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             It’s true. I’ve had big feet for as long as I can remember. In fact, at age 13, I wore a size 13 basketball sneaker. Black converses. I had given up on the white ones because New England dirt and white canvas didn’t compliment each other the way Mom liked. Even bottles of  Kiwi sneaker white were no solution to that. God knows I tried.

               But, this post isn’t really about sneakers, or shoe polish or even big feet, although that’s what got me thinking. Looking at my feet, and remembering.

              The picture at the top of this post is of me and two of my sisters. It puzzles me a bit, because I think I’m 13 years old in the picture, but my youngest sister is apparently just receiving her First Holy Communion. Hmm…  You see, I’m 5 years older than her. I think. Or is it 6? Either way, she’s a bit long in the tooth to be just receiving that sacrament. Oh well. It hardly matters right now.

                The point is, I’m 13 years old in the picture. I searched for this picture, because it’s one of only a few that I know of, that was taken of me at that age. Actually, I may have solved the riddle! The date on the photo was when the film was processed, not necessarily when the shot was taken, so I may be only 11, going on 12 in this picture. Yeah, that makes more sense, because during my 13th year, I grew 7 inches and reached a height of 6 feet 3 inches, without shoes, or sneakers, on those sized 13 monster feet.

                   But I digress.

                     Earlier today, I was messaging a young man I’ve known for quite a while now. A young Irish lad, who has now reached majority age, seemingly in the blink of an eye. I once called him my Irish warrior poet, and have written a few posts about him as he struggled to understand his place in this world. He has inspired me in ways I can never repay, and he tells me that I have done the same for him.

                     Such is the bond of friendship between us. Forged in the caldron of truth and honed by the light  of love. He is the son I never had. I could not be prouder of him.

                     We spoke of things that fathers and sons should speak about, but not like you might think…

                     You see, dearest reader, we both share a deep sadness. One that may never be rectified, at least, in this life.

                      We talked about fathers and sons, and the responsibilities they have towards each other. Seemingly instinctive things, like the understanding a boy should have that his dad would do anything to protect him. Anything. That includes standing  between him and certain death. Anything.

                         Even if the son is not perfect in some way. Maybe he’s not as tall as his dad might have expected. Or as handsome. Or even as smart. Or maybe, it’s a bit harder to define.

                           Maybe he should feel the same, even if his son is… dare I say?  Gay.

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                            I have another picture, as you can see… I’m 13 years old in this one. I have to be. I’m graduating parochial junior high and heading off to high school. I’m 6 foot 3 inches tall. Full of trepidation about my ‘secret’ life already. I probably kissed Bobby for the first time only a month or two before this picture was taken. I know at this point, that something is really broken inside, because the books all say that it is, and my dad just used the derogatory word for the first time in my memory.

                              ‘HOMO’. He said it in a way that made me feel so ashamed. I felt like it fit me perfectly, even if Bobby told me I was beautiful. Beautiful.

                               He blushed and stuttered when he said that, and then corrected himself and used the word ‘handsome’, which, to be honest, I never considered myself.  But then, I never felt deserving of any compliment until I left home.

                                Anyways, back to my feet. I started to tell you about them for a reason….

                                 You see, at age 13, as I sat at my father’s feet on a cold winter night, in front of the fireplace in the first picture, I realized that my feet were as large as his!  I remember that, because it’s the last time I still believed it was possible for him to love me, even if I was hiding a secret.

                                At one point, as the fire flickered on that December night, my dad glanced over the magazine he was straining to read in that dim light, and he laughed. I looked up at him and he was smiling and looking at my bare feet. Puzzled, I asked why he was so amused with my feet, and he shook his head and laughed again. I distinctly remember the tone of his voice, as he said, “Look at those clod hoppers! When did they get so BIG???”

                              It was the way he said it, and the look of pride on his face. He was beaming in a way that made me feel loved. Like he was bragging about the man I was becoming. Do you know what I mean?

                               I felt a little embarrassed, but deep inside, I felt proud. I WAS amounting to something, !  I HAD to be! After all, my dad said so…

                                That was before the word. Before I started hearing the hatred in his voice about people on TV or walking in the city, or waiting on us in restaurants. People he never knew, or cared to know, because they didn’t meet his standards. It was shocking to correlate why. But I eventually did, and my secret became fatal.

                                I’m 6 foot 5 inches tall now. I hate to admit how big my feet are. Size !5. Well, technically, size 14 and 1/2, but shoes don’t come in those sizes. At least not the ones I can afford!

                                  So, I still have big feet, and love in my heart. The same as when those pictures were taken, only now my family knows. All of them.

                                   A few weeks ago, I gave myself my annual birthday present.  This year, I told my dad that he had a gay son.

                                  I was just too exhausted to hide it anymore. Besides, I just don’t care anymore. I said it in a way that I never imagined possible most of my life. Without emotion. As calm as a dead ocean.

                                     My father barely looked at me, as he sat in the same place as that time 45 years ago.  Only this time, there was no grin. No look of pride. I guess I could best describe it as a look of pain. Shame. I have nothing left in me to alter what life has so cruelly now made apparent.

                                    I am, and have always been, the boy in those pictures, but now I understand that I was never his son. I was a ghost.

                                   It is why I’m having such difficulty in writing posts for this blog, at the moment. Like Davie, I bounce between feelings of despair and pride. I live in a strange dimension that feels more like a dream sometimes. I told Davie today that the best way to describe it may be a term used mostly to describe returning soldiers. Post traumatic stress disorder. PTSD. I think we both fit that diagnostic term right now.

                               It really isn’t surprising. A lifetime of abuse, topped by the realization that you’re not even worthy of a father’s love. Something freely given to most boys. Sons. A father’s pride, unless….

                            We’ll survive. And eventually, thrive.

                            It’s what gay boys have to do. That, or die.

tman