Kaiser's Pavilion

by Bensiamin

Chapter 3

It was the end of finals week, and the last day of class before Christmas break. Matt, Jessica, Kim and Roger finished up a little earlier than Eric and Jerrod, but they had a longer drive. They'd all arranged to meet at their favorite coffee shop to celebrate completing their first quarter of college.

Eric and Jerrod had taken over the largest table before the rest arrived, and were sipping their coffees when the Portland State group walked in. Eric looked up and said quite loudly, "Oh look! The Vikings just arrived."

Kim gave him a look and said, "Tone it down, man. What are you going to be like when you finish that cup of caffeine?"

Eric grinned back and devilishly said, "I'll be fully ready for you, that's how I'll be. Will you be ready?"

The shoe was on the other foot, and Kim glanced at his friends as he began to blush.

"God, you guys," Jessica exclaimed, "You'd think the two of you were still in high school." She grinned and looked around. None of the other customers seemed to have noticed. "As the only female here, I suppose I have to act like the mother, so you boys all have to get it under control. The quarter may be over, but that doesn't mean you get to go wild."

Matt slipped his arm around her waist and said seductively, "Does that include me, meaning I can't go wild?"

Jessica gave him a quick kiss and said, "You get a pass because you're usually so together compared to this pack of juveniles."

That statement was met with a range of response which she adroitly quieted down and repositioned into the question, "Aren't we all supposed to order a coffee or something?"

Eric and Jerrod raised their cups and the rest headed to the order counter. When they were back and had settled into their seats, the initial discussion was about final exams and how they'd all done. It appeared to be somewhere between good and very good for all. The conversation then turned to Christmas break and what the plans were. A fair amount of snow had fallen on Mount Hood since early December, so skiing was definitely top of the list.

Matt didn't seem overly excited, and that's when they learned that Jessica didn't ski. "Don't worry your little heads about me. I'd only slow you guys down, so you all go ski. Make it a boys trip or whatever."

Matt was looking at her and when he caught her eye he said, "Maybe I'll only go a couple of times and we could organize basketball practice with Sean?"

Jessica's face broke into a grin. "I could get into that. It makes me feel like I'm a coach already."

Matt continued, "And those days, if all these guys are skiing, you and I could take the dogs for a walk so they get their exercise."

Jerrod was sitting back watching and listening, and at that point said, "It's so great to see that Team Kaiser is alive and well. Is Jessica now an honorary member?"

Matt glanced right at him and said, "I think so, but I guess we'll have to check with Kaiser, right?"

"Oh, no worries, man. I already know the answer to that question. Right, Roger?"

Roger tried to nod his head in agreement with his boyfriend's question as he sipped his cappuccino, but mainly ended up getting himself a mustache of whipped cream on his upper lip.

"Now that we're talking about the dogs, have you found anything else out about the pavilion?"

Jerrod frowned. "Well, yeah, and it's not good news. The lady that runs the dog therapy program called me last night and basically said that administration doesn't get it. Like they don't understand how important dog therapy is to the patients. They think it's what she called a 'nice to have,' amenity. And when she pressed them, they really don't have any plans to replace the pavilion. They think a tent will do. It's like it doesn't matter or something."

"That's the shits," Kim said. "I've never been to Doernbecher, but I see the work you guys do, I've heard from Michael and Nate how important it was for them. What do these admin people not get about that?"

That comment resulted in a couple of minutes of back and forth about administrators not understanding what patients go through, how therapy is more than nursing, and about what's important to patients. Finally, Matt said, "Can I ask a question?"

Jerrod and Roger nodded, and he continued. "Would it help if someone from the outside got involved? You showed me the pavilion, so I understand what it is and how it's used and how important it is for the therapy dogs. I'm thinking maybe Jackson and me go talk to administration… you know, like he talked to senior people at the construction company where dad worked. Remember, that got me the scholarship and the summer job?"

"I don't know. Maybe it'd help. It sure couldn't hurt. I just think they're missing the point. The point being what matters for the patients."

"Okay. You get me the name and contact info for that admin person, and I'll talk to Jackson. Meanwhile, do you and Roger have a record of the patients you guys and Kaiser have worked with?"

He looked back and forth between them, noticing that the mustache was now gone off Roger's upper lip.

"We don't have a list," Roger said, "but we all have to log all the patients we see after each shift, so the info's all there in the logbook. Why does that matter?"

"Because you and Jerrod are going to make up a list of all those patients with as much contact information as you have, and we're going to put together a petition and your job," and here he looked at everyone around the table, "will be to contact as many of those patients as you can to get them to sign the petition to replace the pavilion."


"Yeah, really. If we don't do something, then nothing will happen. Meaning actually something will happen. There won't be any pavilion." He looked around the group.

Kim and Eric were smiling too. "Count us in. I'm betting there's a lot of patients, and Kim and I can help call them and take the petition around. Right?" He looked at his boyfriend who nodded back enthusiastically.

They talked about how to assemble the list and get the addresses of the patients and how they'd assign them by the part of town they lived in. Finally, at a lull in the conversation, Jerrod looked at Matt and said, "You know, this is the first time all of us are together to talk since Thanksgiving. I just want to say how impressed I was with what you said, how you spoke from the heart about yourself and all that."

Matt blushed and tried to minimize what he'd done. The group was having none of it, all in their own way telling him how amazing it was that he'd been able to say what he did, and how he did it, especially with all the parents and adults there.

"Well, like I said, I've changed a lot in the last year. I realized a lot more this summer from meeting with David about the path I'd been on and where it could have headed. I don't want to sound crazy here, but until then I had no idea about how high the teen suicide rates are and what some of the causes are."

"Suicide? You weren't thinking about suicide, were you," Eric asked?

"No, I wasn't, but what I realized the more I worked on stuff last summer was that I wasn't on a good path. You remember, outsider, bully, tough guy, no friends, hating life. All that shit. My first wake up call was when you confronted me and told me that you told Jerrod 'Who cares' when he said something was wrong and I was missing that afternoon on the mountain."

He reached over and put his hand on Eric's arm and said, "I'm not dissing on you. What you told me was true. The way I'd been acting kind of meant I didn't deserve any better. But hearing you tell me that was a real 'what the fuck' moment for me. I didn't understand it then, I just realized I was way more whacked than I thought I was. Anyway, the point is that with all the stuff I've been learning since then, especially meeting with David, I can see now maybe where it was heading. So, like I said, I've got all you guys to thank." He looked around at his friends and then added, "And now I've got this great girlfriend who keeps me on the straight and narrow."

He leaned over and kissed her cheek and pulled her in for a hug, receiving acknowledging smiles from everyone at the table.

The following Tuesday they all went skiing, including Nate. It was his first time back on skis since his surgery, and Jerrod spent most of the morning working with him, giving him lessons on how to improve his form. A lot of his motivation was also to make sure that there were no accidents, and that Nate took it easy since it was less than nine months since he'd had the cast removed.

At one point Jerrod asked him how he'd be handling Christmas without being able to see Michael?

Nate got a pained look on his face and then said, "It already doesn't feel good. I really miss him and talking on the phone a few times a week barely cuts it."

Jerrod looked at him sympathetically, then a smile began to appear on his face. "Well, there's phone sex, isn't there? Can't you guys get creative?"

Nate grinned back. "We can, and do, but it gets old after awhile. You told me how special it is it have Roger spooned up to you. I miss feeling his arms around me. I miss his smell. I really miss waking up with him spooned behind be in the morning." He paused, then went on, "but I can't complain. His parents let him come down for Thanksgiving, and that was a great time, so that's kind of the bargain that we made, and we have to live with it."

After lunch Jerrod was riding up the chair with Matt and said, "Can I ask you something about what we were talking about over coffee last Friday?" Matt nodded.

"You were telling us about realizing you were on a bad path, maybe one that could have led to suicide. That sounds pretty rad. I mean, I know you were angry and had been abused and were being the tough guy and all, but suicide, really?"

Matt was quiet for a few seconds, then said, "I know you're asking me about this for serious reasons, not just 'cause you're curious. So, first I'll say that I wasn't going to put you on the spot when we were having coffee, but while what Eric said that day up here on the mountain really rang my bell, it was what you did, the way you accepted me, that made the difference. I mean, you shared your problems and struggles with me and helped me get going in a different direction. But, yeah, what I didn't know till I started meeting with David was that figuring out your identity is important. You told me that, too, and helped me work on it. Remember when you made me listen to Pink Floyd's Comfortably Numb? But on top of identity is figuring out your purpose in life and feeling like you belong."

"Go on."

"Well, I didn't know who I was. I mean being the jock tough guy hardly qualifies as an identity, right?" They both laughed.

"On top of that though, I wasn't going anywhere with my life. That's what David and Jackson helped me figure out about getting real about college and then Sam helping with the football scholarship. Meaning helping me get to the point that I wanted to do something with my life. You know, have a purpose."

He paused again and looked away up the mountain as they moved past the chair lift towers. "The hardest part, though was the belonging part. I didn't feel like I belonged anywhere. I didn't have any friends, my little brother was only putting up with me. Mom would never say it, but she had to be pretty bummed about me. It was just me and a few other loudmouth football jocks being tough guys. And you saw where that went."

"Yeah," Jerrod added, "the same place all my frat brothers went when the shit hit the fan in my life back east."

"Right! They're gone 'cause they don't really give a fuck and you're alone. Meaning I was alone till you came along. And then it was you and Roger and Kim and Eric. And then Kaiser." Matt choked up. "I'll never forget that time at the hospital after I'd been giving you and Roger all that shit about being fags, and you guys came into Nate's room and Kaiser came over and put his head in my lap, and you said he was telling me that I was okay."

Matt was quiet and Jerrod could see the emotion on his face. He put his free arm around his friend's shoulders. "It's cool, man."

Matt softly said, "Thanks. Last year you or David played me a Bob Seger song, and a couple of the lines in it haunted me all summer. Like I'd be at work and the tune for Against The Wind would pop into my head, and then I'd just hear that line repeat over and over again. And the years rolled slowly past; And I found myself alone; Surrounded by strangers I thought were my friends; I found myself further and further from my home. And I decided I didn't want to end up there, meaning alone and with a life full of strangers I thought were my friends."

Trying to lighten the moment, Jerrod said, "You weren't thinking about us, were you?"

Matt grinned wryly and said, "No, way, 'cause I know you're real friends and that's what I want to be back."

Jerrod still had his arm around Matt's shoulder and gave him a hug as he replied, "We've all had breakthrough moments like that, and for most of us it was that dog that made it happen. You can count on us. We'll never be strangers in your life."

"I know." He was looking ahead up the mountain when he added, "we're all really lucky. Anyway, that was the beginning of new friends and all the rest of it, of beginning to feel like I belong. It was understanding all of that and how many kids never get there and how that's what makes for depression and despair and suicide. Not that I was ever thinking of offing myself, but looking back I could see where my life was headed."

"You're my man, Matt!"

The chair was coming into the lift platform and Matt punched him in the shoulder. "Right! Okay, Mister Hot Shot Ski Racer. Want to see who gets to the bottom of the mountain first?

Roger was staying over with Jerrod and that evening, after dinner, they wandered into the living room where David and Jackson were listening to a Miles Davis album. Jackson turned down the volume and they chatted about how the skiing had been and the plans for Christmas vacation. At one point Jerrod looked at David and said, "I've got a question for you. Last Friday, Kim and Eric, and Matt and Jessica and me and Roger got together at the coffee shop to catch up after the quarter. We talked about a lot of stuff and at one point Matt said he came to realize over the summer while meeting with you how he was on a path to nowhere… maybe to suicide. He said a little more about it when we were on the chair lift today. He was talking about how figuring out your identity isn't all of it. That you've got to sort out your purpose and feel like you belong too. Can you tell me more about that?"

David smiled warmly and pulled Jackson closer to him. "Sure, happy to in fact. I think you and Roger actually already know most of it, so maybe you just need to hear it packaged together or put in slightly different terms. So, I'll start by saying that identity is the starting point, but an integrative psychological approach looks at the dynamics that are necessary, in addition to knowing oneself, for a person to flourish and have a fulfilled life. Are you following me?"

Both boys nodded. "I know we talked about parts of this, so it shouldn't be a surprise to learn that plenty of people figure out their identity on their own, or with help, or in therapy, but still don't have meaningful or fulfilled lives. Lots of people come from stable family situations and don't have a life full of trauma, but still struggle to put it together and find meaning or purpose. Like we've all talked about, most families don't do a good job of helping kids sort this stuff out, and most churches and school systems don't either."

"We all know that from personal experience, don't we," Jackson quipped, looking from one to the other.

"Yeah, we do. And I include myself. You all know I was on auto pilot. I hadn't sorted out my identity and thought being a good student with a Master's degree was enough, and that having a ministry vocation took care of the purpose part, even though I never belonged anywhere."

"What do you mean 'never belonged anywhere?' You grew up in your family with a brother, right?"

"Yes, I did. But we lived overseas and moved frequently until I was in high school, so no contact with extended family, let alone being part of a community. That's what happens when you move every couple of years. And my parents were distant, and I didn't get along with my brother, Michael. So, no… I did not have a deep sense of belonging. Getting active in church was a substitute for that. And pursuing ministry was a way to find purpose, but not having figured out my identity meant I wasn't doing those things for the right reasons."

"I guess I relate to the not belonging part," Jerrod said. "You know I wasn't close to my parents… though it's gotten better."

"You both know I didn't belong either," Jackson added, "and even Gary felt he didn't belong. We found out why and then I found out the guy I thought was my dad wasn't. That was a shocker, I'll tell you, even if it was a relief."

"Yeah, but it wasn't long before you real dad came into your life, right," Roger asked?

"Yep. The same year. You know, the only one of the four of us that had a normal family upbringing is you, don't you?"

"Yeah, I do," Roger replied. "you've told me that before. But I don't have any brothers or sisters and hardly saw my relatives back in Switzerland when I was growing up, so I'd say it was 'normal… but,' meaning still missing something important. Remember that Michael's grandfather is my adopted grandfather 'cause I really didn't know mine. I don't think I really understood belonging till I started being friends with Eric and Kim, and then Jerrod and meeting you guys, and then I began really being myself because I belonged to a gay community that loved and accepted me in ways even my parents couldn't."

"That's quite perceptive, Roger," David said. "Back to the question at hand, though. As important as identity is, it's only one of three main building blocks for a meaningful life. The other two, like Matt said, are purpose and belonging. We've spent tons of time on identity, and you've heard me do sessions on it at GSA meetings… or what are now referred to as LGB clubs… so you fully understand that a person without a well-formed identity will feel empty, like they're out of touch with themselves and with life. Those feelings happen no matter what they do to compensate for them. Are you with me?"

They all nodded, and David went on. "What I saw happen with Matt over the summer when we'd meet every few weeks, was the realization that those other building blocks are really important. So, think about purpose and imagine a person that doesn't know what they stand for and feels lost and has little direction. That's what happens without a defined sense of purpose."

"Can I play devil's advocate?" Roger was smiling as he asked.


"Matt was a football star, he was on the ski team, he'd been a star baseball player. In other words, he was a great athlete. Doesn't that show he had purpose?"

David smiled back at him. "I'd say not necessarily, that principally illustrates that he had a great deal of athletic talent and was motivated to win and had good coaching. That's different than having decided for yourself what you want to do with your life because you have come to know yourself and understand your abilities. Think about Matt today after a summer of working for the construction company and his first quarter of college."

"Yeah, he's a different guy. He's only playing football for the scholarship. He's solid and confident and knows what he wants to do and why."

"Don't forget that part of it is because he has an amazing relationship with Jessica," Jerrod added.

"You're both right. To continue on, take someone who thinks they know who they are and what they want to do with their life. Meaning they have a pretty good handle on two of the building blocks. Imagine them getting up every day, planning for the future and aiming to make progress in their lives and solve problems or do good work, but they have no one to share that with."

"That's who I was," Jerrod said softly, "probably why I joined that dumb fraternity."

"That's who we all were," Jackson added, "well, except Roger was less so than the three of us."

"Well, the converse is also true," David said. "A person can have a ton of close friends and family but still feel lost if they don't know who they are and lack direction in their life. So, net that out and what you get is that a person without a well-formed identity will feel empty, without purpose will feel hopeless, and without belonging will feel lonely and unloved. One of the things Matt and I talked about quite a bit was the "what if?" Meaning, what if he hadn't met Jerrod. What if Jerrod and Roger and then by extension Eric and Kim hadn't become his friends and accepted him. What if he'd never become a part of Kaiser's pack."

"What if he'd never met you and Jackson! You can't leave that out," Jerrod said.

"You're right. It's all part of the package. Matt not only didn't believe in himself, but he was also having trouble accepting it. So, we spent a little time exploring the 'what if' part and that's when he started talking about realizing where his life could have been headed. Anyway, let's get this back on a positive note. We've all had our share of problems and challenges in our own ways, and we're fortunate that we were able to address them and work through them, to sort out our identities, define our purpose and reach a place within our families and communities where we know we're loved and feel like we belong. Am I right?"

Jackson had slowly settled down from David's shoulder, slid down his chest and settled with his head in his lover's lap. "I know you're right," he said softly. "I'm one of the luckiest guys on the planet because of that and because it happened for me when it was happening for you… and here we are, together and still in love."

David grinned and leaned over and kissed Jackson's forehead. "Same goes for me." He paused, then looked up at Jerrod and Roger and said, "Did I ever tell you that the first time Jackson and I told each other how we felt about one another was in a position like this on the couch in the church rectory in Newberg. And he kept rubbing his head in my crotch just like he's doing now, with the specific intent of getting me hard."

"Too much info, Uncle David!"

"It's true," Jackson added, grinning widely, "but the difference is that back then he was still celibate, or trying to be, and kept putting me off when I was trying to get it on with him. Now I'm pretty certain I'll get my way with him!"

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