“I’m so proud of you Amber,” my dad frequently told me growing up. He said it more times than I could count. It didn’t matter whether it was a new piece on the piano I had accomplished, a story I’d written, or a good grade I got on a test, my dad was good at telling me that he loved me, and that he was proud that I was his girl.
As his only daughter, my dad and I were close. I was the apple of his eye and we shared a special bond that can only be formed between a father and his little girl. From butterfly kisses, to Saturday morning cuddles, to special “father/daughter” dates, I never doubted that I was loved.
Although our connection shifted a bit as I got older and entered my teen years, we still made an effort to get together for coffee, or watch a late-night action film; things we not only enjoyed but that kept us bonded and close.
But all that changed 5 years ago when I came out. Once I shared with my dad that I was gay, I never heard those words “I’m proud of you” from him again.
For 5 years now the tape of his voice that I’ve heard in my head (even in his years of silence) is “I’m embarrassed by you,” rather than “I’m proud of you.”
The first two years after coming out were full of turmoil and hurtful words from my dad. The last 3 years, we’ve been completely estranged.
The monumental moments that my dad has missed over these last 5 years can never be replaced: falling in love, getting married, buying my first home, publishing my first book, founding a non-profit organization to help the marginalized. The happiest and most fulfilling years of my life have also held the deep and painful absence of someone I loved and held so dear: my father. It breaks my heart to know we can never get those years and moments back. And it breaks even more knowing that going forward (unless something changes), he will continue to miss even more of them.
I’m happier now than I’ve ever been in my life. Oh, how I wish my dad could see that and celebrate it with me. I no longer feel burdened and weighed down by something deep in my spirit that holds me captive. I feel free and light. I wish my dad could understand and share in that joy. I wish that he could recognize the family my wife and I are creating together and that we could all sit around enjoying meals, conversation, and laughter like we used to. I wish we could share holidays with one another and that I could enjoy this Father Day’s with him over brunch and mimosas.
I wish he was still proud of me.
But 5 years ago “Come by again soon, Amber. I miss you!” was replaced with, “The door is always open IF you ever change.”
And it’s now been 5 years since I heard “I love you” from my dad and felt like he really meant it.
It’s a bit ironic that for those of us who live in Denver, Gay PrideFest always falls on Father’s Day weekend. It’s a solemn reminder of how much I wish my own father could still love me and be proud of me for all that I am and for all parts of me that make up my identity. Everyone longs to be accepted and celebrated for who they are.
So if you are feeling the lack of acceptance from a father this Father’s Day, know that I share your pain. If you’re estranged from your father because of who you love, know that I share in your sorrow. And if you are a father to anyone today, I urge you:
Accept your child. Embrace them for all the beautiful things that make them unique. Hold them tight, cherish your time together, and tell them you are proud of them every chance you get.
Because Love Makes All the Difference,