The teapot that dared not show itself

Tea set

Dad’s face was flushed. He seemed embarrassed and a little nervous. I didn’t know why. He’d pulled me aside that day during a family get-together. He whispered that he had something he wanted to show me. I was used to the whispering since he and I shared many secrets after he came out to me in 1975. Read More…

Getting past a sense of betrayal

Our family of six in 1954

“I’m happy my father is now being true to himself. But I’m so angry. All this time he was sneaking around and lying to me.” This is typical of what I hear from the adult children of formerly closeted gay fathers who write to me. I get it. When my father came out to me, I Read More…

I know his name now

Dad in the garden, 1982

At last count, six high level HIV/AIDS researchers and experts lost their lives on July 17th when their Malaysian Airlines flight taking them to the 2014 International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, Australia, was shot down over war-torn Ukraine. Joep Lange, a Dutch physician and professor at the University of Amsterdam, as well as a passionate Read More…

Time to unburden ourselves

Dad and me, 1986

My father and I were close, both before and after 1975 when he told me he was gay. After his death in 2008, I poured through his books, journals, photo albums, scrapbooks, memorabilia, and wartime letters to my mother. I read all the studies, history books and non-fiction books on homosexuality I could get my Read More…

Survival of the whole

Cassie

“We’re told to look into our teammates’ eyes after we make a mistake,” my granddaughter, Cassie, told me. “It reminds us that it’s not just about our personal feelings. We’re part of a whole.” I was with Cassie earlier this week as she selected her college classes for the fall. We got into a discussion Read More…

D-Day

My father, Corporal Ralph Hall, 26, in 1944

It was seventy years ago today, in 1944, that Allied troops landed on the beaches of Normandy. On that day, D-Day, my father was stationed at the Ford Ord Army base in California where he worked as company clerk. He wrote of his feelings about the events of that historic day in a letter to my mother Read More…

A dear mom

My mother, 1979

Dear Mom, Even though you’ve been gone for eight years now, I still appreciate you every day. Here are but a few of the reasons why: You never tried to shape me into being a “mini-me” or somebody I wasn’t. You loved and supported me exactly as I was. The birthday and Christmas gifts you Read More…

Few would even hold their hand

The Normal Heart

“All I can do is hold their hand, honey,” my dad told me of those dying of AIDS. It was August 1, 1986, and he’d just begun ministering to the stricken as part of the AIDS Buddy program in San Francisco. Just one year earlier, on September 17, 1985, President Reagan publicly mentioned AIDS for the Read More…

He was just my dad

Dad, 3 months AFTER he came out to me

My dad became “my gay dad” after he came out to me. Before that day in August, 1975, he was just “my dad.” I realized I’d been labeling him “my gay dad” after a meeting I had with a few of the adult “kids” from The Gay Dad Project. We’d been discussing labels. One woman mentioned that she’d Read More…

It feels like home

Me, 3 years old (1954

My father breezed through the front door that warm summer evening after work with a big smile on his face. He hung his cowboy hat on the rack by the door and tossed his leather shoulder bag onto the nearby sofa. I’d just put down my algebra homework, drawn downstairs by the rich aromas wafting out of Read More…

Finding my tribe

Laura Hall, 1975

This photo was taken of me on my 24th birthday in early June, 1975. My father picked out the gold-thread-embroidered, gauzy peasant blouse I’m wearing. I loved it. I can still feel the exuberance I felt that day. My new husband and I had just moved into a cute rental house in Sonoma County. My Read More…

Elders: LGBT and others

Elderly man, all dressed up, walking on a public street in San Juan, Puerto Rico

It’s too late for my father to live in an LGBT-friendly retirement home. He died in a conventional assisted living facility in 2008 when he was 90, two years after my mother died. There, as far as I could tell, he kept his homosexuality hidden from his fellow residents. He and I continued to talk Read More…

AIDS and our fathers

Fairyland: A memoir of my father, by Alysia Abbott (2013, W. W. Norton & Co.)

My father was one of the lucky ones. Though he was sexually active with men in the exuberant 1970s and early 1980s in San Francisco–the brief era when the unknown AIDS virus was infecting an unknowing gay population–he never contracted AIDS. But many other fathers did. Victoria Loustalot, author of This Is How You Say Goodbye: Read More…

Questions I didn’t ask

My parents, 1942

From the time I was a small child, my father listened carefully to me when I asked him questions. His eyes didn’t dart off to his newspaper or the TV in the other room. He looked me straight in the eyes when he answered. Daddy, do you think there’s a God? “I don’t know, sweetheart,” Read More…

His great-granddaughter speaks

My granddaughter

This past week I was visiting my daughter and her family in northern Virginia when my 17-year-old granddaughter turned on the TV to watch a recording of Glee. I knew the show dealt with a host of social issues, including bullying and sexual orientation as well as typical teen angst, though I’d never watched it myself. Read More…

Gratitude for a mentor

James Heig (1931-2013)

I first met Jim Heig three years ago. We were students in a writing class in San Francisco. Our teacher was Adair Lara, former San Francisco Chronicle columnist and Jim’s ex-wife. Jim was gay. One of our first assignments in class was a short essay using the title, “My Father’s Clothes.” I was excited as I Read More…

Shame is a contact sport

Best Little Boy in the World

My parents loved me. They were kind and supportive and always in my corner. Given this, I’ve never understood the deep, unsettled feeling I’ve carried with me since I was a child. My father grew up gay in a straight world and lived most of his life in the closet. Shame was his constant companion. Read More…

The look of love

Duane Hall, 19, in 1937

Writing a memoir is like peeking into an old steamer trunk in a dark corner of your grandmother’s attic. It takes awhile for it all to make sense. A brown-tinged envelope addressed in unfamiliar writing and posted with a purple, 3-cent stamp. A photo of your mother sitting close to someone you don’t know. An empty perfume bottle. You drag the trunk Read More…

Puzzle Pieces, Part I – Social, cultural & legal

Gay LA

History books. Memoirs. Books from my father’s childhood. Wartime correspondence. Scrapbooks and journals. Newspaper articles. Videotaped interviews. Audiotaped ones, too. These are some of the things that have opened my eyes along the way. My father’s prized print of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address that stared at me from the walls of all of my childhood homes. It was one Read More…

How did my father make it to 90?

My dad at 90 (2008)

I’ve asked myself this many times. From the time he was about 50, the story we told in our family was that he’d never live to old age. He’d already had too many strikes against him. It was in the army that he smoked his first cigarette, and he never stopped. He was tormented and bullied Read More…