So you’re going to be 21 years old this summer. I’d consider that a milestone for any young man or woman, Mike, but certainly for you. It was a life-changing year, to say the least.

I remember how amazed Daddy and I were when the doctor held you up and announced, “A strapping nine-pound boy!” You were beautiful, strong and healthy, perfect in every way. At your six-week checkup, the pediatrician noticed something special about you. “He has a wise look about him,” he said. “A thinker!” We laughed as I told him how perceptive he was, because six weeks earlier when Daddy came upstairs to tell me it was time to bring you down for the brit milah, you picked your head up off my shoulder and looked into my eyes so deeply that I truly felt you knew what was about to happen.

Over the years, you grew into a sensitive and caring child. You could wrestle and roughhouse with the best of them, but somehow you seemed different to me. Always the observer, you seemed content to sit quietly while other kids ran around energetically. Even when we encouraged you to join in the fun, you always listened to your own heart and went at your own pace.

High school was an exciting time for you. National Honor Society, the Derek M. Sheckman Teen Leadership Award, top English student, Brown University Book Award, Cohen Family Scholarship, etc. You were loved by all your teachers and had lots of friends. As you went off to college, you seemed so excited and ready to try your wings. We all knew there would be great things ahead. When you came home from college for winter break in your sophomore year, you asked if we could have some time to talk. As we sat at the lighthouse in Marblehead, you turned to me to announce the big news. “Mom, I’m gay.” My heart pounded so hard I thought it would burst. “It’s true,” I thought to myself. “I always suspected this, and now he’s actually saying the words.” But as I looked deeply into your eyes, I saw something that hadn’t been there before. Peace, happiness and contentment. And I knew all along that my heart had told me the truth.

You had been suffering from within, experiencing inner turmoil that I can only begin to imagine. Now, finally freed from the suffering and confusion that had held you prisoner for so long, your skin was clear, your eyes sparkled and you glowed from within.

“How long have you known, Mike?” I asked.

“I should have known when I was in the sixth grade, but I guess I didn’t recognize what it was,” you said.

(Courtesy photo)
(Courtesy photo)

We sat and reminisced about who you were as a child, how unique and wonderful you had always been and continue to be. Yes, you said, you had told your brother and sister, and they had been so happy for you. I would have expected nothing less from siblings as wonderful as yours. You are all blessed with a truly special relationship. You had joined a support group at school, you said, and as you told me the horror that some of your gay friends had experienced with their families, I began to cry. A father threw his son out on the street and broke his arm after hearing that his son was gay. Another family disowned their son and told him not to come home. Yet another was wiling to have their son come home as long as he didn’t talk about his “gay life” to any of his friends or family. This was too much to comprehend. Here I sat with my youngest son, adored by his family and friends unconditionally, and I thought, “How can you stop loving someone just because your own dreams for him are not the same dreams he has for himself?”

Daddy and I pray that you will be safe in this crazy world where people can be so unforgiving and judgmental. But how can we not love you?  We understand that this is not a choice you made, and if anything, we are responsible for your genetic make-up. Would it have been easier on all of us if you had been heterosexual? Of course. But we don’t believe that the God we pray to could ever not love you, the epitome of everything good in this world that is made in God’s image.

So, Mike, as your 21st birthday approaches this summer, Daddy and I wanted to give you something that would make a difference in your life. That is why we are starting a support group right here on the North Shore for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals and their families. You are a continuous source of pride and strength for us, a true role model, as we see how brave and proud you are as you embrace the future. We know that there are families out there who are suffering, and we would like to be able to help.

So happy birthday, Mike! God has given Daddy and me the privilege of bringing you into this world, and we have always been proud to say that we are your parents. We promise we will always be here for you.  In our eyes, you truly exemplify the meaning of your name, “Michael, one who is like God.”

Originally published in the Jewish Journal.

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