The ache of watching a loved one grow smaller was hard enough. But I also wasn’t prepared for the way care-taking would force me to tamp down my queerness — and to become smaller myself.
Despite coming out to my grandpa years ago, I still internalized the pressure to mute essential aspects of my identity, to shield him from the “distressing” truth of my own queerness. I spoke with a deeper voice around him. I hid my romantic life. And because he had always nagged me about landing that “better job,” I leaned into the role of a straight-laced go-getter with a future in management. I wordlessly stuffed the creative queerdo I know myself to be back in the closet.
When I was younger, I always envisioned caring for my elders as something that would happen in a distant era “later on.” Maybe I’d have salt-and-pepper hair and bifocals and be doing yawn-worthy, respectable office work. That future version of me is more mature, established and utterly unrecognizable. He is actually ready for that responsibility.
To tactfully broach conversations about a loved one’s physical and mental health, experts recommend affirming their autonomy, validating their...