Monday, February 21, 2011

Family Day

Today is 'Family Day' here in Ontario. It's really an excuse to have a day off in February, and all of us who get the holiday are thankful for it. I remember the debate leading up to the creation of the holiday and the decision to make it 'family day'. Initially I was disturbed by the designation of the day, 'family' not being a universally treasured experience.

During the height of the anti-gay movement and the very apex of violence against LGBT people, the term 'family values' was being tossed about. Like hate and discrimination and violence were core 'family values' . I began to hate hearing the term and resent the irony that the biggest attack on 'family' as I understood the word were depraved 'values'. Family, in its idealized form, is a place of safety, unconditional love, and unceasing welcome. Yet in families there is so much hurt, so much violence, so much purposeful meanness. Gay teens tossed out for difference, the front door key ripped forever from their hands. Disabled children abandoned by parents with unfilled promises of 'I'll visit soon' in their suitcases. Vulnerable children hurt, victimized, abused, by women who expect lacy cards at Mother's Day and by men who become fathers who define fear as respect.

Yet through all this the family survives. It even thrives. In places where there is a 'value' placed on the experience of 'family'. A value of love and acceptance, a valuing of difference and diversity, a valuation that determines that worth is calculated by love and nothing else. We have these families, or we make these families, or we strive for these families. Families where blood matters less than relationship. Families where ties are tied intentionally if not genetically. Families where anyone at any moment, can be daddy, can be mommy, can be child. Families where power flows freely back and forth, landing only ever in gentle hands. Families where the wick to anger grows longer with every day, where the 'boom' of temper grows daily less terrifying.

I have seen the faces of men and women with disabilities who wait expectantly for a visit that all, but they, know won't happen.

I have seen the faces of men and women who wait expectantly for a phone call announcing a decision of acceptance that never comes.

I have measured the bruise on a face, for a report, while wondering who will ever be able to measure the bruise on the heart ... their's and mine ... as I try to answer the question, 'Why was mommy so mad at me?'

But I have also seen the faces of men and women who are loved by their parents. Of adult children who know that their difference is embraced both by parental heart and arms.

I remember still the stoic face on the woman who stood alongside a protest, with signs that stated, 'God Hates Fags and So Do I'. She stood there with quiet bravery with her own sign, 'I Love My Gay Son.'

I remember always the face of a mother in a meeting saying, 'My child will go to school, my child will walk these hallways.' I remember realizing that I was seeing something much more than determination, I was seeing prophecy.

I remember bandaging a little girls finger and then wiping her tears. I still hear a small voice saying, 'You are a really good mommy.' I loved that, in a word, she made me family.

And I believe that is what I celebrate today. I celebrate that, in a world wherein family has come under it's most serious attack by those who would defend it, I am still family. I am still loved and included. I am still respected for my difference, desired for my diversity. I am thankful that, rather than having family torn from me, I found family embracing me ever tighter as I grew older.

I value family.

All of my various families.

Including my family, here, on this blog.



Anonymous said...

Dave, To those that read your blog, even though we haven't met, probably never will meet, you have become be part of our "family", someone we choose that matter to us.

It's a pretty big and nice family. I'm saying this awkwardly but thanks and Happy Family Day.


Kristin said...

God Dave, what a beautiful post. It truly brought me to tears. You know, I would be honored if any of my sons grew up to be a man like you are.

Andrea S. said...

Thank you, Dave.

I'm lucky enough to have a genetic family that also largely happens to be a family in what I view to be a "true" family ... a family created by choice and by love. But I also have the other kind of family, the kind not formed by genetics. And I've always felt that genetics is not really any more than a potential starting point for building a family: you create a family day by day by what you do, not what your DNA says.

Anonymous said...

Thanks again Dave and once again truly enjoyed eventhough needed a kleenex for this one. Love feeling the meaning and passion of what you write.
Happy Family Day to you and yours.

Colleen said...

Dear Dave:

Happy Family Day! to you and Joe and all your family. And the blog family.

I know first hand that family has little to do with genetics and lots to do with love.

I think I will carry the image of the mom and her sign with me for a long time - thanks for that. What kind of society are we that makes it necessary for a mother to have to carry a sign like that?


Clay said...

Have a great Family Day, bro.

Nancy said...

Hey Dave! Once have said it so very well! Thank you!! I did want to share a Family Day thought...although in Ontario as well, we cannot offer Family Day today...we cannot afford it and we already offer enough stat holidays to meet Employment Standards. However, I was thinking about the positive side of what we do...we offer two float holidays...employees can choose which day(s) throughout the year to celebrate Family Day...isn't that more the way it should be? Each family is different and perhaps ready for a celebration at a differnt having Family Day designated today may not work for everyone. I kinda like the way we do it! continue to inspire me...thank you and hope you and Joe had a wonderful Family Day!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this. You have a wonderful way of writing and seeing the important things in an ordinary day.
I enjoy reading your blog almost every day for over a year now.
Thanks for including us in your family,

Anonymous said...

The day before the pride parade in Belgrade in 2010, I had the opportunity to witness the Family Parade that the ultra-right wing nationalists had organised, as they passed right by the building where I happened to be. Mostly young men in their 20's, hardly a family in sight. No children that I saw (though I did see pictures from news coverage of it that there were a few children persent), only a couple women. It was a sad and angry sort of parade/mob. They weren't sad; I was sad looking at them.

Contrasted to our parade, the next day, with the bright colours and pretty banners, a few children carrying signs saying "love is a human right". It was beautiful there, behind the police barriers that kept the noise and smells of the riots away from us. Sad, though, that only people who really got a good look at our bright colours and flags were the police closest to us, the police who were saving our lives. My own love was watching us online via the closest webcam she could find, which showed the waves of rioters, tear gas, violence, ambulances for the wounded, that I didn't get to see until that night watching the news. I wish I could replace the images in her head of that day with the ones in my own.

Cynthia F. said...

Damn, Dave, you made me cry AGAIN.