My father died earlier this month. He was old, 86, but his death wasn’t expected any time soon. Before his diagnosis, he was still going to the gym several times a week, and, along with his wife, was starting a new chapter in his life. They’d just relocated to Seattle’s high-tech neighbor, Bellevue, Washington. They were excited to be able to walk to the local movie theater and to all the great restaurants. But things didn’t turn out that way.
There was a tumor on his liver, then another; they grew fast, metastasized, which is how I found myself in Bellevue with my two brothers. I have a sister too, but she had yet to arrive, leaving me with just the brothers, who, to respect their privacy, I will refer to as Older Brother and Younger Brother.
My brothers and I are not close. Or weren’t before my father summoned us to his hospice bedside. When my parents divorced in the mid-seventies, our family more or less blew apart. Which is not to say I didn’t love my brothers, or that they didn’t love me; I just want you to understand that our getting together was an anomaly.
Older Brother is in construction; Younger Brother went the military route before settling into a job with the IRS. Unlike the rest of our family, he’s found comfort in Christianity, but he doesn’t push it. (Good on him.) My point being, the three of us couldn’t be more different, except politically. Turns out we all voted Hillary. Go figure. They are both allegedly accepting of my sexuality, but I’m pretty sure Younger Brother’s God tells him I’m going to hell, though he’s never said as much. As for Older Brother, I can’t imagine his circle of friends includes anyone gay. If so, he’s never mentioned it.
So there we were, Day One of the Bellevue Visit with nothing to do between the hours of 10AM and 4PM when my father asked to be left alone to rest. As neither of my brothers had ever visited the area, I suggested we check out Pikes Place Market. I thought it would give them a taste of the area and its residents. We were all in shock, moving through the world like zombies. Our father was dying. What did that mean? What should we do?
We took Older Brother’s rental car: a blue Yaris I affectionately called Blueberry, a nickname neither of my brothers adopted—no matter how many times I repeated it. Once we’d crossed the bridge into Seattle, led by Sacagawea, my trusty GPS (Okay, so I like naming inanimate objects, what of it?), we began noticing bucket loads of fabulously dressed people. At first, I thought it was just Seattle being Seattle then realized it was more than that. It was Gay Pride! How could I have not known? (Bad lesbian!)
What’s more, the parade route ran between us and Pikes Place Market. We were going to have to park on one side and trot between floats of scantily clad, gyrating men and women to get to the other.
Seattle Pride is huge! To me, it seemed as big as San Francisco Pride, which I have attended on occasion, but which I usually avoid. I’m not a big crowd person, preferring our hokey Santa Cruz pride where librarians wow the onlookers by pushing colorfully decorated library carts in formation, and people dress up their dogs. But this was huge! The floats blaring! Hundreds of thousands of spectators! And they were dressed in rainbows, had their strollers decorated in rainbows, their dogs; there were rainbow flags, rainbow bras, rainbow beads, rainbow boxers, rainbow painted faces, rainbow painted butt-cheeks. My tribe was on brilliant display! A part of me, though, couldn’t help but see it through brothers’ eyes. Was the display a little too brilliant? Was it, God forbid, foolish? The timing didn’t help. From hospice bedside to raucous parade: it was a hard transition to make. And now, it seemed, the focus had switched from my dad to me, the gay sister.
Or had it? I realized my brothers probably felt like the spotlight had turned on them. They were the outsiders. Not me. I assured them that not everyone who attends gay pride parades is gay. I explained that some people were there simply to show solidarity for a gay loved one—a gay sister, for instance. This lightened the mood considerably. I explained that it was an important year for the LGBT community, and that the current administration, Mike Pence, in particular, was a real threat, that he believed in conversion therapy, told them about a kind of brainwashing therapy that has proven to be quite damaging to the recipient. Younger Brother looked horrified, said: “Well, we don’t believe in that at my church; we just pray for you.” I kept myself from saying that I prayed for him and his people too. Under the circumstances, it seemed unnecessary. Besides, he seemed to be getting a kick out of the parade and how happy everyone was. I didn’t want to come off all snippy.
Still, my feeling was to move along and get us to Pikes Place Market. I’d been to plenty of gay pride parades. I wanted to talk to my brothers, wanted to mourn my dad. I steeled myself to herd us through the crowd and across the street: Moses parting the waters. To my surprise, Older Brother said, “Since we’re here, we might as well watch a little.” Which we did; they, more than me. A good foot shorter than both of them, I couldn’t see shit. Still, I cheered as T-Mobile, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, Alaska Airlines, REI, tons of churches and other civic organizations all supposedly streamed past. But they weren’t the big deal for me. Standing there with my brothers was. Once we’d made it to the other side, Big Brother shook his head and laughed. “I really have to get out more!” Younger Brother laughed and nodded. This made me ridiculously happy.
I have just one regret about that day. When we did finally scoot across the street, I missed the opportunity to take a photo of the two of them essentially in the parade. I would have loved to have shown it to my dad. It would have made him laugh.