the kind of love that matters

Telling My Father ~ by James Crews

I found him on the porch that morning,
sipping cold coffee, watching a crow
dip down from the power line into the pile
of black bags stuffed in the dumpster
where he pecked and snagged a can tab,
then carried it off, clamped in his beak
like the key to a room only he knew about.
My father turned to me then, taking in
the reek of my smoke, traces of last night’s
eyeliner I decided not to wipe off this time.
Out late was all he said. And then smiled,
rubbing the small of my back through the robe
for a while, before heading inside, letting
the storm door click shut behind him.
Later, when I stepped into the kitchen,
I saw it waiting there on the table—a glass
of orange juice he had poured for me and left
sweating in a patch of sunlight so bright
I couldn’t touch it at first.

Reading this poem this morning, I was stirred to find a memory of my own father. A few moments flickered, but the scene that stuck was with my step-mom instead of my Dad. All of us siblings and mates were in the chapel with Mom after Dad’s funeral. We were talking and laughing, taking pictures of the 9 far-flung siblings in a myriad of combinations, all of them including Mom. I was newly out and had driven the 1,900 miles to the funeral with my partner. My husband Matt was still known as Tammy back then, before he came out to me as trans after 5 years together. I was so happy to be with my family and not undercover but I hadn’t come out to my step-mom. She was a very devout Christian. I didn’t worry about her rejection, she wasn’t made that way. I just didn’t want her to worry over me. She was a worrier.

We were winding down the picture taking when Mom suddenly realized Tammy (Matt) hadn’t been in a picture with her. She insisted everyone take a picture of the two of them. When they were standing for the picture, Mom leaned over and whispered in my love’s ear, “Thank you for loving my daughter.”

That meant so much to both of us. I think of it sometimes now, having experienced rejection by a family member. The pain of losing the family member was akin to losing my step-mom. It feels final and so very sad. I wish every religious person could know, could give the kind of unconditional love my step-mom gave to me.

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