|Chapter 5: How Will I Tell Michael?|
|GLOWhome||Sitting in her office, Kate
suddenly realized that she had been staring at her computer screen for an
unknown length of time while confused, troubled thoughts whirled through
her mind. Tears filled her eyes as a feeling of unbearable sadness rolled
"Here's your morning mail, my dear." Kate jumped as she heard Sally's voice behind her, and she reached quickly for a tissue.
"What's the matter, honey?' Sally exclaimed in a concerned voice. "Allergies?"
"Could be," Kate hedged, trying to smile as she wiped her eyes and blew her nose.
"Mine have been bad this year too," Sally sympathized. "I have to run. I'm in the middle of a big project." She patted Kate on the shoulder as she turned to go. "Take care of yourself, dear. I hope you feel better tomorrow."
"Thanks," Kate said weakly.
Since Danny had left, the numbness that followed the first shock of finding out about his homosexuality had begun to wear off. As the sharp pain of reality overwhelmed Kate, she gradually sank into a deep depression. At home she found herself pacing restlessly around the house or rummaging through the cupboards looking for something to eat, instead of busily filling every minute with quilting, reading, playing the piano, or walking, as she had done before-a lifetime ago. Kate had never been one to cry easily, but now tears came unbidden at the slightest provocation.
Worst of all were the nights, when her courage was at its lowest ebb. Then the demons of guilt and despair stalked her thoughts, and sleep evaded her.
Is it my fault Danny's a homosexual? she wondered. Somewhere she had heard that it was caused by possessive, domineering mothers. But the book by Chuck Carlson seemed to indicate that a problem in the relationship with the father was the cause.
Yes, Michael was away on many long trips while Danny was growing up, Kate thought, as her subconscious mind desperately tried to place the blame on someone else. Four to six-week itineraries were the norm for church administrators. He missed so many of the boys' birthdays. It seems as though he was always traveling when they had a special school program. Of course, it was what the church expected of its leaders.
But if Michael's absences made Danny homosexual, then why aren't Alex and Brenden homosexual too? argued another part of her mind. For that matter, the other fathers on the mission compound were away just as often as Michael, and their boys didn't turn out to be gay.
Kate remembered something else. Michael had always found it difficult to understand Danny's disinterest in sports. He couldn't fathom a boy who would prefer reading Shakespeare or writing poems to playing baseball. Could this incompatibility have made Danny homosexual? Or was his lack of interest in typical masculine pursuits simply a sign of his orientation?
Maybe it was my fault, after all. Was I domineering? Kate tried to be objective. I have to admit I did my share of nagging about homework and chores. But was it more than normal? I really don't think so. And Michael and I never tried to tell any of our boys what career to choose.
Was I possessive? Again, Kate struggled to be honest. Overprotective, maybe. She was a worrier, she knew. When Michael or the boys were late getting home, her overactive imagination began picturing the worst. She had often reminded them to call her if they were going to be late. She tried to keep her fears to herself, but she knew she hadn't been very successful. Still, that's different from being possessive, she decided. I always tried to let my boys make their own decisions, and I don't think I got over involved in their lives.
On the other hand, she realized, there had been a special bond between Danny and her because of their shared interests. In some ways, Danny had taken the place of the daughter she had never had. He enjoyed working in the kitchen with her and liked to set the table beautifully with her good china when they had company.
And more than either of his brothers, Danny had shared her love for classical music, her fascination with words, and her passion for poetry. Kate had known very few who seemed to care about the artistic side of life as much as she did. Had her delight in Danny's compatibility been abnormal or wrong.?
At this point in Kate's tortured thoughts, guilt always overwhelmed her. Could their relationship, which had seemed so good, so fulfilling, have brought about such heartache? Kate's burden of guilt grew heavier each day.
Compounding it was another question. For many years, Kate had struggled with a food-dependency problem. She had developed the habit of turning to food for comfort when she was lonely, discouraged, depressed, or bored. Eating had become a way of coping with just about any negative emotion. She had tried countless times to overcome this habit, which, she was well aware, was self-destructive and sinful, but she had failed again and again. Could this weakness, this character defect, have anything to do with causing Danny's problem?
The day Michael was to arrive home, Kate arose exhausted from another restless night. How will I tell Michael about Danny? she wondered with a heavy heart. A thread of worry and uncertainty wove itself uneasily through her thoughts all day.
It seemed as if the day would never end, and yet, as she headed home from the office that evening, Michael's arrival seemed to be rushing toward her. She busied herself with straightening up the house, then lay down on the bed, trying to concentrate on the new quilting magazine that had just come in the mail.
When car headlights shone through her bedroom window that evening, Kate hurried to the door in a flood of mingled dread and relief.
"Oh, honey, it seems like you've been gone forever!" she exclaimed, throwing her arms around Michael's neck.
Michael dropped his bags and planted a hungry kiss on her lips. "It was a good trip, but am I ever glad to be home!" he said fervently. He turned and glanced around the yard. "Looks like spring came while I was gone."
"Yes, you may even have to mow the lawn pretty soon," laughed Kate, pushing aside the thoughts that had been tormenting her.
As usual when he returned from a trip, Michael was eager to tell her about all his exciting experiences as they unpacked his bags. It was late when they got to bed. In the quiet after Michael fell asleep, Kate realized that there had been no convenient opportunity to talk with him about Danny.
Her eyes were closed, but she was not asleep as she lay perfectly still on the bed beside Michael. She heard the ticking of the grandfather clock in the living room, the faraway barking of a dog, a car passing on the street outside. It seemed as if she had been lying in the same position for hours. She suddenly realized that her hands were clenched, every muscle was rigid and taut, and she was holding her breath. With a deep sigh, she rolled over on her side and tried to relax.
But sleep would not come. Every time she started to relax, the terrible, unbelievable truth would jolt her into frozen wakefulness again.
She looked over at Michael, sleeping peacefully beside her. He has so many heavy responsibilities; it wouldn't be fair to add this tragedy to his load, would it? How will he be able to handle it?
And it wasn't just Michael's feelings she had to worry about. How will he react to Danny? Will he try to understand, or will he be so angry he'll reject Danny? Will his hurt be so great he'll say something that could destroy their relationship?
Maybe he'll blame me, say it's my fault, that I've been an overprotective mother. Can I take that on top of this constant sorrow? Kate ached with the desperate need to tell Michael, to have someone to talk to about it, but she was so afraid he wouldn't understand.
When the pearly light of approaching day began to brighten the window, Kate climbed wearily out of bed. Picking up her Bible from the bedside table, she slowly dragged herself into the living room and curled up in the corner of the couch.
Through eyes that felt a hundred years old, she looked at the azaleas exploding in bursts of crimson, cerise, and magenta under the dogwood trees. Spring could no longer awaken her excitement; her soul felt numb and dead.
She turned the pages of her Bible and looked at some of the verses she had highlighted in the past few weeks.
Yes, Kate thought, now I can understand David. I know how he was feeling. She leafed through several more pages and paused at another verse highlighted in yellow.
That's a ray of hope down in this black pit of despair, she sighed. A few pages farther on, she came upon two verses that made her eyes fill with tears.
Oh, Father, she wept, You must know how devastating this is. Not just to me, but to Danny too. You must feel our sorrow and despair. I cannot understand why this has happened, but I have to believe that You have a way to take care of even this situation.
Two weeks passed, and still Kate had not brought herself to talk to Michael. Every night she lay awake for hours. Fatigue was a constant companion as she struggled through each day. She was having more and more difficulty concentrating, both at work and at home. She had forgotten important appointments, and last week she had run out of gas on the freeway, something that had never happened to her before. She frequently had the sensation of a heavy weight pressing on her chest, making it difficult to breathe. Still, she somehow managed to hide her distress. Michael didn't seem to notice anything amiss. One morning, when she had the panicky feeling that she couldn't keep going any longer, Kate picked up the phone and made an appointment with Dr. Zimmerman for her annual physical, although it wasn't due for another month. Joyce, the nurse, was able to work her in the next afternoon.
"Your blood pressure is elevated," Dr. Zimmerman commented as he removed the cuff after rechecking Joyce's reading. "Joyce tells me you haven't been feeling too well. What seems to be the problem?"
The sympathetic tone of his inquiry undid Kate. She was just too tired to care what anyone thought. Closing her eyes, she simply let the tears come.
"I thought something was the matter when I first saw you," Dr. Zimmerman said gently, handing Kate a tissue. "Can you tell me about it?"
Kate mopped up, blew her nose, and said in a flat monotone, "I found out two months ago that Danny is homosexual."
"That's tough, Kate! I'm sure it's tough. That's enough stress to play all kinds of havoc with your body. Have you talked to anyone about it yet?"
Kate shook her head.
"Does Michael know?"
Again, she shook her head.
"Kate, you cannot keep this inside!" Dr. Zimmerman spoke firmly. "Promise me you will tell Michael right away. You probably think you're protecting him, but you don't think straight in a situation like this. Michael wouldn't want you trying to handle this by yourself. That's what marriage is all about-sharing and supporting each other in the bad times as well as in the good."
Looking searchingly at her, he added, "And I would strongly recommend that you get some counseling to help you through this."
Kate looked up at that. "Michael has a thing about psychiatrists," she said hesitantly. "Maybe I could talk to our pastor."
"I can go along with that," agreed Dr. Zimmerman. "But don't wait any longer. Your body can't take it. Promise?"
With a wobbly smile, Kate nodded.
Dr. Zimmerman lowered himself to the round black stool beside the examining table and rested his hands on his knees.
"Kate," he said earnestly, "I expect you feel very much alone in this, but there are a lot of others who share your heartache. You know, according to some estimates, around 10 percent of the population has a homosexual orientation. And I don't think the percentage is any different in our church. Among my patients, alone, I know of at least a dozen church families who are affected.
"The hardest part, especially for church members, is that we've been conditioned to think homosexuality is a sin, when it's really homosexual behavior that the Bible is talking about. Even though there is still no conclusive evidence about the exact cause of a person's orientation, we know today that the homosexual has no choice or control over it.
"But most church members don't realize this, so homosexuals and their families feel isolated in shame. I wish we could be more open and supportive of our members who have this heartache."
He stood, then, and pushed the stool out of the way with his foot. He sighed heavily. "Well, Kate, I'll be praying for you and Michael and for Danny too."
Dr. Zimmerman patted Kate's shoulder as he left the room, and this touch of human comfort warmed her heart.
As she drove home, Kate thought about her promise to tell Michael. In one way, the decision brought relief, but she also dreaded it. She tried to plan what she would say, but nothing sounded right. All she could decide was that she would do it that evening after supper.
Michael was describing plans for a booklet he wanted to produce as he helped her clear the table. "I don't think you're listening to me," he declared.
With a clatter, Kate dropped a stack of dishes in the sink. "Michael, I have to tell you something. Come in the living room." Taking his hand, she pulled him to a chair and sat down across from him.
"Michael, I know why Danny broke up with Angela."
Michael looked startled. "Why?" "I found out that Danny is..." Kate swallowed hard as Michael waited expectantly.
"Danny is...a homosexual." Kate almost ducked, expecting some kind of explosion, but Michael was just looking at her quizzically.
She rushed on, her words tumbling over each other. "He told me he always felt like he was different. He said when he was about twelve he realized how he was different, but he kept trying to be normal. He dated girls, but he didn't feel the way other boys seemed to feel about them. And for years..." Kate's voice broke.
"For years, he said, he prayed that God would change him. When he first met Angela, he told her he thought he was gay before their first date. But she kept telling him he just hadn't met the right girl yet. And after a while, he began to think maybe she was the right girl. He said he really loved Angela, and he was so happy, because he thought marrying her would solve all his problems.
"But he continued to have doubts. He said he still felt attracted to men, and even though he loved Angela, something was missing. He said when their wedding plans began to escalate and it was almost time to order the invitations, he knew he couldn't go through with it. He knew it wouldn't be fair to Angela...." Kate's voice trailed off. She had certainly expected some kind of outraged expression from Michael by now.
"How long have you known about this?" he asked in an ordinary voice.
"About two months," she answered hesitantly.
"Kate, why in the world didn't you tell me right away?" At last, a touch of exasperation colored his voice. "What did you think I would do? You didn't need to hide this from me." Kate felt relief beginning to flood over her, until Michael continued, "I don't really think this is anything to get too excited about. A lot of boys go through a period of mixed-up sexual feelings during their teens. It's just a phase that some boys go through. But Danny is such a sensitive boy that he has probably talked himself into thinking he is homosexual, when he really isn't."
Kate looked at him in surprise. "But, Michael, I talked to Dr. Zimmerman about it when I had my physical today, and he didn't say anything like that."
A look of annoyance crossed Michael's face. "Kate, you don't need to say anything about this to anybody. You're just getting all upset for no reason. Look, I'll try to talk to Danny, and if I can't convince him, maybe we'll even have to send him to a counselor. Just don't worry about it, OK?"
"OK," Kate said doubtfully. At least she didn't have any more secrets from Michael, but it still didn't look as though she would be able to share her fears with him.
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