I debated back and forth about posting this blog. Father’s day is meant to be a day of rejoicing in fatherhood and the amazing awesomeness that fathers bring to the table. But, I promised myself that I would be more vulnerable, so here’s some raw vulnerability for you few who follow my blogging exploits.
Father’s day is a difficult day for me for two reasons. The first deals with my own father. At this moment, I do not have contact with my father. I haven’t spoken to him for almost nine years. Honestly, I’m not even sure I could point him out in a crowd because I have no pictures or mementos of him. This isn’t because he has passed on; it’s simply because on a fateful day in December I chose to estrange myself in order for me to live a good and happy life.
I’ll probably always remember that day. Walgreens parking lot. Two days to Christmas. Accosting. Why haven’t you come over to our house? When are you coming over? The dread. The tears. Talking to my mom. Talking to my bishop. Making a phone call. And then, click. No more father in my life.
I’ve struggled a lot with this moment—my estrangement from my dad and stepmom. I remember discussing it with multiple people from my mother to my ecclesiastical leader to friends to a therapist briefly. I remember logically processing the entire event and the why behind it all. I remember how six months later I began emotionally processing it—an emotional process that is still happening to this day.
On my mission, I wrote to my mission president to discuss this estrangement with him. I had felt promptings to write my father a letter because he sent me one. My mission president encouraged me to write, even after I had explained to him what it was like growing up and the reason I had estranged myself. I started that letter many times, but I never finished it.
When I went to Australia, the place where my father served his mission, I felt a kinship. While the friends that I went with attended church, I chose to walk around. I wrote a letter to my father then. I never sent it.
A few years ago, on father’s day, I went home from church and wept for two hours. My best friend held my hand and gave me a hug later that day, but I didn’t tell him why I had shut down from social contact. I never tell anyone.
Father’s day always passes me with feelings of forlornness and wanting. My relationship with my father is nonexistent, but there is still a connection inside me. And this day brings that feeling to bear. A multitude of what if scenarios play through my mind and the raw feeling of wanting things to be different permeates my being. “I love my father; I just can’t have him in my life.” The mantra that played through most of my latter teenage years as I cycled through these emotions.
The second reason father’s day is a difficult day for me deals with a question.
Will I ever be a father? Ever since I was young, I’ve wanted to be a parent. I’ve wanted to have children—and not just one or two. I wanted a decent amount of them. Perhaps it was my Mormon upbringing, perhaps it was my semi-only-child-childhood. Whatever it was, I had this desire.
Then, growing to comprehend my sexuality jostled that dream. In the first years that I truly wrestled with sexuality, one of the fundamental things I did not, I could not, give up was this desire to have children. It kept me up late at night. How could someone with these feelings have children in the Mormon faith? At the time, I was a very active LDS participant, so it was the lens that I saw the world through. I kept coming back to questions surrounding that premise—can I marry a woman with these feelings in order to fulfill my dream of having children and being a father? Can I overcome these feelings so I can have children? My prayers for relief from my sexuality centered around that fervent dream—to have children, to be a father.
A few years later, my thoughts and prayers transformed. I was no longer praying for God to take away my sexuality so I could have children and raise a family and be a father. Instead, I was considering other avenues, asking new questions. Can I be a Mormon and be a single parent? Can I find a woman who is okay with marrying a gay man and adopting children? Still, the more prominent questions appeared, questions that I’m now ashamed to have asked. Can I hide my sexuality from my wife and fake it in order to have children and be a father?
I don’t ask questions like that anymore. As I’ve come to accept my sexuality, there’s come with it a dullness to the thrumming desire for children. Do I still want them? I don’t know. When I hold the children of friends, like little Felix and tiny David, I think, fleetingly, that I want that. When playing with young Eli after a dinner at a friend’s house, I thought, I want my own tiny human, one that I can raise and call my own. I cried the entire way home from that dinner because the desire—and the reality of my situation—was too much to handle.
The desire now only comes fleetingly, like a whisper of wind through a partially open window, caressing my thoughts but then gone in moments. Like today, when I sat in Shake Shack and watched children running around Harvard Square as I typed away, the desire twinged, but only a little, and then it was gone.
I don’t know if I’ll ever get a tiny human. Right now, it’s not a possibility; it may never be a reality. There’s not much hope for children in a gay man’s world.