Releasing a Painful Past

I have a story to share and it’s not because it’s National Coming Out Day or Mental Health Day, or anything of the sort.   It’s something that I have not only built walls around to protect myself, but an entire fortress.  That fortress came crumbling down yesterday and I feel like if I do not share this and find a way to let it go, it is going to eat me alive.  I’m also hoping this might help at least one other person who has gone through or is going through the same thing.  Or even better, a parent who is making the decision on what to do with their child.

I love my parents because they are my parents.  That does not mean they were good parents.  They have always been model pillars of the community.  They donate most of their time to others.  They value appearances. However, they have one son who is still not self-sufficient at 29 years old and another son with painful and persistent emotional scars from the mental and physical abuse suffered at their hand from age 15 until he finally chose himself over their financial support at 21 years old.  And even to this day, they find ways to reopen past wounds.

When they found out I was gay by breaking into my safe and reading my journal, searching the hard drive on my computer, going through my room and my car, and who knows what other insane invasions of privacy…they decided to turn to conversion therapy.  There was no unconditional love, there was no support, there were no shared tears.  There was a problem to fix, a soul to save, and I was the broken one in need of saving.

To date, 16 states and over 50 municipalities have laws forbidding conversion therapy.  LGBT youth are already among the highest suicide rates in the country and those forced into conversion therapy are 6 times more likely to fall into depression and 8 times more likely to attempt suicide.

At times I would pretend to go along with it.  Other times I was truly trying to be “straight” with all my heart and soul.  To “pray the gay away.” It overshadowed everything else in my life.  I could not be a normal teenager.  And no one could know the challenges I was facing because my parents insisted on keeping up appearances.

I started to lie, for the first time in my life.    I lied about everything that had to do with being gay.  I was scared about going to another therapy session, another weekend conference put on by Focus on the Family.  Most of all, I was scared of my Dad’s temper.  I have been hit more times than I can count.  I have been grabbed by my throat and thrown up against a wall.  I have been hurled into my closet, breaking down metal shelves.  I have had my face ground into the carpet of my parents’ bedroom.  In my mom’s defense, she actually tried to come to my aid that last time and my Dad picked up a belt and whipped her with it.  I have never been so utterly horrified in my entire life.

This continued all through high school.  I would tell myself that I just had to make it to college and get out from under their roof. I moved into my dorm two weeks early and finally felt some freedom and that I could be myself. However, I was still constantly questioned and monitored.  The could tell if I left campus because they checked my cell phone bill each month.  I would dread holidays and summer breaks where I had to go home and be under constant supervision once more.  I had to pretend to be someone I was not.  After my junior year, I decided to stay on campus for the summer and take summer school just so that I did not have to go back home.

At the end of that summer, I was given an ultimatum.  Miss my fall semester and attend an in-house , secure conversation therapy program until I was “healed” or he would pull the funding for my senior year of school.  It was the summer before my senior year at Indiana University.  He thought his money still provided him the power over my life.  He was wrong.  I went to my Uncle Jeff (his gay brother) for help, but when my Dad found out he threatened my Uncle’s life should he provide any type of assistance.  So I went to the financial aid office.  My father was devious…he had waited until just after the deadline for financial aid had passed to confront me.  Luckily, there was a special program for students in situations similar to mine where I qualified to separate legally from my parents so that the school could waive the deadline.  I was able to borrow enough to finish school.  I did not speak to my parents that entire year.  I allowed them to attend my graduation since they paid for 3 years of my education but I spent no time with them before or after.

I moved to Los Angeles at 25 and found my own life.  I have been back to Indiana a handful of times, mostly passing through just for one day on a work trip or to see my best friend who still lives there.  There is nothing left for my in Indiana but a reminder of the past and painful memories.

I’m not sure exactly when it was, but my father gave me a gift.  It was a large wooden box with a plaque that read “Letters from Dad.”  In it, was a 3 page typed letter explaining what the box was for and that I would be receiving letters from him that would regale me with stories I didn’t know, share with me his advice and wisdom, and through written word, perhaps be the father I always wanted.  To this day, I’ve not received a single letter to put in my box.  Instead, the box is filled with past letters that I saved from him…condemning my lifestyle, condemning my “choice,” condemning my soul.  

In 2014, my husband and I got married in Kauai.  My father was the only immediate family member than chose not to attend even though I invited him through a personal letter.  He felt that his attendance would mislead me into believing that he supported my right to marry.  I remember my mother mentioning that his bible study group asked her why she was going to Hawaii without him.  When she told them her son was getting married, they were shocked.  My father had never mentioned it or even that i was gay.  The pretense of perfection was always more important than anything else.

In 2016, I was once again at a crossroads.  We were pregnant with my son.  I did not feel like my father had the right to be in his life, but painfully deliberated what would be best for my unborn son and put my personal feelings aside.  I called my father and told him point-blank that I would allow his presence in my son’s life but if he ever tried to push his agenda on him or shared his feelings about my marriage, that would be the last day he ever spoke to my son.

Since then, we have kept the peace.  He gets to spend time with his grandchildren and the only conversation between us is about his work.  The only thing I ever hear him talk about is his work.  Nothing real.  And he and I have no relationship whatsoever.  He stays quiet because for him to speak, would only be to remind me his views have never changed.  I’m sure he believes he would anger me and then not be able to spend time with his grandchildren.  So he chooses silence.  And until today, that has been enough.  Until now…

My mother chose to inadvertently remind me that they both take no ownership of the mental abuse they put me through.  To this day, she wants to excuse my father’s physical abuse and blame it on my lying as a teenager.  Not only do they refuse ownership, they have yet to apologize.  And any time the topic of how they raised me comes up, she makes it about her and says, “So we were just never good parents?” No mom, when you leave lasting scars on someone…that kind of outweighs attending soccer games and providing financial support. 

So that’s my truth.  And today, I’m just happy to be blessed with my four beautiful, healthy children and a wonderful husband.  All of which I was told that could never and would never have because I’m gay.  Life is far from perfect, but I’m trying to be a better person, husband, and father every day of my life.  Our time on this earth is so short, and even shorter with our children at home.  I plan to make the most of my time here and letting this go was a necessary step.  The positive I take from all of this is that it has made me more aware of how I treat others and how I raise my children.  And I hope that when my children are older, we can have the relationship I never had with my father.  And maybe one, they will even tell me what a great job I did.  And THAT would be the best moment of my entire life.

We’re going to the zoo, zoo, zoo!

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So traveling with kids.  Let’s talk about it for minute.

I used to travel for work ALL the time.  I could pack in 10-15 minutes.  I could get from my house through the airport and to my gate in 90 minutes max.  I never checked luggage.  Oh, and I got to relax and read on the plane.

NOT ANYMORE! 🙂  Now I have to start packing weeks in advance to make sure I have everything I need for the upcoming trip and that it fits.  We have to schedule a car service if flying and if we do not have enough adults to hold all the babies, then we have to arrange for car seats.  When we went to Hawaii over Christmas, we needed an extra car for our 14 (yes 14) bags.  Four of those bags are just for the two strollers and extra seats.  Two were for my parents.  That leaves eight full of diapers, food, bottle, formula, toys, and extra everything.  We leave for the airport 2.5 hours before our flight and found a wonderful company that assists us through the airport to the lounge and then our gate.  It is a process.  Plus, we are their constant source of entertainment for the entire flight.  Forget enjoying a meal, reading, or taking a much needed nap.

Now I always said that my choice to have multiple kids would never take away from us being able to give them all the experiences I had growing up, especially traveling.  So we brave it.  And the kids are actually all really good travelers.  Except when it comes to sleeping.  At home, they sleep a solid 12 hours a night.  On vacation…not so much.  They were maybe 7 months old when we went to Hawaii and everyone ended up having to sleep with a baby the entire trip.  They refused to sleep in their portable cribs.  Fast forward to Easter in Santa Barbara.  Nope.  Almost 1 year old and Marcus and I have all 4 kids in the bed and did not get much sleep at all.  So, I decided that before heading to Cabo in August, we would take a little mini trip down to San Diego and see how they do now that they were almost 14 months.

We drove down to San Diego which is about a 3 hour drive and they all did fantastic in the car.   It was about 1pm when we arrived at the San Diego Zoo and they loved all the animals.  We got to our hotel, the U.S. Grant, around 6pm to give us time to rinse off, change and go downstairs for dinner.  Now they were wonderfully accommodating and set us all up in a private dining room and they kids all sat through an almost 2 hours dinner and ate very well.  So I thought, hey, super smooth so far and they have to be exhausted so we’re good!  HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

Now I don’t know whether it’s a new environment or that they are all constantly teething now, but Quinn refuses to sleep in a portable crib but he also will wake up if you have him in the bed (I think he gets too warm) and then he lets loose a blood curdling scream.  When we just had Kai, there were two of us and one of him.  He always slept between us and if he got up, one of us would rock him back to sleep and that was it.  Now when Quinn lets loose, there are 3 other kids in the room.  It is instant panic mode.  You do not want the other babies to wake and cause a chain reaction.  In San Diego, he woke up Rowan (who does NOT like to be woken up…not sure where she gets that…lol) who in turn, lets out a scream of her own.  Vivi and Kai were angels and slept through all of it, but Daddy and Papa once again did not get much sleep.

We did SeaWorld on the way home the next day and again, the kids were fantastic and loved all of the sea animals.  We did not see the Orcas out of principle, but we pretty much saw everything else.  And I will say, not having to deal with formulas or bottles anymore is a game changer.  It’s one less suitcase to pack and they can eat packs on the go in between meals.

So…wish us luck for Cabo next month.  They are now able to walk so they will want to be up and down the aisles of the plane and don’t understand why they have to stay in their seats for takeoff and landing.  Bless my mother for getting them all Fire tablets on Prime Day.  It should be enough to distract them temporarily.

One last little tip or piece of advice to all the parents out there who think traveling is just too much.  When you (and your children) look back on their life, you are not going to remember your child throwing a fit on the plane.  You won’t remember the stress of losing one in the airport for a split second.  Lost or delayed bags will be a distant memory.  Even the lack of sleep for the entire week of vacation will not matter.  The memories you make on those trips though will be remembered forever and they will shape the adults your little humans end up becoming.  I know schedules are easier, monotony prevents chaos, but what kind of a life is that?  Push yourselves.  Teach your kids that sometimes, the most difficult things are the most rewarding.  And get out there and travel.  Expose them to other cultures, different ways of life, people who grew up drastically different from them.  They will be better for it.