He’s been gone about 12 years now. It took about five before I stopped panicking on Father’s Day and his birthday that I hadn’t sent his present.
There was a cologne he liked that had once been common and popular, but it was out of favor and harder to find (it had to be the musk, it couldn’t be the spray.) It was the one present I could give him that I knew he really wanted and couldn’t get for himself—I cheated and found it online—and so I’d stocked up on it not long before he died, expecting I’d have presents for him for a good while. I ended up splitting it with my mom.
Looking at that picture I can see how much like him I look. Mom always says, “I had nothing to do with it!” But her eyes made mine hazel. I’m taller than most of dad’s side of the family. Truth is, I look like both of them, no matter how often I fantasized that someday my real parents would show up and take me away.
Dad gave me a love of good film. He’d take me from school to watch revivals of Hitchcock films in downtown Houston. He had excellent taste in music, I bonded most with the Beatles. His record collection slyly became mine before cassette tapes ruled the world.
They had me later in their lives and I was an only child. There was a recession in the small town in New York where I was born and my dad had been laid off, so for the first few years, he was my primary caretaker. Being out of work and supported by his wife, in that time, was probably hard on him. But he gamely drew smiley faces on my knees, took me for a disastrous sled ride, (well, the only disaster was that I HATED snow) and took me for rides on the back of his bike.
Sometimes I wonder now if those primary years with my dad are why I often find myself baffled by expectations of my behavior. I’ve been called mannish and aggressive and have had long discussions with people about what the hell that means. Even my mother often finds herself astonished by my boldness, but I’ve always been at a loss to find anything I’ve done particularly bold. Maybe that’s just me. Maybe it was because older parents were too set in their ways to entertain a child and so I had to navigate my own way. Or maybe it was those first few years with a dad who had said that if I wasn’t a boy, he’d send me back…
…but then fell in love instantly, apparently, and since my dad had worked for Kodak, my early childhood is documented like a very early Instagram. Every smile. Every fart. Every lost look over my mother’s shoulder while she was carrying me through a forest.
Either way, it’s at least half his fault, or his accomplishment that I am here. I miss him. He’d be horrified that I was writing gay romance. He told me once (and this is Rush Limbaugh’s fault) that gays were getting tax breaks for not having children. Which, what? And I laughed and mocked him and asked him what kind of breaks bisexuals got and he was very flustered.
I also know he had a gay coworker in the 80s who died of AIDS and how sad that had made him. He would’ve come around.
Of course, it was his death that had driven me into my internal world that caused me to start writing. Role playing at first. Then making up my own stories with Harry Potter characters and eventually, very eventually, my own.
I’d worried before I made the leap into professional writing that having to mix commerce with my therapy would lead to bad things. In some ways, it has. I’m not going to lie. The past couple of solo novels have been rough to see the reaction to. You start to doubt and wonder and those are emotions that I do not deal well with.
But, as I have been told, I am bold. I am writing again. I have a book coming out next month with Thursday Euclid, Immortal Sins I. Thursday’s book Asher Beauregard Attempts to Give a Damn is out. His first solo and I’m so fucking proud of him for putting himself out there because I know how hard it is, how much one risks of self. It’s a great book, though. I’ll write more on that subject later.
In any case, I miss my dad. I wish he was around to horrify and tease. That he could help comfort mom while she’s in chemo. That he was still running his hot sauce store (I know I’m not the only one who wishes that the store was still around.) But he’s not. So I try and send the bad memories packing and remember the good things, and there are a lot of them. He wasn’t a perfect father. He was just a man. But a man of great taste in the finer things (that cologne, tho… come on, dad.) and if he’s anywhere in the ether (this is where my not believing in ghosts gets kind of depressing for me) then Happy Father’s Day!