"Rosie, where's the young man who was out here?"
"I don't know. I was talking to him a minute ago. I just went into the file room to file today's patient records. When I came back he wasn't in his chair. I assumed that he went to the restroom."
"I'll check," Adams said. Returning a moment later, "He's not there."
"He can't have gone far," I said, heading for the door.
I stepped outside and looked all around. Dr. Adams' office was in a professional building that was near a small, fairly upscale shopping area surrounding a plaza with a fountain in the center. I couldn't think of anywhere else to start looking for John, so I headed in that direction. Dr. Adams said he would look in the other direction when I told him my intentions.
I quickly made my way toward the plaza area. As I approached, I saw John. He was sitting on the stone ledge surrounding the fountain. I could see, as I got closer to him, that he was crying. I didn't want to frighten him, so I approached him slowly and sat down beside him.
"Uncle Crane, I want to go live with my mom."
"I want you to go home, too. And you can, as soon as the judge says it's okay."
"I want my dad to love me, too, but if he can't, that his problem. My sisters need me. I can see that, now."
I wrapped my arm around his shoulder. "You're right, they do. They love you. We all love you and need you. You're very important to us. Remember that, always."
"Okay," he said, and wiped his eyes on his sleeve.
"Now, what do you say we go home?"
I didn't want to make too much over his leaving the doctor's office, but I did mention that I wished that he would have told someone he was going to leave. As we walked back toward Dr. Adams' office, we met him coming toward us.
"I see that you found him," he said. "Are you all right, son? I was worried about you getting lost."
"I'm okay, doctor. I needed to think about some things," John said. "I guess I just realized that, as much as I want my dad to love me, I want to go home to my mom and sisters more. I think they need me."
"Excellent!" Dr. Adams exclaimed.
We walked back to the car in silence. When we got there, John and I shook hands with the doctor before getting into the car.
"Can I go see my mom tonight?"
"I don't know why not. Why don't you call her to see if she's going to be at home this evening?" I asked, handing him my cell phone.
"I never used one of these," he giggled.
"Well, all you have to do is punch in your numbers and then press the 'Call' button."
He did as I instructed, although tentatively.
"Nobody answers," he said handing me back the phone after a bit.
"You can call her later when we get home."
As soon as we got home and John had changed his clothes, he made another call to his mom. This time she answered. After several minutes of conversation, he asked me if he could eat supper with his mother and sisters.
I took the phone from him and talked to his mother. After getting the details, we agreed that I would take him to their house and pick him up a couple of hours later. I told Hildy what the plans were and asked her to go ahead and feed the boys and see that they got started on their homework, that I might be delayed in returning.
John seemed very excited as we drove to his house. When we arrived, I walked him inside. I wanted to talk to Pauline for a few minutes. Cassie, his youngest sister, jumped into John's arms, nearly knocking him over backwards. His backpack with his school books and homework didn't help with his balance. It was very apparent that all of his sisters had missed him. I watched the hugging and kissing until it was over and then took Pauline aside.
"Pauline, do you know where Bruce is living?"
"Yes, he's rented an apartment over near the marina. I have the address and phone number if you need it. Can I ask why you want it?"
"It's just in case of an emergency," I lied.
She wrote the address and phone number down on a piece of paper, and handed it to me. "Thanks for letting John come by this evening. The girls really miss him, and so do I," she said, dabbing at her eyes with the corner of her handkerchief.
As I prepared to leave, I reminded John that I would be back to pick him up around 8:30 and to be sure that he did his homework. He gave me a hug and thanked me.
I was turning over in my mind whether or not I should go and have a talk with Bruce. I didn't decide until the last minute before I would have had to make a turn toward our home or continuing on to Bruce's place. My desire to talk to Bruce won out.
I didn't know exactly what I would say to Bruce, but I guess I just wanted to know whether or not he wanted to regain custody of his son. It was my hope that he would come to his senses and see what a mistake he was making with the way he had been acting.
Bruce's car was in the parking lot when I got to the apartment complex. It took a little while for me to find his apartment. I could see that there were lights on in the apartment as I approached the door. I rang the door bell and waited.
"What are you doing here?"
"Bruce, I came to talk to you about your son. May I come in?"
"Sure, come on in. I don't know what there is to talk about."
"I want to know what you plan to do about your son. You know he still loves you, don't you?"
"If he loved me, he'd change."
He motioned for me to take a seat, when another man walked out of the kitchen area. I hadn't noticed him when I first entered the apartment. Bruce introduced him as Reverend Schiller, the new pastor of the church he attended.
"Mr. Johnson, I've heard a lot about you," Schiller said.
"And I, you."
"Bruce, I would really like to talk to you privately."
"Crane, it's all right. Rev. Schiller and I were discussing my son's situation when you arrived."
"Very well, what are your intentions? Do you plan to try to get custody of your son?"
"Of course, he needs help and I plan to see that he gets it."
"What kind of help do you think he needs?"
"Isn't it obvious? He says he's in love with your son, Joel. That's sick. He needs treatment to cure him of this abomination."
"Bruce, I thought we had this conversation before. Being gay is not an illness. It's not a choice that he can make. John is either gay or not gay. He didn't just wake up one morning and say, 'I think I'll be gay.' Do you honestly think that he would suffer the grief that you have put him through, if he had a real choice?"
"But, the Bible says that it is an abomination."
"Yes," Schiller added. "Leviticus 18:22 says, 'You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.' The word of God must be obeyed."
"Reverend Schiller, you quote Leviticus. Is everything written in Leviticus to be interpreted and obeyed to the letter?"
"Of course, it is the Word of our Lord and it must be obeyed."
"I have done a little reading of Leviticus myself, since it is a prime source for homophobes to quote. There are many admonitions in there that I'm sure that you don't preach against as fervently as you do homosexuality. Let me give you a few examples, although I'm sure that you're aware of them. The first one that comes to mind is, and I think I'm quoting it correctly:
'When you offer a sacrifice of peace to the Lord, you shall offer it so that you may be accepted. It shall be eaten the same day you offer it, or on the morrow; and anything left over until the third day shall be burned with fire. If it is eaten at all on the third day, it is an abomination; it will not be accepted, and every one who eats it shall bear his iniquity, because he has profaned a holy thing of the Lord; and that person shall be cut off from his people.'
"Let me ask you, Reverend, have you ever eaten some leftovers that were more than one day old? If you have, you are guilty of an abomination."
"But that was a restriction based on not having techniques for refrigeration. It was for the health of the people. There are many passages in the Bible that condemn the sin of homosexuality. Romans I verses 26 to 27, Genesis 19, and on and on."
"I think that you will find that there are only six so-called 'clobber' passages in the Bible that are used by homophobes, such as yourself, to condemn homosexuality. You said that Leviticus was the 'Word of our Lord' and had to be obeyed. Are you telling me that you can pick and choose what the Bible says is an abomination?"
"No, of course not," Schiller sputtered.
"Oh, by the way, Reverend, that is a handsome suit you're wearing. Is it all wool or what?"
"Thank you very much. It is a very fine suit. One of my parishioners gave it to me as a Christmas present. I think it's a blend of wool and polyester," he said proudly, looking at the label inside the coat jacket. "Yes, it's a 65/35 blend."
"That brings to mind another verse from Leviticus. I think it is Leviticus 19:19, but you correct me if I'm wrong:
'You shall keep my statutes. You shall not let your cattle breed with a different kind; you shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed; nor shall there come upon you a garment of cloth made of two kinds of stuff.'
"Now, here you are clearly violating one of His statutes. How can you reconcile what you do, with what is written?"
"But... But, that was a long time ago. Times change and some things don't apply anymore."
While my exchange with Schiller was going on, Bruce was sitting there staring wide eyed at us, but with a concerned look on his face.
"So, you're telling me that some of the things written in the Bible have an expiration date on them?"
"No, you're twisting what I said. Society changes and evolves. Things that used to be true are no longer true. We must interpret the Bible in the light of today's reality."
"I suppose that you are that person who gets to interpret what is no longer relevant. How, may I ask, do you do that? Do you get some revelation directly from God telling you what you can ignore and what you can't?
"Something that I think that you really ignore in your homophobic rantings is another verse from Leviticus that should probably be your major focus.
'You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason with your neighbor, lest you bear sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear any grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.'
"Isn't that the message of Christ, the Savior that you so earnestly profess an allegiance to?"
"I'm not going to sit here and be insulted by a godless heathen, preaching to me about what the Bible says," Schiller said. "Bruce, we will talk later."
He stomped to the door, opened it, rushed out and slammed it behind him. Bruce sat there stunned for a moment.
"Bruce, I didn't come here to quote scriptures to you or the reverend. I did come here to talk to you about John. I need to know once and for all; do you love your son?"
"I want to, Crane. I really want to. I think I do love him. If it wasn't for this gay thing, everything would be fine. But it's not. It has caused my marriage to break up. It has caused my wife to defy me. It has made everybody unhappy. If he would change, everything would be back to normal."
"Think, Bruce, did John actually cause your marriage to break up? Or was it you? Did John cause your wife to defy you? Or was it her realizing that your attitude toward her son made it impossible for her to continue to be quiet? As for John, he can't change the way he is. You must know that by now. Don't you think he would if he could? No one in their right mind would consciously choose a life of discrimination and harassment. Yes, he could pretend to be heterosexual. He could even pass as straight. He probably will, for his own safety, have to hide the fact that he is gay from the public at large, at least until he is older. But, why should he have to hide from his own parents? Is it really about John being gay, or possibly is it about Bruce having a gay son? What are you afraid of? Do you think that you are less of a man because your son is gay?"
"Oh, my God," Bruce said, burying his head in his hands. "You make it sound so reasonable when you talk. I wish that I could feel that way. You really know how to touch a raw nerve. I guess I am ashamed of having a gay son. Am I such a bad person for wanting my son to be normal? How can I hold up my head to my friends if they know that my only son is a fag?"
"Being gay does not define who John is. What defines him is the type of person that he is. Is he good? Is he kind? Is he generous? Is he caring? Is he loving? Is he honest? Does he hold himself to high standards? All of these things and more define the person. Who he seeks out to be his life's partner does not in any way diminish the person that he is."
"How can I reconcile the teachings of my church with what you are saying?"
"Bruce, that is something that you have to work out for yourself. All I can do is suggest that you consider the seemingly conflicting messages in the Bible and the teaching of your church and see if there is a way for you to understand them. You might ask yourself why your church chooses to emphasize certain things as sins while completely ignoring others that the Bible characterizes as unacceptable behavior.
"If you truly want to get your son back and to patch up your marriage in the process, you know what you have to do. The court will not give you custody unless you follow its mandates. It's as simple as that. You have to decide what is important to you. Is your own macho self-image more important to you than your family? John is a wonderful boy. He is kind, considerate and loving. He misses his dad very much, but he has come to the conclusion that if it comes down to a choice between you on one side and his mother and sisters on the other, he is not going to choose you. If you want to be a part of your family's life, it is you who must change."
"But, how can I change? All my life I've been brought up this way. Why can't he change?"
"Bruce, think about it. Yours is a learned behavior. You can choose to change your behavior. John can't change the fact that he's gay. There is nothing for him to unlearn. Yours is a habit. You can break a habit. It's like smoking. It's hard as hell to quit, but it is possible. Counseling helps. Try it. Look, no one is asking you to like that John is gay. Accept it. Deal with it. It's not going to change. If you don't, you could end up being very lonely with your wife and children alienated from you. Is that the kind of life you want?"
"I need to think."
"Don't take too long. The Waco judge has transferred John's case to Comal County. I expect there will be a hearing some time next week. I'll see myself out. Think about what I've said and consider your actions carefully. Goodnight, Bruce."
I walked to my car deep in thought. I hoped that Bruce would change his attitude towards John, but I didn't hold out all that much hope. I looked at the dashboard clock as I entered the car and sat down. The talk with Bruce had taken longer than I expected. I wouldn't have time to go home and do anything before I would have to go pick up John. I decided to drive to the Gordinier home and talk to Pauline for a while before taking John back to our home.
Pauline was a little surprised when I showed up early. John was, too. "Do I have to go right now?"
"No, son, I wanted to talk to your mom for a little bit. You go play with your sisters. You have another twenty minutes before we leave."
Pauline offered me a cup of coffee. I accepted and we sat down at the kitchen table. I went over with her much of my conversation with Bruce and Reverend Schiller.
When I finished, she said, "I wish that Schiller didn't have such a hold on him. I don't think Bruce is able to think for himself anymore. He didn't used to be so rigid when we first got married. Much of his thinking started to change after we joined that church about 15 years ago. I guess mine has changed, also. I was always a passive person and the church encouraged the wife to do the husband's bidding and to find our happiness in that."
"Pauline, I know your religion means a lot to you. I don't know if John has told you how much he enjoys going to church with Hildy on Sunday morning. I think John would like it if he saw you there, too. He comes home from church smiling, happy and feeling good about himself. He said he never used to feel that way before."
"Uncle Crane, will you check my homework after we get home? I mean your house."
"Of course, I will. And it's your home, too. Even after you come back here to live with your mom, it will still be your second home. Are you ready to go? Say goodbye to your mom and sisters. I'll wait in the car for you."
My boys were already in their pajamas when we arrived back at the house. I sent John off to shower and get ready for bed. You would have thought I had been gone a week from the reception that I got. TJ insisted on sitting on my lap and snuggling in my arms. The others sat beside me on the couch and related the events of their day to me. Simple times like this gave me an enormous amount of pleasure. The love that we shared was a great source of strength for me.
TJ wasn't ready to give up my lap when John finished his shower and was ready for me to check his homework. Instead of taking his usual place on my lap while I checked it, John stood beside my chair. It didn't take long to check it. He was nearly as meticulous as Joel was.
Putting the boys to bed had become one of my favorite times. Seeing them safe and secure in their beds always brought a lump to my throat. The contrast of the life that they have now to what they endured a little over a year ago was dramatic. I was eternally grateful for them coming into my life. I never tired of the hugs and kisses that I got and gave as I tucked them into bed.
John was the last one to be tucked in tonight. I was about ready to leave his room when he said, "Uncle Crane, I'm sorry."
"What are you sorry for?"
"Well, you know... About leaving Dr. Adam's office this afternoon without telling anybody."
"That's all right, son. Please don't do it again."
"I won't. And... I... I won't try to... you know... uh..."
"Are you trying to say that you won't hurt yourself?"
"Yeah," he said barely above a whisper.
"I'm glad. You do know that there are a lot of people who really do love you."
"When I was in that school, I didn't think anybody loved me. I was so lonely, it hurt. I didn't even love myself. I just wanted the hurt to go away," he whispered as a tear leaked out of the corner of his eye and rolled down his face toward the pillow.
"Has the hurt gone away?"
"If you ever feel like the hurt is coming back, you let me help. Sharing what hurts you can make it easier to handle. Talking about your hurt with Dr. Adams will help a lot. Remember that," I said, giving him a kiss on the forehead. "Now, go to sleep, son."
"Goodnight, Uncle Crane."
"Hildy," I said the next morning as I poured myself a cup of coffee. "Thanks for watching the boys last night while I was out. I appreciate that you put in long hours around here."
"Hush! I love those boys and so does Manny. Taking care of them once in a while is a treat."
"What did I ever do to deserve you?"
"I could ask you the same thing."
"The reason that I was gone last night was, I went to visit John's dad. We had a long talk about what his intentions regarding John are."
"Has he changed his attitude toward John?"
"Not really, but I sense that he wants to change. I'm not convinced that he will be able to break through his indoctrination and the macho image he has of himself. Right now, he's sitting on the fence and could go either way.
"John, on the other hand, has had a breakthrough. As much as he wants his dad's love and acceptance, he wants to be with his mother and sisters more. He tells me that they need him, but I think it's because he is the one who needs them. Which ever way it is, he sees that hurting himself is not an answer. I still think he'll need to continue seeing Dr. Adams, at least for a while."
"That's great. He's too good a kid to let his bigoted father drive him to do something stupid.
"On another subject, have you forgotten that Chris has a birthday next Wednesday?"
"Thanks for reminding me. It had completely slipped my mind. I think we should plan a party, but with that being a school night, maybe we should look to something the following weekend. I'll ask him when he gets up. And just when I thought our lives were going to get back to something normal," I laughed. "Oh, well, what is another half dozen or so boys around here?"
"You know you love it," Hildy said. "Go get the boys up. Breakfast is almost ready."
Chris was excited when I asked him if he wanted a birthday party. "Oh, boy, you mean I get to have one? Can I, really? I never had a party before."
"Sure, you can, all your brothers had a party. Everyone is treated the same. All you have to do is to figure out who you want to invite. Try to limit the number to around ten, okay?"
"Thanks, dad," he said, wrapping his arms around my waist and giving me a really tight squeeze. "I love you."
"I love you, too, son. Now, eat your breakfast before it gets cold."
Manfred arrived in the kitchen as the boys were finishing their breakfast. As I shooed them toward their bathrooms to brush their teeth and get ready for school, he sat down at the table.
"Crane, I found out about those pool domes I mentioned the other day when we were fishing. There's a company in San Antonio that can supply them. That's where these people got theirs. They said that the domes were fairly expensive. When I asked them what they meant by expensive, they said for a pool the size of theirs, it would cost anywhere from 15 to 20 thousand dollars. Any accessories would be more. Lights, heater, that sort of thing were add-ons."
"Did they say how difficult it was to install and take down?"
"Yeah, I asked them. They said the original installation was a bit complicated and suggested that it be done professionally. You can do it yourself, but as long as you're spending the money, you want to get it right. After that, they said it isn't that difficult to assemble and take down. You just need a few friends to help. They usually use six people to put it up and to take it down."
"Is their pool about the same size as ours?"
"It's pretty similar. They have a diving board so they got a taller dome than would be necessary if you didn't have one."
"Great, would you mind following through with this? You know, get an estimate of the costs and timing for installation. I want something that is good quality and will last."
"Sure thing. I'll give them a call today. Another thing, Horst called last night. He and his partner are planning on coming to visit over the Thanksgiving holiday. Is it still all right if they stay here?"
"Of course, it'll be good to see him again. I said that they were welcome anytime and I meant it."
If you are interested in listening to a very informative sermon about the so-called "clobber passages," visit this site: http://www.jesusmcc.org/resource/listen.html#gaychristian. Scroll down to Gay and Christian. You need RealPlayer to listen to it. The sermon is approximately 37 minutes long.
For those of you who may use a different version of the Bible, the quotes were taken from the Revised Standard Version.