My Dad … I never came out to him. When I was young, I think around fourteen or sixteen, I recall one evening sitting in his big comfy Lazy Boy chair and watching TV at his house. It was just me, I am not sure where my little brother was, but it was one of those nights I got to stay with him.
He was drunk, my Dad was drunk every night. It was something I just took as the norm. He was a funny drunk, which slowly turned into a melancholy drunk, then a sad drunk, until he passed out. He was never a violent drinker, just a constant drinker. In the kitchen, which was right behind where I was lounging. The living room was separated from the kitchen and dining room by a wall with entrances on either side. One side you could enter in to the Kitchen, the other the dining room. This was one of those nights where my uncle’s widowed wife was at the house. Her and My Dad both had way to much to drink and where chatting, loudly, in the dining room behind me.
I honestly wasn’t really paying attention. It sounded as you’d imagine, two drunks having a laugh. It wasn’t until she brought up catching my Dad’s brother having an inappropriate time with another man. My ears perked up at that, it turned out that one evening when she’d come home, she’d caught them in the bedroom.
I knew I was gay, I’d figured it out back in the six grade. So, these two talking about something along this line, you’d swear that everything around me went deadly silent as my ears zoned out the TV and instantly when to listening in on their conversation. I think they’d completely forgotten I was in the next room, so they just carried on as if they where alone.
My Dad, he got very upset, and then so incredibly sad as she told him this news. He was devastated and couldn’t believe the what she was telling her, calling her a liar and … well … I don’t know what else was said. My mind went to panic mode. I pretty much stayed that way from then on when ever I was around him. It was the way my Dad reacted to his brother being gay with another man, I was sure I would never come out to him, or even tell him. My mind was made up and that was that.
I came out when I was eighteen. This process was well planned, years in the working. I told my little brother who spread the news around to others in my family like a fire on gasoline. But, that’s a whole other story for later. I did eventually tell everyone in my immediate family personally, one after the other. That is, everyone, except my Dad. I never told him. I didn’t even try to tell him. It was just not going to happen, not after my memories of that night when I was younger.
By the time I turned twenty, I had went from coming out, to going to gay events, to being employed by a gay news magazine. I was happy, proud of myself, and for what seemed the first time in my life, free. Everyone, but my Dad, knew I was gay, they still loved me, and that was that. It wasn’t until one day, while at work at the “gay” magazine, I got a call. When I answered it was my Dad. He wanted to go to lunch.
My Dad was a millwright. I didn’t find out until much later in life that he didn’t read or write. He worked on cars and built stuff out of wood, as a hobby. He was simple, super friendly, funny when he wanted, but he was no “go to lunch” type of person. In fact, I’ve never been to lunch with my Dad. Maybe a sandwich while we sat outside next to a car he was working on, or when I was younger, the occasional lunch break when he was doing something around the house. I can’t ever remember actually going out to eat with my Dad, not once.
And, I’d never given him my work number, ever! My golden rule of never telling my Dad about being gay was still firmly planted in my thoughts. And to give him a phone number where any number of “gay” people could answer or out me, that wasn’t going to happen. So, to say I was stunned when I heard his voice, that would be an understatement. I said okay.
He arrived downstairs, at the office I worked at, that I didn’t tell him the address for and I got into his little Toyota blue pickup. I didn’t say a word. He took me across town, still not a word spoken, to this hot dog place. It was a small restaurant that I’d never noticed, or even been too before. We went in, had some hot dogs, in silence. I’m sure we must have spoken at some point, but all recall was awkward silence. This is a guy who going to lunch would be a lunch box and thermos during a lunch break on a mill site. He loved bologna sandwiches, and a burger on a bun. He smoked like a chimney, drank like a fish out of water, only wore overalls, and pretty much could give any cow-poke a run for their money.
Yet, here he was, “going to lunch,” with me. We where never that close. I probably spent more time asking him to help fix my car, needing help with something mechanical, and then gone again. Yet, we went and had lunch. He took me back to my office, dropped me off and that was that. We didn’t really talk much after that, but the few times I saw him again after that day, he seemed — calmer around me. Not as uptight or holding back. I didn’t think much of it until years later.
Sadly, my Dad died not long after that. The drinking, smoking, being overweight, finally all came crashing down on him. I never really had a chance to talk to him again since that time we had gone to lunch. His health had gone down hill and he’d just gotten slower in life. He never went to a doctor, he had no job so he couldn’t afford it.
I think he was telling me that I was still his kid, still his son, gay or not. He was okay with it. And in his mind, “going to lunch” was what a gay kid like me would probably enjoy.
My Dad wasn’t perfect by any means. But he was my Dad and to me, he was cool and someone that I do continue to look up too. You don’t have to have money, fame, or even cool things to make an impact on someone. Heck, my Dad was literate and yet, somehow he could communicate so much better than the most educated persons I know today.