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Well, today is Father's Day....and if anyone here is looking for a sappy story...you are looking in the wrong place. Dad and I had a very embattled, very embittered relationship. But he did teach me a few valuable things.
Now, first off...understand that, even before I was out as trans, our relationship was not good. Dad was an alcoholic. I hated him for it. He would routinely abuse mom, mentally, emotionally, and verbally. Never physically. He saved that for me. Along with my share of the verbal, mental, and emotional abuse.
My brother was the only one that ever measured up in his eyes. My brother could do no wrong, he was perfect (then when he got married and my brother's wife stood up to Dad...and my brother took his wife's side, ooooh boy...but that is a different story)
Growing up, my brother was "good kid" and I was "bad kid." Anything screwed up around the house was ALWAYS my fault. Even when my brother was clearly the guilty party, my father would never see it...and I took the punishment for my brother's misdeeds.
I hated both my father and my brother for this. My mother was the only one in the family I could ever get any support or love from. One might argue that this situation, in my most formative years, led to my gravitating towards womanhood...I do not know. What I DO KNOW...is that from the earliest age I can remember...I knew I wanted to be as UNLIKE Dad and my brother as I possibly could be!
So it already was not good. Then I came out as trans. And Dad disowned me. He left me a dollar in the will...so that I could not contest it...that is how much of a b@stard he was. The day he did it...I thanked him. I told him "you have just put down the very last club you could possibly have held over my head and now I am free....thank you!" He gave me a gift more priceless than any money. He had competely released me from being under his thumb for twenty-three years!
But this was the first lesson I learned from Dad. Blood is not always thicker than water. It's a bitter lesson that I hope not many have had to learn...or will have to learn. I so hope that the majority can go on in the belief and illusion that blood isthicker than water, but it is not. I formed my own family...from mostly trans people, though some blood relatives and some non-trans people not related to me by blood were in that new family (at that time, the word "cisgender" was not even a word)
But this new family...in loco familia, you might say, THEY stood by me, aupported, loved and affirmed me as a family is supposed to do. Most of this happened after I had left the East Coast....and moved to Kentucky. When I moved there, I cut off all communication with my blood family that was not supportive, incuding my father. My mother had only a pager number to reach me if she needed. I took control of all communication. I decided if we were going to communicate or not. I had to. My mental health depended on it.
Two years after I moved to Kentucky...I started a new job. And among my new co-workers, the subject of family had come up...and I related that I had a very battled relationship with my blood family. In fact, I told them....if I got word back from Pennsylvania that Dad had died...I would go back to Pennsylvania to make sure he was really dead!
What I did not know then...was how soon I was going to have to eat those bitter words.
Less than a month later, I was at work, and my pager went off. 717 area code. At the time, my family lived in the 610 area code...bordering with 717. I knew the hospital was in 717...and I thought, oh, boy...now what?? A cold chill filled me and I knew, before I made the call...this was going to be bad. (By the way, these days, that area is now the 570 area code...it having split off from 717)
I called the number on my pager, and got Pocono Medical Center. They got my mom on the phone. Dad was in the hospital and not expected to live. I was told that I should come. It was made clear to me that, if I did, I needed to appear as a male.
By that time, I had not dressed as a male in four years...and I was in the "ugly duckling" stage...where one does not pass very well as either gender. I did the best I could...I wore a pair of women's black jeans, a black t-shirt, and a women's black blazer. I wore black tennis shoes and black socks. This was the best I could do to even appear male. I owned no male clothing and did not want any.
I made a couple of quick phone calls to a couple of friends back in PA, explaining I was coming, why I was coming...and arranging for a safe place for myself. A place where I COULD be me. I was going to need it and I knew it. So, I packed a bunch of clothes like what I would normally wear...and a couple more gender-neutral outfits for the benefit of my blood family.
I got in the car and headed for Pennsylvania. I turned on the radio. To this day, I will never forget. The song on the radio was "In The Living Years," by Mike and the Mechanics. It was as if it was just for me. Because that was the second thing Dad taught me...and taught me in passing....is that it really IS too late...when we die...to admit we don't see eye to eye.
So....this Father's Day...I am asking...if you are a dad...who has a troubled relationship with your child....or if you have a bitter relationship with your dad....put it aside. Try to at least agree to disagree. Because it is too late, when we die. That is the second lesson Dad taught me...and he taught it to me in his passing.
I will close this post with a poem I wrote....as a means of gaining cloture with my father...though he died in 1999....it was not until last year I wrote this poem....as a final goodbye to Dad. And it is literally all about Dad and me. Though it is poetry, and thus is supposed to rhyme....know that I took no artistic license with this to make it conform to that. It DOES rhyme, the meter is perfect...and every word of it is dead true....it is the story of the relationship between myself and my dad.
Don't let our story be yours. This Father'sDay...make a difference. Heal that broken relationship with your dad...or with your child. It is too late, when we die.
"Daddy's Little Girl" - by Angela Bridgman
(in memory of Thomas D. Bridgman, April 16, 1946 - April 1, 1999)
Born was I, in Illinois
Daddy thought, his little boy
My true self forced forever to hide
Feelings inside could not be denied
Daddy lost not thru death but rejection
Failed to live up to his expectation
Seething anger made me blind
Vowed never to look behind
Brokenhearted by his rebuff
Made my way resolved to be tough
Never could forgive him for my pain
Never to see my Daddy again
April the first, Daddy died
No one more surprised than I
When at his deathbed I cried
Daddy hooked up to tubes and wires
Could no longer hold on to anger's fires
This is the moment we must seize
Daddy, forgive and love me please
He took my hand and gave a squeeze
Daddy's Little Girl I wanted to be
Twenty minutes was all the time had we