My First Friend
Updated: Aug 15, 2022
“It’s Scottish for Thomas, and that’s my Dad’s name.” Anytime somebody asks about my name, “Tavish? Wow. I’ve never heard that.” I respond the same way.
I take pride in my name, and I take pride in being named for my father. I especially love that my name is rooted in our Celtic heritage. And it’s unique. Fun fact: I have only met one other Tavish.
I was 26 and at the Maryland Renaissance Festival with my friend Dustin. Amidst the fantasy hoopla, there was a shop where you could buy a necklace with a custom-made pendant. Basically, you could choose the design you wanted, and they would use their magic to make it for you in 10-30 minutes. I selected a triskelion, one of the oldest Indigenous European symbols. I wandered around and 20 minutes later I came back. “I’m picking up a necklace for Tavish,” I said. “Which Tavish?” they replied. “What do you mean, ‘which Tavish?’” “That guy over there is named Tavish too,” pointing to someone across the way. I ran up to that person and asked, “Is your name Tavish?” He replied yes, and I exclaimed, “My name is also Tavish!” grinning real big. “I’ve never met another Tavish before.” He had also never met another Tavish before. Naturally, we took a selfie. And the kicker is we both chose the same design for our necklaces. So, yes, I like my unique name and I like that I was named for my father. Like many sons and fathers, we have had a complicated relationship, but one that I am thankful for. When I was a kid, my Dad was my BEST FRIEND. Rewatching those home videos, I was reminded how much I absolutely adored him. (90% of the time, he was the one holding the camera, so I owe it him for savoring those moments on film.)
As a youngling, I was always excited to do something with Dada. He gave me attention and was always ready to play. I remember we had a music room in the basement. He would let me sing on the microphone, strum his guitar, and mindlessly bang on the keyboard. I remember when I started going to school, he and Shea would set booby traps for me when I got home. I’d walk through the back door, only to be ambushed with a Stomp-It-Rocket, rough housing, and laughter. He took us camping every year since I was two. He’d chase us around, play German spotlight tag with us, and board games too. He’d take us on bike rides and let us spend a chunk of change at the arcade. He’d swim with us at the pool, take us hiking through a trail, down a river or to the beach. He took us on canoeing trips. He let us help build the fire, roast marshmallows, and then he sang songs on his guitar. My favorite was “Mother” by Pink Floyd. He introduced us to nature and the clear night sky (and I think that is one of the most important gifts anyone can offer to anyone else).
Dad made pancakes from scratch, steak tips, and cinnamon toast with globs of butter and sugar that spread over the bread like a thick, sandy paste. My mom called it heart attack toast. One day, Dad brought home a movie called Star Wars from Bowlin Video. I remember thinking, “This isn’t a cartoon! Why are we watching this?!” Two hours later my life was forever changed. I was a Jedi like my father before me.
Dad took Karate lessons with me and Tae Kwon Do. He was very supportive of my dream to become Batman. I guess, when I was younger, I felt like there was nothing I couldn’t do with him and nowhere that we could not go together.
Then, when I was nine, my parents separated. I was once told that when parents divorce, children grieve the loss like they would a death. It took four years of court battles, arguments, passive aggression, and tears for Dad and Mom to finalize their paperwork. I suppose most kids struggle with their parents. They’re often the ones that raise us and are therefore they are the ones that we blame for our hurt, especially when blaming ourselves grows tiresome. Well, for the divorce, I blamed him. I know, now, that was not fair. Having experienced a breakup with a long-term partner, I understand, at least in part, how complex and messy my parents’ feelings must have been. How bitterness, depression, and resentment can creep into your psyche and warp, not only your perspective, but the relationships of those around you. I know it’s not fair to choose sides, but when I was 9, 10, 11, and moving into my teenage years, I thought it was unfair not to choose, and I chose my mother. Now, none of this is to say that my Dad did nothing wrong, nor is it to say that my Mom did everything right, but I do think it is important for me to acknowledge what I experienced, what I felt, and how it impacted my outlook. This blog is about gratitude, so I will not offer an itemized list of everything that hurt during and after the divorce, but I will say that it was a traumatic event for all parties involved.
Both my parents have since apologized, feeling guilty for how difficult that time period was and how it affected me and Shea. Of course, I forgive both unequivocally. Love is hard. Family is hard. Belonging is a lifetime pursuit.
Today, my Mom and Dad don’t really talk to each other that much, but they both show up for me. At my high school graduation, the three of us took a photo together. It was the first time since I was nine, and it is one of my favorite photos in the world. In 2020, when I was marching with BLM and rage posting on social media, they spoke to each other again, out of concern for my health and safety. I thought that was really cute. My Dad texted my mom on her Birthday recently. He flew me home to see her when she was diagnosed. They both love each other in their own way and especially through their children.
As I grew into my teenage years my relationship with my Dad recovered. We still went camping. He met someone new and started a beautiful new chapter with her. We didn’t play together as much, but board games were still on the table and he was very supportive of my Yu-Gi-Oh habit, taking me and Shea to comic book stores, tournaments, and, oh my god, the Northshore Mall!
When I was coming out of the closet, my Dad was the last member of my family that I told. I was anxious and unsure how he would respond. But of all my family members, he was the best. He said, “are you happy, bud?” I said, “yeah.” “Then that’s all that matters.”
I have shared that story with other queer people, and some have been moved to tears by how powerfully simple his words were. We don’t see eye to eye on everything. Our differences sometimes feel more pronounced than our similarities, but Thomas Wallace Forsyth is a beautiful man. He was my first friend. He is my Dad, and I am so proud of him and who has become. I am proud that he got remarried to a wonderful woman named Corrina and that they are happily in love for over ten years. I am so thankful that her children, Brandan and Makayla, have become my siblings and that they became main characters in my story, in his story, in our story of growing older. I am so thankful that Dad still goes camping, that he lives near the beach, that he still plays his music and has a big board game collection. I am thankful that he has never stopped loving me, even when we felt distant.
Dad, you are a forever friend. I love you.
This article is part of a series called "A Month of Gratitude," about the people, places and things that I am thankful for. You can read the first post here and all other posts here.