When my dad entered Oakdale, I had two options: hide reality from people around me, or be completely transparent about the situation.
Perhaps the best and worst part about me is my natural tendency to trust people. Instead of making people work for trust first, I give them a healthy amount with which to play–they can either build on that trust or let it crumble.
Friends and coworkers often ask me about my dad; they’ll find out about our blog or hear one of my joking comments and want more information. I tell them what happened. I tell them about his attempted suicide in 2009, and how I flew to Austin, Texas, alone for a Longhorns football game–the one he and I was supposed to see together. I tell them about giving him a kiss and a hug at Dulles International Airport before I flew back to Seattle–days before he walked through Oakdale’s doors. I tell them what he was charged with. I tell them how he’s doing–quite well–and how I’m handling it. I lay everything on the table when they say, “What happened to your dad?”
How can someone hit you if you’re giving him a hug?
Some folks may choose to stay quiet and reduce any risk of getting hurt; vulnerability is a terrible feeling. But I can’t do that. Humans are distinguished from other things because of their emotions and how they are able to control those emotions, and I believe story and truth has greater impact when a person’s emotions get involved. Can it have consequences? Yes. Do I put myself in a risky position? Yes. But I didn’t do what my dad did, and my knowing that is enough for me to be OK with people knowing the whole situation.
Societal reputation is something on my mind at all times. I’m seeking a career in public relations, and reputation is a big part of the job. People have asked me if I think my easy admittance of everything puts my career at risk, and I say, “maybe.” After all, a person might hear my story and think that since I’m Tony’s son we’re the same people. The reality, however, is that I don’t think about that; I love my dad and everything he has done to make himself an improved person. Growth gets my respect, and growth during hard times is worthy of storytelling–but who else will tell the story?
I’m transparent because it’s necessary, and I’m transparent because I’m strong enough, as is my dad.