Tag Archives: Father’s Day

The Quiet Activism of Truth

Dear Christopher,

Recently I was at Spot Coffee with friends.  There was a big sign on the wall for Pride Week, which started earlier this month.  It made me think about how many years we have been celebrating Pride Week in Buffalo and nationwide.  Gay rights activists have made this happen. Their decades long efforts contributed mightily to the current state of gay rights now.

pride flag

One example is the proliferation of Pride events throughout the nation. To see the expansion of our own Pride Parade from the early days of the 90’s to now is amazing.  In addition, when I was teaching high school then, there were no Gay-Straight Alliances in schools.  Now there are 63 from schools all over our region.  Many march in the Pride Parade. Activists helped to make this happen. Thankfully activism works, perhaps slowly and not always in a straight line. And I count you as one of those activists.

When you told us you are gay we were changed. Since you were so honest, Dad and I knew we could not be silent either.  It spurred our activism, albeit in quiet ways. I wrote op-ed pieces for our local newspaper, joined PFLAG, hosted gay-friendly events at the college where I taught.  Dad told his jock friends at the high school where he taught and raised their consciousness so that even the new physical education director became more aware of LGBT students and teachers.

So many achievements are due to the many gay rights activists, from the Stonewall drag queens to the Act Up marchers, to the Pride Parade founders. But also there is the quiet activism of telling the truth about your life.  That is what you did back in 1993.  That is what thousands of gay people did over the last several decades.  That truth telling activism caused a societal shift that led to marriage equality as well as the new visibility and rights for the LGBT community. Even staunch church goers had to change when they knew they had family or close friends who are gay.  Even Republicans, who used gay rights as a wedge issue for voters in the 90’s, changed when they knew they had gay sons or daughters.  A prime example of that is former Vice President Dick Cheney.

Of course that does not mean bigotry is dead.  After this past presidential election it has reared its ugly head.  Unfortunately, our current Vice President, Mike Pence, has promoted anti gay legislation when he was in congress and when he was governor of Indiana. Even though we have so many Gay-Straight Alliances in our community, it took the threat of a law suit by the ACLU to get one local principal to allow one.  But the inroads made both legally and culturally will not change (I hope).

Last month I had breakfast with both my granddaughter Zoe and my grand niece who made that clear to me.  Both girls told me that no one cares if someone is gay or straight or trans.  No one cares about that anymore.  It’s up to the person, they said. (I love the wisdom of teenagers!) But I think polls have shown that attitude is true among most young people today.  So I have to hope that society will continue to evolve.

Scan 1CRD and Dad

Your honesty has had many branches.  Besides your family and friends, your students know who you are on the first day of your high school classes.  To be sure that everyone knows you have photos of your husband and children for all to see. I am sure you are a powerful role model to any gay students.  Something you did not have as you were growing up! Now across two coasts and in the middle of the country your extended families are gay affirming and very proud. There is your brother Mark’s family in Maryland, your husband Patrick’s family in Long Island as well as Philadelphia and Orlando.  And us, in upstate New York, trying to be sure our friends and colleagues are aware of gay issues.

Telling the truth has it’s own important activism.  That is not to discount the more voluble activists.  Their work is vital.  But quiet activism can speak loudly too.

Love & Happy Father’s Day,

Mom

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Fostering Fathers

Dear Isabella and Jordan,

On June 15th, your papa and I will celebrate the 20th anniversary of our first date.  We met at a café for brunch not far from where we currently live.  After that we went roller blading.  Can you picture that? I wish we had cell phones back in the day so that we could have captured selfies of that moment!

It was Father’s Day, but neither of us spent any time with our dads that day.  Pops was in Buffalo, probably crying over his grill because neither of his sons were there to celebrate him.  Papa’s father had died almost 10 years earlier.  Our talk, however, did turn to fatherhood.  We both talked about our dads, and about our childhoods, and about how we both knew that someday, somehow, we wanted to be dads ourselves.

This is not usually first date conversation. This was especially true for two gay men in 1997.   Having children was the farthest thing on the minds of many gay men then—in fact it still is—and neither of us knew any gay men, single or coupled, who were raising children.  But the idea that I had met someone else who wanted children as much as I did was very attractive.  Well, that plus Papa’s beautiful smile and his great sense of humor (and by that I mean he laughed at my jokes).

I knew from that day that Papa was the man for me.  I’m not sure if it was that instantaneous for him; you’d have to ask him.  What I do know is that every Father’s Day since then, Papa and I remember our first date and how we started on that day envisioning the existence of our family.

This year I’m also remembering how challenging it was to actually make that family become not just a dream, but a reality.  As you are both well aware (now that Jordan has graduated from the 5th grade sexual health curriculum), its not possible for your dads to bring children into the world in the way a mom and a dad might.  You get my meaning here Jordan? Not something you want to think about?

After getting married, we spent time thinking about other options.  We could find a woman to be a surrogate. We could go overseas and adopt a child.   The option we decided on, the path to fatherhood that felt most comfortable to us, was to become foster parents and eventually adopt children who needed a forever home.

When I was interviewed by Gays with Kids earlier this month about our experience with the foster adoption process, it brought back many memories of the long and rewarding process.  In the bedtime story we told both of you when you were little, we glossed over the details: “Papa and Daddy decided we wanted to be dads, so we went to Amara, an adoption agency that said ‘You will make great dads!’ Soon, we were matched with you. We fell in love instantly!”

 

Before the instantaneous love part, however, there were a good many hoops we had to jump through.  There were long and often boring training sessions that we had to attend.  We were interviewed by staff at Amara. Then we were interviewed again. We wrote answers to more questions they had; my answers took up 10 pages! Then they came to check out our house. Even the house had to be interviewed!

We set up a crib.  I learned how to change diapers.  We talked to Grandma and Grandpa and Mimi and Pops and all your aunts and uncles about the big changes coming, and what we might name a little munchkin if we were given the opportunity.

Oh, also we went to see lots of movies and slept in on the weekends.

All that changed on October 31, 2003 when an Amara caseworker delivered Isabella to our front door.  She cried! She giggled! She pooped! Man that pooping just didn’t stop. I was convinced we would never sleep again, and I spent many sleepless nights worried about the variety of ways that our precious little baby might get hurt.

Jordan, when we met you in 2007, your smile—even through all that drool—and affection convinced us right away that you were the perfect addition to our family.  Mimi told us that we had a millionaire’s family.  We certainly felt like we had won the lottery, blessed and rich beyond belief.

Now don’t get me wrong, we have our challenges as a family.  We yell. We get frustrated. We cry.  We are all good about apologizing and trying harder.

Some of our challenges aren’t with one another.  Each of you, when you were young, experienced loss and trauma not fit for a human of any age.  Although Papa and I would like to squeeze and love all of the hurt away, it’s not something we can do.

But every family has it’s challenges. And every family has it’s blessings too.  I can’t speak for Papa, but I know that being a parent has been the most difficult and simultaneously most exceptional and rewarding experience in life.  The blessing of you two—when it wasn’t clear if or how we could make that Father’s Day dream from twenty years ago become a reality—has transformed me.

I’m so glad we dreamed you two into our lives.

Love, Daddy

Fathers’ Day Reflection

Dear Christopher,

What a joy it is for me to be around so many great dads. Now you may think, why of course, Dad, your grandfathers, you guys all fill the bill. That is true. But growing up I saw many dads who were not and some spectacularly so. They were remote and alcoholic, or plain abusive. Some of my mother’s uncles were very mean to their children. Lucky for me my dad was just a wonderful man. You remember how Pa was. He joked with us, played with children, and helped any of us in the family. Pa was truly a shining example of a loving father and grandfather—those merry eyes, that deep belly laugh, the teasing words that did not hide his kind actions.

ScanI could call him in the middle of night for help (and did on occasion) and he would be at our house. Not only did he work on our home, also he built furniture for all of us. I love my memory of coming home from work one day when you were a teenager and finding you and Pa in our family room installing bookcases that you worked on together. You were both lying on the floor kicking them in since the measurements to fit the wall were a bit tight! But as terrific as he was, he was not around much when I was growing up. He had to work two jobs, hard physical labor, and was on the couch resting when he came home.

When I married I wanted a partner who planned to be an active and involved parent. I made a good decision Scan 1because your dad was and is every bit of that. As you and Mark were growing up he was there at all stages, even changing diapers and feeding babies at a time when men did not do that so much. Later he would organize various activities such as playing ball, planting a garden, going to Boy Scout camp, planning our family vacations. He is an involved granddad as well. We both take great pleasure in being part of our grandchildren’s life.

Daddy & ZoeI have observed Mark’s parenting skills. He is also a very involved loving dad. He takes an active part in all of Noah’s many plans, building a tree house, creating a mountainous village around the Christmas train set, going camping with his kids. I see his special relationship with Zoe, baking and cooking with her, pushing her to try new adventures in hiking and skiing.

Also I have observed you and Patrick. It’s clear how much care and devotion your give your kids. There are games and fun as well as rules and homework. I have been on nature walks with your kids and have seen you100_0511 challenge them to go biking or kayaking. One of my best memories is seeing you play in the pool with your kids. They love being in the pool with you and Patrick. One time when Dad and I took them on an overnight in a hotel with a pool I saw how sorely they missed you. We were not nearly as much fun.

Yes, I feel lucky to have all you dads in my life. And your kids are lucky too. Very lucky!! The love you dads show is encompassing. Pa would have been proud of you all. Though he might tease you those twinkling eyes would shine!

Happy Fathers’ Day!

Love, Mom