Ever since my dad started pressuring me to go to this past weekend’s family wedding in Baltimore — and the pressure started back in August — I’ve been meaning to dig out my saved copy of this email exchange and post it for you all to read and for me to re-read. Because it’s one of the things that makes me realize how much I’m going to miss my dad. I’ll post more about the wedding itself later.

Back in October 1998, I found a web site called Familypoint.com that was supposed to be a virtual meeting place for extended families. I set up a site for my family and mentioned it to my parents just before they attended a family wedding in Baltimore so they could spread the word about it to everyone. One of my cousins who is roughly my age found my personal web site through a series of links from the Familypoint.com site and was apparently shocked, shocked I tell you, to learn that I’m bi and poly.

Her father, my uncle, promptly sent me a nasty email about it.

Uncle Bernard’s letter
Date: Tue, 27 Oct 1998 23:49:33 EST
From: [uncle’s email address]
To: kate@kathleen.net

Kathleen:

Last Saturday your Father was so proud that you were recommending a way to help the “Family” keep in touch that he personally went around and got you the e-mail addresses for as many of your relatives as he could. I thought how wonderful that you felt so close to your family that you would do something as nice as the “Web Page”.

On Tuesday about 10:30 or so, I recieved a phone call from Aunt Debbie, … to say that I was “shocked” would be an understatement! My daughter Erin, logged onto the “Web Site” and pulled up your personal “Home Page”.

Kathleen, you are old enough to do what ever you want, you have been endowed with a free will, but you seem to have forgotten or perhaps never learned about making right choices. You will never know how hurt your Mother and Father by your linking your home page to the “Family” internet site. Kathleen – it was a very immature and selfish action. You have got to realize how you have affected your Mom, Dad, Sister, Brother, Niece, Nephews, Aunts and Uncles and yes even the O’Neill Family Name.

Do you have no sense of personal self respect? Why, Why, Why would you even take a chance to embarass your family in such a way? The fact is Kathleen, you are among a generation of faithless, selfish individuals who only care about themselves. Yes, the “ME” generation. Kathleen – you are duty bound to think of “OTHERS” before you consider your own personal life, you are duty bound by the teaching of the religion that you were raised to have faith in. How do you think I felt when my daughter said to me “Kathleen” has a Web Page that says she is “bi-sexual”? You’ve heard it all before Kathleen – things where people tell you how “wrong” something is. Kathleen – we all “MUST” understand right from wrong – we are accountable to deal with the difficulties that come our way and not to give into “the free spirit” that says “anything and everything is OK”, its not, and it will never be. Your choice is your choice
I do not condem you, I do not judge you, but I do question your moral ability to deal with serious personal issues. Your Church recognizes some individuals have personal tendencies which require strength and fortitude to overcome – the Church condems the actions – not the individual.

I am greatly sadden by the outcome of the “Family Web Page” and I will not have my “Family” members participate in such a misdirected venture. I speak for your Aunt: Marie, Gertrude, Virginia. I spoke to your Dad and he was very sad that you did what you did!

I ask you Kathleen – to pray to God that we all are forgiven for our misdeeds, yours, mine and those of anyone else in the “Family”. It is through our closeness with our God that we will survive the trials and tribulations of this tormented world.

Sincerely,

Uncle Bernard

My Dad’s response to Uncle Bernard
Dear Bernard,

When you called Monday night, the shock and emotions that were obvious may have filtered my response to your questions somewhat. I was caught talking about something Georgia and I have known about, but not shared with family to date, for over seven years.

Because of my surprise and the obvious feelings of disapproval you were espousing, I failed to respond and discuss fully how we as parents have dealt with this choice by our daughter. I assume that having not explained more fully some of the incidents that may have contributed to Kathleen’s current lifestyle and choices, I allowed you to form your own impressions which you then used as a base for your e-mail to my daughter with extremely hurtful results.

I have taken a few days to think of how to communicate with my family over this new information and I only wish you had done the same before chastising and judging my daughter by your standards.

I am reminded of a quote written in the AA “Big Book” about judging the effectiveness of the 12 step program and its reliance on a “Higher Power to relieve the grips of alcoholism.” I tend to think of it any time I become judgmental about a person or situation. The quote goes: “Contempt prior to investigation is the highest form of ignorance.”

I mention the quote because I feel your response was extreme and totally unenlightened as well as un-christianlike. Kathleen was under the impression that this family had some indication of her life choices from her own exposures and talks with certain relatives — she also thought that her parents had at some time shared her situations with family members. She did not know that contact with her web page would actually be her “outing” to the family or she would not have put me in the position I now find myself.

First – I apologize to you and your family for the impact of this information and the way you learned of it. When we had lunch a few weeks ago, I started to broach this subject but backed off because I did not want to get into something that would take considerably more time than was available to explain.

Second – I want you to know that your unfair and unkind judgment of my daughter is totally unacceptable to me personally and was extremely hurtful to Kathleen. I can only hope that when you have more time to think about what you did, you will realize it was not in keeping with the Christian values you espouse. You struck out at your “niece” and my daughter whom you do not have any understanding of, rather than an affiliation you have very little knowledge of as well.

As to my position, I have spent 22 years learning how to use the Serenity Prayer every day of my life and in every troubling instance. It tells me to accept the things I cannot change, change the things I can, and asks for Wisdom to know the difference. I have learned that the only person in this life that I can change is myself. Only by my reactions and attitudes towards persons, events and situations that present themselves, can I ever affect the reactions and perceptions of others. But I cannot change people.

That brings me to the heart of this letter — I LOVE my daughter Kathleen. I SUPPORT her independence of choice and I celebrate her intrinsic values and intelligence — but most of all, her Godliness. I personally do not understand fully her activities or alliances for much the same reasons as you espoused, i.e., upbringing, religious education, etc. — but I strongly support her ability, as an adult, to choose her lifestyle.

In addition, were I to take the time to become more informed about the activities she is involved with, I am almost certain there would be common ground for a lot more understanding and at least Christian acceptance. I am open to the possibility that Christ would say to many of her associates “Suffer these children to me” as well.

Kathleen asked me if I needed any help or informational literature in explaining this situation to the family since I asked her not to get into a situation of trying to justify herself to you or anyone else. I told her that explaining her was not my responsibility. I do not have to defend my daughter’s place in life, I have only to let everyone understand that she is deeply loved by her mother and father and I am sure by her spiritual father. We respect her person, not necessarily her activities, since we are not privy to all the details of them, nor do we want to have that involvement at this time. I will say that this situation has given me more incentive to understand and educate myself rather than isolate myself from it.

I hope you get a better understanding of the total picture after struggling through this lengthy dissertation. I know I have not given you further facts to change your perceptions but I believe that beneath the surface there may be circumstances and contributing situations that go a long way toward explaining all of our positions.

I will be at the [name of hotel snipped] at the Airport in Baltimore, Monday Nov. 2nd after 5:00 PM. If you or any of the family want to come to see me, I will wait until 6:00 PM before setting plans for the evening.

Your Brother,

Marty

Why my dad is so great, #1,983,284,393

30 thoughts on “Why my dad is so great, #1,983,284,393

  • October 19, 2004 at 2:18 pm
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    your father is incredibly cool and compassionate.

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  • October 19, 2004 at 2:26 pm
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    This is still absolutely lovely.

    -J

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  • October 19, 2004 at 2:26 pm
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    Your dad is a very cool person. Your uncle B reminds me of how lucky I’ve been with my families acceptence of me.

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  • October 19, 2004 at 2:40 pm
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    your father is incredibly cool and compassionate.

    He is, indeed. Thanks.

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  • October 19, 2004 at 2:41 pm
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    This is still absolutely lovely.

    It still brings tears to my eyes. Thanks.

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  • October 19, 2004 at 2:43 pm
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    Your dad is a very cool person. Your uncle B reminds me of how lucky I’ve been with my families acceptence of me.

    I’m glad Uncle B is good for something. 😉

    Reply
  • October 19, 2004 at 2:44 pm
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    You know…I’d give damned near anything if my dad would have my back like that. Your dad is rapidly making it onto my “favorite people list” and I’ve never met the man.

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  • October 19, 2004 at 2:49 pm
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    i think i love your dad!

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  • October 19, 2004 at 2:51 pm
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    He’s one of a kind, that’s for sure. Thanks.

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  • October 19, 2004 at 2:52 pm
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    Hee! Me too. 😉 Thanks.

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  • October 19, 2004 at 2:52 pm
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    Wow. Just … wow.

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  • October 19, 2004 at 3:14 pm
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    your dad is cool as you well know.

    (As a parent, all I want for my own three is to be at peace with who they are as adults. If they are, I will know that I have done my job effectively.)

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  • October 19, 2004 at 3:22 pm
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    That’s beautiful, thanks for sharing it. Your dad is wonderful.

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  • October 19, 2004 at 3:24 pm
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    That’s lovely. Isn’t it great when you have that kind of support? My mother’s motto is “So long as you’re happy and it’s legal, I don’t care.”

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  • October 19, 2004 at 3:55 pm
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    I don’t have to say it, but I will anyway – your dad is the kind of father everyone deserves, if we go by YDTBFC. Which, of course, we do :). I think you posted this to the list when it happened, didn’t you? In any case, it bears repeating. And repeating and repeating and repeating. Bless him.

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  • October 19, 2004 at 4:14 pm
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    Your dad rocks like a rocking thing.

    So do you, for posting this.

    Your Uncle Bernard…well, I’m tired and overwhelmed and I really don’t have the words for him.

    But I heart you and your dad bigtime.

    Reply
  • October 19, 2004 at 11:21 pm
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    Wow. Just … wow.

    I know. I can’t stop re-reading it, myself.

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  • October 19, 2004 at 11:22 pm
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    your dad is cool as you well know.

    (As a parent, all I want for my own three is to be at peace with who they are as adults. If they are, I will know that I have done my job effectively.)

    Thanks. And I think you’re right about your job as a parent. It’s a shame that so few parents come to the same conclusion.

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  • October 19, 2004 at 11:23 pm
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    That’s beautiful, thanks for sharing it. Your dad is wonderful

    Thanks. I kept thinking I wanted to post it again, and I kept having this worried sense that I’d only get around to it as a eulogy. So this weekend’s trip must have been the right motivator.

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  • October 19, 2004 at 11:26 pm
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    That’s lovely. Isn’t it great when you have that kind of support? My mother’s motto is “So long as you’re happy and it’s legal, I don’t care.”

    Heh, cool mom. It is great to have that support. I don’t know how it is with you and your mom, but the funny thing with me and my dad is that I never knew I had this kind of support until this happened. I lost two nights of sleep waiting for my dad’s response to my uncle because I talked to my mom after I got the first letter and although she assured me that they weren’t upset with me, she didn’t put my father on the telephone and just said he’d reply to the email himself.

    So I sat around biting my nails for two days until it arrived, and when it did, I cried like a baby.

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  • October 19, 2004 at 11:37 pm
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    I don’t have to say it, but I will anyway – your dad is the kind of father everyone deserves, if we go by YDTBFC. Which, of course, we do :). I think you posted this to the list when it happened, didn’t you? In any case, it bears repeating. And repeating and repeating and repeating. Bless him.

    Yes, I did post it to the list at the time, and I remember getting tremendous support from everyone while I waited nervously to hear my dad’s response.

    And yes, I agree that we all DTBFC, by our significant others, by our parents, by our children, by our employers, etc. 🙂

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  • October 19, 2004 at 11:38 pm
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    Your dad rocks like a rocking thing.

    So do you, for posting this.

    Your Uncle Bernard…well, I’m tired and overwhelmed and I really don’t have the words for him.

    But I heart you and your dad bigtime.

    Oh, thanks. And it’s not worth expressing the words for Bernard. He’s shown himself to be a self-righteous, self-congratulating prig of a man — he’ll find his own words.

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  • October 20, 2004 at 2:53 am
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    It’s already been said, but wow. Your dad’s wonderful. I’m happy for you (and, I’ll admit, slightly envious — my father didn’t stick around long enough to find out about my life as an adult).

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  • October 20, 2004 at 4:03 am
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    Your dad rawks. Uncle B reminds me of a lot of my family, unfortunately!

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  • October 20, 2004 at 9:14 am
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    This is my favorite part: “I do not judge you, but I do question your moral ability to deal with serious personal issues.” Arrrrrgh!

    Your dad, as everyone has mentioned, rocks like a weeble. =) Plus he’s very articulate and that’s way cool too.

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  • October 20, 2004 at 4:28 pm
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    Your dad seems like such a sweetie. Maybe he can adopt me (I’m kidding)!

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  • October 20, 2004 at 5:22 pm
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    Yeah for dad!

    And to think my aunt once wrote such a note to my mother because I was using stationary that was inappropriate for a young woman. (in college I had wolf note cards from artist Erin McKee)

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  • October 20, 2004 at 7:54 pm
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    what a great response. i’m sorry that it was needed but glad that he rose to the occasion.

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  • October 21, 2004 at 6:03 am
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    What unutterably wonderful support from your dad. I’m glad that you have the letter–it’s got to be good to know not just that he stood up for you in no uncertain terms, but to know exactly what he said.

    Reply
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