This is a year of memorable milestones for Darlene and Amirah Watkins-Brown, starting with their 25th anniversary together.
Darlene, a home-care professional, will celebrate her 50th birthday on Oct. 5. Amirahnow retired after working as a state employee, chef and momturned 65 on May 26.
No doubt their collective party will be filled with love, laughter and probably some biting sarcasm, toothree keys to this couple's long-term success.
At times each thinks the other is insane.
But each always is in love.
"If you make the commitment, gay or straight, understand what that means before you do it. You need to look at all the potential negatives [within the relationship] before you make the commitment," Darlene said. "You have to understand that issues are going to come up [in all relationships,] and we're not immune to issues that happen to all others. We just know that we're going to get through themand we get through it together."
Darlene said, and Amirah agreed, that the age-old philosophy of never going to bed angry at a loved one does, in fact, ring true. "If you really love the person and really want it to work out," Darlene said.
That's why, Darlene added, "Twenty-five years have felt like 25 minutes."
Amirah shook her head in agreement.
"If any argument is bigger than the love, well, then you won't get past it," Darlene said. "Even when she gets on my nerves, I can still walk it off."
Darlene and Amirah live together in Albany Park. They have raised two children together, both of whom are now in their 30s. Darlene and Amirah are now grandmothers, and they also have endured multiple careers over the years.
"It still feels like we just met," Amirah said.
Darlene spent five years pursuing Amirah before Amirah agreed to go on a date, mostly because Amirah was skeptical about the age-difference. "Age is just a number," Darlene stressed, and still does. Each was dating someone else when they first met, through mutual friends, but when each of those relationships fizzled, Darlene went in pursuit.
Darlene and Amirah have since had multiple commitment ceremonies, in multiple locations across the United States.
"Everyone always says each partner in a relationship should do 50 percent. But I believe in the 75-percent theory," Amirah said. "Fifty percent doesn't really work; there's [then still] a chance for things to come in, come up, come between you two. But if both are giving 75 percent, the junk doesn't come between you twounless you want it to."
They also have another 75-percent rule, perhaps even 80 percent, or more. That's humor.
They are always laughingwith each other, at each other, at themselves.
"Darlene is just special. And from my way of thinking, special is Darlene, Darlene is special. She makes me warm and fuzzy inside. She's just love," Amirah said.
Darlene replied, "Amirah is God's greatest gift to me, and to everyone else on the planet. She is just a wonderful person. She's my best friend, my sister, like a momvery caring, nurturing."
A nine-minute video about the two debuted last June via the Rainbow Roots Project, which was founded in 2011 by Luiz Magana and Patrick Duvall to create a safe space for LGBT couples to share their stories, its website said.
The foundation of LGBT culture is the love two people of the same gender can share, the site said.
Darlene and Amirah are perfect examples.
"I really love you," Amirah said to Darlene during this interview.
Darlene replied, "Ditto."