About the Author

Alison Wearing

Books by this Author
Confessions of a Fairy's Daughter
Excerpt

Prelude

Partway through the writing of this book, I called my father to ask if he and I could have a cup of tea together and talk about a few things.

“Sure, that would be terrific!” he replied, his voice bouncing with enthusiasm, so I travelled into Toronto a few days later with a notebook in my bag.

My dad knew I was writing a book about growing up witha gay father. I had sent him early drafts of the first chapters, and while he had squirmed initially, asking if I wouldn’t mind waiting until he had gone dotty before I published anything, he agreed that it was indeed an important story and would do well to be out in the world.

He just wished it didn’t have to focus so much on him.

I arranged for us to talk because I had reached a bit of an impasse, having written all the scenes that I knew were important to telling my side of the story and feeling the need to broaden the narrative’s perspective. I knew little about my father’s early adulthood, except what one gleans from passing mentions of university days and commentary on old photos, so I had questions about that period of his life. And I knew that he had comeout during the vanguard of the gay revolution in Canada and I wondered if tying his story into that cultural and political history would give the book the wider vision I was seeking.

So we had tea. Earl Grey, I believe, with milk. And toast with Marmite. Between sips and bites, I asked him about his childhood—when did he first have the hots for a boy?—about his years at university—did his time at Oxford, the stomping grounds of Oscar Wilde (among others), give him the freedom to consider the possibility that he might be gay?—and about the gay revolution in Canada—was he at the famous Toronto bathhouse raids protest and what was it like? We talked for hours, our conversation spilling over into all sorts of other topics along the way. I made a few pages of notes.

“Ultimately, this is your story, Dad,” I said towards the end. “So is there anything else that you feel would be important to include?”

My father mentioned a few books I might read—academic treatises on gay social and political movements, the odd novel—and I jotted them down. Then he looked away pensively, inhaled sharply and opened his mouth, as if to add something. But instead of speaking, he simply held both posture and breath. Without explanation, he then got up and disappeared to his basement, reappearing a few minutes later with a small box, which he placed on the kitchen table.

“You might want to look through this,” he said, and walked over to the counter to begin preparing dinner.

I asked the obvious.

“Oh, just a few papers,” he replied. Casual as could be.

I peered inside: newspapers, magazine clippings, notebooks and loose papers. The first page I pulled out was filled with my father’s inimitable scrawl. It was a diary entry dated January 31, 1980. I read the opening sentence aloud: “‘Last night I made it with a Roman Catholic priest.’”

My dad shrieked and turned around. But instead of running over and tearing the page from my hands, he melted into a coy posture and cooed, “Oooh, I remember him. He was so cute . . .” Then he giggled and returned to the task of making dinner. Duck à l’orange.

I looked back at the collection of yellowing pages and realized what it was: a writer’s dream. The Mythical Box, the treasure trove containing priceless original documents, the journals, the letters, clues and confessions. Everything necessary to inspire and inform a literary portrait.

Or, in this case, finish one.

close this panel
Honeymoon in Purdah

Honeymoon in Purdah

An Iranian Journey
edition:Hardcover
also available: Paperback
More Info
Moments of Glad Grace
Excerpt

 

The customs officer has the face of a merry alcoholic who also enjoys his pie. His friendly eyes flutter when I tell him the purpose of my trip—to help my father with some gynaecological research—but he doesn’t ask any further questions. Just stamps my passport and says Welcome to Ireland, love, which feels like a moment of sanity in an otherwise crazed world.

 

I have come here to help my father with some genealogical research. He’s quite serious about it and has been at it for years, but a few months ago he mentioned a desire to revisit Dublin’s libraries and archives, adding that he would prefer to do it with the help of a research assistant. Count me in! I’d said immediately, though we both knew I fall asleep at the mere mention of genealogy, a word I am forever confusing with gynaecology, particularly when saying it aloud.

 

Still, we’re here. And a bit of boredom in the archives seems a small price to pay for the chance to spend ten days in Dublin with my dad. He’ll be eighty in a few months—he’d say he’s 79½—and is so fit and active I have wondered if I’ll be the one scrambling to keep up. But he also has incipient Parkinson’s, a disease that has begun to possess and hammer him, and I jumped at a chance for time together, now.

 

My father does not appear in the collage of tired faces watching a slow parade of suitcases file past. Having bought our tickets separately, we weren’t sitting together on the plane, and I didn’t see him in any of the lines at Customs. I park myself in a visible spot and pass the time by trying to conjure a border experience which includes the phrase Welcome to the United States of America, love, but no matter how many times I attempt to lift that small kite of words into being, I am unable to keep it aloft.

 

When most of the bags are claimed from the belt and there is still no sign of him, I notice that when a parent is about to turn eighty, a child’s reflex changes from where the hell’s he gone? to what if something’s happened? I walk and peer and swivel and conclude that he must have headed out of the arrivals area without me. And indeed, on the other side of the exit’s automatic doors, I spot him, looking bored. The moment I wave, however, he becomes animated, fluttering a hand to his chest and panting in theatrical, exaggerated relief while running through a breathless explanation: I didn’t see you in there so I came out here but then I realized you must have been back there but then I wasn’t allowed back in so I just had to stand here wondering how long you’d stay there waiting for me! He is giggling now, shedding so many layers of relief and excitement that I pause to wonder if the airport cleaning staff ever feel they are mopping up excess emotion in addition to casual grime. Relieved, my dad goes off to find the toilets while I stand guard over the suitcases. As I watch him disappear, I decide to begin our father-daughter escapade by creating a running list of qualities I adore about him, flipping to the back of my notebook and creating the heading Things About Dad, before printing How Often He Giggles.

 

close this panel
Show editions
close this panel

User Activity

more >
X
Contacting facebook
Please wait...