Here’s to you Dad!!

It always felt like my relationship with my father was a bit stormy. Growing up I felt like I could never quite connect with him for some reason and I felt a distance swell between us. My brother Mark, who’s a year younger than I, seemed to do everything right while I couldn’t do anything without fear of harming myself. I was mother’s favorite and was probably pampered more by her than I needed; Mark was always dad’s favorite, the perfect son. I was an overly sensitive kid and remember being overwhelmed with so much emotions growing up. It seemed the simplest things, like watching The Wizard Of Oz, could set me crying. Growing up in small towns and on the ranch this seemed to put me at a distinctive disadvantage. Emotions and feelings were rarely expressed openly or shown. In many ways I always felt like my father was somewhat apprehensive and not sure how to deal with such a precocious child. I always had a flair for all things creative, which no one else quite understood, and was left in isolation most of the time. As a child I learned to survive on my own and, in many ways, learned to bottle up and ignore those feelings and emotions, which made me distant from most everyone around me. I often wonder if these feelings actually contribute to my being gay and pushed me toward this lifestyle. Certainly it was never mentioned and I had no idea of such things until I was well into high school. Somehow my family sensed or knew what was going on long before I could ever figure it out. I was glad to leave home when I graduated from high school and fled to Missoula as quickly as possible to escape. Early life for me was painful and I lived through my 20’s in extreme angst. I just couldn’t quite figure out where I belonged, very rarely returning home. It seemed that the tension between my father and I grew wider and wider the older I became. I began to fear hanging around him and a sad anger filled my heart when I did. I felt like I desperately needed his approval, somehow, but could not break the silence for fear of his perceived loathing what I had become or done with my life. It seemed, as much as I tried, I could not gain his acceptance.

Well finally about 15 years ago, when I had finally come to terms with myself and comfortable with the life I was living, I finally approached my father. I wrote him a note one day saying what was in my heart, what I had felt, admitting I must have been a disappointment to him. That I never really knew how to approach or deal with him and that I was sorry for being such a difficult son all these years. Shortly there after my father approached me and we talked. He admitted that he was a bit afraid of me and knew I was different and just never know how to approach or talk to me. It turns out he was very proud me and all my accomplishments. I remember my heart wept with joy to finally be able to talk to him. It’s probably one of the most powerful moments I recall in my life. It was suddenly like a switch had been turned off as I began to realize all my own self-loathing was of my own doing. That I had possibly been pushing people away from me all of my life. It was all I knew. Anything emotional required a barricade that would insulate me from hurt or pain. The emotions came flooding back and I wept.

Since I have built an amazing relationship with my father. We have patched all our old wounds and have become good friends. I have let him into my life and share things with him I never thought possible. We go to football games together and I love to hike with him in the mountains. Many years ago he began working on a trail hiking guide to the lakes of Mineral County. This is where he grew up and had lived his life and he knew those lake and mountains well, it was his passion. We could spend an entire day hiking to visit remote places and he would sit on an overhang and I would see a comfort settle into soul, like I had never seen around our home. I began to see how my father’s connection with the nature of his own back yard was his strongest connection to universe. For a while I was going with him and taking pictures of all his remarkable places. I would lug my heavy lenses and camera equipment to these remote places and I would try to capture them from his eyes. My father has become one of the most remarkable men in my life. I love you dad, thanks for all you have given me and such a precious life.

Today’s image is my father looking out over Hub Lake in the Mountains of Western Montana.