Guest Blogger

For Father's Day

Filed By Guest Blogger | June 21, 2009 10:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: bob morris, dating, Father's Day, fatherhood, seniors

[Editor's Note: Bob Morris is a New York Times Sunday Styles section contributor. In his book Assisted Loving: True Tales of Double Dating With My Dad he takes a very personal, candid, and hilarious look at a year of dating dangerously. The publisher describes it as "a heartwarming account of a father and a gay son who learn how to be brave in pursing love through their love of one another." A 2008 Lambda Literary and Publishing Triangle finalist, it was also named an American Library Association Stonewall Honor book. The paperback edition includes Bob's "Modern Love" essay from the Sunday Style section of the New York Times, about his wedding in Los Angeles before the law changed.

For more information on Bob please visit www.assistedloving.com.]

What is it about fathers that make them so predictable? Father's Day lumbers up to your calendar and what do you buy the old man? What do you say to him? Is the nicest thing to do for a Dad on Father's Day leave him alone with his ballgame on TV? Dads aren't as expressive as moms. They can be, heaven forbid, a little dull. And we gay sons usually have more to do with our mothers anyway. Call it Oedipal or just chalk it up to the fact that aesthetics matter to mothers, but it's easier with them, that's all.

But it all changed for me when my mother passed away. Suddenly my Dad, at 80, was asking me to help him find new love. So I didn't only start pimping for him and screening for him (God forbid he should end up with anyone less than perfect) I started coaching him and dressing him. It got very Queer Eye for the Old Guy, as I'd scold him for talking with his mouth full of food, and I stopped him from pouring Splenda into his wine. I introduced him to concepts that were foreign to him such as the dry cleaners, and got him to stop wearing those vinyl loafers from Kmart that annoyed me more than I'd like to admit. I know I'm not him and he's not me and without my kind of raging aesthetics, he didn't live for just the right collar or cuff. Still, some tweaking never hurts.

The truth is that as a gay son who was single, I had more time for him than my brother did. I was also a better sounding board for all his dating questions. And when he told me about his dates, I wasn't as shocked as a straight person might have been with his senior sex in the city life. Botox, Viagra, internet dating. When it comes to romance in his world, 80 is the new 60. One woman who was 86 was dating my father and two other men at the same time. Another told him he was just filler until Mr. Right came along. Nasty, sure, but nothing compared to what gay men on the prowl say to each other.

In the wake of a parent's death, your life changes in all kinds of ways. What struck me most was that my father and I became friends for the first time ever. Well, it's easy to bond when you're both dating so disastrously and doing the post mortems. But even though I was middle aged and resigned to being single, he never gave up on the idea of love. Not for me or himself. And shocking as it was, it turned out that my father, who I'd dismissed my whole life as a no-nothing, had things to teach me in his own wacky way. He was so open when it came to love, the world's most democratic republican.

"Stop looking for perfection" he once told me when I was being too critical of a man who ended up the love of my life. "That's the only way you'll find it."

I took that advice and now I'm as happily married as gays can be.

My dad passed away in 2006. On Father's Day I think of him when I look into the eyes of the man I married. I taught him about clothes. He taught me to love.

Who do you think got the better deal?


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Sounds like you had a cool dad. One of my sons is gay and you should hear the noise around here when he and I get into it. We are also both guitarists so he is alway borrowing picks. But I love the kid and he loves me.
I remember when he came out his mom told me to have the talk with him because she couldn't imagine anyone being more able to have the talk with a gay son (still not sure if that was a compliment or what) So I say to him we're gonna have a talk that most American fathers don't expect to have with their son. His response was that most gay sons don't expect their father to be able to have this talk.
Turns out we both dated good looking high school swimmers, decades apart though.
My youngest son is hanging around acting up and making odd signs on the white board so I should go. Having a pretty good fathers day myself.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | June 21, 2009 11:44 PM

Bob, your story is quite touching to me. I took care of my father in my home the last 18 months he lived. He was an intensely private independent person who never had much to say...until the end when we spoke about anything and everything.

My dad was twice married and outlived both wives, considered my partner a second son. I never heard that many compliments from my dad until we lived together at the end of his life, but oh at his memorial service I heard nothing but how frequently he complimented me behind my back.

"A wise son, makes a happy father" was the most I ever heard from him. It was usually: "You are old enough to make your own decisions."

Our love was absolute and my life enriched not by what my father would say or how he would dress, but by what I observed him doing. His example of decency was everything to me.

Oh, (and I may be drummed out of the chaine for this),when I have had a bottle of red wine decanted for an hour and it still has not mellowed...a half packet of splenda per full bottle works wonders...but I would never let anyone see me do it! :)

That brought tears to my eyes. Very touching and very beautiful.

You started my day totally touched and inspired!
You and your Dad were so blessed....you allowed each other the privilage of being able to contribute to the other.We are life long learners....you both inspire us to choose consciously what we want to learn.Thank you so much for sharing.This would make a beautiful movie!

Donn Murray | June 22, 2009 2:30 PM

How blessed you all are. My dad was an evangelical preacher and singer. He wouldn't let anyone accompany him on the piano when he sang..but me, and this started when I was ten. This continued until I left home to go into the Navy. Those are my memories of Dad Those songs are still in my head at 72. Dad didn't make it pass 70 but he left all this music in my head. Dad left us very suddenly. We never had the chance to talk about anything. Now I would make the time.