Forgiving My Dad
For years I thought my dad was ashamed of my sexuality. I came out to him when I was sixteen and we never really talked about it again. I translated his avoidance of the topic as disappointment. He was never abusive or mean, he just never said anything. Sure, he'd come to the mandatory parent stuff like school plays, choir concerts, and fundraisers but I knew he would rather be somewhere else (like a my football game or baseball game - sorry Dad).
Nearly fifteen years after I came out we were sitting in a restaurant. I'm not sure what brought us there but I do remember feeling agitated that day. Somehow the conversation took a turn and I said, "Listen, I know that you've always been disappointed that I was gay..." and before I could get another word out, my dad slammed his hands on the table. This really startled me. It wasn't so much about the sound it made but more that my dad was pretty reserved and never made a scene in public, I wasn't expecting that reaction. A nerve had been hit.
"I've never been ashamed of you. I wish you could hear how I talk about you to my colleagues and friends. If I'm guilty of anything it's that I'm not always great at communicating my feelings. When you came out of the closet, I was scared. I didn't know anything about the gay community except what I saw in the news, and at that time it was mostly about AIDS. I was terrified that my teenage son was going to be in danger or get sick. I didn't know how to process that, so I guess I avoided thinking about it. I'm sorry you took that as me being ashamed of you. I couldn't be happier to be your dad."
It's funny how your entire past can change in one flash. Suddenly, I recognized all the efforts my dad