more I thought, I can't let her come here under those pretenses. So I called her on the phone. And I explained the nature of our relationship. It was clear that it was not information that she welcomed. And as it turned out, she didn't come to Thanksgiving dinner. How did you feel about me having outed you to your mother?

OSTENDORF: I felt like I was walking on hot coals. But I loved you very much. I had made that decision already, that we were forever.

HUFF: Then she got sick. And I was sitting there one day with her. And you were coming from work. And we were looking out the window. And she saw you coming. And that's when I said to her, would you like to live with us? And the smile on her face was just - you know, it was beautiful to see. I knew that she wanted to make sure that she was with her daughter. But she wasn't sure we would have her. And we made it happen, didn't we? And I treated your mom like the sassy woman she was. We even danced together. I'd put on music. And she'd get up and dance. I'm holding her because she couldn't balance well. That was how the joy increased. But she'd gone from doing quite well...

OSTENDORF: Very well.

HUFF: ...To being almost comatose.

OSTENDORF: The priest came. And he did the last rites. He asked me who that woman is. I said, oh, you mean Leslye? My partner. And my mother heard Leslye. She just perked up. The priest said, you really like Leslye. My mother said, I love Leslye.

HUFF: I loved her, too. We said that love heals the past, the present and the future. And we're proving it every day.

MARTINEZ: That was Leslye Huff and Mary Ostendorf in Cleveland, Ohio. If you want to share a conversation with someone you care about, NPR and StoryCorps invite you to be part of The Great Thanksgiving Listen this holiday weekend. There's more information at thegreatlisten.org.

(SOUNDBITE OF YUSUKE TSUTSUMI'S "UNTITLED #2") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.