I told my parents I was gay when I was 19.
My mom cried.
My dad took me to Sears.
Yeah, I was also perplexed when he told me to get ready; we were going to the mall.
Thinking back on it, I was more than a bit concerned and confused. Concerned, because I kept thinking we were going to have some awful “pray-the-gay” away conversation in the Craftsman department. Confused, because my dad was not one to easily part with cash, so I had no idea why we were going shopping.
I don’t remember what we talked about on the drive over there. Probably about my driving—which was terrible, despite the fact that people could see me coming for miles around.
I had a 1984 Chevette covered in neon daisy stickers – it was the era of Deee-Light, after all. I zipped around in that garishly deee-gorgeous, dayglow hatchback like it was a Corvette, not it’s low-end cousin.
So we pull into the auto bay at Sears and we must have been a sight getting out of the car—my dad in his overalls and me in whatever iteration of goth meets grunge meets whatever Madonna was wearing back then.
I wish I could remember exactly (it’s been 26 years, y’all), but my dad either told the service manager to, “Check the brakes and change the tires” or “Fix the breaks and check the tires.”
Either way, it meant spending money and that was very unusual behavior for my father. To call him frugal is an insult. The man was cheap. And damn proud of it.
Anyway, the repairs started and we perused the aisles of the store.
I kept thinking, “This is it. I came out and they’re telling me to get in that car and never come back.”
I was nervous and anxious and I couldn’t bring myself to provoke some sort of confrontation—especially in an aisle full of power tools and saws.
Finally, the car was ready. My dad paid for the repairs.
We got in the car and he said this – and this I do remember quite well:
“Son, your mother and I have talked. You’re a young man who’s gonna go out and explore this world and look for people like yourself. Thing is, you’re gonna meet a whole lotta people who don’t like you for who you are. I just wanna make sure that when you do meet those people – and you will – that you can get out of there as damn fast as possible.”
And that was that — a simple act of acceptance and an offer of protection.
There was no additional drama, or much conversation. Mom would calm down and he had cows to milk, so let’s go.
And slow it down, this wasn’t the “Induhnaplus fahhhv hunnerd”. Ungrateful child, I probably rolled my eyes when he said that in his Southern drawl.
Now that he’s been gone 21 years, I’d give anything to hear his voice again.
He had his own way of saying things.
Especially, I love you.
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Photo by Jayme Lunt