Posted by: minnow | November 29, 2013

In This Season Part 1

As I begin writing, I just put my third pie for tomorrow (Thanksgiving 2013) in the oven.  I usually enjoy the day before Thanksgiving more than the day of and like the week after Christmas more than all the days leading up to it.  This morning however I woke up with a splitting headache that lasted all the way through a meeting for work and the two hours of shopping afterward.  When I finally got home around one I felt sick to my stomach my headache was so intense but I still had most of my TO DO list to do.  Grrr!

While I was gone my oldest daughter woke and decided to peel and cut all the apples for the apple pie.  Then despite my grumpiness she continued to help with much of the baking.  In the middle of stirring the sauce for the lemon meringue pie she started talking about how this day–baking day before Thanksgiving–made her miss her youngest older brother. For years he was the designated anything food helper.  But last year he chose to take a year off our family and this year he has decided to not participate in our family holiday celebrations.  I, too, miss my son but need to see his decision to stay away as a healthy one, for him.

Most of my family is not here at the moment (which is why I’m taking a few minutes to start this post even though I probably won’t finish until later in the week).  Three are out playing racquetball, my husband is still at work, and the youngest is “cleaning” her room.  I haven’t checked on her progress because I suspect she’s watching a movie and some battles just aren’t always important.  The house is quiet.   My headache has been gone since I started the last pie.  So, I have time to reflect and not just feel grumpy.

I am sad. I said I thought my son’s choice was healthy for him because while I believe I am able to understand his perspective I don’t entirely share it.  A little over a year ago he revealed to the immediate family that he is gay.  While several indicators let me see the official announcement was on its way before it arrived most of the family had not picked up on the fact as early as I had.  My son’s apprehension about telling us was understandable.  After all, he was raised in a conservative  family both politically and religiously.  And, while I had quit attending the fellowship a few years earlier most of his siblings and his father were still deeply entrenched in a fellowship which blatantly labels homosexuals as sinners and calls their sexual orientation a choice.  (My husband has since left).

Still, unlike many gay Christian teens my son was not overtly rejected by our immediate family.  He did not face a barrage of fear filled condemnation, told to get out or told he was an embarrassment, an abomination, or a sinner in need of repentance as far too many teens from Christian homes have experienced.  Yes, some of us were surprised.  Some were confused.  And, some ended up facing demons of their own.  Not every conversation since has been without a hurtful element (on both sides).  Yet ultimately, each of his siblings and both of his parents chose to set whatever conflicting thoughts or beliefs we had aside and love my son, not perfectly, but intentionally.

The hurt my son had been carrying was not so easily discarded.  Shortly after “coming out” he took eight months off participating in family events or even coming to our home.  He completely avoided contact with his father.  Originally his plan was to take a full year away from our family but a fairly serious car accident landed him in the hospital and he then allowed all of us to visit him. (Appreciation goes to the thoughtful advice to let us see him from a friend of his the rest of our family had never met).  Interactions since then have been tenuous and he only recently told us he would again not be joining our holiday activities.

A while back I came to a crossroads with regard to PC (politically correct) behavior in order to appear sensitive and enlightened.  Rather than attempt to navigate those murky waters I have decided to be honest–honest in my ignorance so that I might learn another perspective and honest in my passion so that I might share my point of view.  In other words, I choose to be vulnerable.  I choose to risk rejection from those who refuse to share their journeys with me as well as from those who have no interest in exploring the path I walk.  I choose to risk conflict with those who are willing to engage but whose passions equal my own.  But mostly, I choose to let go.  I will let go of what I can in order to maintain healthy relationships.  Yet, I also choose to let go of relationship in order to maintain health.  Pretending to be what I cannot be or expecting others to do the same is no longer an option.

In this season, my son has chosen to let go of his family.  I hope it is only for a season but it may not be.  I think I understand, at least in part, where he finds himself because I have needed to reassess my own connections to my family of origin.  In order to be healthy, I have needed to establish some emotional boundaries with them because I have made choices and see the world in ways I believe they either do not approve of or do not want to understand.  Additionally, we have few outside interests in common and so few reasons other than blood to connect.  My perceptions, of course, may not be entirely accurate yet they are what I have to work with in this season.  If I gave my family of origin the opportunity to weigh-in I might discover that my assumptions about them are flawed.  But I have decided the possibility I am wrong is not worth the damage sharing my perceptions would cause if I am correct.

An observer might be tempted to blame my family’s present circumstance on the gay factor.  Yet, I honestly believe my son’s sexual orientation has very little to do with the terrain we are currently navigating.  You see, I do not believe homophobic truthfully describes any member of my family.  Homo-neutral? Homo-ignorant? Homo-dispassionate? Perhaps.  But not homophobic.

I suspect the bulk of my son’s decision to remain at arms length is fueled by the negative tapes which still play in his head.  (After all, I’ve had 40 years to reprogram the tapes I hear and I still have work to do).  Not feeling comfortable with the stated and implied expectations of a male child in your family and being fed both subtly and overtly a religious belief system which created internal conflict as soon as your sexual identity begins to awaken is bound to produce some pretty damaging tapes.  Sorting the truth from the lies, deciding what must be confronted and what should be let go, and figuring out who you want to be as you walk out your life takes time.  In order to be at peace with my son’s choice to disengage from our family, in order to continue to love him and be vulnerable toward him I must give him that time.  It isn’t enough that I want him in my life.  I must let him figure out what he wants.  He must decide how he wants our relationship to look, how much he wants to let me participate in his life, and how willing he is to deal with my baggage as well as his own.  Until he decides to travel that path with me I will continue to hope we are only in a season.  And, I will continue to miss my son.


  1. […] to the pain my youngest son experienced and his choice to pull away from our family (the focus of Part 1), messages I still believe but that have gotten tarnished by the difficulties of the last few […]

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