Dad’s girlfriends

My father was born on March 15th, 1918, one hundred years ago yesterday. March 15th is also The Ides of March, a tragi-drama birthright Dad enjoyed claiming. He died at 90.

I haven’t written much about his girlfriends, but his earliest photo album, which I still have, is peppered with their photos.

Before he came out (for a time) as gay, and fell in love with a man, he told me he palled around with girls and women his age. “I loved being around women,” were his exact words. He was engaged to at least two of them that I know of before he broke off the engagement.

My dad & Jesslyn in Pismo Beach, 1939

I don’t know if Jesslyn, the woman whose name he wrote on the back of this 1939 photo, was another of his fiancees, but she looks awfully sweet on my dad here. She was 18; he was 21.

I googled Jesslyn [Dad wrote her full name on the back of the photo] and found that she died in 2012 at the age of 91. I was happy to see that she lived a full and adventurous life.

Given their Depression-era childhoods, and growing up in polluted oil towns in California’s Central Valley, and the scares and scarcities of WWII, I’m surprised both Jesslyn and my dad lived as long as they did.

The year their spouses died was also the year they each celebrated their 65th wedding anniversaries. 

I wonder if Jesslyn’s children ever saw this photo. If so, did they ever wonder what happened to that nice-looking fellow, the one with his arm gently folded into their mother’s? I find myself feeling a bit of a kinship with them.

Read more in Laura Hall’s My Dad’s Closet: A daughter’s memoir, coming eventually to a bookstore near you. Laura and her husband live in San Francisco.

Comments

  1. Eddie Casson says:

    Laura,

    I couldn’t help thinking of my own experience as a gay man. Before coming out or even recognizing my own orientation I adored women. They were my best friends, my lifeline. I believe many times the comfort that came from those relationships (especially during that generation) resulted in engagements and marriage. The photo of Jesslyn and your dad is precious. Thank you for sharing…

    • Laura Hall says:

      Thank you, Eddie. I appreciate hearing of your similar experiences with women. After my dad came out to me, I remember feeling so confused when he’d swoon over tales of the girls/women he’d loved in his youth, including those to whom he was engaged. “Honey, I just LOVED them,” he’d tell me. I didn’t get it. For a long time, I just figured these relationships helped him hide his sexual orientation. But I long ago stopped thinking that. He really did love them, and deeply so, just not “that” way.

  2. Laura,
    I have been following this blog for a long time. Thanks for sharing these stories and memories. I do hope that you get the book out soon, and I will be among the first to get it.

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