|My Dad, Ray|
I love my Dad.
That’s probably not an unusual statement. But when it’s a gay son talking, there is often some history and work that went into making that a true statement.
I love my dad. I saw him two weeks ago when I drove up to visit. I hadn’t seen him in about a year and I realized how much I missed him.
When I was younger, my relationship with my dad was…strained. I think part of it was my own resistance to him, thinking he didn’t like the idea that I was gay. So for some years in there, I kept my distance. That changed one rainy Saturday morning in 1988 when I was racing to work outside of Washington, D.C. I was doing 80 when a car merged onto the highway in front of me. I would guess it was going about 40 miles an hour. I slammed on the brakes. I was going so fast and the other car was going so slow, it actually looked like the other car was moving backwards towards me. I’d decreased speed to about 60 at the moment of impact. My car started spinning and as it started to flip and the sky was suddenly below me, I remember thinking “I’m going to die without ever having been friends with my father.”
Next thing I knew I was standing on the side of the road, in the pouring rain, not a scratch on me, my little red car literally in pieces scattered across the highway. I remember cops and fire trucks and an officer asking, “Where’s the driver of the red car?”
“I’m here,” I said.
He stared at me.
“You were driving that?
To this day I do not remember getting out of the car.
I had a second chance and I used it to befriend my father. I moved to Philadelphia so I was closer to where my parents lived in New York. More than twenty years ago when I introduced my family to my now husband, my father pulled me aside and said, “I like this one. He is what I had in mind for you. Please keep this one.”
And with those words everything changed. I suddenly saw that he didn’t dislike me being gay, he just hated my choice in men thinking none of them were good enough for me (he was probably right.)
Fast forward to two weeks ago. I was watching my dad play with Max, my nephew, his only grandson. He and Max seem to have a special relationship. I was a bit jealous, I admit. And then I realized that my father and I have our own special relationship as well. And maybe that is my father’s gift—the ability to build a special relationship with each person in his life.
He has taught me so much in his quiet way. The dedication in Unbroken, reads in part “And for Space, who taught me the value of silence.” Space is my nickname for him, because he always seemed lost in his own world, kind of “spaced out.” I never thought we had much in common though, until I called him the other day. Hearing my voice, assuming I’d called to speak to my mother, rather than him, he said “Your mother and Vernon are at the chiropractor.”
I could hear him rolling his eyes.
Anyone who knows me knows I am prone to rolling my eyes, and in fact was doing that at the word “chiropractor.” It was delightful to discover that shared tendency.