Author JP Benedetto
First, my mother is an astoundingly astute woman, someone we could never hide a thing from as children. She is most definitely a product of her era: Born in 1950, she was a child of forced etiquette classes, a mother who dressed like Joan Crawford – furs and all, and survived being the middle child. She met my father at 19 and by his senior year in college they were married, expecting, and living in family housing on campus.
I grew up in exactly the household you’d expect…for a middle class, military officer-father, orthodox Roman Catholic family.
To say the least, I’m still baffled. And when I recounted the story to my eldest sister a few days later, we both bawled like babies.
Friday after Thanksgiving, Mom sat in the (her) oversized leather chair in the living room, while our 19 year old daughter sat cross legged at her feet. I was stationed at the stove-top, working on warming some leftover meatballs and anything else I could find that I wouldn’t have to cook, when I suddenly hear my daughter (“V”) blurt out, “…I guess that makes me Nonbinary, Grammy!”
I froze, hand to my mouth. I was scared to exhale. The breath just sort of stuck, like gum, in my throat. I tiptoed from the kitchen and poked my head around the corner, afraid of whatever fallout might mushroom from the living room. And I’ll never forget what I saw and heard for as long as I live.
My mom in her infinite wisdom, while holding and patting my daughter’s hand says, “Little Missy, you never owe anyone an explanation of who you are, ever. And don’t ever be with someone because you think it’s what you ought to do. Just be who you are and be with whomever you love.”
Not only did her love flow abundantly upon her granddaughter, but she also kept V’s confidence, as if she was the only one to whom V had come out. My mom never told me about the conversation – not until I brought it up the next morning during our shared quiet time.
Now I’m more aware than ever – that I have a terrible habit of underestimating that woman. But what she did (and said) will forever remind me of how truly spectacular she is.