I shuffled through my list of improbable or fascinating potential inhabitants, and since it was unlikely that either Britney Spears or Bill Clinton would relocate to Trucksville, Pa., I came up blank.
"A gay couple."
Definitely not on my list, I quipped, "Well Dad, their yard will always look nice."
Having learned that an old man's mind should be allowed to open at its own pace, I withheld my views on acceptance and tolerance. With the exception of a few years in an apartment in the nearby town of Forty-Fort and a stint in the war, he had spent his entire life on the same block. He could admit change or quietly live alongside it with benign indifference. I decided to leave it up to him.
Nine years have passed since Wade Shaw and Jim Hawk took up residence on Vonderheid St., causing not even the slightest stir. A close knit community, I was fortunate to have my father surrounded by wonderful friends as I tried to manage his care from 3 hours away. Watchful eyes surveyed the house, monitoring the safety of the lonely old man within. Wade and Jim joined the team, sending down food and paying friendly visits. Sexual orientation was not at the table as my father and Wade would trade car stories and discuss the history of the local yokels. Just two regular guys "shooting the shit", as Dad would so elegantly say.
Firmly believing that no one should be alone on the holidays, Wade and Jim welcomed my father to their table, where he was treated to the warmth of family and the comfort of delicious food. I began a tradition of taking Dad up on Christmas Eve, as he was reticent to go alone after Mom's death. We shared laughs, exchanged presents, and gave new meaning to "Dad's night out with the boys".
My father didn't understand that being gay is not a choice. He was a "man's man" and held on tight to decades-old beliefs. Oftentimes, I would find myself wincing at my father's point of view on certain subjects, but he was remarkably low key in his assessment of his neighbors' lifestyle. As we walked back down to his house after a Christmas Eve visit, he started to speak and I fully expected a long overdue defamation. Instead he said, "Did you notice that those guys wear shorts and barefeet even in the winter? Now, that's pretty weird."
"Yeah," I answered. "That's pretty weird."