Conundrum (by Grant Bentley)


By Grant Bentley

If any nice person, nasty person, place, event, happening, thing, or sport, seems familiar, it is purely coincidental.

Out of fear of being disowned by their evangelical parents, four boys choose to live a lie. What will the consequences be when they finally canít take it anymore and decide to come out?

It had been an amazing day. The weather was wonderful. The company even better. Jared and I had just spent an entire afternoon and evening at the waterfront. We had lunch at The Wharf and then simply strolled slowly along the walkway for a couple of miles and then another couple of miles up the beach and back. We just basked in the warmth of the sun and each other’s company. It was also the first time I had been brave enough to hold his hand in public and it seemed so right. The only time I let go of his hand was while we were eating, which happened several times as we came across hot-dog vendors and ice cream carts along the way. If anyone had asked me what it would take to make my life perfect, I would have told them it already was.

It was just starting to get dark when we got back to The Wharf. We turned towards downtown and started our long walk back to the campus. It was close to midnight by the time we made it back to the dorms.

As we walked up the front steps to our building, we heard the words, “What the heck?”

It was then that I realized Jared and I were still walking hand-in-hand. When we turned, we saw two of the guys from the dorm, Bruce Andrews and Rory Calloway, closing in on us. We braced ourselves for what we knew was to come.

“Okay how long has this been going on?” Bruce asked with a grin.

I just stared at him for a several seconds, trying to figure out why he was grinning and not horrified, before replying, “Since sophomore year.”

“This is sophomore year,” he stated.

“Sophomore year of high school,” Jared added.

“You guys have been together since high school?” Rory asked sounding surprised.

“And you’ve been able to keep it secret that long?” Bruce asked.

“You guys are okay with us?” Jared asked totally puzzled.

“Well yeah,” Bruce replied, “Why wouldn’t we be?”

“This IS an evangelical bible college,” I replied.

“Point taken,” he responded, “And, this is probably not the best place to talk, you wanna come over, we got some taco chips and cold Cokes in the fridge.”

We followed them up to their room which was just two doors down from ours. Once there, Jared and I sat on Rory’s bed. Rory grabbed the chips and dumped some in a bowl for us. Bruce grabbed four Cokes and handed us each one before sitting on his bed with Rory.

“We’ve known you guys for a year and a half and never suspected anything,” Rory said, “And then, here you are holding hands…on campus yet.”

“You do realize you walked right up to the dorm holding hands, right?” Bruce asked grinning.

“Yeah.” I replied, “Not our brightest move this semester.”

“We were down at the beach all day and got lost in the moment I guess,” Jared stated.

“Well thankfully all the ‘good’ kids are probably in bed sleeping by this time,” Bruce said still grinning.

“Let’s hope so,” I said, “If anyone else saw us and reports us to Dean Walsh, and our folks find out, we’ll be disowned or worse, our folks’ll want to send us to Hope House for the next ten years for reprogramming.”

“You got that right,” Jared said.

“So why are you so okay with this?” I asked.

“Why do you think?” Rory asked as he took Bruce’s hand in his.

“Seriously?” I asked.

“Since freshman year,” Bruce replied.

“Freshman year here, not high school,” Rory added with a chuckle.

“Finally,” Bruce said with a grin, “We have someone we can relate to. Someone we can be ourselves with. It’s been so difficult thinking we were the only ones, constantly on guard, constantly hoping we wouldn’t be discovered.”

“We know exactly how you feel,” Jared responded, “Today is the first day we actually let our guard down…and it almost cost us.”

We then got into a lengthy conversation about what it was like being gay and being raised by deeply religious evangelical parents, surviving the trauma of attending church every Sunday and youth group every Wednesday evening, and then basically being pressured into attending Covenant Bible College. Walking hand-in-hand with Jared made my life perfect. Being with Jared made my life perfect. What made my life imperfect was living this lie. When I verbalized my thoughts to the other guys, they realized they felt the same way. It was quite clear that none of us wanted to be here. Why couldn’t we have gone to a regular college or university and studied law or engineering or something? Any thing but the ministry. What were we doing here?

Trying to keep our parents’ love seemed to be the unanimous answer. But at what price became the recurring question. What is more important, living the truth and being happy or living a lie and being unhappy? We did know we didn’t want to make that choice. We also knew that one day we would have to. There was no way Bruce and Rory were going to give each other up. There was no way Jared and I were going to give each other up. There was no way we were going to miraculously become ungay and our families weren’t going to vanish after graduation. So, how long were we willing to keep up the charade? Unfortunately, the answer to that question would have to wait. It was now 3:00AM and we had to be up and ready for morning worship in three hours.

A couple of weeks after our mind numbing discussion, my older and only brother, Christian came to visit. Christian was ten years older than me and was working as a petroleum engineer in Calgary. I only saw him a few times a year. We met at a local restaurant just off campus and spent the better part of an hour doing ‘catch up’. What was he doing? How was he doing? What was I doing? How was I doing? Was I enjoying college? And the usual brotherly chit chat.

Then, he asked, “So Skyler, how are you and Jared doing?”

“Fine,” I answered cautiously, as I wondered, ‘He already asked how I was doing. Why was he asking how Jared and I were doing instead of how Jared was doing?’

When I just stared blankly at him for a few seconds, probably turned a shade or two paler, and hesitantly added, “Okay, I guess,” he just grinned at me.

“What?” I asked getting more than a little nervous at this point.

“You and Jared have been best friends since grade school and roommates since you started college, right?” he asked.

“Well, yeah,” I replied nervously.

“How many times have I seen you in the last...say...three years?” he asked.

“I have no idea,” I replied, “Twenty?”

“Other than right now, how many times have I seen you without Jared by your side?” he questioned.

After several seconds of serious thought, and as my nervousness increased, I replied, “Uh, Christmas dinners and…uh…Thanksgiving dinners?”

“But he was there before every dinner and you went to his place after every dinner or the other way around,” he pointed out.

It seemed, in my case, maybe the charade was over and I’m sure I turned some even more distinct shade of pale.

“Don’t look so shocked,” he said as he patted my hand, “I’ve known about the two of you for years and it’s a non-issue as far as I’m concerned.”

“A non-issue?” I questioned.

“Yeah, a non-issue,” he replied with a grin.

“But what about church?” I asked, “And Mom and Dad?”

“I never believed a lot of what they said in church, and Mom and Dad just might surprise you,” he responded.

Okay I agreed with him about church, as I pretty much saw it the same way he did. But Mom and Dad?

“Mom and Dad might surprise me?” I asked.

“Have you heard either one of them say anything negative about gays?” he asked back.

“Well, no,” I replied.

“You know Dad’s law partner?” he asked.

“Yeah, David Brown,” I answered.

“Who’s always with him at the firm’s banquets and various events?” he asked, “And who was with him at our place this year on Thanksgiving?”

“His roommate, Harrison,” I replied.

“Think about it,” he said, “Would you take your ‘roommate’ everywhere?”

“You mean?” I questioned.

“Yeah,” he said, “Harrison is Dave’s partner.”

“You’re joking,” I exclaimed, “Dad’s law partner is gay? And Dad knows?”

“Dad knew when they were still in college, long before they ever became law partners,” he responded, “The way Mom tells it, she and Dad quite often double dated with Dave and Harrison.”

“So why do we attend an evangelical church?” I asked, “And why did they want me to go to Covenant? It doesn’t make sense.”

“I’ve never asked them either of those questions,” he replied, “But, maybe you should.”

“I don’t know if I want to,” I stated.

“One thing with you though is you knew you were gay and to cover it up, you played the perfect God loving son. I’m not, so I never felt the need to hide who I was, and I didn’t pretend to accept or believe everything they said in church,” he explained.

“So I acted my way into Covenant?” I questioned.

“Yeah, I think maybe you did,” he replied with a chuckle.

“Still, how can they be evangelical Christians and accept gays?” I asked, “Doesn’t that go against their doctrine?”

“Like I said, you’ll have to ask them that question because, as their ‘God fearing’ agnostic son, I don’t have the answer,” he replied.

“‘God fearing’ agnostic?” I questioned and he just grinned.

We chatted for probably another half hour before Christian had to head home. As I was walking home from the restaurant, he had given me had a lot to think about. Would Mom and Dad be okay with me? Would they be okay with Jared and me? Would they be okay if I wanted to drop out of Covenant and become an engineer? And, last but not least, why were they attending an evangelical church?

When I got back to the dorm, I filled Jared in on what Christian and I had talked about. He just sat there staring at me.

“You serious?” he asked.

“Yeah, totally,” I replied.

“Wow,” was his next comment.

“So you going to tell them?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” I replied, “I’m still not sure how they might react. A gay friend is one thing, a gay son is quite another.”

“Yeah, no kidding,” he replied, “At least you can wonder and hope. There is no wondering how my parents would react. You’ve heard my dad’s views on the perversion of homosexuality.”

“Yeah, at least a thousand times,” I responded.

“A conundrum is what you have man,” he said chuckling.

“Yeah, geez, I don’t know,” I said, “It was almost easier assuming the worst. Now I’m almost wondering if I should tell them.”

“Yep, definitely a conundrum,” he repeated laughing.

“Hey, you’re in this too,” I reminded him with a grin.

“Yeah I know,” he responded as his grin faded a bit, “We’re in this together…good or bad.”

It was at that point that our conversation with Bruce and Rory came to mind. In particular, the questions we left ourselves with. What is more important, living the truth and being happy or living a lie and being unhappy? However much we wanted to avoid it, we would have to make that choice. Was now the time to make it? There was some hope for me with my parents, but not for Jared with his. For him, it seemed simple. It was live the lie, keep his family, keep their support, or come out, lose his family, lose their support, and who knows. If I came out and it went well, I know my parents would accept and help Jared. If it didn’t go well, we were both screwed.

We were due home for a visit in three weeks so I had three weeks to make up my mind. It didn’t take three weeks though. Within a week, Jared and I had decided to talk to our parents when we got home. I can’t count the number of times we talked about all the possible scenarios we might face, and how we would deal with each one. We decided the worst case scenario was to be disowned. In fact, that was a given for Jared. If that were the case, then we would find a place, get as much work as we could over the summer and apply for student loans for university next fall. The best case scenario was that my parents would be accepting and be willing to help us both with university. We would still work over the summer and apply for student loans because neither of us thought it would be fair to expect them to fully support us both, even if they offered.

The trip home was probably one of the most nerve-wracking times either of us had ever lived through. We were going to come out to my parents…as a couple, even though we were scared to death about their reaction.

Mom and Dad were at the airport to pick us up. After a fifteen minute wait for our luggage, we were loaded up and on our way to my home.

About halfway home, Mom glanced back and said, “You boys are uncharacteristically quiet.”

“It’s been a long day,” I responded, “I guess we’re both just tired.”

We stopped at Mom and Dad’s favourite restaurant on the way home since Mom didn’t particularly feel like cooking. Jared and I were once again very quiet, and we both spent more time moving our food around our plates than eating any of it. Both Mom and Dad gave us worried looks from time to time. However, when we got home, the worried looks turned into worried questions.

“We’ve been watching you both since we picked you up,” Dad said, “Neither one of you has ever been this quiet in your lives. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that something is wrong.”

“Please,” Mom almost begged, “We’re here for you…both of you. You’re not just tired. Something is eating you up and we can’t help you if you don’t tell us what it is.”

“I’m not sure you want to know,” I stammered.

“Come,” Mom said as she led us to the living room, “We need to sit and talk.”

Mom and Dad sat on the love seat and Jared and I sat on the sofa. We just stared at each other for upwards of two minutes.

Finally Mom said, “Come on boys. Nothing can be so bad that you can’t tell us.”

“You having problems in school?” Dad asked.

“No,” was my simple reply.

“Well it must be serious,” Mom stated before asking, “What is it?”

“Oh God,” I exclaimed before bursting into tears which immediately set Jared off too. Mom and Dad were instantly beside us, Mom with her arms around me and Dad with an arm around Jared. Finally, after a few minutes, they had managed to calm us down enough that we could speak again.

I took a really deep breath and in almost a whisper, I said, “I’m gay.”

Except for Jared and my sniffles, the room became totally silent. I felt some comfort because Mom didn’t let go of me and move away. Instead, her hug became even tighter around me.

Then Dad quietly asked, “You were this scared to tell us?”

“That’s not all,” Jared added just as quietly, “Skyler isn’t the only one.”

“Oh my God,” Mom quietly exclaimed, (if you can do that), “Both of you?”

“Yeah,” I replied, “Both of us. Jared and I aren’t just best friends either. We’re boyfriends.”

Instead of getting some sort of, ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe this is happening to us,” Dad simply said, “You’re going to have a hell of a time being evangelical preachers then.”

“Oh dear,” Mom said, “You’re right. The church doesn’t tend to be very accepting of gays.”

“Doesn’t tend to be accepting?” Dad questioned, “They’re downright homophobic.”

“Wait a minute,” I finally said, “Jared and I just told you we’re gay and boyfriends…and you’re discussing the church’s homophobia?”

“Well you are in Covenant studying to go into the ministry,” Mom pointed out.

“You’re not remotely concerned about your youngest son and his best friend being gay and in a relationship?” I asked sounding slightly astonished.

“Honey, we love you and we love Jared,” Mom replied, “And our love for the two of you was, is, and always will be unconditional.”

“Son,” Dad said, “Your Mom and I are not unaware or uneducated about homosexuality. Our two closest friends since college are gay.”

“I know,” I said, “Christian told me.”

“Is that why you decided to come out to us?” Dad asked.

“Partly,” I replied, “We had already discussed at length that we were tired of living a lie. We weren’t happy and we were afraid that it would eventually destroy us.”

“Knowing Christian accepted us and learning about Dave and Harrison gave us the hope we needed,” Jared said.

“If you’re so cool with it, why are we evangelical?” I had to ask.

“As you know, your mom’s parents were devout members of the church. We started attending to keep them happy. After they moved, we thought of quitting, but you seemed to be so involved, we decided to stay. In fact, the only times we’ve attended church since you started college have been the weekends you’ve been home.”

“You have got to be kidding!” I exclaimed, “You mean the only reason you were going to church was because you thought ‘I’ was into it? Oh my God, Christian was right. I really did act my way into Covenant.”

“It looks that way dear,” Mom replied.

I don’t know if it was because he found it extremely funny or because he was so relieved by my parent’s reaction to us, but Jared laughed so hard he almost wet himself. It wasn’t long before he had us all laughing. When we finally stopped, we talked at length about us being gay. About their friendship with Dave and Harrison. About a lot of things. Most importantly, we had done it. We had come out to my parents and the world hadn’t ended. In fact the reaction we got wasn’t even close to any of the scenarios we had imagined or discussed. I wasn’t sure if I should be relieved or angry with myself for being such a fool.

My parents were the easy ones to tell though. Now we would have to deal with Jared’s parents.

“Jared’s parents, however, may not be so accepting,” I said.

“You never know dear,” Mom said, “A parent’s love for their child can overcome many things.”

“I don’t think it will overcome this one,” Jared responded, “You haven’t heard my father’s views on the depravity of the homosexual lifestyle.”

“Actually, I have,” Dad said, “In fact I tore a strip off him a few months ago when he decided to mouth off to me about my ‘depraved law partner’. I demanded he prove to me that God hated gays. He tried to throw Leviticus at me. But I soon tore that apart when I brought up several of the other things that were forbidden in Leviticus that he didn’t abide by. I also demanded that he show me exactly where Christ, himself, had denounced gays. He couldn’t. We also had a rather long discussion about judging others. He finally had to agree that, according to scripture, God and God alone had the power and the right to judge. I also brought up Christ’s commandment to love one another and the fact that no where did He say it was okay to hate.”

“You mean you actually got my dad to shut up about hating gays?” Jared asked in astonishment.

“To fight someone throwing Biblical quotes and misinterpretations at you, you just have to know more quotes and misinterpretations than they do,” Dad replied with a chuckle.

Jared just looked at me as tears filled his eyes, “You think?” he asked.

“I think it’s almost midnight,” I replied with a little smile, “We should all get to bed. We know you will always have my parent’s and my love and support. Let’s worry about your parents tomorrow.”

We grabbed our bags, which were still in the entryway, said, “Good night,” and started down the hall to our bedrooms. When Jared passed my room and headed towards the spare room, Mom called him back and told him she thought he would be more comfortable in my room. That earned her a big hug and kiss on the cheek from both of us.

“Thanks Mom,” Jared said, “I think I would have been crying myself to sleep tonight if I was alone.”

“You will never be alone,” she said as she gave him another little hug.

“Thanks,” he said as his eyes filled with tears and he returned her hug.

Five minutes later we were cuddled up in bed. Jared liked to snuggle, but tonight he snuggled in so close it was hard to tell if there was one person or two in the bed. I just wrapped my arms around him, told him how much I loved him, kissed his neck, and the two of us drifted off to sleep.

It was close to ten the next morning before either of us moved. Even then, we just cuddled and whispered sweet nothings to each other until we absolutely had to get up and make a run for the bathroom. Showered, and morning rituals done, we dressed and made our way to the kitchen and the amazing aroma of fresh coffee brewing and bacon cooking.

“Morning boys,” both Mom and Dad greeted us.

“Morning,” we both replied as we sat down to breakfast. We talked about Jared coming out to his parents, how he wanted to do it, where he wanted to do it, and when he wanted to do it. He decided he wanted to have me and my parents with him and, preferably, to tell them here, not at home. He was absolutely terrified but, at the same time absolutely determined. And, he knew he had my parents and me to fall back on if it all went wrong.

About halfway through eating breakfast, the phone rang. It was Jared’s mom wondering why he hadn’t come last night. Mom made up some excuse about stopping for something to eat and the two of us being tired by the time we got to our place. Then she looked at Jared. When he gave her a nod, she invited them over for a coffee. Now, it would be Jared’s turn. Half an hour later, they were sitting with us in the living room having a coffee and muffin. It didn’t take his mom long to pick up on his nervousness, or should I say fear, and start questioning him about what was wrong.

“I don’t know how else to say this,” Jared started, “First, you need to know I love you with all my heart and I really need you in my life.”

“What on earth are you talking about?” his mom asked when he paused for several seconds.

“Mom, Dad,” he managed before another lengthy pause, “I’m…gay…and…Skyler and I are together.”

His dad simply stood up and walked out the front door. His mom just sat there staring at us with a totally blank look on her face. Then she suddenly stood up, took two steps towards me and viciously slapped me across the face, which hurt like you wouldn’t believe.

“I always knew there was something wrong with you!” she shouted, “I should never have allowed you near my son! You’ve turned him into a homosexual and it’s probably going to takes years of counselling to rehabilitate him!”

She then grabbed Jared’s hand and pulled him up off the sofa. “You are not spending another minute in this house of Satan,” she exclaimed as she started to drag him across the living room.

It took a few seconds for Mom, Dad, and I to come to our senses. All three of us stood up to rescue him, but we didn’t have to. He jerked his hand back out of his mom’s and emphatically responded, “No! Skyler did not turn me gay! I was born gay! And there is no way I’m going to counselling or anywhere else!”

She reached for his hand again and shouted, “You’re my son! You will do as I say! You’re coming with me! Now!”

“No, I’m not!” he shouted back at her, “I’m twenty one years old! I don’t have to do as you say and I don’t have to go anywhere with you! No amount of counselling is going to change me!”

“I will not have a homosexual for a son!” she shouted.

“I’m sorry Mom, but it’s who I am,” he said more quietly, “If you can’t deal with me being gay, I’m sorry.”

“You are not homosexual!” she screamed at him, as she threw herself at him and started pounding on his chest while he tried to fend her off.

Just then, his dad came back in the house looking scared half to death. He looked sympathetically at Jared and grabbed his mom’s arms to restrain her. He then led her kicking and screaming out of the house. Mom immediately ran over and closed and locked the door.

As soon as they left, Jared simply collapsed. I managed to get to him before he hit the floor. I led him into my room and pulled him down onto my bed with me. As soon as I wrapped my arms around him, he broke down and sobbed, body-wracking sobs, for at least fifteen minutes. I just held him and kept telling him how much I loved him. He eventually began to calm down. Once he did, we just rested there in each other’s arms. There was the occasional sniffle or, “Oh God,” and the frequent “I love you,” as he cuddled into me as tightly as possible.

It was a couple of hours later that there was a knock on the door. Dad walked over and answered it. It was Jared’s dad.

Dad simply said to him, “We’ve had enough excitement for one day Tom. I think it’s best that you leave.”

“I’m not here to cause any more excitement,” he replied, “I would just like to talk to Jared for a few minutes. Nothing negative…I promise. He needs to know I still love him.”

Dad opened the door and invited him in. He then came to my room and told Jared his dad would like to talk to him for a few minutes. I could feel Jared stiffen at the thought of talking to his dad. In fact, it was so obvious that even Dad noticed.

“He’s very calm and collected,” Dad told him, “I think you may appreciate what he has to say.”

Jared and I got up slowly and started for the living room. Dad put his hand on my arm to hold me back and Jared was soon standing face-to-face with his dad.

“Jared, I’m sorry for everything that has happened this morning. I’m not going to say I understand this…being gay…because I don’t. It goes against everything I’ve been taught and believe,” he said, “But you are my son and I love you. It will take me a while, maybe a long while, to accept this part of you, but I will not lose you because of it.”

He then walked over to Jared and pulled him into a deep, powerful hug which Jared enthusiastically returned.

“Thanks Dad,” Jared said quietly, “You have no idea how much that means to me. I love you so much. Thanks for still loving me back.”

“I will always love you son,” his dad replied.

“Where’s Mom?” Jared asked after a minute or so.

“She’s with Pastor Roberts,” his dad replied, “He managed to calm her down and he’s talking to her now.”

“Is she going to be okay?” he asked.

“I think so,” his dad responded, “You shocked the daylights out of her this morning, well both of us, but I think, with time, she’ll come around. I hope so for your sake and for hers.”

His dad stayed for about half an hour before he suggested he better get back home to see how Jared’s mom was doing. He gave Jared another big hug at the door and he was gone.

“Oh my God!” Jared exclaimed, “I don’t believe it. My dad, after years and years of homophobic slurs; he’s the one to stand by me.”

“I can hardly believe it either,” I responded, “Just goes to show when it comes to a parent’s love, you never know.”

“I just hope my mom comes around,” he said thoughtfully, “It was mom I was more hopeful of.”

“I think she will,” I said as I pulled him into a hug, “Like your dad said, she’s just kind of in shock. She loves you and she’ll come around.”

“I can always hope,” he replied.

One thing that we knew for sure was the that we would not be returning to Covenant, and when we didn’t, it didn’t take Bruce and Rory long to call us to find out what was going on. It was Bruce who phoned.

“Hi, Skyler?” he questioned.

“Hi, yeah it’s Skyler,” I replied.

“It’s Bruce. You guys should have been back three days ago,” he said, “What’s up?”

“We came out to our parents,” I responded.

His reaction was an excited, “Oh my God, you guys actually did it?”

“Yeah,” I replied.

“And?’ he asked.

“And my mom and dad were great, like totally accepting,” I said, “But Jared’s parents were a different story.”

We both hit the speaker button so Jared and Rory could hear and join in. Jared then went on to explain his mom’s reaction and then his dad’s. Of course, they were both trilled for me and to some extent for Jared, because of his dad’s coming around. They were very sympathetic about his mom’s reaction though. They were both very disappointed that we were not coming back to Covenant because they were losing their only allies. But they understood our reasons for not returning. They were also seriously thinking about coming out to their parents but because their parents were more like Jared’s than mine, they were still scared to. We did promise to keep in touch and they even suggested that they should make a point of visiting us during the summer break in a couple of months. We, of course, thought it would be great to see them and agreed wholeheartedly. After we said our good-byes, I was glad I wasn’t paying for the call because we talked for nearly an hour.

Jared and I decided to resurrect our yard maintenance service that we had run for the last three summers a couple of months early. Most of our clients from last year were thrilled that we were starting early. That meant they didn’t have to hire someone else to do the initial yard cleanup and raking or attempt to do it themselves. Within a week we had all our old clients back plus three more. It was hard work but it was outside, physically healthy, and meant we would have awesome tans. Plus, we were our own bosses.

It was probably close to three weeks after Jared’s coming out that we heard from his parents again. His dad called and invited us over for dinner on a Sunday afternoon. Neither one of us was looking forward to it, but if Jared was to gain his mom’s acceptance, we couldn’t not go. His dad did say that things with his mom were coming along, so there was hope. When we arrived, his dad greeted us at the door, invited us into the living room, and offered us a glass of orange juice. His mom didn’t make an appearance. Apparently she was busy in the kitchen. However, Pastor Roberts was there and he did stand up and shake our hands, although it looked like he wanted to run and wash his afterwards.

“So you boys are doing yard maintenance again this year,” his dad said.

“Yes we are,” Jared replied, “We did quite well last year so we decided to go with it again.”

“I understand you have chosen not to return to Covenant,” Pastor Roberts said accusingly.

“Yes, we’ve chosen not to go back,” I responded, “We realized that Covenant was not a wise choice for us.”

“So I’ve heard,” he said.

“Dinner is ready,” his mom called from the dining room.

Jared and I quickly went to the washroom off the kitchen to wash our hands.

“I have a real bad feeling about this,” Jared stated as soon as we closed the door.

“No kidding,” I replied, “Pastor Roberts being here is not a good sign.”

“Ya think,” Jared said with a nervous chuckle.

We dried our hands and walked into the dining room. I was actually surprised that his mom had the two of us sitting on the same side of the table. Of course that meant we had to look at Pastor Roberts sitting across from us. The first order of business was, of course, to join hands as Pastor Roberts said grace. Then his mom started the food moving by handing Jared the potatoes. Once we all had what we wanted, we began to eat.

After several minutes of horribly uncomfortable silence, I was almost ready to excuse myself, grab Jared’s hand and leave, when his mom looked at the two of us and asked, “Why?”

“Why what?” Jared asked.

“Why would you turn against God and all that is holy and choose to be homosexual?” she asked.

“It’s not a choice Mom,” Jared replied, “We were born gay.”

“You couldn’t be born gay. Why would God create you homosexual when Leviticus 18:22 says it’s an abomination?” she asked.

“I should have known this was coming,” Jared said with a distinct edge to his voice.

“I’m not trying to condemn you,” she responded, “I’m just explaining God’s word on the matter.”

“Look, if you want to throw Bible verses around,” he said, “You picked the wrong person to do it with. What kind of roast is this?”

“It’s a pork roast…your favourite,” she replied, “You know that.”

“Why would you cook a pork roast when eating pork is forbidden in Leviticus 11:7?” he asked.

“And Dad, I noticed you and Pastor Roberts are clean shaven,” he pointed out, “Isn’t shaving forbidden in Leviticus 19:27?”

“Oh, and isn’t your wedding ring gold Mom?” he asked.

“You know it is,” she replied sounding a little agitated.

“I thought I Timothy 2:9 forbids women to wear gold,” he stated.

“Why you…” she started before Jared shut her down.

“Tell you what Mom,” he said calmly but firmly, “When you’re ready to accept me as I am, give me a call. But don’t you dare start throwing Bible verses at me again.”

With that, he grabbed my hand, we stood up, and left.

“Fucking bitch!” he exclaimed as we walked down their driveway.

“Sorry,” I said as I squeezed his hand.

“Don’t be,” he responded, “You know, too many parents disown their kids because they’re gay. I think it’s about damn time kids started disowning their parents because they’re bigots.”

“And you’re going to be the first?” I questioned.

“Damn right,” he replied, “Why not?”

As we walked in my folks door, Dad looked at us and said, “I take it it didn’t go well.”

“Let’s just say I wasn’t surprised,” Jared replied.

“I’m sorry,” Dad said.

“Don’t be,” Jared responded, “I’m not. Not anymore. But I am still hungry.”

“Well I think we just might have enough leftovers to fix that,” Dad said, “Let’s go look.”

As we walked into the kitchen, I could see Mom start to react to our early appearance. I just shook my head and she quickly turned and started to dig stuff out of the fridge. As soon as she had everything out and on the counter, she did manage to pull Jared into a hug. A hug which he readily returned.

As soon as everything was warmed up, the two of us sat down and ate. Mom and Dad joined us and we gave them a play-by-play of the evening’s events. Jared repeated his disowning bigoted parents plan, and we all agreed that life was too short to spend it living in fear or regret because of others inability to accept who we were.

“You know,” Jared said, “I spent almost half my life living with the fear that she would stop loving me. But, when I think about it, she never did love me. She loved the person she thought I was, not the person I am.”

“Oh honey,” Mom said, as she pulled him into another hug and a tear rolled down her cheek, “Never lose the hope that she’ll come around.”

“I’ll try not to,” he replied, “But I’m not going to dwell on it. Right now, she’s part of the lie I lived for eight years. I’m not living that lie anymore. It’s part of my past and she’s just made herself part of that past. If she wants to become part of my present or future, it’s her move. I’m done.”

When Mom started to clean up and put things away, we all joined in and helped her. Once we were done, Jared and I went to our room. I think he had just run out of energy as he simply flopped down on the bed. I crawled up beside him and pulled him into my arms and he immediately snuggled into me. That’s the way we were when the aroma of freshly brewed coffee once again drifted into the room the next morning…snuggled up tight together and still fully dressed.

We quickly got up, after a good morning kiss of course, undressed, hit the bathroom to shower and brush our teeth, got dressed in clean work clothes, made our way to the kitchen and poured ourselves a steaming cup of coffee. After an amazing breakfast of cold cereal and toast with peanut butter and jam, we were on our way to our newest client, Mrs. Petersen, to rescue her yard from the ravages of winter. Mrs. Petersen, we discovered, is close to ninety and we also discovered that she has the biggest yard of any of our clients. It’s close to three acres with several hedges, at least twelve big flower beds, a pond with a waterfall, and a huge vegetable garden.

Raking all the leaves and trimming the hedges, cleaning out the pond, aerating the lawn, rotor tilling the garden, loosening the soil in the flower beds, removing the annuals and cutting back the perennials, and whatever else, turned out to be a three-day job. Of course, she was right in there helping. I don’t know where she got her energy but she kept up with us all three days. The only time she disappeared was when she went in to get juice, or to prepare lunch for us. We actually felt bad for charging her…well almost.

When we gave her the bill, she looked at it for a few seconds and said, “Fiddlesticks.”

“Is something wrong?” I asked.

“Of course there’s something wrong,” she replied, “You boys can’t get through college charging this piddly little amount.”

When she handed us a cheque for double the amount we charged, we both argued that it was way too much, but she wasn’t having it.

“Boys, I don’t want my money spent after I’m gone. I want to see it spent by deserving boys like yourselves…while I’m still around to watch it do some good,” she said with a smile, “Besides my son is a total dickhead and doesn’t deserve a damn cent. I don’t think he even knows I’m still alive.”

Mrs. Petersen quickly became our favourite client. Not because she paid well either, but because she was such a sweetheart and, because she was such a spunky little lady who didn’t take crap from anyone. I won’t tell you what she had to say about Jared’s mom because sweet little old ladies wouldn’t use those words. We made sure we were at her place at least twice a week, even if it was just to sit on her back deck and have tea with her. We got Mom and Dad to invite her over for dinner one Sunday and that became the start of a very good friendship.

A week or so before classes at Covenant were over, we got a call from Bruce and Rory. They wanted to know if they could come visit us as soon as school got out. We, of course, were thrilled and let them know it. True to their word, they were knocking on our door two days after classes got out. As soon as the hugs were over and we had introduced them to my mom and dad, they told us they were dropping out of Covenant and were planning to attend Mount Royal University in the fall. Both of them wanted to go into social work.

They had both gone home during reading week about two weeks before finals and they both came out to their parents. Needless to say, it didn’t go well for either of them. Hence, as soon as school got out, they were at our place. In fact, Bruce’s parents already had him booked into Hope House, for a “Pray the Gay Away’ summer program. Needless to say, he wasn’t going. First, he was an adult and they no longer had any legal authority over him, and second, they didn’t know where he was anyway. Mom and Dad were more than sympathetic to their situation and our spare room became their room. With the two of them helping, we increased our client numbers and our yard maintenance company nearly doubled in size. We could have easily worked seven days a week but decided we would have Sundays off, and of course, any rainy days were ours to enjoy.

About the middle of June, we discovered from an online news site that Bruce had been reported missing by his parents. He contacted the police and informed them that he was not missing. He knew exactly where he was. He then contacted his dad and made it very clear that it was none of their business where he was. He also informed him that since he was twenty one, and had been an adult for the past three years, his life was his to live as he saw fit. If they didn’t like it, that was their problem, not his. That would be the last contact he would have with them and since Rory’s parents apparently never even made an effort to locate him over the summer, they too became history.

In the fall, both Bruce and Rory were accepted into Mount Royal University in social work. They even received some credit for courses at Covenant. Jared was accepted into psychology. His plan was to complete a general psychology degree and then obtain a masters degree in child psychology. Eventually a PhD was his goal. I, on the other hand went into Civil Engineering and did not get any credit for time spent at Covenant. We had made enough over the summer to cover our tuition with enough left over for clothes and entertainment for the year. Mom and Dad said they would feed us, and Jared’s dad paid for all the books we needed, so we were all set for our first year at Mount Royal.

The first week of October, as we were walking into Starbucks on campus, Rory received a tap on the shoulder. When he turned to see who it was, he was looking into the faces of his parents. His mom threw her arms around him and burst into tears. When she calmed down, and finally let him go, his dad was able to get a hug in as well. They made it quite clear they loved him and were not about to lose him. If he was gay, so be it. He was still their son. As soon as they were finished fussing over Rory, they turned their attention to Bruce. He too got big tearful hugs and then a welcome to the family.

We made it into Starbucks, ordered our coffees and had a good chat. We all still had two classes left so I phoned home and talked to Mom and then invited them to our place. I gave them our address, told them Mom would be expecting them, and they were on their way. I don’t know how much any of us got out of those two classes, but at least we were there. Once we all made it home, Mom, well my mom and Rory’s mom, had prepared a wonderful dinner for us all.

As we chatted over dinner and through the evening, we discovered they had gone through a rather remarkable transformation. They had spent countless hours learning every thing they could about homosexuality and were quite satisfied that it was not a choice. They also spent an equal number of hours researching the Bible. When they were done, they switched churches, and for the last three months they had been attending services at the local Metropolitan Community Church. One in which the pastor’s son, Terry, was openly gay and attended church every Sunday with his boyfriend Jacob at his side. His mom smiled as she commented on how cute they were together as they held hands before, after, and during the service.

We also discovered that, after their initial reaction, and when they hadn’t heard from Rory for almost four months, they were afraid they had lost him. Since they had no intention of letting that happen, they hired a private investigator to find him. Within two weeks, he had located a Rory Calloway at Mount Royal University in Calgary. After a little more research, they were on their way.

Bruce and Rory gave up their room, and slept on air mattresses on the floor of our room, for the week that his parents were here. There were tears when they left, but big smiles too, as we promised to fly out and visit them during reading week. Things definitely seemed to be improving. We had my parents, Jared’s dad, and Rory’s parents on our side. Unfortunately, Bruce’s parents never did come around. Jared’s mom sent him a birthday card and bought him a birthday and a Christmas present every year, but she never came over nor did she talk to him.

But, life went on. Most importantly, Jared and I had each other, Bruce and Rory had each other, and the four of us were the best of friends. Over the years, we developed our careers, made new friends, and started our own families. We adopted Paul when he was seven. Rory and Bruce adopted Wendy when she was five and Ian when he was six. All four of us are now grandparents. Paul and his wife Christine have two boys, Scott and Reo. Wendy and her husband Terry also have two boys, Josh and Ethan. Ian and his wife Gail have one boy, Danny. Scott and Josh are seniors, Ethan and Reo are juniors, and Danny is a sophomore. All attend Western Collegiate and since they have grown up together, all five are great friends as well as cousins and brothers.

Life has been good. Today, as we sit on the back deck, sipping a nice cold lime cooler, watching Scott and Reo race around the yard practising their soccer skills, we can’t help but smile. In about an hour, the yard will be kid central as Rory and Bruce arrive with their grandchildren, Josh, Ethan, and Danny, for our end of the school year bar-b-que. Scott, Josh, and Danny will have their girlfriends coming over for the evening. However, like their granddads, Reo and Ethan aren’t interested in girlfriends. They will have their boyfriends coming over. Unlike their granddads though, they do not have a conundrum.

Thanks to Colin for editing, prepping, and posting this story for me.