A Father’s Day note to my dad, which he will probably never read.
I haven’t always gotten on with my dad. Mom was my rock. I spent much of my teen and even adult life rebelling against him and his ways. There are parts of him which I still have issues with, but I’ve grown to embrace many of his lessons later in my life. It took me ages to do so, and I never thought I’d say this, but he’s a good man and he taught so much.
He was never afraid to speak his mind, regardless of how unpopular his progressive opinions were in a Southern Baptist neighborhood of Chattanooga, Tennessee. When the redneck neighborhood board tried to block an Indian family from moving in, he fought them tooth and nail and won. He was an anti-draft counselor during the Vietnam War and never permitted us to attend an armed forces day parade because he didn’t want to glamorize weapons or war. He advocated public transportation to help cut down on the use of fossil fuels. He took my family around the world on his modest salary as a professor because he thought trips which helped us see things through other’s eyes was more important than buying us the status symbols that other kids got, and which we thought we needed. (We didn’t need them, though my sister and I bitched mightily every Christmas when neighborhood kids got cars and we still got that book of Lifesavers candy and new socks.) And unlike other gay people I know who can’t even be open about their sexuality with parents in 2017, he never questioned my career choice of dressing in drag and telling tasteless jokes. Whether it reflected his values or not, he always said he wanted me to seek whichever path made me happy.
I don’t invite him to every raunchy show I do, but I was in a fairly PG play in Atlanta about 7 years ago. So dad and my mom drove down from Chattanooga to see me in it. I was nervous, because he’d never seen me perform. In truth, I don’t think he fully comprehends what I do. (Nor do I read the books on Quaker history he’s written.) But a lady during the play’s intermission was asking her friend if my character Charity was a drag queen. My dad piped up with “She sure is, and ‘she’ is my son.” The lady replied, “Well, he sure has nice legs!” To which my dad said, after hiking up his pants leg, “It runs in the family.” I’m not even sure I’ve said this to him in years or that I’ll say it to him today, but I love him. Happy Father’s Day!