Retracing My Steps
Author's note: Originally, this was going to be my submission for the reconciliation contest. But I couldn't seem to make it long enough, so it just is what it is. If you like it, make sure you leave a comment!
You can go home again, no matter what the old saying says.
Sometimes, its just a longer trip than others.
And on occasion, you can get lost, especially when you havent been in your home town in decades, which is why I was sitting by the side of a road looking at a map trying to figure out where I needed to go.
I had some time off work, my ex had my daughter, so I decided to take the opportunity to go for a drive, and without really even thinking about it, I found myself on the highway toward the city where I had spent most of my childhood.
I wasn’t really prepared for how much it had changed, almost as much as I had.
Last time I had entered these city limits I was going to college, and I had my life ahead of me.
And I was a boy.
Since then I had a lot of frustrations and failures before I realized I’d never be happy until I dealt with my fundamental problem - I felt more like a girl than a guy on the inside.
Now, after some early struggles, I had made enough headway that I had no problem going out in a skirt and felt closer to whole than I ever had, and it gave me the strength to make this journey, to revisit my past.
I put the map away, and sighed. I now kind of knew where I was, but I needed to figure out where I wanted to go, or rather, which order I wanted to tackle things.
I could start at the last place I lived while I was here, and work my way backward, or I could start with the first place I had lived, and work forward.
I flipped a coin, it came up tails, and so I headed for the spot where my time in this city began.
“Time to see dear old dad. Should be able to find him. Its not like he moves....”
The grave was indeed where I remembered it to be.
It seemed somehow strange to walk into the graveyard on a sunny summer day, instead of visiting it in a fog, or under a full moon, but there I was walking across the green grass, go up a gentle hill, and there it was.
I looked down at the simple headstone that marked my father’s resting place, and I began to talk to him.
“Guess what? Its a girl!” I did a little twirl to show my new-made curves.
“I wonder what you would have thought about me transitioning. I hope you’d be okay with me being your daughter, but the military isnt exactly the home of a lot of free thinkers.”
“But even if you struggled with it, even if you hated it, I’d still rather you be here.”
I put the small bouquet of flowers beside the headstone, straightened up, and turned to walk away.
I didnt really lose it until I got back to my car.
Having female hormones flowing through me wasnt a totally new experience, but I still got caught off-guard by how much I cried, great sobs for longer than I thought possible, even when no more tears would flow I couldnt regain control for several minutes.
Eventually I drove over to a small washroom station built for visitors, and went in and fixed my makeup before I felt human enough to go to my next stop - the small house we had moved into after burying my father.
It wasnt the nicest neighborhood in the city, but it wasnt a slum, it was a nice, clean, middle-class area, with school inside of walking distance. It sat on a bit of a hill with a gravel back road that ran from the back door, a road I had an unpleasant encounter with the first time I tried to ride a bike.
Went to school the next day with the dried blood still on my face, and still nobody noticed anything was wrong with me.
Just like they never seemed to notice the struggle inside over my gender.
I drive a little further, and pass the house of my aunt.
We havent spoken in more than a decade, ever since my grandmother’s death drove a wedge between the members of my family.
So she has no idea I’m transitioning.
I consider stopping, but decide against it. I have miles to go before I sleep, as the poem says.
I’m going to need all the strength i have for what’s next.
Chapter 2 - My journey continues.
I make my way through a couple of other neighborhoods I spent time in, but not pausing long. Finally I came to the last place I lived in before I left this town behind me.
Its a beautiful house, but it was ugly to live here. My step-father’s abuse of alcohol pretty much made sure of that, and his mental and physical abuse of us sealed the deal, until one by one, we all left him behind.
And never looked back, until me, right now.
I wasnt sure he was still here, last I heard he had cancer so its possible he left here, or even died.
But I had the urge to know, if I could, so I went up to the door and rang the bell.
A pretty young Filipino girl answered it, and I said, “i’m ... sorry. I was looking for Ken Carter.”
“Mr. Carter is very ill, and only family can see him.”
“Well, he was married to my mother for about ten years. Maybe I’m not family, but he was a big part of my life, and I would like to see him.”
“Mr. Carter has told me about his second marriage, and he mentioned there were two boys. He never mentioned there being a daughter.”
“That’s because I was a boy at the time. I’m the youngest. My name then was Thomas. I... I go by Debera now.”
She looked at me from head to foot, as if looking for clues that I used to be male.
She directed me to a comfortable chair, and then went to where the master bedroom was. A few moments later she came back, and led me to his door.
I stepped in, and there he was, in the bed.
If I had changed since I had last seen him, he had changed almost as much. Gone was the muscular man who made me so afraid as a child, and now all there was left was an old man, turning yellow from liver damage, and I lost every resentment I held in me at that moment.
“Hello. Do I ... know you?” He said.
“Kind of. You helped raise me. But I’ve changed a lot since then. Last time we saw each other, I went by Thomas.”
“Son of a ...So what do you want? To gloat at my death?”
“No. Actually I wanted to ... apologise. I was a pretty mixed up kid, it couldn’t have been easy to try and raise me. I... I’m sorry.”
He swore, and then said, “You’re sorry? Dam it, I’m the one who should be sorry. I had blown it with my own kids, and God gave me another chance with you and your brother and I blew it again!”
“God? You were an atheist.”
“No. you dont hate something you dont believe in. And I hated God, enough to try and hurt him by saying he didnt exist.” He sighed. “And all I did was hurt myself, and everyone around me. Can you forgive me?”
“Already did. “
He spread his arms, and I took the invite and gave him a gentle hug.
“So ... you became a girl, huh?”
“Yeah. Go by Debera now.”
“Suits you. You look good.”
That got him another hug.
We talked for a bit, and then his nurse came in and said, “Its time Mr. Carter had a rest now.”
I said, I’ll come back if I can.”
He gave me a sad smile and said, “Better hurry. I’ve got maybe a couple months left, according to the docs.”
I wiped the tears from my face, and left.
On my way to the door, the nurse came up to me, and said, “This was good for him. Thank you for coming.”
“Thank you for letting me see him. I.. wanted to lay some ghosts to rest.”
She gave me a hug, and said “I hope you managed that.”
I made my goodbyes, and then left the house.
I sat in my car a while, wondering what I should do now. My life back home awaited me, but I still had a few hours before I would have to be on the road, and it occurred to me to at least try and make a reconciliation with my aunt, having had the success of dealing with my stepfather as an example of how good it can be to put those old hurts to rest.
I pulled over, and called my mother who still had her phone number.
A short time later, I was on the calling her number, and when she answered, I said, “Its Thomas. I ... have some things to share with you, if you’re free.”
“We have a lot to talk about.....”
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