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Last year around this time, I wrote about realizing that my biological father was gay and how gaining that insight helped me make up a story about him that liberated me from some of the past as it helped me move on and start to forgive.  Last year, I wanted to go to Denver and march in the gay pride parade but I couldn’t.  This year I could and I did….and hundreds of pink flamingos lined the street…..

In the “Deadly Hallows”  Harry tells Ron that he (Ron) must destroy the Horcrux residing in the Locket.  When Ron protests, Harry tells him he “learned from Dumbldore that some magic just works that way,”  I believe that my marching in the 2013 GayPride Parade was also that kind of magic.  In order to find out the import of honoring my father in this manner, I would have to do it first.  So I did.  Ripples from that magic continue to unfold and in the stillness a few things are becoming clear.  For starters, when I marched it not only honored him and his life but mine too – that part of me and that time of my life I spent lost and confused all sexually screwed up gender dis-oriented carrying my dad’s confusion and mistaking it for my own.  I was marching to honor the pain I also endured as a consequence of my dad’s secret sexuality….and I was marching to honor the pain my dad’s secret caused my mother….how it impacted the family.  It was moving.

Secondly, that I truly have no idea who my father was, which, is actually quite freeing.  Because my biological dad is such an unknown to me, I am free to create stories about him as I choose and I choose to write stories that continue to open me to joy, love, presence and freedom….but also sadly, that my father was never free to be fully himself – that he was never fully comfortable in his own flesh.  He was not destined to know and explore the deep love of one person to another of one human to an other human.  Pact’s made to maintain a secret life often trade short term pleasure for long term shame.

So the story so far goes sorta like this:

My father loved me very much and he was caught.  Trapped in something far bigger and far more powerful than anything his rural Baptist upbringing could prepare him for.  It started in the Army really, the homosexual encounters so clandestine and thrilling.  But after the war, when offers to remain in Philadelphia and become a corporate guy came along it scared the crap out of him.  He thought, you see, that it was all and only a war time thing, this great pleasure he derived from sucking a penis or having his own penis sucked off.  But when Philly called with its easy access too and no doubt large underground gay population, he panicked, he undertook a classical “geological cure.”   Thinking by moving back to Missouri living and working in a small town, that the strangeness would go away and he would be normal again.  And he tried.  And it didn’t work.  So he was stuck.  So what to do?  Especially what to do with me – his son?

But Afton Clell was insightful, smart, intuitive and cunning – cunning as all must be who wish to maintain a secret life and he had a plan.  Ingeniously, and with considerable love and forethought, my dad began teaching me to seek out and find other men who would father me and show me how to make my way in the world.  First, he made sure I bonded with both grandfathers and spent time at their side.  Unbeknownst to me, he made sure that all the fathers of the other kids I played with, had good hearts and would be open to me. I don’t know how he did that I suspect it too was a special kind of magic.  As I grew older he was sure to expose me to folks others would surely think of as queer and this was back in the days before queers became gay.   Dad made sure I was around these folk and learned to see they were just like me. 

Dad would have been happy I think had I been gay or transgendered and thrilled had he lived to see GLBTQ relationships so openly celebrated but the new openness and social acceptance of what was for him, a shameful disease, would have forced him to choose.  To come out and be himself or continue to hide.  Hide in dark places casting furtive glances.   But because he set in motion such fortunate wheels that were pre-greased for me, I have had not 1 father but 4.  Four men who have fathered me along the journey of life.

Dr. Bill Ripee, who saw in me what I could not see in myself and who opened his arms and his heart to me giving me the confidence to step out on my own knowing he would speak for me if that time came.  Jerry Kirwin, who taught me that “cow 1 is not cow 2” and that all anyone owes another in this life is a cup of coffee – but we owe everyone in this world a cup of coffee; and who most recently taught me to  remember when I cook an egg or eat a chicken, that I am also devouring “beaks, legs, and feathers.”  Dr. Bernard Spilka who taught me to value my intelligence, to honor my creativity, to have and express sincere joy in the achievements of others, and always always always be curious about life and living it.  And John Nakayama my partner’s father and my fourth father – who taught me that no matter how dire and hopeless it looks that we always have a choice – there is always a way to freedom.

As I was leaving lunch the other day K.B whispered “maybe in your dad’s heart of hearts his wish for you was simply that you might be free to be yourself?”

Thank you dad……..and its Independence day!