Yo, Dad

This past Friday marked the seventh anniversary of my father’s death.  It is never a particularly easy day; I miss my father terribly and daily, but am at total peace.  Before he died, he made sure to tell me (and my brothers) that “there was nothing that we said that we shouldn’t have and nothing we should have said that we didn’t”.  There were no old wounds left unhealed and never a question as to how he felt about me.  That is a gift.  It is one of the many reasons that he lives on so strongly for me and my family.

As a Facebook regular, I posted on Friday about his anniversary.  Here is what I wrote, exactly how it appeared:

How could it be seven years, dad? Your number remains in my phone despite having gotten three new phones since you’ve been gone. Your email is still in my contacts list despite your consistently responding to any email I sent with a phone call…immediately upon receiving the email. Harrison has your crazy long torso and silly short legs. Jessie has the same twinkle in his eye as you. And we all love and miss you. Every day.

Did you catch it?  Go back and read it again.  Yep: “twinkle in his eye”.  The mother of all typos.  Or was it?

Ask anyone who is ever in the company of a transgender person and they will admit to sometimes screwing up the pronouns.  We all do it, more so at the beginning of transition than later, but it always results in some degree of awkward.  I proofread my words before posting.  More than once.  Yet, somehow, I missed the “in his eyes” line.  More than once.   After it went up, I was out trying to get some errands taken care of (will they never end?) when my phone rang.  On the other end was an old friend, slightly frantic, calling to inform me of my error.  Damn.  I asked her to please post that I knew about the mistake, but was not going to be able to repair it for a few hours.  She did (thanks, Jen!) and I continued on my way, feeling even sadder: not only was it my father’s Yahrzeit, but I had also managed to screw up my kid’s gender marker.  Well done, Julie, bang up day.

I abandoned a few of the errands, arrived home sooner than planned and immediately edited the mistake, changing “his” eye to “her” eye. I instantly felt better (and took comfort in knowing that, by some miracle, Jessie has not yet cajoled me into allowing her a Facebook page so she would be none the wiser to my blunder) only to be knocked down a few pegs when I discovered that, despite making the correction (again, more than once) it didn’t take.  Assuming operator error, I just left well enough alone and opted to stop making myself crazy and move on hoping it would not be widely noticed.  (No such luck.  At least four people messaged me about it.)

And then, of course, I got to thinking about it.

My father never knew Jessie.  He knew (and adored) Georgie who, as it happens, was named for his own father.  He appreciated George’s mischievousness and was forever telling me not to worry about him and his antics…he was, after all, “all boy”.  (Yeah, I see the irony.)  My father was a calm, chivalrous man; one who many sought out for his advice which, more often than not, they followed.  He had a great sense of humor and worked tirelessly to ensure that I never lose mine.  He saw his young self in both my boys and assured me, at every turn, that they were both going to be great men some day.

Picture 1.14.13

No, he never knew Jessie, but he certainly knew George and George’s proclivity towards decidedly un-masculine play.  He knew of the Barbie collection strewn throughout my house (okay, and my car) and, despite being of a generation not quite as advanced in matters such as transgender, I know he would not have skipped a beat (well, in fairness, it is nearly impossible to be completely unfazed by such a proclamation, but his stumble would have been brief, his recovery quick) nor protested in any way George’s announcement of last year.  Of that I am sure.

I am equally sure that he would have had the hardest time of anyone getting the name and pronouns straight.  This reality has nothing to do with acceptance and everything to do with his history of screwing up names.  In fairness, we do have a lot of like-sounding names in the family: Rich, Rachel, Rebecca and Robbie not to mention June, Julie, Jill, Jack and George (I know it isn’t a J, but it sounds like it) and my poor father, with all his wisdom, just couldn’t keep them all straight.  He once called one of the Rs (at least I hope it was one of the Rs) “Ralph” and someone else (not sure if it was an R or a J…could have been an S) was relegated to being called “coat-rack.”  Random, I know, but true.  Likewise, he was forever referring to each and every one of my nieces (all four of them) as Julie.  (I believe this serves as further proof that I was his favorite child.)

So, with this rather fuzzy logic, I am concluding that my ‘typo” was less of a typo and more of a shot out to my dad.  The mistyped word is in no way a reflection of my support or belief in my kid.  It is simply a little piece of history, and my dad, rearing their heads.

Not:  The shot above is one of my very favorites.  My father was ill at the time, but the look of love in his eyes (along with the twinkle) is what defined him.  I have this proudly displayed on my refrigerator so I am sure to see it many, many (many) times each day.

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17 thoughts on “Yo, Dad

  1. What a beautiful picture. He doesn’t look sick at all. And, George, (nci) absolutely sparkles.
    Whenever I am with my sister whose name is S like my daughter’s, I screw it up. Every.Single.Time. So, give dear old dad a break.
    And, do I miss that my dad doesn’t know his grandkids. Out of the 8, he only knew my oldest for 22 mos. Unfair. My dad’s greatest joy would have been watching my kids give me shit. Oh would he have enjoyed that payback.

    • My dad’s greatest joy would have been watching my kids give me shit. — Best. Comment. Ever.

      I was quite sure you were going to say that his greatest joy would have been watching them grow, or getting to know them, or throwing a ball…your comment was SO much better!
      O

  2. Julie,
    I feel fortunate to have stumbled upon your blog a few months ago when a friend had advised me to check out Scary Mommy. My little one turned 4 today. K very likely will identify as female (all signs say “yes” at this point) and we have been preparing for what that will mean. We live not far from you and I may ask you at some point if there are specialist that you prefer or those to avoid. I have an appointment next month with Children’s to have K seen by a geneticist (K was born w/ bilateral Cleft Lip/Palate and we have no family history because “he” was adopted). I wanted to be sure that there are no physiolgical reasons for this gender fluidity because there is always the possibility of midline disorders with bilateral cl/cp. LOL. To think, we assumed either of those issues would be the “real” hurdle for K to overcome in life. K is happy and confident, but with preschool right around the corner we want to be sure that those feelings are not diminished by those who may be confused by his reality. Again, thanks for sharing these moments. I value that many things cannot be expressed or shared in such a public forum, but the knowledge that there are other families near and far all trying to do right by their children make this journey easier to travel. Thanks -Beth

  3. Julie:

    As we have not been in touch, I did not know your Dad had passed away. I’m sorry to hear that. I remember your parents very well from the Deerfield/Barrett and Temple days. He would be so ultimately proud of you for how you have handled you and your family’s lives. And he would be just as proud with his grand-daughter Jessie. Very well written blog today in your Dad’s memory.

    Regards,

    CW

  4. My uncle always called me “Suzie Q” which I took as a term of endearment and cherished. It made me feel very special. Likewise, my grandmother called me “Lolly”. Which I just adored. I always wanted a nickname! It was only YEARS later that I realized my uncle called all little girls “Suzie Q” and my grandmother had merely combined my name with my cousin’s Holly…. they weren’t terms of endearment. They just couldn’t remember my name! 🙂 It makes me smile to think of it. I felt their love even if they couldn’t remember who I was exactly. And that’s really all that matters. Obviously 🙂

    • Isn’t it funny how we want nicknames? My oldest brother has always called me Julsie. The other day at work, someone over the radio was reaching out to “Jill Z” but I heard “Julsie” and responded…happily.

  5. “The mistyped word is in no way a reflection of my support or belief in my kid.” – I can say I rarely mess up pronouns at this point. Don’t even remember the last time I accidentally used my daughter’s birth name. But – when I am discussing something that happened in the past, unless I am being extremely careful, I seem to always use the pronoun for the gender my child presented as at the time of the incident under discussion. Like you said – not a reflection of you support for Jessie – I think it’s just how the memory works. And of course genetics…Either way, you didn’t have a prayer of typing the pronoun “correctly” the first time 🙂

    Sorry for the loss of your dad for all these years. I am glad however that you have great memories…
    xoxo
    Maura

  6. Hi Julie, A beautiful post! A great picture! Indeed it does show your dad’s twinkle and anyone who knew him was priviledged! Never forget that! xoxox

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