No Pictures. Only Words.

I don’t have any pictures of my father. I just realized that now, two days after he died sitting on a toilet in frigid fucking Edmonton, 2700 km from home. He was visiting my brother. He was supposed to be back by December 21st, we were going to go out for dinner before Christmas. But the stress of that journey kicked his state variable off whatever high, unstable equilibrium it had been teetering at these past months: sent it sliding down to some new low that just proved unsustainable. He fell ill the day after wheels-down, and never recovered.

He was 94. Nobody could claim he didn’t have a long life.

Nobody could claim he had a happy one, either.

He was a minister way back before I was born, but by the time I came onto the scene he’d already founded the Baptist Leadership Training School in Calgary and was serving as its first principal. He held that post for 22 years; then we moved east so he could become the General Secretary of the Baptist Convention of Ontario and Quebec. He held that position until he retired. Not your average Baptist preacher, my dad. A church leader. A scholar.

He was also gay, although he refused to use the word because “it’s brought me no joy at all”. He preferred the term “nonpracticing homosexual”. He never acted on it, you see. He spent his whole life hiding it. He only came out to Jon and I a few years ago, and even then it was only in extremis:  pulled from the clutches of an abusive wife whose dementia had demolished any thin façade of Christian charity, rescued too late to escape the welts and bruises and near-starvation she’d inflicted, still he was making excuses for her behavior. Your mother’s had a hard time of it, he told us. I haven’t been a proper husband. See what I am.

It’s my fault.

He did come out to Fanshun, the day after I was born in fact. Offered her a divorce. Think about that: a man of the cloth, a star in the Baptist firmament in the fifties-era bible belt of the Canadian prairies. Divorcing his wife. It would have been pitchforks and torches for sure, but he offered, and she turned him down: I’ll stay with you for the children, she said, and the job. She knew which side her bread was buttered on: in the Baptist community of that day, Dad was a rock star.

Why did you get married in the first place? I asked decades later. Why dig yourself into such a no-win scenario? I still don’t know if I believe his answer: because, he said, he thought he was alone in the world, that no other man on the planet might like a little cock now and then. Back when he married my mother, he had no idea what a homosexual even was. He’d never even heard the word.

Really. Ronald F. Watts, biblical scholar, Doctor of Divinity, a man who not only knows the scriptures inside-out but also taught them for two decades. What did you think Leviticus was going on about, huh? How could you possibly think you were unique when your own sacred book singled your kind out as an abomination to be killed?

He told me that he’d never read anything like that in Leviticus. He thought I was making it up. I had to dig out his own King James and point him to 20:13; even then, his reaction was one of confusion and disbelief. He was in his nineties now, and not as sharp as he’d once been — but I’m still astonished at the degree of cognitive dissonance that brain must have been able to support.

He never came close to the fire-and-brimstone stereotype of the Baptist preacher. He never had any trouble with evolution. He always encouraged me to ask questions and think for myself, so convinced of his own beliefs that he probably thought it inconceivable that any honest search could end up at a different destination. Closer to death he admitted to regretting that: “I have been a poor parent,” he wrote just back in November, “who spent so much time teaching scores of young people about faith in God that I failed to teach my own kids”.

I could never pretend that I found his religious beliefs anything but absurd, but I hastened to tell him that I’d found him a far better parent than most. He never, ever judged the sinner. Back during my high school days I’d come home staggering drunk and reeking of beer; while Fanshun’s first concern was whether anyone from Central Baptist had seen me (all about appearances, that woman), Dad would gently knock on my door, lie down beside me on the bed as the ceiling spun overhead, and ask how my day had been. He made no mention of the fact that the room would probably have gone up in flames if anyone had lit a match. We’d just talk about our respective days until I brought the subject up myself; then he’d sigh, and roll his eyes, and quote some obscure Shakespearean line about what fools men were to put a demon in their mouths to steal away their brains. I can’t begin to count the number of stupid things I did as a teenager; but my father never made me feel as if I were stupid.

When I was twelve or thirteen, he found me reading From Russia With Love. He cleared his throat, and remarked that Ian Fleming knew how to tell an exciting tale, and that was good — but that this James Bond guy did not treat women at all well, and I probably shouldn’t use those books as any kind of guide to healthy relationships.

I’ll say it again: Baptist preacher. Bible Belt. Sixties.

Of course, in hindsight his Judge Not Others perspective was a bit more self-serving than it might have seemed— but then, so many things make sense in hindsight. The way his wife kept harping about the other men she could have had (I remain skeptical to this day); the endless invasions of privacy, her needy demands that we be  friends and confidantes as well as sons. Her outrage at the prospect that I might want to leave some thoughts unshared. The endless nitpicking and ridicule she heaped on her husband over the years. I thought he was a fucking pussy at the time; I couldn’t understand why he never stood up to her, why he always took her side. Because he knew that so-called truth that he told himself year after year, the truth she never let him forget:

It was all his fault.

Retired from the Baptist Convention, he threw himself into volunteer work for Amnesty International (my late brother Jon, who worked for the Feds at that time, told me that Dad’s advocacy on behalf of the oppressed earned him a CSIS file.) He got his first computer back in the eighties, almost in his eighties: an old XT with an amber screen. He had some trouble with the concept of software at first — “I’m trying to write this letter for AI, but it’ll only let me write a line or two and then it just jumps to a new line and says Bad command or file name c colon…” — but how many old farts of that generation even bothered to try coming to grips with the computer revolution?

He got the hang of it eventually. Figured out the whole internet-porn thing just fine. His last computer was one Jon and I bought for him a few Christmases ago. I helped him set it up; he sat there across the room, smiling beatific and oblivious as a Windows dialog box announced each in a procession of files and bookmarks journeying from old machine to new:

I would have hugged him, but he’d have been mortified if he knew what I’d seen.

Porn was as far as he got. By the time he found out that he wasn’t alone, he was: so locked down that even fellow gays who’d known him for years had no clue. Once I offered him a male escort for his birthday, but he said he’d be too embarrassed (“And besides, do you know what they charge per hour?”). He did manage to connect a little, vicariously, near the end of his life. A childhood friend of mine came to the rescue, visited Dad whenever he was in town, kept him up to speed on news of his boyfriend in New York and life as an opera singer.

But it was too little, too late. This kind, decent, wonderful man spent his whole damn life in hiding, died without ever experiencing the simple comfort of a decent lay. I may never understand the contradiction inherent in that life: his unshakeable devotion to a community which, for all its strident insistence that God Is Love, never let him feel safe enough to be who he was.

Now he’s dead, along with his legacy (BLTS, the school he founded and nurtured and built from the ground up, was sold for scrap a few years back and is now being run as a private school). His wife is dead. Even one of his sons is dead. There’s nobody left for his dark secret to shame— nobody left to be ashamed, except for that vast intolerant community of spirit-worshippers with whom my father, for reasons I only half-understand, threw in his lot and his life. But so many of them are shameless, too.

Maybe he was right. Maybe those ancient dumb superstitions have some truth to them after all. If so, I guess he knows that for certain now. It’s the great injustice of the atheist position: if we’re wrong about the afterlife, the rest of you have all of eternity to rub our noses in it; but if we’re right, no one will ever know.

I wouldn’t mind being wrong, just this once.


Postscript (after midnight):  Caitlin has also blogged about Dad, here.  She says more, she says it differently (with much less bitterness), and you will know him better if you take a minute to read what she has to say.

This entry was posted on Friday, January 18th, 2013 at 2:18 pm and is filed under eulogy. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

70 Responses to “No Pictures. Only Words.”

  1. Alyx Dellamonica

    Peter, I’m so sorry to hear that your dad is gone and that you’re riding the grief horse again. Call us if you need anything, okay?

  2. Adam Etzion

    My condolences

  3. Laurie Mann

    I’m sorry about your father. It sounds like he was a very conscientious father.

  4. Daniel

    May he and his loved ones be at peace.

  5. ken

    My condolences as well. I’m sure that your father was quite proud of the man you’ve become. This was a beautifully written piece.

    I swear, one of these centuries I’m going to make it up to Toronto and the fucking beers are on me.

  6. Ensley F. Guffey

    I’m so sorry for your loss Peter. Your dad sounds like a good man, and there are too few of them these days. Please take care and be well.

  7. Ted Lemon

    What a sweet elegy, Peter. I’m sorry for your loss, and sorry for his frustration.

  8. Joris M

    I am sorry for your loss. But thank you for sharing these beautiful words.

  9. Ross

    I too am sorry for your loss. At least one picture of your father exists and was used for his online obituary:

  10. Peter Watts

    Thanks,Ross. I had not seen that.

  11. Derryl Murphy

    Peter, condolences from Jo and me. From your description, I recognize some of his strength in you, as well as see cause for your determination to follow your chosen path through your life.

  12. Yukon Val

    So sorry for your loss…

  13. Jeremy

    I am sorry to hear of your loss.

    The fact that you are able to unashamedly discuss such a personal matter shows a real strength of character and self confidence. No doubt your father was responsible for putting that into you at some point. Most would not have had the courage to open up about these types of issues.

  14. Alehkhs

    Posting here also that I am very sorry to hear about your father’s passing. I’m never happy to hear such news in your life, but I’m always glad for the words you share with us.

    My condolences.

  15. Cat Rambo

    That was a beautiful and heart-wrenching memorial. Thank you for sharing it. I’m so sorry to hear of your loss. All the best.

  16. Steve Halter

    Your skill at eulogy is being called upon far too frequently. Wonderful words from you and condolences from me.

  17. Dale Sproule

    Nicely done, Peter. In a very unusual way – by letting his secret out of its cage – I think you’ve set him free.

  18. David Louis Edelman

    Having just come back from visiting my own elderly father, who’s sliding into Parkinson’s-related dementia and immobility, this hit me pretty hard. Sorry for your loss, Peter. My family’s problems are nothing like your family’s, but in the end it’s still miserable to see the dude who raised you fade away.

  19. Kim

    Echoing Steve Halter above “Your skill at eulogy is being called upon far too frequently.” I am so sorry for your loss.

  20. jackd

    Condolences, Peter.

  21. Chris Cray

    I wish I had a dad like yours. It’s a crime someone that beautiful had to live a life of lies and self imposed shame. Thank you for sharing this.

  22. Charles R

    You’ve let us know what he has meant and what he continues to mean, and what remains to be done in this world. I’m so sorry.

  23. Heath Graham

    Damn. That’s heartbreaking.

    Thank you for sharing.

  24. Leigh Evans

    I am sorry for your loss, Peter.

  25. Deckard

    I am very sorry for your loss Peter, and it is a loss unlike any other. If there is an afterlife, I hope your Dad finds peace. I hope you will as well – it will likely be a tough year.

  26. Sheila

    I am sorry for your loss.

  27. Kathy

    Your words have moved me deeply Peter. I have similar feelings about my father and the life he did not have. I understand the deep sorrow of losing one you love dearly and the bitter cutting grief that his life was not what it should have been. It has slowly gotten easier for me to bear, and although I cannot be sure, it will probably become easier for you too one day. Peace.

  28. Andrea_A

    So sorry for your loss … and your obit is a great piece of writing.

    (Last year I had to do some IT “housekeeping” at a relative’s PC. Wating for the end of a virus scan I’d been surfing around and Firefox’ autocomplete showed me some porn links — I pretended not to have seen them.)

  29. Rock Rocbertson

    Sorry for your loss Peter. having lost my own father at 81 this past November I have an idea of the pain you are going through. I too hope you’re wrong about the afterlife for the same reasons.

  30. Barry Adams

    My sincerest condolences, Peter. Your writing shows you loved him very very much, and he was a richer man for that.

  31. lynnderiso

    Thanks for sharing this Peter. My sympathies are with you and yours.

    I lost my own father about 5 years ago, so I do know a similar pain.

    Though, knowing that your father suffered with having to live a lie must add something more to your loss.

    I can’t imagine how many people are out there that this has happened to.

    I’m glad that attitudes are changing now, but there’s still such sadness for generations past that never got the chance to live as they truly were.

  32. Hljóðlegur

    Deepest condolences on the death of your father. Ron sounded like one in a million.

  33. Jubal

    My sincere condolences…

  34. Sylocat

    Wow… these stories are never as formulaic as you think once you look closer.

    Sorry, Peter. In spite of falling into several categories that usually turn people into assholes, he sounds like a better man than me.

  35. David Gerard

    You’ve painted a wonderful portrait of a wonderful man.

  36. Zrajm

    This text has some wonderful bitterness to it. A testament to the richness and variation of human life.

  37. David

    This is a really sad story. It always angers me to know how many people end up taking damage, living within absurd limits, for no better reason than someone thought it was a good idea at the time and social inertia. And yet it’s inevitably a futile anger, since there’s nothing that can be done for them anymore. At least he found some degree of peace, from what you write. My condolences.

  38. Lars

    Sorry for your loss, Peter.

  39. Pete Newell

    We haven’t met, but I’ve read your books and blog for years, now.

    My sympathies. Family and religion and pain. Can’t have two without the other, seems like sometimes.

    Reason I’m here, though, is that my dad worked with yours at BCOQ in the 70s and 80s, and remembers him fondly. I had him hunt for any pictures he might have or be able to find. He came up empty for pictures – I’m sorry – but ended up with contact names and numbers for BCOQ and Central Baptist Oakville, who might well be able to provide pictures from annual reports or periodicals, or the like.

    I have no idea if these contacts are more likely to be a source of more pain or less pain for you, but will provide them if you want them.


  40. europa

    Few things in this world can make me feel enough to shed a tear these days, but this did it. Thank you for sharing this story.

  41. Leona

    I need to stop coming back to your blog right after something awful has happened. So sorry to hear about your loss.

    Perhaps you and your brother were all your Dad needed you know. Sometimes we think people want more from life but then again maybe they don’t need that something more because they’re stronger or more whole than they look.

    I dont’ find it all that plausible, but it IS possible…

    He would be warmed to the cockles reading what you wrote!

  42. The Bible Does Not Affirm Homosexual Sex or Homosexual Marriage « stasis online

    […] the fact that many same-sex attractive people have historically and contemporarily actually entered heterosexual marriages, sometimes to a spouse who was similarly oriented, and had families. Admittedly these marriages […]

  43. Whoever

    Sorry for your loss.

  44. No Pictures. Only Words. « David Chastity

    […] No Pictures. Only Words. […]

  45. Thomas Hardman

    I will echo once more that your skills at eulogy are too often called-upon in the recent past.

    A very good eulogy, sir. Fathers are complex creatures in almost any case, and having lost my own not quite a year ago, we should recognize that you’ll probably be spending even more time than you expect internally reviewing your history with him, seeking better understanding of all concerned. He sounds like a man of very considerable personal accomplishment, both outside of his immediate community and within his family.

    They say that a great deal of art of fatherhood is passed on from father to son whether we want that or not; to judge by your eulogy, you learned from example and will yourself be a great one.

    Again, my sympathies.

  46. Y.

    And I thought my family is messed up.
    I can’t say I feel your loss- because I don’t.

    I admit to feeling that it’s a shame that a decent and good man like your father hasn’t had a happier life. At least these days few gays in Canada live under the illusion that they’re uniquely afflicted.

    Maybe truth prevails in the end.


    He got his first computer back in the eighties, almost in his eighties

    1918..that means he turned eighty in ’98, didn’t he? He couldn’t have been more than 72 in the eighties…

  47. Michèle Laframboise

    I’m sorry to hear about your dad, and his tribulations. To live in a closet all one’s life is sad. He’s better now, on any side of the Pascal’s wager.

  48. pG

    My condolences Peter.
    Your eulogy to your father had me think about mine and wonder how good a job I am doing. And thanks to the link to Caitlin’s one. Its always good to get the perspective of someone not filtered by years.

    A person’s life can be summed up by what they leave behind.

    That is how I remember my dad. A dignified crotchety gent who spent WW2 working in a Coal mine after objecting to the war. (Then ironically later on married a Army nurse. 1’st wife).
    Who then decided to go big game hunting in the rest of Africa with some friends in a army-surplus truck and did not show their passport to anyone from South Africa to Ethiopia. You should have seen his collection of hunting rifles. But no trophies. He abhorred that.

    Who became a doctor – regrettably the type that is very good, but has no bedside manner. The running joke in my hometown was that the first and last person a lot of people saw in this world was my dad – making the bit in between seem trivial.

    He saved quite a few lives, delivered three Thalidomide babies (only time I ever saw him cry – and I was three at the time). He was apolitical. Only time I saw him angry was when he spoke about a colleague who was hounded by State Security for refusing to change his report on the Sharpeville Massacre victims.

    He conned a joyride in the first jet fighter in the country. He spoke every African Language and dialect found South Africa. He was almost thrown out of Switzerland for smoking (Loong story, very funny).

    He was old school in his view of the world, making him so casually racist that no one could get angry at him for it. Yet he treated all his patients equal and to the best of his ability.

    His two best friends turned out to have briefly met each other at El Alamein – from opposite sides. Then to freak everyone out – introduced another friend who’d lost a leg at the Battle of Monte Casino to a visiting French dentist, who turned out to have also been there, performing amputations(no one needed root canal).

    He was notorious for not giving sick notes at the Company Clinic he worked at. Once saved a wedding, by discreetly helping a very hungover groom with a embarrassing problem – involving his drunk buddies, a bachelor party in a workshop and a hex nut that was ‘juust the right size to fit down there’. Two giggling nurses and a hacksaw later the groom could gingerly stand at the altar.

    He absent-mindedly raised three children – who still agree that he was the perfect model of what not to do as a parent or husband. He never cheated or lied. His friends, though few, respected and trusted him. And we all agree we got our stubborn streak from him and miss him in our own way.

    Your dad sounds like a dignified gentleman it would have been my pleasure to meet. And seems he left a great legacy behind. The man even got the attention of the Feds. Of course he had regrets – we all will.

    That’s what makes us human.

  49. demo Val

    May his memory be a blessing; from your memories of him shared here, it sounds as he made his works one, even though his life was not a happy one.

  50. Matthew

    I am sorry for your loss, but grateful for your moving and candid remembrance of him. You were both fortunate that he lived long enough for you to come to know his true self and for him to get to see the man, the scientist, the author, and the husband you became.

    And, Peter, his legacy is not all gone: you are his legacy too. And his legacy will still grow: as you continue to touch and inspire us with your beautiful mind, we can see him now through you, shaping you, shaping us.

  51. MX

    I am sorry for your loss. Долгой памяти.

  52. Trottelreiner

    My condolences, too. I never met you or your father, but I could especially relate to this one: “I wouldn’t mind being wrong, just this once.”

    Even if you don’t believe into the mainstream ideas of afterlife, like Christian mortalists,

    and quite some parts of Second Temple Judaism

    and yes, quite some atheists and agnostics – though it’s quite easy to deny the existence of a god and believe in an afterlife, just ask any animist

    there are those where you hope you’re wrong, or the simulation argument guys are right, or Frank Tipler is not as spaced out as you believe. Though than, our sufferings would not be comforted, but become a farce…

    As for Leviticus, well, I guess you know “Why can’t I own a Canadian?”, err, no pun intended:

    On another note, if one labels homosexuality as an illness (like ADHD, dyslexia, not understanding why the root of 2 is no rational number or inability to program your VCR, I suppose, but let’s stop it here), then one should also be careful to speak about fault or guilt…

    Last but not least, I hope we’re excused if we see some parallels to the “family dynamics” in Blindsight, which makes Dumbspeech something of a book about your, err, Siri’s dad?

  53. Pad

    (trying to type this on my first tablet PC, I apologise for any gobbledygook)
    Sorry to read about your loss Mr Watts. I know you must be feeling really raw right now and I doubt that anything I, or anybody else can write will make any difference to you at the moment. But I hope that you can accept these words as the written equivalent of pat on the shoulder.

    He was your dad and you loved him, that fact alone is enough.

    Respectfully yours,

    P.S. I apologise for posting this in the wrong section initially.

  54. Mr Non-Entity

    Sometimes it’s best to tread lightly, if one finds that one may dare at all to tread. But here goes:

    For many years I could have written a story about my father. It would have had to have been fiction, and it would have had to be all true, all lies, “all true, especially the lies”. I could have written it as science fiction, “he came from an age before the ‘Port, before the Pinch, before limitless power removed all limits of distance and before the crowded cities of Earth were emptied to populate the vast and empty fields of human-habitable worlds. He came from a time which remembered — barely — that once upon a time human beings had nearly limitless resources over which to war, and he remembered — barely — such a war, and his role in it. Then the resources became far less limitless, and wars for those resources were less profitable than harvesting those resources in an uneasy peace in which the rich grew richer in a life of crime far more grasping if less personally vicious than the lives led by those whose increasing disenfranchisement and festering hopelessness brought them ever closer to the state of animality and ever more apostate to civility. And as time went on, somehow luck and planning — far more of luck than planning — put him in a place where, lost to the world and to family, he was found as a lab rat in an experiment which was the first great success in making new what had been old. As one of the first of the basket-case geriatric retreads, he was also one of the first through the ‘Port, when the Pinch yielded power to fold space around itself and set aside Relativity and Causality, with one-way access to parallel timespaces effectively indistinguishable from our own. Nineteen again, he and twenty battalions and all of their equipment materialized in vac gear on a moon of a gas giant in the Gleise system of another universe and their exact (or nearly so) echoes suddenly populated the Gleise moon in our universe, and in all others that were sufficiently similar, which was to say, a nearly limitless number. Reality re-averaged itself and, so to speak, as I was being set down on the table for my first cataracts surgery, my father — younger in the flesh than his grandson — was pounding the dirt of his first alien world.

    “It was well for them that they arrived under arms.”

    Gah. Throw in a little clone romance and a lot of militarism and call me John Scalzi and put me at the top of the reader’s favorite lists.

    But that’s not me, and that’s not my dad. I am not writing my dad into any such thing… although, given his history, and given how I write, I probably could.

    But if I was doing any serious writing, I think I might find or make a way to remember my dad, my real dad, in that writing. I never knew the warrior, I only knew the wounded complex creature struggling to live in peacetime without the violence at which he had excelled. If I wrote him into a story, any part of him, I think I would write his love of Nature, his quiet struggles with a trout fly and the fish he intended to throw back if he could get one to bite.

    What do I love? The quiet man I knew, who sometimes shared like an affliction upon his family the damage he had suffered in preserving the possibility of their way of life and political system? He was a year older than Prof. Watts’s father. Contemporaries, they came of age into fierce global war. Do I love the warrior I never met? Or the man who loved my mother? The one who loved his children?

    Ten thousand such thoughts seize the mind in the aftermath of loss of a parent. Each such thought rightly echoes down through our personal time. We find ourselves moved to eulogy, but is that enough? The memory carries forward, and in time it should come out. I won’t be making my dad the hero of any space-operas, but I think his echoes will emerge to some degree in any work I might produce. This isn’t just catharsis, but could be honoring as well. If we don’t believe in a metaphysical afterlife, we can certainly believe that while memory lives, however imperfect the memory might be, so lives on the spirit, the influence, the impact, of the memorialized. Though you might for a moment think you only share-out the pain, also you probably share-out the joys. For better or for worse, Remember Them, and share.

    Best wishes for peace and healing,

  55. Whoever

    Yeah. I think this has made an old idea solidify.

    From now on, when asked to comment on gay marriage, etc.:

    “Homosexuality is God’s answer to overpopulation, concentration camps, and nuclear weapons. Can’t you see, dear biblethumper, that this was his plan all along? You want the Ten Commandments posted in every building on earth yet you ignore ‘Thou Shall Not Kill’ with relish? Repent, breeder!”

    Well something like that. Of course the day will come when sperm-sperm and egg-egg will make babies, but at least adoption doesn’t increase population in a world where the powers that be are scrambling for what they view as the last scraps to be had.

    Funny thing about parents quoting Shakespeare, my mother used to throw out advice and I don’t think she knew where it came from, such is the Bard’s influence. After I started college, I’d tell her which characters she was quoting and what else they said. But I think the joke was on me. For example, “Neither a borrower nor a lender be” may still be some good advice even if it came from Polonius. Ditto for Iago, though what is remarkable about that quote is that he previously said the opposite or at least was the one got his associate drinking.

  56. Dominick Grace

    Peter, that was an eloquent and moving elegy. My deepest condolences and sympathies.

  57. jrronimo

    So sorry for your loss, Peter. It sounds like your dad was a good man, and it’s a shame he had to deny himself for so long. I’m glad that he at least found some semblance of acceptance later in life, and I cannot help but smile at the thought of an 80-year old checking out anything ending in .gay.deathmetal.

    If you need anything that a Coloradoan can provide, don’t hesitate to ask.

  58. The Carrot

    It sounds as if your father, despite his flaws, was an outstanding gentleman.

  59. Raketemensch

    When I was 12 my parents divorced, and my mother never dated again. Ever. As I got older I realized that this wasn’t a huge sacrifice for her, she just doesn’t seem to be interested in men. She was raised in a hardcore Catholic household, and is very repressed about a lot of things, and I’ve wondered for decades now if she just *is* gay but won’t let herself acknowledge it, or even think about it.

    It’s not the kind of thing you can bring up easily.

    She was a field hockey player, a gym teacher, the list of stereotypical activities is vast, but obviously not conclusive, anyone can enjoy anything without it meaning they have a specific sexual preference.

    She’s 72 now, and I’m sure I’ll never find out, nor will she. So at least on that level, you and your Dad can rest in the knowledge that at least Honesty won out, even if not entirely in time.

  60. Hljóðlegur

    Okay, okay, I have kept my big mouth shut, but I gotta say something none-of-my-business-y here. Because it’s what I do. And we are apparently now discussing our parents’ sex lives. What doesn’t get aired on this fascinating blog!?

    Raketmensch? You have no idea what your mother thinks or is up to sexually other than what she or some other person tells you. People lie, and they really lie about sex. For all you know, she has been happily dildoing the lady (or that guy) down the street for years. Or just herself. Or maybe she never had much of a sex drive, and was perfectly happy to give it up. If our parents don’t wanna tell us about their sex lives, that’s their priviledge. Fwiw.

    In re Ron Watts, I’m sad for you, Peter, because you lost a father and it sounds like you both loved and accepted each other as men and as people. That’s so wonderful. You all got lucky there.

    But I’m not sad for Ron, given your eulogy of him. It sounds as if he had a fine life – He had a career in his faith, got to help hundreds of his fellow humans, and judging from the obit in the Edmonton Journal, was loved and respected by the people he worked with. He got a very very long life, mostly healthy, not in poverty, in a country not torn by war, famine, or political oppression. He had three sons of whom he could be proud, and his children and wife loved him, and, importantly, didn’t reject him when he told them he was gay.

    Is that not overwhelmingly lucky? Okay, he and his wife couldn’t provide each other the sexual succor they wanted, and she was unhappy because of it. It’s sad, but it happens in marriages all the time; partners may not be able to be all the other person wants or needs. It happens. Once he came clean to her about why, they both weighed their options and made the best decisions they could with what they had, and whatever they did or didn’t do, those were their mistakes to make. You can only select from the options you have at any one time.

    So, given what you said, Peter, it sounds like Ron played a pretty fair hand, given what he was dealt, don’t you think? A life lived well? I can only hope to live that long and look back on a life like that. I’ve already done some things I’ll always regret, and I’m not 50.

    Lastly, if it bothers you, you don’t know he never had a decent lay, you only know what he told you and what your mind filled in. (Unless he actually said it, of course.) We never really know what was between our parents, only what they let us see. I would be willing to bet, for instance, that my parents were faithful, sexually vanilla, and monogamous, but I wouldn’t bet my life on it. I really wouldn’t.

    Okay, I am now prepared to be flamed or ignored. Either or.

  61. Peter Watts

    Hljóðlegur: you don’t know he never had a decent lay, you only know what he told you and what your mind filled in. (Unless he actually said it, of course.)

    Yeah, he said it. And a lot of other things I’m not going to report verbatim here.

    Please don’t lecture me on the interpersonal dynamics of my own family. You don’t know any of us.

  62. Chenikita

    Sorry for your loss, Peter.

  63. Hljóðlegur

    Peter Watts,

    Agreed, I don’t know any of you and yours personally, except via what you broadcast in cyberspace. My deep lack of personal knowledge is taken as read. That I will speak out of turn, in a bossy way, is also a given.

    I’m lost. I don’t know what to feel or know from this remembrance, or in what mode I should respond, except the obvious condolence on your loss. So, again: Sincere condolences on your loss.

    I’ll leave it there.

  64. Jon Smith

    Hi Peter,

    I’m very sorry to hear about your loss. This piece made me remember you telling me about your Dad when we met in Montreal a few years back. Perhaps because of that, or because of the potency of what you’ve shared here, this post is very moving to me. It may be just words, but they still have a great deal of emotional power.

    Best to you and your family in this hard time.

  65. pG

    On a more positive note (and completely off topic).
    Has anyone else read this story? I wonder how many ‘legends’ can be created on the same style?

    How Grandmother Triode Stole Binary from the Sun
    a story of people[0xCF36] as told by shaman.Accumulator.Overflows(true)

    In the beginning, there were too many numbers, and nobody could tell exactly what they were. Everybody was confused about what was big and what was small, because everything was kind of big, but also kind of small. Nobody knew anything for sure.

    Someone wanted to know how much energy the people had, but no one could agree. One person said they had about 36.63 trillion joules, and another said maybe 36.64 trillion joules. Someone else wanted to know if this was a lot, but the people couldn’t agree about that either. Some said it must be a lot because it was more than 1 joule. Other people said it couldn’t be much because it was less than 100 vigintillion joules. They argued about it until Slide Rule Demon came and laughed at them. He owned all the land, because the people were clumsy and slow.

    In these days, Sun had all the binary. He was in the sky during the day, and gone at night. Sun was either there or not there, and he was the only thing that could do this. Capacitor wondered about Sun, and asked the old vacuum tube, Grandmother Triode. She told him about 0 and 1, and how only Sun had these, so only he could be absolute.

    Capacitor thought to himself, “If I had 0 and 1, I could be absolute too.” He sneaked up to Sun’s house, and swallowed a big handful of 0. He started to feel sick, so he ran back to the earth as fast as he could. When Grandmother Triode saw what he had done, she scolded him. “Oh, Capacitor, that was very foolish. The 0 you have swallowed has fallen down inside you, and now your heart is gone.” Ever since that day, Capacitor has been unable to conduct electric current, because he is empty inside.

    Insulator also tried to steal from Sun. He climbed up into the sky, and grabbed as much 1 as he could carry, but by the time he got back home, the 1 had gotten all over him and soaked into his body. “Oh, Insulator,” cried Grandmother Triode, “that was very foolish. The 1 has filled you up completely, and now you can’t carry anything.” That is why, even today, Insulator cannot transmit data. He is all solid, and nothing can get through.

    Finally, Grandmother Triode decided to get 0 and 1 herself. She drank from the people’s energy until her cathode became very hot and started to glow. She climbed up to the house of Sun, and swallowed a big pile of 0. The 0 tried to empty her out, like it had done to Capacitor, but Grandmother Triode was filled with vacuum, so there was nothing to take away. Next she filled a big bag with 1 and placed it on her positive plate. Quickly she charged up her control grid as high as she could. The 1 could not make her solid, like it had done to Insulator because it was trapped on the plate by her strong electric field. “Ha,” laughed Grandmother Triode, “I have captured you both, and now you are mine.”

    Sun had lost so much 0 and 1 that he no longer had enough to last all day. He had to start being partway there and partway not there. When he did this, the people called it “dusk” and “dawn”, and we have had them ever since.

    Grandmother Triode shared her 0 and 1 with all the people, and because she was very wise, she declared that 1 should mean “all true” and 0 should mean “all false”. “Now,” she said, “we can be sure of things, and never be confused”. She also taught the people how to make any number they needed from just 0 and 1. The people looked at their energy again, and found that they had exactly 36,637,215,626,189 joules. Slide Rule Demon became angry, because he could not make numbers like this, but the people had become fast and strong. They chased him away, and Slide Rule Demon never came back.

    Grandmother Triode had a daughter called Transistor Woman, and she taught the people logic, arithmetic, and everything else they needed to know. Soon the people owned all the land and were very happy.


  66. PhilRM

    I’m very sorry for your loss, Peter. However complicated and sometimes painful his life may have been, your father sounds like one of the handful of people I have known who could give Christianity a good name.

  67. sean

    what a lovely story, i’m sorry for your loss. props to your dad 🙂

  68. Hunch

    Hey Peter, sorry about your old man. You’re honesty is really moving, wish I had the balls to look it all right in the eye as you seem to. I probably wouldn’t be this honest with myself nevermind blogging it. All the best my mate. X

  69. Joe

    Peter, so sorry to hear about the loss of your dad. As Hunch said, the honesty of your post was very moving. Thank you for sharing it.

  70. Docbrain

    A’m sorry about your father, Mr.Watts.