I should have written you this letter a very long time ago, but it seems that my life has been composed of a lot of should haves, so I will allow myself this one. My father had asked me not to divulge parts of what I am about to tell you, the parts he knows about, and I felt that I should respect his wishes, for he is my father, and he deserves respect. However, at some point, I realized that my own feelings were not being respected in that process and that I might be disrespecting your feelings. There are many things you should know, and I will attempt to be brief in telling them.
I will start from the beginning, as most stories do. These are the parts Dad doesn’t know.
I have never been fully honest about why I left you, mostly because, at the time, I did not fully comprehend the situation and later because the memories hurt too badly to tell. I am so indebted to you for being the ones who raised me, who helped me cope with an endless divorce, who were there when others weren’t, who cried with me when I cried. You saw me through elementary school, through the end of baby teeth; through middle school, through the beginnings of mustaches; and I know that you saw me, even though I didn’t yet. When I went to live with my mother, to start high school with a clean slate, this was because of the part you could never see. The part I couldn’t tell.
That I was picked on you must know, that I was tortured mercilessly you probably have not guessed. I don’t want to go into many of the details because I do not find them relevant or helpful, but in addition to being “the biggest loser in school,” I was picked on for being “the gay kid,” a label synonymous for weak and effeminate, a label which would stick with me for my entire middle school experience.
My lessons there were painful and many of them still haunt me. Many of them I have never brought up to anyone and will probably never talk about. I was different than everyone else, that much I understood. I wanted so much to fit in, to be normal, but I never was and when it came down to it, I much preferred my Agatha Christie books to whatever the cool kids were up to. Much of this made me the wonderful, quirky, charming, erudite grandson you see before you today.
However, I did not see it that way then. I was perpetually depressed at my seclusion from my peers, and often thought of things I now label as suicide. I know this is painful to hear, but this is my life. During gym class, I once thought of swallowing a bottle of pills. Suicide wasn’t heavily discussed until high school, when suicidal tendencies are in vogue among the goths and the art freaks. I didn’t attempt anything then, but I feel like even the thought of it at that age speaks to the horror of my experiences.
I would have told you, but I had no idea how to deal with everything I was feeling at such a young age. And confronting my angst enough to tell you or Pops about it would have meant dealing with many things I was not ready to at such a young age. Namely, my oppressors were half right. These are the parts my father does know.
I came out as bisexual my junior year of high school, to the approval of close friends and (some) relatives. Most were kind and caring towards me and incredibly supportive. Some in my mother’s family — the ones who championed me when I was destined for Yale, the Great White Hope of the family — refused to speak to me after my personal admission. Some still do not, and I don’t resent them for it. I have not since cared to continue my acquaintance with them either. No love was lost in that estrangement.
What is strange, though, is that most people who surrounded me — my school, the town — were accepting towards identity in a way that I had not experienced before. In middle school, I had never enjoyed a modicum of acceptance, and if I had continued to acquiesce to my own oppression, I do not wish to know the person I would have come out as. Although I still battled suicidal thoughts throughout high school, I do not know if I would have survived if I had been anywhere else. I am glad that I made the decision that I did then, even if I did not have the fortitude to go about making it in the most forthright way possible. I loved you very much; I loved Pops very much, and I think that my childhood could have been very different had I the courage to say something. But I think you now understand why I could not and why I have never blamed myself for my silence.
However, I do blame myself for ever causing any of my family harm in the process. My present feelings of closeness to both you and Pops are inexpressible. I hope that this will never change, as I could not cherish your love more. If you knew how often I mention you to my friends, my coworkers, strangers, you would have no doubt of this. You are the ones I still go to for help, the ones whose advice I seek, the ones who I care about making happy more than anything else in the world.
I know that I have told you a lot, some of it easier to deal with than other parts. In regards to my leaving, I don’t expect you to ever respond to what I have told you. I expect no response to my revelations and I don’t feel like they intrinsically merit any. These are hard truths, truths that, as of now, I have now told no one else but you. But I feel that lack of open, honest communication is what has kept my father and I apart so long. Sometimes I feel like we are strangers who happen to have the same feet. I do not wish the same for you and I, as your high regard means more to me than anything else in the world.
The easier parts, regarding sexual orientation and such, I am sure you had guessed. I have been dying to tell you for so, so long, and I have done a terrible job of staying silent about it because I never wished to. I shared this information with my father a few years ago, in our dining room, and he advised me not to say anything to you because I think that he felt you would not understand. I have always disagreed with him about that, and in the time that I acquiesced to his opinions, I made sure never to lie to you about anything. (Remember all that Project Runway that blared through our house? That didn’t turn itself on.)
But if I were to remain silent about this, to continue to keep secrets when secrecy was not necessary, would show that not much changed. I would still be the same kid who couldn’t be fully honest with the people he loves. What’s strange is that during the entire duration of my silence, I have known that you would be nothing less than supportive, accepting and caring. Even as I am writing this, I feel no hesitation, no uncertainty. I am happy. The words all look perfect, neatly typed out on the page, like the words I should have written all along. I am sorry that they did not get to you sooner.
I love you. I’m sorry if this hurts. I love you.
Your Grandson, Your “Nana Baby”