Saturday, June 18, 2016

Father's Day 2016

My GMC truck was stolen here at the condo
so this is the replacement, a very red Mazda CX-5
The last 6 months have seen many changes in my life. In fact more in these months than probably the last 20 years. I went to court December 4, 2015 for my divorce and freedom, I moved from the Assisted Living Home I wrote about earlier in Alhambra, CA  to Palm Springs, CA, January 4, 2016. Well, truth be told, my life will never ever be the same.

It was only in talking to a friend regarding "my" feelings about being a father on Father's Day, telling him what being a father meant to me, the events in Orlando, FL, a visit to my sister, our first face to face meeting in nearly 20 years and the email where my daughter revealed that she had married two months before, that I began to reflect on all that has happened to me in the last 18 months. He urged me to write them and express what I told him. Since I have not heard from my son and the email from my daughter was a reply from a Christmas message, well .... I respond here.

I was delayed in knowing what I was. I had a plan ... college, work, marriage, a home and two children. When that was all achieved, well, there was no more plan. I wanted kids. I can remember each of their births like it was yesterday. The son that popped out like a cork caught by the doctor before they both sat on the floor, to the daughter with her umbilical cord wrapped around her neck. The labors were mercifully short. Four hours for the son, 2 ½ hours for the daughter. The first thing they saw when opening their eyes was me as I held each of them in my arms. I cried then at their birth and I cry now at my loss. I realize I can't ask for forgiveness, instead ask for understanding. You see, that at the age 69 it was revealed that I was Gay.

My childhood was, to say the least, difficult. Rather high maintenance, something I only realized a few years ago, my mother didn't know what to do with me. It was difficult for her and in reflection my father was actually more of a mother. He died at 40 when I was 16 to a blood condition that I inherited and nearly died of at 55.

After graduation there was a sidestep into the Peace Corps, then returning in the 1969 recession ended up at K-mart and a transfer a few months later to California in 1970 where I have remained ever since. I married in 1977 to a wife more than 10 years younger who became a teacher. We have been married 38 years now. My divorce petition, for obvious reasons, was filed in October 2015 but still drags on.

I loved my children and became, to the best of my ability, a good father. I drove them to the doctor, twice weekly when my daughter was diagnosed with asthma for her allergy shots, soccer games, swim meets, for years to their grade and later high school ... many of you know the drill. It was a pleasure watching them grow and mature. In fact if asked, I would say having them and helping with their ability to be independent was the hallmark of my life as a man. My mother once told me that she never held me, "I wanted you to be independent." In fact the hours of rocking them, being with them, always on call for a hug, shoulder for tears was what made them independent. They had a safe place and warm hug to go to. I never did.

Living on my own has not been easy. Because I came out as a Gay man, I lost much of my family and friends, in fact friends I have known for 40 years and more. It seemed to make little difference that I was the same person after it was revealed; the fact that a 69 year old man was Gay was all it took.Yet the few friends and family I've kept have been incredibly supportive, understanding and kind.

One of the reasons I moved to Palm Springs was that it was a safe haven, though after Orlando is any place safe? In fact, so many of the men I've met here had similar stories. When you are in the closet, you feel that you are all alone. Because men don't talk, oftentimes, we never know. Despite the fact my doctors said that there was no reason to tell people I was Gay or what my HIV status was, it was none of their business, I think that finally, Orlando brought it all to a head. The truth be told, LGBT people have no choice, IT JUST IS. I have yet to meet someone who choose to be Gay. Why would you? History has shown over and over again being different "in that way" can lead to irreparable harm. The time, though, for all of us has come to speak out.

A friend sent me a link to MSNBC and watching it on my phone I turned to my sister and told her to change the TV channel to MSNBC. All day we watched as the story unfolded. Yet 10 minutes into the horrifying news I turned to her and said, "He was gay." Comments by the ex-wife, the crazy father and people that knew him point to this fact. The most homophobic people are usually deeply closeted gay men or women who in protecting their secret seem to make a crusade in outdoing their "straight" friends in denigrating their LGBT brethren. How many homophobic ministers or politicians have been exposed that, like J. Edgar Hoover, had skeletons in their closet? Only their skeletons were in fact living, breathing lovers of the same sex.

Fatherhood is a privilege. While for some it is easy to procreate to know those that can't and want children is an overwhelming sadness. I believe that children temper us, forcing us to think of another besides ourselves. You learn that love is limitless; there really is something besides yourself. Holding my babies I realized how helpless they were, how dependent they were on me and their mother. A good parent puts them before self even when the desire to be alone, to sleep, to have fun is trumped by the lack of sleep rocking a sick child, putting off that fun party because you can't get a babysitter, doing things for them instead of yourself. Your entire life changes. I can't begin to tell you how many friends expecting their first child would chat after the birth and recount what we had told them was true. It isn't a long time in actual years though, there are times when it seems like it will last forever. There is sacrifice to be sure yet the final product, we hope, is worth the price.

While the society I grew up in seemed to portray TV father's as bumbling idiots little good except for bringing home the daily bread, sociologists will tell you a father is important in the raising of a child. They allow a bit more freedom to children, they are or can be a firm presence when necessary and teach their sons and daughters what it means to be a man or woman, Gay or straight.

Happy Father's Day. Every father worth his salt, I congratulate you today. You know what it takes and hopefully took the time to do it right!

Thank you for reading my blog. I encourage you to read earlier posts because I believe design and the design of living go hand in hand.

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