My beautiful Mommy & grumpy me. Christmas circa 1980.
It was April 1st, 1979 that the doctor called the house to tell my mother the pregnancy test came back positive and she was, in fact, pregnant with her sixth child. My mother, in true dramatic fashion, screamed and yelled that it was an April Fool’s joke and proceeded to ask “how” this could be. The doctor, ever the comedian, said: “Gloria, this is your sixth child, I don’t think I need to tell you how. Your husband can lay his pants next to your bed and you’ll get pregnant.” My mother hung up the phone, screamed and cried and threw herself on the bed in fear and worry. WHY? Because I was the sixth child in a crowded family and the brother right before me was only seven months old. She was overwhelmed and a little embarrassed she had gotten pregnant so soon. I was NOT planned.
The long story short was that my father comforted my mother and assured her the same way they took care of five kids they’d take care of six and as far as being embarrassed about being pregnant with a sixth child at 33 (yes, she felt old) and having a seven month old son, well, I guess she just got over that part and learned to not give a shit what people thought. It didn’t take very long for my mother to fall in love with me. Truth be told she LOVED being pregnant, she loved having kids, she loved babies, she loved hearing children in her house, and all the chaos that comes with it. She LOVED being a mother. I was a surprise, I was obviously not a planned pregnancy but I never once felt unloved or unwanted.
I was born November 10, 1979, and when I was born I didn’t cry immediately. My parents panicked. It’s not that they were amateurs by any means but in between their first three sons and the second three they lost a full-term baby boy in a tragic way just three hours after he was born. When I entered the world and didn’t make a sound the panic from eight years earlier hit them like a ton of bricks. NOT AGAIN! Not again! The doctor whisked me away to a corner of the room and worked on my silent little body massaging me. talking to me, and assuring my parents they give babies up to five minutes to cry. My father was over her shoulder hounding her for answers. I’m sure what was just 30 seconds to a minute felt like hours to my parents. And then, as my mother described it, “you finally cried and sounded like a weak little kitten.” I can imagine the sense of relief they felt when the doctor handed me to my mother, safe, healthy, and with no complications.
Fourteen months earlier my brother J. was born and according to the story of his birth exited the womb SCREAMING his head off and as soon as he was born it started pouring raining in Queens, NYC.
What a stark contrast between the two births. And for the rest of our lives even till this day, we couldn’t be any more different. He’s tall, I’m short. He’s light, I’m dark. He’s loud, I’m quiet. He’s messy, I’m clean. He’s athletic, I’m artistic. He’s a flirt, I’m awkward. He’s straight, I’m gay. He’s fat, I’m skinny… no, that last one isn’t true. Most of my brothers have a weight issue. haha
In the same way that I don’t believe my father did anything differently in raising my brother J. and me, I don’t believe my mother did anything different either. J. and I were together ALL the time… anyone with a sibling just a year or so older that they grow up with spends a lot of time with that person. The two of us were known as “the boys” by the family and extended family. We were also the youngest cousins in the family, we were a package deal. And the contrast between the two of us was obvious. I wonder if my mother knew or could see the differences in me from the very beginning. I wonder when she started to really see something different in me? I believe it was probably when she came to pick us up from our daycare one evening and she saw me playing with a little girl and a tea set. She saw something that day that concerned her and she took me to a child psychiatrist. I was maybe four or so. How do I know this story? Well, when I was about 18 she told me. She also told me that she NEVER told anyone that she did that, not even my father. My mother was a trip.
My Parents’ 25th Wedding Anniversary May 1988
Somewhere along the line, I got it in my head that to be gay would be the tipping point in my mother’s life that would send her over the edge and be the worst of the worst thing she could ever hear or deal with. I believed it would crush her and embarrass her to have two gay sons and I just couldn’t HURT her so I hid who I was, I suppressed myself, repressed my feelings, and lied to my parents and everyone I know. I did it out of love and made the sacrifice out of not wanting to bring any pain to my mother. Was I wrong? I don’t know. I did it with sincerity and love.
In the midst of that sacrifice, there were many years I truly believe God could and would change my orientation and bring a wife into my life… I fantasized about the day I would be a husband and a father and I would be the “normal” guy I always dreamed of being. Then I could finally put my mother’s fears (as I perceived them) to rest and live happily ever after as just another straight bloke. But that never happened and before I knew it my mother was diagnosed with cancer and within fifteen days she was gone. Two years later my father was gone. And then I realized they died and I never got to be my real and true self with my parents.
I can’t describe to you how awful it feels knowing I will never ever have the chance to tell them who I am. I can’t really put into words how painful it is knowing that all of my life with my parents there was always a discomfort in me being around them. I was always “on” and always worried they were thinking something about me, wondering about me, examining my every word and move. It’s a terrible thing to constantly feel uneasy around your parents just because you’re afraid to breathe and be yourself.
The thing I realize now is that my mother always knew anyway… I never confirmed it and she never pushed. I’m not sure why she didn’t just say to me: “It’s okay if you’re gay. I’ll love you know matter what.” Maybe she didn’t want to embarrass me. I also never had the courage to be open and honest with her even though I could talk to her about anything. This was the one thing we just couldn’t talk about with each other. The elephant in the room we both pretended wasn’t painfully obvious. But it’s a choice we both made and we went on with that choice and now there’s no going back.
What does it matter anyway? She always knew anyway…
I love you so much, Mommy, and I’ll love and miss you forever & always.