Wednesday, February 12, 2014
The Color Blue...
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.