Throwback Thursday

Dad and Dick Gipson, New York

When my Dad died, we divided up the list of people to notify, and one of the people on my list was my Dad’s ex girlfriend, Kit. Dad and Kit dated for awhile in the early 60s, when he dropped out of college, and they moved to New York together. As Kit tells it, they moved to New York because someone had posted an ad in the paper that they needed someone to drive their car to New York from Oakland, and it seemed like a good idea. The picture above, which Ted likes to call my Dad’s album cover, is of my Dad (on the left) and Kit’s friend (Dad’s friend too, but Kit’s friend first) Dick.

I never met Dick, but at some point after this photo was taken, he and my mom got married. My mom was pregnant with Richard, though Dick was not the father. I believe they were married about 8 days before Richard was born. Dick and my mom were good friends, and Dick was trying very hard to live a ‘normal’ life, because he was gay. He had not told my mom that he was gay, and I don’t know how long it was before she figured it out. But they tried their best to be a married couple and raise Richard together. She had panicked at the idea of raising him alone, and marrying Dick seemed like a perfect solution.

Needless to say, it was not the perfect solution. Dick drank too much, and their marriage was not a happy one. They were separated (and my mom thought she was pregnant with Dick’s baby) when my Dad stopped by one fateful day to tell her he was leaving to go to Massachusetts, to serve his alternate service, as he refused the draft (and was convicted for it, and given alternate service). One thing led to another, and here I am.

I’m not sure how my mom didn’t realize I was not Dick’s child, but Michael’s. She could be pretty dense (as I’m sure we all can sometimes), and when the doctor told her she didn’t seem nearly far along enough for the baby considering the dates she had given him, he asked her if she was sure about the last time she had been with her husband, and she said yes, she was sure…it didn’t occur to her to tell him (or herself) that she had been with someone else a couple of months later. Which is how I was born at 5lbs, and she thought I was a 10 month pregnancy. A couple of years later, when Dad was already married to Mary (Maya and Melissa’s mom), her friend Kate (who knew my dad a little bit), commented on how much I looked like him, and asked why she hadn’t named me Michelle. A light bulb went off over her head, and she realized the truth.

My dad thought maybe I might be his, and Mary asked once if I was, because I looked like him, but this was before my mom even realized it herself, so because she acted so blaze’ about the whole thing, he figured no, I couldn’t be. Until she called him in October of 87, and started our meeting in motion, finally.

So that’s a lot of background for the picture above, but one thing that struck me when Kit very kindly sent me this picture, and others, of Dad and Dick and herself way back when, is how YOUNG they all are. 19 or 20. Younger than my own child. It’s hard to imagine ones parents being younger than your child, but of course they were, once. It’s interesting to see, and to think a bit about what life was like for them at the time, how different than mine at that age (and in other ways, how similar).

3 thoughts on “Throwback Thursday

  1. Love this picture and the story that you wrote up. They certainly lived somewhat unconventional lives at times, but when it came time to be “conventional” it surely didn’t work out all that well for your mom and Dick (or as Kit called him, Richard).

    Glad your mom, after all those years, got in touch with your dad. If she didn’t, we might not have been a couple. You know, my comment in class about how your dad’s gonna love you when you were nervous about meeting him.

    That changed your impression of me. ?

  2. The photo is a good one, both because you know the people, but also because it’s so evocative of a different time. You have an interesting family history, you know? Mine’s got a few wrinkles in it, but nothing quite like yours.

  3. Oh, gosh. That is one of the coolest photos of non-celebs I have ever seen.

    Despite it being such an Innocent time in so many ways–a very…idealistic time…people were doing so many adult things. And extrapolating it to our own children makes it even more shocking.

    Your story is such an interesting one with so many plots and subplots; its cast of characters is very rich. I love that you share it with us here.

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