The second life changing call I made to my mom 20 years later.
Video is about 35 min but the lesson is worth every second.
As I stated In my last blog, I have stayed away from certain subjects and have not named names in this blog out of fear. Fear of revealing myself and fear of revealing others. I was working on an outline of my book yesterday and I was completely consumed. I looked down at my computer and the memories and the stories just came flooding out. One memory led to another. The next time I looked up, it was 3 hours later. It felt like it had been 3 min. All I had been doing was making a list. One word per story and time just disappeared. And some of the words on that list were pretty horrific. Mistakes that I had made as well as some pretty unspeakable things that had happened to me. That outline only covered about 5 years of my life. The first five. I have recently had several discussions about how hard life has been for most people. I am not part of the minority this time. I'm part of the majority. I was talking to somebody a few weeks ago that said "I really can't complain. My childhood was really great. My parents are still together and happy and nothing really bad has ever happened to me." I realized in that moment that I had never met anybody that shared that experience. It was like finding the holy grail.
I have been really mad at my parents for about 20 years. My mom is really sick and I fear that she doesn't have many years left. I went home to her house for Christmas for the first time in maybe 6 years. In the weeks that led up to that visit, I struggled. I wanted to find a way to forgive her and my stepfather for turning their backs on me when I was honest with them and told them I was gay. This is something I had not been able to do in 20 years. How was I going to make in happen in 2 weeks?
I used to be extremely close to my parents. My entire life I lived to please them and make them proud. The thought of disappointing them was unbearable. From about 4th grade until i was about 19, that is exactly what I did. I was a star athlete and competitive runner from the age of 9 until about 16 when I started to accumulate a series of injuries that I still haven't fully recovered from.
My parents told me if I got good grades and an athletic scholarship, they would get me a car and pay for the rest of my college education. So, that is exactly what I did, injuries and all. I was no where near the runner I once was, but still managed to get a scholarship. The disappointment in my moms eyes that I was not at the top anymore, haunts me to this day.
So off to college I went. I had just finished Army basic training at Fort Jackson and I was about to start my freshman year at Flagler College. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I had accomplished my goal. My parents were proud of me.
Fast forward to my sophomore year. I had fallen in love with my roommate who happened to be a girl. Nobody was more surprised than me. Nobody wanted it less than I did. But it was who I was.
My mom and I used to spend hours talking on the phone every week. On a regular basis, I would make the 7 hr drive to their house in the middle of the night just to surprise them. Even if I only was able to stay home for just one day... That was better than no day at all with them.
One day my mom and I were talking on the phone. We were having a conversation that led me to believe that she was opening the door for me to tell her I was gay. I had no intentions of having that discussion on that day. I certainly hadn't planned to tell her on the phone. Our discussion led me to think that she knew and it was ok. I couldn't have been more wrong.
She said "Are you dating anybody?" I said "Well actually mom, I am in love." She said "With who?" I said "Callie." She said "You are no longer my daughter" and hung up on me.
They took my car away and sold it. They cut off my college education and wouldn't sign my student load papers so I could continue to go to school. They essentially left me for dead. They said they couldn't support my lifestyle. In an instant, my life changed forever. I was practically homeless and lost my entire family. I never felt so alone, ashamed and betrayed. Everything I had worked so hard for was gone with one word... "Callie."
I sat there devastated that my family was gone and I didn't have more than $10.00 in my bank account. I made about $150 a month with the National Guard. That was my only income at that time.
My first girlfriend had just started working as a stripper to help pay for her college education. I was furious. I'd see a big wad of cash on the dresser and in a very accusing way said "What did you do for that?" I hated it. After that conversation with my mom, my girlfriend and I were talking about how I was going to pay my part of the rent next week. She said, "Why don't you come into the club and see what I do? I promise you will feel better about it." So I did. And she was right. It was just a bunch of girls dancing in bikinis for some road worn truckers. They also served food. After about 20 minutes, the manager came over and offered me a job waiting tables. I hesitated for a moment and said "yes". I was 19. I paid my rent the next day. By the next week I was dancing. By the next month, I paid my college tuition and was back in school.
I was a stripper for about 3 years. Am I proud of that fact, no. Am I ashamed, not so much. It was the first big decision of a young girl who was never given the option to think for herself. It was a desperate attempt at survival.
After transferring twice and changing my major 6-7 times and taking time off to tour with a band, I graduated. I started college in 1991. I graduated in 1998. I walked across that stage with my head held high... My rather large head with a nice conservative bright purple bob. My parents watched with pride. My mom said "Well you did it, you proved me wrong. You probably did it only to prove me wrong." I said "No, I did it to prove me right."
Years before my graduation day, I came home and there was a message on my answering machine from my mom. She said, "Somebody in the family died, thought you would want to know." She didn't say who, so I had to call her back. It turned out to be some distant relative I had never heard of. We slowly started to talk again. The subject of me being gay came up a few times, but it always ended with a fight and with me leaving in tears. Eventually we stopped talking about it, but it was always the elephant in the room. Years passed and I saw a change in my parents. They have said it many times over the years and I believe them. "We just want you to be happy. We don't care who you love." My parents aren't homophobic. My gay great uncle Tommy was one of their favorite people. They didn't hate me. They hated the loss of the dream. The dream that I would get married, have a few kids, and live happily ever after. They hated that my life would be harder. They hated how it would reflect on them to other people around them. They wondered if they did something wrong? Could they have done something better? They have never said these things to me but I can see it in their eyes.
I know that all they want now is my happiness. They want me to forgive them. I want nothing more than to do just that. I have been searching my soul to find a way to truly do it. When I was home for Christmas, they took me on what I call..."The death tour." They wanted to show me where they kept all the important things in the house so when they die, I would know where everything was. They gave me a key to the house so I wouldn't have to break the door down when they die.
As I made the 10 hour drive to their house, I thought about all the things I wanted to say. I wanted to make peace. I wanted to let my anger go so I could not just love them, but like them. We started to talk about it and it went bad immediately. So I said, "Never mind, let's not talk about it." My mom said "fine." A few minutes passed and she said "All I want is for you to be happy." I said "Thanks."
Things were better than they had been in a very long time when I left, but it still felt unresolved.
After watching the video above this morning, I cried. A lot. I have no plans of dying of an overdose. But my greatest fear is that my parents will die and I will never get the chance to say that I forgive them and mean it. I know that I would never have a greater regret in my life than that one.
This morning I realized that the people I hold the biggest grudges over, the people I can't seem to forgive, are the ones I loved the most. They are the ones that were supposed to love me unconditionally and keep me safe. They were the ones that were supposed to protect my heart, not break it.
In this moment my biggest regret comes from the hearts I have broken. There is no greater pain. And for that, I'm truly sorry.
I've got to go now and make another life changing phone call to my mom. All I'm going to say is "I love you and I forgive you." I will not live the rest of my life with the regret of not saying those words.
Love your children no matter who they love.