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Friday, October 26, 2007

Telling the Grandparents-To-Be

A couple weeks later, we received confirmation from the doctor that our surrogate was indeed pregnant with twins. There was a one week period where the doctor told us that, based on hormone levels, there could be more than two, so the twin confirmation was a relief! More than two and we’d look like one of those nutty families on TV with 15 kids! Well, maybe not, but three babies at once sounds like chaos to me.

With the pregnancy confirmed, I pondered what, if anything, I would say to my parents. They live in another city and haven’t contacted me in 15 years unless they want something from me. I call them every couple months just to check up on them, but even then the conversation is generally a monologue from my mother who goes on and on about the mundane intricacies of her life, which usually entails bargains she found on QVC or “what a good Christian” so-and-so is. My father’s a simple, honest blue-collar retiree who never says much on the phone other than “how’s the weather” or “how’s your car running”. They’re deeply religions people who make a production of praying in restaurants before eating, attend church every Sunday and have Bibles on their coffee table. As you can guess, they weren’t thrilled when I came out to them in 1993 while I was in college.

Looking back, I’ve really never had a great relationship with them, even as a child. I think they’ve always known I was different. My father has three interests: Jesus, sports and fishing. Me – not so much. I think he just never could figure out how to relate to me, so I never remember doing anything with him. My grandfather on my mother’s side used to take me on weekends and he was my father figure, teaching me woodworking, how to take care of a lawn, simple car maintenance, and the art of putting things back when you were finished with them. He didn’t care that I wasn’t interested in sports, although on occasion he’d take me fishing, which I didn’t like. But I put up with it because I enjoyed being around him.

I went back and forth for a few days before deciding whether to tell my parents about the babies. They had mentioned a few months ago that they might be driving through our city next Spring and would want to stay at our house. This was the only reason I first came up with for telling them. I would avoid explaining the situation with them in my house. I discussed it with a few friends, and everyone agreed that I should tell them. Some suggested that I might be surprised by their reaction, that when babies are involved, parents often change their tune toward their gay children. I still doubted they would be happy or accepting. But in the end I decided to tell them for one reason –honesty. If I never told them, what would I say to my children someday when they asked me why they had no grandparents? If I told them that their grandparents didn’t even know they existed, wouldn’t that suggest to my children that either I’m ashamed of them or that their existence is somehow shameful? I decided to tell my parents and whatever their reaction would be, at least I could someday tell my children the truth about their grandparents.

I called my parents and my father answered the phone. He asked if I’d done any traveling for work lately, so I responded by telling him that yes, I had traveled to Los Angeles recently. Then I dropped the bomb. He didn’t say much and sounded a bit like a deer caught in headlights. He asked how much it cost for the surrogate and commented that I’d have to change diapers – something he’s never done in his life. He put the phone down and went to get my mother, came back and said, “She’s doing the bills right now so she’s going to have to call you back”. So apparently doing bills is more important that finding out you’re going to be grandparents!

My mother called back a few hours later (my father didn’t mention my news to him) and I told her. As she always does, she hijacked the conversation and went on a preaching monologue about how her new church (some mega church with a money-swindling, anti-gay preacher) has helped her understand that homosexuality is absolutely wrong. Then she said that although I don’t lead a crazy “sex and drugs lifestyle” and that I’m a nice and honest person, I’m going to hell for eternity unless I leave my lifestyle and accept Jesus into my heart. Oh, and one more nugget – our having children is just another obvious sign of the “end times” and that Revelations is coming true before our eyes.

No congratulations, no acceptance of the babies as grandchildren. But then do I really want someone with such extreme religious views around my children anyway? She said she’d pray for my salvation, as she does every night. My dad said in the background, “Make sure he knows we won’t hate the babies!” Now there’s a quote for the baby book.

She said she loved me before hanging up, but I haven’t felt any love from them in many years. I’m sure they do, but I have to wonder what lies and hatred they hear at their church that affect how they interact with me. I know they don’t accept Nick as part of their family and they never ask about him. They’ll ask about the dog, but not Nick. They did meet him about five years ago when they visited us. They were nice to him, but still they never ask about him. I know I’m not the son they wanted and they aren’t the parents I would choose, but nothing can be done about that. They’re so sure of their narrow religious beliefs that there seems to be no room for compromise. Not even a way to agree to disagree. Either I turn straight and believe exactly as them, or I go to hell and burn for eternity. I researched their church online and it sounds rather cult-like, to be honest. I just don’t understand why people buy into this sort of religious extremism.

I haven’t heard from them since that conversation, not that I expected to. At this point I have no plans to call them. They know when the babies are due and if they’re interested, they can call me. My mother’s words to me were disturbing. I was a bit hurt, but really I didn’t expect more. The conversation clogged my mind for about three days. I reviewed my childhood in my mind, thinking about the relationship I had with my parents, considering what I plan to do different. I promised myself that my children will never feel like outcasts in their own family, no matter what they do or how they turn out. Then I moved on and dropped the matter from my mind. It was time to move forward, think positive, and focus on my true family – Nick and the twins.


Luis said...

Wow! At least no one can blame you for not doing your part to keep the dialog amonst you and your parents open.

It's sad that they prefer to place their entire love and devotion into their religion instead of their own son.

I agree with you that as long as your parents hold on to their hatred filled beliefs, that they should have minimal and perhpaps even "supervised" contact with your children. If any contact at all. The kids don't need to listen to their rhetoric and negative emotions about you and your partner.

Perhaps letters and pictures would suffice in the meantime.


Ruth said...

I'm really sorry to hear that your parents have been so ignorant. It's a shame as ultimately they will miss out from having some lovely grandchildren in their lives. I agree with Lewis with regard to it being importsnt to not have people close to the children who hold such antiquated and frightened views. The children are always going to be subjected to homophobic views so it's important that they are instilled with a sense of pride and an understanding of such bigots (your parents included), that way any damage from negative projection at the children can be minimised. I wish you lots of luck.

GayDad said...

Thanks Ruth!

Since then my mother has called and shown some interest in the babies, but also told me whacky things like how I need to be praying for them daily to be "good little Christians", pray for proper Christian careers, and to pray for the purity of their future spouses. I find this to be insane personally. She also mentioned coming out to visit (they live 600 miles away), which I dread. She seems to not be able to have a conversation without religion in it and I won't have her trying to preach at me or my children in my own home! How could she think I would teach my kids to believe that their parents are "an abomination"?