I wrote this story in 2013 for the inaugural issue of “Hello Mr.” magazine as part of an ongoing photography project by Melbourne photographer, Ben Capp, called “My Dad’s My Mate”:
I was the middle child. And the only boy, so I was very close to my mum, and this meant my dad was always in the way — competition!
Then, less than twelve months after we moved from El Salvador to Australia, my mother passed away from breast cancer. I was eight years old. Our world was shattered and my dad had to step up his game as father and learn how to be a mother.
Dad worked his ass off to get us through school and into adulthood. He became a hero figure in my life who represented many things I might be — star soccer player, life of the party. He always seemed to be out of reach, and carried with him a hint of what my mum had meant for me up until I lost her — the world.
I came out to him at twenty-three. I had only really come out to myself a year before that. Coming from a Latin American background, dad’s first reaction was disbelief. I was “too macho,” he said. We were living alone at the time so we endured three very awkward days. After attempting to give me “the talk” he had been meaning to give me since I was fifteen (“the thing about women is…”), he conceded that he would be behind me no matter what.
For a long time I could only see my dad as a disapproving oppressor — he was to blame for my life’s limitations. But as I’ve opened up to him more, I have come to realise that the oppressor lived only in my mind. We are the same: we love conversation, robust debate and finding answers to questions with no answers. I am amazed by our growing relationship and at how readily my dad meets me in conversations about art, humanity, and personal growth. Topics that would have been garbage to the fictional oppressor!
Dad doesn’t socialise much, having worked so hard his entire life. So he now openly tells me that I am his best mate. I am his hero now just as he was mine. From my nemesis to my hero to my fictional oppressor to my mate to my number-one fan. Just two blokes with a whole lot in common and a mutual respect that can never be broken.