I’ll never look at a photo of my parents at my age and think how similar we were.
They were young hippies who knew better than their parents. Abe and Sara. They wanted to be radical and change everything.
But my rebellion was just being normal. Or at least, that’s what you would think if you saw me.
Here, in my old age, as my days are numbered I’m finally going to set the record straight.
Everyone who looks at me, if they bother to look, sees a guy who followed the rules. Who didn’t talk much. Kept to himself.
Especially compared to my dad.
My dad was kind of a big deal. He had a big company. Built himself from nothing. Never had any help from his father. Maybe that’s why I’ve always been a disappointment to him.
That was a long time ago. I was born when they had already accomplished so much, sometimes I feel like I was a mistake. Some kids born to older parents might think they were a miracle child, but I feel like I was a burden for who I am.
My mom had a good sense of humor and I always preferred to hang around her. She made things run smoothly at home and in the office, where she was pretty progressive for her time. She taught me that you can be strong and feminine.
I wanted to be like her.
I wanted to be a lot like her.
One time I snuck into her room and tried on her clothes. I felt so pretty. I pretended like I was lighting candles, the way that she did. It was not long after that she caught me with my brother.
My dad had a son from a previous marriage who lived with us for a bit. I’ll just call him Y, because if he knew I was telling you about this, he would try to kill me. Y was a few years older and taught me about a bunch of stuff that was beyond my years. Including sex.
For all their outsider ideals, my parents were really modest when it came to their bodies. But Y was different. Y and I would talk in whispers about our bodies and play a game at night where we showed off to each other.
His looked different than mine. It was like he had a hood and I didn’t. He was the first person I told I liked feeling like a girl. And he taught me to pretend I was his wife.
My mom was furious when she found out. The next week, my step-brother moved away with his birth mom and I never had a chance to tell him what he meant to me.
After that, my dad changed. He wanted me to be his oldest. He wanted me to man up.
He and his best friend Eli took me hunting. Just three men out in the wilderness. They said it was important. I’m not much for the outdoors, and didn’t really see the point.
We had been camping for a few days and were hiking this one mountain and I asked my dad “if we are going to hunt, where is the animal?” and he looked at me like I was a moron. I hated him so much at that moment. We got in a big fight and he threatened me with a knife and his friend broke it up and I didn’t talk to my dad for a while after that.
Mom died very suddenly not long after that. She had been hiding her illness from us, and dad didn’t know what to do. He pulled favors with some business contacts and got her a really nice burial plot. He trying his best to be strong. I was a mess. I remember just going into a distant mental state and it was like I wasn’t even there.
Those were my darkest times.
Now I was trapped in this house with a guy who didn’t seem to like me very much who just did whatever he pleased. He remarried really quickly and I thought that was a pretty disrespectful. With this new family it was like he was erasing my mom and I from his life.
But I couldn’t say anything. It was like my mouth was wired shut.
I quietly went to go stay with Eli to get out of there. I needed to be my own person now.
Eli knew who I really was. I didn’t keep secrets from him. He became the dad I never had.
I’ve never been very fashionable. I dress very plain, and I’ve always been inside my head more than most people. I didn’t have any guy friends. I was loner for most of my life.
But ironically when it came to girls, the phrase “friend zone” was invented for people like me.
When I did open my mouth, I could be funny like mom was, and they liked that.
I guess one of Eli’s daughters decided I would be a good guy to test stuff out on if she wanted to find a real man to marry. And after all these years, I had only ever been with Y, so why not try?
So when Eli caught me with her, my first time with a girl, he didn’t get mad. He talked me through all the conflict I was feeling. I realized sometimes I wanted to be with a girl. And sometimes I wanted to BE the girl.
I could trust Eli. But his daughter told my dad about it.
I knew that sooner or later my dad and I would come to blows again. When the inevitable happened, Eli became a moderator in our relationship.
The weird thing was, dad was excited. He thought I had gotten over my “problem” and wanted me to marry Eli’s daughter. But Eli knew better.
Eli slowly wore my dad down, and somehow convinced him that there was a better girl out there for me than his own.
So with that, dad gave Eli unlimited resources, and sent him out to find her.
He said she could be from anywhere. If by anywhere, you meant she had to be from his hometown.
One afternoon, they returned.
My dad had invited me over when he heard the news, and I was waiting outside trying to work up the courage to go in.
Eli rode up with this girl who was covered up head to toe. Her baggy clothes made it impossible to know what kind of body she had. She hardly looked at me. I couldn’t tell if she liked me at all. I couldn’t tell if she liked anyone. I chuckled thinking she probably had less experience with boys than I had.
I’m supposed to marry a woman, and he brings me someone who will break it off the moment she knows the real me.
“Trust me,” Eli said.
We all went inside and there was my dad. I hadn’t spoken to him in a while. He was different. Even older than the old man I remembered.
The house looked the same as it was from my childhood, and I got teary eyed thinking of mom and how much energy she used to bring to these rooms.
Dad made a big show of how he had built a new house, and wasn’t doing much with this old place anymore. It was his wedding gift to me.
I could have been disappointed. I’m supposed to start a family in the house where I grew up? Isn’t that just like dad to expect that of me- to follow exactly the way he did things?
But it was kind of nice to be there.
Out of respect for mom’s memory, I accepted.
The girl didn’t even talk to me until after the wedding. I barely even knew her name.
When we got home, I learned who she really was.
Rebecca ripped off her modesty like an old Band-Aid. Under all those layers and timidity, she was bold. She was funny and decisive and made me come out of my shell for the first time.
And oh boy was she kinky. Apparently where she grew up people did all kinds of stuff.
All my nerves about revealing the real me were pushed aside.
I wanted to be the guy in bed? Cool. I wanted to be the girl? Even better. She took charge and made it happen. It was fun.
To anyone who saw us in the street, we were Mr. & Mrs. Clean Cut. We would get turned on knowing who we really were underneath it all.
We were like two perverted rabbits.
Every time I would see my dad he would ask us why we hadn’t made him a grandson yet. He was virile into his old age and just glossed over how long he and my mom had waited to have me.
Becoming a grandfather was all he would talk to me about anymore. But Rebecca and I had no interest in doing that until we tried everything else we could think of.
Then one day, it was too late.
Dad died before we turned around.
I buried him next to mom.
Y came to the funeral. I hadn’t seen him since he left all those years ago, and it brought up a lot of old emotions. He had also married straight, and fathered a whole slew of kids. We didn’t talk about the past.
After that Rebecca suggested we actually try, in honor of my father. She was always smarter than me.
Before I knew it, we gave birth to twins.
Red came first. He was a man’s man if there ever was one. Dad would have loved him. I loved him more.
He developed a strong personality. He was outgoing. Clever with words. We would stay up all hours talking and laughing about life.
Jake was the runt of the two. I saw too much of myself in him. All the things I used to be.
He was too serious. A homebody. But worse, he would come crying with inconsequential stuff. I couldn’t stand it. He spent too much time in the kitchen hanging onto Rebecca’s skirt. He was a mamma’s boy.
Being a father of boys forced me to take on a facade of toughness I lacked previously.
I’ll be the first to admit I was slowly becoming my father. As I got older I saw the wisdom in some of the things he did, but held resentments for the rest. I could be like him but be better.
Dad was big- the kind of guy who would amass a fortune and spread the wealth, leaving little for us at home. He lacked subtlety. I was going to take all the wallflower power I possessed and built a modest but successful life. I didn’t need to be my own boss, I just needed to make enough to be happy.
So we moved to Gerar, where I got a series of mid-level government jobs. First with the agriculture department, and later for the water supply division of environmental protection.
When the boys were of age, I wanted to take them hunting like my old man had all those years ago. Rose colored glasses being what they were, the fight with my father on the mountain ended up being one of the best things that ever happened to me.
Red had started dating, and I was concerned with him making safe choices. This would be an opportunity to have the sex talk and treat them like adults. It would be fun.
But Jake didn’t want to go. It sounded like a punishment to him. And in telling myself that I wouldn’t repeat my father’s mistakes, I let him stay home.
Red couldn’t get out the door fast enough. It was all I had hoped for and we set off. Just the two of us on the open road. Man and son versus beast.
Regrettably, we never got to finish that trip. The first time I tried to take a shot the gun backfired, blindsiding me.
I woke up, uncertain of my surroundings.
“Son?” I called out.
“Here I am,” he replied.
I reached up and blindly felt the bandages over my face. I didn’t know how serious it was. But losing my vision changed everything.
“You should see the other guy,” He joked.
“Did I bag a big one?” I retorted.
“The biggest. I almost strapped you to the roof.”
“Shame, I really wanted that meat.”
I sent Red to go fetch his mother and brother. I was going to die, and I wanted them with me.
Red returned faster than expected. He was alone but assured me his mother was filling out forms and his brother wasn’t far behind.
“What are they feeding you here?” He commented, as he pushed aside the hospital food and set a nice juicy steak on a tray for me. I took a bite, all I could muster with my remaining strength. It was the best Red had ever made.
I asked him to come closer. I gave him a hug. If I still had eyes, I would have cried.
“Um… Yes, dad?”
I grabbed him tighter. We stayed in a loving embrace in my bed until I began to fade.
Red let go of me and I could feel his presence leave the room.
I was slipping in and out of consciousness.
Then Red was there again.
He yelled, “Father! I brought the family!” But it was too late.