A Civil Union in Stowe, Vermont.

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A month after 9/11 and six weeks before my wedding, my dad and Kory had a civil union and ceremony. At that point they’d been together for nearly ten years. I was 25.

We flew from New Orleans to Stowe, Vermont where the leaves were turning to hues of gold, blood, and rust. We checked in at The Top Notch Resort, where everything took place. Quaint and quiet, Stowe is a secret nestled in the mountains with breathtaking scenery at every turn. But nothing could distract me from the real reason I was there.

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I should’ve been overwhelmed by the beauty of the fall foliage. I should’ve been excited for my dad and Kory. I should’ve worn a rainbow dress to the rehearsal party… right? Flashes of photos from my parents’ wedding album raced through my mind: the chuppah, my dad’s mustache, my aunt, my uncles, my grandparents…my mom’s long, straight hair, the reception afterwards; a man and a woman getting married. In 1971.

If you’d have asked me, I’d never have imagined being in this situation in 2001. Arriving in Stowe felt like the end of something for me, for our family, like there was no going back. Like my dad was gay FOR REAL. Like this hadn’t been some long, twisted-sheet nightmare.

Realizing this wasn’t going to be easy, I asked my soon-to-be-husband if we could go find the liquor store after we dumped our bags off. With several bottles of merlot in brown paper bags, we walked back to the hotel joking about the cashier who carded us. After all, I was 25.

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We managed to squeeze in some touristy things (read: Ben & Jerry’s tour) before the wedding itself, but it was still there. I knew it was coming, I was dreading it, and I wasn’t sure how I was going to deal with it.

To prepare for an emotional overhaul, I took a hot bath and drank about 3/4 of a bottle of wine. Which did nothing to numb me.

I was the only female “best man,” flanked by my two younger brothers. I wore a grey Ann Taylor suit with black boots my dad selected and purchased for me for the occasion.

One of Dad’s friends, G, a Federal judge from New Orleans, co-officiated. I don’t recall a single thing she said; I just know the feelings that fell over me as she spoke made sobs rise in my throat. A silent scream gurgled up, curdled cream that needed to be spewed out.

My dad was marrying someone else. Not just someone else, but another man. Two men in suits (or were they wearing tuxedos? Is it bad that I don’t remember?) standing together making vows to one another. I was 25.

The sun blinded everyone as she set over the mountains. Fortunately, those in attendance were shading their eyes with their hands. Looking into the light probably prevented them from seeing my tears. Or if they saw, they assumed they were happy tears.

Only they weren’t. They were tears of loneliness, sadness, and pain. Standing outside in the crisp Vermont air, I was apparently the only one who couldn’t digest this.

I went into full-on sweating, panic-attack mode. I looked at my grandmother, Dad’s mom, in the front row and couldn’t believe she was watching–still, serene looking–without a reaction. I stared hard at her amethyst ring and tried to force my lungs to fill with air.

The ceremony ended, I locked eyes with my fiancé who came up to me quickly. In heaves of stale breath I told him I needed to go back to our room. We escaped without being noticed.

I lost my shit once we were back in our room. My makeup everywhere, eyes red rimmed, and nose stuffy. I drank more wine and tried to collect myself. Dan tried to soothe me.

Then my brother Mark came knocking at the door. He said Dad was looking for me for pictures. The photographer wanted a family shot.

The irony.

And then…then I did the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I dried my tears, fixed my makeup and pretended everything was okay.

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Comments

  1. Hi Erin,

    When I found out my uncles were gay it was a surreal experience. I was 17 and had grown up using words that today don’t come out of my mouth, but back then it was perfectly acceptable to all of us.

    And I remember the horror of finding out that my uncle was HIV positive and then listening to comments that people made about gay people and wondered what was happening to my uncle when I wasn’t around.

    But none of that is the same as having a father surprise you with something like this.

    I can’t imagine that the wedding would be easy by any count. It had to be a big challenge.

  2. Kristin,

    It sounds like you had a wonderful counselor and I am glad for that. He/she gave you some incredible advice and you’re lucky. A great shrink can make all the difference in the world, and I’m speaking from personal experience. I’m so grateful you stopped by and your words mean a lot to me. Thank you!

  3. Erin, I can only imagine how difficult this must have been. You love your dad with all of your heart, but you love your mom, and you love your family too. When I got divorced in 2004, my counselor said to me, “You have to let go of the hopes you had for this particular relationship. It’s time to move on to the reality, which could be much better.” And that was a huge relief for me. Thank you for telling this story, which will surely help others in a similar situation.
    xo

  4. Ouch. I can’t imagine. I think that stuff is always kind of a mind f#ck, even when your Dad marries some new chick–I think it took my husband five years to adapt to his stepmom–so I can’t imagine what it’s like in this situation.

    You did what you should have done, though. You supported your Dad the best you could, and that is, in my opinion, true grace.

  5. I agree with Alison! You were there for your father and Kory and they will never forget that. I can’t imagine how hard it was for you. How hard it is for children going through similar issues. My brother is gay and I was told the year I went into college, I embraced him. But there are so many people that need the help of this website and future documentary. Lets keep celebrating that! By you being so open and honest , is huge help!! Xo!

    • Mamaintheburbs,

      You are so wonderful and I appreciate your constant support and positive attitude. Cheers to your brother and I am grateful for your input here. Thanks for following along in my/our journey!

      erin

  6. This is why GDP is what it is. You are not in front of people, saying how easy it is/was and to accept all the changes. You write of the struggle, the process. The creation of a new life and the questions — what was real, what wasn’t? Was your life with him at home, real? Erin, this is the purpose: to be relatable and to not be perfect. But to be human in your reaction. xo

  7. Philip Bond says:

    Nice.

  8. Thank you for telling your story and sharing the truth about what that day was like for you. You were brave then, and you are brave now. Love you. *HUG*

  9. You’re an incredible writer. Thank you for sharing this glimpse into a daughter’s real emotions. I know your Dad is so proud, even if it’s hard for him to read this. Going through these emotions was necessary so you could be the person you are today, advocating for others. Awesome job, Erin.

    • Thank you so very much, Maureen. You are like my personal cheerleader, I should be paying you! I appreciate your support, and your words helped me to feel better. I am lucky to have met you online and hopefully we’ll meet in person one day!

      erin

  10. This is so intense. I am so grateful you are so honest about this…I think I would have been so tempted to bury my feelings and shown up with a false “everything’s great” for the whole time. Your fiance sounds amazing. Keep on this journey, you are healing people.

    • Christie,

      Thank you for reading. I hope we are helping people by sharing things like this. It wasn’t easy to live or write. I’m actually surprised I’ve never written about it before, but it was time. We have to show the scary, not-so-fun things here, too.

      love,
      me

  11. This was exquisite. Reading this to the point that it felt like I was living it, I understand all the more why your efforts on the Gay Dad project are so very important. The impact of a beginning feeling irrevocably like an ending…oh, I just send you big hugs for your courage and your capacity to quest and love.

    • Thank you, Amanda.
      YOU are the reason I push on. People like you who care and keep coming back and showing constant love and support—I don’t know what I’d do??
      We’ve never even met and yet…I want so badly to give you the biggest hug and tackle you to the ground.

      Beginnings and endings. They are interesting. And what life is all about, I suppose….

      love you.

      • Love right back to you, my friend. So much of life is how we allow ourselves to lift others up, as I’ve gone through a very difficult time, it has been amazing to shadow your journey and help in the ways that I can.

        xo

  12. This reminds me of my stepmother’s wedding to her new husband after my dad passed away, but my numbing agent of choice was tequila. I don’t remember a lot from that night, but I do remember sitting on the bed in the guest room (the wedding was at her home, my dad’s home) crying while she sat next to me crying and her husband sat on the other side of me trying not to cry for our sadness and David kneeling in front of me while everyone else in the house celebrated. For me that was a sign that he was really gone and it was one of the most painful days of my life.

    • Oh sweet Jen. I feel this so deeply. You are so blessed to have David by your side and such a caring family. Obviously they all knew how hard this was for you and wanted you to feel comforted. You are right—isn’t it interesting how certain events cement other things for us, or make them seem more real/finite? And it’s also interesting that we had similar feelings going on even though no one in your family is gay…. I appreciate your stopping by to read and leave your kind words for me.
      love,
      erin

  13. You were there for your Dad and Kory, even if your heart broke, and your tears came. That’s what matters.
    xoxo

    • Alison,

      You are so sweet. Of course you point that out, when I am thinking all these terrible things of myself. It could’ve been worse–I could’ve boycotted the wedding, not gone, refused to be in it, etc. etc….but somehow still feel guilty that this was such a difficult day and experience for me…but you’re right—I was there. And that is what matters. Thank you, friend! xoxo

  14. Wow. Knowing you now, I know you are different from that 25 year old but, I’m sure, only being 10 or so years since, you can still feel those feelings even though they’re not what you feel now. This is the part that is going to help others soooo much. You were right. I had no idea what the ‘hard part’ was that was coming up, but this is so real and raw and well written. I had to relax my shoulders and unclench my jaw at the end of this post. My breath was slightly taken away when I read this was only 2001. What a long way we’ve come in such a short time.

    • Thank you, Michelle. It helps to write about it. I imagine watching your parents remarry is tough enough regardless of sexual identity, but this seemed doubly difficult. Some of it is very fresh in my mind, and then other things have long been forgotten, i.e. what they were wearing.

      Amie and I are at a point where we know we will lose people if we pretend everything is all sunshine and roses when it isn’t. There are rough times during all of this. It’s not all fun and happy stuff, you know? We want to also remain authentic and real and hopefully people will feel more comfortable sharing with us as we delve into darker waters on occasion.

      xo

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