My Father’s Closet by Karen McClintock
My Father’s Closet provides a rare, funny, and compassionate glimpse into the secret life of our otherwise ordinary Midwest family. This book will resonate with anyone who has fallen in love with the wrong person, grown up around secret love affairs, taken risks with a taboo lover, lived in the closet, or grew up in one.
“This book bravely reveals family secrets with honest, revealing details—always shrouded in love, forgiveness, and hope. The author includes the reader on a difficult path as she discovers her father’s gay life, and finds his lover. The writing is heartfelt, sad, funny, and open. She weaves an incredibly complex secret into the fabric of lives we truly care about. ” Kathy Campbell
When our lighting contractor called me out to the garage after a brief inspection he said, “I’m sorry lady, but your garage ceiling is sagging so badly I can’t install the new fixtures.” “You better move that stuff out of the attic before it falls in on you,” he harrumphed and walked off the job. The next Saturday I ascended the rickety stairs to haul down dusty boxes I’d stored away after my parents died. I pulled back the flaps of a box addressed to the Columbus Ohio house I’d grown up in, and reached in to find a small hat box full of faded letters my parents sent to each other in the first years of their forty-three year relationship. With my next reach into the box I discovered a black spiral-bound journal dated 1939, penned by my father when he was just nineteen. That night as I sat reading in my usual overstuffed chair in my Ashland Oregon home, I could hear the resonant baritone voice of my father. I was happily following along as he described his innocent courtship of my mother at meetings of the North High School thespian society, and over a two-straw shake at the malt shop. They went dancing to the tunes of Guy Lombardo which he described as a “terrible band,” and then less than a week later he described a sexual scene with a man named Jim that stopped me cold. I wanted to warn my mother, so she could avoid the heartache of her celibate marriage, but of course, I had no such power. At that moment I could have tossed the whole thing in the trash, but I stubbornly read on in order to meet the real father I had never been allowed to know. The letters and the journal compelled me to pull out the last hinge pin on the door of our family closet.