When I was a teenager my dad and I couldn't have been further apart, or at least I thought so. He was a straight arrow, no nonsense guy who worked at least two jobs at all times. I was a confused homosexual boy, who wanted to rebel at every turn. He did let me get my learners permit when I was fifteen years old, and let me buy a car when I was sixteen, so he probably wasn't as bad as I thought. Then again, he called my friends names when they'd come over to the house when I was eighteen. No, not to their faces, but when he'd come in from the garage he'd bellow "Who are those animals sitting out in the driveway?" Those long haired, pot smoking, hippie 'animals' were my friends. The older dad and I got, the more I understood him. By the time I was in my late twenties we were close enough for him to take me to a Chicago Bears football game with him and his buddies. Not a regular season game, but preseason. Little steps, little steps. I knew we were right with each other in the summer of 1997, at my sister's Fourth of July cookout. There was my dad, a bit shorter than I remembered and not at the peak of his health, talking to some friends of his. I walked into the back yard, said hello to dad, introduced him to my new boyfriend Mark, and then left the two of them while I went into the house. As I walked away I could hear him introducing Mark to his friends, "This is Alan's new 'special friend', Mark." He had never acknowledged any of my boyfriends before, and to hear that really made me happy. As for Mark, standing in a yard full of white people he didn't know and trying to make small talk with my dad, he was scared shitless. Miss you Big Al.