Dad’s birthday was this week, he would have been 75.
He’s a Virgo, which equates to a whole slew of positive things in my book — an outgoing life of the party, a connector, and organizer. He also happened to be a gay man from a time where it made him an outcast and placed him in a category that forced him to deal with adversity. As part of our family DNA I too felt the pressure to deal with his sexuality, I too felt the pulse of adversity. I often felt different than my peers therefore kicked off a need to overcome the way my culture looked at who my dad truly was. To a lesser degree I also believe my children have felt a version of this.
School has started up again for my kids, they are now in high school in their junior and senior year. Within the first days they were quickly thrown into essays that provided prompts to get them started. Violet shared that her first essay in AP Lang was on adversity. It begged the question, ‘how does adversity affect one and does it makes us stronger?’ Familiar with the subject matter she tackled it easily. It’s in her DNA. Our family lives with antenna up, receives cues from society on what it means and how it feels to be different.
I miss Dad and think of him often as I work through the third year since his death. I consider how proud he would be of his grandkids for the obvious reasons but for the stance they take, how they speak up, and how they’re open to people that are different from the norm. My dad wasn’t able to step into the light fully in his lifetime. I haven’t always stood up for adversity but I’m doing a better job of it as time goes on. As I do so I’m hopeful that it is a lesson for my kids, that when we share who we are we stand taller and grow closer to our truer selves.
Thankfully my kids live in a world that offers more platforms for self-expression and acceptance of others. Because our family history with chock full of adversity challenges I often witness my kids taking advantage to speak up as often as they can. What a wonderful gift to my dad on what would be his birthday. To see his grandkids grow into young leaders as they speak to empowerment, free speech, and uplifting acceptance of others. They acknowledge adverse groups of people who they see as individuals who make up the total face of humanity. It is a picture that is much more colorful, interesting, and worthy of conversation.
More often than not I witness this kind of passion at our dinner table, the level of confidence of which my two teens speak as they ready themselves for adulthood is overwhelming at times. Especially as I reflect on the place I came from, with the knowledge I harbored…Dad’s secret identity.
I’m relieved and proud of the world my kids are growing into. I know Dad is as well. I’m relieved there is less hurt for our family, less angst, and complication. All of this equates to a society where we are closer to healing. A true birthday gift.