If you’ve ever seen A League of Their Own, then you already know a bit about Terry’s youth. She was a Canadian ball player who went to America to try out for the American Baseball League, an all-female league that played in the 1940s while all the men were at war. She made the roster and played for them all four years, the ladies proving quite adept at baseball and the league gaining surprising popularity, a worthy distraction during difficult times. But when the war was over, so was baseball, at least for women.
Instead of returning home to a farm in rural Saskatchewan, Terry and her cousin, hockey player Pat, bravely decided to move to Chicago together, safety in numbers. Further bucking social norms, both ladies went to work and had careers. Though they each had their share of beaus, they stuck together, building a home in Chicago and to the shock of their families, they lived there contently for decades. But now, in (nearly) present day, Terry and Pat are both elderly ladies, and Terry in particular is suffering declining health. Her beloved niece is begging them to come home to Canada, to move into a nursing home near family where they can be cared for. But after a life of independence, Pat in particular is loathe to give it up. When they are finally persuaded, they decide to move into a retirement home together, and for the first time in their almost 70 years together, to live openly as a lesbian couple.
This film is really an attempt to document their love story, a beautiful story that they kept secret for longer than most of us have been alive. Some family members are shocked, some are not, and some feel an ounce or two of betrayal. But within their own community, Terry and Pat have a robust social life, a second family of their choosing, and it’s very sad to see them leave it. Even sadder is the packing up of their home together, mostly because of the shreds of mementos the packing uncovers, touching love letters saved but also anonymized, the signatures torn off just in case it should be seen by the wrong eyes.
Terry and Pat were rebels. They chose happiness, and they created it together, on their own terms. There’s no doubt you’ll fall in love with them yourself, Terry the sweet one, Pat just a little saltier, but so devoted to and solicitous of her longtime love. Director Chris Bolan offers contextual evidence that reminds us why the lies were necessary, but the joy of finally living their truth is right there on their faces. This is a love story for the ages.