I suppose I should have seen it coming, but parents tend to see their children in all their amazing pieces and sometimes the big picture eludes me in all my endeavors... so it came as a complete suprise to me when my eighteen-year-old son "came out" late Saturday night.
I was just heading to bed and he stopped me. He had been home for a week for Spring break and had apparently been planning to telling us all week and suddenly the week was up and he realized he was about to lose his chance.
My husband and I both looked at him and waited.
My son said, "You guys know I'm gay, right?"
Well... no. We did not know. If we had an inkling it was buried inside somewhere and we had not really looked at it.
We said no, we did not know. My husband hurried from the room and I followed him pretty quickly after giving my son a hug and telling him I loved him.
Upstairs my husband broke down and I got really scared. Of course I knew I would always accept my children no matter what, that they could never do anything or be anything that would change that, but the way my husband was sobbing I suddenly became terrified that he was not going to be able to accept this. I imagined a big rift in the family forming and I felt like I was going to fall in it.
It was a bad night. I was awake until five, long after my husband had managed to fall asleep. When the alarm went off at eight, there were jack-hammers in my head and my stomach was rolling like a pro-bowler's ball.
I came downstairs to find my son packing up the last of his things. My husband was bleary-eyed, but he didn't look as bad as I felt. Still, he was quieter than usual as he poured coffee into a travel mug in preparation to make the three hour drive to the university.
As I helped my son fold the last of his laundry, I was wondering if the fraternity he had joined in the fall was all gay. Does such a thing even exist? How would I feel about it if it was?
"So, how do the kids in your fraternity feel about this?" Right or not, I wasn't ready to put the label on him. I figured he'd know what I meant.
He said, "They're fine with it."
"What about your roommate?"
"Is he gay?"
"Are you seeing anyone?"
It was starting to feel like an interrogation. I let it drop.
"Do you have your phone, computer, chargers?"
"Yes, yes, and... yes," he said as he checked.
"Your room key? Your wallet?" I asked, trying to remember all the things our kids have left behind on previous trips back to school.
He affirmed that he had everything and slung the big duffle bag over his broad shoulder. He is so tall and strong and clean-cut looking, so handsome, so easy-going and lovable... I tried to wrap my mind around the idea that there would never be any other women in his life. No children to smile up at me with his amazing smile... so many things he would never experience on the path he was on.
I hugged him tight and told him I loved him. "I'm so glad you told us. I'm so glad you are including us in your life."
He just smiled and nodded.
I watched the van back out of the garage - my husband and son sitting side-by-side, alike in so many ways.
A few hours later, my husband called.
"So, you dropped him off?"
"I took him out to eat first, but yeah. He's back at the frat."
"How was it?"
There was a long pause.
"It was okay. We had a chance to talk."
"I told him that we would love him no matter what. He said he never doubted that. Then I said I was going to give him one piece of unwarrented advice. I said, Don't pay so much attention to labels. Just be who you are."
For the first time since this whole thing had begun, my eyes teared up. I was blown away. I'm not sure I ever loved my husband more than in that moment.
Last night, I saw on facebook that my son changed his status to "In a relationship with...".
I clicked on the name of other boy. My son's face was there, on the profile picture, along with that of another kid.
Two boy-men trying to find their way...
The expressions on their faces were undeniably . They looked like any other eighteen-year-old boys who were in love for the first time....
It's a lot to take in.
Since this happened, I've told a few people and invariably I hear, I have gay friends, a gay cousin, an uncle... I've said this myself. I do have gay friends. My CoDA sponsor is gay. I have a cousin one year older than me who is gay. I have to say this is entirely different. This is my son, my wonderful amazing son and when I laid in bed awake all Saturday night I saw a million moments of him as a baby, a toddler, his first day of school, his little league games and I felt really angry that this new thing, this undeniable thing, was going to be a part of him forever. How many gay jokes have I heard in my lifetime? How many snickers and sneers? Damn it, I don't want anyone to judge him, ever!
It will be a harder path, for sure, with pitfalls and obstacles and difficult moments... but then again I haven't heard of any truly smooth life paths. All I've ever wanted was for my children to be happy, and at this moment in his life he does seem to be happy. He's in love and he is so very loved and seeing his father accept him exactly as he is has brought up a lot of loving feelings between us and really is there a bad kind of love?