Elizabeth Collins is a writer and comedian living in L.A. and she grew up with (out) her father who was gay. Her mother and father divorced when she was 11. Her dad knew he was gay at age 16, but as a lot of gay men used to do, he got married and had children. As she says,
“I was his best friend and confidante, which could be both a privilege and a burden. Before he came out, he told me secrets like what he got my mom for Christmas; after, he told me how he felt about his boyfriend, his family’s lack of acceptance, and how some mornings he didn’t want to wake up. Once he could live openly as a gay man, his anger dissipated, but it also uncovered a well of emotions he had suppressed for years. He was like a baby, vulnerable and weak in a new world. I was honored to be the one there for him, but it changed the nature of our relationship —making me feel more like the parent and him the child.
My emotional life never had the same weight and urgency as his did. He was a gay man in a society that did not approve of his sexuality. He was navigating a new life at age 36. He was raising a teenage girl—hard enough on its own, but most gay men were not fathers.”
They had a difficult time as she was growing up. When she told her dad that she and her husband, Keith and I were trying to have a baby, he moved to L.A. the next month. She had planned to stay at home with the baby, but after she was exhausted and felt helpless she decided she couldn’t watch the baby alone. So she asked her for help.
“On my father’s first day of work, he showed up early. He stood over me and said, ‘Give me that baby.’
I gladly forked him over. The air shifted. We were on new ground—level ground. There wasn’t room for me to be petty about little things. My dad let go of his defenses, the ones he created in response to me being mean to him for so many years. He stopped painting me as the self-righteous and impossible daughter, because I stopped being one.
A year later, my dad is still our grandmanny. Every morning when he walks in the door, our son, Axel, runs to greet him. They eat breakfast together, and Axel takes his morning nap nestled on my father’s chest. When he wakes, they go to the mall for a walk, and at noon, my father hands the baby back with a smile.
I know he loves the attention. Nothing gives my father more pride than being a grandfather, being good at it, and getting to do it every day.
In the first few weeks after my son was born, I could see the hardness of parenthood: how it tests you, how it could make you feel or do things you regret. I am at my best as a mother when I feel whole. My father had to fight for decades for wholeness. I never felt the need to forgive my father for being gay. But I did have to forgive him for not coming out with grace and all the growing pains that ensued. As a parent, I can now see how hard it is to do anything with grace, let alone something so monumental.”
You can read the whole story here.
Happy Grandmanny’s Day, Carl!
(Photo, Elizabeth Collins; via Slate)