This piece originally appeared on Lick the Fridge on March 20, 2012.
March 20, 2012
I think you’d be proud of me, Dad.
Remember when I was like nine years old and we were watching the Super Bowl at your place in LA? And you lived with your partner Ricardo, but of course I had no idea that he was your partner, because why would I? You were just roommates. And, anyway, I said that one of the teams in the Super Bowl was “so gay” because they were losing really badly. And you and Ricardo kind of looked at each other, but didn’t say anything.
And then there was that time when I was about 14 when me, you and John went to the Jimmy Cliff concert at The Fillmore, and John got ID’d because he said he might have a beer and so they had to give him a special wrist band, and we thought it was kind of funny that he got ID’d because he was 38 years old. And of course I had no idea that John was your partner because you hadn’t told me that you were gay yet.
Not until a couple months later when you said you wanted to talk with me in your tiny studio apartment on Page Street near Divisadero, and I thought it was going to be one of those typical talks about how much you loved me and how proud of me you were, and that maybe some day I’d realize that there was more to life than El Cajon, and that you wished that we could see each other more often.
But instead, you told me that Tom, the guy who always picked me up and dropped me off at the airport because you never learned to drive, was your friend, and that John was your boyfriend. And then I started to cry because I didn’t know what else to do, because I didn’t know any gay people, and I didn’t know what I was going to do when I got back to my life in El Cajon. And remember that you asked me if I knew why I was crying, and you told me it was okay if I didn’t?
And a few months later when you called me to tell me that John died of AIDS, you thought I was crying, but really I just had a cold, and I couldn’t talk that much because my mom and my brother were right there and Family Ties was on, and I didn’t really want to talk about it. I probably should have stopped watching Family Ties, and gone upstairs to be by myself, but I didn’t. I’m sorry. I guess I didn’t know what it meant to lose your partner.
And remember when you asked me if I was going to go to prom? And you were kind of making fun of me for wanting to go, and you were trying to convince me that it really wasn’t that big of deal to go to prom, that there were bigger and better things that I would experience, and even though you were kind of just ribbing me about going to prom, you were also kind of serious too.
And then when I said I was going to prom, and you asked me who I was going with and I said, “Cameron,” and you got excited for a minute, kind of hopeful, and you asked if Cameron was a girl or a boy, and when I said she was a girl, you were genuinely a little bit disappointed, and you kind of gave me shit about that, and you said something about going to prom with a girl was so cliché.
And then remember the time you and Daniel came down to visit me in Santa Barbara? You were passing through from LA back to San Francisco, and you just wanted to stop in for a day to see my place and hang out. You probably knew this, but I was scared shitless that my roommates and friends and the guys on the lacrosse team would see us all hanging out, and even when I told them that you were my dad and that Daniel was your friend, that everyone would know, that you two were partners, that I had a gay dad.
Do you remember all those times? You may not. Maybe they’re not that memorable to you. I remember all those times because they represented who I used to be, when I was ignorant and naive. When I was scared and embarrassed and worried and confused that I had a gay dad. I didn’t know any better. No one, including you in the beginning, taught me any different. That’s just the way it was.
But because of all those experiences, and because of all the other stuff you taught me about living, and reading, and social consciousness, and political awareness, and alternative perspectives, and being critical, and being cynical, and all that other stuff that make people actually worth hanging out with, that makes them dynamic and unique and interesting, because you taught me about all that stuff, and you didn’t let me get away with staying in my limited little world of nothingness and drudgery, I’ve changed.
You’d be proud of me, Dad. You’d be proud of who I’ve become, and what I believe in, and what I’ve come to understand and embrace, and what I stand up for, and what I support, and what I won’t put up with, and what I’m teaching my children, and how well I know San Francisco, and that I don’t watch sports anymore, and that I’ve read hundreds of your books, and that I’ve got your photography hanging on my walls, and of how positively I speak about you and your influences on me and the way you chose to live your life.
Well, anyway, I’ve taken up enough of your time already. I just wanted to say a quick hello, and say happy birthday, and let you know how much I’ve changed, and say I miss the hell out of you sometimes, especially around your birthday, the first day of spring, when the sun stays out longer, and the flowers are starting to bloom, and the days are often warm, even in San Francisco.
It’s too bad that we can’t hang out more often. But it’s okay, I’m doing pretty good. Even an old cynical bastard like you would probably have to give me that. You’d still probably find a lot about me to make fun of, but I think you’d also find a lot about to me to admire. I think we’d get along pretty well.
I love you.
Your only begotten son,
Photos of the author’s dad, circa 1973 (“when I was born”) and himself, age four-ish, courtesy of the author’s mother