My dad and I have never been particularly close. It’s not his fault, really. Growing up he always worked at least two jobs and, when he wasn’t working, the church pulled him in 15 other directions. Whether he was in the bishopric, the elder’s quorum presidency, or the high priest group leadership, he was always giving service to somebody else. It was what he was told he needed to do to be a good father and husband, and he performed his roles in the eyes of the church marvelously.
I resented it, I resented the church, and I resented him.
In fact, for decades I told myself that I was going to be a better father to my children than he was to me.
As I grew older, however, I started to become keenly aware of the fact that I probably wouldn’t have children and this weekend, as we celebrated Father’s Day, I was reminded of the impossible expectations surrounding fatherhood my family has placed on me.
It’s funny, earlier this week I received a fortune cookie that read, “Impossible expectations make life incredibly difficult.”
I think it’s a rather stupid fortune but I find it to be quite apropos.
In my parents’ world I have only impossible expectations and that is truly making my life incredibly difficult.
My mother is still the only one who knows I’m gay in my family and her expectation is that I will stay alone, celibate, and in the closet for the rest of my days.
As a result of my continued sojourn in the closet, my dad and sisters have started to share their expectations for a traditional mormon marriage and numerous children with evermore frequency; after all, I am 27 and Brigham Young explicitly stated that single men of my age are "dangers to society."
At this point in my life I see both of these options as unattainable.
It’s not that I don’t want a family and children. In fact, it’s something that I want more than anything and, truthfully, my greatest fear in this life is that I will be alone and that I will die alone.
Father’s Day is about celebrating the roles fathers of all kinds play in our lives. For me, as I look back, I am grateful for all the things my dad did for me regardless of his work schedule and zealous participation in the church. He provided for me and my family, he did the best he could to be a moral figure for me to follow and look up to, and he taught me in large part to be the person I am today.
So, as I look forward to my life, I would like to provide a few other options that I find tenable. One is that I find someone I love and I spend the rest of my life being the best husband/partner I can be and, with him, raise our children together.
Or, the second idea is that I find a way to be a parent on my own and I raise a child or two as a single father – independent of any relationship status.
Either way, I commit today to myself and to you that I will not die alone and that I will not let others limit my ability to be a parent or define whatever future relationship I may or may not have as inferior, and that I will one day celebrate Father’s Day as a father.
Here’s to you, to me, and to fathers everywhere.
PS - JC Penny is quickly becoming one of my favorite companies. The above ad featured a normal, everyday gay couple celebrating their family as part of the chain's Father's day promotions in the midst of an ongoing crusade of hateful bigots who demanded the company fire their openly-gay spokeswoman, Ellen Degeneres, and apologize after showcasing a lesbian couple as part of their Mother's day ads. So far Ellen is still going strong and the company refuses to back down from their LGBTQ friendly stance. I applaud JC Penney and their willingness to support, strengthen, and stand behind families of all kinds.