Saturday, December 22, 2012

Home For the Holidays

Rarely in my life can I remember sheer happiness. Not just a time where everything was going right, but a time where even the bad things seemed miniscule. I’d love to say that it’s the spirit of the Holiday’s and that the world is on it’s best behavior… But that isn’t it. No. The reason I’ve found happiness is because I’ve accepted things that I cannot change.

After five years of not speaking my father reached out to me. He has made a concentrated effort since probably July or August to be a part of my life. He calls me once every two or three weeks, and even paid for my flight home for Christmas. Since I’ve been here we’ve had dinner together three times, shared a few thoughtful texts, and even had a few friendly debates. All of which I never thought would happen. The thing that took me the most by surprise however was a conversation that we had over dinner with my sister, her best friend, and my nephew.

My father is going through a midlife crisis. He has been for a few years now it seems. He works all the time, his girlfriend of 14 years broke up with him when I was 16 and he has only dated around since. Never anything serious. The closest thing he has had to a girlfriend is a woman who lives over in the Philippines that he met online in a yahoo chat room. Honestly my sister and I never thought much about it. We figured that it was just something he did to occupy his time, but after talking for a while now… he informed us that he is going to the Philippines to meet this woman.

Now, I’m not one to judge, but I’ll admit I’m a little weary. I’ve heard lots of horror stories, and overseas is a little drastic, but over dinner we began discussing it.

“You better have her blood tested.” My sister said.

“Already doing it.” My father replied.

“There are a lot of tests you should have done. It’s called STD’s” I offered.

“You don’t know her like I do.” He said. “She’s very religious.”

“Great.” I responded.

“HEY!” piped in my sister’s best friend. She is also very religious. Now don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with that. To each their own. But in those same regards, not very often have I met people who were “very religious” and really liked me. It’s the whole being gay thing. “Gay and Religion” rarely go hand in hand.

Now by this point my sister was very confused, bless her heart. She didn’t understand why her friend reacted the way that she did, or why I was concerned about this woman religious beliefs. It didn’t dawn on her until she saw the look of worry on my face. I mean after all Dad and I spent five years of not talking because of my sexuality. In fact we have NEVER talked about it. He chose to ignore it all together when he found out from other people, and instead disowned me.

After staring at me for a few seconds, it hit her and she said. “OH. Dad. Did you tell her that your Daughter was a lesbian?”

And just like that every breath of air inside of me was knocked out. Had it not have been for the plate of food in front of me, I might have banged my head on the table. I even considered crawling under it. For almost ten years now I’ve managed to not have “that” conversation with my father. It even ended our relationship for a while, but I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t tell him. I couldn’t face him.

I’ve been told I’m the gayest person alive. My mother marched alongside me to protest homophobia in Nashville, we sat with Betty Degeneres during the filming of The Ellen Show, and I work with Sajdah and Chanel from the Real L Word at Motivate Equality. I’m so unbelievably proud to be gay because it’s an important part of who I am… Yet, I can’t tell him.

I guess my sister could see the anguish on my face, because her immediate response was “What in the world is wrong with you?”

I couldn’t speak. I wanted to vomit. My face turned bright red, and everyone at the table sat in silence.

“You know he knows, right?” she said.

“We’ve never talked about it.” was all I could get out.

“I told her.” He responded. Then he turned to me. “It’s your life, baby. I don’t care what you do.”

Just like that. After ten years of silence, there’s my anti-climatic story of how I “came out” to my father over hamburger helper, and sweet tea. Two years ago his response would have made me angry. I would have flew off the handle about how badly it hurt me that he left, and if he didn’t care what I did, then he wouldn’t have disowned me in the first place. I would have went into a rage over how not caring would have meant we could have talked about it, and that he would have been present for my college graduation and three broken hearts. Not caring would have meant that he would have met my ex-girlfriend, who I swore at the time was the love of my life. Two years ago… I would have reacted completely differently, but instead I nodded, gave a half-hearted smile, and finished my dinner.

See the thing is, when I wanted to change him I couldn’t, but he’s slowly doing it on his own. I’m putting up effort to build a relationship with him, and hopefully his love for me will be enough to get us through anything the future holds. Among the things I expect to face with him will be my engagement, marriage, having his grandchildren with a woman (they will probably be mixed), and eventually I hope that he will accept these things instead of just “not caring”.

I hope that all of you carry an open heart into this Holiday Season. Don’t base your happiness on presents, or lights, but instead on the moments that you spend with loved ones, and the efforts that they make. Love them for who they are, and not who you want them to be…. Just as we hope they’ll one day love us.

Happy Holidays to all!

- Tennessee

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