My full name is Ulysses Grant Dietz, and I bear that name because of my father. Now, you understand, my given names are those of my mother’s father—Ulysses S. Grant III. But I got those names because my father, whose name was John, would do anything to please my mother. My mother, Julia, was the youngest of three daughters born to a proud military man, and I was (supposedly) the last of eleven grandchildren. It had always been seen as a shame that my mother was a girl, the last chance for General Grant (yes, three generations of generals, like his father and his famous grandfather) to have a son bearing his name.
So in recompense for not being a son, my mother wanted to name me for her father, and my father happily agreed to it, merely suggesting that it might be wiser to call me “Grant” and to see if I grew into the “Ulysses” later on (as I did, at fifteen). My dad was right, as he was about so many things.
In the gay romance novels I read all the time (and, for that matter, in the two I’ve written), fathers all too often seem to be absent or hostile. In the farcical novel I just finished last night, Rat Bastard by Stephen Osborne, the father is long gone, replaced by an evil homophobic stepfather.
In the latest of TJ Klune’s marvelous overwrought novels, The Art of Breathing, Bear and Ty’s father is also long gone, and it is Bear’s challenge to become the father that Ty has never had. In my own books, Desmond Beckwith has a father, a loving and devoted father; but as a vampire Desmond outlives him by centuries, and has to continually become his own father in order to maintain the cover for his immortality.
However, in the last book I reviewed for Prism, The Rekindling of Love by Derrick Knight, I was happy to see that most of the fathers are not only present, but supportive of their gay sons (with one notable, unhappy exception, which just makes the other dads’ goodness all the better by contrast). Knight gives us a small-town America in which fathers nurture and care for (and constantly embarrass) their sons no matter who they are or who they love. Knight’s book is flawed, but I loved his fathers.
When I was about ten years old, in the early 1960s, a psychiatrist who had been giving various intelligence and psychological tests to me and my little brother reported to my parents that I was likely going to be homosexual when I grew up, and (this is the kicker) that there was nothing they could do about it other than be supportive and keep an eye on me.
Of course I knew nothing about this, but in retrospect I can see that my father indulged me in ways that most “Leave it to Beaver” dads would never have done. He never criticized or belittled me for my sissy ways as they emerged; he encouraged my love of art and objects and pretty things. He never forced me to play sports except as a basic element of fitness and to a minimal degree (i.e. tennis lessons every summer). He let me be myself.
And when I came out to my parents, in 1976, my father wrote the sweetest, most loving letter, assuring me that his love was unconditional and that my boyfriend (now my husband of 38 years) would be welcome into our family.
My father lived long enough to see my husband and me become fathers in our own right, twenty years after I came out to him, in a world dramatically different from the one into which I was born in 1955. He was not a perfect man, but he always made sure I knew he loved me, and that has made a world of difference in my life.
© 2014 Ulysses Grant Dietz
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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