Something happened during the commercial break, as people were touching up my makeup and tugging on my clothes. Someone said, bring her dad up here at what felt like the same time as someone else pulled my dad from the audience and brought him backstage. He was already mic-ed, because he was going to be an audience guest but somehow in those frantic moments he became a stage guest.
After the show I wasn’t so much mad at my dad, I felt more frustrated and sad. He brought up mom – the one condition I worked out with the producers not to mention. What he said, and how he said it, felt pretty dismissive which only made it all worse. The situation was always too charged to try to explain an alternative viewpoint and neither one of my parents ever wanted to hear how the other side might feel. Looking back I can guess that maybe it was because they were each in too much pain of their own. I don’t know, Im not sure I ever will.
When we got back to the hotel I told Dad I was going for a walk, but instead I paced frantically in the courtyard just outside of our hotel. I couldn’t go back and undo the show. Should I call my mom and tell her? Our relationship felt too complicated at that time to do that. There was no way she would understand. It would just be tears and yelling. I could hope that somehow the show wouldn’t ever see TV, although somehow I think I knew that was not a realistic option.
At some point a friend called me to ask how the show went. I don’t know if it was good or bad timing but because of the call she ended up talking me through my panic.
I went back to our shared hotel room and agreed to go to dinner with dad and his cousin who was coming to meet us. Dads cousin is one of three gay men in Dads generation of cousins. Driving through the streets of Beverly Hills and listening to Dad and his cousin talk, you would never know they both grew up in the same small town south of Bismarck, North Dakota. Dads cousin citing all the fancy designer stores Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Versace . And my dad looking quite unimpressed with all the big builders and overpriced fashion. Dropping designer names is like speaking a foreign language to Dad. Dads initials are P & S, he always says its for plain and simple. Dad always has, and probably always will be, a do-it-yourself kind of guy. The guy who fixes the kitchen sink, mows his own yard, plants his own garden, paints his own house, and fixes his own car. Sure you could pay someone to do that for you, but why would you pay someone to do it when you can do it yourself and save the money!? Dad doesn’t care about fashion, interior design, technology, or architecture.
Over dinner Dads cousin asked about the show. He really wanted to attend the taping but was
n’t able to do due to work so naturally the conversation went there. Dad said he thought it went good, I hesitated. From their our conversation got a little tense, but somehow we made it through. Maybe it was the neutral third party or maybe it was the different location or maybe it was the right time. Somewhere in those moments inside The Abbey Dad and I were able to talk about the show. It wasn’t one of those moments where magic star dust appears and suddenly everything is grand. The conversation felt messy and complicated, but for the first time I felt like my dad might have understood what I was trying to say. It didn’t digress into yelling and screaming. It wasn’t all defense. Somewhere in there we heard each other, finally.
I’m finding that I enjoy listening to Dad’s stories more now than I ever have. It feels like we’ve trudged through some of the tougher stuff so now I get to hear stories from his childhood, singing songs around the piano at his grandmother’s house or stories of his barbershop choir days.Sometimes I find myself reflecting on memories, wondering why certain ones stick. I guess it’s is all part of the process of finding our way through in tiny moments of truth and honesty. Progress isn’t always leaps and bounds, sometimes it happens in the tiny details. Sometimes it is as simple as having the courage to seen and be seen.
Amie is the co-founder of The Gay Dad Project. When shes not writing about her gay dad she likes to dance, make films, practice yoga, and travel. You can read all of Amies posts here.
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