Updated: July 19, 2013 3:26PM
Jimmy says he remembers it well.
“It was a dark and stormy night. Actually a dark and rainy afternoon. My mother was in town, staying with my sister as she typically did.”
He asked his mother to go for a walk with him. She replied, quite logically, “It’s raining. And cold. And dark.”
He said, “I know. Let’s go for a walk.”
Jimmy was thirtysomething at the time, part of a traditional Italian family. “I just couldn’t go on living a lie, but I couldn’t live a secret double life as did so many gays. I had to go into Gaydom openly — not secretly. Preferably with parental understanding.”
Jimmy and his mother walked in a nearby park for almost an hour. He kept waiting for the right moment to bring “it” up.
“Guess what? There is no natural break in a conversation in the park for such things. What was I thinking? ‘Nice leaves. Pretty colors. By the way, I’m gay.’ ”
On the way back to his sister’s house, Jimmy knew it was then or never.
“So suddenly, I said ‘Mom, there’s something I need to tell you.’ Then I got so choked up that I couldn’t speak. I remember saying, ‘Once I say what I’m about to say, there’s no going back. Everything will be changed forever. I won’t be able to undo it.’
“Then I swallowed. I was so full of tears, and I couldn’t get the words out. And my mother said, ‘What is it?’ I swallowed again.
“There was lump in my throat the size of grapefruit, and I couldn’t talk. And she just looked at me and said, in her broken English, ‘What is it? It’s about you not liking girls, isn’t it?’
“I told her yes. There was a pause and then she asked, naively, ‘Are you sure? Have you tried talking to a doctor or something?’ I told her I just knew. This wasn’t a doctor thing. I just knew. You just know what your heart knows.
“And do you know what she said? This peasant woman, born in 1933, barely literate with a fourth-grade Catholic education in rural Italy, do you know what she said?
“She said, ‘Good. Go do what you have to do. Live your life. Don’t worry about us. We’ll figure it out. But live! Be happy! Don’t think about us! Think of yourself! Do what you need to do to be happy! Get out there! Be free!’ ”
Years went by. Jimmy introduced his mother to the man who would become his husband. “In about 30 seconds, she saw him for all of his strengths and weaknesses. She counseled me to stick it out when times were tough, and they have been, trust me on this. She was my biggest supporter.”
Jimmy came out to his mother almost 20 years ago. She died two months ago, suddenly and tragically.
“I’m still coming to grips with it. Oh, how I miss her! I think often of her words, ‘Go. Think of yourself! Be happy!’ What powerful words. Who will ever say those words to me again?”
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