The Doc Project

How my dad's nurse turned him into a gay ally

Bob Kerr could never convince his dad that homosexuality was okay. Then a tattooed nurse named Terry came along.

My dad didn't want me to go to hell. I didn't want him to die a bigot. A nurse named Terry settled it.

Terry Crick, left, became my father's nurse when he was recovering from surgery. My dad, Doug Kerr, right, sits in his beloved porch recliner. (Submitted by Bob Kerr)

It's been said that you should never bring up religion or politics at the dinner table.

My father, Doug Kerr, didn't confine himself to the dinner table. Particularly with religion. God was one of his favourite topics. And as it so happened, God was also one of my favourite topics — to challenge him on.

Often when I came to visit my parents, my father and I would sit outside on the porch, smoking cigarettes and revelling in the small-town midnight ambience. And then one of us would screw it all up by bringing up God.

For me, it was God and gay people. I never got how God could say, "Love thy neighbor... but y'know, not like that." I mean, wasn't Jesus, like, the first hippie? He had to have been cool with it.

I'm not gay, but my father made me wish I was, just so I'd have the upper hand.

I'm not gay, but my father made me wish I was, just so I'd have the upper hand. 

As it was, we were like the two balls at the end of Newton's cradle; constantly clacking at each other with even force.

"Why is God so hung up about gay people, anyway?" Clack.

Me and Dad on the porch between arguments. (Submitted by Bob Kerr)

"Because the Bible says that a man who lies with another man is committing a mortal sin." Clack.

"Yeah, but gay people don't choose to be gay. They just are. So why is God making gay people if only to condemn them to hell?" Clack.

And so it went. The crickets chirped. The stars twinkled. We... clacked.

The Terry effect

My dad hugs me goodbye before another long-haul trip. He was actually a trucker, meaning that he wore the hat unironically. (Submitted by Bob Kerr)

In January 2015, my father was diagnosed with a rare endocrine cancer that had been slowly growing in him for over 20 years.

In February, he had surgery to remove 98 per cent of it. But there were complications. 

"It was two days after the operation," my mom remembers. "The doctor came in and he says, 'Oh my, this is all infected.' So then they ripped the stitches out…and then they put a pump on him."

Once Dad went home, he started getting home visits by a VON (Victorian Order of Nurses).

My father's nurse turned out to be a man named Terry Crick. And at some point, Terry revealed he was gay.

Mom was there when Terry nonchalantly strode out of the closet. "I think [Terry] said 'his partner.' And Doug kind of looked at him. He goes, 'Your partner?' And he said, like, a male partner. [Doug] just kind of looked surprised."

I tracked down Terry asked if I could talk to him about my dad. Terry had just returned from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, where he runs a bed and breakfast called Casa Rio Danubio four months of the year.

Terry Crick, with two tickets to the gun show on a Mexico beach. (Submitted by Bob Kerr)
"Oh yeah, of course I remember your dad," Terry tells me. He also remembers the moment he came out to my father: "He just kind of looked blankly at me and went, 'Oh!' He didn't say much."

"You know, of course his wife's there. And she's doing a lot of talking anyway."

Of course she was. I could just imagine Mom talking effusively about anything else, anything at all, in hopes to drown out whatever Dad would say next.

Dad could have responded in a number of ways to this reveal. He could have started talking about the evils of homosexuality, or sent Terry away and asked for someone less... heathenish, but that wasn't what happened at all.

Big gay questions

My dad was a deeply curious person, as Terry was about to find out. Never having met a real live gay person before, my father began asking Terry questions.

"How did you know you were gay?"

"Did you ever have a female partner?"

The more questions he asked, the more personal they became. My mother was mortified. She'd scold Dad afterwards: "You can't just ask people that!"

But Terry was cool with all of it. "He asked me more about my family, what does my partner do."

Terry Crick and his partner, Chris. In one of my dad and Terry's many chats, my dad discovered that Chris ran a diner my parents often went to called Truckin' Mamas. (Submitted by Bob Kerr)

During one of Terry's homecare visits, he remembers my dad turning to him and saying, "I don't really know of any gay people."

Terry replied, "Well, you do now!"

The more they got to know each other, the closer they became. In fact, if Dad was Terry's last call of the day, Terry would stick around and they would hang out on the porch together, chatting about whatever. (I'm guessing God was left out.)

My dad, still with the trucker hat. (Submitted by Bob Kerr)
Dad, Rainbow Warrior

But Dad didn't just befriend Terry. He actually became protective of him.

I remember once, a bunch of us were hanging out on the porch (let's be honest, this is pretty much the only place my father hung out). Someone made a joke about Dad's gay nurse. My father, always ready with a joke of his own, grew somber.

"He's a great guy. Truth is, I don't care if he's gay." And then, with a shrug: "He's just like you or me."

You could have knocked me over with Freddie Mercury's feathered jacket. Curiosity may have killed the cat, but in this case, it absolutely murdered Dad's homophobia.

Every time my dad and I argued about God and the gay thing, we argued out of love.

Eleven months after his diagnosis, my father's health took a rapid turn for the worse. He had gone septic, and was rushed to the hospital in terrible pain. He died several days later.

Terry and my dad never got a chance to say their goodbyes. I didn't, either. Dad died while I was outside, having a smoke. 

Me and Dad, swimming on a beach in Ipperwash, Ontario. (Submitted by Bob Kerr)

Every time my dad and I argued about God and the gay thing, we argued out of love. We just wanted the best for each other. My dad didn't want me to burn in hell. I didn't want him to die a bigot.

When I thank Terry for converting my dad into a gay ally, his response is just as unflappable as he was answering all those awkward questions. 

"That's great," he says. "You know, I'm glad."

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About the Producer

Bob Kerr has written and performed for hit television comedy shows such as This Hour Has 22 Minutes, Winnipeg Comedy Festival, Comedy Inc., The Nikki Payne Funtime Show, Hotbox, and Satisfaction to name a few. The web series he co-created, "But I'm Chris Jericho," won a Canadian Comedy Award for Best Writing In A Web Series. Bob has also won a Canadian Screen Award and a Canadian Comedy Award for Best Writing in a Variety or Sketch Comedy Program or Series for his work on This Hour Has 22 Minutes. Bob is the only one in his friend circle that still watches Survivor.  

"Queer Eye for the Dying Guy" was written and produced with Jennifer Warren. It was mixed by Julia Pagel.



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