Monday, June 17, 2013

Father's Day

Yesterday was Father's Day and I was lucky enough to spent about 8 hours of it with my parents.  The big difference in this year and years past is that this year I got to be myself all day, like I am every day.  A year ago I was really worried about coming out to them and had no idea what would happen when I did.  For several years, since I realized I needed to come out to my parents, I had looked at that event as my own "Climbing Mount Everest".  In the past I never thought I could have the strength or courage to "climb Mt. Everest" so I was just going to keep myself bottled up my whole life.

Of course, Mt. Everest proved to be an easy mountain to climb.  The only mountain that had existed was in my own mind.  My parents accepted me immediately and unconditionally.   It didn't seem to be a complete surprise, especially to my mother, and they were just happy to know what was wrong with me and to finally know the real me.  Things have gone Much better than I ever expected since coming out last December so we are blessed with some happy times now and a great day yesterday.

My Dad and I on Father' Day 2013

My Mom and Dad picked me up about 10 am and we went to IHOP for a pancake brunch.  Afterwards we took a long country ride with me driving my mom's van and my dad taking his nap during part of the trip.  On the way back into town we rode through the cemetery and went by all the old family graves.  We stopped by my grandparents burial sites and they got a chance to remember their own fathers.

I remember my grandfather on my father's side very well even though he died when I was about 12.  One time I was wearing my grandmother's clothes, wig and all, and he came in the house and scolded me.  I was probably about 8 years old and that was the one time in childhood that members of my family (grandmother and a couple of great aunts) had seen me dressed and they seemed to have fun with it for a few minutes before my grandad walked in.  I don't remember what he said but it was serious and he wasn't happy so I will never forget that day. 

I never showed off to anyone after that and went into complete hiding.  My grandfather was very good to me as far as taking me fishing and doing some other fun things, including going to a professional baseball game with my parents and I once in Atlanta.  When he would watch sports on television he would sometimes remark about what a shame it was for the players to have to run a play over when they showed instant replay, but I think he was at least halfway joking.  He was born in the country close to my hometown and in his his lifetime he had been a butcher for a major grocery chain and even owned his own grocery store in Rocky Mount at one time.
Daddy explaining how barbecue pork was cooked at the site of an old restaurant that his great uncle owned.
Daddy pointing out where he grew up in an area that is now a park in the flood zone of the Tar River.

I never knew my grandad on my mother's side as he died before I was born but I am told he was a great man.  My parents still live in the big house he built on 3 lots, right up the street from where I live now.  He owned a large farm in another part of the state, some tobacco warehouses here in town and was even a Baptist minister in his spare time.  He and my grandmother grew up in Kentucky and moved to North Carolina when they got married because of the tobacco business.  He had my parent's current house built when Mom was in high school and we moved into it when I was 12 years old, after my grandmother died.  It is funny because where we lived before that was only a couple of blocks away and I live a block away now, so I have actually lived most of life in a very small area of the world.

Dad reading the first ever Father's Day card I gave him that says "From your daughter..."

He is happy with his box of candy!
My Dad's family did not have as much money as my Mom's did from raising and selling tobacco, but they did ok.  He always told me that when he was a kid during the depression they ate well because my grandfather had a grocery store.  Daddy played football and was a star player in High School.  He ended up with a full scholarship to Duke University, who had a very good football team at the time and has always been a great school.  He hurt his knee playing football there and then he went into the Army and hurt his knee again playing baseball.  So when he got out of the Army he went to law school at UNC on the GI bill and became an attorney then later a local judge.

Because Daddy was in local politics and a well known figure about town I always kept a low profile with everything I did.  He always wanted me to do this and that, great things, and although I was smart enough I was very unhappy with myself so I just couldn't do it.  Staying alive and keeping myself out of trouble was about all I could manage to do and it is amazing I got in as little legal trouble as I did, considering all the things I used to do.  Everything I did was a struggle and life was a miserable existence.  Still, I kept a good relationship with my parents and we were always close, as close as I was with anyone although I was very quiet, shy and secretive.  I never let anyone too close for fear they might "see through me" and figure me out.

Daddy retired about the time I graduated from high school so he wasn't a sitting judge when I was arrested for possession of marijuana on a dirt road in the county during my freshman year of college.  I tried to keep it from my parents but they found out about it anyway, I should have known they would.  That was just one of many, many instances where I disappointed and probably embarrassed them but even then they were only exposed to the tip of the iceberg, thank Goodness.

After that I managed to stay out of trouble, in the local area at least, and never got in any serious trouble.  I always got the feeling that he was disappointed in me but I know my parents loved me enough that it didn't really matter.  After going to college on and off between working various jobs, I finally graduated and eventually got a job in my chosen field and ended up working in it for 13 years.  I got married of course, when I was 34, which is actually about the age my Dad was when he married my Mom.  They did not marry young like most people did back then and soon afterwards they adapted me as a baby.  I could have ended up anywhere but I am really glad I ended up where I did!
Daddy wearing one of the gifts I gave him, this sweater vest.

So today, I am much closer to my parents than I ever have been, except maybe when I was a small child.  I am finally honest and open with them about everything and that allows for a much better relationship with no tension.  I have quit all the drugs and mess and am at last able to be an authentic person, to be who I really am.  I know Daddy is proud of me for having the strength to survive and the courage to be myself and I am proud of him for accepting me.

My Father's Day gifts to him were a couple of sweater vests, some candy and a card.  I also gave him some of my nicer old clothes that I have not gotten rid of yet, like a couple of sport coats and suits.  I thought they would be worth something so I was going to take them to a consignment store instead of The Salvation Army, but he has lost weight and I don't need them anymore so I was very glad he could use them.  My Dad enjoyed all the gifts he got this year and we both enjoyed the gift of this day together, but I am the one that is really receiving the gift this year.  That gift is not only the love I have always gotten from him, but now also unconditional acceptance and total support.  Priceless!

Father and daughter: happy and finally proud of me.

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