Two years ago, there was a phone call – “There’s something wrong with your father – his breathing is labored, and he’s not responding to touch or sound,” and then, approximately 12 hours later, he quit breathing. I watched it happen. I was on the phone with my brother, who was incredulous, “Well, can’t you get them to stop it?!?” And my voice – only it didn’t sound like me – “He’s dying…there’s no stopping that.”
It’s fuzzier now. Two years later.
I don’t remember everything like I used to.
It’s been two years, but the anxiety still creeps in. The sadness started a week before this day rolled around. It’s not as horrific as it was last year, but it’s still there nonetheless. I was told that your body reacts to grief. These “anniversaries” are inside you. You’ll be walking down the street, and you feel something is wrong and realize, “Oh! Today is THAT day.”
So…I knew it was coming. I tried to prepare myself better this time around.
My ultra-conservative father would have found this type of dialogue so non-helpful.
Here’s the deal: my dad and I never spoke about the fact that I was gay. To him, it was an unimportant piece of who I was. I was smart, and I could make him laugh. These were the important pieces. Who I loved – although clearly important to me – didn’t matter to him. I mean, he wanted me happy, but he wasn’t concerned who was contributing to it. This was true for my whole life. He didn’t want a relationship with my partner; he wanted a relationship with me.
A discussion around someone’s private life didn’t interest my father. Hal Cox, the serial husband, knew he had no business telling people whom they could and could not love. A man who had been married and divorced four times was always so shocked by the discussion around gay marriage – “Let them be as miserable as the rest of us” was his favorite argument. Umm…thanks, Dad…?
Now, two years after his death, the tide has changed. More and more people are talking about “the gays.” More specifically, they’re discussing my sex life. That’s really what it is. The people who are so anti-gay are mostly concerned about the things that happen within the confines of my bedroom (or the kitchen or the couch – let’s face it, straighties, gays are a lot like you.)
My father would be mortified. I am his daughter. Not only did my sex life never enter into his mind, the fact that other people are concerned with it would have made him so uncomfortable.
However, this societal swell of gay talk would have forced us to have a conversation.
I never talked to my dad about being gay because it was unimportant to him.
But who I am is important. And before my father died, I was never able to be fully authentic with him.
While being gay is not something that defines me, it certainly makes up who I am. And while my sex life is not now, nor will it ever be, your business, whom I love is important. Because the person I love makes me better and happier and more open and centered. And really, that’s kind of important. And while it is entirely too sappy – my father would quickly deflect and change the subject – it is important to know about love. Perhaps, if we led with that, we would be less inclined to preach hatred.
So, on this, the two-year anniversary of his death, I am saddened that he is gone – there is, and likely always will be, a hole in my heart where he was. I know he still sees me as smart(ish), and I probably still make him laugh (and his was a good laugh), but I am also certain that he sees me happy (or gay…see what I did there?) and fully authentic.