Love you, Ma

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The day I discovered my dad was gay came after a conversation I had with him in which I asked why he didn’t have a girlfriend. He said something about that “not fitting his lifestyle” then dropped me off at home without discussing it further. Those weren’t buzz words in the mid-1970’s, and while I sat at home alone letting them run wild in my 13-year-old head, I came up with this notion that maybe he was queer. I’m not even sure how I knew that word, probably from one of the few shows on TV that had begun depicting gay people, like All in the Family.

So I called my mother on the phone while she was at work to ask her. . . Is Dad queer?

I know now what a stressful moment that was for her, and how my insistence she tell me the truth right now meant she had to let a very feral cat out of the bag while I was at home alone. Her instruction to go immediately to her best friend’s house was sound advice. Mrs. McCaw saw to it I was comforted until Mom came home.

This is the beginning of the many ways my mother was faced with the unchartered territory of coping with my emotional landscape about Dad. Those months after I learned that he was gay were very difficult for me.

Sworn to secrecy from my sister knowing the truth, I carried this information inside me like a small, scared animal. At times it lay still and quiet, something I would hardly know was there. At other times it thrashed and gnawed at my insides, demanding it be fed and released. Sometimes it just ran around in circles until it fell in a heap, exhausted.

Telling anyone about my dad being gay was also a tricky thing. In the Midwest, it was not a part of the everyday conversation, especially with the children. I didnt know one single soul who had a gay dad like me except my little sister who I couldnt tell. Confused and angry, it was my mother who listened to my tirades and outbursts.

As the years went by, Mom and Dad remained close friends, a relationship that confused me and sometimes I was quite jealous of. I couldn’t always see the beautiful way they stood by one another and how lovingly my father was committed to taking care of her. He loved my mom with a devotion I never experienced from him. As I have gotten older I see the value in having parents who had that kind of bond, especially given their unique situation.

When my sister came out years later Mom took it in stride. She has never been anything but accepting. In fact, many of my life choices have been harder for her to understand or tolerate compared to most anything in Dina’s life, and of course, being gay was not a choice. My free-spirited lifestyle and need to share my truth have always been much harder for mom to understand, but she tries.

Over the years my mom and I have traversed the full spectrum of feelings that mothers and daughters can share. We have fought about the regular things like curfews, child-rearing and how I wear my hair. We have had heated debates about single mother dating and boundaries. We have had bitter fights that left me in grief over the mean things I said. Always, we made up and forgave one another. In the end, we don’t agree about everything, but we agree these things are important: family, being kind, and giving our children both roots and wings. Oh, and good food. We both love to eat good food.

Mom’s support of her daughters has been at the center of her life. She has had a parade of dear friends come and go and has held her family near for more than 3/4 of a century. She worked hard to provide for us after her divorce, pulling out of herself a strength she didn’t know she had and I am fortunate to have inherited. I learned about being a mother from my mother, and from her mother before her. My gratitude for my mom is deep and true. For whatever differences we have had, she has been there for me in times of sorrow and hardship, victory and awe. She has been a steadfast advocate even when it has made her uncomfortable, and she possesses a strength that I am fortunate to have inherited. On top of all that, she is the best Grandma ever.

As we celebrate Mother’s Day this year I applaud the woman who gave me life and taught me the meaning of love. Love you, Ma.

 


 

Lisa lives and writes in the Bay Area. You can find her on herblog, Twitter, & Instagram.

 

The month of May is dedicated to our moms and the straight spouse perspective. You can read all of our posts for this month HERE.

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