Letter From a Mom

The initial letter:


We are the same age. I was a diver, although not even on the same planet as you. But my father was a baseball fan. He used to talk to me about players in the past -- Musial, Williams, DiMaggio, but he'd always finish with Babe Ruth and add, "the best there's ever been." I always was in awe of anyone who's "the best there's ever been at anything." Imagine. The "best -- ever".

I was able to watch you dive in person twice. My husband told me to stop drooling. I was pretty sure you were gay, but who cares. To me you were perfection in the air. It was truly a beautiful thing. The best there's ever been. How does that feel?

I've followed you, not like in a stalker way, but as an admirer, since you quit competitive diving. Coming out in our world was courageous, although I look forward to the day that it's not a big deal; that it just doesn't matter.

I just watched you on Chopped. I heard you say what your mother said about making something better because you were there. You have done that in my life. I admire the way you live now as much as I appreciated the way you danced in the air.

Just wanted to say this to you, Greg Louganis. Still my hero.

Thank you for all of that. What an honorable man.

My reply:

Thank you so much! That is so sweet! It is hard to say "how it feels." I never saw myself at the time as "the best"; I was just doing what I was trained to do. I was very shy and wanted my records to speak for themselves. So now, after 26 years and the progression in sports, yes, the divers are better than me in some ways, but my records and the aesthetics, I think, still stand. It's kind of weird for me, but it makes me proud. I did what I set out to do.

I totally agree with you about the gay thing. I end some of my speeches with, "I am a gay man living with HIV/AIDS, but I am looking forward to the day when I am seen as just a man." It does trouble me, with the rate of gay or questioning teen suicides, and places like Russia and Uganda passing hateful laws, which is contributing to even more senseless deaths. I have to be a voice for the children, because who knows who might be the next Greg Louganis or Martina Navratilova. Well, someone needs to stand up for them, and really it is people like you who can really make the difference in perception, dispelling myths. I have always said it is our allies who will make the difference. My coach, Ron O'Brien, his wife, and his son are all straight but love me as a part of their family. Those are the voices that will be listened to!

Thank you again. It was so very kind of you to share, and you made my day a lot brighter! Thanks!



Her reply:

How kind of you to respond. You don't know me. And to top it off, an Indian word/gesture? I'm from Oklahoma. I love that word.

Really short, here's what I was trying to say. As a diver, I could appreciate how astonishing what you were doing was. It enriched my life. The best there's ever been. It was ballet. A beautiful dance like no one had ever done it. And when I saw you dive I was on the front row, a happily married heterosexual, and thinking, what a horrible loss for my gender.

Here's the more important thing I had to say. Obviously I never met your mother, but I am the mother of four -- all in their early 20s. In some ways all mothers are the same. If our kids grow up to be kind and happy people who are comfortable in their own skin, that's the ultimate gift. No matter how old the kid is a mother is always a mother. That makes a mother happier than medals or records. I don't know when she died, but I hope she saw the man you have become. Especially after all the stuff you've gone through, what an accomplishment to persevere and come out on the other side, still kind, still compassionate and maybe, finally, comfortable in your own skin.

My reply:

Again, thank you.

Would you mind terribly if I were to share this on my Facebook pages? This is also what some young man or woman living in a remote area of the world needs to hear about a mother's love. I hate to say it, but some mothers need to hear these words of love and acceptance.

I will let you decide, as this was a private message to me, and I want to respect your privacy. I can remove your name, but this response is so moving, and I know in my heart that my mom feels the same way!



Her reply:

Feel free to post it anywhere you want to. If it helps anyone, great. I was going to ask you something, but feel free, of course, to say no. If I sent you your book with return postage, could you sign it? Don't feel obligated. I'm sure you get this stuff all of the time.

One more thing. I understand feeling "less than." Don't need to go into why. But someone said to me once, "I wish you could see yourself through my eyes." I thought about that this afternoon when you crossed my mind. I wish you could have always seen yourself through EVERYONE else's eyes. Forget the diving. From everything I've seen, read, and heard, you have always been a sweet, loving person who is worth it, just because. No one needs to earn value I don't think. You're just born with it.

Now please don't become a crazed, puppy-kicking, bigoted, racist serial killer. It would ruin everything.

The best to you always.