My brother emailed me a link today pertaining to this viral internet sensation in which a father wrote his gay son a love letter. These beautiful written words contain a short, concise reassurance from the father who inadvertently overheard his son in another room, exchanging words with a friend named, "Mike." In the conversation with Mike, the son tries to figure out how to disclose his sexuality to both parents. The father writes that he's known his son was gay since six, and could care less, and that he loved him without condition.
My heart danced and offered a window of reflection as I finished reading it. I couldn't help but refer to my own seventy-three year old father who passed away in 2011. Our relationship was complicated, perhaps even non-existent. There were tremendous gaps of miscommunication followed by estrangement.
In 2007, we reconnected at a Thanksgiving dinner before we lost touch once more. He admitted to making several mistakes, by not being physically and mentally accessible, by not saying the things that needed to be said when I needed to hear them. I took it as a sign of personal growth, adaptability really, knowing how brave it must be to admit fault to anyone, much less their own child. While I was still immersed with anger and disappointment, I knew where his heart was and how broken he became for allowing our relationship to suffer. I admired him and saw sincerity in his eyes.
During that time, we said things to each other that continue to shock and move me. Some discussions were sad, brutally frank, and heartfelt. One singular aspect that I've taken with me from that reunion and since his passing, something that I still feel from within, was how much he loved me without any conditions, how he always knew who I was since I was a little boy, how much he always accepted me since birth, and how he ultimately wanted to see me with a loving partner.
My father who was born in the late thirties and who had me when he was 36, was someone I just didn't understand. He was someone with a completely aversive ideology than the one I was raised with, yet he resembles this caring, modern father who wrote that simple letter, who didn't care if his son was gay, who simply wanted him to know how he was fine just the way he was, who also knew when son was just a baby.
For what seemed eternal and unexplainable, I resented not being close to him, where an opportunity of sharing an infinite, unspoken closeness as some sons manage to do could've transpired between us. Now that he's gone, the residual uncertainty of ever having closure with him has diminished. I didn't have the ability to be near his side when he died, or to clear the air, or to give him one last hug, to tell him I loved him, or that in spite of our misconceived perceptions of the other, that I knew he loved me, and how the rest was irrelevant.
Fathers are human beings just like us. They can break your heart, lift you up, abandon you, love you, provide solace and support during bouts of pain and adversity, and fashion themselves as champions who have lived long and hard, grounded with sage advice. If a few are lucky, they will seep into our hearts and remain at bay, even when they are no longer with us. Yes, my father is gone. No, I cannot reply with a letter.
What I can do is to treasure our time spent and the power of how his unconditional love and acceptance have impacted my own journey as a gay man struggling to find his place in a often discriminating and narrow minded world. Where ever you are Dad, I wish you peace and love.