I spoke with my father today. I usually call him once a week to catch up on life and to stay in touch. My mom encourages it, and if I don’t talk to him every once and a while she gives me hell. So I called him today.

Usually we discuss our respective climates – “It’s been killer heat the last week! But, the weekend should cool off, got a breeze in the forecast.” “Oh great! It’s been nice here in [insert city name]. Kind of overcast this weekend in the mornings. It’s finally feeling like fall.” Once we get past the obligatory weather anything is free game. I either mention something about school, or friends, or my life working for the university. On the other hand, he might mention that he got to go hunting with Joe Blow and my cousin Joe Blow II. Or maybe he got to see my brother’s two little boys T and B (ages 2 and 7 months, respectively). Conversation isn’t necessarily strained, but it’s rarely easy for me. I have a lifetime of yelling and being shot down or put down to deal with. I don’t say this to garner pity – far from it! Everyone has their stuff to deal with. Mine happens to be a fairly tense past with my dad. But I call him. And we talk. And that act in itself seems to be reparative.

After today’s weather-talk, I mentioned that I had spent last weekend with a friend (D). This prompted him to ask me, much to my surprise, how I knew D. Normally he doesn’t probe into much that I say, but rather offers his sage wisdom or advice. Anyway, I told him how I met D over the summer and she was going to a pretty conservative seminary down the freeway, and that she is also dealing with the trials of being gay at a Christian school. In my mind: SHIT! Didn’t mean to say that. Backspace, backspace, backspace! Too late. A few beats of silence, then,

Son, we don’t need to talk about that.

Right. Anything but “that”. How could I forget, and bring “it” up so carelessly. Nevertheless, I was willing to overlook his bit of callousness. He grew up (and lives) in a totally different culture. But then,

Thanks for calling. I’ll talk to you later.

He said all of this in his deep, concerned voice. The voice that he used to use when I’d do something dumb, like break something that was in the garage. The voice that said, “You’ve crossed a boundary and I’m displeased with you.” I thought that we had come so far. That I could call him and just chat with him, unlike our previous years when every conversation was a subtle power play that he had to win every time. I like to think that I’m unbreakable, like Bruce Willis in that movie. But, I’m not. I dwell on his words all afternoon and think about how insignificant he thinks of me being gay. It’s as if he has a new cell phone (he buys them all the time for work) and he REALLY likes it. But, there’s a scratch on the back so he covers it with a piece of tape and just doesn’t look at the back of the phone for fear of seeing his entire, broken, imperfect phone.

I can’t tell Mom. She’ll bring it up with him, and then it becomes an “issue,” and he’ll be forced to offer an apology, only as Mom can make him do. I don’t want that! I don’t want to be the perpetual victim in our relationship. So I’ll call him next week. And we’ll talk about the weather. I hope it rains so that I can say more than, “Oh, it’s nice.”

If Daddy Knew