For almost 30 years, T. Chick McClure and their father, Chas, were estranged. Then, four years ago, Chick reached out to their dad to change that. Soon after, their dad invited them on a two-week-long road trip to get to know each other again.
During a StoryCorps conversation, Chick, 49, and Chas, 73, talked about the trip that brought them back together.
In September 2018, they met at the Crystal Inn Hotel in Salt Lake City. “I walked to the door of the hotel room and there was a mirror there,” Chick told Chas. “So I got a last look at how different I knew I was going to look to you. There was a lot of time between when I was 14 and we reconnected on that trip, 30 years?”
“Why do you think it took so long?” Chas asked.
“I know that you are politically conservative,” Chick said. “And I was worried that you might not accept me being transgender.”
Chas said he had some “momentary shock,” but then he heard his son’s voice. “And you smiled, and then we hugged,” Chas said. “Everything just went away.”
Chick was 14 years old when their parents divorced and their dad moved away for his job in the Navy. They spent the following 30 years having a distant relationship, speaking only occasionally. In 2016, they came out to their dad as transgender, and eventually, the two began to rebuild their relationship.
They drove through Utah, Colorado and New Mexico, stopping in scenic areas and parks for Chick to take photographs. Chas said he had “a ball” on the trip.
“I’ve done a lot of thinking about that trip, and part of the reason that it was so great was that I had been able to be honest with you about who I am, and it was so great to have your acceptance,” Chick said. “But also I felt like, you know, I am accepting you. Because I feel like I’ve been kind of rigid with you.”
Chas agreed, adding that he’s learned a lot as he’s gotten older. “There’s many things that we either don’t understand or can’t understand. You can’t abandon your family. I mean, that’s the only link that you have to eternity.”
“Do you remember when we said our goodbyes [at] the airport?” Chas asked his son.
Chick said they “got emotional” because they had regret over “lost time.”
“And when you got on your plane, that really occurred to me very strongly. None of us know what kind of time we’ve got, but I just want to make what time we have be really connected and talk about real things,” Chick told their dad.
“Yeah, me too. I’ll double down on that,” Chas said. “That’s for sure.”
“I love you dad,” Chick said.
“I love you too,” Chas said.
Audio produced for Morning Edition by Jey Born. Adapted for the Web by NPR’s Christianna Silva.
StoryCorps is a national nonprofit that gives people the chance to interview friends and loved ones about their lives. These conversations are archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, allowing participants to leave a legacy for future generations. Learn more, including how to interview someone in your life, at StoryCorps.org.