All in all, God Loves You and those you love too
By: Paul P. Jesep*/TRT Columnist—
Dad continues to weigh heavily on my mind. He celebrates his 90th birthday in October. He still drives (gulp) although he does so within a three mile radius for church, shopping, and doctors, he probably shouldn’t. I’m not the oldest son, but I’m the one who tries to force uncomfortable questions.
Concern for an elder parent is emotionally exhausting. It’s even more challenging if dad or mom come from very conservative cultures where judgment and don’t ask, don’t tell is the first commandment.
Each day my dad needs greater care and attention, making for new experiences for both of us. Dad reflects a great deal on his life still not having sorted some of it out. His near 90 years has included forced labor, the Communist Revolution, the Nazi destruction of his homeland, his displacement, and safe arrival in America. As he refuses to accept his physical decline there are expressions of fear in his face.
Mom, who passed away many years ago, remembered the soup lines during the Great Depression. She recalled the miles people traveled without the benefit of cars and public transportation to find work. Social change of any kind frightened her.
At an early age I learned not to seek the approval of my parents. The experiences of war and poverty defined the childhood of my parents. They wrestled with demons and needed consistency. I learned not to expect certain things from them and to look within and later to a higher power.
Several years ago, I gave Dad a critically acclaimed book called “The Red Prince.” The Prince was a Hapsburg royal who loved all things Ukrainian. The prince, who was gay, and a member of one of the most powerful families in Europe wanted western Ukraine, a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, declared a principality and to be its sovereign.
The book wasn’t about a gay prince. The prince’s homosexuality was part of a larger story. Dad, a history buff, was horrified I gave him a book about such a man, even though the prince wanted to elevate his culture and language in a land that had suffered for centuries under Russian oppression.
There are many reading this column who were rejected by their parents or have a strained relationship with them. In the end, most of us come with limitations. In addition, you don’t need your parent’s approval. Be a family with the man or woman with whom you come together to create a union. And try to move on emotionally.
For some it’s preferable to have mom and dad in your life. If you’re rejected by them or siblings, you can still live joyfully in your truth without them. If you’re parents have died before you reconciled, however, there’s still hope.
It’s not uncommon for me to hear LGBTQ men and women speak of a spiritual presence from a parent and a posthumous reconciliation. I’ve known folks visiting gravesites of deceased parents to find closure. It is a cathartic and sometimes life-changing experience.
Regardless, in the end you answer to the Creator, your conscience, and the partner with whom you come together as a family.
Embrace your sense of self. Find love and support in something bigger and larger than you—nature, the cosmos, Allah, Jesus, or the Divine Oak Tree. The Eternal Flame calls you to create—a family, a better life for yourself.
Duty calls me to be there for dad as he declines. During this difficult time of transition, I’m attempting to reflect on larger life lessons. Dad, like the misguided who call for scaling back LGBTQ rights, has goodness. The challenge is to find the commonality that makes us connected in a positive way, despite the warts each of us possess. It’s also an opportunity to dig deeper within ourselves to find greater meaning and purpose about life and our place in the world.
*Paul is a corporate chaplain, lawyer in the Albany, NY area, and author of “Lost Sense of Self & the Ethics Crisis.”