jonathan frakes is the best dad i never got to have
For most of last year, I worked on and promoted my New York Times bestselling (I’m gonna keep leaning into that until it gets super obnoxious, and then keep going to a little bit) memoir, Still Just A Geek. A huge part of my story is my survival of child abuse and exploitation, living with CPTSD and the depression and anxiety that accompany it.
So it follows that for most of last year, I was picking at a barely-healed wound. When the promotion cycle wrapped up, I gave myself permission to just withdraw from public life as much as I wanted and needed to, so I could rest and regain my hit points. While I was resting, that wound I’d been picking at got infected and made me … not extremely sick, but sicker than I’ve felt in a long long time. So I did what you do when you’re sick: I went to the doctor, and I’ve been doing the work every day to get better.
We got the infection cleaned up, but the wound is still there. It still hurts. Some days it hurts more than others, others I hardly notice it. But it’s there. It’ll probably be there for the rest of my life, because the people who gave it to me refuse to be part of healing it. So I’m doing the work to heal it the best I can, let the scab do its thing, and eventually become a scar that I can’t feel. I‘d rather have no wound, and no scar, but I when I look at it, I know that it represents all the work I’ve done (and continue to do) to heal myself.
I haven’t wanted to talk about this at all because all those months of being vulnerable in public, revisiting the most painful and traumatic moments of my life, was a lot. I needed and deserve quiet, private time for myself to recover.
All of that is to give some context to what I’m about to share with you.
Last night, Anne and I went to the fancy premiere of Star Trek Picard’s final season at the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. Before the screening began, after we were all settled into our seats, Terry Matalas and Alex Kurtzman introduced the show, thanked the cast and crew, and turned the spotlight over to Patrick. He spoke lovingly and beautifully about the entire experience, in that Patrick Stewart way we all love.
As he was wrapping up his remarks, he said, “I would like to ask the cast who are here to please stand up,” so they could also be celebrated.
I remembered how humiliating it was, how much it hurt, those times Rick Berman deliberately left me seated while everyone else was standing up, those times Rick Berman made me feel exactly the way my father made me feel: unwelcome, unworthy, invisible. Not a great feeling.
But last night wasn’t about me. Yes, I have a wonderful cameo in season two, but I’m not in season three. And last night was about season three. It was about celebrating my family, who all came together for what is likely their final mission together. So I was happy to stay in my seat while they started to stand up. I clapped so hard my hands were still vibrating this morning. I applauded not just their work on this season, but everything they’ve given to Star Trek for over thirty years, everything they’ve given to me. I celebrated the absolute hell out of my family. And while I was doing this, I looked across the aisle at Frakes and clapped at/for him.
We made eye contact, and he gave me this incredulous look. “Why are you sitting down? Stand up, W!” He said.
So I did, and he applauded me, and I may have wept just a little bit. Or maybe a lot. I can’t remember. I was so grateful to be included in the moment by the man who I wish was my father, who loves me and sees me like my own parents never did.
My dad never made an effort to get to know me. It’s a choice he made, not some personality quirk, because he put a lot of effort into knowing and loving my brother and sister. My mom has gaslighted me about his abuse and bullying my whole life, forcing me to apologize to him when he hurt me. For a long time, I believed her lies and even tried hating myself as much as he hates me, hoping maybe then he would see and love and care about me. (Spoiler alert: it didn’t.)
A significant part of the pain I feel and the healing I continue to work on, is that awful black hole in my life where my father’s love should be. I’ve spent so much time there, I know more about it than anyone, certainly more than my manipulative, selfish, drunk of a mother who insists it doesn’t exist. I absolutely know my memories and my feelings and everything my dad chose to withhold from me are real, because I never once in my 50 years on this planet felt loved and accepted by my dad the way I felt and feel loved and accepted by Frakes. He’s always been there for me. He’s always made sure that I know I am part of a family, something my birth parents never bothered to do.
Later, at the after party, as I was saying goodnight, he said, “What were you doing, sitting down?”
“This whole thing tonight isn’t about me. It’s about you guys,” I said.
“No,” he said, putting his hand on my shoulder, “this is about us.”
I felt so seen, so loved … and had to take a deep breath to force the tears back, and I said, “Thank you for including me, Johnny. You are the best dad I never got to have.”
And we hugged each other, and he told me that he loves me, and I told him that I love him back.