Is a football player coming out breaking news? Or is the real story, the story of a Father’s unconditional love?
Bill is so proud of his son. In talking about him, he calls him the “male-est” dude you can find who, as a Junior in college plays football for his Division 1 College Team. But football isn’t the only thing Dad is proud of; he calls his son “a brilliant child” who is “going to have a hand in changing the world”. It’s pretty awesome to hear a Dad speak of his son with such admiration!
So, when Bill’s son, home from college for a visit during spring break, said that he wanted to go for a walk and have a conversation, this Dad could tell that his son wanted to tell him something. They started their walk around the block, but soon enough, Bill realized that his son kept stalling for time. He was hesitant to tell his Dad his news, and his Dad was bracing himself to hear that his young son had gotten a girl pregnant! Like father, like son. Bill was 15 when he fathered this, his oldest child, who is now both a star in his eyes and on the football field.
Finally, after enough time had gone by, Bill asked his son what it was he wanted to tell him. He’d had enough time to think about how the family was going to handle a surprise pregnancy, so when his son said, “I’m Gay” the first thing Bill did was laugh. He, in all honesty, thought his son was kidding! When his son asked him why he was laughing, Bill soon realized that this was no joke.
Bill was blindsided by this news. This news came as a complete shock. It came out of nowhere. This was the illegal tackle from behind. Bill had no idea his son was gay. Remember, his son was the “male-est” dude you could find?
Bill wasn’t the kind of Dad who spied on his children through Facebook. He hadn’t seen the posts that led his other sons to suspect that their brother was gay. His wife had also suspected that her stepson, the son she has raised as her own, was gay, but no one wanted to tell Dad. It wasn’t their place. Maybe they feared how he would react to this news? How would he be able to get up from this tackle from behind that blindsided him and knocked him to his knees? It was all starting to sink in.
They kept walking. They walked around the block twice. Bill couldn’t bring himself to look at his son. There was silence; yet, through the silence there was an understanding between this father and son. “I know you love me immensely”, his son finally said to him. Yes, Bill thought, my son knows my heart.
Spring break was over and life, sort-of, got back to normal. After his son left, Bill didn’t sleep for two days. There was much to ponder. There was anger, and shame, and a feeling of guilt that maybe he hadn’t handled it well. Had he said, or not said, or done something to hurt this son he loves so dearly? It hurt him to think that he may have. He didn’t want to hurt his son. He is his protector. This is the son he loves with all his heart. This was all so confusing.
Gay had never been an issue to Bill. He’s a kind of “live and let live” guy. But, then again, gay had never been an up close and personal part of his life. Bill doesn’t care what other people think of him. He never has. He cares about his son and, as a father, has concerns about how his son will be treated by society for being a young, black, homosexual. After all, isn’t it a father’s role to protect his son?
Eventually, before he left to go back to school, Bill told his son “thank you” for telling him. He knew it was a hard thing to do. He was beginning to understand just how hard his son’s own journey has been. His son told him that when he was in high school, he got deeply in to church as a way to try and fight off being gay. Bill understands that trying to “pray away the gay” doesn’t work, and he also understands that this isn’t all about him. He has his son and his son’s feelings to consider. Bill knows what can happen to a child who can’t be comfortable within themselves; and chooses instead to keep it inside. As he said when we talked, “That’s how you usually find your son or daughter when they’ve taken their life”.
There was much to think about during those sleepless nights. Bill felt an intense need to, as he described it, “verbally vomit” his feelings. That was why he called. He needed to talk.
Listen to “Bill” (not his real name) tell his story in his own words. They are words of a Father’s unconditional love for his son that have brought me to tears many times over. It was my privilege to talk to “Bill”. The courageous telling of his story, that is not about football, but about the love between a father and son, needs to be heard.
“The Joan Jerkovich Show” with “Bill’s” story can be live-streamed this Saturday April the 5th from 6-8am CST through 1150 KSAL; or listen to the Podcast or iTunes which post after the broadcast. Link to all at JoanJerkovich.com.
For information and support link to the following organizations. I applaud them for the work that they do. ~ Joan Jerkovich, BCC
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