Best Quality Heart

It is Sunday afternoon and I am languishing on the sofa in our Boston condo while my husband Paul, ever industrious, pieces together an Ikea dresser. Flipping through the TV channels I bypass “Real Housewives” and stop on “The Joy Luck Club”. Because we are scheduled to meet some friends for dinner in Chinatown, my thinking is that I can pick up some Chinese to impress the waiter.


When Paul mutters something like “Would it kill them to print one written word?” I reply “I know! Wouldn’t you have hated to be a woman in China during the 1930’s? : Although you do have to admire the fashions. Oh, sweetie, can you move just a little to the right, I can’t see the TV screen?” And then I realize Paul is standing in front of the TV screen for a reason.

After I make a huge display of climbing off of the sofa to help with the dresser, we watch the movie while piecing together our Hemnes dresser. I don’t pick up any useful “restaurant Chinese”, but I do begin to think about how parents can really screw up their kids. I am a pro, being a child and a parent.

My mother expected the best of me. Being gay was definitely not the best quality. At Nineteen I tried to come out to my mother. Her response was immediate and severe. It was not an option and a therapist would help me to overcome this. Life she assured me would be dismal if I “chose” this lifestyle. So, I chose differently.

Suyuan says to her daughter Jing-mei: “That bad crab, only you tried to take it. Everybody else want best quality. You, you’re thinking different.”

I married a woman and together we had two beautiful daughters. A choice I do not regret, but every choice has consequences. Eventually life became so numb that even a needle could not produce any pain. I was forced to make a seemingly impossible decision. Continue to fade away or step out of the marriage.

What is right is not always the easiest, but I learned that living authentically is the best thing that we can do for ourselves and our children. My mother had evolved by that time and had shrugged off those inherited prejudices. When I came out to her again, she begged my forgiveness and became my strongest supporter.

“You took worst, because you have best-quality heart. You have style no one can teach. Must be born this way. I see you”
Paul and I were married on a beautiful summer New England day last year, surrounded by friends and family. My two daughters and mother and Paul’s three children and parents stood by our sides. Later that day, my mother told me that I was a wonderful father, a good person and that I had chosen well. These are the simplest, sweetest  and most powerful words a parent can say.

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