Saturday’s surprise was both Jackson and Will coming into the kitchen and sitting down at the table and talking to be about their time together while I finished my coffee. The conversation was open and friendly, and surprising free of any embarrassment.
After Will left, Jackson told me everything that had happened, even though I’d said I didn’t need the details. He insisted. “No secrets between us.” He then walked me through how the engagement had evolved and how Will had said no when he’d offered to have them jack each other off.
My eyebrows raised. “I know! I was blown away. Who’d turn down getting their rocks off? But he said it would infringe on our relationship and he just wanted to lay there and hold me and sleep together. He said that was all he needed.”
“Wow, what a guy.”
“I told him he was honorable. That’s the right word, isn’t it?”
“It certainly is. I’ll pick it up from there tomorrow night. It certainly feels like you got this program off to a great start.”
He smiled and shrugged. “I sure hope so. I’m not sure I’m up for doing it again.”
“Want to know what I’m up for? Some hugging and kissing. I didn’t get any last night, and my bed was empty this morning when I woke up, and I hated that feeling. Gary’s off doing something with Lois before he goes to work. Let’s go upstairs on the bed and catch up on some loving.”
It was funny somehow, but we just kissed and hugged and held each other, as if we didn’t need to get off today, just being together, reaffirming our love by sharing these basic actions and sensations was enough. It was almost like recharging a battery.
Then we got really domestic and went grocery shopping. Gary and Lois were both going to be back for dinner, so it would be another fun evening of cooking and conversation.
Sunday’s service went smoothly, and both boys had homework in the afternoon, while I worked on the Church budget for the next Session meeting. We ate a light supper and then walked to the parsonage for Youth Fellowship. Will arrived a couple of minutes later, and he looked like he wasn’t sure what to do. I gave him a hug. “No embarrassment. You know our rule: no secrets. It’s amazing how liberating that approach is.”
He smiled, got his guitar out of the case and tuned it, and he and Jackson started warming up on a song or two as the other kids arrived. We went through the usual program, and tonight there was no follow-on questions about equal rights or homosexuality, but I made a mental note that I still had to talk to Justin after what he’d said to Jackson at school. Will and Jackson stayed behind as everyone left, packing up Will’s guitar, then Jackson said, “I’m going home, you guys.” He looked at Will, “It will be good. Just relax and be honest about what you’re feeling, Okay? If I don’t see you later, I’ll see you tomorrow at school.”
Will looked like he was trying to relax. I smiled at him and said, “Now you have a choice.”
His eyes widened and he looked suddenly spooked.
“No, no, calm down. Your choice is we can sit and talk in the office, or here in the living room, or we can go in the kitchen at sit at the kitchen table. Either way we’ll have something to drink and just talk, Okay? No pressure.”
He smiled and said, “Let’s go in the kitchen.” I grabbed a couple of sodas and we sat down.
“I meant what I said Friday and yesterday. I know some of what you’re going through, but not all. You’re talking to the other person you know that went through some of what you’re going through. I want you to understand that. I’m on your side because you’re in this church and you’re my friend and you’re Jackson’s best friend. I’m also on your side because I’m gay, and I think that gives me the ability to empathize with what you’re going through in a way a lot of other adults can’t. I want to tell you one other thing, and then I’ll stop talking and we’ll discuss what’s on your mind.”
He sipped his soda, smiled again and said, “Thanks, you don’t know how nervous I am about this.”
I raised my eyebrows. “Even after Friday night? Will come on. Lighten up on yourself and let me tell you something. I was totally out of touch with my sexual orientation and feelings until I met Jackson. It hit me like a ton of bricks. I was really fortunate though that I have a friend who’s older than me. He lives back east, he’s a minister and a psychologist, and he’s gay. I spent a lot of time on the phone with him. I wouldn’t have understood it, owned up to it, probably even made it through it all without him. So just know that I had someone who helped me sort it out. That’s my only purpose here, to help you sort it out. Where do you want to start?”
He was quiet, like he was arranging his thoughts. “Jackson probably told you that he confronted me about if I was struggling with having feelings for guys.”
I nodded. He went on, “And, I told him I did and after another talk, he kissed me and let me kiss him back, and it was like touching my tongue to a battery or something. Then he hugged me, and I hugged him back, and then I just started crying. I’ve been so scared, but you guys have made the fear go away. Then there was Friday night. I still don’t understand how you both agreed to that, but maybe I will someday. Anyhow, like I told Jackson when he asked me Saturday morning about my feelings for guys and stuff, they’re real and they’re there, and I accept that now and I’ve got to figure out what to do about it.”
His candor was impressive.
“Can I make a quick observation?” He nodded.
“You don’t need to ‘do’ anything right now. Don’t create this thing in your mind like you’ve got to take action tomorrow or next week or something. You’re wrestling with a component of your identity. It’s the most fundamental part of Will Summers. Just start by sorting it out, and then learn to be comfortable with it, to accept it. Let the doing happen naturally. You’ve learned something new about yourself, start by understanding it and accepting it.”
He’d been listening closely, then his smile widened, and his seemed to sparkle a little. “That makes sense. I’ve gotten rid of the fear. Now I just have to learn about and accept these new feelings.”
He paused, and I let it happen so he could take the conversation where he wanted it to go.
“Jackson told me I might be bisexual. How come I don’t know anything about that?”
“It’s probably the same reason most people don’t really understand much about homosexuality, or human sexuality for that matter. It’s not taught or discussed in an open and balanced and accepting way. Not at home, well most homes. Not at school. And, certainly not at church. Most of what we get taught are negative stereotypes that grow out of ignorance and bigotry. What do you know about the range of sexuality?”
“Not much. Nothing really.”
“Let’s start there. Someday you’ll learn more about a sex researcher named Kinsey, but the thing to know is that sexuality exists or operates on a scale or continuum than ranges between heterosexuality on one end and homosexuality on the other, with bisexuality in between, in the middle. His research described the ranges from exclusively hetero and then predominately hetero and then equally hetero and homo, to predominately homo to exclusively homosexual. I don’t know what the percentages are. I think he thought exclusively homosexual was less than five percent of the population. The majority are exclusively hetero, but the reality is that there’s a wide range that are interested in both. It sounds like you fall into that type.”
“So, it’s not just me and a few other sickos?”
“God no. Trust me, history is full of it, and in ancient societies there was much more homosexuality and bisexuality, and it was tolerated in one way or another.”
“What do you mean tolerated?”
“Well, there we’re talking about a society’s norms, and two guys can’t have children so hetero relations were always front and center to grow the population. But many ancient societies openly accepted men in relationship with men. But, a lot of society’s norms comes from the predominant religion, and most of the religious teaching is anti-gay, especially in Judaism, Christianity and Islam where it’s typically labeled a sin.”
“That’s what you meant last week about the theological position of depraved sin.”
I nodded. “I hope you can already see that you’re wrestling with real feelings inside you, right? You know you’re not weird or sick or demented, even though you used those words. Those are words society uses to describe types of people they don’t accept, and most of it is based on bigotry. You’re also not depraved. Neither are Jackson or me. And now I’m going to tell you something you’ve either figured out or have suspicions about, because Jackson did, and you guys may have talked about it. But this is absolutely confidential! Got it?
He nodded gravely.
“Susan Albright and Ellen Hayes are not depraved either.”
“I knew it, and we have talked about it. They’re the nicest people I know. You heard what Jackson said at the dance about what Susan did for us. I think I see what you mean. It’s the whole judgement thing, isn’t it?”
“Pretty much. Sin adds a religious dimension to otherwise calling something bad. There are plenty of bad things that need to be called that. It’s why we have laws against theft and murder and adultery and all kinds of other things. But a lot of what’s called sin is one person’s or one religion’s opinion. And you already have experienced what that can do to a person when it’s laid on them hard and heavy. So just put the depraved part aside. It doesn’t apply. Do you know how I can say that to you?”
He shook his head. “Because after you left the house yesterday morning, Jackson told me everything you guys did Friday night. I told him he didn’t have to, that I didn’t need the details, remember? But he insisted because of no secrets. So, I’m here to tell you that the decision you made to only go so far, that resulted in him telling you that you’re an honorable person, is right on. If anyone ever tells you that you’re depraved, just remind yourself that that’s bullshit. You’re honorable.”
He was tearing up and getting emotional, like this had moved from an intellectual discussion into one that was connecting with something very deep and very troubling inside.
“Is that true? That I’m not depraved? That I’m honorable?” He was so emotional he could barely get the words out.
“It is, and you proved it to Jackson, and whether you know it yet or not, you proved it to yourself. Now you’ve got to accept it and believe it. And, for the record, it’s not just the other night. You accepted Jackson back as a friend just like that after Bud had essentially put him in prison, and you did it with no questions asked. Because you’re compassionate and caring in addition to being honorable. Those attributes have nothing to do with your sexuality.”
He sat there crying. I got up and got him some paper towels. After he wiped his face and calmed down, he apologized.
“You don’t need to apologize for a thing. You just honestly expressed your feelings. That’s healthy. Can you tell me why being depraved is such a hang up for you?”
“It’s my family. I mean they’re nice and caring and all, but both of my parents have real religious families and it’s always on and on about the socialists and the communists and about the gays and how sick and depraved they are. It’s like they’re talking about something worse than animals.”
“Will.” He looked up from the table.
“I’m telling you something direct to your face right now I always want you to remember. You are caring and compassionate and honorable. You are not depraved or dirty or sick. I’m not going to make you repeat it back to me, but I want you to say it to yourself in your mind a couple of times. You need to hear the good things about who you are and be able to say them to yourself too.”
He was looking directly at me, and I could see in his eyes that he’d mentally paused and was telling that to himself.
He nodded. “Okay, so back to where we were. Homosexuality and bisexuality have been around forever. There’s an old saying from classical Greece about knowing yourself. To be true to ourselves, each of us have to do the work to know ourselves, and understand the feelings inside, and accept them. You’ve got to be true to yourself. You’re already starting to do that work, and the fact that you could talk to Jackson about it honestly, and that we’re now having this conversation proves it. We’ve talked about a lot of stuff. Can I just say a couple more things to you?”
He nodded, smiling again.
“The first is actually a couple of questions. You don’t have to tell me the answers, but you do need to answer them honestly to yourself. Do you respond when you see sexy boys? I mean like a good looking and built guy wearing a Speedo or something.”
His eyes widened, and I grinned. “I think we know the answer to that question. But this is important, so I’m going to say something a little off color because you’ve got to be clear in your mind on the details. When you see a sexy guy does you cock twitch?”
A smile started to appear on his face. “Will, you’re an attractive guy. When I first met you, I immediately liked you a lot, but my cock didn’t twitch. When I first saw Jackson in those cutoffs my cock twitched. The point is to understand it and just to accept it and not repress it or be embarrassed by it. It’s part of you.
“The second one is really personal. What do you think about when you masturbate? Do you think about boys or girls, or sometimes one and sometimes the other? Again, there’s no pat answer, but maybe the answers to those questions can help you place yourself on that scale from gay to straight. Does that help?”
He was still smiling, but now a little more serious as he nodded, “Yeah it does. I’ve got to think about that a lot.”
“You’ve got a lot to think about, and I’m sorry if it seems I’m dumping a lot on you. The other thing is Jackson told me he told you that if you’re bi and get into a relationship with a guy you’re going to be a really sexy boyfriend.”
He acted like he couldn’t believe I’d said that. “No embarrassment, Will. We’re talking about the realities here. And, by the way, it’s true. But here’s the important part. There are lots of bisexual guys that end up marrying women. Do you know why?
He shook his head. “For some it’s probably a kind of cover, or maybe they’re not in touch with themselves. But for the ones who are, here’s the deal. You fall in love with a person. You don’t fall in love with a preconceived concept. The person you fall in love with could be male or female. It could be Mr. Right, or Mrs. Right. Do you know what I’m saying?”
“I think so.”
I smiled. “Let me give you an example. If you’d asked Jackson last June about falling in love with a minister, what do you think he would have said?”
“Oh, that’s easy. He would have said I’m fucking crazy!”
“Right. That’s pretty much what he told me. And if you’d asked me back then about falling in love with an underage boy, what do you think I’d have said?”
He grinned. “The same, that I was fucking crazy!”
“Exactly! We fall in love with a person, and that person may turn out to be this or that, may be male or female. That’s all. Now, we’ve talked about a lot of stuff, and I’ve dumped a lot of heavy stuff on you. Let’s call it for tonight. Will you walk back to the house with me, cause I can assure you that your best friend is sitting there fretting about how this went and how you are.”
“He really is a best friend, isn’t he?”
I nodded. We turned out the lights and locked the parsonage and walked home.
Jackson watched us come in the front door, a momentary look of concern on his face, then he saw my smile and the grin on Will’s face.
“Oh, far out! It went well, didn’t it. You’re good, right Will? Tell me you’re good I’ve been worried sick!”
Will was still grinning, but he paused and briefly looked at me and then back at Jackson.
“It went well, and yeah, I’m good. But what’s more important is that I was told I’m compassionate and caring and honorable and healthy and normal. That’s how I am.”
Jackson jumped on him and pulled him into a huge hug, and they ended up laughing and giggling like only teenage friends can do.
Gary got home late, just in time for dinner on Monday, after driving to the dealership to trade in the Electra for the International pickup. He pulled up in the driveway with the trailer in tow and stepped out looking proud. Jackson and I walked out to check it out.
“What do you think?”
“It’s a great rig,” I said, “and I can speak with some authority since I drive an El Camino. You know, one of those practical utility vehicles. This looks like a great pickup. Does it have an eight-foot bed, like you can drop a sheet of plywood in there?”
“Yea, it’s a Fleetside model with a full-length bed. It’s only got a six-cylinder engine, but it’s a powerful one, and besides the mechanical work and the paint job, Lois’ Dad had them install seat belts, so it’s safe as well. The paint is the same color as original, so it should last forever. It was the seat belts and new tires for the trailer that delayed the deal. Jackson, what do you think?”
Jackson had been walking around the pickup checking out all the details. “It’s way cool. I like that it isn’t as high as lots of the other trucks, and that wrap around windshield is great for visibility, and like you said, the long bed will be super for hauling stuff. It’s great. Just goes to show you the value of the right girlfriend, huh?”
Gary grinned. “You’ve got that right. I still can’t believe this happened.”
“Hey,” I said,” “Pat believes in you. You’ll be able to amp your mowing business up with this baby.”
Jackson was chuckling to himself.
Gary looked at him, irritated. “What?”
“Well, I was just thinking that you traded in the Electra for this an hour ago, and now you just pulled it in the driveway with the trailer connected. What do you know about backing up trucks with trailers? How are you going to get it out of here?”
Gary looked crestfallen. “Fuck. I hadn’t thought about that.”
I grabbed his shoulder. “We’ll sort it out. First, I’ll go out in the street, and you back straight out, then turn the steering wheel to the right so the trailer goes left in the street. Okay? Then you pull ahead in the street and I’ll help you back it in the driveway. You just reverse the order. Then you’re going to turn the steering wheel to the left, so the trailer goes right and up the driveway. It’ll take a few tries, but who cares. There’s no traffic here. We’ll back it up the driveway and disconnect it, and then later you can practice trailer driving. How’s that?”
He looked like we’d just solved the most complicated physics equation in the universe.
During the week, Jackson was getting home from school just in time for dinner, because he and Will were spending time working on a project for English Lit. He assured me it was schoolwork, no more holding each other while naked in bed! I’d gotten a hint about it after I told him my Flight of the Bumblebee story from seminary, but he was close lipped beyond that until Thursday, when he said he had his poetry reading the next day.
I smiled. “Are you ready?”
“Yeah, that’s what Will and I have been working on. I want you to be there?”
“How’s that going to work? I’m not a student? I’m not on faculty?”
“No worry. I kind of briefed the teacher that I’m doing something different, and she liked the concept, and I told her I got the idea from you. I even told her your Flight of the Bumblebee story. She thought it was great. Anyway, you’re welcome in class. Will you be there, please? I think the way Will and I are approaching it is pretty unique. And, I think you’ll like it.”
“Of course. I wouldn’t miss it, especially after an invitation like that.”
Jackson’s poetry reading was the fourth and last. The students weren’t allowed to just stand up and read a poem and then sit down. They had to explain to the class why they’d chosen the particular poem, who the author was and the context for the poem, and only then could they present the poem to the class.
The first three were interesting, but nothing striking. When Jackson walked to the front of the class, the students were confused because Will walked up too carrying his guitar, and then sat down in the front row. He started by reminding everyone that recently they had read a portion of William Blake’s The Gates of Paradise, and that was important context to understand the poem he was going to present.
He began by explaining that one of the interesting things about Blake’s book was that it is an emblem book that mixed wood cut plates with text to convey the overall meaning, and that it’s in the interplay of image and text that the meaning becomes apparent. By joining image and text Blake was striving to move the reader from basic comprehension to an understanding of ideal knowledge. Another, more modern way to do that is to combine text and music, and that’s the approach he was taking.
“I’ve selected a similarly abstract and prophetic work, which I believe was originally written as a poem. The difference, though, is that unlike Blake’s work that was written in 1793 when everything in the future of humanity seemed positive and moving upward, this poem is contemporary, written after World War II and the atomic bomb, and in the time period of the Cold War, and the Vietnam War we’ve just lived through. So, rather than being upbeat it’s somewhat nightmarish. The poem is about the narrator and others who are searching for truth in a false paradise. If you listen to the last line of each verse about ‘the Gates of Eden,’ you’ll realize that those gates can’t be reached.”
“So, here’s how we’re going to approach it. I’m handing out copies of the poem to all of you, so you have the text in front of you. Instead of reading the poem to you, I’m going to sing it, the way the author presents his poem. Follow along with the lyrics if you want.”
He handed a bunch of copies to the students in the front row and they were quickly distributed.
“The poem is call “The Gates of Eden,” by someone you may have heard of: Bob Dylan. The poem is complicated, and the subject is dark and troubling, and I hope hearing it sung helps you to understand it.”
Will was now standing next to him, strummed the opening chords with his harmonica on the holder around his neck, nodded to Jackson, and they began presenting The Gates of Eden.
Of war and peace the truth just twists
Its curfew gull just glides
Upon four-legged forest clouds
The cowboy angel rides
With his candle lit into the sun
Though its glow is waxed in black
All except when 'neath the trees of Eden
The lamppost stands with folded arms
Its iron claws attached
To curbs 'neath holes where babies wail
Though it shadows metal badge
All and all can only fall
With a crashing but meaningless blow
No sound ever comes from the Gates of Eden
The savage soldier sticks his head in sand
And then complains
Unto the shoeless hunter who's gone deaf
But still remains
Upon the beach where hound dogs bay
At ships with tattooed sails
Heading for the Gates of Eden
With a time-rusted compass blade
Aladdin and his lamp
Sits with Utopian hermit monks
Side saddle on the Golden Calf
And on their promises of paradise
You will not hear a laugh
All except inside the Gates of Eden
Relationships of ownership
They whisper in the wings
To those condemned to act accordingly
And wait for succeeding kings
And I try to harmonize with songs
The lonesome sparrow sings
There are no kings inside the Gates of Eden
The motorcycle black Madonna
Two-wheeled gypsy queen
And her silver-studded phantom cause
The gray flannel dwarf to scream
As he weeps to wicked birds of prey
Who pick up on his bread crumb sins
And there are no sins inside the Gates of Eden
The kingdoms of experience
In the precious wind they rot
While paupers change possessions
Each one wishing for what the other has got
And the princess and the prince
Discuss what's real and what is not
It doesn't matter inside the Gates of Eden
The foreign sun, it squints upon
A bed that is never mine
As friends and other strangers
From their fates try to resign
Leaving men wholly, totally free
To do anything they wish to do but die
And there are no trials inside the Gates of Eden
At dawn my lover comes to me
And tells me of her dreams
With no attempts to shovel the glimpse
Into the ditch of what each one means
At times I think there are no words
But these to tell what's true
And there are no truths outside the Gates of Eden
The class was silent when they ended. They simply walked back to their seats, and it was about the time they got there that the applause slowly started. It wasn’t overwhelming, but it was enough to be a clear acknowledgment of what they’d accomplished. Not only a unique presentation of a poem, but a fearless musical presentation of it.
The teacher walked to the front of the class and thanked all the students who had presented poems in today’s class. Then she smiled wryly and said, “I think we all had a personal experience of that old saying about what it feels like when all the air goes out of the room!” Then she dismissed the class, and what happened next was mixed. Half the class simply left, acting stunned or bewildered as they walked out the door. The other half were all over Jackson and Will with “Way to go, man” kind of comments. I wondered if they were based in understanding or just that they had done something completely different and unique. It probably didn’t matter. If the message was delivered, then mission accomplished!
When he got home, I was in the kitchen working on dinner. I looked up and grinned, set down what I was working on, and turned toward him and made a mock bow.
“Oh, give me a break, David. It was a class assignment.”
“Yeah, but it was fabulous, and you nailed it, and you presented something very complex and difficult to understand in a new way.”
He smiled, finally giving away that he was still unsure, especially of how I would react. “Are you sure?”
“As sure as I’m standing here and in love with you!”
“You didn’t think it was too much? Too heavy?”
“It was heavy, but life’s heavy, isn’t it? So, no. Blakes poem are heavy, so are Milton’s. Have you read Paradise Lost recently? But that’s not the point, at least as I thought I heard you explain the assignment. It was presenting a poem in a new way. You did that and it was great.
Now he was grinning, finally happy with himself.
“Are you going to explain how you chose it, how you decided to do it?”
“Oh, it started cause Will was turning me on to Dylan’s early folk songs. We came to that one on the Bringing It All Back Home album, and I was just wowed. So, I kind of filed it away, and then when you told me your Flight of the Bumblebee story, that was it, I had a musical way to do it that wouldn’t put everyone to sleep. And, on top of that it would be a novel way to present it. Did you think that singing it worked?”
“Yeah. Most of them never heard Dylan sing it, so yes. And your set up about music and words being the contemporary way to get at the meaning compared to back then with wood cut images and words was terrific. The poetic text is full of images, but complicated. Why do you still look worried?”
“Because as much as I thought you’d like if for all the reasons you just said, I was worried you’d be offended because of the content. I mean it pretty well says that all that Paradise and Gates of Eden stuff is just a false hope.”
“You mean a myth?” I was smiling when I said it.
“Yeah, a myth.” He was grinning now and knew we were on the same page.
“I may not have told you explicitly yet, but I’m in a post-Christian phase. I’m still sorting out what that means practically, but we’re closer together than you may think in terms of what we believe or don’t, and why.”
He grinned again and hugged me.
I kissed the top of his head, then said, “Now tell me something about how you interpreted the poem.”
“Well, for me each verse is filled with imagery about twisted truth and wailing children and promises of paradise and breadcrumbs of sin. It describes a decaying and corrupt society that still hopes for paradise, but the sad reality is that there is no paradise—at least as Dylan describes it in this poem. But the last line of each verse is about the Gates of Eden, and to me it tells the tale.”
He pulled a notebook out of his bag and flipped open a page. “When I was trying to figure it out, I wrote all the last lines down here.”
…All except when 'neath the trees of Eden
…No sound ever comes from the Gates of Eden
…Heading for the Gates of Eden
…All except inside the Gates of Eden
…There are no kings inside the Gates of Eden
…And there are no sins inside the Gates of Eden
…It doesn't matter inside the Gates of Eden
…And there are no trials inside the Gates of Eden
…And there are no truths outside the Gates of Eden
“That’s when it all came together for me. That it’s all mythology, and it’s mainly a critique of false or misplaced mythology.”
“Very astute. Can I add a thought about what really resonated for me?”
He nodded. “It’s the last verse, that can be paraphrased as: the lover’s dreams, told at dawn…are the only words that are true….because there are no truths outside the Gates of Eden…and since we’ve already learned there are no truths inside the Gates of Eden, the only truths are my lovers words.”
His eyes were wide, and he was smiling in the most endearing way. “You heard that and that resonated for you? Wow! I was so worried you’d like the presentation but be offended. We really are kind of on the same page, aren’t we? Even on mythology and religion?”
I smiled back. “What did Will think about the whole deal?”
“He was into it and happy to help out. And it wasn’t just about accompanying me. You know what else?”
He was looking at me with a leading expression.
He pointed to the last line of the sixth verse:
…And there are no sins inside the Gates of Eden
“With what he’s going through about his sexuality, that’s all he needed to read.”
“Is he doing Okay?”
“Yeah, really well actually. He seems happier. We haven’t had a heavy conversation since last weekend, but we will when he’s ready. He did tell me again a couple of days ago that all the fear is gone, and he owes that to us. Just that is huge, don’t you think?”
Tuesday was Session and I spent the afternoon with the Chair finalizing the church budget, then after supper spent the evening at the meeting. The highlight of the week, though, was that Jackson received his first acceptance from Portland State University. It had recently received university status after twenty years as a four-year college and was one he applied to, so he had an alternate school in Portland. We celebrated that evening with Gary and Lois.
That was followed the following Tuesday by an acceptance at Linfield College in McMinnville. I knew it was a backup choice for him because he wanted to be in a more urban setting, but he was still worried about his overall GPA and whether he would be accepted where he wanted. He was now two for two and definitely feeling more confident.
Two days later came two more letters. He’d been accepted at Oregon State University but rejected at University of Oregon. He’d had a hankering for Eugene, not just as a more liberal city, but the one in Oregon that first instituted gay rights. OSU was a good school, but it didn’t have the cache that U of O did. But U of O had more rigid academic requirements. Now he was batting three out of four. I asked him how he was feeling.
“Pretty good, you know, more in’s than out’s, that’s cool. It means that you getting on me about being serous about school last quarter really mattered. Thanks again.
I was on the couch in the living room, and he came over and sat down and hugged me. “You did the work, Lover Boy, all I did was tell you how important it was.”
He was quiet. “How come I haven’t heard from Lewis and Clark?” He hadn’t told me how he’d stack ranked the colleges he applied to.
“Good question. They’re a smaller college. Maybe it just takes longer to process the paperwork.”
“Come on! They’re not smaller than Linfield. Something’s up. I think if I was going to be accepted, I’d have heard by now. I’ll be totally depressed if they reject me.”
“Because it’s so cool. Because we’ve been there together, remember? And Prof. Higgins is such a great guy and so cool. That’s where I really want to go.”
I hugged him. “Be patient and think positive thoughts.
“But I should have heard by now.” I heard him start to sound despondent.
“Not necessarily. You don’t know what the normal processing time is.”
“Hey, Lover Boy, hang in there. By the way, are you ready for the Choir’s Easter performance tomorrow?”
“Yeah, I don’t have a solo, so it’s just been learning the parts with the whole choir, and that’s been fun. You know, learning more material. Everyone’s singing well. Are you going to be there? We’ve been working on one of those pieces you turned Susan on to.”
“I wouldn’t miss it. I’ve got the Good Friday service in the morning, and then I’m free in the afternoon, so I’ll be there. And chill on the Lewis and Clark application. I’m betting it just takes time.”
He was laying with his head in my lap now, staring up at me with the light reflecting off those lovely hazel eyes. He smiled and pulled me down for a kiss.
The Good Friday morning service went smoothly, once again made possible by Susan’s organization and having the choir in shape. The Easter recital at school, being religious by nature, was held after class ended, and wasn’t required. Attendance was usually pretty good though. The program was short, and quite varied.
The Old Rugged Cross
A Mighty Fortress Is Our God
Timor et Tremor
Worthy Is The Lamb That Was Slain
Susan knew what she was doing in her song selection, beginning with two classic Protestant hymns that everyone knew the melody to even if they didn’t know the lyrics. Then she slipped in the de Lassus motet which was in Latin and almost no one would know, even though the lyrics for all the hymns were printed in the program. Then came the old Russian hymn Hilariter, which was new to me, but was a rousing hymn that was easy to join in and sing, and then the choir closed with the final hymn from The Messiah.
The choir performance was quite good, and they had no problem with the first two hymns, being standard hymns sung in church regularly. The choir was stretched a bit when they sang Orlando de Lassus’ sublime Timor et Tremor, but this was a first, and they requited themselves well.
The title “fear and trembling” from the Latin makes it clear that the text is a melancholy entreaty for redemption, and with the guilt and fear message, Will certainly wouldn’t be taking it as a lesson in fear and trembling. Still, it reflects its time, and the way the four voices of the choir phase in at the beginning is absolutely engaging. The composition conveys the emotion and uses shifts of harmony and changes between major chords to convey mood swings, and Susan told me later she was quite pleased with the performance.
I later asked Susan where she found Hilariter, and her answer was something along the line of “we choir directors have our ways.” What she later told me was that she had been introduced to it at a choir conference, and she described it as joyful and light but also an almost boisterous hymn, and perfect for performances where you had no idea how knowledgeable the audience would be. The lyrics were particularly compelling, “hilariter” literally meaning “joyfully,” but the is hymn often referred to as The Whole Bright World Rejoices Now.
The whole bright world rejoices now,
The birds do sing from every bough,
Then shout beneath the racing skies,
To him who rose that we might rise,
And all you living things make praise,
He guideth you on all your ways,
To Father, Son and Holy Ghost,
Our God most high, our joy and boast.
This was an Easter concert, and that meant a hymn from The Messiah. Susan had chosen Worthy Is The Lamb That Was Slain, the last hymn in Handel’s magnificent composition. It was a great choice to end for a number of reasons. It’s long at over six minutes and shifts from slow undulating lines to really strong and punchy ones like when they sang “Blessing and honor, glory and pow’r be unto him.” It’s also loud and so easy to sing along with for any in the audience that felt comfortable with the lyrics.
It was 5:30 before Jackson and Will were back in street clothes, and out of school with their books and ready for Spring Break. Will’s parents were there, and we’d all arranged to go out for dinner after the performance. It was a pleasant evening, and the big news was that Will had been accepted at U of Oregon in Eugene, his first choice. We filled them in on our plan to go to the Olympic Peninsula for two days and then on to Seattle to visit Jackson’s dad.
Will’s dad was laughing about the need for rain gear this time of year on the Olympic peninsula, but I knew I’d booked a room at a nice lodge on Crescent Lake, so I wasn’t worried. He didn’t come off as especially religious, and neither did his wife, but I’d learned along the way that an affable outward demeanor can often hide a very rigid and conservative interior belief system.
When we got home, I made a bit of an event out of Jackson joining me in the living room to listen to some music. I asked him what he wanted to hear, and he went back and forth between the Bowie album and Fleetwood Mac, finally settling on Rumors.
I was purposefully working him, trying to stretch out his discomfort. “Not up for The Messiah? Had enough choral composition for one day?”
He smiled and said, “Yeah, I’m done for the day. Just something mellow we can listen to while we’re here together.”
I cued it up and sat down on the couch and beckoned him over. When he laid down with his head on my lap, finally relaxing, as Second Hand News was playing, I said, “So, you’ve had enough choral music for one day, but how did you think the performance went?”
He grinned. “Right now, I’m liking this better. It’s more relaxing for me. I can just hum along. I don’t have to get the notes and the timing right. Overall it went well. That de Lassus piece was pretty technical.”
“The content of the whole performance was great as was the performance. It was a pretty stark contrast to the performance you and Will did of The Gates of Eden. Thoughts about that?”
He smiled up at me. “They probably couldn’t be further apart. But I enjoyed singing them. You know why, apart from the music part, learning new material and all of that?”
“Fill me in.”
“It’s something you told me that Campbell said about how the mythology, or here, the religion we grow up with is part of us, and even if we reach a point where we don’t believe the detail…I guess you’d call that the doctrine…it’s still part of our life, of our person. So, I just told myself that it’s great music and my job was to sing it the best that I could, and I didn’t have to believe all the doctrine to do that.”
“I’m betting Joseph Campbell would congratulate you for that if he was here to hear you say it. That said, it was beautiful, and your choir requited itself well.” He was quiet.
“What’s on your mind.”
He scrunched up his face.
“Come on, tell me.”
“I’m really bummed I haven’t gotten a letter from Lewis and Clark.”
“I thought we agreed to be patient, that smaller schools take more time.”
“That’s not the point. It shouldn’t take this long. Somethings’ wrong!”
I couldn’t do this to him any longer. I reached behind my head for the letter I’d placed at the top of the cushion when the mail came in the afternoon.
“Lover Boy.” He looked up at me.
“Is this what you’re worrying about?” I held the letter from Lewis and Clark above his face.
“Yes! Yes! It came. What’s it say?”
“How would I know? It’s addressed to you.”
He took the envelope carefully, inspected the front and then carefully opened it. I let him be. He read it silently, and then whooped, “Yes! I’ve been accepted and with a music scholarship for choir and glee club! Where did that come from?”
His face was a study in happiness and then I could see the suspicion forming in his eyes.
“Alright, out with it. What’s with the music scholarship?””
“Don’t look at me, Lover Boy. You’ll have to take that up with Susan.”
“What did she have to do with this? This is very suspicious. What’s going on?”
I just smiled, leaned down to kiss his forehead, and tried to look innocent.
“You’re in the middle of this too, I can tell. Did you do the letter of recommendation thing like you did for Gary?”
I wiggled my eyebrows. “Well, now that you ask, yes. Prof. Higgins dropped a few hints about what would be important, so I wrote one as your minister. Susan wrote one as choir director and your music teacher. And Spencer wrote one as an attorney who knows you and serves on the Session of your church.”
“What? You people are too much! Are you shitting me? You did that. All of you?”
“Sure, why not. You deserve it too, you know.
“That is so cool. But you didn’t say a word about it. That’s not cool.”
“Au contraire! We didn’t want to get your hopes up. Lewis and Clark is hard to get accepted into, and your grades the first three years weren’t stellar, so it looked iffy. But you proved yourself this year, had good recommendations, and Susan recommended you for a music scholarship.”
“Really? She did that? That’s great, but why would any of that matter. I mean it’s three people in Newberg.”
“You’ve forgotten what I told you and what Prof. Higgins reminded me of. Originally it was a Presbyterian school and there is still what he called a “certain orientation” for applicants that come with recommendations from Presbyterian churches.”
“No shit. I don’t even consider myself a Christian anymore, let alone a Presbyterian, and this just happened to me. It’s too much to believe.”
“Well, like Ripley said, ‘truth is stranger than fiction.’ And on the subject of belief, just remember that it’s because those people believe in you. I don’t know if Prof. Higgins had anything to do with it, but I’m betting he put in a good word somewhere along the line, and he believes in you too.”
He was re-reading the acceptance letter, grinning like a fool.
When Gary came home from his date with Lois, we were still up, and had a short celebration about the acceptances.
“So, you’re going to Lewis and Clark?
“Yeah,” Jackson said, “it’s in Portland but it feels like it’s out in the forest somewhere. It’s a beautiful campus, and it’s not that far from here.”
Gary, practical guy that he was, asked, “So what about the rest of the program?”
“What do you mean,” Jackson asked?
“You’ll be going to college in Portland and David will be here in Newberg? How’s that going to work?”
“Well, it’ll work somehow, I mean… uhm, I don’t know, I mean, we’re together, but we’ll….”
He looked like it had just dawned on him, after all this effort focused on school and grades and applying and getting accepted, that there was a logistical complication.
“David, we did all of this together. I mean, what do we do now? How’s it going to work if I’m there and you’re here. Oh god, I hadn’t thought that far ahead.”
They were both looking at me now. Gary with a look of humorous concern, Jackson with a look just a little short of panic.
“We’ve all known this was coming up, regardless of where Jackson got accepted to college. We just haven’t talked about the practical realities. It doesn’t matter where you were accepted, the reality is the same, and we’re coming to a fork in the road. I mean all of us.”
They were quiet. “So, here’s my view, and I’m just putting this out there so we can talk about it, Okay? Don’t assume I’m the guy with the final answers here. In terms of college, Jackson’s my boyfriend and I’m going where he goes.” I looked at Gary. “Us moving out of here will be hard. Hard on us and hard on you, but we’re betting that you and Lois are going to get married pretty soon, so maybe that’s a consolation.”
Gary was reflective, but Jackson jumped right in. “What do you mean you’re going where I’m going? You’re the minister here. How can you just split?”
“Jackson, people change jobs and where they live all the time. It’s not that unusual.”
“You’d do that? You’d leave this church and move where he’s going to college,” Gary asked?
“I think that’s what I just said. I love him like you love Lois. What’s more important, a job or this relationship?”
“Don’t get me wrong, David, I’m not questioning the relationship. I’m just not used to seeing people make sacrifices like that.”
“Hey, don’t make me out to be a martyr. Portland is a city. There are a lot more churches there than here, assuming I want to stay in church ministry. There’s bound to be pastor openings.”
Jackson took my hand, “What do you mean ‘assuming I want to stay in church ministry?’ What are you thinking about?”
“To be truthful, I don’t know yet. What I do know is that my entire belief system has changed in the last six months, and I can’t keep this pastor thing up. It requires playing a role I no long buy into. So, I may look at other options.”
“But how are you, we, going to move, to afford it?”
“What, are you getting practical on me now?”
He smiled, and Gary said, “Someone has to, you know.”
“Yeah, you guys I know. And here’s what I know that you probably don’t. I have some money in the bank from my family. My brother and I are also going to have a decent inheritance. In my mind that makes this possible. And this is important. It’s the most important thing in my life.”
I looked at Gary. “Would you just walk away from Lois if something like this or a job out of town came up?”
“Well, that’s what I’m talking about. This is too important to me. To Jackson. To all of us, including Lois. And Portland isn’t that far away. Anyway, look. It’s March, and six months before Fall term for college starts. That’s a long time. We don’t have to panic about anything. You want to know what I’m mainly worried about right now?”
They both looked at me like they were clueless.
“I’m worried that Jackson and I are going up to Seattle next week for Spring Break and you’ll be here alone. I know you’re a big boy now, but Lois is still living at home. Are you good with this? I mean, we’re the Fellowship of the Four and we’re supposed to be all in this together.”
He grinned. “Give me a break, David. I love you for loving me and caring about me. But, I’m nineteen now. I think I can pull it off. Also, I have Lois to make sure I do it right and stay on the straight and narrow. We’ll be fine. We’ve talked about it, and she won’t be sleeping here cause her parents won’t let her, but she’ll be spending a lot of time here. I’ll be working at the bike shop part time and closing those mowing customers for the summer because Jackson won’t be here to help!”
“You’re sure you don’t want to come along? It would be a two vehicle deal, I know, we’d be in the El Camino and you in the International, but it would be fun if we all went somewhere.”
“Now you’re saying you wish we had the Electra back? And by the way, you haven’t had a ride in the International yet – either of you two! But no, I can earn money at the bike shop. We’ve almost got the riding mower paid off. That’s important. The sooner it’s paid for the better.”
“What are you talking about,” Jackson asked. “What do you mean it’s almost paid off?”
Gary blushed. “Well, we’ve kept working at it and it’s almost done.”
“What do you mean ‘we?’ I haven’t done a thing since mowing stopped last Fall and school started. What have you been…oh, you fucker! You’ve been working at the bike shop and using all that money to pay off the mower, haven’t you?”
Gary looked sheepish, then smiled. “Yeah, and guess what? It’s almost done. That means come summer we’ll be making a profit. We can pay ourselves or invest in our business. How cool is that?”
Jackson was slow to get with it, feeling like he’d shirked his part of the deal. “Yeah, that’s cool, but you’ve been doing it. I haven’t been carrying my part of the bargain.”
“Jackson, cool it. You’re in school full time. My college schedule was easier than yours. I’ve been able to work part time. It’s not that big a deal. We’re better off because of it, Okay. Just relax. Isn’t this new family thing about all of us helping everyone else out? Don’t worry, I’ll work you like a dog in the summer. You’ll have plenty of opportunity to repay.” He reached over and mussed Jackson’s hair.
“Okay, bro, but be real. We’re all in this together. Don’t make me feel shitty because I’m not doing my part.”
“No worry. You’ve been finishing high school and you just got accepted where you wanted to go to college. What’s wrong with that outcome?”
That closed the conversation. I asked, “Who wants a glass of wine to celebrate both Jackson’s college acceptance and the soon-to-be-paid-off riding mower?”
They both grinned and I went to the kitchen for the bottle of wine.
This year’s Gospel passage for Easter Sunday was John 20: 1-9, one of the principal resurrection passages, describing the rolled away stone and empty tomb found by Mary Magdalene. Beyond seeing the empty linen clothes lying there, it goes on to describe Peter and then the other disciples arriving and seeing the same thing, and then finally, as the Gospel records it, they “saw and believed for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead.” My sermon dealt with coming to realizations and beliefs and the understanding and faith that follows. It was a struggle to talk in an enthusiastic way about what was supposedly a specific historical event that happened to a specific person…when I now believed the resurrection, like all the rest of it was supposed to be metaphorical.
Monday morning dawned grey, but not raining. The cloud deck was high, and the weather forecast in the paper said it might be two or three days like this. The question was what it would be like on the coast of Washington. We left early, drove to Astoria and then across the Astoria-Meghler Bridge over the Columbia River. We’d seen it from town during one of our summer church camp trips, and while it looked long from shore, that was nothing compared to the reality of driving across its four mile length It was striking because it begins as a high cantilever bridge on the Oregon side, and then drops down closer to the water as a through-truss bridge that connects to Washington.
Jackson had grown enough since last summer that his old favorite position leaning against the door with his feet on the console or my thigh wasn’t so comfortable anymore. He’d do it for a while then shifted back to sitting normally, and often we held hands on the shifter. He was sitting normally to get the full view as we crossed the bridge, and then shifted sideways with his feet on my thighs once we were in Washington. A random thought crossed my mind, and I ran my hand as far up the inside of his thigh as I could reach. I saw his eyes flick to mine and a slight smile. He said nothing.
“I was just thinking, if this is where we lived when we’d met, then guess what?”
He knew I was up to something, and smiled more widely, but said nothing, just wiggled his eyebrows.
“We’re in Washington now, where your Dad told me the age of consent was seventeen. If we’d lived here when we met, there wouldn’t have been those restrictions.”
“Would it have made any difference?”
“With my hang ups, maybe not. I’m sure you would have all over me like lint on a sweater, though, Lover Boy!”
He giggled. “Probably true, but aren’t you glad it worked out the way it did? I mean everything that led up to the most memorable birthday in my life?”
Now, it was my turn to grin widely and wiggle my eyebrows.
My plan was to enjoy the drive north on Highway 101, and it was a lot of driving for one day. I asked him if he wanted to drive part way and he shook his head. We stopped to check out Willapa Bay at Long Beach, then stopped again at Grays Harbor where we had lunch. Here it was a thick cloud deck, with no rain, meaning the low-pressure system was concentrated further south. On the way north we stopped at the mouth of the Hoh River below the Olympic Mountains. Then we made the drive to Lake Crescent and checked in at Lake Crescent Lodge.
I’d booked us for two nights, and we had one of the Roosevelt Fireplace Cabins right on the shore of the lake. That meant we were away from the main lodge and being the off season didn’t have to worry about being hassled by people worrying about two guys staying together. The main lodge building was constructed in 1915, with a massive stone fireplace and antique furnishings in the lobby and a lovely restaurant. We had dinner at the lodge restaurant, which wasn’t even half full, then retreated to our cabin and spent the rest of the evening just relaxing until I saw the glint in Jackson’s eyes.
“So, you’re ready for a little sex play away from home?”
“Well, yeah. This is our first real vacation since my birthday, so I figure we better make the best of it. Also, you were very cagey getting a cabin. No one can hear us out here. You can fuck me deep and hard, and I can groan and moan and no one’s going to hear!” His eyebrows were wiggling now, and he was grinning as he ran his hand under the waist of my jeans and into my pubes. “Come on, off with the clothes. Let’s see if we can make double trouble tonight!?
“You mean I might be able to moan and groan while you fuck me? That’s something I’ve never done away from home before either.” We collapsed naked on the bed, and I felt the thrill of his hands stroke my neck as he lay on me, nuzzling my ear, and then moving in for a deep and passionate kiss. I swept my hands down his back and over his soft buttocks, squeezing them softly as we began to grind into each other. He leaned back and we looked deeply into each other’s eyes. “I like sex play away from home! We should do this more often.”
He kissed me, his tongue swirling in my mouth, and then said, “but first we’re going to sixty-nine a little bit to really get in the mood, Okay?” His eyes were sparkling, and his salacious smile was so broad his dimples were flaring.
“How could I say no to that offer!” He kissed me again, turned around on the bed, and nuzzled his way south kissing and licking till he reached my pubes, rubbed his nose in them, and then ever so slowly licked up the top side of my cock. I groaned, then turned sideways and pulled his leg up so I could reach his cock with my mouth. We went slow and sensuously, knowing where this was leading.
We spent the next day driving to a couple of short hikes, the first at Cape Flattery, the westernmost point in the lower 48. It was over a half hour hike to get to the promontory, and we were resting side by side, arms on the wood guard rail, when Jackson took my hand and said “Last night’s sex play away from home was outrageous. You were so strong but also soft at the same time when you were inside me. It was magical. And, then when I was inside of you, it felt so just totally amazing. I felt just like the way you described the first time you fucked me, that you were in a dark velvet tube.”
“Magical is a good word to describe it. I loved that we could do each other. That after I came inside you, feeling like the world was going to end, that I could have you inside me, and watch the pleasure sweep across your face as you got closer and closer, and then the shout when you came was totally wild. Almost animalistic. I think I can tell you something else.”
He glanced sideways and raised his eyebrows.
“You’re not just taller now than you were last summer, your cock is bigger than it was in October. I feel so filled when you’re inside me. So complete. Something like bliss!”
I leaned over and kissed his cheek, and we wrapped an arm around each other, just staring out across the Pacific reveling in the warmth of holding our lovers.
Then, in a few minutes, out of the blue Jackson said, “Look!”
He was pointing straight out to sea. “There’s Japan!”
It took me a second to realize he was joking, and I’d been had. But we had a good giggle. When we got back to the lodge, we did another hike around Lake Crescent. It was really damp, but the weather held, and we didn’t get rained on. We ate dinner again at the lodge, and the rain came in overnight. That made the drive to Seattle a wet one. It was long too, somehow on the map it seems close, but what’s deceptive is the size of the Olympic Peninsula and the massive nature of the Olympic Mountains. Then after driving around them, there’s the Puget Sound to drive around, which meant we got to JC’s house in Seattle at mid-afternoon on Wednesday.
JC was home waiting for us to arrive, and the reception was warm. He and Jackson had grown to love and respect each other, and it was a thrill to see them embrace, then watch JC wrap his arms about Jackson and lift him off the floor in a huge hug of pure affection. After he put his son down, he came for me. “You’re not getting away without one too!”
He couldn’t pick me up, but I got a bear hug the likes of which I don’t remember ever having before. “Hey, I live alone and don’t have many visitors. To have the best people in my life visit is a big deal. That’s my story, and you won’t get me to change my mind.”
We all just grinned and enjoyed the moment. We could have done something, Seattle having a lot of options, but we didn’t. We just all sat down in the living room and updated each other on life. JC wanted to know about the drive up, how we liked the Washington coast and the Olympic Peninsula. He was a big fan of the coast and talked about how great the salmon fishing could be on the Hoh or the Bogachiel Rivers during coho and chinook season. We agreed to take him up on that offer sometime. That led into a download on the last few weeks, the band gig he couldn’t make where Jackson sang the solo on Heroes, the choir recital and finally college acceptances.
After he was all caught up, Jackson asked if he’d ever heard the David Bowie song? He shook his head. “That makes sense, it was only released in Europe in October, and just started getting play time here. I brought the album. Can I play it for you? I understood you couldn’t get the time off to come down for that band gig, but I really want you to hear it.”
JC nodded and said he’d love to. He showed Jackson the stereo, and just before he cued up the track, he turned to his Dad and said, “This is the song of our life. That’s why it’s so important and why I want you to hear it. I did Okay singing it because of Susan’s coaching, but I wasn’t even close to how Bowie sings it, to the passion he puts into it.”
Then he cued it up and we sat and listened. JC was smiling at the end. ‘You’ll have to explain the back story and some of the lyrics, but I like it. I like the message. Let me guess: the ‘we could be heroes’ part is pretty obvious.”
He looked at Jackson, and nodded my way as he said, “He’s your hero, right?” Jackson grinned.
Then he looked at me, “And he’s your hero too, right?” I grinned and nodded.
“Okay, see, I passed the first part of the test. Then I think I got the ‘we could be us’ part, and I’m guessing that’s a very special part for both of you, right?”
“Geez, Dad, you’re way more hip than most. Yep, that’s pretty special for us.”
“Tell me the rest. I didn’t understand the bit about the guns firing.” Jackson then told him the whole backstory. JC was listening closely, and smiling as Jackson unfolded the details, then said, “That’s very cool. And, so appropriate. Now I feel doubly bad I didn’t make it down to hear you. When are you singing it again?”
“Well, and this is top secret because we don’t know yet, but we may get the gig for Homecoming next quarter. If so, we’ll definitely do it cause we can position it as a love song for all those couples…and only a few of us will know who I’m singing it for.”
“I’ll be there. Even if I have to quit my job, I’ll be there!” Jackson grinned, acted momentarily like he didn’t know what to do, then sat down next to JC and hugged him.
JC looked my way, “Sorry, David, we’re leaving you out of the action. I just kind of get excited having my son around.”
“No worry. Like you said, we’re building a family, and I’m in by proxy so I’m not worried at all. I can feel the vibes from here, and I think I’m getting a love burn!”
JC looked at this watch and said, “I was thinking we’d go out for dinner. Are you guys up for that quiet restaurant in Leschi that we went to at Christmas?”
We nodded, but I said we needed to call home first. Gary answered and we caught up and told him about the trip up the Washington coast, and he filled us in on life at home. After cleaning up we drove over to Leschi in JC’s car. It was quiet, comfortable and a great place for dinner and conversation. After we’d ordered he asked Jackson to tell him more about the colleges he’d been accepted to, and which he preferred and where he was going to go and why. Jackson filled him in, and he was impressed with the choir and music scholarship and loved what he heard about the campus.
“Jackson’s leaving out a couple of important details,” I said. “We’ve gotten to know a professor there who’s a wonderful man who took a hankering to him, so having a connection like that is a plus to start with. Like he said, it’s a beautiful campus. It’s where he took me the day I flew back from Philly, to get me reconnected and back in touch with myself after the funeral and all. We just sat on a bench and had a therapy session. Jackson was the therapist!”
JC smiled at me and looked at Jackson. “It sounds pretty great. Can you handle the tuition and room and board and all the other expenses?” He looked from Jackson to me.
“Jackson and Gary continue to receive the child support payments from Bud, and he has a scholarship, so between the two that should cover most of it. I’m covering the rest.”
JC and I were looking directly at each other, and I knew he knew I was not only serious but meant what I said. To his credit all he said was, “If you need help along the way, let me know.” He paused, then said, “How’s it going to work with you in Newberg and Jackson in Portland? Won’t he need a car?”
We’d started having this conversation with Gary just four days earlier, and Jackson knew I’d decided to live where he went to college. We hadn’t discussed any further details, and I decided it was time to come clean with where my mind was going. “I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately, and now that I know where Jackson will be going to college, things are coming together in my mind. First, you need to know that I’m going through a major change in belief. More importantly, I told Jackson and Gary the other night that I don’t think I can continue in church ministry and that I’m moving where he’s going to college.”
Jackson smiled, and JC acted surprised, but not shocked. “Makes sense. How’s it going to work?”
“There are other kinds of ministry-related jobs, I’ll just start looking. Also, and I haven’t told Jackson this yet, but in the next few weeks my inheritance is expected to come through. So, I want to try out a proposition out on you both.”
They were all eyes. “I’m thinking that I should buy a house in a neighborhood fairly close to Lewis and Clark. That way we’re together and Jackson doesn’t have to do the dorm living routine. What do you think?”
Jackson acted like it was Christmas morning. “Yes! That would be totally far out. You’d do that? You can do that?”
“From what my parents lawyer tells me, it’ll be more than enough to buy a decent house, hopefully like JC’s. The neat thing about Portland, like Seattle, is that there are still lots of neighborhoods with unique character. So, we’d be living in the city, but not downtown. We’ll have to spend some time checking out neighborhoods and talk to realtors and stuff.”
They both agreed it sounded like a good plan, but the one big gap in it was work and a paycheck for me. Ah well, first things first. I meant what I said about the relationship being more important than the job.
We finished dinner and spent more time talking when we got home. Jackson wanted JC to come down as soon as he could to see the campus, and it was pleasant to see their lives starting to mesh together more and more.
Jackson was in the shower and I was dressing the next morning when I heard the phone ring. We walked into the kitchen ten minutes later, and the smell of fresh coffee was pleasantly overpowering.
“I’m cooking. You guys help yourself to coffee. It’s bacon and eggs. Jackson will you do the toast when I put the eggs in?” It all came together well, and we chatted away amiably. As he poured us all a second cup of coffee, JC said, “Did you hear the phone a while ago?”
I nodded. “Jackson was in the shower. What’s up? You didn’t get called into work to fly an emergency call or something did you?”
“No, not an emergency flight. But a kind of emergency. That was my Dad, you remember, the retired Army Colonel, and he wants to meet you two.”