#GWKThenAndNow: Dennis, Jody and Sam

Dennis and Jody met in 2002 through friends at a party in San Diego, California. At first, as the story goes, Dennis was aloof to Jody’s interest and ignored him, only making him want to get to know Dennis more. Dennis claims he was simply busy helping the host and figured he could never have a chance with someone as hot as Jody.

Within a few months, they could tell theirs was a strong match of hearts. They became engaged at Dennis’ birthday dinner in October 2002, but no specific plans for nuptials were made. Legal same-sex marriage in California was not even on the radar, so how to proceed was left in the air.

2002: Jody (left) and Dennis in their first home with 7-month-old Ollie. In this photo they’re engaged with no wedding date in mind

On Valentine’s Day 2004 San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom opened up the courthouse to same-sex marriage. Jody and Dennis were enjoying a quiet, last-minute dinner at a sushi bar in San Diego, watching history unfold. During dinner, they looked at each other and just knew this was their moment.

After a nearly-simultaneous marriage proposal, they set about the logistics of leaving the next day for the 8-hour drive north. Without telling anyone, they arranged for doggy day care for Ollie, packed a few things and grabbed some gear. Because they own and operate a construction company, their truck was fully loaded for the landfill, so as Dennis unloaded the debris he called Jody and said, “I guess this means you’re my fiancé!”

February 16, 2004, San Francisco, California

Dennis and Jody stood in the rain in San Francisco. They said the process of waiting with so many other hopeful couples was truly amazing and it was so wonderful to see such supportive civil servants making a difference in so many lives. As they returned to San Diego from their whirlwind nuptials, they reflected on the fact that while neither expected things to feel different, they quickly realized the depth of their connection had increased dramatically. Neither Dennis nor Jody thought that this would be just the first of three times saying “I Do"!

Jody (left) and Dennis's local San Diego Union-Tribune newspaper ran a half page article on their San Francisco vows. Photo credit: Jerry Rife

This is how Dennis tells the story: “Because those 2004 marriages became embroiled in a court battle, we decided to file for domestic partnership in 2006, so once again, with no fanfare or photos, we sought a limited set of protections for our family. In 2008 we saw that California’s Prop 8 was gaining traction, so instead of waiting to see what would happen, we took an afternoon off work and had a friend meet us to witness us once again say: 'I Do!'"

Dennis and Jody in 2008, just before Prop 8 hit the voters. They said: “I Do!” once again, this time in San Diego, officially marking their third time tying the knot to each other! Photo credit: Dwight Axelrod

Dennis continues, "For a few years, we were among only 18,000 couples who got to keep their 2008 marriages, which mattered little outside of California, and definitely not at the Federal level. June 26, 2013 was an auspicious day when the Supreme Court ruled to validate what we all know to be equal and fair."

San Diego Rally 2010: As the battle against Prop 8, DOMA and DADT raged on, Dennis and Jody were engaged at every turn possible. Photo credit: Brett Bell

The couple embarked on a path toward parenthood with a February 2013 meeting in Northern California. At the end of the interview they were told they were good candidates for their program, and the facilitator would help get them matched with a birth mom. They were also told to expect to wait one to two years for any possible matches.

2012: Road trip to Oregon and Yosemite, enjoying time together

They went home excited to start planning for a future bundle of joy. They signed several construction contracts with the idea that they should simply work hard and save money for the costs involved with adoption. Imagine their surprise when they answered a phone call just two months later with the caller saying, “How fast can you make it to Northern California? … A baby was born and you were chosen!”

In early 2013, Dennis and Jody joined hundreds of others for a NOH8 photo shoot to promote equality. Photo credit: Adam Bouska

They booked a flight, put their jobs on hold, told no one of their plans and a few hours later were on a  flight heading north. As they boarded the plane they were on the phone with the facilitator, only then learning that it was a boy they would be meeting. As they were renting a car the agent casually asked what brought them to Sacramento. They told him, “We think we’re bringing home a baby.” The clerk started typing fast and said that the selected car just wouldn’t do. He gave them a free upgrade to a brand-new Ford Taurus. "It’s the little things in life that make us human," Dennis says.

Dennis (Papa), Samuel, 14 hours old, and Jody (Daddy).  This moment is forever ingrained in their memories.

Dennis and Jody were presented with a 6 pound, 15 ounces boy at just 14 hours old. Life changed in an instant. The pair say that when they recall that moment, tears of joy and goosebumps well up. Nothing could have prepared them for the immense impact and the crazy whirlwind of the next 36 hours in the hospital. The nursery staff were more than accommodating, providing them a room free of charge, so that they could begin to bond with their new son. The three spent Sam’s first night in the world together in the same room. They were able to spend some time with his birth mom and shared some poignant moments before leaving for Sam’s first flight at just 48 hours old.

Sam’s second black-tie affair at Ocean Discovery Institute’s Bubble Up Gala. Photo credit: Amanda Moss

In the 1000+ days since his arrival, it seems Sam has captured the hearts of many. Friends arranged a baby shower at which 125 guests attended…several of whom had been known to Dennis since they were in diapers! Becoming parents at 49 (Dennis) and 42 (Jody) has been an incredible experience, but age is definitely on their minds. They seem to have adapted to less sleep and to the tasks necessary to raise a child. While Jody continues to handle the daily operations of their construction company, Dennis has taken on the role of full-time dad. They are grateful for the amazing love and support of family, friends, and neighbors as they remain active in many aspects of community enhancement.

In the words of Dennis, “parenting is the most challenging, 24/7 job on which a person can embark, but is is also the most rewarding in so many ways. We’ve been G’Uncles to many and that certainly helped give us a taste of parenthood, but nothing truly prepared us for the reality of supporting a child’s growth. For us, the surprise of Sam’s arrival just meshed beautifully with how we had previously lived our lives.”

2015 Family holiday photo shoot. From left to right: Jody, Sam and Dennis. Photo credit: Stephy Wong Photography

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