Note: My father, one half of the intended recipients of this letter, passed away in January, 2006. He adored all of his grandchildren and loved George (who, as it happened, was named for his father) in part, because he knew that George was true to himself, even at a young age, and had the same mischevious streak my father was famous for.
Dear Mom and Dad,
Thank you. You did something right. I know because I (with Rich solidly by my side) have been able to co-navigate (Jessie is at the helm) this latest unexpected voyage.
Dad, you used to wax philosophic about “defining moments” as a parent. I remember one in particular that was clearly of great meaning to you because if you told me about it once, you told me about it 1,500 times. David was at college in Philadelphia and had written & directed a play which was going on stage one weekend. The four of us who were still living at home (you two, Robbie and me) got in the car and drove the many, many, many (many)hours to see the show. (Sorry, David, but if you put a gun to my head I could not tell you what it was about or, for that matter, what it was called. I do recall the opening scene involving you in boxer shorts on a bed. Creepy.) Following the performance several carloads of kids (to me they were old, remember, I am the youngest – and best looking – of the kids) headed to a local all night eatery and pigged out as only college kids can at one in the morning. There were probably a dozen to fifteen people all on a post performance (and sugar) high. When it was time to leave, everyone just got up and started heading toward the cars. Except you, dad. You stayed behind and paid the bill. Right then and there you commented on how it felt to suddenly realize that you were the parent, the adult and the one who was there to take care of the rest of us.
Fast forward to a few years after dad died and Harrison needed an emergency, middle of the night appendectomy (why are they always emergency and middle of the night?). Mom, you were fairly recently widowed and still getting used to living alone for the first time in your life. I called you and said I needed help with George (n.c.i.) and you were at my house in about half the time it should have taken you to arrive. You didn’t hesitate, hem and haw or, I think, brush your hair. It was a “just what you do for your children” moment. Interestingly, that night, right after being told by the surgeon that Harrison needed to be in the operating room right away I had my first “defining moment” (Rich agreed it was, too): we were the adults, the parents, the people who were going to do everything in their power to make sure our kid was okay.
Over these past several weeks as the news about Jessie has emerged, I’ve heard over and over again from people that they are so impressed with how we are handling this and what wonderful parents we are. It has made me uncomfortable (for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that I hate to have the bar set so high!) but I wasn’t really sure why. I suppose I knew intellectually that there are many parents and families out there that would not be accepting and supportive of the decision of a ten year old to socially transition from male to female (aside: you don’t want to know the statistics regarding suicide rates among the transgender community) but I simply don’t know any of those people. And I know why.
I learned from you, my parents, that in this short life we need to surround ourselves with wonderful, loving and accepting people. We need to be supportive of one another and not judge. We need to look at those D.M.s as a sign of sorts that “we’ve got this” and then dig in and find the energy and courage to face it head on.
Jessie and Harrison might not yet really understand that Rich and I are people and not just parents, but I hope that when they are my age and are faced with the kinds of challenges that they have brought to us (yeah, thanks fo that guys), they will have surrounded themselves with wonderful, loving, accepting people…just like their parents taught them.
p.s. I cherish this picture. I wish I had one with you in it, too, mom…