Donner and Blitzen Epilogue

by Bensiamin

bensiamin99@gmail.com

Wilt

I was sitting on the cabin porch sipping a cold IPA from a brewery in Bend, a central Oregon town only twenty miles away. It was late afternoon on our second day of camping and mountain biking. The late August weather had been spectacular, and we were heading home the following morning.

Seth had arranged to take Thursday and Friday off from work, and I’d arranged to have Cheryl take over for me at my business. Adrian was on break, and we decided we owed ourselves a different kind of vacation at this stage of things, and with a major transition point ahead.

Actually, I’d hoped things would work out like this, and had started planning a couple of months earlier looking for cabin camping sites at a state park close to good mountain biking trails. It had taken a while, but I finally found a cancellation at La Pine State Park, which is south of Bend. It was for one of their deluxe cabins and required three nights starting on a Thursday, and it was probably that combination that resulted in it still being available. Our cabin was part of a ring of cabins and trailer camp sites that surrounded a central large restroom building with hot showers. It seemed perfect to me. The cabin was fairly large and had two bedrooms plus a large common area that had a kitchen and seating. Seth and I would have a room and Adrian would have his own and wouldn’t be crowded on top of us. I expected that the separate and shared restroom and shower facility would be close enough to roughing it for Adrian, without forcing him to start out with tent camping. I also made sure we all had flashlights in case to safely get to the restroom in the dark!

I stretched my legs straight ahead of me in the rustic wood chair on the small porch, feeling the tightness that comes after a day of riding. When we got back to the cabin, Seth had showered before me and then said he’d make the quick drive to the store in La Pine to buy a few things we needed for our last dinner, including some more beer. He’d grinned at me on that one. “Wouldn’t do to run out of beer the last night of our vacation, would it?”

Adrian had asked to go, too, and I volunteered to wash the dirt off the bikes’ wheels, chains and gears so they could dry in the sun and would be ready for the drive back to Portland.

The campground was quiet, and made for the perfect time to reflect. I thought about the last six months, back to that Valentine’s Day when we’d included Adrian in exchanging rings. Then Adrian had given us a painting he’d done that he titled Love Is Forever. It was, for Seth and me, the perfect capstone for that day. While we were amazed and impressed with the painting he had created and the way he had captured the subject of love in such relevant and touching imagery, we’d both still wondered how much Adrian really understood about that large and mysterious subject. My attorney, who was now Seth’s attorney, had achieved having Seth designated as Adrian’s guardian. Seth had successfully made the case that Adrian should be extended in foster care till the end of the school year, and his case worker had agreed and successfully gotten approval. That prevented the kind of disruption my psychologist brother, Jordan, had pointed out could occur if he was to be pushed out of the foster care system when he turned eighteen before the school year ended.

We had already decided Adrian was going to come and live with us after he graduated. The foster care extension decision would assure he’d finish school and not have the routine of his life turned on its head at the beginning of spring quarter. Routine was very important for Adrian. Jordan had also pointed out that his math skills weren’t being challenged or tested at the special needs school he was in, and we’d investigated and enrolled him in a coding camp program for the summer.

Seth had been amazingly effective at coordinating with Jordan on how to broach the subject with Adrian, tease out that he’d done some coding at school, but nothing too complicated, and then framed the program as a fun way to spend the summer while learning a lot of cool stuff. It had been so successful that he ended up doing the second six-week camp as well, and completed the program among the top five students! For Adrian that was a bigger thrill than graduating from high school. And now he was on vacation for a couple of weeks and on a mountain bike and camping trip.

After calling home to check with the dog sitter on how Donner & Blitzen were doing, the bikes looked dry, and I was bent over spraying chain lube onto the last one when the Explorer pulled into the parking spot in front of our cabin. There was a couple of moments of imagery which were pure delight. Seth was behind the wheel wearing aviator sunglasses and a colorful ballcap. Adrian, in the passenger seat, also had a cap on above his wrap around shades, and they were both looking at each other and clearly laughing. They looked enough alike with their black hair and blue eyes, now hidden behind the sunglasses, that it was obvious they were brothers, though Seth was clearly older and with a closely trimmed beard.

It looked so natural that if I’d been able to snap a photo of the scene, everyone would have guessed that they were just regular young men, that one had made a funny remark or cracked a joke, and they were now laughing together. My heart went out to them. Young, vibrant, fun and full of life. To the outside world, any signs of Asperger’s Syndrome would have been invisible.

 

Seth

I shifted the Explorer into Park and noticed Wilt look up from the mountain bikes. Adrian and I were still laughing as we got out and I waved at Wilt. I grabbed the shopping bag out of the back seat, and we headed his way.

He grinned. “Hi, you guys. That didn’t take too long.”

I said, “Yeah” and give the back of his neck a squeeze with my free hand. Adrian added, “You’ve got the bikes all clean and lubricated. That’s good.”

I watched Wilt turn his attention to my brother as he stood up, and then say, “Yes, they’re all cleaned up. They’ll probably get a little dirty on the drive home, but not too much. And they’ll be all ready to ride next time we go.” He paused, then added with a smile, “When will that be?”

Adrian grinned. “I have another week of vacation, but you guys have to go back to work.”

I told them I was taking the groceries inside, and could hear them continue to chat as I walked into the cabin. The fact that Wilt had Donner and Blitzen, his two Staffordshire Bull Terriers, was the first bonding connection between them. Then Wilt’s suggestion that we buy mountain bikes had been brilliant. Well, in truth, it was less a suggestion than a pretty strong recommendation, about which he was looking for ratification. But he’d been right. Adrian loved his new bike. He rode a lot during the summer, which usually meant that during the week he and I would ride when he got home from coding camp, and I got home from work. On most weekends we all took a ride together at a county or state park. We’d started out at parks with paved trails, then graduated to ones with maintained dirt trails, and Adrian had done fine. We’d all gotten in better shape and developed tans. It was noticeable for Adrian, the little bit of extra weight he’d had was gone, and I promised myself we’d work to make that his new normal.

I came back out on the cabin porch with two IPAs and a soda for Adrian, and settled down in the chair next to my boyfriend. Adrian was sitting at the top of the steps, leaning back against a post. We talked for a few minutes about the day, the ride around the Waldo Lake loop and about driving home the next day.

“I miss Donner and Blitzen,” Adrian volunteered.

I grinned at him. “We all do, and I bet they’ll be happy to see you.”

“I have to go shower. Then help with dinner.”

“Are you okay showering alone? Do you want me to go with you?”

He was nodding his head as he said, “No, I can go by myself. It’s close and clean. Lot’s of hot water.” He grinned at us and went inside, returning a couple of minutes later with his towel, clean clothes and toilet kit. He waved at us, and we watched him walk down the path.

“He’s certainly handling all the vagaries of public camping really well.”

I felt myself smile. “Sure is. I was worried about the public restroom and shower set up when you first told me, but it’s turned out fine. All it took was a positive first experience and he was happy.”

Wilt sipped his IPA and grinned at me. “That including them being clean and lots of hot water. You know, just saying.”

“It all added up to a good outcome,” I threw back at him.

“You two looked like the perfect image of brotherly camaraderie when you pulled in.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, really. You were both laughing together about something. You look enough alike that it’s obvious you’re brothers, and you just both looked happy and like you were enjoying life and each other.”

“We were,” I replied. “It was one of those situations you couldn’t create if you wanted to, but it just happened. Somehow on the drive back we were talking about the summer and the first coding camp, and Aileen came up. Remember her?”

Wilt nodded. “She was the girl, the one who was neurotypical that he liked a lot, right?”

“Yeah, they saw each other frequently during camp, did a couple of projects together, and went to a movie a couple of times. I was kidding him about that, and then I said something about it being his romantic summer, something like that, and he giggled. You know, the way he does. Anyway, he said something about how that was his first date ever, that first movie with Aileen. Then I said something about many more hot dates to come, and he kind of got embarrassed for a couple of seconds, and then he smiled at me with his eyes wide, and then he started laughing. Like he got the joke and was laughing at how wild it was.”

“He was really laughing along?”

“Yeah, he got the humor. Especially when I said that his friends from the foster home would be totally jealous if they could see him now. Then I threw in that comment about the hot dates still to come and wiggled my eyebrows at him, and he started laughing and then we both cracked up. That’s when we pulled in and parked.”

“That was the image I was getting at. The two of you totally relaxed and enjoying each other together.”

“He’s done well this summer, hasn’t he?”

Wilt had taken my hand and was stroking the palm. “He’s done really well. Graduation was… well, it was graduation. Everything went smoothly, and that was followed by his living with us. Then he took to the coding camp idea and excelled and learned a bunch about his abilities. He’s gotten in better shape and likes to ride.

I smiled back at him. “And he accepted leaving the foster home without it being too big a deal, and he’s fit right in being with us. I really worried about that at first. The change in routine and all.”

“Turns out being part of a family again was important. Jordan was right about that.”

“Your brother was right about a bunch of stuff, and I’m so glad he was there and so engaged all along the way. I mean the way he coached us and got us prepped for what would likely happen, and how to be ready for it. All of that was major.”

“Hey! He thinks he’s the big winner in this deal. Now instead of a kind of grumpy older brother, he’s got two very cool younger brothers.” He poked me in the ribs. “I think he views it kind of as a ‘cheaper by the dozen’ kind of thing.”

I looked at him knowingly. “You don’t think I know what you’re talking about, do you?”

Wilt’s expression was pure innocence. “What do you mean?”

“You know what I mean. I majored in English lit, remember?”

“So, you’re not talking about the movie with Steve Martin?”

“No, I’m talking about the book where the author is one of twelve children. I read the book, and it had nothing to do with being a football coach or any of that other stuff. But still, it’s very cool that Jordan feels that way. Adrian loves him back.”

He paused, then added, “Do you remember when we were asking each other why he was telling us all that stuff about Asperger’s patients and sexual identity and romance and stuff? And then here comes the summer and wham! We’re in the middle of it.”

“Yeah, he did us a real service,” Wilt said thoughtfully. “I understood him explaining about how Adrian was waking up to love and romance, and that he’d likely struggle with the ability to process the emotions and express himself. It was pretty important that he made sure we understood that Adrian was still sorting out his Asperger’s identity, and that like most ASD patients, sorting out their sexual identity happens later than with typical teens.”

I grinned widely at the recollection. “Oh yeah! You do remember the conversation about masturbation?”

“You mean the first one, at Jordan’s house that time for the family dinner? I’ll never forget that. It was classic,” Wilt said grinning at me. “Especially after the line you dropped on him about the kind of conversation he must have had with his teenage son, Ray, about house rules and regulations.”

“Right. And then we had to have a similar conversation with Adrian.”

“Well, that didn’t go so bad, all in all.”

“You mean after he got over being embarrassed… and wondering if he and I were going to jack off together again?”

“I thought you handled it masterfully.” He grinned deviously. “Or should I say masturbatorially.”

I grinned back at his humor, and then said, “It helped a lot that you were there, and we could talk about how it’s normal for all men, and that what mattered most was not being embarrassed, the importance of privacy and cleaning up after yourself.”

“You remember his expression when you showed him where you’d put a few washcloths in his closet?”

“That was priceless.”

“It was, but it opened up a great discussion. About how awkward it was for him in the foster home with a room mate that was kind of difficult, and the new discovery that our rules and regulations were so much more open and free than what he thought possible.”

“I can still see the expression on his face. I’d bet a thousand bucks he was thinking, ‘What? They’re telling me I can jack off anytime I want, I just have to clean up.’ Do you remember?” Seth started chuckling at his own comment.

“I do. And it was all cool, but the best part was that it led to that conversation about how we’re in love and we’re together and we have sex, and jacking off was where it begins for all boys and that he’d find the right person before long and there’d be romance and love and sex in his life, too.”

“And then you had to make that comment about how if we were too loud, he should let us know. I don’t think he knew what you were getting at.”

“I bet he does by now.” Wilt grinned, wiggling his eyebrows at me. “He’s now much more broadly educated on human sexuality than the average teenager, I can tell you that!”

I couldn’t argue with that, so I said, “Well, that got him started, or set the stage or whatever. Then he connects with Aileen and the summer of romance is off and running.”

“It was fun to watch, wasn’t it?” Wilt sounded reflective. “That so much of it seemed so… so… I hate to say it, but normal.”

“It was normal. That’s what made it a total pleasure after everything I’d been worrying about. I was so happy Jordan made sure that we understood that figuring out their sexual identity happens later in life, and we had to be open and not assume it had already happened.”

Wilt nodded. “Even as much as I thought I understood after knowing Adrian for over half a year, I just assumed when it came to sexuality that he would be like every other teen boy and that process had started at puberty. Like I can only imagine that was when your sexual awakening started.” He was grinning devilishly at me. “You know, not understanding that sorting out their sexual identity could come as late as seventeen or eighteen.”

“Trust me, I was in the same boat. And then we’re in this summer where we’re right in the middle of helping him adjust to his blooming sexuality!”

“Right. He’s living with us less than six weeks and his project friend blossoms into his first date. But he felt free to ask all the questions he had.”

I squeezed his fingers between mine. “He sure did. Like he’s processing and understanding the basics here. I’m not assuming he’s suddenly leapt ahead and has mastered all the nuances or emotional cues and love talk or anything like that.”

I felt one of Wilt’s fingers slowly stroking the palm of my hand. It was sexy. “You mean cues, like this?” he asked seductively.

I stroked back and replied, “I think that’s more of a sexual cue than an emotional one. Though there’s clearly emotion involved, don’t get me wrong. Is that what you plan on doing with that finger on the underside of my dick later on?”

He was smiling now, trying to act sexy and romantic at the same time. In a sultry voice he said, “If you’re really lucky, I won’t stop with the bottom of your dick, but after I get you worked up, I may slide back a little ways and see how you react.”

I blew him a kiss. “You can see I’m reacting already, can’t you? This has been good for Adrian, and having separate rooms is good for all of us, but I already miss having you inside me. Somehow it’s the one thing missing from this vacation.”

The seductive smile broke into a huge grin and Wilt’s eyes twinkled in the evening light. “You mean it’s not a real vacation without serious sex?”

“Something like that.” I tried to sound coy, but not too needy.

“You’re not alone. We’ll have to wait till tomorrow night when we’ve home and have more space and more walls between us. These interior cabin walls are like sound amplifiers!”

 

Wilt

Seth started giggling at my comment about the cabin walls, just as Adrian came into sight on the path. He came up the stairs and said, “You’re both laughing. Good joke?”

“We were talking about our summer of romance,” Seth replied. “See, Adrian, you’re not the only one. Even us old guys can get in on it!”

A broad smile flashed across Adrian’s face and then he said, “You’re not old guys. Old guys are like my teachers.”

Seth smiled back at him and replied, “I was actually talking less about age and more about the romance.”

He looked at his brother like he was concentrating, then said he was taking his clothes and towel inside, and in a minute came back with a can of seltzer water in his hand and sat down.

Seth said, “So, Adrian, what I was saying before was, you know, like you’ve had romance this summer, and we’ve had romance, too. Pretty cool, don’t you think.”

Adrian smiled, and then he blushed just a little and said softly, “Romance is very cool. I didn’t know until you guys explained it to me.”

“Well, it wasn’t just us. It was Jordan, too, right?”

Adrian nodded and looked at me, so I said, “What we think is so wonderful is that there’s been a lot of change in your life in the last few months, and you’ve handled it all really well. You graduated, you moved into our house, you excelled at two code camps, and on top of that, you’ve had romance, too. That makes you very lucky. Like Seth told me he said to you, the other youth at the foster home would be totally jealous if they knew.”

“It feels good. Like you guys have.”

“Do you miss Aileen?” Seth asked. “I know she didn’t enroll for the second coding camp.”

“Aileen was nice. We had fun and did good projects.”

“I know that Adrian, but we were talking about romance, and I asked how you feel, if you miss her?”

His brow furrowed just a little like he was processing, and then he said, “Kind of, but you know you and Wilt told me not to get too serious and I’m young and that there are other people.” A flash of embarrassment went across his face, and I could see Seth worried he’d pushed too far.

I said his name, and when Adrian looked at me, I continued, “What I think your brother is getting at is that you had a good relationship with Aileen, and you handled it very well, but even when relationships end, the feelings that people had don’t just go away. You know that Patrick died a few years ago, but there are lots of things about Patrick and our relationship that I remember because they were good things.”

“Aileen was nice, and fun, but she didn’t come back to coding camp, and it was hard after that.”

“You mean because you didn’t have classes and projects together,” I asked softly.

“Yeah. You know I called her twice, but it was weird.”

He looked back and forth at both of us, and Seth said, “Can you tell us why it was weird?” This part was news to me.

“She was hard to talk to.”

“You mean without the coding classes and projects it was hard?”

He went quiet for a few seconds, looking at the log wall behind us, “Yeah, I guess. She’s not like me. It was hard to tell her how I felt, and I think she was just being nice to me, like a friend.”

“But you can tell us how you feel about things. What made Aileen different.”

“We’re us. You’re my brothers. Well, Wilt kinda is, right? I mean… you love me and accept me no matter what… you make me feel normal. You guys and Donner and Blitzen, I mean.”

My heart soared when I heard that. “Adrian, I think that’s the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me.”

I watched a flush of emotion move over his face. He always got a little embarrassed when he was praised, and I added, “Well, having you in our family is easy. You fit right in. But remember we agreed we’ve got to be careful with the word ‘normal’ because the way it’s often used is if someone’s not normal then they’re abnormal.”

He was watching me, and then said, “I know, and I try to say typical, you know, like I’m not neurotypical. But with you guys I can just say what I’m feeling, right?”

“Of course, you can. Did the interactions with Aileen make you feel abnormal?”

“No, but different, not typical. Maybe that’s it. Without the projects or even the movies, it was weird talking to her. Like I’d get anxious and have trouble saying what I meant. What I was feeling. You know, like you guys are teaching me I’ve got to learn to do. I thought she meant something and actually she meant something else, and I didn’t know the difference sometimes, so we were mis-communicating.”

I knew whatever I said now had to be right, and shot a glance at Seth. He just smiled at me, so I said, “I hope you understand how normal and mature what you just said is. And I used the word ‘normal’ on purpose.” Then knowing we needed to lighten it up, I went on, “Before you came to live with us, did I tell you I checked with Donner and Blitzen first, and they said it was okay?”

Adrian’s eyes widened, and then he said, “No, you didn’t… did you?” He grinned understanding it was really a compliment.

“Oh yeah, they still think you’re a good guy. And you proved that this summer. Including doing stuff with Aileen even if you ended up as just friends.”

Adrian was quiet. Seth and I were thinking the exact same thing, but he beat me to it when he said, “But she didn’t get an award for being one of the best coders. You did!”

He beamed. “Yeah! That was so cool.”

“And now you’ve done stuff with other students in the second camp, right? And you’ve been accepted at college, and you’re getting along with the two other Asperger’s students?”

“Yeah, second camp was good. And Lucy and Jeremy are cool. I told you, we’ve done projects.”

“That’s true, you have. I was asking about getting along with them, like getting close and being friends.”

“We are. You know… they know… they understand… they understand me like you guys do. And Jeremy’s really cute.”

“I think more people understand and accept you for who you are than you think.” It was time for some more humor. “Everyone in my office thinks you’re the coolest teenager they know. I told Stacey, my bookkeeper, that you’re too young to ask out on a date.”

Adrian’s eyes widened. “No! Did you say that? You’re joking, right?”

“I am joking,” I said with a grin as I reached over and gave him a soft punch in the arm. “But the fact is that you’re handsome and smart and, you know… what’s not to like?”

Adrian started blushing, but he was smiling. Seth saved him by adding, “I’m thinking it’s time that we all start getting organized for supper. Are you helping with the prep and the cooking?”

Adrian nodded, and then said, “We got stuff for a salad and Thousand Island dressing. I’ll make the salad.”

I added, “That salad will go great with the steaks and baked potatoes,” then looked at Seth. “And for dessert?”

“We got a peach pie. The lady said the peaches are from up north near Hood River. We would have gotten ice cream, but there’s no freezer”

***

We cleaned up the kitchen after washing the dinner dishes and were sitting back on the porch watching the sunset. The campground was on the east side of the Cascades at about four thousand feet elevation, but close to the mountains on the western edge of the Deschutes River basin. Mount Bachelor loomed above us to the north and Diamond Peak to our south. Both were around nine thousand feet elevation, so the sun set before eight o’clock. The evening light was soft as the sky darkened.

We talked about the final packing we’d have to do in the morning and the drive home, and the plan to take Donner and Blitzen for a long walk. Adrian said he had to go to the bathroom and headed toward the restroom.

When he was out of earshot I said, “Has he said anything to you before about Jeremy, or Jeremy being cute?” Seth shook his head and said, “Only as one of the two with Asperger’s and doing projects. First time I’ve heard him say he’s cute. And first time for the nitty gritty details about Aileen.”

“I think it’s a real good sign. Over the course of the summer, he’s been discovering more about himself and his sexuality. Do you remember what Jordan told us about ASD patients and their sexual identities?”

Seth nodded and replied, “You mean about being hetero, or homo or bisexual and assuming all of them were normal?”

“Yeah, that plus the recent research that has shown that the rate of homo and bisexuality can be two or three times as high for patients on the ASD spectrum?”

“Actually, I’d forgotten that part. Two to three times?”

“Yep. What if he’s gay or bi? I’m not saying he is, just reminding us of what’s possible and that Jordan told us we had to be open and supporting to help him sort it out.”

“Seems to me he couldn’t be in a better place to figure that out. Like it was probably hard in the foster home.”

We watched Adrian come back up the path, and sit back down on the porch.

Seth smiled at him and softly said, “I don’t think you’ve told me before that you think Jeremy’s cute. How do you feel about him?”

He took his time, but wasn’t holding back. “I don’t know him really well, but he’s got nice brown hair and blue eyes. I like him. We get along and have fun together. He doesn’t live all that far away from us, and the coolest thing is that we’re the same age and he’s going to Oregon Technical Institute, too. He wants to do their mechanical engineering program and I’m going to do software engineering.”

“That’s cool,” I replied. “How come he’s taking coding camp if he’s going to study mechanical engineering.”

Adrian smiled knowingly. “Because almost everything is done on computers, like computer aided design and manufacturing. It’s all done with software, so he wanted to know more about coding and software development.”

I watched Seth shape the conversation, being impressed with how he was handling it. “So, now you may be finding out that you like a boy an awful lot. Does that feel okay?”

“Well, yeah, ‘cause you guys and Jordan told me about bisexuality and being gay, and that it’s all normal. I mean I liked Aileen so maybe I’m bi.”

“Could be. You know what the most important thing is?”

Adrian was watching his brother closely, and said, “What?”

“Follow your heart and don’t worry about what other people might think. Bi, gay, straight, it’s all normal and you’ll do fine. We’re here to talk about anything, you know that, right?”

Adrian nodded, then grew quiet, so I added, “Now it may be even more important than we thought that Oregon Tech is serious about diversity, equity and inclusion and there’s even an out science club. What’s that called?”

“It’s called oSTEM,” Adrian responded, “meaning Out Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.” He paused, thinking, then added, “I hadn’t even thought about it for me, just that it was cool it was there, and I kind of related because you guys are out, and it was part of why you liked the school.”

“That’s all true. Plus, it’s nearby and you can ride your bike to school when the weather’s good and there’s bus service the rest of the year. Oh, and it has a highly regarded educational program, right?”

Adrian nodded. “Since Jeremy’s gay he’ll probably join. I’ll ask him.”

“And if you want, you could go with him as his friend. It’d probably help him and be a good way to meet other students who would end up being his friends. You know, build your network.”

Seth waved his empty bottle at me, asking if I wanted another beer. I nodded, then said to Adrian, “Lucky you, one more week of vacation before you start school. We’ve got to go back to work on Monday. Are you getting excited about starting your studies?”

He grinned. “Yeah, more and more excited. I mean I learned a lot in coding camp, and was good at it and liked it and stuff. Now it’ll be more than just coding, you know like designing software systems and then writing the code for the systems, and then software production.”

Seth sat down next to me and handed me my beer, asking, “Are you going to have to learn all those software languages, too?”

“You mean like C++ and JavaScript and Python and then HTML and CSS? And then there’s databases and operating systems and networking. Oh, did I tell you that one of the projects Jeremy and I worked on was coding for a game? Like inventing a new game. You know gaming is a big deal these days, right?”

Seth grinned at his brother. “I know it’s a huge part of the software business, but that’s about it. You probably think I’m an old fart ‘cause I don’t game and play Minecraft or Call of Duty, right?”

“Yeah,” he said with a sly smile, “you read too much. You should play games more.”

Seth smiled at his brother and then looked at me, “Maybe we’ll all work on that together?”

We spent the next hour on the porch watching the sky darken and the stars begin to shine, just chatting and enjoying each other’s company before we finally went to bed.

 

Adrian

We’re driving back to Portland from a great mountain biking and camping trip that Wilt and Seth put together. We rode great trails in the Cascade Mountains, stayed in a really cool cabin, and had a great time. It’s Sunday and Wilt and Seth have to go back to work tomorrow, but I’ve got another week of vacation before I start college. When we get back, we’ll take Donner and Blitzen for a long walk. They’ll need it ‘cause we’ve been gone for almost four days and the dog sitter probably didn’t walk them that much.

It’ll be good to be back, to be with the dogs, and to be home. I mean, until a few months ago I lived in a foster home, but it was a different kind of home. It was a home for youth like me, youth with problems. Now I live with Seth and Wilt and it’s like what home is supposed to be.

I think of my life in three parts. There was before the foster home when I went to a regular school and was the weird kid and got bullied. I still didn’t understand my emotions, why I did some of the things I did, or understand why other people felt and did what they did. It was mainly uncomfortable and confusing—sometimes painful because I got picked on.

Then there was living in the foster home after Seth went to college and I got moved to the right school. I missed living with grandma because she understood me, but the foster parents were nice and cared for all of us. And there, just like in school, I wasn’t the weird one with Asperger’s. I was just one of the residents and we all had our own problems, but we were all in it together.

Then there’s now, living with Wilt and Seth and Donner and Blitzen. Now I’m not only not a weird kid, but I also feel like I’m normal. I mean, I know I’m not like most other people—I’ve got Asperger’s—but they accept me and love me, and I fit in and get to do stuff, like walk the dogs and help cook and wash laundry, and… be part of the family. I know it won’t last forever and Jordan keeps talking to me about independent living, but that’s for later and this is now, and now I feel normal and happy.

We’ve talked a lot on this trip, like we’ve been doing since Seth and Wilt got together and I met Wilt’s brother, Jordan. He’s a psychologist with a neat wife and two cool kids. Ray and I get along good, and I’m like part of their family, too. He’s really helped me be better at getting in touch with my feelings—that’s what he calls it. And trying to tune in to other people’s feelings, too. I know he’s told Seth and Wilt to work on it. I mean, I only see Jordan once a week to talk, but Seth and Jordan are always talking about my feelings, how I feel… stuff like that.

It’s helped. Helped a lot. I’m not so embarrassed around people I don’t know. I can kind of figure out what people are thinking and know what to say… or not. It’s so great having two brothers. I mean they’re different, and I know Wilt is older than Seth, but that’s cool. They love each other. That’s so obvious, and it’s why I did that painting for them on Valentine’s Day. I didn’t really understand what was going on between them, but I could feel it and I knew it was good and I wanted it, too. Jordan told me I was already tuning in to romance and love, and theirs is real, and, somehow, I’m a part of it.

Well, and also part of living in a house with two great dogs. Grandma was allergic to cats and dogs so she wouldn’t have one. But it was so cool to find out that Wilt had two dogs, and that they liked me as much as I liked them. I’ve still got a photo of them with their reindeer antlers from Christmas on the mirror in my room. I guess having them like me somehow made it okay to not worry about Wilt, and then I figured out he was like an older brother, one who wanted to help and who also was into having fun. I mean he’d play Scrabble and Uno with us, and we walk and hike with the dogs and then he got all of us mountain bikes and that made for an awesome summer. He also helped me understand that it’s important to be fit and not to gain weight. ‘Live the healthy life’ is what he keeps telling me. And he taught me how to cook, too, and that was lots of fun.

And then there’s the sex stuff. I was always kind of embarrassed about it and didn’t understand much… except that it felt good. But in the foster home it was always pretty weird, and we all had to hide what we were doing. But Seth and Wilt talked about it when I came to live with them. Like they knew I jacked off and said it was fine and normal. That was a shocker. And then they talked to me about privacy and cleaning up and stuff. And they talked to me about other sex for when you’re with the person that you love. All of that is part of why I feel more like normal. I do stuff other teenagers do and don’t feel weird about it anymore.

And all of that kind got me so I was okay when I started doing projects with Aileen in the first coding camp. She was pretty and nice, and I liked her, like I wanted to be with her and stuff. But it got weird when we went out to the movies, or I called her. I could tell we weren’t communicating, and I didn’t know if it was me or what. But Jordan helped me understand that it didn’t have to be me. It could just be that we were both fine, but the connection was school stuff. She didn’t do the second coding camp, so I didn’t see her again.

I think Jordan was right. I was trying too hard to be neurotypical, to be the one that didn’t have Asperger’s. Of course, that’s a lie, and it probably meant all my quirks and flaws were magnified and I wasn’t picking up on emotions and stuff that Aileen had. Anyhow, we were mis-communicating and it went nowhere.

But there’s hope. I told Seth and Wilt last night about Jeremy. He’s cute and he’s fun and I like him a lot and I think he likes me. We liked being together and laugh a lot. I feel happy when I’m around him, and it made doing projects in coding camp so special. It’s totally cool that he lives not far away and we’re both going to Oregon Tech. Because he has Asperger’s, too, we get each other. I don’t have to be embarrassed and try to act like I’m neurotpyical and he doesn’t either.

I almost told Seth and Wilt last night about how happy Jeremy makes me feel, but I chickened out after what happened with Aileen. He’s gay and I told them that, and that maybe I’m bi. But I want to know more about how Jeremy and I will work before I say anything more. I know it feels more real and magical than it did with Aileen, and I just want to care for someone like that and have them care for me.

I think I know what it is now, since I’ve been living with Seth and Wilt. Maybe it’ll be that way with me and Jeremy. What I know for sure is that tonight I’m going to call him and ask him to go for a bike ride tomorrow, and then I’m going to ask him to go to the movies with me. If that works, maybe Seth and Wilt will be cool with Jeremy coming to our house for dinner one night. If we’re going to be going to college together, we should know if we want to be together.

***

We’re pulling off the freeway now, onto to our exit to get home. I know Donner and Blitzen will be dancing around the front door when we get there, so excited to see us and go on their walk. Then after dinner I’m going to call Jeremy.