I remember the times we spent together cleaning up after every dinner— our hands submerged in the scalding water, enduring it. I remember how one of us washed while the other dried. An hour would easily fly-by in the process because we were so lost in just being there, together. I remember how you would open up to me, revealing your thoughts on our family. It was like you lifting the rug off the slanted kitchen floor you would clean every week. I remember how you would listen to me—listen to me fully—about how I was getting picked-on or how many penguins I could doodle back in the fourth grade. Honestly, doing the dishes with you made me appreciate you and all your hard work as a mother.
Somewhere along the way we stopped doing the dishes together and I began to do them alone. By the time I came out in high school I did everything alone. Even after I left your home I continued to do the dishes alone. It helped me to process everything—the screaming, the homophobia, the religious and moral beliefs you would use against me, the night I left and how I became an adult through the state to put myself through high school, how I put myself through college and funded it, how I live disconnected from blood family, and how I still love myself fully even when my family does not. Do you remember how we would listen to each other while doing dishes? That was my favorite part.
So please, listen now.
You were my first caretaker—thank you for bringing me into this world.
Thank you for holding me when I had night terrors.
Thank you for letting me be close to my grandparents.
Thank you for letting me watch romantic comedies and Lifetime with you.
Thank you for letting me sing loudly in my bedroom.
Thank you for letting me create art even if you resent it now.
Thank you for showing me you still care.
Thank you for showing me how to hand-wash dishes.
It was not easy to leave you. I grieved your loss, even though you are still alive. When I speak, laugh, smile, and breathe—I think of you. When I look in the mirror, I see you.
Are you still listening?
My sexual orientation is not a fault. It is not your fault. I cannot tell you that enough and I cannot stand to see you hate yourself when you look at me. More than I want your love and acceptance, I want you to love yourself. Whenever we have a brief visit I can see the years of tears and the fear of God in your eyes. I can see the wrinkles of worry and depression as your hands clasp around your arms and sit heavily on your heart. I can see how your brain and heart are tormented from the beliefs that separate you and me. I worry about you more than you think. It was easy for me to accept and love myself so please don’t worry about me. I know you will, but I have always taken care of myself; you know that. I will keep doing the dishes and I will keep thinking of you. If by chance, can we do the dishes together one last time? Maybe, we can be attentive to one another again and fully hear the words we both long to say.
I hope you are still listening.
I love you,