The coming-out process was drawn out over several months and long stretches of interstate. I don't recall exactly when it started in earnest, the precise date in January 2000 when I told the man I was married to that it was over because I was gay... His reaction, understandably, incorporated a very large dose of "You couldn't have figured this out 15 years ago?" Sorry, man. Still. That big one was followed by tentative conversations with friends, inward cringes as I awaited bad reactions that never came, and, fairly quickly, dread was replaced with bemusement as friend after friend said words to the effect of, yeah, I knew that already, so what's your news?
Emboldened, I approached my mom. She was fine with it, not very surprised, pleased I'd figured it out, hopeful it would give me some peace.
Batting a thousand, I figured Dad would be a piece of cake. We'd become quite close during my college years and after, happily transitioning from father-child to a more mature partners-in-crime sort of relationship spiked with random moments of him harrumphingly reasserting his position of fatherly authority. I figured coming out to him would be not much different from him, years before, mustering the courage to tell me that his second marriage had failed. I had clinked my bottle of Moosehead against his and said, "'Here's to ya." (note: that's how he proudly remembers it, so I let the fuzzy reinterpretation of history stand; it makes a better story anyway) I expected a blink or two, a toast to my happiness, and then moving on to whatever the next thing was we wanted to talk about. We were sitting in front of his fireplace. He had just finished telling me that I had been the perfect child for him. I seized the carp and asked if he'd still think that if I came home with a woman next time instead of with a man.
Mmmmmm, major miscalculation there.
Dad wasn't happy. Are you sure? Why are you sure? Are you sure it's not just [the girl]? Don't you think if you found the right man, say someone like me or your uncle, you'd go back to men?
And, of course, the biggest question: How will you decide who mows the lawn?
It was bad.
That was February 2000. I moved on at something of a distance from him, beginning the inexorable separation that continues to this day. Spring came and went; I planted flowers and tomatoes in the yard, played with my son, hung with friends, dallied very long-distance with a woman, endured the occasional phoned-in admonition from Dad that my body was sacred and moving from relationship to relationship was unhealthy. I'm still not sure where that came from, since I hadn't actually had sex with anyone, let alone an actual girlfriend, since my divorce. Maybe it was the Straight Man's Imagination run wild about an unattached lesbian in a city full of women; somehow I don't think my single brothers got the same kinds of calls. Meanwhile, the boy frolicked around on the cusp of eight, getting used to his parents living in houses a few doors down the street from each other.
July 4, 2000, I took him down to Barrio Libre so we could get an up-close view of the fireworks shot from A Mountain (A as in Arizona, for the non-natives). The James Dale Boy Scout thing had just hit the Supreme Court, and the local council had just sent out a particularly nasty mailer to all the Scout families decrying the Homosexual Attack On Scouting... we talked about that a little, and I told him the Scouts didn't think gay people could be leaders or good role models. I asked what he thought about it, and he said he didn't think it was fair just because a guy loved another guy. I took a deep breath and asked what he'd think if he found out I was one of those gay people. He looked at me and asked, "Are you?" Sigh. Yes, I said, I am. He thought about it for a splittest of seconds and then said, "But you're still a good person, right?" Yeah, I said, I try to be. "That's all that matters," he said.
Then he sat back on my knee and we went back to watching the stars explode overhead.
Today we're watching the World Cup game with his dad before the boy heads off to hang with his friends. He'll watch the fireworks with them tonight, a confident kid on the cusp of 14 who still tells me "I love you" every night when I tuck him in.
Maybe I'll climb up on the roof tonight to watch a few stars explode, remembering the night six years ago when I had the one coming out that mattered.