I saw a video on Facebook today. Cleverly put together by The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, in essence, it is about a family whose son admits, during a barbeque dinner, that he is in fact, a lover of tomato sauce. His Husband sits next to him, looking uncomfortable and nervous. His father is aghast and goes through the motions of looking disappointed, hurt and angry before leaving the table in an apparent rage, only to compose himself, return and hug the son and his husband.
“A simple difference shouldn’t be a big deal, runs the slogan.
I smiled at this video and applauded its deeper meaning before I remembered my own brother’s “coming out,”.
I was already married with children and had long suspected that John was Gay. He just never told me. He was almost five years younger than I, so our lives ran on different paths once I had married, aged 23. He was still finishing college and about to launch himself into the world of work.
Still, we spent a lot of time together whenever he could make his way down to our Gloucestershire home, a hundred and fifty miles from our home town.
Our second daughter was born at the end of 1982, when we had moved to Andover and we asked my brother to be godfather to her. I remember being in the middle of changing her nappy when the letter fell onto the mat. My first born brought it to me. It was written in John’s handwriting. I was puzzled that he should be writing to me, why not phone?
Pulling the folded sheets of paper from the envelope, I read and re-read them three times before sitting back on my heels.
John would love to be Godfather but thought I might think better of it because he had wanted to tell me something about himself for some time now but had lacked the courage. He was gay. I was horrified that he should think I would not understand and worse, would think of not allowing him to be Godfather to our daughter. I phoned him immediately to reassure him. He was relieved but begged me to be the one to tell my sisters and our mother. He did not think my father would like it and it was agreed we would tell our mother first.
Naturally, our mother said she had always known really, but she did not tell my father.
This did not seem odd back then, in 1983. Dad was quite old fashioned and Mum said she would tell him when she thought it a good time. It never was a good time it seems.
How strange that seems now.
In 1984, John and his partner, Eric, moved into a house of their own having lived in their London flat for a few years. My parents visited them but nothing was ever said about John and Eric being a couple. I was sure my father had guessed by now, but he did not seem to want to admit that he knew.
My brother’s move coincided with my father becoming terminally ill. Sadly, lung cancer robbed him of his deep, baritone voice and his speech was reduced to a whisper. It was just after the boys had moved house that he surprised me, by whispering,
“I suppose we should get them a new-house card, they are like a married couple after all, aren’t they?”
I looked at him and heaved a sigh of relief. I understood.
Ironically, my dad died in 1986 and my brother, far too young, died aged 31, in 1993, from AIDS. *The Boy in the Cowboy Hat
This is sad but through the sadness, it makes me feel good that my father knew and that even then, tomato sauce was acceptable.
*The Boy in a Cowboy Hat was published by Memoir, Issue 11, 2012.