by Rev. Stephen R. Parelli. Bronx, New York. My same-sex spouse and I arrived late at church and took seats at the very back. We were coming from another church where we had just heard an excellent seminar on Black Liberation Theology. We were just on time to hear the minister ask all dads present to stand and be acknowledged by receiving a long-stem rose. It was Father's Day. I was one of only about five fathers who stood. This was a gay church with an average-size congregation. Earlier in the week I had received my first Father's Day card since my separation 12 years ago from my ex-wife. My first born, a daughter, was re-connecting with me for the first time. Her and her husband had gotten together with me and my husband on three separate occasions since Christmas. This was indeed a great Father's Day for me.
I held my long-stem white rose before me. The speaker told us to greet one another with an embrace. A young woman in her late twenties or early thirties, visiting for the first time and sitting across the aisle a person away from me, caught me eye and took a step toward me. I immediately thought to myself, "Let this young woman who is initiating this embrace stand in the place of my own three daughters on this special day. I will receive her hug as if it were given by my own daughters." She reached her arms up around my neck and tightly embraced me. I placed my arms around her in return. When I had released my embrace, I could still feel her arms tightly about my neck. I returned to my seat thinking I had never received so lingering an embrace like that before in church and I felt a bit awkward that I had not embraced her to the same extent that she had embraced me.
As the congregation stood to sing the next song, I was still feeling awkward. I whispered something inadequately to my spouse about the whole thing. As the congregation sung, I thought to myself, "Well self, you said it was going to be an embrace from your three daughters, so what's the problem! That's just what you got, a real daughter-father hug." And then like a bolt of lightening it struck me and tears immediately began to swell up in my eyes. "Perhaps," I thought, "she had said to herself, 'I will hug this man holding the white rose as if he were my father. I will let him stand in the place of my dad and I will throw my little girl arms around his strong neck and shoulders and receive his hug in return as if from my own father.' "
I no longer felt awkward. Instead, I felt as though we had ministered to each other, that we had each, on this Father's Day, experienced the same thing but from different end points: she, a lesbian daughter whose father was somehow "missing," and me, a gay dad whose children are not yet at home with the idea of having a queer father. My spouse put his arm around me, having noticed I was crying. "Its OK," I told him, "I'm alright." My thoughts were completely on the stranger who had held me so tightly, hoping that she, too, was alright on this Father's Day. Just like a dad to have caring thoughts for someone's daughter.