Sleep evaded me most of the night, Jed's words last evening, "if I'm going to live with my father ….," bothered me, wondering how he might react once he was with me for a while and discovered the main reason why his mother left me.
I rose before dawn, in that half-light before the sun emerges from its hiding place behind the horizon, peeked into Jed's room, observing him sleeping soundly, so peacefully, his crutches resting on the floor near his bed. He was a beautiful lad, a son whom any father would be proud, and I was, but we had a great deal to work out between us. The very least of which would be the racial issue in the community which he now lived. The locals weren't all that tolerant of our Native American brothers and sisters, so I wasn't too certain how they'd react to an African-American/Caucasian. School might be difficult for him, not only physically, but emotionally. If need be, I could afford to send him to a private academy, but that would separate us and I didn't think it'd be advisable. The boy's suffered enough traumas in his life and perhaps, just perhaps, I might be able to provide some stability for him.
Leaving the doorway to his room, I wandered to the kitchen, fixed a large pot of coffee, and to busy myself, mixed a batch of cinnamon rolls. While the dough was rising, I sat on the porch, drinking my coffee, watching the sun begin to peek up over the horizon, casting shortening shadows from the pine and maple trees standing like sentinels along three sides of the clearing where my house was located, and casting sparkling diamond-like reflections from the surface of the lake to the front. Sighing deeply, I rose, went back to the kitchen and put the rolls into the oven to bake. Once done, I returned to the porch and finished off the pot of coffee.
When the rolls finished baking, I fixed another pot of coffee, and after putting them on a rack to cool, returned to my chair on the porch, now bathed in the glorious, cascading brightness of morning sun. Sitting there, enjoying the morning, allowing the mounting daylight to force my troubled thoughts from my mind, postponing the inevitable, I heard Jed stirring around in the bathroom, the toilet flush, and the well pump run to refill our pressure tank. While waiting patiently for him to come to the porch, I decided I must broach the subject I've dreaded and get it over with. I waited for fifteen minutes or so and he didn't appear. Growing concerned, I started to rise, when I heard his crutches thrumming on the kitchen floor.
Stepping on to the porch, he muttered a quiet, "Good morning," and sat quietly across from me at the little table where I often took my meals during warmer weather. He looked out at the lake, scanned the clearing, smiling suddenly, saying, "Look, something's standing just on the edge of the trees, down by the lake. I think it's a deer, only I've just seen pictures of them on television." I looked where he pointed and acknowledged it was a deer, with twin fawns. The very sight of them excited him, pleased him, and brought the comment, "Awesome."
He turned his gaze from the lake, the doe and her fawns, to me, and commented, "I smelled something good so I woke up."
"Cinnamon rolls," I announced, "let me get them; coffee or juice?"
"Juice and coffee, with cream, please."
In the kitchen, I quickly mixed a light powdered sugar glaze for the warm rolls, placed glasses, cream, cups, plates, forks, and the rolls on a serving tray and carried them to the porch, where I rejoined him at the table. We both breakfasted in silence. As we finished, the sow bear, accompanied by her cubs, emerged from the woods behind the house, meandered through the front yard toward the lake, sending the doe and fawns, white tails flicking up and down, scurrying into the forest.
"Wow," exclaimed Jed, "yesterday is the first time I've ever seen a real bear close up in the wild and today I saw deer and bear!" His eyes sparkled with excitement.
"You're liable to see deer, bear, wolves, coyotes, bobcats, an otter or two, fox, and once in a great while, a Canadian Lynx. I find it a fascinating place to live."
We sat quietly again, as if waiting for the other to speak, to break the silence which pervaded our porch. Finally, I decided, now or never, old boy and began, "Jed," the same time he said, "Dad." We both laughed, but I motioned for him to go first.
"I've never had a dad around before; no one except Grandma and now she's gone," he began, tearing up. I sat quietly, so much wanting to take him in my arms, comfort him, assure him he's not alone, but we'd just met yesterday and although, our initial meeting was amicable, I wasn't ready to push it that far, yet.
"I really didn't know what was going to happen to me; I did know after meeting my biological mother, I wanted nothing to do with her or that homeboi she was banging. A biological father was never mentioned to me while growing up. Oh, I knew there had to be one, but who, where, I had no idea. It wasn't until we pulled in the lane off of the forest road, she told me where we were going and who you were."
Nodding my head in understanding, using that non-committal look university professors give students, I indicated he should continue, with a "hmmmm."
"So, here I am and I really don't know whether to call you "dad" or "Parker" or what. We really don't know each other very well and I'm kind of confused."
He hesitated, wrinkled is brow in thought, evidently pondering something he wanted an answer to, but was unsure if he should ask, so I ventured, "Why don't you ask questions about me; personal ones are fine, and I'll answer them honestly."
"Are you really a doctor? I saw some diplomas in frames on the wall close to your desk."
A-hah; he was keeping himself busy prior to breakfast, scoping out his new digs. Well, diplomas were not the only things he saw if he was near my desk.
"Yes, but not a 'doctor, doctor' like in medical. My doctorate is a PhD in Economics."
"What did you do?"
"I taught at the university until I retired five years ago. Before you ask, I took early retirement at age fifty-five, so I'm sixty now."
"Did you live here when you taught?"
"No, Jed, I lived not far from campus. This was a summer retreat, a vacation get-away, a place of solace, far from the crowds and distresses of life. I sold my city home when I retired and moved here permanently."
The next question came more hesitantly, couched with some trepidation, almost uncertain if he should ask it, but he did. "Did you live alone?"
Now we're getting to the heart of the matter, that moment of truth for Jed, and me.
"No," but before I could say more, Jed asked, no, made more of a statement, "You really don't have a brother, do you?"
"No, Jed, I have two older sisters, no brothers."
"Dad, who's that in all of those pictures on the wall near your desk and the one of the two of you on your desk?"
I know I promised him I'd be honest and open with him, but answering that question was going to be damned tough, emotionally, to do. I haven't talked openly about Grant since his departure from my life, two years before my son's birth and one year before my disastrous marriage to his mother. I thought of Grant many times every day, from the moment I viewed a sunrise or sunset, walked in our garden, ventured out on the lake, or watched the gently falling snowflakes in a quiet winter storm. Each day, each sight, sound, or fragrance reminded me of him and our love for each other. Often, when faced with a decision or experiencing some delight in my life, I'd share it with him, speaking as if he were still with me, conscious and able to respond, give me guidance, or laugh with me.
Twenty years before we met, the year the doctor slapped my little butt in the delivery room, the United States was embroiled in a war on an Asian peninsula called "Korea:" the first triple jump in figure skating was performed by Dick Button; Dwight Eisenhower was elected President of the United States; the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico was created; Hemmingway wrote "The Old Man and the Sea" and; February 6, 1952, King George VI of England died with Elizabeth II becoming Queen, and I was born. Momma said it was a terribly cold, blustery, winter day with the weather ugly and growing worse as she birthed me; a day brightened, she told me, by the entry into her world of a beautiful, delicate little boy.
When the weather cleared, later in the week, Daddy brought us home, where I was immediately spoiled, pampered, coddled by my two older sisters. Their special love cascaded over me as long as they were home and continues unto this day, albeit they live quite a distance from me and don't travel as easily as they once did or desire to. I would've been totally, completely devastated without their presence and support after Grant's death. Their advice should've been heeded by me, but in my grief, I failed them and me.
Growing up as the only boy was different, I suppose, although I knew no differently. My sisters, Mom and Dad, all catered to me, but were still firm with me when needed. I was a slight child, small of frame, black hair, snappy blue-green eyes, and dimples that popped in when I smiled. I was a happy child, content with life, being loved and loving in return.
Daddy was a custodian at the school and really didn't earn much. I remember one time he commented on the year he made $3,000 and thought it was a great deal of money. Neither he nor Momma finished high school, but they were determined their children would. Our little two bedroom house where we grew up was on twenty acres where we raised a huge garden, helping provide for most of our food needs. Chickens in a small coop and yard and raising an occasional runt pig a farmer would give to us, provided additional nourishment. The local grocery stores were a source of milk, flour, and other essentials while friends in the country assisted with other items.
As I grew older, it became necessary to provide me with my own room, removing me from the baby bed I occupied in my parents room. A large storage closet was converted, by Daddy, into a bedroom for me. It had a window, room for a used twin bed, and a small dresser. I occupied that room until my sisters left home. I guess we were poor by those days' standards, but I didn't know any better or care, for that matter. Life was good, as far as I was concerned, even though others had more material things than us, I couldn't complain; I was loved.
About age ten or so, I began wondering why I looked at boys more than girls, but knew, in my heart and mind, there was no mistake what I wanted. I was very familiar with the terms "queer," "homo," and all of the other words people used to define and identify those boys who were "slightly bent," so I was very, very careful where I cast my eyes or what I said. Although we lived in a river community, we were forbidden to swim there. Somehow, Momma managed to purchase a yearly family pass to the municipal swimming pool so my sisters and I'd go there on hot summer days to cool off and enjoy the water. When my sisters were unable to go because of work, babysitting, whatever, I'd go by myself, riding my bike the long distance to the pool.
It was there, in the boys changing room I had my first sexual contact with another boy. He was fourteen or so, I'm not certain. What I was certain of was he had a penis much bigger than mine, surrounded by a nest of black, curly hair and a set of balls, not snugged up tight like mine, but hanging pendulum-like between his legs. The sight of him mesmerized and stiffened me. My own little dickie became rock hard, protruding out from my crotch to its full three inches.
He smiled at me as I continued to stare at him, reached forward, after looking around to make certain we were alone, and began slicking up and down my stiff little prod with a finger and thumb. I edged closer to him to give him better access and he took my hand, placed it on his own steel spike, and indicated I should do the same to him. I didn't hesitate. The faster he stroked me, the faster I reciprocated until my little dickie began to tingle and suddenly, I convulsed in a dry orgasm about the same time he began spewing white, sticky, stuff from the end of his bigger dick, on my hand and the floor.
He quickly wiped himself clean, smiled at me, dressed, and left. I never knew his name or saw him again; I did know I enjoyed it and that I must never say a word concerning what happened or do it again. The late fifties and early sixties were not all that tolerant toward homosexuals. There was no way in hell I wanted to be beaten to death or harassed forever.
High school was uneventful; I kept my eyes to myself and showered quickly after physical education classes, fearful of sprouting wood and the accompanying taunts from classmates. A bright and conscientious student, I graduated with honors, third in my class, and qualified for several scholarships, should I decide to go to college.
Determined to go where no one in my family went before, I worked summer jobs, part-time jobs, and utilized the scholarships to attend the university. The scholarships provided tuition for four years, but my room, board, and books were my responsibility, along with any incidentals I might need or want. Well, my needs were few and my wants even fewer. I just didn't have a great deal of cash to spare. My goal was to complete an undergraduate major in Economics and a minor in Accounting so I could qualify for a Certified Public Accountant license. Beneath it all, I really wished I could complete a PhD and teach at a college or university one day.
"Dad," Jed said softly, interrupting my thoughts, "what was his name?"
Eyes meeting, as I faced a son who may or may not accept a father such as I, none the less, I realized a promise is a promise and must sacrifice my privacy in order to keep my word.
"Grant Ambrose Hoffman, my lover and partner for twenty-four years. He was the love of my life and I, his."
During my freshman year, a part-time position opened at the university library; I applied for it and got it. Working one night during the week and Saturdays, plus every other Sunday, gave me extra money, above my meager savings, to purchase some of the extras I needed. It didn't go far enough for me to afford much in the way of recreation, but I had the library books to read and enjoy, so I was satisfied. Sunday afternoons were generally slow, so it gave me the opportunity to study or do research when not returning items to the stacks or working the information desk or check out.
Early October, of my sophomore year, an hour before the library's Sunday closing at nine o'clock, a disheveled, male student hustled in, scurrying about, muttering to himself. Finally, he sat down at one of the reading tables, opened a notebook, placed a sharpened pencil near it, and stared – not at anything in particular, just stared! After about ten minutes, he placed his head on the table, and I heard him sputter, "Well, shit!"
Fearing something was amiss, I signaled to one of my co-workers to take my station while I went to inquire what the young man's problem was.
"May I help you?" I inquired, approaching the table.
Looking up, he responded, "Only if you have a bright idea for a speech I'm supposed to deliver tomorrow morning at a nine o'clock class."
"Perhaps, I might, depends on the topic."
"Persuasive," he answered.
"Anything, or something specific?"
He thought a moment before responding, "Anything, but I don't want to do the usual, you know, buy "Tide" or vote Republican. I don't want to do anything mundane, but something unusual, slightly out of sync with the traditional thought. Perhaps something that might shock, but yet make a logical, effective argument."
I sat across from him as we both pondered possible topics. Nothing I suggested appealed to him; too trite, everybody does that, etc. Just about at wits end, I remembered a beginning literature class I took and suggested, "How about the 'Song of Songs'?"
"The what of who?" was his puzzled response.
"Solomon – the Old Testament – the Song of Songs."
"Right, this is a speech class, not a religion class."
I shook my head, motioned with my hand for him to follow me back into the stacks where I sorted around and found a copy of the "King James" version of the Bible. Locating the section I wanted, I held it out for him to peruse, while I said,
"There are those scholars who say the songs or poems, written by Solomon, were to his lover – a male lover. There are those Christian fundamentalists who debunk that and carry on about sodomites and sinners who defile the "Holy Word."
Suddenly, I panicked! I didn't know this guy from "Adam." Perhaps he was one of those of whom I spoke.
Returning my attention to Jed, after naming Grant, noticing him nod his head as he realized the "somebody" in the pictures had a name, I asked him, "Jed, have you ever read the 'Song of Songs' by Solomon?" Without waiting for him to answer, I continued, "it begins with, 'Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth; for thy love is better than wine.' The particular phrase I enjoy and find comforting, best described our relationship –'My beloved is mine and I am his.' We were twenty years old when we met, but it was not love at first sight."
Jed scratched his head, asking, "If you're gay, why did you marry my mother?"
I met his mother, Adel, in a bar not far from campus. She was quite a bit younger, vivacious, rough around the edges, but I was lonely, missing Grant so very much. The bar was dark and while sitting next to me, she reached over and began fondling me, bringing me to full erection. A quick jerk of her head sent us out to my car where I got a quick blow job and one thing led to another and before I knew it, I was married. My older sisters objected, tried to persuade me otherwise, reminding me how unfair it would be to Adel, given my sexual orientation. I failed to heed their advice. I think Adel thought she had a meal ticket, but I'm frugal as she found out, along with my proclivity for the male of the species. I soon lost interest in straight fucking, she found pictures of Grant and me and out the door she went. A quick divorce, a financial settlement, and I was free of her – I thought. Now my little foray into the straight life sat before me, forcing me to confront my past and accept responsibility for it.
"Jed, the marriage was an escape from the torment and suffering from my loss of Grant. I was particularly vulnerable and as educated as I am, I should've known better. I thought I could relieve my pain by thinking and acting as though I was straight, all would be well. It wasn't; the marriage was a lie, a disaster. Sex with your mother was just not the same, not satisfying to me or to her."
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