Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Angels I Don't See PART XX

If you want to read the entire story leading up to part XX, click here for Parts I-XIX

The following takes place at the end of January, 2009

Since, at this point in the story of Angels, my father emerges, I should take some time and explain my family. My brother and I have often discussed turning our family life into a play. My brother is a theatre major at NYU and given the material with which we have to work is plentiful and replete with dysfunctional tales of family drama, I am certain we would have a hit on our hands. And the play would not be exclusively focused on my mother and father. It would include a cast of characters that include my extended family, most of whom make Mama’s Family look like the Brady Bunch (and I mean that in a good way…I think?).

My relationship with my father has been, to say the least, a strained relationship for many years. People often assume that since my father is also gay we have this fabulous, Rainbow-Brite, boa tight bond. Actually quite the opposite is true. In fact when I told my father I was gay, three months after he told me he was gay, his first response was “But I wanted grandchildren. Now I’ll have to wait years for Grant to grow up and have kids”

It was, to say the least, not exactly the confetti and ticker-tape, welcome-to-homo-land reaction I was expecting. Similarly, my mother, years after finding out I was gay, during a conversation (actually it was a yelling match, of which we’ve had many. My family loves to yell, myself included) said, after I asked her about my right to marry the man I loved, “What about my right to grandchildren!?!??!”, a non sequitur to be sure, but when my family argues, logic rarely makes an appearance. We tend to go for the jugular (or in this case, the non-existent grandkids). We are ruthless and logic is the farthest thing from our mind.

My parents really want grandkids. And God help my little brother if he doesn’t produce. My mom and dad just might literally melt or go steal babies from maternity wards. God help my brother and all the maternity wards in my parents’ respective cities if he tells my parents that he does not want children, I hope he does it over the phone, thousands of miles away from where either of them could get to him.

A few years ago, while my brother was still in high-school, my father, his partner and my brother paid Ric and me a visit. It was not the first time they had visited us so I was perplexed as to why my father suggested after lunch on the Upper East Side that we go to F-A-O Shwarz. What in God’s good name would he possibly want to do there, I thought?

After strolling around the store with my father et al. in tow Ric and I decided to look around the store ourselves, alone. Though I have never been a big fan of F-A-O or anything in New York that attracts hordes of tourists like mosquitoes to a blood-bank, I have always been fascinated with their Barbie section (whatever! Stereotype my ass if you’d like!), and F-A-O has this fantastic collection of Barbie dolls.

After getting my fill of all things Barbie we went looking for my father, his partner and my brother. As we were descending the escalator I noticed that they were all staring at a huge display full of plush stuffed animals.

“What are you all doing?” I asked

“Oh, nothing”, my father replied, “just looking at all the stuffed animals I want to buy for my grandchild”

“You do realize that you don’t have a grandchild, right dad?” I responded, a bit flummoxed at his answer.

“I know I don’t have a grandchild!” he yelled in disdain, “But Grant will have children one day and I was just thinking about when I will have the chance to buy the baby all the stuffed animals and toys and things”

Daydreaming about what amounted to a fictional character in his life? If my coming-out response was not enough, this episode of delusion cleared up any notion in my mind that my father had moved past the grandchild kick. He was, without question, obsessed. And my brother was the vessel by which my father’s dreams would come true.
I tell that story to give you an idea of my father. As I have written in previous parts of this story, I have done quite a bit to earn my father’s rebuke. But one thing to keep in mind, due to all that have done, is that he has pinned all his hopes and dreams of grandchildren, among other things, on my brother. I don’t envy my brother’s position at all (well, except for the new car, the paying of his college tuition, the first class trips to European countries, and *fill in a plethora of resentments here*)

Anyway, as so many can relate, my father always expected more out of me. I never went to the right college, “worshipped” the ground my late maternal grandfather walked on (whom my father hates to this day and cannot have a conversation, any conversation, without bringing my grandfather up), never followed through on anything for more than a few weeks. And finally, my father does not believe in alcoholism and feels as though, when I bring it up, I am using it as an excuse for my behavior. Needless to say, our relationship has been tumultuous. Much of my father’s criticisms of me are valid and, of course, much of them are not. Two queers, father and son = High Drama.

This is not to say that my dad is a bad man. Far from it. I have never doubted his love for me and he always provided the necessities of life growing up, and then some. I was not abused, or neglected or even shamed as a child. But as I became an adult, just as my parent’s divorce was underway, my dad expected far more from me than I was able at the time to give. Their divorce became a battle royal for custody rights for my brother and, being away at college, I never really knew what was going on. What I did know was that it was a brutal, devastating divorce that was as nasty and heartbreaking as anything I have known.

But my mom and dad do share something in common. Heaven help anyone they perceive to have slighted either of their two children. My mother will rise up like an erupting volcano if she perceives her children being treated negatively. She is not a protective mother – she is THE protective mother who will fight like mad to protect us, even to this day. Similarly, my father will do anything to make sure that anyone who hurts my brother or me is met with an iron fist. His protectionism is more like a tornado set to destroy anything in its path. It is comforting to know this. In fact, my parents have been excellent parents and my love for them knows no bounds.

So anyway, as I was preparing for my father’s arrival, I was preparing for the worst (as is my standard operating procedure when waiting for an event to occur, any event). There were at least four things that I knew my father was not happy about:

1) That I called him only when I was in dire need of help after not speaking to him for nearly three years
2) That Ric kept his status from me for many months
3) That I was going to court to cover Ric’s ass after all that Ric had done to me and my father was livid about that as well considering that my father and his partner are the ones that bought the car involved in the alleged accident.
4) That Ric’s family had done nothing to help.

All four were fair game and he had every right to be upset. The problem is, especially when it comes to my father, whether or not I am right, I can never stand up to him and tell him what I think. I tend to keep my mouth shut until I am at the tipping point and relapse and then I call him and lose. It’s not just drunk dialing, it’s drunk dialing derangement syndrome. My mom and my dad are usually the targets but occasionally I will unleash my venom on others as well.

I was also preparing so many other things. The paperwork to get Ric on all the different programs he needed to be on in order to survive was endless. As I have written previously, many agencies ask for financial records that are impossible to produce and many others ask such intimate questions that you nearly want to just throw the applications away. I mean it was almost to the point of “Please, in inches, tell us your penis size, flaccid and erect. Girth and length must be included. If you choose not to answer, or answer incorrectly, it could delay the application process for up to ten years”. Some of it was just that bat-shit crazy!

Needless to say, the day my father arrived, I was a big hot mess of over-the-borderline get-me-in-a-cell-with-a-padded-room, stat!

Part XXI here

1 comment:

alan said...

When those stories were first being written, each time we'd return to work after being laid off for 6 months or so we would wonder what had happened to each who didn't return with us...having people just disappear from our lives is unsettling to begin with and AIDS only added to the angst.

Thank you for not disappearing!


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