Sunday, May 5, 2013

Coming Out & The Pursuit of Happiness

This is the story that's been begging to be written since I started this blog three years ago.  I wrote this months ago with thoughts that, depending on my courage, it may never see the light of day.  There are people in my family that I have never had this conversation with and all I can say is that I'm sorry.  I am sorry I haven't sat down with you and said all of this, but often it is easier to tell a  stranger than someone who loves this child.  

I can't explain why this is so.

Our son was born three weeks after my dad died.  I would have loved to have pulled the covers over my head and stayed in bed, and maybe I could have attempted that plan with his three year old sister.  A newborn, however, requires immediate attention and so I'd start my fatherless day caring for a hungry baby and a busy toddler, both of whom were counting on me to keep it together.

This boy baby required lots of keeping it together as he grew.   He was born with a surplus of energy and grieving for my Dad who was not around to know his namesake was a sorrow that often got put on hold.  For when morning broke, every single morning, that child would stand in his crib and bang it back and forth against the wall to let me know he was ready to start his day.

I slipped my dad's spirit into my pocket every day when I woke, and raised these kids and the sister that came later. .

I seemed to be living a rather charmed life (and yes I even had a white picket fence) until on a perfect fall day this son and his father were having an intense conversation that I walked in on in the garage.  He got up and scurried past me into the house and the charmed rug got ripped out from under me.

He had just told his dad that he was gay.

I let that revelation seep through me and then went in the house to find him.  Alone in the basement, he sobbed.  Heartbreaking, uncontrollable sobbing and when I hugged him he said, "I'm sorry, Mom.  I'm so sorry."

I held him tight and sobbed for both of us.

What followed next was my husband and I trying to make sense of our new reality when our first thought of each morning was that our kid was gay.  I always pictured myself as being the supportive, endearing friend of the mother of a gay kid..........much like a favorite sitcom.   He's great, you'll be o.k., there's worst things in lifeAt least you'll never have to deal with a  bitchy daughter-in-law.  Laugh track.  Instead, I felt like a mother whose kid had a target on his back and I was terrified for him.

I made an appointment with my priest friend.  As I looked out the window of his office at the fall trees while he talked, I wondered when the miracle of peace was going to descend upon me.  Or at the very least the handy, laminated prayer card I was going to need to reference when the court of public opinion had their say.  He had other plans for me.   He offered to call a mom who had walked down this path and who might be willing to talk to me, and within an hour of getting home I was pouring out my guts to somebody I'd never met.

She arranged for Mark and I to meet with a group of other parents like us.  All parents of boys.  All in various stages of acceptance.  At one gathering, one of the moms said to me, "You do know, you're the luckiest one here, don't you?"  That was news to me, but she said she found out her son was gay in the emergency room after he tried to kill himself.  "Your son talks to you guys.  He trusts you.  Don't forget that."

I clenched that observation of hers and never let it go, even to this day.

Learning to divorce myself from the Norman Rockwellish dreams I constantly replayed in my head was another story.  Every morning I drove him to school, often in silence.  "Are you and dad mad at me," he asked one day.  "No," I said wearily.  "We're not..  We're just trying to figure this out."  I drove home, walked in the door and said to Mark, "We cannot do this.  We cannot let him think for one minute that we're mad at him or that we are disappointed."  And so beginning that day we behaved differently.  In his presence we talked about school and cross-country and getting a drivers license.  When I dropped him off at school I'd cheerfully tell him to have a good day and beg God as I drove away to watch over not let some macho jerk give him a hard time.  Or worse. 

After that I'd go home and walk the dog.  Walking, crying and talking to my long-departed Dad was my daily routine.  Over and over I would mentally check off the names of every person I knew who was gay.  Are they happy?  What is their life like?  Why in the hell did I never ask them?  Or pay attention?

I thought of their mothers.

If I were to say that this journey was swift and easy, it would hardly resemble a real life.  Eventually, though, having a gay kid was not my first thought of the morning.  It was that I have three kids, and a new Norman Rockwell portrait began to take shape..

In the years since this has become part of our family story, I have changed in more ways than I could begin to count.  Profound ways.  I am fortunate to live in a time when even writing about this is possible.  My mother's generation or her mother's weren't able to be so open, and I know that I will owe these women for the rest of my life.  These women who dared not speak out loud of whom their son or daughter loved.  Women whose emotional health paid a heavy price because they were burdened by secrets.

I try to keep out the noise, but that is often difficult.  I have been more outspoken about politics that affect his life because he's my kid.  I know him.  He was born wild and kind with a third eye that immediately senses who is struggling and who needs the world to be more compassionate.  To be his friend is to know the most loyal person in the world.  On the rare occasion he gets a weekend free from school and work, he walks in the door and says the same thing every single time, "I'm so happy to be home."

These days I have the perspective of time to look back to when we struggled with all of it, and every day we would roam a labyrinth that led us to back to what we had always known.

He is everything we ever wanted in a son.

He is a shareholder in this kingdom.

He is our Will.


  1. Hey just read this and it made me cry! I just want you to know that I love your son more than anything. He is the first gay friend I have ever had and he has made such an impact in my life. You're right, he is the most loyal, kind, thoughtful, sincere, and trustworthy person I have ever met. He taught me a huge life lesson and he probably doesn't even know. He taught me to love people for who they are, and what they do, and how they behave. He taught me to judge based upon the type of person you are, and the kind of character you have. When I look at Will I may say "Oh he is my gay boyfriend." But that is not what I see. I see a young man, loyal, honorable, hard working, caring, and I see my best friend. Gay is the last thing I think of. Because I know when he looks at me he doesn't think "straight", he sees me for me, my straightness has nothing to do with the kind of person I am. I am so blessed to have him in my life. Never had a better friend. The only bad thing I can say is that he is gay, because I would marry him. We are soul friends.

  2. This is beautiful and real. I can see why Will is so happy to be home. Great son and great mom and dad.

  3. "I'm so happy to be home." That one sentence blindsided me with love. Will's love for you. Your love for Will. My love for your amazing family I have never met but my God you are my people. (Sis?) It's all there in that one sentence. He is so happy to be home. Only unconditional, solid, steadfast love does that.


  4. Kathy - This is the most sincere and loving letter that you have ever written. I love Will. Not because he is gay but beause he is a young man who I would be proud to call my son. I must admit my introduction to the Gay Community came at a difficult time. It was 1969 and I was working at The Hilton Hotel on Michigan Ave. One of the people who befriended me on my first day became my " Best Friend " for as long as I knew him. His name was Dennis and he looked like Antonio Bandaras. One of the other girls in the office saw him speaking to me and she said - Don't get your hopes up - Dennis is gay. I honestly did not understand . Back then I did not know of such things. I thought she meant happy. So when I confessed this warning I had received from a person who had not known me more than an hour Dennis laughed so hard. The second day on the Job he took me to Marshall Fields and said what is that scent you are wearing that you should not be wearing ! I told him it was Emeraude from Walgreens so he said throw it out girlfriend. You should wear this. SHALIMAR - It cost him over $ 100 because it was real perfume. I guess that was the start of our friendship and it lasted until 1979 when he moved away.I miss him.I miss all the things he taught me about Art and Music and the Theatre. We went everywhere together. He eventually introduced me to
    his " Partner ". He wanted my approval. Stephen was just as smart and charming as Dennis. Then we became the 3 Muskateers ! Since all that time and now living in Vegas I can honestly say that half of my co-workers and friends are gay. I see no difference. I think my background in the late 60's had a lot to do with my feelings today. I am sory I went on so long but I had to tell you how much I loved your Letter of Love. Will is lucky - You and Mark and the girls are Lucky and we all are so Lucky to have Will in our Family and our Lives.

  5. Will's Grandma ThelmaMay 5, 2013 at 11:32 PM

    Well done, Kathy. I have known about Will for some time now and it makes no difference. I love him with all my heart I am very proud of him and I am proud to be his Grandma. He is kind, generous, sincere and one of the most loving people I know. When he smiles at me, I can't help but smile back. I have always said you and Mark did a great job of raising my grandkids and I still say that. I brag about you all the time and tell everyone how lucky I am to have such a great daughter-in-law. You are a wonderful Mom, and Mark couldn't have picked a better wife. Will is going to be just fine he is a super human being and he is a part of me. After all "WE ARE FAMILY", and we love each other so much.

  6. Beautiful, Brave and Honest!

  7. Kathy BrzozowskiMay 6, 2013 at 9:31 AM

    All I can say is wow - and I'm shedding a few tears right now

  8. What a beautiful articulation of coming to terms...and embracing your son, just the way he is. Your family's love is palpable.

  9. So much love in your story. I think my nephew is one lucky man to have married into such a loving family. Kaye

  10. Beautifully done, Kathy. You DO have the Normal Rockwell life, and it's the love in your family that makes your family portrait so special, gay/straight/whatever. Your love for this child is palpable. And I am even more proud to count you among my friends. xolgm

  11. HAHAHA - 'Norman'. See, your Norman is my Normal!

  12. I just have to say after reading this, my eyes are full of tears. What a beautiful way you and your family have embraced your son with so much love. I have had the opportunity to be able to work with Will and there has not been a time he doesn't give you that wondderful smile. He never complains and works very hard no matter what is given him. He is very kind, generous, sincere and makes my days better and brighter just being around him. As a mother have been very honest, brave and have raised an amazing son.