About 10 years ago, I received a call from my dad just before Father’s Day. My mom had recently died from her second bout with cancer, and my dad and I had become extremely close as a result. After the usual check-in conversation (how are you feeling, how are the dogs, etc...) he asked if my partner and I had thought about having children, and if so, when he might look forward to that blessed event. I was caught a little off guard, and all I could say was “why?”
My coming out about a decade earlier was not initially well-received. For my mom, who told me she had known since I was a teenager, it removed any plausible denial that she had left, and solidified in my mind that mothers are truly psychic. For my dad, it was an event of seismic proportion, but not for the reasons that you might imagine. I was a baseball fan (go Giants then, go Diamondbacks now) and a private pilot - two activities that he in no way associated with being gay. “But you like sports!” was a phrase I got used to hearing over and over again as he sought to come to terms with my announcement.
Though everything smoothed out very quickly thanks to our nieces and nephews immediately accepting us, we had never broached the topic of having children with our parents. Not that we hadn’t thought about it. In fact, we had been giving it serious consideration for about six months when my dad popped the question. And that’s really the point of my writing today. Because everyone that I know who considered having children, the decision was not a casual one. As a gay couple, we considered adoption. There are many worthy organizations out there, the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption being one of the best. What about surrogacy? Growing Generations which was one of the pioneers of surrogacy for the gay community, offered another option.
In looking back, our wrestling with the question was about us getting to the place where we recognized that child-free living was an equal option to having a child, so the decision could be made from that perspective. There were many considerations that went into our process, many of them purely emotional and all of them highly personal. My partner was - and still is - a second grade teacher. He has a brilliant way of interacting with children that most parents only aspire to and genuinely loves being with kids and teaching them. For my part, every time I held one of our friends’ babies, something inside me felt great. I kind of melted into the little one in my arms. We thought about how happy it would make my dad and my partner’s parents to have another grandchild. We looked at the practical side as well, knowing the costs involved, both financial and emotional. We looked at the rewards of guiding someone from infancy to adulthood and to deep satisfaction that we imagined in seeing our child live out his or her full potential. Perhaps most importantly, we asked ourselves what was as the heart of the matter, and the answer was creating family.
Ultimately, we opted for child-free living. And we realized that we had constructed a family around us that fulfilled our needs and that allowed us to contribute to others. A family that included our parents, our sisters and brothers, our nieces and nephews, our godchildren, our friends’ children, our friends at church, and yes - even our dog. Because for us family is that most special group of people that we choose to surround ourselves with, and that may or may not be related to us through birth. It is the group that we want to accompany us on our journey on earth. It was not an easy decision, but for us, it was the right one, and ten years later, it still feels right.
I’m going to give my dad a call in a few minutes to wish him a Happy Father’s Day, and to thank him for the answer to my oh-so-simple question 10 years ago when I asked him “why” he wondered if we were going to become parents. “Because,” he replied, “I think you and Bob would make great dads.”
Happy Father’s Day, dad. I love you.