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A Pride Told too Late
As I stare down at him, I feel proud, albeit guilty. Proud of everything he did; guilty of not recognizing and appreciating it before it was too late.
I feel proud. My son and I had contradicting views on what he should do with his life. He with his erratic, obscure ideas of art and fame and me with my civil, reserved belief in the simple life of a lawyer or business man. I thought him the overly-dramatic, irrational son, and in turn, he thought me the up-tight, over-powering father. Constantly, we were at each other’s throats.
From a young age, he expressed different interests than other boys. Instead of trucks and warzones there was dress-up and giggling. Rather than immersing himself in sports, as most boys do, his soul focus was art. It surprised no one when, at the age of fourteen, he said he was gay.
Still, it bothered me. How could I end up with such an artistic, overly-dramatic, son? It seemed to me a personality more befitting of a girl, and I told him so.
My wife was more accepting, embracing him as he was. She always said kids were a package, and you had to love them as they came. It was much harder for me. The three of us frequently got into arguments, always resulting in my son slamming his door, disappearing for the night, and my wife threatening a divorce. I often found myself standing alone in the family room, a blanket thrown across the couch for me to sleep.
I watched my son grow. Watched him graduate from high school and be accepted by a nice arts’ school. I glowed in amazement when he began to sell his art. Glowered at the boys who broke his heart. But I never told him, never patted him on the back, never said I loved him.
My son tried so hard, ached not only for the acceptance of society, but for the acceptance of his own family. That is something no one should have to work to achieve, and if I could go back, I would act differently. But I can’t.
I am sitting now, listening to my son’s boyfriend sob as he says his last kind words. I feel myself begin to choke-up, but force it down. It’s a feminine thing, to cry, and I won’t do it, not even at my own son’s funeral.
My wife had found him, lifeless on his bedroom floor, a pill bottle at his side. A suicide note clutched in his left hand. She had come running for me, and now, a week later, here we are.
As my son’s boyfriend finishes, my wife begins reading the note.
Mom and Dad-
I’m sorry. I love you, you know that. And I know you love me, too, even if Dad won’t ever say it. I tried so hard, wanted everyone’s approval…
I stop listening; I know the rest by heart. I am crying and trying to understand. For the millionth time, I ask myself: could I have stopped this?
I feel guilty. I loved him, I appreciated his art, I would care for him regardless of all else. I miss him.
I just wish I had told him.