My parents were married for 30 years. They danced a quiet, beautiful waltz with one another for many years, allowing deep love and soul-completing friendship to be their dance floor. They both knew for a long time that someday the band would play their final song. Long before they announced it to me, my parents realized that instead of building a permanent home with one another, they were building a chrysalis. It was keeping them safe and allowing them to evolve — but eventually it was going to be time to fly away, using wings they could never have grown any other way.
My parents’ marriage wasn’t meant to last forever, but they both feel strongly that it was absolutely meant to last for those 30 years.
A few months after their 30th anniversary, my parents decided it was time to spread their wings. They told me they were separating, and a few weeks later, my father told me he was gay.
He was 49 years old, and I was 28. My first child was a year old. It wasn’t a total shock to me, but it was still a lot to process.
I asked him how it felt to finally say those words to me, and this is what he had to say: “I was nervous about the actual moment that I had to say it out loud. I knew you would have an open mind because you were passionate about equal rights for LGBTQ+ people. You had already worked to reconcile your religious convictions with that passion for equality, landing on a stance that allowed you to be fully inclusive. You did that work on your own because your heart led you to it, so I knew you would be open to the idea of me living authentically.”
But he was still scared. “I was sad to change the structure of our family and worried about what the future would look like, but I knew I had no choice,” he said. “Hiding this part of who I am was killing me, and it was time to start a new chapter. I was afraid, but I knew I had to do it anyway.”
The couple of years that followed my parents’ separation were HARD.
Watching my parents end their marriage was emotional for me in a way I didn’t see coming. I was married and had a family of my own. I didn’t even realize how connected I was to the security I felt knowing my parents were a unit until they transitioned into two individual people instead. It was so hard to be torn between my desire to support my father in his new life, and my need to be loyal to my mom as she worked through the emotions of ending her marriage.
We all had to grieve the family structure we were leaving behind. It took time. We did our best, but the pain of growing was sometimes too much. We fought and cried, sometimes together, sometimes alone.
Divorce is always hard, but this was such a tender and specific circumstance. Everyone — including my mother — wanted to see my father live with no secrets and find the love his heart was missing.
But damn. Ouch.
Here’s what my mom has to say about that time:
“It was a really hard season, but I know we made the right choice. It was a long time coming. But I wanted to see it work out like we hoped. I was so relieved when your father met Doug. That was when I started to see what everyone’s new future would look like. When I got the opportunity to travel the world, I felt free to move on and take that chance with my own future. I have always had wanderlust, but when I was raising a family and running a business, I couldn’t jet off to parts unknown and see what was out there. I didn’t expect to be able to fulfill my passion for travel and adventure in my fifties. It’s been a welcome surprise. Life hasn’t turned out exactly the way I expected, but I love my life today, and I’m excited for my future.”
Just over two years after my parents separated, my father met Doug. I was relieved and scared. It took me months to work up the courage to meet him.
I wasn’t afraid I wouldn’t like him; I was afraid I was going to love him.
Of course, I was curious about the man who had captured my father’s heart, but I was scared he’d walk away. Doug didn’t have kids or grandkids, and I couldn’t help but feel like we were … a lot.
Could he open his heart to a grown woman with a husband and two kids when he signed up for one 50-year-old partner?
I will never forget that sunny May afternoon, walking hand in hand with my 3-year-old son into a crowded restaurant, carrying my brand new baby. I saw my dad first, and to his left, a small man with a kind face, who looked almost as nervous as I felt.
Worrying was a waste of my energy. Some people were just meant to be. By the end of lunch, we knew he was ours, and we were his. As it turns out, we weren’t a lot. We were just enough.
Just one year later, I stood outside on a beautiful spring day and watched my dad and Doug become husbands. I was one of only two witnesses, and it was the most magical wedding ceremony I’ve ever attended. It changed my entire life. I can’t even describe it except to say that it was truly sacred. I’ve never felt joy and love blowing in the breeze and encircling everyone in attendance like I did that afternoon.
As they held hands and recited their vows, the whole world felt right.
“From this day forward, you’ll never walk alone. My arms will be your shelter, and my heart will be your home.”
A few weeks later, we threw a big reception. My mother happily attended. She brought food, and greeted guests, and nobody batted an eye. It’s just who we are.
Today, our family is beautifully ordinary. There are moments that feel a little like a “Grace and Frankie” episode, but for the most part, we are boring in the best way. We are just a family. We have Sunday dinners, birthday parties and lazy afternoons by the pool. My mom is friends with both of my dads.
June is Pride Month, and Father’s Day. I couldn’t be luckier to have my dad and my extra dad to celebrate on their special day.
I’m proud of my family. I am impressed by my mom’s tender heart. I’m lucky to be the daughter Doug chose. I’m excited that my children will always know that any two people who love each other can become a family together if they want.
I am so proud to be my father’s daughter. My dad’s courage is the foundation upon which we have built our new future.
And it is bright.