Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Color Blue...

When I was growing up, I was different.  I preferred shiny shoes to tennis ones and would wear a silky, blue robe around the house.  I would rather spend the day crafting instead of talking about cars or playing sports.  I was "one more mouth to feed" that talked too much and always talked back. I dragged around a baby doll dressed in blue.  I never said, "yes" and almost always said, "no".  And when I didn't, I would slyly say, "maybe".  My father didn't know what to do with me.  I was different.  He was used to "yes, sir" and "no, sir".  And when I would reply with my noncommittal response, he would shake me hard and call me Gomer Pyle.  I was not like him.  I was not like his brothers.  I was not like my own brother.  I was different.  And when my brother left, I insulated myself with the fantastical and make-believe.  My father, who grew up on a farm, didn't see a use in finger-painting or talking about feelings or what it meant to have a family with one less member.

When I got older, I was always angry.  I was mad that we were poor and that I wore hand-me-downs and thrift store purchases.  I hated every pyramid scheme and get-rich-quick opportunity.  I still cringe when I hear the words, "Amway", "Shaklee", "Melaleuca".  I was always embarrassed when he'd pick me up from school in that old, blue van with rust spots and faded decals in comic sans.  When other kids would go home and play, I had to work and help mow lawns and weed flowerbeds.  I think I was the only kid who prayed for summer school.

I couldn't impress him with straight A's, blue ribbons, or state championships.  It didn't matter if I was a volunteer of the year, editor-in-chief of the newspaper, or an overachiever.  I felt like a stranger, even though we lived under the same roof.  When I tried to tell him that I was gay, he told me that I must be confused and that he had seen the way I watched the girls on TV.  He said that I was a liar, even though my boyfriend was crying in the other room.  He called me sick.  He called me a pervert.  He said I was an embarrassment.

When I looked into the blue of my father's eyes, I couldn't see myself.

I talked with my dad today.  It has been years since those old arguments.  So much has changed.  We had a conversation that we couldn't have had before.  I set my ego aside and listened to him and what he had to say.  I didn't get defensive or prepare a rebuttal for everything he had to get off his chest.  I used to be so angry with him and felt like everything I did wasn't good enough.  I always felt like I was a bad son and he was a worse father.

Over the years, I have had to let go of those old resentments.  I have had to remind myself that I can't make anyone feel a certain way, if they are not interested.  All I can do is change myself and do my best.  I have had to consciously work towards not seeking approval from others and finding confidence in myself.

We talked today and I approached this conversation with empathy.  I put myself in his shoes and it dawned on me that he has always tried to do what he thought was best for us.  His harsh criticism wasn't an attack, but meant as a lesson to live a life better than his own.  He is a regular person, who has flaws and made bad decisions like everyone else.  We were born to different worlds.  We were raised in different generations.  Our experiences have been different.  And we can teach each other about those differences.

As I get older, I realize just how fortunate I have been.  My parents did the best they could and tried their hardest to improve our lives.  We had a roof over our heads, clothes on our backs and food on the table.  They taught us about hard work and perseverance.  They taught us to be strong and not give up.

We talked today without arguing or yelling.  We talked to each other… really talked to each other… maybe for the very first time.  And there were clear, blue skies.

14 comments:

Marian Howarth said...

Beautifully said, Andrew. I'm so happy for your peace of mind.

Mei Tan said...

Beautiful, well expressed and very touching post Andrew. All the best.

Erin S said...

This is amazing, Andrew. You have come such a long way, on a difficult journey.

peacockfairy said...

Thank you for sharing Andrew. I have worked through a lot of these type of feelings about my parents myself this past year. They suffer from alcoholism and there are so many painful memories. I have come to terms though about how they did the best they could with what they had, and I too had a roof over my head, food in my belly, and clothes to wear. I know I will be healing the rest of my life, and every little positive step (like your conversation today)helps.

Erica F. said...

What a wonderful release. It's relatable to so many children/parent relationships. Life isn't always easy. Lessons were learned...big ones...you've done great!!
Your shine can be felt all throughout this piece.

kathyd said...

great post andrew . my story is different , but i too made peace with my father 15 yrs before he died . we became best friends and i realized i was more like him then i knew . i am so thankful for the healing. today i have no regrets . our parents were raised in a different world than us .
talking about feelings was not option.
thanks for your share . you always amaze me !
xxoo

Sherri Stokey said...

What a beautifully written sentiment, Andrew. May you continue to heal.

Sherri Stokey said...

What a beautifully written sentiment, Andrew. May you continue to heal.

Anonymous said...

Hi Andrew
Loved your blog today. My father was the same and I wasn't even gay. I was different, creative people always are. I didn't want to wear the same clothes as everyone else so I made my own. Wore clothes and jewelry from the thrift store cause I loved it, not out of necessity. I think you would have been the same if your younger life was different don't you? More pictures please I love where you live, so different from where I live! Debra Freeland

Jennifer Palmer said...

"His harsh criticism wasn't an attack, but meant as a lesson to live a life better than his own."

Thank you for writing this, Andrew. I can relate, and this gives me another facet of insight.

Marie Cramp said...

You are loved by so many of us, regardless of the differences. I'm just glad you are my friend! <3

Jennifer Palmer said...

"His harsh criticism wasn't an attack, but meant as a lesson to live a life better than his own."

Thank you for writing this, Andrew, I can relate, and it gives me another facet of insight.

Shaiha said...

This last year or so has been quite the whirlwind for you. I am so glad that you are giving yourself the opportunity to become closer to more of your family. This is a true gift to yourself. I allowed myself to actually work on becoming friends with my mother about fifteen years ago. It was an interesting journey but I learned so much about myself and about her.

Lori Bowring Michaud said...

Beautifully written Andrew, and how wonderful that as we grow older we can look back and see the glass as half full instead of half empty. While your upbringing may have been hard, it's shaped you into the wonderful (though not perfect, who or what is) man you are today.

Our youngest child came out to us this past fall. She had been questioning herself for a number of years. The sadness in her that I would see broke my heart. The day she told us, she glowed. I'd never seen her so happy and confident. I'm grateful that she was born into our family where she's wrapped in complete and total love an acceptance. It hurts my heart that the same experience isn't felt by everyone. She says she's humbled; she knew she was loved, but really didn't understand the depth and breadth of it.

Peace, Andrew. It seems like you've been finding it over the last few years.