Everyone rose as the first strains of "Pomp and Circumstance" were heard. I wonder how this song became the traditional graduation march. Jay wondered as he turned around, watching for Adam. As he entered the auditorium, Jay reached for, and took Kyle's hand. He briefly turned to Kyle and was not surprised to see that he, too, was misty-eyed.
This was, indeed, a very important day for the Matthews-Williams family: Adam and his girlfriend Kelly's high-school graduation. Despite all of the harassment and bigotry Adam faced as the only son of two gay men, he turned out to be one incredible man.
Graduating number one in a class of almost four hundred students, he was class valedictorian, captain of the football and baseball teams, and he had an incredibly beautiful girlfriend Kelly, who graduated number two in the class. In fact, at six-feet-three inches, two hundred and twenty-five pounds of solid muscle, strawberry-blond hair and cobalt-blue eyes, he had a large number of admirers, both male and female. Of course, who wouldn't admire this blond Adonis who ran around in extremely tight cut-off jeans that looked like they were painted on, usually shirt-less, revealing a powerful chest and six-pack abs?
Kyle tightened his grip on Jay's hand as the last graduate took his seat on the stage. The Principal and the Guidance Counselor made the usual speeches. Jay was so deep in thought that he almost missed his son's introduction. Both he and Kyle were looking forward to his valedictorian speech with extreme curiosity, since he refused to give them any details about it.
"Hey, all, what it is, what is shall be, what it was." Adam quoted his favorite line from the movie "Good Morning, Vietnam" in his typical irreverent style. "Today, my fellow graduates and I stand at a crossroads. Looking back, we've come a long way. We've overcome many obstacles, faced many challenges. Yet before us stand new challenges and new obstacles. These challenges strengthen us and the obstacles test our resilience. Meeting these challenges and overcoming these obstacles are paramount to our success in whatever endeavors we choose to undertake.
There is, however, one major obstacle to our success, and that's what I would like to speak with you about today, the one obstacle that is tearing this country apart. That obstacle is hatred. Call it bigotry, call it prejudice, call it bias, but what it all boils down to one thing, hatred and intolerance for people who are different.
Our Pledge of Allegiance states "One Nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all". Unfortunately, those words just aren't true anymore. We are a nation divided, divided along lines of race, creed, religion, nationality, sexual orientation and gender identity. Each time a racial slur is uttered, it weakens us as a nation. Each time a gay man is beaten, more often than not to death, we lose more and more of our humanity.
As most of you know, I was raised by two gay fathers, who I love more than anyone else in the world, except for my girlfriend Kelly" he turned and smiled at her, locking eyes with her briefly "who rates right up there with them. I'd like to introduce them. J-dad, please stand up." Jay reluctantly stood up. "This is my father Jayson, who a Special Agent for the FBI. K-dad, will you please stand up." Kyle looked embarrassed, but slowly rose to his feet. "This is my father Kyle, who is a college professor with a Ph.D. in Quantum Physics. They could both tell you horror stories about what people in this city, indeed this country, are doing to each other out of hatred, bigotry and intolerance. Please, everyone take a good look at them. Look at them as if you didn't know who and what they are. What do you see? When I look at them I see two men who put their clothes on the same way that you and I do. They don't have horns or tails. They have one head, not six. They have two arms and two legs, not five or six of each. In other words, ladies and gentlemen, they are human beings, with the same rights and privileges as anyone else. They would give you the shirts off their backs, and then ask if you needed their pants as well. They wanted me when my own parents literally threw me away in a dumpster." This drew startled reactions from the audience. Kyle and Jay looked at each other, stunned. They never expected that to come out.
"Bigotry and hatred is all about refusing to grant another person the same rights and privileges as anyone else because they are different. But you know what, EVERYONE is different. No two people are alike. I know what you're thinking, what about identical twins? Well guess what? They may look alike, but I can tell you from experience that they are not alike." Kelly giggled as she remembered a number of pranks she and her identical twin sister Danielle pulled on him when they were first dating. "Let me say this in closing. Real success will continue to elude us as long as we allow such things as bigotry, hatred, bias, prejudice and intolerance to exist in this country and in our lives. I really love my two fathers, and it would be great if you could love them too. Before I go, there is one thing I'd like to do. Kelly, could you come here please?" Looking puzzled, Kelly went up to the podium. Adam fumbled in his pocket then stepped out from behind the podium, dropping to one knee in front of Kelly. "Kelly, I'm an incredibly lucky man to have you in my life, and I'd be deeply honored if you would consent to be my wife." He opened the box in his hand to reveal a beautiful diamond engagement ring.
Kelly looked completely stunned, as did Kyle and Jay. None of them had even an inkling of what Adam had planned. Tears rolling down her cheeks, she threw herself onto Adam. "Of course I'll marry you." Adam and Kelly kissed then sat down to a thunderous ovation as Jay and Kyle wiped tears from their eyes.
"Well," Kyle said to Jay, "we did something right."
"We sure did. We raised one hell of a son."
After the ceremony, a lot of the students sought out and introduced themselves to Kyle and Jay, as did a lot of the parents. Some were surprised that two gay men could raise a smart, popular, straight, well-spoken and well-rounded person such as Adam. One mother even asked Kyle what their secret was. "Love, openness, honesty and respect" was his answer.
Later, as his classmates started arriving for the graduation party Adam was hosting his fathers tried to disappear for the evening. "This is your night." They tried to tell him, but he wouldn't allow them to leave. Adam's insistence that they stay was not only an indication of their familial bond, but also provided him the opportunity to back up his earlier words with actions. If any of his classmates were uncomfortable with his fathers being there, well, they had two choices: get over it or leave.
As it turned out, they were the hits of the party. Kyle was bombarded with questions from students who were interested in becoming teachers, Jay with future law enforcement officials. Quite a few classmates told Adam how cool his fathers were. No one asked about his unknown parents.
The next morning as they came out of their bedroom, they were shocked at the state of cleanliness. Kyle had mentioned before they went to sleep that they would have to get up early in order to clean up the mess. However, the place was spotless. Jay was the first to notice Adam's sleeping form on the couch. Since it was a dry party, and he didn't drink or do drugs anyway, they knew he hadn't passed out from alcohol consumption. Gently waking him, Jay asked why he was sleeping on the couch. "Kelly wasn't feeling good, so I had her sleep in my room."
The two fathers looked at their son with overwhelming pride. Adam's room was upstairs over the kitchen. A back stairwell went down into the laundry room when there was a side door. He could have easily slept with her last night and either snuck her out the side door or he himself could have snuck downstairs, and neither Kyle nor Jay would be any wiser. But his integrity, respect and love for Kelly and his fathers would not allow him to even entertain the notion.
"Is she okay?" Kyle asked with a concerned expression on his face.
"She had a migraine. I didn't want her to drive home. It was one of those headaches that was so severe that it even the light hurt her eyes. I didn't even want to drive her home. You know how torn up the roads in her neighborhood are. All that bouncing around would just make things worse. And no, I didn't sleep with her."
"That thought never even entered my mind, son. But even if you did, that's between you and Kelly. You're smart enough to take precautions. We trust you implicitly. Always have and always will."
"Let me go to the bathroom then I want to talk with the two of you. Be right back."
"I wonder what that's all about." Jay asked once the bathroom door was closed.
"I don't know. I wonder if he thinks we might be upset over his valedictorian speech."
"No. I was a bit embarrassed when he made us stand up, but in all actuality, I was quite proud of him and I told him so."
"So did I. Well, I guess we'll find out soon enough."
"I have something to tell you guys, but I'm not sure how you'll take it." Adam began nervously. A million things went through Kyle's mind, none of them good.
"Whatever it is, you can tell us. We're here for you. We always have been and we always will be. If it's something bad, we want to help you get through it, no matter what it is." Jay said, gripping his shoulder, expressions of love and concern battling for dominance on his face.
"It's nothing bad. I've decided to turn down the baseball scholarship to UCLA. Instead, I want to go to the Police Academy. I hear you guys talking at night about what's going on in this city, and I can't sit back and pretend to be an innocent bystander. I want to be out there. I want to help make a difference. And with everything I've learned from the two of you, I think I can."
Jay looked stunned. Never in a million year could he have anticipated this, given Adam's love for baseball, and his talents. There was no doubt in Jay's mind he would make it to the pros in record time. Kyle, however, was a totally different story.
"What?" He jumped up and practically pounced on Adam. "No way am I going to allow you to join the police force. Every time the phone rings when your father is at work I'm scared it's going to be someone from the FBI calling to tell me he was killed on the job. I have nightmares of having to arrange his funeral. I can't handle worrying about the both of you."
"Kyle, calm down. Son, let's talk about this. Being a cop is not a glamorous job. It's very dangerous. There's a lot of stress, long hours, and hard work. Have you discussed this with Kelly?"
"I know it's dangerous, hard work. But what kind of difference can I make playing baseball? Or sitting in an office behind a computer? None. I want to do this. I need to do this. Kelly's fine with it. She thinks it's great."
"How great will she think it is if the two of you are married and one night you don't come home because you're in the hospital suffering from gunshot wounds, or worse, in the morgue? I'll tell you how she'll deal with it. She won't have to because I'm not going to allow it."
"K-Dad, I'm eighteen, old enough to make my own decisions about my future. And I have. I'm going to the Academy."
"IF YOU'RE OLD ENOUGH TO MAKE YOUR OWN DECISIONS, THEN YOU'RE OLD ENOUGH TO FIND YOUR OWN PLACE TO LIVE." Kyle shouted as he got up and stormed out of the house, slamming the door, leaving Adam looking devastated.
"Son, are you sure about this?"
"It's all I've thought about for the past three years." He said with tears in his eyes. His father's reaction hurt him deeply. He got up and started to leave the room.
"Where are you going?"
"You heard K-Dad. I have to find a new place to live."
"Sit back down. You're not living anywhere but here, until you've graduated from the Academy, are working full time and can afford a place of your own."
"But K-Dad said..."
"Adam, I said sit down." He sat. "You know how your father is. He loves you more than anything or anyone else in this world. He's scared. Do you remember how he reacted when you were sliding into third base, hit the bag wrong and broke your ankle?"
"Yeah, I thought he was going to call every ambulance and Doctor in the city, once he finished shitting his pants."
"He's always overreacted when it came to you getting hurt. And that's what he's doing now, overreacting."
"Will you talk to him? Convince him to let me stay?"
"I'll talk to him, although I won't need to convince him to let you stay. He was just saying that out of fear."
"Thanks, Dad, for being so understanding. I need to go check on Kelly."
Several hours later, Kyle returned.
"Baby, we need to talk about Adam. He was ready to pack up and move out when you left."
"I'm sorry, Jay. I don't want him to leave. But on the other hand, I can't go day after day wondering if he's going to be coming home. I have a hard enough time worrying about you."
"Kyle, this is all he's thought about for the last three years. He has the potential to be a top-notch cop."
"But he's reckless."
"Only when he knows that the chances of injury are minimal. He doesn't take chances with his life, and I'll make sure that once he is out on the streets, he'll be watched carefully. Being a cop means everything to him."
"Okay. I'm not happy about his choice, but I'll support him."
Jay gave Kyle a big hug and a kiss. "He'll be okay. Besides, if I find out, and I will, that he took any foolish risks, or done anything stupid, I'll kick his ass! That I promise you, and I'm going to let him know that I will be watching!"
"I just can't help worrying about him."
"It's okay to be concerned about him. Just don't let it consume you.
At that moment Adam came back into the kitchen. "K-dad, can I talk to you?"
"Talk to me? I'm surprised you even want to be on the same planet with me considering how I treated you earlier. I'm sorry for that. I love you, son, and I don't want anything bad to happen to you."
"I know that, Dad. If it bothers you that much, I won't go to the Academy. I haven't notified UCLA yet that I was turning down the scholarship."
"Don't worry about it. I called the school and told them you won't be using the scholarship and that you elected to go to the Police Academy instead. Becoming a police officer is far more important to you. Can you forgive an overprotective old man?"
"If you didn't love me, you wouldn't care what I did. You wouldn't want to protect me. So even though there's nothing to forgive, I do forgive you, and love you for wanting to protect me and keep me safe."
"Well, that's my job as a parent, to protect my son no matter what. You are going to the Academy, and you are going to be an awesome cop."
"Adam, there's one thing you need to know", said Jay in his most serious tone, "I'm going to be watching you from the moment you enter the Academy until the day you retire. If you so much as even think about doing something stupid, or taking foolish risks, I personally will kick your ass from here to New York City and back, when it will be K-dad's turn. That's no threat, that's a guarantee."