My Name is Kevin, and When I Was Nine, My Dad Came Out of the Closet

**If you missed the first two parts of this fascinating new mini series, please go here and here. Below is my youngest brother Kevin's account of that same day. Kevin is six years younger than I and owns his own business, Dibbz, in New Orleans.**

Unless you grew up idolizing Babe Ruth, eating smores in a tree house, and playing baseball on your own private field, your childhood had nothing on mine. Nothing. I was the oldest member of an adventurous and nearly inseparable group of neighborhood kids. We rode bikes without wearing helmets. We climbed trees as tall as the rooftops of the block’s first few McMansions. There was a ditch full of murky water, populated with exotic turtles, which separated us from the railroad tracks that helped to flatten our boring pennies into Picasso-esque masterpieces. Moms, including my own, dealt with the ensuing piles of muddy shoes and frantic snack breaks we required to maintain the frequency of our high adventures. Dads came home from work around five or six, calling us all back home to ourrespective dinner tables, marking the end of a full day. This was life as I knew it at nine years old, and it was great.

From my perspective, things didn’t change dramatically after the infamous Sunday morning family meeting, which might explain why very few details stick out in my memory about that day. It began when I was briefly pulled away from my friends and a game that might have resembled soccer on a neighbor’s lawn. My dad actually came outside to get my attention, which was rare. He also used the term “family meeting” which was equally unprecedented. Those were for Kevin Arnold’s family in The Wonder Years, not Kevin Best’s on East Livingston Place in the real world. Inside the house, there were tears, but they weren’t mine. I was actually in a rush to get back out there and explain to my neighborhood friends how I had just become one of those kids – the ones with divorced parents. I went to grammar school with many of them and it seemed more normal than having a traditionally intact family. I also remember asking my parents if they would ever get back together. It wasn’t complete unfamiliarity with the idea of homosexuality so much as a miscalculation concerning the significance of one fact versus the other. My nine year-old brain processed the idea of divorce immediately, but it had yet to tackle what it would mean to have a gay father. I had never been exposed to an opinion, positive or negative, concerning the homosexual label so it flew under the radar. When it came right down to it, I never expected either of my parents to stop caring for me or to disappear so that was that. I went back outside to play.

Growing up over the next twenty years was relatively easy and I remained emotionally unscathed. After the divorce, my parents conducted themselves far better around us than many of my friends’ married parents. As cheesy Lifetime movies often remind us, life doesn’t always work out as planned. It certainly didn’t play out the way any of us expected it to before the family meeting, but Mom and Dad managed to hold us together and the Best family continues onward…


For Daffy

Carpe diem.
Seize the day, live in the moment.
Appreciate your friends, your family, your pets.
Every breath you take is a precious gift.

Every moment ahead of you is just waiting to be unwrapped.
Don't waste time with frivolous or petty things.
Tell the people you love how much they mean to you.
Don't wait. Do it now.
Say "I love you" with gusto. Give good hugs. Hold on tight.

I always wanted a sister but I never had one.
My friend Daffy is losing hers. It's not fair.
My heart is breaking although I was never lucky enough to get to meet Big Sis.

I have two younger brothers.
I can't imagine what it would be like to lose one of them.
I don't know what Daffy is going through,
But she is strong---one of the strongest, most incredible people I know.
She may bend, but she is unbreakable.

Daffy, you are not alone.
There are a thousand hearts lifting you up, wrapping you in loving whispers.
We are here to hold you and keep you safe.
We are your friends.
We love you dearly, more than simple written words can express.
I love you.
I am blessed to know you and to be able to call you my friend.

My thoughts and prayers remain with you, Big Sis, and your whole family.


My Name is Mark, and When I was 13, My Dad Came Out of the Closet

**If you missed my version of the day my dad revealed he was gay, click HERE to read it. This is my brother Mark's perspective on that very same day. Mark is two years younger than I and is an attorney in New Orleans.**

On a bright sunny Sunday morning, my father announced that he and my mother would be getting divorced.

On Sundays in our household, one could always count on two things: the mail would not be delivered, and we’d have “Sunday breakfast.” There would always be eggs; mostly sunny-side up, but scrambled was not out of the ordinary. There would always be bacon; mostly of the pig variety until we became more health conscious in the late '80s and switched to turkey bacon. There would always be homemade biscuits with jam/jelly, or my personal favorite, butter and honey. However, it was not unusual for mom to make blueberry muffins, complete with a startling blue color created by adding the blueberry juice into the batter. There would always be seasonal fruit. In the summer we’d have cantaloupe or honeydew melon with the rinds cut off. But most of the time we’d each have a half of a grapefruit sprinkled with sugar and topped with a maraschino cherry. My mom would cut and separate the individual triangles of fruit from the interior skin so that we could easily scoop out a piece at a time with a spoon. We’d always have milk and orange juice, and my dad would have coffee. I always had to remember to drink my glass of milk entirely before I got to the grapefruit. If you eat the grapefruit first, the milk will taste spoiled. Although my mom would occasionally mix it up by making pancakes in the shapes of the first letter of our names, the Sunday breakfast itself was a given. It was something I could count on.

On that strange morning after we’d had Sunday breakfast, my brother and I went upstairs to brush our teeth and recommence the inevitable Nintendo gaming. My sister likely returned to her room and closed the door so she wouldn’t have to listen to my brother and me. However, it’s just as likely that she stayed downstairs to help with the dishes. At the time I thought she would do things like that so whenever my mom would call us out for not pitching-in enough at home, she would always have to add “except for you Erin, you’re always a big help.”

The house had an intercom system so my mom could talk to us in our rooms without leaving the kitchen. My brother and I got the call to come downstairs. I don’t remember who actually asked us to come down, but I imagine it was my father given that my mother could hardly speak a word that morning. My dad had revealed to her that he was gay around two weeks prior to that Sunday morning; a fact I did not learn until much later. How she made that breakfast knowing what was about to happen, I’ll never know.

When he called us down, he said we were going to have a “family meeting.” We never had “family meetings.” Of course, we’d sit together and talk over a meal or something, but we never had to call it anything. When he said “family meeting” I guessed we were all going to be assigned chores to do, like pulling weeds and washing cars. We took our spots on the couches in the den where my dad was already seated looking at a legal pad. I’m fairly sure he was looking at page two when I sat down. He always uses the legal pads for work when he needs to organize his thoughts. He wouldn’t have needed a legal pad to tell me to pull weeds, and he certainly would not have needed two pages. This was so out-of-the-ordinary, I stopped my mind from guessing. My mom’s eyes were red.

My dad cleared his throat with a short gruff bellow. I remember him trying to compose himself and having immense difficulty doing so. I’d like to tell you that I remember the words he spoke next. I wish I could quote him exactly so the words would be famous and familiar in my own mind. You know when you hear someone utter the famous phrase: “a date that will live in infamy,” you already know the date of the event, the identity of the speaker, and what happened there. When it comes to that Sunday morning, I can’t remember the date, the identity of the speaker was shattered, and I don’t remember much about what happened.

I think I came-to when he said, “if you all have any questions, please feel free to ask me…anything you have on your mind…your mother and I are here for you…nothing will ever change the fact that we love you and will always love you. Do you have any questions?” I don’t know if anyone asked anything. I just know I didn’t. “If you guys want to go play or go to your rooms or ride bikes or something, that’s fine.” My sister popped up with tears in her eyes and ran upstairs to her bedroom. I went to my room to lie on my bed. I remember thinking, “I know I’m supposed to be crying right now.” I tried to force it, but with no result.

It’s easy to cry when you understand the full import of a tragedy. I had heard the words, but I had not (or perhaps would not or could not) visualize the end result. I heard him say that he would be moving out, but I didn’t know at the time how weird it would be to visit him at his warehouse district apartment with all the street noise, the different smell, the different furniture and décor. I heard him say that he would continue to attend my basketball games, but I didn’t know at the time how uncomfortable it would feel to have a teammate ask me just before tip-off “is that your dad’s boyfriend?” I heard him say that he and my mother would remain friends, but I didn’t know that resentment between them would still bubble up through the surface many years after that day. I heard him say that he was gay, but I didn’t know he would appear on TV to proclaim it. I heard him say that things might be difficult for a while, but I didn’t know I’d be shoving some derelict kids who cornered and harassed my brother because they “heard your dad is a faggot.” Had I known, I’m certain I’d have cried. A lot.

A long time has passed. I’m no longer a 13-year old adolescent. I’m a 32-year old father and husband. I have known my gay father and lived as a son of divorced parents for far longer than I lived in a “normal” family environment. The experiences that I had in the years following that strange Sunday don’t make me feel like crying today. Looking back at them, all I see is the same overcoming of hardship that we have all had to face in some form or another in our own lives. If you have not yet experienced something that the majority of society would consider difficult, then it is likely that three things are true: (1) you probably haven’t earned much respect, (2) you probably have a lot of self-doubt and (3) you are probably a teenager.

I’ve experienced several additional and entirely different hardships since my dad came out and my parents got divorced. Each of them made me feel sad, stressed and very depressed. And each time I knew that things would gradually get easier. When (not if) things take a tragic turn in the future, things will get easier. That is something I can count on, just like Sunday breakfast.


Hi, My Name is Erin, and When I Was 15, My Dad Came Out of the Closet.

When my parents announced that Sunday morning that it was time for a "family meeting," my stomach lurched and the golden, glistening fried eggs I'd just eaten threatened to reappear. My younger brother, Mark, and I jeered and jabbed at each other on our way down the stairs, but part of me knew something wasn't right. While we joked in whispers that we'd better start doing our chores more diligently, the silent scream in my head warned me to stop time, to take the brittle hands of the clock and snap them like sticks, freezing us in this moment forever, untainted.

As soon as we sat down on the couch across from my parents, we knew this wasn't a meeting to assign more chores or rake us over the coals about something we'd done wrong. Mom was crying. Ever the lawyer, Dad was pacing with a legal pad and it wasn’t long before he began his opening statement. He was preparing to defend himself. “This is about honesty, integrity, respect, and my love for all of you,” he began nervously and somewhat formally. I suddenly couldn't stop looking at the dirty off-white carpet beneath my feet, its fuzzy fibers unraveling in places. I felt myself unraveling, too, things inside me twisting and pulling against each other. I wanted to take a loose loop of wool and run with it, clamp my hands over my ears and shout, "I CAN'T HEAR YOU," like a young child often does when there's something she doesn't want to hear.

Dad announced he was moving out, his sentences littered with awkward but telling third-person references “Your mother and I are getting divorced because your father is a homosexual.” He couldn't own it himself, the secret he'd just spilled from his lips. It was like he was speaking about someone else who wasn't there. He said he'd known he was gay since he was 12 years old, but thought he could hide it, squash it down, and lead a normal life. He thought he could pretend it away by marrying Mom. I tasted my breakfast in the back of my throat. I hoped that this was either a very realistic dream or April Fool's in November. Of course it was neither. As the tears threatened to roll, all I could think about was that I needed to get out of that house. I needed a friend. I needed air. I needed to think. This couldn’t possibly be happening. A lot of my friends’ parents were divorced, but mine never seemed like potential candidates---they always got along so well and things seemed relatively normal. I was also quite certain none of my friends had a gay parent.

As soon as they were done talking to us, I tore upstairs and called my best friend *Michelle. She was out of town at a soccer tournament. I called *Joe next. I think I blurted out, “My parents are getting divorced.” He suggested we meet at the nearby park and do homework together. I borrowed Mom’s car and left as quickly as I could. I think Mark retreated to his room, and only Kevin, the youngest of the three of us (nine years old at the time), remained with my parents to ask lots of questions I don’t think they were prepared for.

I got to the park and could barely speak. Just lots of tears, sobbing, and snot. I remember copying some of Joe's Latin homework. Amo, Amas, Amat, Amamus, Amatis, my dad is gay? My brain wouldn’t process anything, especially not Latin vocabulary and verb conjugations. I was on auto-pilot. Miles upon miles of senseless thoughts raced through my mind, colliding and causing traffic jams. Joe lent me an old handkerchief he found in his jacket pocket. At 15, he was ill-equipped for such an emotionally charged situation, but he did the best he could; he held me while I cried and he tried to make me laugh. As the afternoon sun waned and the skies began to darken, I knew I'd have to return home and face the challenges ahead.
Stay tuned for the next installment, my brother Mark's perspective on the very same day....
(*Some names have been changed.)


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