Tom met a young man on a street corner and they had casual sex. Tom opened up and told the man that he was looking for something more. They met again and spent the night together. Then the next, and the next. His name was Veli which means “brother” in Finnish. Veli “Nipa” Mäkinen. Gradually they built a relationship and eventually Veli moved in with Tom and his sister Kaija. The men worked on all the things it takes for a couple to stay together. They had a chosen an open relationship – but they remained the most important in each other’s lives. They made decisions together – big and small – and never kept anything from each other.
In 1980, after the two had been together for 27 years, Tom took Veli to America where he got to meet Durk Dehner. Durk recalls, “Veli was at first reserved, but he relaxed and gave his blessing to the relationship I was developing with Tom. He knew Tom had been burned before, but he felt I could be trusted and he was leaving his lover in good hands.”
Back in Finland, Veli told Tom that he had incurable cancer. Their last days were not peaceful. Veli left Tom and went to Paris into the arms of another. His cancer progressed and he came back to Helsinki – and Tom – to die.
Though they fought and parted more than once, theirs was a union that went much deeper than the merely physical, beyond even the emotional. There were many such occasions when Tom’s and Veli’s minds seemed to be attuned far more deeply than their years of cohabitation would appear to explain. The bond between them extended beyond life. A couple of days after Veli’s death, as Tom sat at his drawing table, a large seabird flew against the window in front of him, battered itself with repeated attempts to enter until blood speckled its beak; the bird struggled so violently Tom thought the glass would break. When at last it flew away, Tom was sure he had just received a final visit from his lover’s spirit.
But, in the ten years since Veli died, he has never really left me. Every now and then, I hear him go galumphing through the house the way he used to, or I will feel someone standing close behind me and know it is him. Usually, i find his presence very comforting, but once in a while, when I am trying to draw, he will suddenly whistle or blow in my ear, infuriating me the same damned way he loved to do when he was alive.
Published: 28th July 2017Tags: Durk Dehner, Tom of Finland, Tom of Finland – Life and Work of a Gay Hero, Touko Laaksonen, Veli Mäkinen
Categorised in: For the Record