26 Jul 2019
Thirty years passed quickly.
I just realised something.
It came to me as I was commenting to a Facebook post about fathers and their LGBT child.
Last week – 19 July 2019, 11pm – marked the 30th Anniversary of my father’s death. We finished watching ‘China Beach’; the 11pm Late News was starting. He began to heave his last breaths as I held him, hugged him; I wanted him to know that I would not let him go alone. Where was the rest of his family? He was staying at the New Jersey home of his sister and her husband – they had not come downstairs to the basement to see him all day. My dad’s brother and his wife lived a few miles down the road – they had not bothered to visit since the previous Sunday. My father’s natural daughter returned to her la Jolla, California, home two weeks earlier – she chose to leave her father during his final days rather than stay with her father til his passing. There I was – the only family with my father at his final moment, the family member rejected by that family.
I flew from New Jersey cross-country to my home on the Saturday immediately following my father’s death on Wednesday night – family told me that I was not welcomed to be present at their home any longer. My father’s funeral home visitation was that Saturday – family told me that I was not welcomed to participate and greet visitors. My father’s funeral and Requiem Mass was that next day, the Sunday immediately following his death – family told me that I was not welcomed to attend Requiem Mass at their Catholic Church. The military provided special attention to my father’s funeral service as a Veteran of WW2 and Korea, as a Bronze Star recipient – family told me that I was not welcomed to receive the Military Honour Guard as his child. My 33rd birthday 30 years ago – my first time without my father. Strange solitude.
I don’t know what this means. I always – ALWAYS – found a way to commemorate his death each and every year with at least a moment of silent reflection at 11pm. This is the first time in all these intervening years that I totally forgot about him on that day.
My dad was college educated – nearly a doctorate. My dad had plenty of information about Transsexualism – there was Christine Jorgensen during the 1950s, then his brother-in-law Frank and his Transition during the 1960s, then me since and throughout my childhood, teens, adulthood.
My father had my entire lifetime to become accustomed to me – growing up as a Transsexual child, Transition at age 18, struggling through part-time, full-time at age 28.
Dad knew that I had been in Transition, knew that I had been part-time, knew that I had my 1982 exploratory surgery and its diagnosis because he snooped through my private medical papers. I withheld information of my May 1983 surgery from family because I had no counselling to help me share my good news with family. I had no idea how family would accept it, I could hide that surgery because I was still presenting as Nick to them.
We hadn’t seen each other for only a brief interlude – since late May 1985 when I returned to Utah to pack my household belongings and move from Utah. He didn’t know that I advanced to full-time during those few intervening weeks earlier – quite literally on the road. I departed my Utah apartment as Nick, I became Sharon as soon as I drove out of town.
That first year after making full-time was the worst. He rejected me more than any other time. About the only difference in his responce to my Transsexualism was that he would no longer hit me.
He softened slightly when he saw that I cheered the Mets winning the 1986 World Series. I was definitively, unquestionably his daughter that year; but there I was, cheering on the Mets, doing what he saw his son doing in 1969 (and in 1973’s losing cause). It was about the first time since November 1985 when we finally met again, even if only tentatively.
Dear Ol’ Dad was socially and emotionally distant my entire life, specifically my Transsexual life. He never, not once, addressed me as Sharon; I didn’t expect that when I was age 8 when I made my first announcement that I chose my new name, but Sheesh!, he intercepted my postal mail for Sharon beginning in 1977, he snooped through my boxes of personal and intimate medical papers at my own home. He lived in denial of what I presented directly to him.
I devoted my life to my father during the last three weeks of his life. Lying in his hospital bed in the basement of his sister’s New Jersey home, he turned his back to me, he preferred to look at the wall, whenever I tried to talk with him.
With his death 30 years ago this past weekend, maybe I can fantasise that he could have changed; but, I submit, the cold reality is that these subsequent 30 years would have done nothing for our relationship. My father would have remained opposed.
The first words that I said to my dad:
- ‘Now I’m happy, Dad. This is who I am. I’m still me. We can still watch Sunday football together.’
That’s what I told my father. One of the first things in 1985 when I travelled to his home at Sierra Vista when he invited me for my birthday.
Just like that – my words permanently etched to my memory.
My dad turned away from me as I entered the door. Maybe he never heard my plea.
He refused to look at me.
The remaining of my 1985 birthday visit was cold, without much conversation between us. We prepared dinner in silence, we ate in silence. Maybe because we were nervous and tentative during this first time when my reality truly and finally hit his reality.
I don’t recall, but I don’t think we hugged good-bye that night. The time was getting late and I departed. My drive home was 90 miles and two hours distant – plenty of alone time for myself to ponder that evening’s events. As he would later turn his back to me in his hospital bed. As I would return home in solitude during my cross-country flight home in 1989.
My dad came to my apartment in November 1985. That was a few days after Clint’s football buddies tried to attack me. Clint was with my dad. They both yelled at me – how could I do this to them. They demanded that I change back.
I would not hear from my father again for several months. Clint never came to visit me at my apartment and he did not welcome me at his apartment.
Christmas and the 1985 holidays season was distinctly alone for me. No communication from family.
I drove to Sierra Vista on the evening of my dad’s birthday (23 Jan 1986) with a card and plans – hoping that we could reconcile. He was not home. I waited for a short time, but eventually determined that he did not want me around, that he was avoiding me, that he made his own plans without me in them.
We had almost no contact for about a year – til the time of those 1986 baseball playoffs.
My dad came to visit me for the first time since 1985. He actually came to pick me up after work one day where I was employed as Court Clerk at a Tucson city court office. He allowed me to introduce him to the few co-workers there still working later hours. He was good, he behaved himself, he said nothing to my work-mates to expose me. We went to dinner that evening – our first dinner together in public. There must be some spark, something good in my father about those efforts that I can grasp – that that was one brief event when he felt comfortable about my presence.
Family happy endings are nice, but not universal.
Our relationship remained difficult for our last three years.
Epilogue – for the record (26 Jul 2019):
Family read this post adapted to another social media site. They left a Comment. No doubt that their gossip mill is running full steam as they have done in the past.
I alluded to this in the essay. My father snooped through my box of medical papers when he travelled to visit me at Utah during Christmas vacation 1982. I learned in 2015 that he told family that I had BA. Well, that’s Our terminology; his report was more civilian and obviously quite wrong.
My point being – Why can’t family offer their invitation for me to visit them, rather than gossip among themselves, rather than silence toward me?
No one says that this meeting must be at their home or my home. Maybe at the Public Library? Or the salad bar? Or a walk in the park?
My sister really extended herself this year. She sent the absolute briefest of a text message that, at first effort, didn’t even include my name. How thoughtfully thoughtless! No information about her and her family. No enquiry expressing her interest about my life. No picture of her and her family.
Do they really want me to be part of their family?
Or do they keep me around because my life makes a punch line in their conversation?
Thank you, Dear Reader, for visiting this page.