From distant father to best friend

For a young gay man, one car ride home changed everything

BRATTLEBORO — As I was growing up, my relationship with my father was always strained. As a child of divorce, I felt as though I had to side with my mother, because I was always closer to her.

But divorce wasn't the only reason my father and I weren't close.

I think he could always sense that I was different. We had next to nothing in common. He liked sports, and I liked to shop. He wanted me to golf, and I wanted to do theater.

It was hard for us to find any common ground. All that father/son bonding you read about in books and see in movies never happened between my dad and me.

As I got older, I had to come to terms with the fact that I was gay.

And with that self-realization also came the knowledge that someday I would have to tell my father.

I always thought when that day would come, it would be a screaming match, and what little relationship I had with him would be over. I wasn't in any hurry to have that conversation.

So imagine my surprise when my dad did it for me.

* * *

I was 19 and petrified of driving; my parents took turns taking me to and from work.

It was my dad's day to pick me up. We'd never have incredibly meaningful conversations, but we would find things here and there to chat about. For most of the way home, my father was quieter than usual, which struck me as a bit odd.

That is, until he turned to me and asked me if I was gay.

My heart was beating fast, my face was flushed, and I felt sick to my stomach. Here it was: the day I had feared.

The word “yes” came out of my mouth, surprising even me; it came out so fast I had to wonder if I really had said it.

The look on my father's face convinced me that I had.

He was silent for a moment; then, like a police detective trying to get to the bottom of his case, he started his interrogation.

He had many questions, some of which I don't think he wanted the answers to and others that I didn't want to answer.

I thought it went pretty well. No screaming, and he didn't disown me.

* * *

Of course, during the first few months after that conversation, things were awkward, but like everything else in life it passed, and our relationship as father and son blossomed.

Now, more than a decade later, my dad has become more than my dad. He is a best friend, one of the people I am closest to in my life. Whenever something happens, good or bad, he is the first person I am on the phone with.

My father has become the most supportive, loving, and biggest advocate in my life. He was at my wedding when I married my husband, and he welcomed him into our family with open arms.

I don't think either of us knew at the time how that car ride home could change our relationship.

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