I look at Eddie Long and I worry about my father. Greased, slick, and bloated with cash and power, Long is a cautionary tale. No, he’s more like a boogie man. He is what happens when the real essence of a person is pushed so far down, it bursts out in the most predatory, or harmful, of ways.
“So dad, why don’t you just say you’re gay and get it over with?’ I said. My father had been hinting he had an announcement to make to the family and, so far, no announcement had been made. So I thought I’d give a, um, nudge.
“Because I’m not gay!”
My boyfriend tried to play devil's advocate. “Yeah, just because a guy has one experience with another man doesn’t mean he’s gay.”
“Thanks, man!” my dad said. “You want another beer?”
I said, “It wasn’t one experience. It was an affair. Over a period of time.”
My dad turned to Mike. “People have always thought I was gay. I was married to her mother and we had a great family! Why are folks so into labels?”
I said, “I’m not into labels, but if this is who you are, maybe there wouldn’t be so much …. Bifurcation. And, besides, it’s not like the gay gene isn’t already running rampant through our family. Aunt D-, my sister and you! Maybe even Uncle B-. We are a very gay family!”
My father had turned musing. “I wouldn’t say I was gay but there was this time when I was 17…” And he went on to tell us a story that made me exchange a look with my boyfriend who was forcing his face into a studiously pondering expression.
Mike said, ‘Well, Pastor C-…we experiment a lot when we’re teens…’
“So that’s 2 experiences!,” I said.
“I’m not gay, Delia,” my dad said. “Sometimes I think that I just like certain things that …well, that your mother couldn’t appreciate. This is why I go to Las Vegas.”
Apparently, my father doesn’t really stick to the proscription ‘What happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas’ because he went on to relate, rather opaquely, some of his vacation experiences.
And Mike, trouper that he is, said, “Well, by my count that’s at least 3, if not 4 or 5, experiences right there.’
When we were hugging on the porch, I said to my father, “I love you and only want you to be happy. And healthy. Please be safe. Please.’
On the way to meet my recently out, divorcing sister for a beer, Mike and I drove silently for a few minutes. Then he said, “That was awesome.”
“Thanks for not thinking my family is crazy.” I leaned over and kissed him.
“I think it’s sad that my dad can only feel free if he’s away from his home,” I said. “What if he was able to have a happy, stable, loving relationship with another man here instead of feeling he had to go to Las Vegas?”
And I wonder the same thing about Eddie Long.