We Are Family

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family-quoteThere is the family we are born to, and there is the family that we make; in my case, I have always felt more comfortable with the latter. My Midwest suburban upbringing dictated that we stay close by, and maybe someday, raise our own families near our parents. But it never felt like home. The lure of sharing big Sunday dinners couldn’t compete with my California dreams and whatever Big Top I could join in the circus that was the entertainment industry in the 1980’s.

By 21, I was living in San Francisco and creating a family of my own making, a patchwork quilt of artists, intellectuals, and hippies who gathered in each other’s apartments and shared in the journey of growing up. These are the people I shared my dreams with, my struggles to make ends meet with, and my deepest fears about the future. While my weekly phone calls and annual visits to see my mom were important to me, I never felt like I belonged there anymore. I could love them all I wanted  to, but it couldn’t make Chicago home for me again.

In an unexpected turn of events, my father moved to San Francisco a couple years after I did. On one hand it was nice to have family nearby, yet on the other hand, Dad was like a different person. Out for a decade by then, he was an openly gay man living in an accepting city. I saw the truest version of who he was. It is only in reflection that I see what a gift this was to me.

As my life has evolved, I have collected more family members: my sister-friend, Karen, who I could not be closer to if we were blood; women friends across the country with whom I have shared secrets and heartbreaks and victories beyond anything I have with my family of origin. We admire each other, we are proud of each other and we love one another with a deep intensity that comes only when you feel seen and understood. And while I love my family, I haven’t really felt seen by them. In the 15 years I lived back there, raising my son, I enjoyed having my mom close and witnessing her relationship with her grandson, but I was not really happy.

And some of that is on me.

I showed up differently with them. My own wounds and judgments got in the way of my being truly authentic with them, for often when I dared to be, I was mocked. In writing my way through my own judgments and false impressions, while writing my book, I am seeing my own defensiveness. This is hard work, and not for the faint of heart, making it a lot easier to turn my attention to my nearest and dearest for support.

My man, Mark, who has been my dear friend for nearly 35 years, feels like home to me. When bad news comes it is his arms I seek to fall into, his sturdy hand I want to hold. My son, who is part of my immediate family, feels different in that he came through me, he is a part of me, and I am completely free to be myself with him. He sees his mom because I have revealed myself to him, flaws and all, and accepts me. He moves through the world with confidence for he has been seen and validated his whole life. He and I were our own little family of two for a long time.

Since Mark and I became a couple, in addition to my son and his daughter, we have attracted several young people to our lives, a group we call our Fairy God Family. All creative and talented, these are the children we didn’t birth, yet are part of our hearts and souls. Sharing our wisdom, watching their blossoming, and the sweet, meaningful time we share with them is the very definition of family.

I am blessed. There is a lot of love in the family I come from, and as I seek deeper levels of acceptance of our differences, I hope for better understanding. Along with them, and the family I have created, are the clients I serve, the tribe of spiritually like-minded people I attract, and this community at the Gay Dad Project. They are all part of the tapestry of love I have woven throughout my life. They are all my Family.

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