John Kinnear: Dear Hypothetically Gay Son

Tears begin rolling down my face, followed by bed-shaking sobs, as I lay in bed reading this Huffington Post article. Please take a few minutes to read it now.

I had a relatively happy childhood/young adulthood. So why the tears?

I cried for every gay man and gay woman of my generation who would never have dreamed never of sitting at the dining table and telling his parents he was gay.
I cried for woman and gay of generations who have have sat at that table but who were abandoned, rejected, or in even some small way made to feel less-than.
I cried out of gratitude for a mother, a sister, a life-partner, children, and friends who not only accept me, but who love me for who I am.
I cried because once more I remembered that it is my job to love my own children just like what I read in the article, and not just my children, but all God’s children, even (and especially!) the ones who may reject me and find me unlovable.

I believe that, no matter who you are or what you believe (gay, lesbian, bi, questioning, transgendered, intersex, straight, conservative liberal, democrate, republican, Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Atheist, Agnositc FILL IN THE F****** BLANK) that’s your job, too.

Because we are, all of us, human.

Things Change. Things Stay the Same.

mtsu entrance

I have to trust that there will be future opportunities to take pictures of Sam at college. Even though I had my camera for our last week, I didn’t get it out. Sometimes taking pictures keeps me from fully experiencing the event I’m trying to capture in images. That’s how I felt today. Being on campus again (I graduated from MTSU in ’87) and being there with my son, Sam, was both exciting and surreal.

Over the years, people have told me how much it’s grown and changed. Yes, there are several new buildings and construction of even more in what used to be a field. But the older part of the campus hasn’t changed at all. Classrooms were the same, professors’ offices where in the same places, public gathering areas were the same.

While were were there touring the honors building and dorm, it was the first time I’ve seen Sam excited about what’s quickly moving toward him. His excitement made me feel this sense of possibility and expectation for him. It also made me feel nostalgic and old. More than once, I thought about my own parents and what they might have been feeling when they dropped me off at school, how the felt when they didn’t hear from me, or when I called asking for money.

In many ways, I know Sam doesn’t feel like he’s ready for this. Neither am I. Hopefully, we’ll let the excitement and possibilities see us through. The thing is, it doesn’t matter if we do or not. Fall is coming, and off he’ll go.

Blessings to you, Prince Sam!

Ben Is Fifteen Today

A Young Ben and a Friend Intently Watching Something

This is my favorite picture from your childhood. It perfectly portrays who you are. I don’t remember what’s happening outside the frame but you are watching so intently, capturing every detail and internalizing it so you can process it and allow what you are seeing to become a part of you.

This picture reveals your essence. You enjoy studying things and figuring them out. If what you discover conflicts with your sense of fairness, you call attention to that fact and study some more. Your memory runs deep and wide.

I look forward to seeing what you do with your special talents. I believe that no matter which road you choose it will end in wisdom, because that is where your power of observation and of internal process lead you. You are and you are becoming wise.

Happy birthday, Ben.

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Sam Is Seventeen Today

Little Sam at the Piano

Sam, you know I’m not good at remembering things. I don’t mean remembering where I put my keys or remembering important days. I mean remembering events in the past. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I don’t remember details about the day of your birth. The truth is, I have an even harder time assigning what I do remember to you specifically. For me, the births of my three children tend to run together.

However, I do remember one night soon after you came home from the hospital. You were nursing and you choked. Your lips turned blue. Your mother sat you up and patted you on the back and you were instantly fine. But it scared us. Your mother and I were tired and we panicked. I remember thinking, and I may have even said it aloud, “How could they (the hospital staff) have let us come home with a baby? We don’t have any idea what we’re doing!”

From your perspective, I probably come across as self-assured, in control, and decisive. I’ve never been one to shy away from sharing my opinions. But I have to tell you there are many times when I have felt I don’t have any idea what I’m doing.

Luckily for both of us my lack of confidence and occasional self doubt are of no consequence. You are doing just fine all by yourself. You are doing better than fine; you are doing great.

Happy birthday, Sam.


Ben Holding My Hand During Worship

“Please stand as you are able for the reading of the gospel.”

We stood, and my son, Ben, put his hand over mine as we listened to two stories about healing from Mark 5:21-43. I didn’t notice or think anything about it at first. But then it struck me: How many fourteen-year-old boys hold their father’s hand?

Ben isn’t a particularly touchy-feely individual. Yet his action came naturally and voluntary. It was without pretense or manipulation. That Ben would feel free to express himself in such a way made me feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude. I thought of my relationship with my father. I had great respect for him. However, at fourteen it would have never occurred to me to touch him.

I’ve never been a big fan of poetry, probably because I’ve never been good at writing it. Hopefully, the picture I recreated of the moment (with Ben’s cooperation) will be the semblance of a poem.

Shopping @ Old Navy

I just spent $150 on swimsuits for all three kids plus one outfit for Ruth. The boys’ swimsuits go on sale tomorrow and I can get a price adjustment. I’ll be sure to do that and bring my camera with me. I want a picture of those creepy supermodelquins.


I’m glad I took the time to go back (sotra). Today started a men’s store-wide half-price sale. I got $30 back on the boys’ swim trunks after the price adjustment! But then I spent that plus $20 on stuff for me.

Parental Fatigue

Clothes my teen-aged kids have left on the floor in the bathroom.
Read the title of this post and then look at the picture. I really don’t have to write anymore, do I?

My children, Sam, Ben, and Ruth, are three of the greatest teenagers, ever. As far as I know, we aren’t having problems with drugs or alcohol, sexual promiscuity, or failing grades. (We’ve had some scares with regard to that last one but we’re okay, for now.) Having said that, I am suffering from parental fatigue.

Take a closer look at the picture. The clothes on the floor are bad enough, but I can understand them being there. What teenager regularly picks up his or her clothes? It’s the toothpaste cap on the floor that bothers me. See it there, between the cabinet and the toilet? Gross! Aside from the issue of sanitation, that cap on the floor reveals a larger story. Whoever dropped it didn’t bother to pick it up. Why would anyone do that? Sure, I’ve dropped the toothpaste cap on the floor, but when I have, I pick it up. If for some reason I don’t pick it up immediately, I most certainly pick it up when I finish brushing my teeth and reach to put away the tube of toothpaste. “Oh!” I think. “The cap is missing. It must have fallen on the floor.” I look around for it. “There it is!” And on it goes.

Whichever young person dropped the cap doesn’t think the way I do. It’s like he or she doesn’t understand the concept of gravity. If something falls on the floor, it stays there until someone picks it up. What’s more, two people came behind the perpetrator (more than once, because the toothpaste cap has been on the floor for awhile now) and neither of them thought the missing cap was odd in the least. Worse yet, they may not have noticed it was missing, which means they haven’t been brushing their teeth.

Of course, these crimes against familial harmony are not confined to the bathroom. Similar transgressions occur throughout the house in bedrooms, hallways, and the living room. I’m tired of seeing it, and they must be tired of hearing me complain about it.

What’s the solution? My dad used to come into my living space and silently point. He would point at the clothes on the floor, the unmade bed, the stack of books, the empty beer cans (kidding! I was just trying to see if you were paying attention), until I straightened everything and put it in its place. Someone once told me that California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and his wife Maria Shriver used to pick up anything their kids left lying around and throw it away. Neither of these practices really fits my parenting style.

I’m also tired of having to give my teenagers such specific instructions. For example, when emptying the dishwasher, one of them asked, “Where does this go?” It was a fancy glass that goes with a set on one of the shelves in the living room. “On the shelf in the living room,” I answered. A few days later I looked up from something I was doing and saw the glass sitting on a shelf across the room from the others, nestled all alone among some philodendron vines. My children seem to be unaware of their surroundings and incapable of intuitive thinking.

I’ve already confessed that I kept a messy room when I was a teenager, and I suppose my kids have also inherited their inability to use reason. My dad used to make me help him on the farm. “The farm” consisted of sixteen acres of land several miles from where we lived where we grew a garden, raised farm animals for fun, and kept a few horses. I was never much help on the farm because I always wanted to be playing at the creek or the pond. One day when my dad and I were putting in the garden, he ran out of fertilizer. He turned to me and said, “Run to the barn and get me a piece of a sack of fertilizer.” I ran to the barn and waited for my eyes to adjust to the dark. There on the floor was half of a bag of fertilizer. Let me be clear: this was really a half bag of 6-12-12. The bag itself was cut in half and it was half full of fertilizer. The torn-off, top part of the bag was lying on the floor next to the bag with the fertilizer in it. After a brief pause, I grabbed the torn-off part of the bag and ran back to the garden.

This was the incorrect choice, but how was I to know? My dad had said he wanted a piece of a sack of fertilizer and that’s what I brought him. He got really mad because he thought I was trying to play a joke on him, but I wasn’t. Looking back, I realize that a torn bag has little use in a garden and that I should have know what my dad needed. But at the time I didn’t have a clue and I thought I was doing the right thing.

Lastly, I’m tired of my children’s inability to think of others, well, of me, really. Two nights ago we ate Frank’s Famous Frogmore Stew. This is an easy dinner with new potatoes, niblet ears of corn, a head of garlic, Italian sausage, and shrimp dumped into a big pot to boil with Old Bay seasoning. After dinner, we packed the leftovers in separate containers so folks could pick and choose what they wanted, and I packed a lunch plate of everything. I left it in the refrigerator yesterday because I knew I would be eating out for lunch with a friend from work, but I grabbed the lunch plate to take to work with me today. After warming it in the microwave I sat down to eat, removed the cover, and saw that I had heated one niblet ear of corn, one small new potato, and three pieces of sausage. There where no shrimp to be found. Someone had eaten his or her lunch from yesterday out of my lunch plate, even though there was plenty of stew in other containers. ARGH!

So here I sit, half starved and upset because somebody ate my lunch! Yes, yes. I know what you’re thinking, “But I thought all you ever wanted was a cold RC in the refrigerator?” Let me explain.

My dad comes home from work on a hot afternoon, opens the refrigerator door, and yells something that ends with the statement, “All I ever wanted was a cold RC in the refrigerator!” And thus, for the members of his family, a catch-phrase was born. When we use the phrase, it means, “You are upset over something trivial and you are being silly and irrational. Calm down and get a little perspective.” Of course, we never, ever directed “all I ever wanted was a cold RC in the refrigerator” to my dad, but we have used it every once in awhile with each other. I have often used it as an internal check that reminds me to find humor when I’m feeling frustrated.

Obviously, every generation experiences parental fatigue. We made our parents tired and our children make us tired. And so it goes. Thanks be to God.