The Highschool Years

by David Gaingridge

Chapter 7

It's always hard learning to accept the truth especially when you don't want to hear it. It's even harder apologizing to the person who tried to help you and you just lashed out at them.

But that was what I needed to do.

I knew this was what I needed to do all along. I knew I shouldn't have snapped at dad and acted like a brat. These were my issues I needed to work out not his. But my fetal position on my floor kept me there for a few more minutes.

After a few more minutes I sat up and took a deep breath. So far so good. I slowly got up and made my way over to my bedroom door. You can do this I told myself. I turned the doorknob, took another deep breath, and crept down the hall.

"He hates me, Scott," I heard my dad say and then he started sniffling. I froze in place. "I was just worried about him. I know what it's like to be young… To be vulnerable. If I could just save him from that." There was a brief pause and then my dad said, "he went off to his room. But everything he said was the truth." And then he broke down again.

I hated seeing my dad like this…or rather I hated hearing what this was doing to him. There are very few moments that I wish I could take back and do over and this was definitely one of them. My dad didn't deserve this. And I certainly didn't deserve my dad. If I had said these things to my mom I would've been grounded for weeks and forced to attend bible camp.

I rounded the corner and saw that he was sitting on the couch with his phone to his ear and was hunched over sobbing. In that instant I realized that my dad actually looked small for the first time. And that I had done all of this to him. More waves of guilt and sadness just seemed to wash over me.

I didn't know what to do. I wanted to shout that I was sorry from the tallest building. And then I thought that a written apology would be better since it would be more permanent. But seeing him in this state there was really only one thing I needed to do — I walked over and hugged him. It worked when my dad saw me not so long ago in the restaurant and this situation definitely called for this as well.

"I'll talk to you later." My dad said to Scott and hung up his phone.

I sat down beside him and everything just came pouring out: "I'm sorry for what I said. I know you were trying to help. I don't know why I said those things. I didn't mean them. I love you. I was just scared that I wouldn't find my Paul or Scott. I just hate that I'm feeling like this. I'm sorry dad. Please forgive me…"

Before I could finish my Dad just pulled me into another hug and kissed my forehead.

"Son, why are you apologizing? I feel like I haven't apologized enough to you. I had no right to ask you about…"

"No, dad, you were concerned about me. I'm glad you did. I'm just so confused."

"Do you want to talk about it?" My dad asked.

"Don't judge me ok?" My dad nodded his head. "I just…I don't know. Mitch is so great and everything, but he's scared of coming out. At least that's what I think. I don't know if I can be with someone who can't be with himself. And then Sam is great, but like he's hot and cold and…"

Just then we heard the apartment door open and in walked Scott.

"Hey, I got both of your calls." When he saw us talking he asked, "do you guys want to talk now?Or is later better?"

I saw dad look over at me and I think he was wondering why I had phoned Scott. We both gestured him over and he sat with his bum on the edge of the coffee table in front of us.

I took in another deep breath and said, "I was just going through things. And dad asked me about my relationships and I got really defensive. I'm sorry, dad. But he was right to call me out. I just don't know what I'm doing!" I threw my hands up in despair.

"What's going on?" Scott asked.

I reiterated about the pros and cons of Mitch and Sam. "I just don't know what to do. I'm dragging them both along. And that's not fair. I just don't know how to pick which one. And like you guys found each other and…"

"Son," my dad smiled at me, "we didn't just find each other. I know it seems like we did, but hardly anyone just finds someone that easy. I just never found the right guy after Paul. I met Scott in a coffee shop after I had forgotten my wallet in my car and Scott offered to pay for my drink."

"So, it was all by chance?" I asked them. "But what if you had your wallet with you? Would you guys have gotten together?"

"Well," Scott said, "I thought the guy in front of me was good looking, but I didn't have a reason to talk to him until he forgot his wallet."

"How am I supposed to figure out if I want Mitch or Sam?"

"Sid, you don't have to figure this out right now," Scott said. "I thought I was gonna hit 40 without meeting someone, but thankfully I met your father," he took my dad's hand in his. "Just go with what your heart says; it's not fair to string along both guys."

"But what if I make the wrong decision?

"You can't beat yourself down," dad said. "Just remember that that was exactly what you wanted at the time."

"What if something happens?"

"What do you mean?" My dad asked.

"Like…with Paul…" I whispered.

"Son, it's going to happen to all of us. But it helped that I had a great social support with me. Paul's family knows about Scott and they're very happy for us. That was what Paul wanted as well. He didn't want me crying for the next 50 years or so. He wanted me to keep his memory alive, but still be able to move on." Dad squeezed Scott's hand.

Seeing the love between Scott and my dad just made me break down again. "I'm sorry dad. I didn't mean those things. You've been so good and patient with me. You were right about everything…"

"Son, it's ok. It's ok." Dad said hugging me. "Can you forgive me as well? I don't deserve it for what I did…"

"Dad. I forgave you a long time ago. But if you're ok then I'm ok." He told me that he was.

"Ok, I also promise not to slam my door anymore," I joked as I got up from the couch. They just laughed. "What's for dinner? I'm starving!" I said.

"Well dinner is still at the restaurant. I dropped everything as soon as you guys phoned me."

How could this man (my wonderful step-father Scott!) not be with my dad? To think it was all a chance of fate…or maybe it was free-willed.


April continued on rather slowly. A lot of showers, but at least that had gotten rid of some of the snow. I was reminded just how fast life goes by just like the seasons. And like the seasons our lives follow suit.

Towards the end of April dad had gotten word from his friend, Nick, that his mother, Dottie, had passed away from a massive heart attack. Dad asked me if I wanted to go the funeral and I said I did. I wanted to give thanks to the woman who had given me a pep talk right after I was forced to come out. And who made my new life with dad so much easier.

I couldn't help but be out of it a little that day. I mean, how do you not bat an eye to the woman who gave you hope when all you could see was despair? Sam and Keith both knew something was wrong so I quickly filled them in. Sam gave me a hug and Keith gave me a bro-hug. Even at lunch nothing really seemed to cheer me up. It felt like a small part of me had died. Like the flame of hope that I had been given had been extinguished. I just wanted to go pay my respects even though I knew that no matter how hard I tried it would never be enough.

I could tell that my dad was still a little out of it as well. Dottie seemed to be such a remarkable woman for not only me, but for my dad as well. I wondered if she had been the same when my dad was in his early 20s still coming out. From the looks of it I assumed she had been.

The next couple of days progressed the same way. We drove back to my hometown for the service which was at 1pm. As per Dottie's request there was no viewing beforehand. The service was in a quaint white church just outside town limits. The sun was shining, the buds were starting to come out, and the temperature was perfect.

For a brief second I thought my mom might be here, but I figured she knew my dad would be here so she probably would just skip it. And also because this wasn't her denomination.

We got out of Scott's car and buttoned up our suit jackets. Scott had offered to drive since he saw that both of us were lost in our own thoughts. I had my sunglasses on and a package of tissues ready.

I saw Dan and his family chatting with Amanda and her parents. I told my dad I would save him a seat inside and hugged him. There's something about funerals that reminds you who you have left in your life. I let go of my dad and pulled Scott into a hug. I didn't want to let these two men go away. I loved them so much.

They both welcomed with me a hug. After I hugged them both I shook hands with their dads and hugged their moms. It was still a bit early so chatted for a few minutes outside. Out of the corner of my eye I could see movement coming towards us and I turned and saw my dad and Scott walking with Mitch. His parents weren't around so I assumed they were still off galavanting off around some european city. Even though their son clearly needed them.

He also had his sunglasses on and I wondered what toll this was taking on him. I wanted nothing more than to hug him and for him to tell me everything was going to be ok.

What surprised me was that he did actually hug me outside with others around.

"It's okay," he whispered. I just took in a deep breath and could feel the tears start to form. I looked over Mitch's shoulder and saw Dan's dad shake hug my dad. I started tearing up again thinking the last time they were probably at a funeral together was for Paul.

The church bells chimed a little signalling it was 1pm. As much as I didn't want to stop hugging Mitch I wanted to go pay my respects. We slowly made our way into the small church and took our seats on the left side of the church near the front. Mitch was on my left and my dad was on my right with Dan and Amanda's families behind us. Dottie's son, Nick, and his husband, Mike, and their kids sat in front of us.

The church was beautifully decorated. Near where the minister was standing there was her casket with a beautiful bouquet of flowers on top. There was a table off to the side that had pictures of her in it and her name tag and a fresh apple pie. I could feel the tears coming, but breathed in a little and that seemed to calm me down a little bit.

"Today we say goodbye to Dorothy Ellen Kane," the minister began, "a woman who's unfaltering love for those around her is testament at the number of people here today." I looked around and there was a lot of people. The church was so filled that some had to stand at the sides or near the door. "These lives have been forever touched by you and we are saddened to see you go. We must not worry for in Psalm 23 it says 'even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me'. We must remember this today. While Dorothy's passing is sad we must remember she is with the Lord today." The minister continued speaking for a few minutes and then we sang Amazing Grace. I could really feel the tears start to form even more. I pulled out a tissue and dabbed my eyes. I felt a hand on my shoulder and saw that Mitch was gently rubbing it. He did that for the rest of the song and even into the next one — the old rugged cross. The tears kept coming and from the sniffling around the church everyone was feeling the same as I was.

"At this time I'd like to call upon Mike who has prepared a eulogy in Dorothy's honour," the minister said. Mike rubbed Nick's shoulder then got up.

"I first met Dottie in the summer of 2011. I had just started seeing Nick and I had a business trip near here so I thought I'd stop in and surprise him. I ran over a nail so I was stranded just on the outskirts of town with no spare and an almost dead cellphone. Next thing I know this woman pulls up beside me and asks if I need any help. Before I knew it she was calling a mechanic and telling me to hop in since it looked like I needed a coffee and a good piece of pie. Imagine the bear hug she gave me after Nick showed up at her restaurant and properly introduced us!" There were a couple of sniffles at that. "It was that relentless and undying love that touched so many of our lives and brought us here today." Mike took in a deep breath and continued, "Dottie's unconditional love for everyone she encountered was something that we should all strive for. She once said to me that 'everyday someone new is finding love, while others are falling in love, wishing that love was returned, making a promise to love another forever, and some are falling out of love. We don't always get to pick which one we want, but sometimes, if we're really lucky, we get the love we need'. Dottie entered my life in the summer of 2011 and for that I have forever been changed. It's been said that people enter our lives when we need them the most and they leave when their journey with us is complete. I've reflected on this a lot in the past few days and have found it to be true. I was not in a good place in my life when I met Mike or Dottie, but after spending these past few years together I am now. We'll always love you, Dottie. Have a piece of apple pie for us in heaven." Mike started crying and then returned to his seat.

The minister then gave another short eulogy before asking the pallbearers to join him in at the front of the church. My dad, Scott, Mike, Dan's dad, and two other gentleman got up when he said that. I rubbed my dad's shoulder before he left his seat. I just wanted to let him know I was there for him in this difficult time.

As the pallbearers began the slow process out the church the congregation started singing Nearer My God to Thee. Seeing them walk down the aisle I lost it and just covered my face in my hands. It just felt so final and I still wasn't ready to say bye to this wonderful woman. I felt a hand on my left shoulder and then another on my right. Mitch was consoling me as best he could. I looked to the other hand and realized Amanda's mom was doing the same.

After the song ended and the pallbearers left the church we walked over to the small cemetery around back. There were a dozen or so graves, but nothing like the town cemetery. They were mostly older graves, but the maintenance was still kept up on the area.

We followed behind the pallbearers to the Kane headstone. As slow as we were going it wasn't slow enough. I knew that when we would finally get there that would be it. This reminded me of what dad once said about Paul: "we keep people alive by talking about them". I guess this is how Dottie would be now. It was sad that some people would never get to meet her and I felt privileged to get to know her (even if it was just a couple of times).

We stopped walking and gathered around the plot. I took in a deep breath and pulled out my tissues again. This is it, I thought. I just wanted Mitch to pull me into a hug and wrap his arms around me. And as much as I wanted that I knew it couldn't happen because of the people around.

The minister said another pray and after he finished the casket was slowly lowered into the ground. It's ok, I told my self, these things happen. It's ok. It's… ok… It's… And the tears started all over again.

Mitch rubbed my shoulder when I started again and said, "it's gonna be ok." When I didn't respond he just continued rubbing my shoulder.

I knew that this was supposed to be a celebration of Dottie's life and not her loss. I didn't know Dottie that well, but I figured she wouldn't want all these tears. She'd probably be overwhelmed at the sight of everyone here today.

I tried to pull myself together and distract myself. I noticed on the headstone that her husband, Merrill, had passed away some 15 years earlier. That got me thinking where was Paul buried? Or was he cremated? I hadn't noticed an urn at my dad's place though I wasn't really looking for one. Even though I figured Paul wasn't buried here I did a quick scan of the other headstones, but none of them matched.

Curiosity got the better of me and I asked my dad that question on our way back to the city.

"Paul is buried over in Riverview Cemetery. That's where I'm going to be buried as well." My dad replied.

"As am I," Scott added taking my father's hand in his and kissed it.

We kept driving and as we got closer to the city dad said, "the cemetery's coming up do you want to see it? You don't have to. You just mentioned it so I didn't know if you wanted to."

"Sure," I replied. It was still early in the evening so there was still plenty of time.

We turned into Riverview Cemetery and got out of the car. We walked past the rows and came by one that was under an oak tree. The family name on the headstone read 'Roy-Briggs'.

"Paul David Briggs, May 17, 1976 - July 9, 2011," I read aloud. My dad was on the headstone as well: Marcus Allan Roy, July 24, 1979 -…

"And there's Scott as well," my dad motioned to the headstone beside Paul's.

"Scott Eugene Lee, Sept. 4, 1977 -…." I read aloud. On the bottom of the headstone was written husband of Mark Roy-Briggs-Lee.

I just stood between these two guys and hugged them. It's true that we don't have that long together so we should make the most of it.

But with whom…?


Luckily I didn't have to wait long since prom was starting to be advertised around my school. This years theme was Hollywood Premiere… cheesy I know, but part of me was still excited to go. I just didn't know who to be my plus one. I figured that if I asked either Mitch or Sam the other would take the hint.

I had lamented this to Keith one day after school as we were doing work on the bleachers watching the swim practice.

"What would you do?" I asked him after giving him a summary of what was going on.

"Hmm. I don't know. What are you thinking?" I just shrugged my shoulders in response. "Ok, life or death situation and you had to pick one from a burning building, which one would it be?"

"Is there a dog that I could save instead?" I joked.

"C'mon man. You asked for my help. Which one would it be?"

"I don't know. Really I don't!"

"Ok… which one is better in bed?" And then he wriggled his eyebrows. "You know what happens after prom," he joked.

"You suck," I teased. "Who are you asking to prom?"

"Don't know yet. Maybe one of the girls from the cheerleading team. Might just go stag. It's not a big deal to me."

"Must be nice," I teased. I considered going stag as well, but I really wanted to go with someone. "Who would you pick? I mean from Mitch and Sam."

"Hmm…Sam's nice and got a great body. But from what you said Mitch isn't so 'hot and cold' I think that's how you described it."

"So you think Mitch?"

"Woah," Keith raised his hands in defence. "I'm not telling you what to do. I'm just helping you sort through this."

"So you think Sam?" I teased. Keith just playfully punched me in the shoulder and told me I was an ass.

The dance was coming up and sooner or later I'd have to make a decision.

——

My heart was pounding as I typed the message out on my phone: "Hey, so as you know the prom is coming up. And I'm not going with anyone. I was wondering if maybe you wanted to go…with me? :)"

Was this the guy for me? My heart was going a thousand miles a minute. I closed my eyes and

hit send. I made my decision and was sticking to it. God, it felt like I wanted to hurl.

I sat and waited on edge for a reply. C'mon c'mon I spoke to my phone. Ok 30 seconds had passed. Maybe I was a little impatient. Answer your damn phone I thought.

And then I saw him writing a message and my heart skipped a beat.

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