|Chapter 4: Spring Break|
|GLOWhome||Kate maneuvered her white Honda
somewhat distractedly through the evening traffic on Route 66 as she
watched for the airport exit. Mingled anticipation and apprehension made
her stomach jumpy.
She glanced at her watch as the soaring roofline of Dulles International Airport came into view. She still had ten minutes before Danny's flight was scheduled to arrive. Nosing her car into the first parking space she could find, she grabbed her purse, jumped out, locked the door, and walked quickly toward the terminal.
Stopping to check the monitor near the door, she hurried on to Gate 11 and positioned herself where she could see down the jetway. She nibbled at her thumbnail anxiously.
At some subconscious level, Kate felt as if she were meeting a stranger. It was a shock to realize that this son, whom she thought she had known like her own heartbeat, had for years hidden a whole dimension of himself from her.
Soon, the first passengers began striding up the ramp. Kate drew a deep breath and strained to see a familiar face. And then, there he was, in his gray slacks, white shirt, and sleeveless burgundy sweater. Kate's heart suddenly lifted like a helium-filled balloon as she realized that he was still the same beloved son she had always known.
"Mom!" Danny called with a wide grin. He dashed past the other passengers and grabbed her in a warm bearhug.
"How was your trip?" Kate asked eagerly, as relief that he hadn't changed coursed through her.
"Great! I finished reading Perelandra."
"Good. Maybe I can read it again while you're home." Kate smiled, remembering how Danny had introduced her to the C. S. Lewis Space Trilogy. "Did you have a good meal?"
"Hey, I ordered a fruit plate! I'll never go vegetarian again! No more overcooked asparagus or soggy potatoes for me. It was delicious. Strawberries, orange slices, and grapes. With bread, crackers, and cheese. You ought to try it sometime."
"I will," laughed Kate. "Now let's go get your stuff."
They chattered nonstop all the way home.
As they turned into the driveway, Danny looked at the gray house flanked by evergreens-the home he had not been sure would welcome him with his new identity. "It's good to be home," he exclaimed fervently, adding softly, "I'm glad I have a home to come to." Kate's throat tightened.
"Do you want anything to eat?" she asked as she unlocked the door, covering her emotion with the mundane question.
"How about some popcorn? I don't think I've had any since I was home last summer."
"OK," she said, heading for the kitchen to get out the popper.
Danny dropped his suitcase by the door. "Have you missed me, piano?" he asked, sliding onto the piano bench.
"I've tried to keep it from getting too lonesome," Kate called from the kitchen.
Danny's fingers coaxed a Brahm's Intermezzo from the keys as Kate smiled contentedly. For a while, she could almost imagine that the last two weeks had just been a nightmare.
A few minutes later, a delicious aroma filled the air as Kate came into the living room carrying two bowls of fluffy white popcorn. Setting one on the piano for Danny, she curled up in a corner of the couch with the other.
"Tell me about the passion play," she urged.
Danny stopped playing and swung around on the bench to face her. "It was the best one we've ever put on," he said enthusiastically. "Over a thousand people came to see it. The crucifixion scene was especially good. Angie directed it."
A strangeness settled over Kate at the mention of Angela's name. "What does Angela think about...this?" she asked slowly.
"You mean about me being gay? She's known about it ever since we met at camp," Danny said, somewhat impatiently.
"But...I don't understand..." Kate groped her way carefully. "If Angela knew, why ...?"
"We went to town together on our first day off," Danny remembered, giving a short laugh. "Of all things, we ended up in a stationery store looking at wedding invitations. I told her I thought I was gay, and she told me she thought I probably just hadn't met the right girl yet.
"By the end of the summer, I was beginning to wonder if maybe she was the right girl. It was such a relief! It seemed like the answer to all my problems. I could make everybody happy."
"Then, why ...?"
"Mom, I finally had to admit that it just wasn't enough. I needed something...more, something different. Something Angie couldn't give me."
"Oh, Danny," Kate said eagerly, "I think there's hope. I've just read the most wonderful booklet. It's by a Christian who used to be gay. God has healed him, and now he has a ministry to help other homosexuals. His name is Chuck Carlson, and..."
"Forget it, Mom!" Danny interrupted with a bitter vehemence that startled Kate. "Haven't you heard about him? All the time he was supposed to be helping gays become straight, he was actually seducing them!"
Kate's mouth dropped open. "Oh no, Danny, surely not!" she said in dismay. "Why would the Family Life office be using his book if that were true? Where did you hear that?"
"It's true, Mom. Some of the guys who went through his program have just recently accused him of this, so maybe not everybody in the church has heard about it yet, but he doesn't deny that they are telling the truth."
Disappointment flooded over Kate like the shock of a cold shower as she realized how much she had pinned her hopes on this being the answer-the solution that would make everything right again. Tears stung her eyes as she tried to find something to say. At last, she said slowly, "Well, Danny, I'm sorry that he betrayed the trust of those who came to him for help, but human beings have failures; that's why we need a Saviour. I still believe that he had the right idea."
"No, Mom, he was wrong!" Danny exclaimed in disgust. "It's just plain cruel to hold out the hope that you can change and become heterosexual! If God was going to change anybody, He should have changed me, because I prayed for years that He would."
Tears spilled down Kate's cheeks. "Oh, Danny, I don't know what to say, but there must be an answer. Let's keep praying about it."
Danny shook the unpopped kernels in his bowl but didn't answer. Kate brushed the tears away with the back of her hand. At last, with a deep sigh, she said, "Well, buddy, I expect you're tired. Let's go to bed, and maybe things will look brighter in the morning."
Getting up from the couch, Kate walked over to Danny and put her arm around his shoulders. Danny looked up at her with a sad little smile. "I love you, Mom," he said soberly.
Danny was still sleeping the next morning when Kate looked in on him before leaving. She paused in the doorway and studied her son's face. Yes, he still looked the same: glossy, dark brown hair; trim little mustache; long lashes against the smooth curve of cheek; and his pride and joy, a carefully cropped beard. How dear he was! And yet, she now realized, under the surface of his warm, witty, affectionate personality, he bore the scars of a long and painful struggle.
Kate had a busy morning at work, with no time to think about anything else. She had just gotten back to her office after giving a staff education presentation when the phone rang.
"Hi, Mom. Where do you keep the yeast? I'm going to bake some bread."
"Yummy! Why don't you make some of your special raisin-walnut bread," Kate said. "The yeast should be on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator door. By the way, I left some split pea soup in the fridge for your lunch, and there are some muffins in the bread drawer."
The year Danny was in fifth grade, Kate remembered, his teacher had decided that the boys and girls would switch their regular practical-arts classes. The girls took woodworking and the boys, cooking. Danny had thoroughly enjoyed it, bringing home some new delicacy every week. He developed into such a good bread maker that he later got a job baking bread for the high-school cafeteria.
When Kate got home that evening, she sniffed appreciatively as she opened the door. "I might have known you'd make chocolate-chip cookies too," she chuckled.
"And . . . I made spaghetti and a big tossed salad for dinner!" Danny said with a flourish. "Whew! I'm tired! I've been cooking all day."
Kate raised an eyebrow as she glanced around the kitchen. "I can believe it! Well. the maid's here now to clean up the mess, so go sit down and rest!" She punched his shoulder playfully.
Danny left the room but soon came back and perched on a stool as Kate set about restoring the kitchen to order. Stacking dishes in the sink, she wondered how to bring up the subject that stood like a wall between them.
"Does Angela's mother know why you broke up?" she asked after a bit, polishing the stove vigorously.
Danny shifted on his stool. "No, Angie doesn't want her to know," he said at last. "She's terribly prejudiced against homosexuals, and Angie is afraid she would try to cause trouble for me."
"But she really loves you," protested Kate.
"She wouldn't if she knew I was gay," insisted Danny. "I've heard her say some terrible things about gays. It would probably make her furious if she thought I had deceived her."
Thoughtfully, Kate put the flour, sugar, and cinnamon back in the cupboard. "I don't know, Danny. I think maybe you're misjudging her."
"Well, I don't think I want to find out. And Angie would be upset if you told her," he warned.
"Oh, I won't tell her," promised Kate. "But she's called us a couple of times, you know, and she feels so bad about it. She keeps hoping you'll get back together."
Danny heaved a big sigh. "Angie will just have to handle her," he said. reaching into the cookie jar.
"Hey, stay out of those till after we eat!" exclaimed Kate laughing.
Dinner over, Danny pushed his chair back and stood up. "Could I borrow the car this evening?" he asked casually. "I called Jim this afternoon, and he wants me to come over."
"Sure," Kate answered automatically. "The keys are in my purse. I'll get them for you." But as she walked down the hall to her bedroom, doubt suddenly seized her. Why is Danny going to see Jim?
Jim was the assistant manager of the college radio station, where Danny had worked the year he had stayed home and attended a nearby college. Could he and Danny...? What should I do? Is there really any reason for my suspicions? I don't want to accuse Danny of something, when maybe there's nothing. I have to trust him, don't I? I can't just say, "No, you can't see Jim." Anyway, Jim has a car, and if he and Danny want to get together, they'll do it, whether I forbid it or not.
Kate got the keys out of her purse and went back to the kitchen. "Just don't stay out too late," she said, handing them to Danny. "You know I can't sleep till you get home."
"Aw, Mom! I'm not a baby anymore," exclaimed Danny. "Thanks for the car. I'll try to get home early."
As Kate stood by the window and watched the red taillights disappear down the street, she tried to ignore the doubts that assailed her. At last, she turned away and walked back to the kitchen, making an effort to put all questions out of her mind.
The clock on her night stand said 11:32 when Kate heard Danny turn the key in the front door. Now she could relax. But sleep still eluded her, as thoughts she didn't dare listen to buzzed around in her head. Finally, she got out of bed and slipped to her knees.
"Father, You know how worried I am about Danny. I don't understand all of this. I don't know what to do. But you know how to help him. And I know You love him too, even more than I do. Please take care of him. Oh, Father, I love him so!"
Tears wet her pillow, but Kate quickly fell asleep.
The following Sunday, Kate woke up to a resplendent spring morning. It was impossible to feel sad or depressed on such a day. The sky was a brilliant azure blue, and the blossoming pear trees that bordered the street looked like billowing white clouds as they tossed in the breeze. A double row of yellow tulips edged the drive.
Kate pulled on a pair of jeans and a sweat shirt and tied her sneakers. "Wake up, you sleepyhead! Get up! Get out of bed!" she sang, poking her head in Danny's door. "It's too beautiful a morning to waste in bed. Come take a walk with me."
"Aw, Mom," grumbled Danny sleepily. Kate came in and pulled the blanket back.
"OK! OK!" Danny said reluctantly, sitting up and throwing his pillow at her.
"Come on," urged Kate. "I'll pour you a glass of orange juice."
Ten minutes later, they crossed the street and walked briskly around the park. "There's a robin!" exclaimed Kate. "Spring is really here."
When they got back home, Kate fixed Danny's favorite breakfast-slices of toast, thickly spread with peanut butter and topped with warm applesauce. As she looked at him sitting across from her, joking and laughing, everything seemed so normal, so good. Yet a strange feeling of unreality cast a shadow over her spirit.
"Danny," she said, as he forked a bite into his mouth, "remember that time when you called us from Scotland? Did...Do you think..." She tried again. "Well, could that experience have had any influence on you?"
Danny gazed out the window as he chewed. He swallowed and turned back to Kate. "Mom, I told you before, this is something I've known about myself for a long time. I can't remember a time when I didn't realize I was different.
"That time in Scotland....it was something I wanted to happen, in a way...but when it did, I was scared. I wanted to find out if I really..." He took a deep breath and released it. "It was such an overpowering feeling. It was an unmistakable confirmation of what I am.
"You know, when I worked at that publishing company after camp was over, the summer before my freshman year-my boss there was gay. I knew about it, but I never told him about myself. But when I went back there and worked during spring break, I decided to tell him. I'm not sure why. I didn't want to get involved with him or anything, but there was something exciting about being able to talk about it with somebody who could understand me.
"I don't know exactly how to describe it..." Danny paused, searching for words. "I guess I always felt kind of like a black man living in a white community. I always felt cut off, alienated, from everybody around me. So, when I found somebody whom I could identify with, who really knew how I felt at the core of my being, it was an incredibly liberating experience."
Kate could hardly swallow past the lump in her throat. A feeling of profound sadness for the pain and confusion she had never recognized in Danny's life overwhelmed her. When she could talk, she said softly, "Oh, Danny, I am so sorry. If only I had known what you were going through, maybe I could have done something to help."
"Don't feel bad, Mom," Danny said with a gentle smile. "You did a great job of raising me, and I have lots of wonderful memories. I wouldn't have wanted you to know. It was something I could never have talked to you about."
On the way to the airport that afternoon, Kate felt as if she were trying to balance on a tightrope-wanting to show Danny that her love for him was as strong as ever, yet not wanting him to think she could possibly condone what she felt was a sinful lifestyle. As she waved goodbye, Kate wondered if she could have believed, years ago, that being a parent could bring this much pain.
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