The truth is I hid away that my dad was gay.
Knowing my dad was gay my feelings were often twisted into knots. I cared deeply for him, my fondest memories being that of a zany guy who had an infectious booming laugh. Later in life I labeled him eccentric, he was amused and proud that I saw him in that colorful way. Overwhelming and complex, at times my dad was larger than any life I’d known. Sometimes I even had to take a step back to take him in, ingest smaller pieces at a time.
In my teens when I came to know my dad was gay I manufactured new skills to get me through.
I began to pace, control, and hold tight the content of stories I shared about Dad. This began first with girlfriends I had in school but it continued for many years. I’d ramp up the speed of my story so listeners couldn’t easily get a word in edgewise before I’d finish. My strategy was to not let questions surface that might require uncomfortable responses. It would be catastrophic if I left a trail of revealing clues uncovering Dad’s true identity. My biggest fear was to open a can a worms that would make everyone uncomfortable.
When my kids came along so too came a new intense level of Dad, the over-the-moon excited version of him as a grandfather. Again his high energy self consumed the scene. He was in awe of how beautiful his grandbabies appeared, the possibility their new life represented. When each of them arrived he showered them with the largest stuffed animals he could get his hands on, a three foot teddy bear with a big red bow and a three foot long unicorn they could ride — signs of enormous love. I think he knew he wouldn’t be a constant figure in their lives, it wasn’t safe to be that close to them all the time, but he wanted them to know he felt intense love for them.
I felt guilty yet reassured that his distance would mean it was less likely that uncomfortable questions would surface about my children’s grandfather and his personal life. It’s how I coped with our situation.
Over the years my brain has worked in overdrive. Thinking, thinking, thinking – I wondered, when will I stop having to cope with this situation? I wonder how my upbringing has affected the raising of my children? How will my life circumstance play out in future decades to come?