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 life. At 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 him..........to 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.