What Mother Doesn’t Know
I came out to my mother at 21. I was in Madrid and calling from a prepaid phone so I had to be brief.
Three years later, my mother began to come out for me.
She saw it as her duty. First were my grandparents, whom I hadn’t told, citing their health and conservative values. That’s not fair, she thought. She sat them down separately and asked that they be accepting of me. She didn’t ask for my permission. I only found out when she called me afterwards to tell me what she’d done. Then came the rest of the family, sometimes even friends. I’d receive phone calls and texts from people I hadn’t spoken to in years.
“I’m so proud of you,” some said. Though I hadn’t exactly done anything.
I was visiting home in Miami, and we were at a restaurant on the bay when we ran into her friend and her friend’s son whom I had known in elementary school. “How’s everything?” “With Marcelo? He’s gay,” my mother said, as though she was saying she ordered crab cakes. “Oh. Wow. Cool. OK.” The woman said to me. I often reserved from answering those calls. Tyler asked me once if what my mother did bothered me. It was, after all, my right, wasn’t it?
My mother assumed I would do these things in time, but she was anxious about telling my grandmother, perhaps the catalyst for all this. We had thought her forgetfulness was simply a matter of age until she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s a few years ago. My mother fills her weekly medicine rations, plastic containers of pills that are sometimes taken the wrong day. She drives her to the hair salon twice a month. She has had to, on at least one occasion, explain to her who her grandchildren are. Once she insisted my mother wasn’t her child. I didn’t think she would handle the news, but my mother thought she deserved to.
My grandmother is a strong woman. Her parents died young, and she was raised by her brothers in a big farmhouse devoid of rules. She told me one brother would walk his horse around inside their home. She married young. She and her husband became political refugees. Then she started and ran a business in a new country, raising four children. Her experience has made her reserved and distant. I remember seeing my grandfather affectionately grab her arm and tell her he loved her. She looked at him and responded, “I know.”
My mother, on the other hand, is probably much too close and open. She refuses to accept boundaries. When I was in high school, we shared secrets mother and son usually hide from each other. We drank together. We shared music. She told me about her sex life and assumed my own