|Chapter 16: Michael|
|Kate stood in the doorway and squinted at Danny's
quilt top spread out on the living-room floor. Squinting gave the effect
of seeing it from a distance, so that all the blocks of bright colors, set
off by polished black, blended into the abstract design she had first seen
in her head.
That's the fascination of quilting, Kate thought, transforming something from your imagination into something you can see with your eyes. It doesn't always turn out exactly like you thought it would, but it's exciting to watch it taking shape.
In a way, it's like life, she mused. Sometimes it's hard to see how all the good and bad things that happen to us fit together to make a design, but God sees how our lives will look when they're finished.
She went to get her jar of safety pins. After carefully tugging and smoothing the three layers of lining, batting, and quilt top, she began pinning them together at six-inch intervals.
When at last she was finished, she picked up her quilt "sandwich" and carried it over to position it on her large oval hoop. She was ready to begin the second stage-quilting.
Before she started. though, she decided to get some tapes to listen to. Opening the buffet drawer where she kept the ones she listened to most, she pulled out the Brahms German Requiem and a Bach violin concerto. Then she saw Danny's cantata. She put that on top of the stack.
She remembered her amazement and delight the first time she had listened to Danny's composition. She had never before realized that he had such a gift. Putting the cassette into the tape player, she pressed the button, marveling again as she heard the plaintively sweet, pure melody of the first few bars sung by the baritones, then repeated four notes higher by the tenors.
Kate pulled her rocking chair up close to the quilt hoop. She unwound a length of gold thread, pushed it through the eye of her needle, and began taking tiny stitches, following the quilting lines she had marked. Next to seeing the design take shape, this was the part of quilting she loved most. The soothing repetition seemed to release tension and set her mind free to explore in many directions.
With Danny's music as a background to her thoughts, Kate reflected on the growth and changes the last five years had brought to her life.
It was pain that had forced her to surrender Danny to God. She thought of the many times her fears and worries had driven her to the brink of despair. At last, she would realize that there was nothing she could do, and in her extremity she would turn Danny over to God. But sooner or later, she would discover that she had picked up her burden again. It seemed that only through pain could she hear God whisper, "You can trust Danny's future with Me."
Pain had been the catalyst that had changed her preoccupation with daily plans and activities into a deep soul hunger for God. She had searched her Bible with a desperate need for assurance that God was real after all her expectations and dreams had been shattered.
And God had answered, not by taking away her pain, but by making her aware that He was there with her, in the pain. In those moments when she sensed His presence, she felt more fully alive than she ever had before. She had come to the place where she could truly thank God for this, the greatest sorrow of her life, because it had brought her closer to Him.
Pain had also broken down the walls of pride that made her feel she had to look perfect in the eyes of others. Driven by her desperate need, she had shared her heartache with family and friends and found, to her amazement, that they loved her anyway. She discovered that her growing ability to be vulnerable made it easier for others to open up and share their pain with her.
The music had stopped. Kate stuck her needle into the cloth. Closing her eyes, she ran her fingers lightly over the area she had just quilted, feeling the discipline and character the little hills and valleys gave to the fabric.
She stood up and stretched the kinks out of her neck before starting another tape--her favorite, the German Requiem. As always, when she heard the haunting melody played by the strings, rising from the deep throbbing bass notes that opened the first chorus, the music spoke to her of hope in the midst of sorrow.
And good has come from pain, thought Kate as she resumed quilting. Their sorrow over Danny's dilemma had drawn her and Michael closer together. At first, of course, it had driven a wall between them, as Michael had reacted to his pain with denial, insisting that Danny was just going through a phase.
Just how and when he had changed, Kate couldn't say. Perhaps it had started on graduation weekend, when Danny's choice of lifestyle had inescapably confronted him. Maybe it was then that he had begun to face the fact that Danny's problem was not going to disappear.
And perhaps, thought Kate, his attitude has changed because I've shared things about homosexuality with him.
From the beginning, Kate had dealt with her pain by seeking to learn and understand more about homosexuality. She remembered one day when she had gone to the doctor's office for her checkup. It had been a cold, windy day, and the streets were slick with rain. Inside, it was overheated and stuffy, the waiting room crowded with sneezing, sniffling patients and crying children. Kate had found a chair in the corner, pulled out her bag of quilt pieces, and retreated to a quiet mental oasis.
When the nurse came to the door and called a name, the plump woman in a threadbare green coat, sitting next to Kate, had stood up and laid the magazine she had been reading on her chair. Kate had glanced over at the magazine, a Newsweek, then quickly looked back again, her attention arrested by the picture of a baby's face on the cover, headlined with the question "Is This Child Gay?"
Slowly she had laid her quilting down in her lap and reached over to pick up the magazine. Turning to the cover article, she began reading about the debate over nature versus nurture -- whether homosexuality is inherited or caused by environmental influences. One of the most interesting features of the article was a sidebar about research done on homosexual men who had died of AIDS. It showed that in homosexual men, the part of the hypothalamus gland that controls sex is small, like that of females, while in heterosexual men, it was considerably larger. While scientists didn't draw any conclusions about inheritance of homosexual tendencies from this data, it was one more piece of evidence that helped Kate to understand that perhaps Danny was different physically, not just mentally.
The nurse had called Kate to see Dr. Zimmerman before she finished reading, so when she left the office she drove to the library, found the same issue of Newsweek, and copied the article.
Sitting in her car, with rain beating on the windshield, she finished reading it before driving back to her office. The overall impression she got was that there were nearly as many opinions regarding the cause of homosexuality and what should or could be done about it as there were people interviewed.
For Kate, this article confirmed her conclusion that homosexuality was a very complex condition; many different factors might contribute to it, but only in people who had that tendency to begin with.
After supper that evening, she laid the article on the table in front of Michael. "Honey, I saw this at the doctor's office this afternoon," she said as she picked up their empty soup bowls and carried them to the sink. "It was so interesting I made a copy for you."
Michael had scraped his chair back from the table and stood up. Noncommittally, he picked up the article and carried it into the family room. When Kate looked in a few minutes later, he was reading it.
He never mentioned his reaction to it, but Kate felt sure that under
his calm exterior, Michael was going through the same anguish she had
already experienced. And although he hadn't been able to talk about it,
she sensed he appreciated her attempts to communicate.
Slanting rays of the afternoon sun reached her quilt and brought Kate's mind back to the present, reminding her that the weekend would soon be over. It was time to take a break from quilting. She decided to drive to the nearby park and gardens where she and Michael always loved to walk.
The parking lot was full, even though most of the azaleas and rhododendrons had finished blooming, and Kate had to wait for a car to leave. Wanting more solitude than the popular gardens afforded, she crossed the bridge over the little stream and took a path through the woods. She always felt as if she were entering a dim, cool cathedral when she walked here. Leafy green branches towered above her, and evening bird calls lent an atmosphere of peaceful relaxation.
As she followed the trail around the lake, Kate remembered another educational experience she had shared with Michael.
They had been enjoying a quiet weekend getaway at their friends' condo on the ocean. After a morning of walking the beach and letting the rhythm of crashing waves slow their pulse, they had returned to the condo for lunch.
While Kate put together sandwiches and a salad, Michael had turned on the TV. Switching channels, he stopped at a broadcast of the Senate hearings on lifting the ban on gays in the military. Kate brought their plates in, and they ate as they watched.
Senators were questioning a panel of officers from various branches of the military who opposed lifting the ban. Kate had been amazed at the stereotyped views and the degree of prejudice so blatantly expressed. With obvious difficulty. one panel member, a career army officer, admitted that his son had told him he was gay just before the hearings began. He stated that, as much as he loved his son, he would have to advise him that there was no place for him in the military.
Kate and Michael had finished eating, but neither one made a move to return to the beach. The next panel to come before the committee was composed of those who favored lifting the ban. It included a highly decorated gay air force officer; a lesbian army nurse with a Ph.D., who had been awarded the highest honors before she revealed her orientation; and an ex-marine who had served as a member of an elite squadron before his homosexual orientation became known.
In contrast to the first panel, they spoke with dignity and restraint, sharing something of the struggles they had gone through in coming to terms with their homosexuality, the dedication and love they felt for their country, and the high quality of their military service.
Tears had filled Kate's eyes. At one point, she burst out, "How could anyone not feel sympathy for them?" Michael didn't answer, but when Kate glanced at him, he had a very thoughtful look on his face.
The fourth member of the panel was a navy officer who, during his
career as a submarine commander, had several times had a homosexual crew
member. He stated that this had never caused any problems, even though a
submarine was a very confined area.
Learning more about homosexuality has surely made it easier for Michael to understand and accept Danny, Kate decided as she got back to her car. She thought about all the books she had read on the subject. Two, in particular, that she had shared with him had had an impact.
Once, in her search for someone with whom she could share her pain and questions, Kate had attended a P-FLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) meeting. She had found a warm, supportive atmosphere, although she could not feel comfortable with their strong pro-gay stance.
After the meeting, she had browsed through their library and checked out a book. Neil Miller's In Search of gay America described a journalist's year-long travels around the country to seek out and interview homosexuals and lesbians in every walk of life. The thing that had impressed Kate most about the report was that the vast majority of them seemed to lead very normal, respectable, ordinary lives-from a pair of dairy farmers in Wisconsin to a successful politician in the South to restaurant entrepreneurs in Colorado.
"You hear so much about the sordid, perverted side of homosexuality," Michael had said after he read it, "but I suppose that probably involves only a small minority."
The most helpful book Kate had ever read was Where Does a Mother Go to Resign?, written by Barbara Johnson, a Christian mother, who shared the incredible pain and depression she went through after learning of her son's homosexuality and her long, slow journey back to recovery. Kate had identified with much of what she had gone through, but the book meant even more because of the hope it projected.
Possibly because the reaction of the author's husband was almost
identical to his, after reading this book, Michael had begun talking more
freely to Kate about Danny's homosexuality.
Relaxed and pleasantly tired from her long walk, Kate drove home through the gathering evening. As she watched the setting sun brush the clouds, one by one, with delicate pink, she was still thinking about what a difference it had made in their relationship, now that she and Michael were able to talk freely about Danny and share their feelings. They had both become more mature, more sensitive to other people's heartaches, more able to reach out.
Still, she had been surprised, even shocked, the day Michael had come home and told her about a board meeting he had attended. It was the board of a large church institution.
"We discussed hiring policies," he said. "The president told us that no discrimination will be allowed, whether due to race, gender, age, or handicaps. Then he said, "There is only one point at which I draw the line. We will never hire a homosexual."
Kate had gasped in dismay. That could have been her son they were talking about!
"I didn't say anything then," Michael had told her, "but after the meeting I stayed and talked to him. I told him I didn't think such a policy would be following the example of Jesus. I reminded him that there are many homosexuals who choose not to follow that lifestyle. I don't think I changed his mind, but at least I may have given him something to think about."
Kate had slipped her arms around Michael's neck and kissed him tenderly. "Honey, I'm proud of you," she whispered, with tears in her eyes.
Michael had surprised her again, just a few weeks ago, she remembered.
He had been asked to give the sermon in another church, and she had
accompanied him. Having heard his sermon before, Kate's attention had
wandered momentarily. Suddenly, she had been startled into alertness,
every nerve tingling, as she heard him say, "God calls us, His
children, to reach out to those in our church, and to those who used to be
in our church, who may feel defeated and rejected -- to pregnant
teenagers, to those enslaved by drugs and alcohol, to homosexuals."
She had stared proudly at him through eyes blurred with tears.
Back home, Kate parked under the elm tree and walked up the flagstone path through the lavender dusk of a perfect spring evening. The air was fragrant with the scent of lilacs. As she climbed the steps to the porch, a small, furry body rubbed against her ankles. She picked up the tidy little black cat and cuddled her under her chin.
Kate felt at peace with her world as she sat down in the porch rocker to enjoy the end of the day. Her happiness stemmed not only from the new rapport she and Michael enjoyed, but from the knowledge that Michael and Danny were reaching out for a closer relationship too.
Last Christmas, for instance. Instead of a present, Danny had written Michael a special letter. Michael had shared it with Kate. She recalled an excerpt from it:
Kate had read Michael's answering letter too. It began:
Yes, Kate thought, as she put Beethoven down and went into the house, God has brought something good out of this, and I know I can trust Him with Danny's future.
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