So tonight was a toughie…
During an after-dinner conversation about my morning seeing His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the kids and I discussed one of the most importance aspects of Buddhism – compassion. He explained it so eloquently today. My only hope was to share a glimmer of what I learned as I sat in pure bliss. We talked about treating everyone with generosity and respect, from the homeless individual we see at the edge of the off ramp from the expressway to the President. One person shouldn’t get better treatment than the next. We are all just humans living in this existence.
Once I determined that the kids were right on track with our talk (not falling asleep or looking bored to tears) we moved on to the concept of ahimsa, non-violence. They got it right away. Don’t hurt people in our actions, even in our words or thoughts. In the midst of what I thought was a pretty dynamic conversation, Will asked if we were ever going to see Patrick and Carrie again. Abrupt halt. Pause.
Backstory = Patrick is my cousin who does not understand or agree with Hope’s gender identification, particularly her transition. He hasn’t talked to me in over a year. The last I heard Carrie, his wife, read this blog and was offended. Definitely not my intention here – ever.
I have to mention; however, I don’t write this blog for my relatives or to have a conversation with my relatives or friends. I’d much rather my friends and family talk with me. I write this for the thousands of people out there who, like me, are coping with serious issues surrounding our children’s safety and well-being, our role as supportive, loving parents or issues related to gender identity. If I write/wrote about anything to do with my family or friends, it is because I am struggling with coming to terms with all the aspects of our lives, not theirs. Their involvement is not the focus, but rather just part of what we are coping with. It’s not the person, it’s the concept of what we are coping with. Does that make sense? I have no other agenda but to connect with others facing similar circumstances and to heal.
After reading hundreds of emails from readers, I recognize this as a common theme among families handling issues surrounding gender diversity. Unfortunately dealing with and losing family and friends is one of the things we deal with when our kids present and transition. It rocks the boat, and some people may jump ship. Fact. That’s why I write what I write. Often I am getting so many emails asking the same questions or sharing the same concerns from across the globe that I’ll write a blog post sharing where we are with that issue or where we’ve been. I know that it isn’t just us facing these issues. It’s all of us in a sense. I only speak for me, but I am speaking to/with people like me, faced with similar situations. I make no apologies for that.
Ironically Patrick and Carrie are the people the kids went to in our wills. They were my “true blue friends” who I thought I could always rely on when the chips are down. The kind you call at 3 am for a favor and they don’t get angry. Now I wouldn’t quite say that my child’s gender identity qualifies as a “chips are down” sort of thing, but what we were/are going through was/is a transition in our lives where we needed/need all the genuine love and support we can get. Still. I never in a million years thought that Patrick would turn his back on me. The thought never entered my brain; we were so tight. But life has a way of throwing curve balls, of challenging our values, our belief systems, and shining a light on what is truly important. What we do is up to us.
But this story isn’t about them, it’s about us. So we are sitting at the dinner table as I try to explain that Uncle Patrick and Aunt Carrie are having “a hard time giving up Nick” as our therapist suggested. Will bursts out into tears.
“We’re never going to see them again?” he shrieked as he jumped into my arms, my little tough guy now so vulnerable and shaken. His hands drawn to his wet face in disbelief. Those enormous eyes looking to me for answers. I guess he was trying to holding out hope that whatever it was blew over and we’d be at their house the next weekend. In the beginning I’m sure I grasped at straws the same way, as silly as that sounds.
“I don’t know Honey,” I admitted, “We just don’t believe in the same things anymore…” I watched for her reaction across the table. Hope remained calm and steady in her chair though you could tell her mind quickly toyed with the idea of this whole thing being her fault. And what could I do? I explained that this is no one’s fault. We didn’t do anything wrong. They didn’t do anything wrong. We love Patrick and Carrie and their children just as much as we did before. We are still family with them even though we don’t see each other. We respect them and their belief systems, despite being different from our own. We reinforced that we’d never say anything bad against them. The fact is that we just don’t agree on how to live our lives. They want things to be like they were and we need to embrace living our lives honestly, no matter what. Funny how the start of this talk, the themes of compassion and non-violence, were exactly what brought this discussion to a close much later.
“I just miss them,” Will whispered as his tears stained the front of my shirt, his head moving up and down as he quietly sobbed.
“I miss them too Sweetie,” At that moment, there was nothing left to say.