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This morning I was giving a teenage client a ride to her court hearing. We were making small talk, sharing what we had each done during the recent spring break. She is a very sweet 17 year old, who always asks me about my family, and how my kids are doing. I have never mentioned to her a spouse, or lack of one. I just say things like "I took my kids to San Diego" or I need to get home to make dinner for the kids. It never dawned on me that she would think I was married. But then again, why wouldn't she?
I am a very 'out' person. And though I don't wear any kind of gay identification tag, I usually assume people figure out that I am gay. As we were driving through town this young lady started pointing to various stores and saying that perhaps I should take my wife shopping here or there. She said that my wife would likely be very happy with me if I bought her something nice. As a rule, I would usually correct the person, and say "oh, well, I'm gay and ..." then continue with our discussion. For some reason the timing didn't seem right, and I didn't want to get into my loss with her. So I just smiled as she was carrying on about my wife and I getting new furniture for the house.
Later in the afternoon I went to visit an infant placed in a foster home. I had spoken to the foster parent many times on the telephone, but we hadn't actually met before today. As I sat in her living room the subject came up about the special needs this baby might have in the future. The foster parent has already adopted this baby's older brother, who is already exhibiting signs of ADHD. I decided it would be useful for me to share some of my own experiences with my children. It opened up into a very enjoyable discussion. I asked the foster parent if she was raising her children on her own, or with a partner. She said her sister lives with her, and is very involved with the kids, but that she was indeed parenting on her own. She then had a somewhat frightful look, and exclaimed. "are you raising your three kids as a single parent as well?" I smiled and said yes, then paused for a minute. "Actually, I'm a widower, so I haven't always been a single parent."
I found it refreshing to be in a situation where someone actually asked me, and that I felt comfortable with an honest, and straight forward, reply. What is interesting is that I am rarely asked these types of questions. There have been relatively few situations where I find myself in the position to identify myself as a widower. I'm not sure if people don't ask because I'm a man, or gay, or what? Maybe it's because everyone at work knows that Michael passed away. Maybe it's because I have no other life outside of work. I'm actually looking forward to moving, and to meeting new people. It will give me a new opportunity to share my story, and my experience, with people who are actually in my presence. I'm really looking forward to having these types of interactions.
I'm becoming more comfortable with my new identity, and feel a need to express it. Until I start doing this, I will feel like people won't have the needed information to truly understand who I am, and what I am about. I know that my being a widower can't be everything about me, but for now, it is the most central thing about me.