In honor of Mother’s Day last month, I asked my mother a few questions about being a mother and being my mother in particular. In honor of Father’s Day, I am doing the same with my father.
A few years after I moved to LA, I happened to mention my father and people were surprised. Because my mother comes up far more frequently in conversation than my father, they thought I either didn’t have one or that he was out of the picture. I explained to them that there just wasn’t as much to say about him as there is about my mother. One parent is normal and the other parent I take after. Draw your own conclusions.
My father was the typical good Dad – Cliff Huxtable fromThe Cosby Show meets Jack Arnold from The Wonder Years. He went to work, he worked, he came home and prepared Sunday school lessons or sermons for church. On Saturdays, he paid the bills, ran errands and went grocery shopping. He went to my brother’s soccer games and he came to my plays. After I failed my driver’s test, he explained to me how I really wasn’t all that great of a driver and spent two hours after work one night making me a better one.
My father went to college in the same town he was born and raised. So he was more than delighted when my brother and I both went away to school. He told me that he was going to have the college campus experience vicariously through us. He came down to watch me perform in The Crucible during my sophomore year. During the two-hour drives to and from campus after each semester, he loved hearing about what I was learning about myself and about life. During my last semester of college, he came down for every event he could fit into his schedule from film festivals to award ceremonies.
When I was kid, my father was always concerned about my tendency to stress out over everything. He swore I’d wind up with an ulcer by the time I finished high school. My guess is that now he’d wish I’d worry more.
By the time I got to college, I had settled quite comfortably into the role of the Curmudgeon – Theo Huxtable meets Fred Mertz. He found this quite amusing. Becker with Ted Danson was airing on CBS in those days and he liked to watch that show because the character reminded him so much of me.
Now, he’s far more amused by the fact that the Fred Sanford aspect of my personality is so reminiscent of my 82-year-old grandfather. None of us can figure out how that happened.
I’m not sure how much my father really wanted to do this but he did it anyway and I’m glad he did. It’s nice (at least for me) to hear from my parents about being parents of one Terrence Elton Moss, Jr.
1. What do/did you enjoy most about being a father?
There is something special about being called "Father" or, more special, being called "Dad." There is a special feeling when a child calls his/her Father one of those endearing terms. So what I enjoyed most about being a Father is/was knowing that I was being responsible for loving, providing for, and caring for these special people (children) placed in my care. I enjoyed the opportunity to help shape the hearts and minds of my children so they too one day could in turn do the same for their children or for others.
2. What was the most difficult thing about being a father?
The most difficult thing about being a Father is watching your children make decisions that you know are not the best for them, but knowing you have to let them make mistakes to learn and to grow.
Editor’s Note: I am assuming he means my quitting a great job in LA to go “find myself” in New York – only to “find myself” back in LA nine months later.
3. What do you consider to be your greatest success as a father?
My greatest success as a Father is seeing my children as grown adults making their own decisions and living with the consequences of them. Also it feels like success when they now say what a good Dad they think I am.
4. What would you do/have done differently?
As a Father, knowing what I know now, I would have spent more family time with my
children. Looking back, the best times are the times when the family is all together laughing and enjoying time spent together. I also would have liked to have traveled more, read more, and broadened our world thinking to have made us all more knowledgeable of our world and our place in it.
5. How did you feel when you realized you had a gay son? How do you feel now?
So now we get to the real stuff! (smile).
How did I feel? Well, initially I felt responsible. I then felt sad and a little ashamed -- not ashamed of my son, but of his choice to live an "unnatural lifestyle." Of course, there was always the stigma of the Church and society that also made that realization even more challenging.
And now? Now I am years older, and in a different season of my life. So even though I believe being gay is "unnatural" (biblically speaking), I love my son and respect his decision to live his life the way he chooses. As I told you when you "came out" and said to me that you were gay, I would prefer that you weren't, but you are still my son and I love you as my son. That has not changed.
6. Do you feel in some way cheated or shortchanged by the fact that you have a gay son?
Cheated? How so?
I can't think of anything to have made me feel shortchanged. I still had a son, we still laughed (and laugh) together, I still attended your school activities, I still watched you grow up from infant to adulthood, I still watched you learn to drive, graduate from high school, choose a college and graduate from it, and was there to counsel you when you decided to move across country and back again and then back again!
Cheated!? No way, my son! I am blessed to have you as my son, gay or straight!
7. When I sent you the 10-page "I'm gay" letter, the first thing you said to me was that I was a good writer and that you already knew. What other reactions did you have upon reading that letter?
I said that you were a good writer because you were able to clearly articulate your feelings. I"m sure you have wrestled with "the telling" for years. So I probably was more impressed with your writing ability than I was surprised by its content. My other reaction was more of a thought, that being, does this help you now feel better about your choice and make you a happier person?
That thought comes from my desire that you be happy and fully satisfied with your place in life. One other thought was, "how should I react to this so he knows I love him although I may not agree with his lifestyle choice?" I felt that was a very important moment for us and our relationship, and for you, so I didn't want to blow it by saying something "spiritual and churchy."
8. What type of life did you anticipate for your sons? For me in particular?
I really don't think I had any preconceived notions about the type of life for you. I didn't have it set in my mind that you would be a doctor, lawyer, actor, etc. (well, I did think that acting thing might be a possibility).
Actually what I wanted/want for all my children is for them to be healthy, happy, God-fearing, Bible-honoring, productive citizens in the community and the world. Then of course my desire is that they would have eternal life.
9. What now do you want most for your sons? For me in particular?
The same thing as above. To be all those things with Godliness and eternal life. That you would prosper and be in good health, even as your soul prospers.
10. What would you tell a father of young sons today? What would you tell the father of a gay teen or young adult?
What I tell fathers today is to be there for your children, model Godly love, teach them what it means to be a man (that is not a gender reference as much as it is an expectation of responsibility and strength).
What I would tell the father of a gay teen or adult is pretty much the same; model Godly love by accepting them for who they are, loving them as they are, and praying for them as you would pray for all your children. I would also say to never make them feel like "a leper", as one who is not part of your home or part of society. Recognize that they are just as much your child as any other.
11. Have you envisioned the at-this-point-very-unlikely moment when I introduce you to a boyfriend/partner/companion person? What do you think that will be like for you and are you even ready for that?
That is a tough question. I would like to say that I am accepting enough, open enough, and understanding enough to be ready for that. However, I think it is one thing to accept the fact that your son has chosen a gay lifestyle and a totally different thing to see it played out in front of you. It probably is something like a child knowing that their parents have sex, but the visual of that is still a little disconcerting (smile).
I'll probably have to work up to that day mentally.
When I sent my father this listing of questions, I told him that I was happily surprised by what I called his evolution on the gay thing in general when I was visiting him in November. I'll be talking about this in an upcoming "coming out" piece about coming out to him, my mother and then my brother -- whom I thought would be the worst of the three to tell.
Life has provided me with many growth lessons in recent years. I am thankful for that because I want to do the right thing and be the right person that I teach others to be. I certainly don't profess to have it all figured out yet, but I know I am not where I was before.
Thanks for doing this, Dad.
Thank you for the opportunity. I hope my responses make sense to you. Let me know if you need any clarification. Be well!