One day, more than twenty years ago, my daughter and I were having dinner at a Chinese restaurant. “Dad,” she said, “there’s something I need to tell you.” She paused, looked me in the eye, and said, “I’m gay.”
I wasn’t entirely surprised. I had suspected, but denial is a powerful force. I said very little. “Are you sure?” “Yes,” she replied. “How long have you known?” “A long time,” she said.
It felt like I’d been kicked in the stomach. I thought about the wedding that would not be – no walk down the aisle, no grandchild. In other words, I thought more about myself than about her.
She went to college, worked in Washington, then went back to school and became a nurse midwife. I don’t think we discussed her “gayness.” Part of me thought, or hoped, it would go away. The rest of me knew it wouldn’t.
Some family members and friends found out or figured it out. I didn’t talk about it, and as the years passed, I found myself thinking about it less, accepting it more. She met a wonderful woman, and they became partners. My daughter’s happiness made me feel good, and the bonds between us kept getting closer.
Ten years ago, her partner died from a rare form of cancer called sarcoma. My sons and I went to the funeral in California. I felt like I had lost a daughter – a daughter-in-law? – and I felt a profound sadness for my daughter’s loss. Gay or straight no longer mattered; all I wanted was for her to heal and find happiness in her life.
These past ten years have been challenging for my daughter — coping with loss, building a career, rebuilding a life. Fortunately, she is a strong and resilient woman. She is now a mother. My grandson Solomon will be three this fall. And she has met someone whom she likes and who likes her. I’m no longer fearful, as I was that night at the Chinese restaurant. I’m hopeful.
And so, despite the name of this column (“Looking Back”), this Father’s Day I’m looking ahead. I’m now out of the parent’s closet, and that is a good feeling. I was wrong about “no grandchild.” Who knows? I may even yet get to walk my daughter down the aisle.