‘The Heart That Keeps Us Together’

In 2011, Eddie Rosenbaum had just returned to his hometown Cleveland from a year in Rio de Janeiro, when he and Dr. Donelle Cummings, who was headed for Brazil soon himself, found each other on a dating website for men.

“His profile was in Portuguese, and I was like, who in Cleveland speaks Portuguese?” Mr. Rosenbaum said.

When they met for coffee, their date was almost entirely conducted in that language, and they also found that both were deeply interested in Latin American culture.

“We just really hit it off,” Dr. Cummings said.

“He was so handsome and so amazing and I was so excited,” Mr. Rosenbaum said. “But at the same time, I knew I was leaving in two weeks for the Peace Corps. We texted a lot after that but we lost contact.”

Mr. Rosenbaum, now 35, spent about three years in Cameroon, working on water and sanitation, and, in his last year, on L.G.B.T.Q. issues, in a place where persecution is commonplace. Dr. Cummings, now 37, who was studying for a medical degree at Case Western Reserve University when the two initially met, was going to Brazil as part of his medical training.

“I continued on with my life,” Dr. Cummings said. He had pursued the rotation in Brazil because he studied Spanish and then Portuguese in college at the University of Michigan, and had developed a strong interest in Latin America. But when the course in Brazil concluded, he’d returned to Cleveland, then went to Boston for residency and eventually ended up back in Cleveland.

He is now a therapeutic gastroenterologist on the staff of Metropolitan Hospital in New York. (He uses both his Spanish and Portuguese language skills there.)

Three and a half years later, in February 2015, after Mr. Rosenbaum’s stint in the Peace Corps had concluded and he was back home in Cleveland before his next assignment, he sent a message to Dr. Cummings. They got together again.

“We just really fell for each other,” Dr. Cummings said.

“It was such a spark,” Mr. Rosenbaum said. “We went out on a bunch of dates, our relationship started, we were head over heels.”

But, once again, distance impended. Mr. Rosenbaum was supposed to be going to Vanuatu, the South Pacific island nation, for another Peace Corps operation.

He packed his bags and the couple had a final dinner together. Then a tropical cyclone struck the island, leaving devastation in its wake that was assessed as one of the worst natural disasters the archipelago had ever sustained.

Mr. Rosenbaum’s mission was postponed. He broke the news to Dr. Cummings as both bad for Vanuatu and good for the relationship between the two men.

“I’m staying here,” he said. “I’m committing to Cleveland. I’m committing to you.”

As the two got to know each other, Dr. Cummings was continually surprised by Mr. Rosenbaum’s talents for surfing, karaoke and rapping.

“He’s a phenomenal dancer,” Dr. Cummings said. “I can’t keep up with him.”

“We are kind of a yin and a yang in a lot of ways,” Mr. Rosenbaum said. “We balance each other out.”

Eventually, Mr. Rosenbaum ended up taking another Peace Corps job in the San Francisco Bay Area, while Dr. Cummings got a fellowship in Brooklyn, N.Y., through the SUNY Downstate program in Brooklyn.

So, separated again by a continent — but at least not a continent and an ocean — the two made the best of travel credit cards to see each other regularly.

“It was tough,” said Mr. Rosenbaum, who is now the assistant director for outreach programs at NYU College of Dentistry. He moved to New York in 2017 and entered the master’s program in public service at N.Y.U.

On June 26, the couple were married at Rockefeller Center. They had been selected in a contest that awarded five couples the opportunity to be married at Rockefeller Center’s 620 Loft and Garden as part of the Pride weekend festivities. A longtime friend, Miriam Alvarado, who became a Universal Life minister for the event, officiated before 10 guests. The two men wore matching tuxedos.

“We’ve been through a lot, with challenges being thrown at us,” Mr. Rosenbaum said. “The bottom line is that that love is there. It’s the heart that keeps us together.”

Source: Read Full Article