A Road Trip And Lost Time: How A Father And Son Reconnected After 30 Years

Aug 14, 2020
Originally published on August 14, 2020 10:40 am

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.

Chas McClure and T. Chick McClure at McClure Pass summit in Colorado.
Courtesy of T. Chick McClure

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.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It is Friday, which is when we hear from StoryCorps. For almost 30 years, T. Chick McClure and his father Chas were estranged. But Chick reached out to his dad to change that. Shortly afterward, his dad invited him on a two-week road trip, and they used StoryCorps Connect to reflect on the time that brought them back together.

T CHICK MCCLURE: We had flown into this airport hours apart. I got there first. And then when you called, I was, like, OK. He's here. And I walked to the door of the hotel room, and there was a mirror there as 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 when we reconnected on that trip...

CHAS MCCLURE: Yeah.

T C MCCLURE: ...Thirty years.

C MCCLURE: Why do you think it took so long?

T C MCCLURE: You know, I know that you are politically conservative.

C MCCLURE: Right.

T C MCCLURE: And I was worried that you might not accept me being transgender.

C MCCLURE: You felt like that would be a bridge too far, really?

T C MCCLURE: Yeah. I was worried about that. But I felt like when I got off the elevator, and we saw each other, we didn't even have to say anything. We connected with our eyes.

C MCCLURE: It was just kind of a momentary shock. And then when I heard your voice, and you smiled, and then we, you know, hugged, and everything just went away.

T C MCCLURE: Yeah.

C MCCLURE: I had a ball on that trip. And a lot of it was just driving around, looking out the window at that beautiful terrain, shooting the breeze, which I really enjoy doing.

T C MCCLURE: And it seemed like we were always on a quest to find the best chicken-fried steak (laughter).

C MCCLURE: Yeah, and I don't think we ever really found the best one, either.

T C MCCLURE: And I've done a lot of thinking about that trip. And part of the reason that it was so great was just that I had been able to be honest with you about who I am, you know?

C MCCLURE: Yeah.

T C MCCLURE: And it was so great to have your acceptance. But also, I felt like, you know, I am accepting you because I feel like I've been kind of rigid with you.

C MCCLURE: As I've gotten older, I've learned that life is full of mysteries. And you know me to be a very religious person. There's many things that we either don't understand or can't understand. And you can't abandon your family. I mean, that's the only link that you have to eternity.

T C MCCLURE: Yeah.

C MCCLURE: You remember when we said our goodbyes in the airport?

T C MCCLURE: I just got emotional - just so emotional because I...

C MCCLURE: Yeah.

T C MCCLURE: I do have regret. What I have regret about is lost time, you know?

C MCCLURE: Yeah.

T C MCCLURE: I have regret about lost time. And when you got on your plane, that really occurred to me very strongly. None of us know, like, 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.

C MCCLURE: Me too. I'll double down on that. That's for sure.

T C MCCLURE: I love you, dad.

C MCCLURE: I love you, too.

(SOUNDBITE OF BLUE DOT SESSIONS' "SAGE THE HUNTER")

INSKEEP: T. Chick McClure talking with his father, Chas. They're hoping to take another road trip after the pandemic. Their conversation will be archived at the Library of Congress along with hundreds of thousands of others. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.