A Week Not Weak

It’s been an incredible week.

Monday evening I got a call from my cousin, Betsy. She was my babysitter the summer I turned seven years old –the summer her brother and I were molested. She had read the advanced copy of my book. She is a character in the book and someone I love very much.

Betsy was very positive about the book and said she could affirm the things I needed to say. She is proud of me for telling my story. That endorsement means the world to me. The last thing I wanted to do was hurt her. She, too, has been hurt enough by the Stickney family.

Less than 24 hours later, I got a call from my high school mentor, Hazel Henderson–also a character in the book. We had exchanged emails while I was writing the book, but have not spoken in 25 years. She, too, validates the book and is very proud of me. Minutes after I got off the phone with Hazel, I was off to the first rehearsal of the play, The Cut.

The rehearsal was wonderful. New scenes have been written and some adjustments have been mades since the workshop last August. One new scene includes and broadens the character of my mother. The scene was beautfully written by Dustin, yet was rather hard for me to listen to since the next day, November 10, was the anniversary of my mother’s death. I sat next to Joan Jankowski at the big table during the cast read through. Joan plays my mother in the play. Despite the intensity I felt, it was a nice tribute to hear the words for the first time from the woman chosen to play her.

I have been asked a few times what my parents would think of the book and the play. It is very hard to say.

I do not paint the most flattering picture of my dad while I was growing up. We didn’t understand each other at all, but there wasn’t a day that we didn’t love each other. What I represent in my book is a fairly fundamental clash between father and gay son. Despite the pain and riff of my relationship with my dad, I hope the message of hope is still clear in the end.

My mother was a simple woman, but in the most genuine of ways. I think her only downfall was being stuck between my father and I. After my dad passed away, she confessed to me that she knew my dad’s parenting faults. How hard it must of been for her to split her loyalty and share her love equally. I think my mother’s gift was that neither my father nor I, despite our differences, felt neglected or abandoned by her. That wasn’t a simple thing to do.

The point of the book is learning to love and forgive oneself. My parents and I never formally sat down together to review my upbringing, but I think that by the last five years of their lives, it was clear that we had let bygones be bygones; not just with each other, but with ourselves individually. There was never a maliciousness in my family. I think that my mom, my dad and I just did the best we could to love each other the only way we knew how.

I know that if I had published the book while they were still alive, there would have been pain and conflict. However, I choose to think that by sharing my story after they are gone, they could be very proud of me. They would be honored to think that my book and the story of our lives (hair and all) could help, perhaps unite, others like us.

Clyde and Barbara Milam loved their gay son. Their gay son spun around in circles for a while, but turned out okay.

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