August 23, 2019
I get a phone call from my mom, and she tells me that my father is about to get on an emergency life flight from our home in Montana to go to Denver to get a liver transplant.
What Happened The First Time I Returned To My Hometown After Transition
My mom is perennially optimistic, and she’s telling me, “Don’t worry. We’re going to pull through this. It’s going to be all right.” But I know something is really wrong. I’m living in New York, so I get the next flight I can, hoping that I can get there before my father dies. And I’m really glad I got that flight as fast as I did, because I was able to spend a couple hours with my father before he passed away. And before I know it, I’m at the side of his hospital bed with my mom, and we’re sobbing, because he’s gone.
My dad was a strong, silent type. He grew up on a farm, and he was one of two eye doctors in town. So he could fix anything, you know? He could fix tractors or eyes. And he was always doing it behind the scenes. He never wanted to take credit for it.
It was apparent that my mom and I were going to have to be fixing things ourselves this time around. And the first thing my mom did was to call my two brothers.                
One’s a year older; one is a year younger. And it was going to be really comforting to see my younger brother. We were really close. He was really going to support me.
It was going to be much more complicated seeing my older brother, Mark. We’d always had a really complicated relationship. And there was something really big about me that he did not know. The last time he saw me, years and years before, I was male.
He was not aware that I had transitioned from being male to being female. And you know, I always wanted to tell him. I was trying to find the right time, the right place – trying to get up the nerve. I was worried about his reaction. He was a bit conservative. He had a temper, and I just kept putting it off – never found the right time. And now here we were, at the time where I had to deal with all this other stuff.
Mark wasn’t the only one who didn’t know my story. My hometown didn’t know about me either. I was trying to find a way to tell Mark, but I kind of figured that with my hometown, I would just never go back there again.Mark wasn’t the only one who didn’t know my story. My hometown didn’t know about me either.So my mom calls my brother, and in one phone call tells him that he lost his father. And that he now has a sister.
I have to say, Mark, he was really great. He got off the plane. We met him at the airport. He gave me a hug. But it was awkward, as you can imagine.
And I think we did what a lot of families do at times like that—you just kind of fall back on tradition. And we wanted to do something that my mom and dad had always done, because, you see, it was my father’s birthday. He had passed away twenty minutes before his 65th birthday. So we all went to Applebee’s, and we got a slice of sizzling apple pie and put a candle in it. And my brother Mark, who really worshipped my father, got the honour of blowing out the candle.
And I still remember the expression on his face when he was blowing out the candle. He was trying to process my father’s passing. He was figuring out why it had been so long since the two of us had talked, something that really frustrated him. And it was all coming together.
I took a business card out of my purse. It was for this job that Mark didn’t even know I had. It had my new name on it. I wrote my cell phone number on it, and I gave it to Mark.
I said, “Look, you know, we haven’t talked for so long, but here – anytime, anyplace, no barriers. We can talk anytime you want.”
And my mom started crying because her children were reuniting. And also because for years she had been running interference between the two of us, and using every excuse in the book to explain why I wasn’t getting back to him, or why packages to me were being returned because they had the wrong name on them. And her job running interference was over.
So Mark was in shock. We were all in shock. And I was thinking about the fact that nobody in my hometown knew. And I was wondering if I could go back for the funeral—if I should go back, if my mom and my brothers really wanted me to, really deep down. I never even thought I was going to go back to my hometown, and now I was being pulled right back into it.
As contradictory as it may seem, as soon as there was a reason, I had this really deep yearning to go back. I had gone to school in New York and San Francisco, and traveled all over the world, and this was a place that I thought of as home. I think I had really repressed it, knowing that I couldn’t go back there.I had gone to school in New York and San Francisco, and traveled all over the world, and this was a place that I thought of as home... I think I had really repressed it, knowing that I couldn’t go back there.But as soon as there was a reason for me to go back there, a very strong reason, I really, really wanted to go. I wanted to see our house, the only house I had ever known growing up. I wanted to go back to my hometown and these people that comprised this community that I thought of as home.
And my mom reassured me that she wanted me to be there, that she in fact needed me there for support. My brothers too. And my mom had a plan to get us there. Our family had been separated for a long time, so she had the idea of all of us renting a car and driving the twenty hours from Denver back to Montana.
So before you know it, there we were in the car. My brother hadn’t seen me for years, and never as female, and here we were. And we had so much to do. We were planning my father’s funeral service. We were writing his obituary.
But also, my mom wanted to figure out – and I did too – how we could introduce the information about me while still keeping the focus on my father. So driving across Wyoming, seventy miles an hour, she had me take dictation. She wanted to invite her friends over for tea. She had this really strategic list. It was like, “You invite Judy,” and she’s going to tell all the people in the arts community that my mom was involved in, and “You’re going to tell June, and June is going to tell all the people at Dad’s office. And we’ll find somebody else who’s going to tell everybody at the church.”
And the next night, there they are, eighteen of my mom’s best friends and the minister from the church where the service was going to be performed. They’re drinking tea.
And my mom says, “You all know very well by now that I’ve lost my husband. And I know a lot of you have wondered what happened to my middle son, who seemed to disappear. I want you to know tonight that I have a daughter, and her name is Kim. And this is my child, and I love my child, and I hope you do too, and we can focus on this tonight. We can talk about this tonight. You all are my ambassadors. If someone has questions at the funeral, and I’m caught up in things, I’m going to point them to you and let you tell this story, because you can talk about it in a sensitive way.”
She takes a couple of questions from the people there. And the whole tea party ends slightly differently than the Tea Party we hear about in the news. The whole thing ends with every- body raising a teacup and saying, “Hip hip hooray for Kim! Hip hip hooray for Kim!”
There were a couple of “Amens” and some applause. And then everybody went home, and I swear there was a brownout from all the simultaneous phone calls that were being made, dispensing the information.
The next night there was a viewing of my father’s body at the funeral home, and I had elected not to go, because I didn’t want the focus to be on me. I was going to keep it on my father. But my best friend, Tim, from high school, was at the viewing, and he called me up. He had only known the new me for a couple of days. I hadn’t even told him before.The next night there was a viewing of my father’s body at the funeral home, and I had elected not to go, because I didn’t want the focus to be on me. I was going to keep it on my father.But he knew me really well, and he knew I was chickening out. He called me from the funeral parlour, and he said, “Hey, got a lot of people here that really want to see you.”
I should probably tell you that the people he was talking about were the football team. Because I used to be on the football team.
And so Tim says, “Where are you? I’ve got a lot of people who want to see you.” And I’m like, “Yeah, I don’t want to go. You know, I want to keep the focus on my dad. I don’t want to be the—”
And he’s like, “Yeah, yeah, whatever. Either you come down here, or we’re going to come up there. What’s it going to be?”
And I say, “Come up here, I guess.”
So before I know it, the football team is at my front door. And a couple of them have cases of beer under their arms. One case gets tossed in the snow bank to keep it cold. It’s just like high school. And all of a sudden, they’re in my living room. And it’s this wake instantly. This show of support for me and for the memory of my father. And they’re in my living room, this living room I never even thought I would see again.
And people are either laughing or crying, mostly laughing. And I remember looking around the room, and there’s Kevin. He was one of the co-captains of the football team with me. And I look over there, and there are my brothers, Mark and Todd, and we were all very close in age, so we had friends in common, and they’re telling stories about my dad.
And I look over on the couch, and there’s Frank. He was an offensive lineman. It’s the job of an offensive lineman to protect the quarterback.
I probably should have also told you before that, um, not only was I on the football team, but I was the quarterback.
And Frank is protecting me once again, twenty years later, under very different circumstances. He’s got his arm around my girlfriend. They’re laughing and knocking back cans of cheap beer, and that was the moment that I knew things were going to be okay somehow.
And there was one more person there that night, and that was my mom. And she told me something that we ended up repeating quite a bit that weekend, through the services. She came up, and she said, “You know, Dad was always fixing things, and it looks like he fixed this too.”
And she said, “You know, even though your father has died, you’ve been reborn.”
Kimberly Reed is a filmmaker living in New York City. This story is cross-posted from The Moth’s latest book, Occasional Magic. You can buy the book here. 
Have a compelling personal story you want to tell? Find out what we’re looking for here, and pitch us on ukpersonal@huffpost.comMore from HuffPost UK Personal and The Moth I'm An ER Doctor. This Is What It's Like To Tell People Their Loved Ones Have Died. What I Learned The Day I Helped Save The Life Of A Shooting Victim In My Home We Adopted After Years Of Trying For A Baby. Then I Got Pregnant.
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