“To Thine Own Self: Darrell Lives His Truth

Guest Writer: W.D. Foster-Graham   

For all of you who have been following my column, you have seen both the book cover and read an excerpt of To Thine Own Self, to be released later this year. As we LGBT/SGL brothas know, coming out isn’t a finite event. It is an ongoing process, as one of my main characters, widowed associate pastor Rev. Darrell Edwards, is learning. When we come out, it is an act of strength and courage. That being said, kick back for a few and check out my next excerpt, as Darrell begins taking the steps to live his truth:

90-plus temperatures coupled with triple-digit heat indices continued to dog the summer season, guaranteed to keep everyone’s light bill high, and restrict lawn-watering days. For many Minnesotans, given the winters, these days were to be appreciated while they were around. For Darrell, it was a time of gratitude for the summer programs he enrolled his children in. Keeping their time occupied, especially now, was essential. Sure, his late-model Honda Odyssey minivan accumulated its share of miles in transporting them, but that was hardly a sacrifice.

By August, Darrell had finally taken the step and confided in Pastor Marie. “I’m bisexual.”

Her response was supportive and compassionate, like the woman he had always known her to be. “I appreciate you trusting me with this news, Darrell. Coming out is easy for some, harder for others. It’s a process. And with Kenisha’s passing, you’ve been processing a lot.”

Darrell thought of the parishioners he counseled who were dealing with this issue and nodded. “Now it’s happening to me.”

“Are you planning to tell your children?”

“Yes. This is something they need to hear from me. After all, they grew up in this church. I wouldn’t keep this from them.” Darrell managed a little chuckle. “Besides, with all the LGBT members in my family, this probably won’t be news at all.”

“Probably not. Only what they know about you will change, and they may have questions concerning Kenisha and your marriage. You know, we advise our members to come out only when they’re ready and have support, and I’m giving you that same counsel. On the other hand, the longer you wait to tell them, the harder it will be. We’ll pray on this together, and trust God to give you the opportunity.”

“I understand, Pastor. Can we pray now?”

As the days went by, Darrell’s cooking skills steadily branched out and improved, and his family made mealtime a team effort. Thank you, Kenisha, he thought as he and his kids prepared and cooked the food. So often in these days and times, families didn’t sit down and eat together, grabbing fast food on the run due to work schedules and extracurricular school activities. Not so in his family. Breakfast and dinner found them at the kitchen table while Sunday dinners were served in the dining room on the occasions when they weren’t having family dinners with his parents or in-laws. Added to this was the fact that sometimes, when setting the dinner table, he would forget and set five places instead of four.

It was a couple of weeks later, after a day of back-to-school shopping and hospital visitations, that Darrell felt an internal nudge during dinner. He took a moment to marvel at how his children were turning out. Adam and Naomi took after him while Micah looked more like Kenisha. They had all inherited his height; at 16, Adam was already 6’3”. They also had the hazel eyes of the Edwards family. While Micah, Naomi, and Adam were eating, sharing their activities of the day and random thoughts about the coming school year, he took a breath. Visualizing himself diving into a swimming pool, he relaxed into it.

“Kids, I feel it’s time to tell you something…about me.”

“Tell us what, Dad?” Adam asked.

“Well, I’ve learned something about myself. I’ve realized that I like men as well as women.”

“Are you saying you’re bi?”

Darrell nodded. “Yes, Adam. I am.”

“Oh. Like some of the members at church?” 12-year-old Micah asked.

“That’s right, Micah.”

Adam’s face held the beginnings of a frown. “You didn’t…”

“No, son, I didn’t. I loved your mother very much, and I never would have hurt her. But things are different now. I love you, so I wanted you to hear this from me first.”

“Wow…Dad came out.” Adam sighed in relief.

“Well, we love you, Daddy.” Nine-year-old Naomi rose from her seat to give Darrell a hug, followed by her brothers.

“So, does that mean you’re going to have a boyfriend and go out on dates?” Adam’s smile was conspiratorial.

“I don’t know. Someday, maybe. Of course, you three will be the first ones to know.”

After the kids had gone to bed, Darrell lay in his own bed reading, overwhelmed by and appreciative of the support they had shown him. It was obvious that the teachings of love and inclusivity at Light of the World had rubbed off on them, not to mention his extended family’s example. Perhaps, too, was the strong possibility that they found it easier to accept the idea of another man in their lives versus another woman, given the close relationship they shared with their mother. Before he closed his book and said his prayers, he gave thanks that his children heard the disclosure from him first, before he even considered dating a man.

The next morning, Darrell’s day was filled with meetings and conference calls. When he finally took a break for lunch, he considered the next step in his journey—telling his immediate family of origin. Although they weren’t saying anything, he sensed that Douglass and Preston already knew. As for the others…it was a blessing that the most important people had already been told. Now for his parents and siblings.

“Hey, Darrell.” He looked up from his lunch to lay eyes on his brother Bradley, standing in the doorway of his office.

“Bradley. What’s up?” He rose to hug him, wondering about the occasion for this visit.

“Now you know I’m going to check in on you, busy pastor or not.”

Darrell indicated a seat for Bradley. “So how are Rico and the kids?”

His 27-year-old brother let out a fatigued grunt, settling into a comfortable chair for his athletic, 6’6” frame. “Hey, you know the drill with kids their age. Saleisha just started walking, and Jermaine is finally sleeping through the night. Rico and I are navigating our way one day at a time, and we wouldn’t trade it for the world. Of course, it helps to have Grandpa Brad and Grandma Adriella nearby, especially when Rico and I need a break.”

“Not to mention Mom and Dad. And of course, me.”

“Got that right. Now, about the man in your life…”

“Say what?”

“You know better than to knock the ‘gift,’ Darrell. You’re bi, and this man will rock your world.”

Darrell sighed in acceptance. Like their Grandpa Eli, Bradley had visions that always came to pass. “Yes, I’m bi. And I’ve told my kids.”

“That shouldn’t have been a problem, especially with your church.”

“It wasn’t. Speaking of which, you’re more than welcome to come and visit. It has been a little while since your family stopped on by.”

“True. We’ll check you out soon for services.” Darrell’s cell phone beeped. “You need to get that?”

“Yeah.” Darrell opened his phone to a barrage of text messages, rolling his eyes as he read through them. “I haven’t even met the man yet, and she’s ready to bring out the wedding bells,” he groaned as he sent a quick ‘I’ll call you back’ text.

Bradley couldn’t resist a knowing smile. “Sis didn’t waste any time, did she?”

“Did you really think so after you told her?”

“Hey, I had the vision while I was on the phone with her the other day. You know there’s no controlling that.”

Darrell threw up his hands in surrender. “Our beloved sister, Lady Veronica Moriarty, Viscountess of Rothmere, probably has this fantasy of me in a vicar’s frock falling hard for the lord of the manor. I think she’s been reading too many Sylvia Berry Lewis romance novels. Oh well, I might as well get it over with and see Mom and Dad.” He paused momentarily, his eyes curious. “You really think this man…whoever he is…will, as you put it, rock my world?”

Bradley’s grin was naughty. “By the time he’s done with you, you’ll have a smile on your face that refuses to come off.”

W.D. Foster-Graham is an independent novelist from Minneapolis, Minnesota.  He received a B.A. in psychology from Luther College, and he was an original member of the multi-Grammy Award-winning ensemble, Sounds of Blackness.  He has also been recognized by the International Society of Poets as one of its “Best Poets of 2003.”

His tastes in writing run to family sagas and M/M romance, seasoned with his own brand of African American flavor—at the end of the day, it’s all about the love. He shamelessly admits to a love of romance novels, whodunits, and classic movies of old Hollywood. He was also inspired by the late novelists E. Lynn Harris and Toni Morrison, who believed that an author should write the books he/she/they want to read.

W.D. is a book review editor for Insight News, a Black community newspaper in the Twin Cities. His column is titled, “Sharing Our Stories.”

His Christopher Family Novel series can be found on the shelves of 13 public library system collections in Minnesota, the Des Moines Public Library System in Iowa, and the Quatrefoil (LGBT) Library. Current works in development are a continuation of his series: four M/M romance novels, “To Thine Own Self”(a 30-plus couple), “Dare To Dream” (single dad), “Playa No More” (age gap), “Built to Last” (friends to lovers), and “The Rise of Sherry Payson,” a story seasoned with humor, romance, mystery, and a story within.

You may visit W. D. at his online home, wfostergrahamauthor.com; on Twitter, @WDFosterGraham1; and Facebook. And email W. D. at wfostergraham@wfostergrahamauthor.com.