Family Spotlight: Richard
AT A GLANCE
Relationship Status: Committed partner of 11 years
Two Children: Morgan (32) and Ashley (30)
Five Grandchildren: Haileigh (7), Adrian (5), Cody (3), Sarah (2), Kieran (2 months
Location: Nestleton / Toronto, Ontario
Always wanted children: Yes
Process to becoming a parent: Conceived two children during marriage to wife, came out as gay at age 45 when children were young adults
Advice or insight for other parents: “You have to make things happen. Someone’s not going to do it for you.”
Favorite playtime activity with grandchildren: Legos, trains, movies, and tablet games
Grandkids call him: Papa
Grandkids call his partner: Nonno (Italian for grandfather)
The dialogue exchange between Richard and his son Morgan who – at the time, a college student – was finding out for the first time that his father identified as gay. “We were actually in the car when I told him,” described Richard from the floor of his living room in Nestleton, Canada, recalling the decade-old conversation. Morgan was actually the last person in the immediate family to hear this announcement from his father. “The first person I told was my dog,” explained Richard “it was like an explosion went off in my head.” At 45, His wife of 26 years was the next to find out. “After I told my wife, it was much easier,” he explained. Easier, but still, he decided to wait till both children were out of high school before coming out to them. His daughter, Ashley, was just finishing high school when she was told. Her reaction? An accepting, “Get out of here! Really?! Good for you!”
“Actually, coming out was very easy for me,” added Richard. “[My kids] have seen how [coming out] has calmed me down. I used to always be an angry person. I didn’t know why I wasn’t happy before – now I do.” Even in our short time together it is hard to imagine the Richard he describes; someone the opposite of the positive and upbeat person I see before me. “I still get grumpy,” admits Richard “but doesn’t everyone?” A playful statement that I do feel resonates with the person before me.
Following his discovery and announcement, Richard had to make some difficult decisions about his life. His newfound understanding of himself was surely exciting and liberating, but also difficult to reconcile with his current life. “Even after I found out I was gay I was going to stay with [my wife] for the rest of my life. The only thing we really fought about was money. It wasn’t a fantastic life, but it was an okay life. I did it for 26 years; what was another 15-20,” Richard professed. He and his wife did stay together for a time, but eventually separated.
He currently enjoys life with his partner of 11 years who has requested to remain anonymous. The two met at a weekend retreat for bears not long after Richard came out. The pair are not married due in part to Richard still being legally married to his wife as well as his partner’s decision not to go public about his lifestyle. There is no doubt, however, that they are both comfortable with this arrangement and very committed to each other.
“I just had to have [him], and I do,” Richard beams, recalling how the two first got together. The pair manage to see each other regularly despite the fact that they are often apart. His partner lives and works in the Toronto area while Richard spends most of his time in Nestleton so he can be closer to his kids and grandkids. “If I could, I would keep them here all the time, but they have their own lives,” says Richard wistfully about his time at the lake house with his children and grand children. It’s clear he loves being father and grandfather.
When asked about whether he always wanted to be a parent Richard wasted no time responding with, “Oh yea! I love kids!” He continued on to say, “It’s always something I wanted to do. Even after my daughter was born I considered having more but I thought – no, I can wait for grandchildren.” A decision that ultimately proved to be in his favor as his wife was less involved with the child rearing duties, even leaving him to vacation with the children alone. It was clear he was responsible for a lot of their needs without assistance.
With his grandchildren, Richard, who goes by ‘Papa’ to the kids – finds himself in a different situation. He does have backup. Not just in his own children, but also in his partner, who the kids affectionately call ‘Nono’ – Italian for granddad. “He loves the children. I think he loves them more than I do,” Richard chuckles while talking about co-grandparenting. “He spoils them rotten where as I have rules,” Richard continues, “He’s quite happy with the rules, but he’s happier spoiling them.”
Don’t let Richard fool you, he spoils his grandchildren, too, in his own way. Up in the attic of the lake house Richard has built the children a game room. “They can go up there and play Legos and trains and whatever else,” Richard says with enthusiasm. The kids also like movies and tablet games, leading to copious reminders about sharing, especially during Christmas when the family all get together each year.
Christmas hijinks with two gay grandparents is not a crazy pitch for a gay-interest film, it’s a reality that Richard and I both know will only become more common place with time. The nice thing about the pair having been together for 11 years is that the grandkids have grown up seeing them as a united same-sex couple. “To my knowledge, none of them have questioned it. Maybe when they’re older they will,” Richard says with a frankness that seems to come from a certainty that they will, and a security that their questioning will have no effect on the love between them.
His advice for others is dispensed straight from the vessel of his own experience. “I really wish I had known who I was sooner,” Richard shares. “You have to make things happen,” he says with confidence, “someone’s not gonna do it for you.” Of course, he’s right. The sentiment feels so nice to say it becomes easy to forget that in reality ‘making things happen’ can be as hard or scary as it is potentially rewarding and fulfilling. Richard’s reward for ‘making things happen’ is said through a grin, “My kids love me more now than they ever have; because I’m happy.”