Thirty Years of Notes to My Son

Guest Post by Dean Tingey

Age – 1 week

Dear Son,

I love you so much.  I can’t believe you are here.  After losing two babies during pregnancy, your mother and I feel so blessed to have you in our home.

You probably know that I did not spend much time around babies.  That is what happens when you are the youngest child in the family.  I was afraid babies would break.  That is why holding you this morning was so beautiful and bonding for me.  You fit in my arms.  You fit against my body.  You fit me.  You are my son.

I thank your birth mother and father for letting you go to come to our home.  People cannot believe how similar we look.  We know the agency tried to match some physical characteristics of your birth parents with mom and my families, but even I am surprised that you look like me.

Babies change as they grow.  It does not matter if you look like me in the future.  Appearance does not create a bond.  Holding you and looking into your eyes created the bond.

I don’t have any expectation of what I want you to be.  I don’t know you well enough to give you suggestions on future hobbies, careers, likes, or dislikes.  I want you to be you.

I will always try to be the best father that I can be.  I love you, my son.  I will always love you.

Love, Dad

P.S.  We will keep the cats out of your crib.  Please stay out of their litter box.


Age – almost 3 years

Dear Son,

It has been a while since I last wrote.  I have been too busy learning how to be a dad, being with you in the hospital, watching you grow, enjoying every minute as you learn to eat and drink and walk and run.  Mom and I really appreciate that you finally learned about potty training.

I am writing because I saw you do something today that I could never do.  You were spread out on the floor in front of the television.  I don’t recall which cartoon you were watching, but you drew the character free-handed, perfectly.  I could never do that when I was young, nor can I do it today.

We have a great time being together whether it is at home or on vacation.  I know you are excited about next year’s trip to Disneyland.  Please let me know before we reach the rest area if you need to stop instead of two minutes after we have passed the rest area.

I think we will probably have different lives.  I don’t think you would like the business world that I live in. I can’t replicate in my late twenties what you can draw before you even start school   That is fine with me.  I want you to be yourself.

I am trying to be the best father I can be.  I love you, my son.  I will always love you.

Love, Dad

P.S.  Thank you for learning to not pull the tails of the two cats.

Age 6

Dear Son,

Congratulations on your two pet kittens.  This has been a fun year with our trip to Disney World, the annual passes to the water park, and the new kitties.

Thanks for telling Mom and me what you would like if we adopt a little sister.  We realize that you said to make it a boy.  We don’t know what will happen, but we know you will be a great older brother if another child is able to join our family.

We love you.  We are not trying to replace you.  No one can take your place in our hearts.

Love, Dad

P.S.  The orange kitten really loves being with you.  I think he will be a friend for a long time.


Age 9

Dear Son,

I love you.  You probably don’t’ believe me.  I know you are mad that I moved you and mom across the country.  I hope someday that you will understand.  Things change.  Jobs change.  Friends change.  Most of your close friends from the old neighborhood already moved.  The others will be gone by next year.

The past year or so has been very hard.  It especially hurt when the last adoption fell through.  We go in cycles.  Sometimes we are happy.  Sometimes we are sad.

I hope you know that I always love you.  I hope you will meet and make new friends.  I am glad that you let mom and me go with your class on the trip to the mountains.  I hope we did not embarrass you too much.  I guess we did not since you want us to go with your class to Williamsburg next year.

I am trying to be the best dad I can be.  I love you, my son.  I will always love you.

Love, Dad

P.S. Thank you for remembering to feed the cats and to change their litter.  I am glad the orange one is such a good friend.


Age 12

Dear Son,

I can’t believe how much fun we have had lately.  I feel so good when we are together.  The cruise and the trips to Disney World were nice, but what made me the happiest was just being with you.  Thanks for your patience since I needed to stop for twice as many rest areas as you needed.

It is so good to see how happy you are.  I have one concern.  Please do not compare your grades in middle school to the grades I received in high school.  It took me a long time to learn how to be a good student in the academic sense.  I never learned to be a good student in the artistic sense.

Let us know some of the things you would like to do so you can use your artistic talent when you are on your own.   I don’t expect you to follow my business career.  I hope you can do something with your art.

You are a wonderful son.  I have loved you since the first day that I saw you.  I am trying to be the best dad I can be.  I love you, my son.  I will always love you.

Love, Dad

P.S.  Please remember to change the cat’s litter each day.  The orange one gets especially vocal when the box does not meet his expectations.


Age 18

Dear Son,

Your mother loves you.  I love you.  Mom and I no longer love each other.  I know you are afraid that some day we will not love you.

We are doing all we can do to not let our differences come between us and you.  Yes, the relationships will be different, but we are committed to not put you in the middle.  It’s hard.  I never expected to be divorced.

I have learned that my primary personality type is solitary.  Maybe this is for the best.  I also learned that your primary personality type is idiosyncratic.  You do not see the rules of the world the way that I see them.  I will try to be more patient the next time you lose the truck registration form.

There is more I am still learning about myself.  Even though I am learning about me, that does not in any way lessen my love for you.  I am trying to be the best divorced dad I can be.  I love you, my son.  I love you.

Love, Dad

P.S.  The cats miss you, especially the orange one.  I miss you.


Age 19

Dear Son,

I love you.  I told you that as soon as you told me your news.  I told you again.  I don’t know how many times I told you.  I think you got the message.

It did not really surprise me.  I’ve had an idea the past few years.  I love you.  I know gay people who are happy and have good lives.  I want you to be happy and gay.  I am glad that you thought I would be fine with your news.

I guess the most surprising thing was when I said your boyfriend could come by here at home.  You said you are happy together.  I want to know this person who makes you happy.

There is more I have to say, but it can wait for another day.  I am trying to be the best dad I can be.  I love you, my gay son. I love you.

Love, Dad

P.S.  I am glad that you like my new dog.  Hopefully you will learn to like the three new cats.  The orange one keeps them in line.


Age 20

Dear Son,

I told you there was more to say last year.  I was not ready to tell you back then that I, too, am gay.  Thank you for listening to my news.  Thanks you, also, for understanding why I have decided to not come out and why I have decided to stay single.  Thank you, finally, for agreeing to keep this confidential.

Maybe I will change my mind some day.  I doubt it.  After all, I am solitary and you are idiosyncratic.  I am not upset that you lost the truck registration form, again.  I think it is kind of funny.  Thank you for going ahead and paying for the duplicate registration.

I am trying to be the best in the closet gay dad that I can be.  I love you, my son.  I love you.

Love, Dad

P.S.  Thanks for walking the dog and feeding and scooping the litter for the six cats.  It does not seem like fourteen years have passed since the orange one joined the family.


Age 24

Dear Son,

This is the hardest letter I have ever written.  I normally don’t criticize the clothes you wear, but you do not look good in an orange jail suit.

Driving you to the different counties where you had to go to resolve your offenses was pure hell.   Our anger for each other was suffocating.  For the first time in my life, I wondered why I had failed as your father.

The part that hurt the most was when you blasted into me about not living my authentic life while your life was better because it was authentic.  I thought it was an interestingly infuriating contrast – you, having to depend on me to get you out of jail and drive you around to various counties – criticizing the life I was living.  I may not be authentic in your opinion, but at least I have a damn drivers’ license.

But once I got over the anger, I had to concede that you have a valid point.  I was angrier with myself that I was with you when I found out you were in jail.  And as upset and angry as I am about the legal shit, I admire you for being who you are.  I admire you for not being embarrassed that you are gay.

Please be patient with me.  I will be more patient with you.  I’ll stop swearing.  I’ve sworn more in the past two weeks than I have in the previous twenty years.  I am sorry.

You have to pay for the consequences of your mistakes.  But you are still my son.  I will always be there for you.  I am trying to be the best dad I can be.  I love you, my son.  I love you.

Love, Dad

P.S.  It has been a hard year since the orange tabby died.  Our other pets have helped fill the void.  I think your dog is great even if she is a Pit Bull.  She is cute, even if my dog and six cats do not like her.  I am sorry that my deaf cat scared your Pit Bull and cornered her in the basement.


Age 28

Dear Son,

It was so good to be with you.  It was so good to bring you home from the hospital.  I have not been that scared for you since you were six months old and had to be hospitalized the evening before the court hearing to legalize you adoption.

There were so many similarities between then and now.  Both times the doctors knew part of what was wrong, but something important was missing.  Both times you were admitted, released, and re-admitted.  Both times it tore at my heart to see all the tubes going in your body.  Finally, it exhausted me to see how many times they thought they had the answer, only to find out they were wrong.

You are right.  You were a more pleasant patient when you were six months old.  If you knew how to swear at that age, at least I did not understand what you were saying.

I hope you will forgive me for intervening and forcing the issue about the doctors on the two teams not talking with each other.  Things improved once the nurse realized what was going on.  You were very angry with me, but I could not sit back any longer with doctors on two teams who were taking conflicting and contradictory approaches.

I think you have forgiven me.  At least that is how I felt when we returned to your apartment after my last dinner with you.  I don’t recall you ever giving such heartfelt thanks.  You said you would never be able to make it up to me.  I cried on my way back to the hotel.

We have been through so much together.  Much of it has been wonderful, and some of it has been substantially less than wonderful.  I don’t always understand you.  You don’t always understand me.  But I feel that we have always loved each other.

I am still your dad.  I am trying to be the best dad I can be.  I love  you, my son.  I love you.  I love you.  I love you.

Love, Dad

P.S.  You were right that I would not get mugged when I walked the dogs through the alley after midnight.  A Pit Bull and a Newfoundland are effective deterrents, even if they are as sweet as can be.  My two dogs and six cats were happy for me to get back home.

P.P.S.  Different Views is an illustrated version of the above incident.


Age 29

Dear Son,

Four months ago you told me you could never make it up to me.  You were wrong.  I needed you last week after grandma died.  Thank you for being there with me.

Your remarks were wonderful.  I know you were scared.  You probably are the first gay tattoo artist with a pierced nose who has spoken at a funeral in that ward.  The bishop knew you loved your grandma and she loved you.  He liked what you said.

I love you, my son. I love you.  I love you.  I love you.

Love, Dad

P.S.  The third dog did not work out.  I found him a great home.  Two dogs and six cats are enough.


Age 30

Dear Son,

I love you.  Have I told you that before?  I think I have.  I will say it again.  I love you.

Thank you for understanding that people change their minds.  Thank you for accepting that I finally decided to come out.  Thank you for wishing me well on my search for a partner.

Thanks for answering my questions.  I am trying to figure out what it means to live as an out gay man.  It is a different world that I do not understand. This role reversal is strange, you being the teacher and me being the student.

You are an example to me.  You are a good person.  You are a loving person.  It is nice to have someone to look to as a good example, especially when he is my son.

I loved being with you in your new place on the peninsula.  You scared me several times as you talked about responsibility, yard care, and budgeting.  It is strange for me to see you becoming me.  I hope it won’t be too weird for you to see me becoming you.

We are more alike than I ever realized.   I thought I lost the new registration card for my car.  I found it two days before the sticker expired.  I have not changed that much.

I am still trying to be the best dad I can be.  I love you, my son.  I have always loved you.  I will always love you.  I love you.  I love you.  I love you.

Love, Dad

P.S.  I am glad your new Labrador puppy came while I was there.  It was fun to watch her play and hold her own with her two older sisters.  I don’t understand why you have so many pets.  My five cats and two dogs were happy to see me come home.


This above was prompted last year by two different posts.  One was the actual letter of a father disowning his gay son.  The other was the letter of a father-to-be to his hypothetical gay son.

These are not actual notes to my son.  They give an accurate overview of our relationship.  The incidents and pet counts are accurate.  The ages are pretty close, but I may be off by a year in some cases.

I did not publish this when it was written.  I read it in my local writers group which indirectly made me come out to the group.  I wrote about that experience in this post titled Writing Risk.

My son and his partner will be visiting this week so I decided to post these notes.  They will meet the man I have fallen in love with for the first time.  We are excited and nervous.  I wonder what notes there will be to write over the next thirty years.

Dean Tingey lives and blogs from North Carolina. He has one child. His father said Dean had a restless mind. Variations of “Restless Mind” were already taken by other bloggers. Since Dean is a person and a noun is a person, place, or thing, he named the blog A Restless Noun. His writings and photography focus on people, pets, places, things, and thoughts. He is gay. That is a topic in many but not all of his postings.