I had an old girlfriend from Oklahoma visiting for the week. One day while she was with us, Larry (Erin’s dad!) insisted we three visit an up-and-coming local artist’s studio (Michalopolous). He suggested I select an original from the works in the studio, and said it was for our 20th wedding anniversary! I joyously chose what I thought would be a daring, eventually valuable (a semi-nude portrait, when this artist specialized in upward perspective paintings of New Orleans architecture: homes, buildings, etc.) painting. This painting would come to serve as a striking reminder for the next decades of an extremely excruciating, sharp detour in the path of our lives.
I took my friend to the airport early that Sunday morning, bid her farewell, and returned home to find my husband fully showered, shaved, dressed, pale, nervous, and with some papers in hand. He asked me to come and sit in the den, as the kids were still asleep. I followed him with some trepidation into the bleak, desperate hours to come.
He had been feeling ill the past few weeks with some unexplained ailment. He never liked me to “hover” (his word) around when he was sick, so I hadn’t pushed the issue. My fear was that he was about to announce our entry into a world of medical confusion, terror and treatment. I instantly assumed that he was about to tell me he was dying.
The only two parts of the next hour that I recall were his first words, well-rehearsed:
“Into each life, some rain must fall.”
Well, my little shower turned into a hurricane of untold proportions. I do remember somewhere in his “opening statement” (he used to rehearse his opening statements for court, and elicit my critiques in just the same way), the word “gay.” Honestly, it didn’t really register. All that registered was the fact that he wasn’t dying. I cried and cried with relief. I think in hindsight he must have thought I was crying in reaction to his announcement.
It wasn’t until hours later that his “announcement” really hit, and HIT it did! I fell apart in our bedroom, alone. We couldn’t tell the kids because he insisted he had to remain in the closet with the exception of our divorce! I also wanted time to digest this stunning news and all of the implications. We told the children I was not feeling well (the absolute truth), and I began the grieving process. Embedded in this decision (not to tell the children at that time) was the fact that Erin had her very first Homecoming Dance coming up in two weeks. We didn’t want that joy, preparation and life-launching experience to be ruined.
We had agreed months before to couple’s counseling. We saw the therapist one time together, only to be instructed that we were more in need of individual work than sessions together. So we saw the therapist individually.Turns out Larry told the therapist he was gay during his very first session! NO ONE ever told me! Apparently they were working on his “coming out,” and I thought I was working on our marriage!
In the ensuing weeks I found my strength and I absolutely INSISTED he come out to the children as soon as Erin’s date had happened, and the earliest possible time for us all.
I based my argument on the fact that the therapist KNEW, his law partner KNEW (and had encouraged him to remain closeted, for the sake of the law practice), I KNEW, and it was only a matter of time before the children would find out. In that scenario, they were likely to find out from someone other than their parents. I could not tolerate that! If honesty was to be the new policy, than the children, above anyone else, deserved that honesty. That brings us to “the day,” shortly after Halloween, 1991, that my children’s lives changed forever.
Now you have it (sort of)! You have each of our experiences, in a few paragraphs, with the exception of dad himself. I guess that may be to come.
Kevin is correct: the Best family keeps on! I haven’t the vocabulary to express my feelings about Erin, Mark and Kevin. Their own life paths took an extremely sharp detour on the day they found out, but with that detour, they have each managed to sharpen their life skills and their wits.“Proud” just doesn’t seem to cover it. I watch their lives unfold, and I am in awe.
To all of you following Erin, thank you for your lovely, thoughtful and encouraging responses to her writing. I agree she has a book in her, but she is doing it her way, and in her time!