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Quite often fathers are the unsung hero’s of a family’s success. I’m not really sure why because their job is just as important as a mother’s… and sometimes even harder. But there is a silver lining to the disproportionate recognition, and it’s called Father’s Day. Every year at this time we get a chance to recognize, celebrate, and praise the men who brought us into this world and guided us through life. They impart their wisdom and experience by teaching life lessons and offer their advice when needed. Whether or not we take that advice is a totally different story. I can’t count the number of times my dad has given me advice and I ignored it thinking I know it all. And every single time I end up wishing I had listened. Call it youth or hardheadedness or whatever but as I get older I’ve come to appreciate that advice much much more.
I believe a majority of fathers are goodhearted and well intentioned when it comes to raising their children. Of course there are some bad one’s as well but good or bad they are the reason we’re here on this earth and that alone should garner respect. I can only speak from my experience so I have no idea how it feels to have a bad father. I’m sympathetic to those situations and it makes me even more thankful for my father. I wish everyone could have a father like mine. He’s the example everyone should look to if they want to know what a good father is. He’s patient, kind, goodhearted, generous, wise, honest, selfless, intelligent, loyal, giving, brave, hard working, protective and every other positive adjective you can think of.
About five years ago my dad had a heart-attack. It was the scariest thing I’ve ever experienced. Before that my dad has never been sick a day in his life. It never crossed my mind that I could lose him. To me and my sister he was superman. He worked hard every day, provided for our family, gave us anything we asked for and never complained about any of it. He worked as much overtime as he could get just to send me to college. He would work 50+ hours during the week and then on the weekend he would make deliveries to different states with his side trucking business. I’m sure this took a toll on his health but he did it just to make sure my sister and I had a better future. When you’re young you tend to take these types of things for granted. I had no idea how special my father was. I thought every dad did that. I didn’t realize this until I went away to college and got exposed to all different types of people and families. None of my friends had a dad like mine. Not even one. I was so naive and couldn’t see how spoiled I was. My uncles would call me spoiled all the time but I took it as a joke. Looking back now they were 100% right. When I was 16 in high school, I went car shopping with no money and no job. I found and fell in love with the most beautiful car I had ever seen. It was a gold Audi 5000 with leather seats and a sunroof. I told my mom about it and she laughed, so I told my dad about it and somehow convinced him to come to the lot with me. By the end of that day I had my Audi. Every car I’ve owned since then (7 or 8 different ones), my dad bought for me. And don’t think he’s just generous with his children. He’s generous with everyone. When anyone in my very large family needs help with something, they call him, and every time he says yes. That’s just the type of guy he is… even if it means he has to go without.
Generosity is a good characteristic to have, but so is patients. I’ve never met anyone more patient and understanding than my dad. I got diagnosed with Sickle Cell when I was 3 years old. Immediately following that diagnosis I experienced my longest hospital stay ever. Sometime during that hospitalization my aunt Millie brought me some get well balloons and a teddy bear named Boo. From that day forward Boo became my best friend. Wherever I went, Boo went. When I got sick, so did Boo. When I had to get an IV, I would insist that they give Boo one first. It’s funny and I laugh at that now but I was dead serious when it came to Boo. I’m telling you all this about Boo because I’m setting up a story that shows just how patient my dad is. When I was 5 years old a huge hurricane hit North Carolina (hurricane Gloria). We planned to tough it out at home but the hurricane doubled in size and was headed straight to the little town I lived in (Bath). The winds were blowing our house and the trees in our yard looked like they could fall any minute. A national guard officer banged on our door and told us we had to evacuate immediately. My mom and dad hurriedly packed a bag and threw my sister and I in the car. We were just about to pull out of the yard when I realized I forgot to grab Boo through all the excitement. I scream wait please wait, we forgot Boo. He’s still in the house. My dad tells me that Boo will be ok and we didn’t have time to go back inside. I start to cry because I honestly believed that my best friend was going to die all alone in the house. My dad looks at me for a moment, then puts the car in reverse and runs back in the house to get Boo. I was elated and relieved, but instead of putting Boo in the car he put Boo in the trunk. When he got back in the car I started to cry again. I told him that Boo couldn’t breath in the trunk. My dad turned and looked at me again, then put the car back in park and went to fetch Boo out of the trunk. It was pitch dark outside, the winds were blowing so hard that my dad could barely stay on his feet, the rain was pouring, debris flying everywhere and my dad didn’t yell at me, he didn’t ignore me, he didn’t laugh at me and tell me I’m crazy. He saw how distressed and worried I was and did everything he could to make me happy. How many dads would have done that? I’m not even sure I would do that if I were in his situation. That’s just the type of guy my father is. He’s done things like that his whole life. Always doing whatever it takes to make sure his family is happy and provided for.
I know it couldn’t have been easy raising a child with sickle cell. In and out of the hospital. Countless blood transfusions. Surgeries, doctor visits, physical activity limitations, watching a child in pain and not being able to make it better. Not to mention the hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of hospital bills. Somehow my mom and dad were able to handle all of this without making me feel like I was a burden (which I was). I believe God put me with two parents who could handle all of that and give me the best childhood possible. I’m in constant awe of my dad. There is no person on this earth like him, and I feel blessed beyond belief to call him my dad… so Happy Father’s Day dad. I don’t say it enough but I love you and everything good about me came from having a dad like you.
Check out a blog I wrote about my mom on mother’s day http://sociallyurban.com/my-amazing-mom/
After reading NBA star Jason Collins’s coming out story in Sports Illustrated and watching his interview on Oprah, I began thinking about my own coming out story. It was extremely freeing just like Jason said his experience was, but mine lacked national attention, a call from the president, thousands of articles, millions of supportive tweets, and a primetime Oprah Interview. Apparently you have to be a 7 foot NBA basketball player to get all that so I guess I can’t feel too upset at the snub I got from Oprah and President Obama when I came out (lol). My story was a little different. There was no big decision to come out to everyone all at one time. There was no call to family members to schedule a big sitdown talk. My coming out was a long journey that varied with each person I told. Some people I told face to face. Some people I told over the phone. Some I told with an email message. A couple times I got a close friend to tell someone for me. And then there was this one family member I told in a letter. I’ve written about my coming out story a couple times over the years but I’ve never written about the people I came out to and how each of those experiences played out. Of course everyone had different reactions when they found out and most reacted positively and expressed their love and support. There were a few negative responses but under the circumstances I understood. Hearing something like that is a lot to process and deal with so I prepared myself mentally (as best I could) for that possibility. I had no illusions about the risk I was taking by telling the people who meant the most to me. The thought of losing family and friends scared me to death but I knew it had to be done. I carried that load throughout my whole life and I just couldn’t carry it anymore. This secret was destroying me. I faked happiness for far too long and was finally ready for the real thing. It took a very tragic event to get to that revelation. I’ve written about that as well so I won’t go back into that dark twisted tale again in this post.
The first person I ever told was my friend Jessie (Jessica Kirk). I met her while working at a call center during my sophomore year at East Carolina University. At first I didn’t like her at all. I thought she was a loud rude stuck-up yankee and I’d have nothing in common with her. After working with her for a week somehow we became fast friends. We were so close that everyone at work thought we were dating. I decided right away that she’d be the first person I came out to. If we weren’t together at her apartment or hanging out at my apartment we’d be at work together or talking on the phone. I chickened out two or three times before I worked up the courage to tell her. We were on the phone one night playing the question game. I’d ask her something about herself and no matter what the question was we had to answer it truthfully. We took turns going back and forth for about an hour then I suggested a question that she could ask me. It was something stupid like what type of person are you attracted to or something like that. I think she could sense why I wanted her to ask that question but she played along anyway and asked. Then I told her I’m attracted to guys and I’m gay. I was scared as hell about how she might respond. Then she said that’s great DeMon I’m so happy you felt close enough to share that with me. I was speechless for a while but I could actually hear sincere happiness in her voice so I knew she really meant what she was saying. After getting off the phone I felt like a whole new person. For the first time in my life I was truly happy and looking forward to the future. I was amazed at how wonderful and freeing it felt to open up and tell someone this. I never gave much thought to that saying “the truth will set you free” until then. I know it sounds cliche but it’s the absolute truth. I’ll love Jessie for the rest of my life for helping me come out and live my life truthfully. I can’t think of too many people that have effected my life in the way she has and I’m very grateful for that.
The second person I told was my cousin. We grew up like brothers almost. I feared his reaction the most, but I knew I had to tell him. I tried to tell him right before he went away for boot camp but again I chickened out. Jessie knew I wanted to tell him so she suggested I write him a letter while he was away at boot camp. I thought it was a great idea so that’s what I did. Waiting for his response was nerve-racking. After a very long two weeks I finally got a response from him. He told me in his letter that he already knew and that it didn’t matter to him. He told me we were family and nothing is going to change that. Needless to say I was very happy to hear that from him. A lot of straight African-American men would have freaked out and never talked to me again… especially those who grew up in the south, so I give him props for not going that route. It made me respect him even more as a person after that. I also told him not to tell anyone else in the family and he kept that promise for years. That’s very commendable in our family because everybody knows everybody’s business and secrets don’t remain secrets for very long (lol).
The third and fourth person I told was my best friend Shante and her sister Tamika who I’m very close to as well. Shante was looking for a place so I asked her if she wanted my extra bedroom. While I was helping her move her things in I told her very casually that I was gay and I have a boyfriend that spends the night a lot. Her reaction was very positive. I wasn’t too worried about her reacting in a negative way because I knew she loved me and I knew she would never judge anyone. She’s just not that type of person. I would have told her sooner but she moved to Connecticut and got married right when I was starting college. After I told her of course she had a million questions and we stayed up all night drinking and talking. I wasn’t too worried about telling Tamika either. She has always been very open minded and not judgemental at all. She probably has the biggest heart out of anyone I know but she doesn’t let too many people see that so I’m blowing her cover by writing this (lol love you Mika). Shante and Tamika gave me huge boost of confidence right when I needed it most. Years later after my parents found out, Tamika called me and told me to come live with her for a while in South Carolina if I needed to get away from everyone while they sort things out. I told her I’d love to take her up on her offer but I have a dog and a boyfriend. She told me they were welcome too without hesitation. She swooped in right when I needed her most and I love her for doing that. I never felt like a freak around Shante and Mika. They were more than supportive, they were my cheerleaders when my life didn’t have much cheer in it. I don’t know anyone more loyal then they are to me. I love them both and I should tell them that a lot more often.
After telling those four I slowly became more comfortable sharing that with people. I think the whole coming out process for me lasted about 5 years. All four of them changed my life for the better and I love each and every one of them for it. Now everyone in my life knows I’m gay, both friends and family. Back when I was closeted I couldn’t even imagine my family still loving me the way they do. My parents haven’t disowned me (even though they don’t fully understand that being gay is not a choice), I can talk to my sister about my boyfriend and she’s totally supportive, and it’s made my friends and I even closer. I’m engaged to the most wonderful guy I’ve ever met and I’m very optimistic about our future together… and who knows, maybe my family will surprise me and attend our wedding. Anson says I shouldn’t give up hope so I’m trying to take his advice.
I would also like to acknowledge my friend Casey and her husband Joey. I forgot how I told Casey but I do remember how cool and supportive she was after finding out. Her husband Joey reacted pretty much the same as she did. He even went to a couple gay bars with me and my friend Tim before. It takes a very secure guy to go to a gay bar without feeling as though his manhood is being threatened (lol). A few years before I came out to my family, my friends and my boyfriend threw me a surprise birthday party. My sister and brother were there along with a few of their friends. Halfway through the party two drag queens showed up because my boyfriend invited them. When they walked in it was like the music stopped and everyone turned their attention to the lady-boys walking in singing happy birthday. Joey saw the panicked look on my face and quickly came to my rescue. He pretended they were his guest instead of mine, which was so completely amazing of him. I was on the verge on a breakdown and I don’t know what I would have done if Joey hadn’t been there to take that bullet for me. I’m not sure if I ever thanked him for that, so if I didn’t… consider this a slightly delayed thank you.
They diagnosed me with Sickle Cell and immediately checked me into the hospital. The doctors told her that she brought me in just in the nick-of-time, because if they had waited any longer I would of probably died. They kept me in the hospital for over a month, and my mom slept in my room with me every single night in a chair beside my hospital bed. After I started feeling better, I had to learn how to walk all over again at 3 years old. From then on, every time I got sick and had to be hospitalized, my mom stayed with me every single night. She would go home for a quick shower early in the morning and get ready for work because she needed her job. After work, she would come straight back to the hospital and spend the night with me. I don’t know how she did all this for that long. I know having a sick child takes a toll on the parents, but they never let me see the pain they must have felt. Through out my childhood my medical care was very expensive. The doctor bills were more than any other expense that my family had. More than our house, more than our cars, way more than any bill they had. When I got older and started to think about it, I realized how huge of a financial burden my illness was. And what’s even more amazing, is that I never heard not even one word about any doctor bills. Now that’s a testament to their amazing parenting skills. If I had known how much my doctor bills were costing my family, I would of felt horrible… and they knew this, so they shielded me from stuff like that to protect me.