Coming Out to Dadby Michael Ditto
This is an appropriate time to discuss what it was like to come out of the closet, at least as far as Dad was concerned. I did it during this time of year in 1994. I'll never forget the inspiration I had for doing it, either.
I was driving across the desert of Arizona, on the way from Albuquerque to Flagstaff for an astronomy conference when I had a spiritual realization. I had just finished a week all over New Mexico, driving a group of five and six year olds in a van while their parents competed in a bicycle race. Taos and Santa Fe were very moving for me. I had just come out to Mom a month before, and I was on this trip being accompanied by John and Michael, my inspirations for coming out in the first place. Driving alone across the desert as they headed back to Colorado, I had a lot of time to think.
The temperature inside my beige 1985 Chevrolet Cavalier with tan seats, black dash and no air conditioning was approaching 125 degrees. I decided to stop at a lonely gas station in the middle of I-40 and pick up a block of ice, which I set in the middle of the car and on which I directed the air from the vents to cool the car. It had limited success, and my feet were sitting in a puddle of cool water in about ten minutes. It was a good thought though. Driving along, as the temperature climbed and my body became dehydrated, I actually began to have very intense daydreams. I was definitely not safe to drive at this point from dehydration, but I was delirious and in the middle of nowhere, unprepared, so I chose to go on.
I ran over and over in my head the scenarios which I knew could take place between me and Dad when I came out to him. I was very clear that I could not stop coming out of the closet, that everyone was bound to find out, and I wanted it to be from me. But I was in no way prepared for the reaction I got. Once I arrived in Flagstaff, I checked myself into a cheap motel, and got a fitful sleep in the hot weather. The next day I went to the university and registered for the conference, and went to a few sessions. Then I went and got a bit nicer motel room and went in, carrying the Frontiers Newsmagazine that I had picked up from the student bookstore. Again, fitful sleep, even though the air conditioning worked here.
At 3:00 I awoke. I was sure of what my mission was: To drive home and come out to Dad. Immediately, I jumped in the car, unwrapped my new Andreas Vollenweider CD I had just purchased, and set off. I figured that driving back so early would make it easier so far as temperature was concerned. I was right.
Driving down I-40 (the section which used to be called Route 66) I played the CD, and kept hearing lines from the music which called to my spiritual heart and made me whole again so I could speak to my father. Don't ask me to explain it, I can't. But to this day, that music hold special meaning for me. Something about the possibility of finally finding love was spoken to me through the lyrics of one of the songs... "Two shadows are caught in a dance... The moon leaves their trail in the sand..." It was almost too much to bear. I knew that what was standing between me and the possibility of companionship was the lie I had been telling about myself for many years.
I drove straight through, about fourteen hours. Dad was getting ready to go out of town on business for six weeks, and I knew that I had to get back in time to see him while I had the courage built up to talk to him about my sexuality. When I finally got there, I sidestepped the issue until right before he left. Then I pulled him aside, and told him, bluntly, in a nervous and afraid voice. It hit him like the proverbial ton of bricks. He lurched physically as if I had shot him through the chest. This was unexpected.
After reviewing all of the possible permutations of this discussion, I was determined that he would yell at me and degrade me, but for the first time in my life I felt as if I had actually hurt my impenetrable father. I began to cry quietly, and then three of the most amazing words came out of his mouth, "I love you." Bewildered, I just looked at him. He then explained that he and my mother had had this conversation weeks earlier and that he had actually come home from a business trip so I could discuss this with him. Then he explained what was going on in his head, and in his heart, and promised me he would do everything it took to make our relationship whole and healed, something it had never been since before I could remember.
Coming out to Dad has done three things for me. It has established a loving, caring relationship with a man I discovered I had never known. It has expanded my father's existence, and helped him to clear away the discomfort he had about gay people, as well as form a relationship with me to a level we never thought possible. It has also created freedom in both of our lives, as we discovered we are more alike than either of us ever thought. Our thought processes are alike, our responses in different situations are alike, our interests are alike...almost everything that makes me "me" I can see some root of in him, an idea I would have been insulted by only months earlier (as would have he, I am sure).
The bottom line is this: Come out. Life flows much better when you are no longer keeping a secret. Paraphrasing a famous Mark Twain quote, if you never tell a lie you don't have to remember anything. In other words, you get to be you, and not a straight or asexual facade. There is always a good time to come out. If you are not there yet, wait until the day you are comfortable in yourself and your sexuality, then make the leap. Tell your best friend. Tell your mom. For some people this is a bad thing, but for the majority, it makes life a wondrous adventure and adds immense depth to our relationships, school, work and family life.