First Person: The Gift

(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
Brettany Renée Blatchley
Brettany Renée Blatchley

By Brettany Renée Blatchley
LGBT Perspectives contributor

ASHEVILLE, North Carolina — Life goes on whatever our place and circumstances: love, joy, pain and loss all seem to join hands as sisters.

My father in-law is named Bill; 25 years ago we met when I asked for the hand of his youngest daughter in marriage. Bill is 88 and in the point in his Alzheimer’s where he can barely eat, hardly moves and rarely makes a recognizable utterance. We love Bill, one of the smartest and kindest people I have ever met. His wife Barbara, a bit younger, faithfully cares for him with the help of a full-time, at-home nurse. We think that this will be our last Christmas with Pop and one of our last with Mom…

…These recent years, I have kept a low profile around Pop as Mom has gradually witnessed me transition. I am the same person, only different: always as much a daughter-in-law as I was a son, maybe more: now I look, sound and behave more a daughter than their own daughter, my spouse…

Pop’s mind has been declining for years, though he was a much sought-after engineer until his retirement at 78 – his work probably saved a LOT of lives, but only God knows.

…I never told Bill that I am transgender and that I needed to become myself: a woman. He has known me as the one he entrusted to love and help his baby daughter through all her life-long illnesses. I never introduced him to Brettany, to Renée: I did not want to make his confused days even more difficult. So I smiled, spoke and touched gently, and helped move, bathe and change him. He has asked about me by speaking my old name as a question, but not to me…I held back my name even as I lovingly spoke his…

…It has become our tradition to set up and take down the Christmas decorations in their home, started because this was the one thing Mom & Pop bickered about. It has always brought us joy to do this for them. This year was a bit different: We filled the tree with ornaments, and as usual, some odd dozen or three ornaments didn’t “make the cut” and get placed onto the tree…we admired the tree’s beauty and everyone left to other things. BUT I “heard” the voices of those ornaments that were left and they tugged on my heart. Use us also!! We’ve been faithful too!! This may be Bill’s last Christmas on earth, and it seemed that ALL of these small, faithful ones wanted their place of honor on what might be a final tree. So I carefully and tearfully placed each one, even the broken ones, the overlooked ones, the “unpresentable” ones…and they were all there. And the family returned and rejoiced at how much more grand the tree looked this year…

…We take turns handing out presents, and slowly open each present as everyone watches on, enjoying the sparks of joy given and received…

Last year Bill was “home” in himself enough to participate after a fashion – he didn’t seem to really know us, but he could still smile and laugh and interact with us. For most of this year, no one has been “home” in Bill’s body.

…Our eyes met, Bill’s and mine, and I smiled and then SUDDENLY his face lit and Bill was *HOME*, and he smiled his “Bill” smile in recognition and then *WINKED* at me as I began to clear new-fallen tears. No words were spoken: none were needed, as his face seemed to say: “I *know* you; I *trust* you; it’s *all* okay.” Then as suddenly, the lights turned off and the “home” was vacant again…

…And nobody else among us seemed to witness the miracle of the gift given and received.

[Originally published at GracefullyTrans.]

  • First Person articles feature narratives about personal LGBT-related issues and experiences.

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