My dad and I share the same birthday. Every year we call each other and take turns wishing each other happy birthdays. I once wrote a blog about how much I love my mommy. Now let me tell you how much I love my daddy (my actual dad, not “daddy” as in “oooo yeah daddy” like in the sexual way).
I used to be afraid of my dad in the way that I think all gay boys fear their fathers. So naturally I came out to my mother first sometime after my freshman year of high school. It took me another year-and-a-half or so to tell my father. I kept putting it off, but my mom finally told me that I really needed to tell my dad. So I mustered up the strength to come out to my father… after sobbing into my bass clarinet, of course.
So at this point in my life I am a junior in high school. It’s winter. My dad is picking me up from friend’s house in Middleton and driving us back to Waunakee. I figure I have about 15 minutes to tell him. So I spend the first five minutes of the car ride trying not to vomit and shart myself at the same time (a skill that I am grateful for today). And then I start sweating a lot and turning red. I figure my dad either thinks I’m holding in explosive diaRhianna or I just did a lot of ecstasy. Then I feel like I have a boulder growing in my stomach and that I’m slowing sinking into the passenger seat. Then I realize I probably couldn’t feel any worse, and I should probably just say the god damn words before I burst into a million pieces of rainbow confetti. I’m pretty sure I just blurted it out… and by blurted it out I surely mean I mumbled it in a way that made me sound like I had just thrown a handful of pebbles into my mouth as I was crashing HARD from my imaginary ecstasy high. After the words tumbled out of my mouth with the grace of someone freewheeling down five flights of stairs, my dad said, “Does your mother know?” And I said, “Yeah, I told her a while ago.” And he said, “Well, why did you take so long to tell me?” I thought about my response for a few moments and then eked out, “Because I was scared of you.” I know these words hit my father harder than I expected, and it took him a few moments to gain his composure. But when he finally spoke his voice cracked as he said, “Well, I don’t know what I did to make you afraid of me, but I’m sorry. And I still love you, James. You know that, right?” And everything inside me at that moment shattered into thousands of pieces and healed itself completely all at the same time. And even though I had suffered immensely by keeping this huge secret from my father, I would have willingly suffered a million years more if I could have taken away my dad’s pain upon me telling him I was afraid of him. A million billion years.
But I did notice a huge change in my father from that day onward. I mean, I don’t know if it was because of me but he voted democratic in the next election. Haha. 😉 But there were other changes, too. I wasn’t scared of him anymore. I’m not sure if the change happened within me or my father but it was significant. My dad made an even bigger effort to tell me loved me all the time. Even now when I come home from NYC, my dad will come up behind me while I’m on my computer writing a blog about some sort of slutty activity and he’ll kiss me on the head and say, “I’m so glad you’re home. Have I told you today that I love you?” Or he’ll say, “Have I told you recently how proud I am of you? Cuz I am. I’m so proud of you.” And I’ll respond with something self-deprecating like, “But what for? I haven’t done anything for you to be proud of yet.” And he’ll pause for a few seconds and he’ll calmly resolve, “Well, James, I’m still proud of you.”
My mom once told me that she really wanted our house to be a hub where us kids and our friends all hung out. Reality definitly surpassed my mother’s wish. Most of my friends just walk into the house without knocking and some of my friends even think of my mom and dad as their second set of parents. My parents have willingly taken on this role. When my friend Jian Li is in town she’ll stop in to say hello to “Mr. Marvin and Melissa”. My friend Stacy is not only welcome to all family affairs but she is asked after when she doesn’t attend a family gathering. Before Stacy made her big, big move to NYC a couple weeks ago, my parents took her out for coffee. When my friend Edward was looking for a place to live for a little bit, my parents offered up my bedroom. My parents drove two hours to my friend Maribeth’s wedding, and then drove two hours back at the end of the night.
My maternal grandmother passed away this past winter, and my dad really stepped up to the plate to be there for my mom. I was 1500 miles away but my dad gave me daily updates about how my mother was doing.
But let me tell you the most amazing thing about my father. Sometimes I get really down about auditioning, and I get really tired. I think to myself, ‘Yes, this is my dream but when will I catch a break?’ Well my dad’s dream job is to be an engineer. When he was in college, it took him seven years to earn his engineering degree because he was paying for it all on his own. And for at least the past four years, my father has been interviewing every week for engineering jobs while also working 40 hours a week at Home Depot so he can support his family. And when I get discouraged working 35-40 hours a week waiting tables while auditioning during the day, I call my dad and he says, “Well, don’t give up, bud.” I don’t think my dad is trying to be anyone that’s insanely inspirational but I am left speechless by his gumption and determination.
My dad is a stand-up guy. If I run out of the shower in just my towel, my dad will whistle at me. If you are a friend of mine at my house and you are bending over, my dad will smack your ass. And if you ever need a hug, my dad will give it to you.
I feel like I’ve spent most of my life taking my balanced upbringing for granted, and then one day I opened my eyes and realized how lucky I had it. And I thank Whomever every day for my mom and my dad.
So happy belated birthday, Dad (and Mom). Dad, I know you think the internet exists somewhere in the ether between Limbo and Nirvana but I’ll ask mom to guide you to this specific webpage. Also, Dad, when you feel like you’ve read the whole blog remember to scroll down; sometimes there’s more than fits on the screen. Also, a computer isn’t like a book so don’t try turning the page. Also, if the screen suddenly goes black make sure the computer is plugged in. And make sure the cord is plugged into not only the computer but also the wall. Also, if you want to tell me what a smart-ass I am, feel free to call me. 🙂
I love you. You’re old as F.
James the C
(Also “C” is a bad word that rhymes with…chrunt…)
“I pooped my pants, and I liked it.”
~My father’s favorite alternate lyrics to “I Kissed a Girl” by Katy Perry