Three Kids, Two Dads, One Uncle

1.9.2011

By Steven Thrasher

When Robert Christmas invited his gay uncle to move in with him and his partner and their three children, the concept of family took on a new hue.

When David Christmas, a former Broadway actor, was preparing to retire from his job as the volunteer coordinator at God's Love We Deliver in New York City, he wasn't sure how he was going to spend his retirement.

The answer came in the unlikeliest of places. David's nephew Robert Christmas, a lawyer, and his partner, John Buscaglia, a psychotherapist, had begun the process of trying to have a child through surro-gacy several years earlier. After months of trying unsuccessfully with one surrogate in Maryland, they moved on to another in California. Then, right as the California surrogate was about to be implanted, their Maryland surrogate came back to them. She was pregnant as the result of a one-night stand. Did they want to adopt her baby?

They agreed. Shortly thereafter, their California surrogate became pregnant'with twins. Soon, Robert and John, who had hoped to have one child, had an eight-month infant, Amanda (who is biracial), and premature twins, Spencer and Elizabeth (Izzy).

But their family was incomplete. The children's great-uncle David, who had started spending weekends with them, grew to love the dynamic of being the grandfather figure in their lives. So when he was ready to leave New York, he moved in with them in Montclair, New Jersey. The kids are now all 6 years old.

David, Robert, and John talk to Out about what it's like to raise three children together as a mixed-race, adoptive family headed by multigenerational gay men.

'Uncle' David, The Grandparent:
I had always liked kids. But when I knew I was gay, the idea of marrying and having a family wasn't something I was big on.

But in 1980, I went to the Children's Aid Society, and I started talking to them [about adopting]. I even did a home study. The talk of being gay never came up, but I was a 'single man of a certain age.' I felt a little hostility from them. All the children they showed me had severe health problems. One was in a wheelchair'and I lived in a sixth-floor walk-up! I eventually wrote them a letter saying I thought they were being homophobic and intentionally offering me children they knew I couldn't take care of. I never heard back from them, and so I thought my dream of being a father was never going to materialize.

For years, I ended up doing a lot of volunteering with children. That's how I dealt with it. And then, when John and Robert got the kids, I just started coming out every weekend, feeding them and burping them and watching them barf all over the place.

I remember saying to John one day, 'I want to live here. I want to be a part of all of this!' And Robert came in with tears in his eyes and said, 'That's the nicest thing anyone has ever said.'

It was the first truly honest family situation I've been in, where everybody knew who everybody was. When I was growing up with my family, I felt loved -- but there was so much unspoken, so much to hide.

I lived alone for a very long time and never had a long-term lover or roommate. And I came out here, with the boys and the kids, and it just came so naturally. I just love being a part of this family -- coming down and having dinner and helping clean up and cook. The kids come home from school now, and I'm sitting at my computer, and they come barging up the stairs, and I just love it. It's a wonderful journey.

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