Friday, May 27, 2011

My Dad and His Girly-Boy Son

I've always wanted a good relationship with my dad. For me, however, it's always been an on-again, off-again sort of thing. It seems like we're now doing some serious work to hopefully repair things for good. At least I hope so.

It's funny. There's this one memory I have going all the way back to when I was about 6 or 7 years old. Me and some of the neighborhood kids were outside running around like kids do. I also remember a lot of chaos was going on. You know, nobody was in charge and we were just all over the place having fun. I seem to remember there was a soccer ball involved, like we were just kicking it around with no clear purpose in mind. We were all in a good mood, laughing, yelling, screaming, just being typical little kids.

I don't know how reliable every detail of my memory is, but I do remember making a lot of noise, giggling, flapping my arms all over the place, running around like a kid raised by the wolves!

I remember seeing my dad leave the house heading for the car. He was probably on his way to run an errand or something. I like to think he was watching me for a second and just enjoying seeing his only son playing and having a good time. At least that's the memory I wish was true.

What I remember as clear as anything in my childhood is him yelling at me, "Brad, stop running around like a girl!" I also remember it suddenly getting very quiet. All the other kids seemed to stop in their tracks and were looking at me, then at my dad, then back at me. My dad got in the car and left. After a few more seconds of total silence, there was some snickering and the other kids were making fun of me. You know how kids can be. There was this chant, "Brad's a little girl! Brad's a little girl!" Even the girls were joining in.

I honestly don't remember what happened after that. One thing is absolutely sure in my mind, though. Somehow I fully understood what he meant. In the space of like three seconds I go from being a girl to a boy. I stop giggling. I straighten my body. I stop having fun. I don't know what to do next. I just wanted the chanting to stop. What did my dad see that I didn't see? All I knew was that he was my dad and I trusted him.

We never talked about what happened. I was totally afraid to bring it up. I mean, I was just 6 or 7 at the time. How do you talk about something like that with your dad? Especially if you're a little afraid of him? I was always waiting for him to bring it up again -- kinda hoping he would but also terrified that he might. I mean, I was hoping he would apologize for what he said and say he was just in a bad mood or something. That he really didn't mean to hurt my feelings, especially in front of my friends. But, then I was also afraid if he brought it up he might lecture me about how bad I was for "being a girl," and how disappointed he was that his only son didn't seem to know how to act like a boy.

Since he never brought it back up, I figured he was probably right. Maybe there was something really wrong with me that I was "acting like a girl."  Maybe there was nothing more to say about it. End of discussion. Case closed.

I think that was when I first started feeling totally different from everybody else. Even though I didn't know the word for it then, I believe that was the beginning of some kind of depression. All I knew at the time was that what he said made me feel so sad and ashamed. And there was nobody to talk to about it. What I decided to do was to watch the other boys and try to act like them. Looking back on it now, I think I started dying inside. I was so confused and and didn't know how to be what my dad wanted me to be. I wanted him to love me more than anything.

I think he wanted to like and accept me, but it came at the cost of stopping all that "girly" stuff. I tried a few times to toughen up and be what I thought he wanted me to be. He seemed to like me better that way. But did I want to give up playing dolls with my girl friends? And what about the thrill I got when some of the girls showed me how to apply makeup? None of it made any sense to me.

Fast forward to my early teenage years. My dad started drinking more than usual. I know he and my mom were arguing more. It scared the hell out of me. I worried they were going to divorce and I didn't even want to think about how my world would collapse after that. I was totally convinced I was the cause. I knew at some level that he felt all of us were a total disappointment to him. But, I felt I was more responsible for everything. I mean, I kept going back to that incident when I first disappointed him by "acting like a girl."

His drinking got gradually worse. He never, ever got physically abusive. But when he was drunk, he would say horrible things. I had come out as gay to them when I was 15. Maybe that was a mistake. I mean my mom and sister totally accepted it. My dad just looked disgusted and called me his "faggot son." He never said anything like that when he was sober. He actually was a decent dad and did normal stuff with me, like talk to me about school, how I loved playing soccer, etc. He even use to come to some of my soccer games and appeared proud of me. But then when he was drunk, it was some other person inside my dad's body.

I don't want to go into all the details here for personal reasons, but the end result was that he decided to stop drinking. He started going to some A.A. meetings, which I know was hard for him to do. He had a few slips but it didn't seem like he was going back to his old ways where he became verbally abusive. He actually went back to his meetings and got what they call a "sponsor," which, from what I can tell is like some kind of guide or somebody you could call when you feel like drinking and get encouragement and support.

He's been totally sober now for almost a whole year! June 15th to be exact. During this past year, he and I have been doing a lot of talking about our relationship -- one-on-one! How cool is that? We've also been to see this family counselor, another thing I knew would be hard for my dad. Tell you the truth, it was hard for all of us, including me. And you know what? This counselor is totally cool and smart and honest and blunt and, most important of all, caring. I can feel it. I totally trust her. 

She eventually pressed the issue of how everybody dealt with my being gay. And my dad talked about his feelings about his relationship with me -- his feelings, for God's sake! Not his bullshit feelings, but his honest-to-God feelings of being sorry for causing so much pain to me. I have to be honest and say it was hard to believe him at first. Was he just saying this to get the counselor off his back? Well, as they say, the proof is in the pudding. I've gotten to the point where I trust what he says when he tells me he is truly sorry for the verbal abuse and not being there for me.

Last week he took me to see this soccer game a friend was playing in. Afterwards he took me out for ice cream. Just me and him. Without any prompting from me, he brought up the gay thing. He told me he was totally cool with it. I just grinned and said, "Even the girly-boy part of it?" He smiled, lowered his head, then raised it and looked me directly in my eyes. All he said was, "I'm cool with the girly-boy part, Brad." Then, wonder of wonders, he just added, "You're my son. And you know what that means? I love you. All of you. Period. End of discussion."

We both got teary and then he asked how me and Matt were doing. Well, that got on a happy subject. He actually asked all kinds of questions about Matt. As we were walking back to the car to go back home, he put his arm around my shoulder and just said, "Matt deserves somebody like you."

So, I'm learning a lot about love and forgiveness. And guess what? My dad's proud of me! I think this is going to work. I have to believe that. I mean, that's what "hope" is about, right? Hope and love.

26 comments:

  1. What a post! Glad you have learned so much and are growing closer to your Dad. You were so mature with this post and admitting all your feelings and etc. I admit I don't know if I could be so brave. Family can bring us some of the biggest joy or the most crushing pain!

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  2. Wow, Brad...{{{huggzzz}}} As I read that comment your dad made when you were little, I was ready to beat him up! Thank goodness your dad was strong enough to realize there was a problem and seek the help of AA! Congratulations to him on 1 year sober! and on realizing what a remarkable young man you are!! And if he hasn't already, hope he comes to know Matt and appreciate how special you are together!

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  3. Kudos to you and your dad for working through it all.

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  4. I'm glad you and your father could find a good relationship with eachother now. It's nice to have the support of your family.

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  5. Yay!!! :)

    Like reading a story of my own life :/

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  6. Brad, that 's a story with a painfully sad beginning and a very hopeful ending. I'm happy for you that your dad is trying so hard now and that you are willing to give him that chance.

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  7. Yay for one year!! Here's to hope and love and forgiveness and acceptance....

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  8. Aww, I'm so sorry for what you went through as a young boy. Our parents are the people whose opinions matter to us the most, and it's always hard to hear them critisise us, especially at such a young and impressionable age. Now that you are older I hope you realise that it was always the alcohol talking and not your dad.

    I'm glad he finally admitted to his problem and sought help for it. And I'm so happy he is trying to make amends and show you how much he loves you. You deserve it.

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  9. what an amazing post and i am so happy you and your father are working things out. i'm sorry for the years of pain you suffered but i guess we all have to endure the rain to get the rainbow. hugs baby you totally rock for sharing this. you really are an inspiration as is Matt.

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  10. {cuddles up with Brad for a while}

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  11. Sounds like you're both on the right track ((hugs))

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  12. Oh, Brad *tear*. I can only imagine how much those words must have hurt. But I am so thankful that your Dad got help and is working to rebuild his relationship with you. And of course he is proud of you! How could he not be? :).

    “Forgiveness is the needle that knows how to mend.” Jewel

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  13. This post took so much courage to put out there, you should be proud of yourself.
    There's nothing like the love of a father. So it was heartbreaking to read about your painful childhood. And thankful knowing you're both healing with help from one another.
    Congrats to your dad for one year sober. Yay!
    Matt is lucky to have you and I feel lucky to have the opportunity to peek into your life.

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  14. I'm glad your father didn't get too lost to find his way back. He is very lucky to have you for a son. I wish the best for you both as you mend your relationship.

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  15. I am so glad to hear that things are getting better for your family and also your relationship with your dad. We always want our parents approval no matter how old we get or how crappy they are sometimes. Kudos to you for sharing something so personal. Good for your dad for getting help and staying sober. *hugs to you and Matt*

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  16. Wow, What an awesome post, when i finished reading it i had tears in my eyes. Glad things are getting better! Matt is Lucky to have to have you :)
    Congrats to you dads one yr sober..Yay!!
    (hugs)

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  17. Congrats to your dad on his one year mark! And so glad you're whole family is doing counselling. Sometimes you need someone on the outside to help you understand what's going on on the inside. :) And major kudos to you and your dad on working on your relationship and meaning it!!

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  18. Your post made me cry. In a good way I guess. Parents don't realize (or maybe they do) their ability to wound. How a throwaway comment can affect us so deeply. I am so glad that 1) your father is one year sober and 2) that he accepts you for who you are and 3) that you are rebuilding your relationship with him.

    All the best!

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  19. I'm not sure how to respond to this post except that it makes me want to give you a great big hug. I'm so glad you and your father are on the road to developing a new and better relationship. I think you just gave a lot of people hope.

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  20. Brad, thanks for sharing. As a daughter of an alcoholic I know what you are going through.

    I'm so happy that these are better days for you and your dad.

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  21. Oh Brad, I'm so sorry your relationship with your dad has not always been what you would have liked. Or that your dad was not always the perfect father. But at least he has woken up and is not only getting help for his problems but also trying to repair his relationship with you. You are very brave for writing about this and sharing your story.
    {{{ Hugs to you }}}

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  22. Thanks everybody! You might not know how hard it was to write about all this, but after reading all your comments, I'm really glad I did! Your support and belief in me means more than you will every know!

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  23. Aww. *hug* I'm glad you guys are on the path to working it all out. I hope it continues to go well!

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  24. HUGE HUGS to you, my love! I know this was hard to share. You have this bundle of courage and bravery that is awesome!

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  25. *squeezes you tight* Your dad is a strong man to fight his alcoholism and face his mistakes and you're an even stronger one for forgiving him for them, Bradley. xo!

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  26. "Looking back on it now, I think I started dying inside. I was so confused and and didn't know how to be what my dad wanted me to be. I wanted him to love me more than anything."

    The whole post (apart from the end) just broke my heart, but this quoted bit especially. I just want to scoop up little-boy-Brad and give him a tight hug :/

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