A grandfather inspires his grandson to live full of honesty and love
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
It's time now for StoryCorps. When Jeffrey Perri was growing up, his grandfather, Tony, came out to him as a gay man. In 2009, they came to StoryCorps to reflect on that moment.
TONY PERRI: I remember you asking me, does Grandma Shirley know you're gay? Does my father know you're gay? Does my mother know you're gay?
JEFFREY PERRI: I like to tell people that you paved the way for me. But when I came out of the closet, the first person to know wasn't you, Papa. I was, I think, afraid of, you know, what you would think. Would you be afraid for me? I was...
T PERRI: Very real. I had all of those when you did.
J PERRI: Yeah. So I didn't tell you right away. I'm so lucky to have you in my life. And it's a privilege to have you as a grandfather.
MARTIN: Recently, 33-year-old Jeffrey came back to StoryCorps with his grandpa to talk about how things have changed.
T PERRI: I've gotten older. And a lot of things has happened to the gay community.
J PERRI: You're right. Marriage was passed since the last time we spoke.
T PERRI: But also, your grandma passed away, which was very hard. God, I guess we were divorced, like, 50 years. But we were still very good friends. Took a lot of work, but it was worth it.
J PERRI: You're 82. What does being a gay man mean to you in this stage of your life?
T PERRI: It's just being as authentic as I can be because I have no fear in coming out to people now. But I'm fearful that I'm going to be alone. It's hard getting older. But I have a lot of gratitude because I have a very supportive family. You know, a lot of gay men, family men who come out, lose that. And I never did.
J PERRI: Yeah. When I speak to people that I have a gay grandfather, they're always amazed. And you've shown me that being you is all you need. And to never let anyone tell you differently.
T PERRI: Yeah.
J PERRI: You'll be my guiding light in my life's choices 'cause you've always been.
T PERRI: I just hope your life is as beautiful as mine has been.
J PERRI: I love you, Papa.
T PERRI: Thank you. I love you, Jeff.
MARTIN: Tony Perri and his grandson Jeffrey Perri in Rochester, N.Y. Their conversations have been archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.