I grew up in northern Arizona from the time I was born until shortly after I graduated high school, and at the age of 18, moved to Phoenix with my older sister and her boyfriend at the time (which I’m happy to say they are happily married and expecting baby numero dos). I’ve always made it a point to spend time with my family anytime I go back home to visit, or when they come to the valley to visit my older brother and his family. Over the past three years of my relationship with my boyfriend, Brendon, these visits have brought a sense of awareness that every time I’d go spend time with them, I was leaving Brendon at home because (with a few exceptions) my family wasn’t okay with the gay thing.
My sister had already come to visit me and met Brendon a couple of times. Then in early April, she and her husband went to lunch with us, after which they both invited us to come visit and just stay with them. Within the week we were planning our first trip to my home town so Brendon could experience the beautiful weather, and see where I grew up. We planned the trip to land the same weekend as my 26th birthday, and expected that Brendon would just hang out with my sister while I went to have dinner with my parents for my birthday.
Mom and Dad
I called my mom to let her know we were both coming up for the weekend so that it wouldn’t be awkward if we just showed up and they weren’t expecting him as well. I was floored when my mom told me they wanted to meet him. I mean, they’d never met anyone I’d ever dated before that, and I hadn’t thought they’d ever want to meet him. Now, I suddenly found myself filled with worry that their meeting was going to be a big ordeal. I felt like I should give my parents the benefit of the doubt, but I couldn’t help but be concerned. Finally, these two parts of my life, that I cared so deeply for, were going to come together for the first time. What if my parents were completely uncomfortable, and the entire night was awkward? What if they didn’t like him, and they let it show? What if the whole idea was a big mistake?
My brain didn’t want to slow down to allow reason in. I’d never seen my parents be rude to anyone else. EVER. Plus, they knew my brother in law’s siblings were both gay and they’d been perfectly hospitable to them. But no, my brain kept thinking things were going to go badly.
Brendon and I left after work on Friday to make our way north to my sister’s house. Upon arrival, my sister informed us that my parents were coming over THAT NIGHT to hang out with us and meet Brendon, which of course, caused my nerves to hit the roof. My parents showed up only a few minutes later and after hugging them when they came in, I introduced them to Brendon. The introductions were short and we decided to dig into the food.
My dad sat down next to Brendon during dinner and they began chatting about cars (which Brendon loves), and I even caught my dad telling him a story about my grandpa. He told him that my grandpa used to play several instruments, that my dad taught himself to play the guitar, and told about the first time he played for my grandpa (a story I’d never heard before). I loved hearing these stories, and it was comforting to find my dad regaling Brendon with this story that was as new to me as it was to him. My mom wound up talking with my sister, Brendon and me about recent shows we’d started watching on TV. The whole night was actually fairly comfortable.
I thought that was going to be all we saw of my parents that weekend, but, in the morning I got a call from my mom asking if we were all ready to meet them for breakfast! After wolfing down our morning meal, we joined my mother on her weekly shopping trip. She spends all week doing at home day care so during the week she doesn’t get out much, which means that on the weekends she spends as much time outside the house as possible. The day of shopping was fun and Brendon got to see what it was like living in a smaller town like Flagstaff.
That evening we enjoyed another comfortable meal with my parents at the end of which my mom asked if we were coming to church with them in the morning. I told her we hadn’t planned on it, but she insisted we should come and that after church was done, we could eat wherever I wanted for lunch, since it was my birthday. At this point in the trip, my head was spinning with everything going WAAAY better than I’d expected.
The next morning we joined my sister, and met my parents at the old church I grew up in. Friendly faces greeted Brendon and me as we entered and my mom had made room next to her for Brendon to sit, with plenty of room for me on his other side. After church was over, we went to my favorite Mexican restaurant for lunch with my uncle and aunt, who asked if Brendon and I would swing by their house to visit on our way out of town. I told her we’d have to do it another time since they lived 30 miles outside of town in a different direction than we were heading.
After lunch, we went to my parents’ house, giving Brendon a chance to see where I grew up. As soon as we walked into my old house, all the tension I’d been carrying around just melted off my shoulders, and I relaxed as I sank into the ol,d deep-blue sectional couch my parents have owned for well over ten years. Chocolate, our family’s old miniature Pinscher, curled up next to me on the couch and I truly felt at home, only this time, the man I love and have shared my life with for three years was here with me. I realized our trip had changed from dreading what was going to happen, to not wanting to ever leave. Two parts of my life finally were linked together, and a weight I’d been carrying around with me for years had suddenly lifted. I felt happier than I’d been in a long while.
That afternoon we packed up our stuff, and turned to say our goodbyes. I was surprised when both of my parents hugged Brendon goodbye, told him it was nice meeting him, and that they would see him again soon. I fought the tears I could feel trying to well up in my eyes as I kissed my parents, told them I love them, and thanked them for everything. Driving away that day was hard to do, but I stuck my arm out the window anyways, waved to them until we turned the corner and I could no longer see them standing in the driveway waving back. I knew things had shifted, and that we would definitely be coming back more often now.
The only piece left in the puzzle is my brother and his family. They still haven’t met Brendon, but I’m not about to hold my breath. My brother is the youth pastor at a church in the valley, and the least likely person to be able to accept things… But, we’ll see. Baby steps.