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Chapter Twenty Three
"A counselor?" I asked nervously as my dad concentrated on the winding road, his high beams giving him the light he needed to navigate through the dark.
"I think it would be for the best, son," he said decisively as he nodded. "It can do the both of us some good, Kevin. I think this is what we need to do."
I sighed heavily and thought back on everything that had been said between us. Not just that day, either, but literally everything. I swallowed some air with a gulp and resigned myself to the fact that we were going to counseling together whether I wanted to or not. This was definitely not what I expected from my dad when he shook me gently out of my sleep at four in the morning.
"Hey kiddo," he said quietly as he smiled down at me. My lamp was on and he was fully dressed, his hair combed and I could even smell toothpaste on his breath. "Come on, son. Sit up for dad."
I yawned as I sat up and stretched. I could feel and hear joints cracking all over my body as a blast of cool air caused goose bumps to cover my arms and torso. The combination of a full bladder and the cold air caused me to have to pee urgently, so I got up and tried to steady myself as I walked out of my room and made a beeline to the bathroom. When I came back, my dad was waiting for me in the chair with some clothes he had taken out for me. A pair of tan corduroy pants and a light blue Guess shirt with long sleeves and black print.
"Did you wash you hands?" he asked as he unfolded my pants and held them out.
"No," I said as I yawned again, not really concerned at such an early hour about little details like washing my hands after going to the bathroom.
I was still half-asleep when I held onto my dads shoulders and stepped into the pants as he held them open for me. He hiked them up and fastened the button. Then he zipped them for me before he grabbed my shirt and rolled it up, making it easier for his to put it over my head and guide my arms into it before he turned me around. Then he pulled me back between his legs so he could lift up each one of my legs and put my socks and shoes on for me.
"Where are we going?" I asked crankily when he stood up and took my hand so he could walk me to his room and brush my hair.
"For a ride, kiddo," he said softly.
"A ride?" I griped. "It's too early for a ride, dad."
"No, it's never too early to go for a ride, son," he told me. "I want to spend some time alone with my boy today."
"I thought we were already going to do that," I said, slowly waking up and becoming more aware of my surroundings. He gently ran the brush through my hair, bringing my bangs down over my forehead before he turned me to the side and brushed hair on the back of my head until it lay neatly in place. He brought his neatly kept fingers up to my eyes and lightly removed the sleep from their corners, then he stood up and motioned for me to follow him.
"We were," he said with a smile. "And we still are, son. But I wanted to spend a little extra time with you this morning. I thought maybe the two of us could go for a ride and maybe get some breakfast later on. Does that sound okay with you?"
I nodded silently with a smile as I scratched an itch on my arm and followed him out of his room.
We went into the bathroom, where he wet a washcloth and ran it over my face, then he turned the sink on so I could wash my hands while he wiped the seat dry and flushed the toilet I had neglected to flush just minutes before hand. He took his turn at the sink, then we were off. I took the spot next to him and let him help me with my seatbelt before we backed out of the driveway.
As we drove through the neighborhood, I could tell something was on his mind. I held onto his arm and rested my head against it, trying to close my eyes and go back to sleep but having no success. I was awake at that point, and I couldn't seem to lull myself back to sleep. When we turned left at the stop sign onto Rail Road Avenue, he spoke up.
"Kevin, last night you told me you were ready to talk to me," he reminded me. "But you never said what was on your mind."
"I know," I said remorsefully, recalling my moment of courage the night before that disintegrated the instant we were alone in my room. I had spent the better part of an hour preparing myself before I approached him, then when I came into the living room to find him, he was in the backyard with my grandpa digging a ditch.
"Dad, can we talk?" I said, sure of myself and what I was about to tell him.
"Sure buddy," he said with a warm smile. "Dad, I'll be right back."
We went back into the house and into my room, where I sat down on my bed and settled into my spot, noticing how the mattress seemed to dip around me. I watched as he closed the door and made his way to my bed so he could sit next to me. When he sat down, I felt the bed dip in his spot and the spot I had been occupying was no longer dipping.
That's when the first wave of anxiety hit me. I had a sudden feeling of insignificance, and I realized that he could crush me like a bug if he wanted to. He could even toss me to the side if he chose to, and I felt scared that he very well might after he learned the truth. Still, I decided to proceed, mainly because I had an idea that he already knew.
"Dad, I have something to tell you," I said boldly, steadying myself for what was coming next. "Remember when we talked in your room? You said that when I was ready to talk to you about being different, I could."
"Of course I remember that, buddy," he said with a hopeful smile.
"Well, I'm ready to talk about it,' I said, but then my legs got rubbery, even though I was sitting down. I felt a burning in my thighs that spread to my stomach and made me feel sick, so I stopped and tried to compose myself.
"Okay, son," he said gently. I looked up at his face and realized that he seemed to be preparing himself for whatever was coming, and that's when I chickened out. I shook my head and rubbed my eyes, wishing I hadn't already started the conversation and wondering how I could get myself out of it. Without a word, my dad made it easy for me to go either way.
He held his arms out for me to move into them, then he wrapped me up in a tight hug.
"I want you to know that I love you Kevin," he said bluntly. "My track record as a dad hasn't exactly been one to brag about, son, but I love you. You can tell me anything you want to, son."
"I can't," I wept on his shoulder.
"Son, whatever it is, you can," he said, using that same blunt tone. "I already told you that I know the difference, son. You can't surprise me with anything you say, buddy. You just have to tell me for yourself."
"Do I have to do it right now?" I asked through my tears, and I felt him tousle my hair and kiss my head before he answered.
"No you don't," he said gently. "We can wait as long as you want to wait."
"Can we spend some time alone tomorrow, dad?" I asked, willing to wait until then so I could work up enough courage to get the words out.
"We can spend time alone together anytime you want to, kiddo," he said affectionately. He consoled me for a little while longer, then he went back out to the backyard to finish digging my grandfather's ditch while I worked in the kitchen with my grandma, who was making a fresh loaf of bread.
"So do you think you're ready to talk now?" he asked hopefully while I yawned again.
"Maybe," I said in a noncommittal
fashion as he lifted his arm and wrapped it around me, pulling me up against
his chest as we drove into the night. The truck was silent as we drove over Kirker Pass Hill, out of
"You know that nothing you tell me's going make me love you less, right?" he said, breaking the silence.
"I know daddy," I said, smiling up at his face, which was illuminated by the lights in the dashboard. He kept his eyes on the road, but he brought his head down and kissed me on the end of my nose as he ran his fingers through my hair.
"Would it make it easier for you if I started?" he asked, and I nodded my reply with my head against his chest. "I take it that's a yes."
"It is," I said quietly, wondering if it was really going to be any easier if he started.
"Son, can you tell me what you think makes you different?" he asked, and I shook my head, not willing to say it for myself yet. "Okay, kiddo. Let me ask you something else then; Can you tell me what you think gay means?"
Once again, I nodded without speaking as he tightened his arm around my shoulders and sighed a little bit, then he cleared his throat and went on.
"Alright, so would you like to elaborate?" he asked expectantly, so I reluctantly verbalized my response.
"Yeah," I said, almost in a whisper as he kneaded my shoulder supportively, encouraging me to go on. "Being gay means you don't like girls. It means you like boys instead." In the dark, I could see my dad nodding his head in agreement with me as he watched the road.
"So do you think that might have something to do with what you want to talk about?" he asked, sounding very forward with his question. I knew at that point that I was just a nod away from confirming what he must have known, and I knew deep down that he already knew the answer to his own question. Still his forwardness with me was making it easier, so I knew I had to be forward with him too.
Inwardly cringed as I nodded my head against his chest, wondering what was next. I got my answer sooner than I thought. He suddenly pulled off of the road onto the shoulder, and he did it so abruptly that I panicked, thinking he was mad at me. He put the truck in park and unbuckled his seatbelt, then he reached down and took mine off as well.
"Let me get over buddy," he said to me, prompting me to slide over so he could do the same. When he was in the middle of the bench seat, he reached over and turned the key in the ignition so that the engine stopped, and all of the sudden, I was sitting alone with my dad in the unlit cab of his truck on a dark, lonely stretch of road.
"The sky is clear this morning, isn't it son?" he said quietly as he reached around me and pulled me back up to his chest. I nodded and watched the outline of his head as he seemed to gaze out the window, admiring the numerous stars that filled the early morning sky. I heard him breathe in through his nose, clearing his sinus passage. "Are you ready to tell me what's on your mind?"
"Maybe," I said, my voice reverting back to its barely audible state as tears started to form in my eyes again. I honestly didn't know why I was tearing up, though, because I didn't have any sort of lump in my throat that would have indicated that I was about to fall apart. Yet there I was, tears streaming down my cheeks, holding onto my dad for dear life. As if he could read my mind, and what I was most fearful of, he spoke to me one more time in a soft, soothing voice.
"Kevin, I'm not going to disappear this time kiddo," he said, addressing my innermost fears. "I know I did that to you last time, son, and I'm so sorry. But this time, I'm right here for you, kiddo. I'm not leaving your side."
"Do you promise?" I cried, and he answered me by grabbing me under my armpits and lifting me into his lap, holding me close and letting me weep a little bit.
"I promise little buddy," he said, lightly rocking me back and forth in the seat. "I love you so much, Kevin. You don't have to worry about a thing. Dad's here, and he's got you with him. I'm not going to let anything hurt you again."
"Okay," I said, ready to stop dragging the process out. I realized at that point that I was making things harder than they had to be, and that it was just a matter of saying the words.
"Go ahead, Kevin," he encouraged me, rubbing my back and giving me the extra encouragement I needed. I had the words on the tip of my tongue, but I was still stumbling over them. Still, I was determined to go through with it.
"It's hard, dad," I wept when I realized that I was having a harder time than usual getting the words to escape from my mouth. I felt him reach up with one hand and tousle my hair, then he pressed his lips against my cheek and kissed me.
"It doesn't have to be son," he said thoughtfully. "Kevin, I already know. I just need you to say it, buddy."
"Why?" I demanded tearfully, but I felt instantly sorry for my tone. My dad didn't seemed fazed at all by it, though.
"Because it's healthy, son," he said, his voice tinted with sadness. "If there's one regret I have about my life, besides hurting you, it's that I wasn't more open with my dad about how I felt. Do you know that I never heard your grandpa say `I love you' to me until I was in my twenties, and I was scared to say it to him too. That made it hard for me to be the kind of man I needed to be for your mom, and for you."
I felt something wet land on my arm, and I realized that he was crying. I reached up and hugged him tightly, then I turned my head so that my face was in his ear. I was trembling with fear as I nuzzled against his ear, and I knew he could sense my angst because he wrapped his arms around me so tightly that I thought I wouldn't be able to breathe.
I said it so quietly that I wasn't sure he heard me. I barely heard it myself, but I was sure I had gotten the words out. I felt my dad's left hand cup the back of my head as his right arm, which was wrapped protectively around me, was moving up and down my back. He turned his head to face mine, then he planted another kiss on my cheek.
"I love you son," he said softly, a tinge of emotion charging his voice. "I'm always going to be here for you, Kevin. Promise me that you wont keep anything important from me, son."
"I promise daddy," I sobbed on his shoulder, realizing that I had just completed the process. "I love you too."
I lifted my head up and looked at him, and even in the darkness, I could read his expression. He had a powerful look of love on that I hadn't seen before, so I reached out and ran my hands over his face, feeling every line on his cheeks and every wrinkle on his brow. He brought his head to mine and rested his forehead against mine, and I saw him smile at me.
"Do you feel better now kiddo?" he asked me, and I nodded solemnly. "So why the face then, buddy?"
"Are grandma and grandpa going to be mad at me?" I asked, a new set of fears sweeping over me.
"I would be more than shocked if they were," he said. "Son, your grandparents love you more than any of their grandchildren. Trust me when I say that. You're their favorite, and they most likely know already , too. How many times have they had to ask you to take grandma's high heels off?"
I laughed a little as I rested my head on my dad's chest and thought about the answer to that question. The truth was, I was always wearing my grandma's shoes or getting into her blush. I even painted my nails red once, but luckily, she had some nail polish remover. She got it all off and warned me that the next time I did it, I was going to school that way because she wasn't helping me again.
"Are you about ready to go buddy?" my dad asked, giving me a gentle squeeze.
"Where are we going?" I asked, looking up at him with a grin.
"Well I don't know about you, but I need a cup of coffee," my dad said jovially.
"I don't drink coffee, dad," I reminded him as he lifted me out of his lap and moved back into the driver seat. He reached up and hit the dome light, and for the first time, I realized that his eyes were red and puffy. I settled into my spot next to him and let him buckle me in, then I waited for him to get buckled. He started the truck and put it in drive, and as we pulled away, I found myself clutching his arm again until he wrapped it back around me.
We wound up driving back into
After breakfast my dad called my
grandparent's and told them that we had left early and not to expect us home
until late in the evening. We got back in the truck and took off again. We got
on the freeway, and as I rested my head against my dad's chest and wondered
where we were heading, I fell asleep. When I opened my eyes we were sitting in
traffic at a tollbooth, and I stretched out and realized we were on the
"Hey your up," my dad said happily when he noticed I was stretching out. "You were out like a light, son."
"I woke up too early," I yawned as he gave me a gentle squeeze, then with a smile, I looked up and said, "I'm glad we did, though."
"Me too kiddo," he said warmly as we
When we finally stopped, we were in
When we got back to the truck, he got in and snatched a large blanket from behind the seat again, then we walked back down to the beach and used it to sit down on as we looked out onto the water. We took in the moist air as we watched the waves crash violently against the rocks and sat in silence.
"I want to talk to you some more Kevin," my dad said, looking at me with a thoughtful smile. "How would you feel about you and dad moving into a different house?"
"Where at?" I asked anxiously,
worried that he wanted to move me away from
"Right around the corner from grandma and grandpa," he said, assuaging my fears. "I'm looking at a house right now, and I'm about to make an offer. How does that sound to you?"
"It's just going to be you and me?" I asked disbelievingly.
"Just the two of us, buddy," he said with a smile, reaching for my hand.
"Okay," I agreed with a smile, still not fully comprehending what he just said. I understood it, but I had to let it sink in. I couldn't believe he said it was just going to be us.
"Come here, son," he said motioning me with the fingers on his free hand. I got up on my knees and crawled over to his side of the blanket, where he turned me around and wrapped both of his arms around my chest and pulled me into him. I closed my eyes and soaked up the warmth of his body, then I opened them and put my head back to look up at him with a huge grin on my face. He smiled down at me and pressed his nose into mine, then he pulled his face away. I settled my back against his chest and relaxed against him, realizing that he was still the man I longed to be.
"You're my hero dad," I said, tilting my head back once more so I could gaze back up at him. "I want to be just like you when I grow up."
He looked back down at me proudly with moistening eyes, so I snuggled against his chest again and waited for him to respond.
"I'm speechless, son," he said with a little sadness in his voice. "You're the most precious thing in my life, Kevin. No one else in this world matters to me when it comes to you, kiddo. I know it took me a long time to get there, but I know now that it's true. I'm sorry I haven't been the man you needed me to be, son."
I looked up at him and realized what he needed me to say to him. He had been there for me all morning as a rock of support. At the same time, though, he needed to express his own sadness and sorrow and to get something off his chest too. I saw the torment in his watery eyes, and I knew what he needed to hear from me.
"I forgive you, dad," I said softly, looking him in the eye. "I don't want you to think about it anymore because it makes you feel bad. I'm not mad at you anymore, dad."
"You do?" he asked hopefully, his voice breaking up a little. My dad was crying again.
"Of course I do daddy," I pleaded. "I swear it's the truth, dad. I forgive you. I even forgive mom for what she did."
"Son, you don't have to forgive us because it's what we want," he said, straightening up a little. "It's good to forgive people, but it has to be for the right reasons, son. Sometimes bitterness can eat us up, son, and that's never good. The best reason to forgive someone is because it's healthy for your soul. What I have to learn how to do is forgive myself. I'm still working on that, kiddo."
"I do forgive you, dad," I said. "And I forgive mom too for what she did to me."
"Do you want to talk about it?" he asked hopefully, and I shrugged my shoulders as I turned around to face him, losing the comfort of his embrace.
"Mom already knows," I said, revealing something to him that I had even buried deep into my memory.
"You mean that you're gay?" he asked, and I swallowed hard and nodded, uncovering a memory that I thought was going to be happy but that I wound up having to repress for my own survival.
"She knew before Billy got out of jail," I told him, processing my thoughts as the memory of the night I came out to my mom unfolded. "I told her after.."
My voice trailed off for a moment, then I took a deep breath and went on.
"I told her after you guys called her and said I couldn't go over there anymore," I sobbed, but I made no move to lean into him for comfort. The guilty look on his face said it all, but he made no attempt to divert his tortured eyes from mine as I went on.
"She said she knew already and that it was something I was born with," I continued. "Then she told Billy one day when she got mad at him for spending more time with me than her. That's when he started making me do it with him."
My dad's expression was a mixture of sheer rage and guilt, and I knew he was seething at my mom, Billy and himself. He didn't have to say so, because it was written all over his face. Still, I pressed on.
"I didn't think mom knew what he was doing," I said sadly. "I was scared to say what was happening because I thought she wouldn't believe me. It hurt so bad every time he did it to me, and he did it every day. I tried to do things to make him not want to do it, but they didn't work."
"What kinds of things, son?" my dad asked me in a strangled voice. I looked down in shame as I thought back on the things I had resorted to while trying to get Billy to stop raping me.
"I wanted to make it so that he wouldn't want to put his thing in my butt," I said as tears formed in my eyes and a lump formed in my throat. "I stopped taking a bath and I didn't clean back there or change my undies anymore. It didn't work though. It just made him mad at me, and he did it more. Then I told mom, and she called me a faggot and that I wanted him to do it. Then that night he did it again and mom opened the door and saw him but she didn't do anything."
With that I collapsed in my dad's arms and wailed loudly behind the memory I had uncovered. It wasn't the fact that Billy had molested me, or that my mom and dad hadn't acted to stop it from happening. I had gotten past all of that. It was that I had trusted my mom with a precious secret about who I was, and in a moment of jealousy, she betrayed me and told her just out of prison boyfriend that I was gay.
As my crying subsided I felt my dad pat me on the shoulder, prompting me to sit up straight.
"Son, Billy's back in prison," he said. "He hasn't been tried yet for what he did to you. That's coming up, son. But he violated his parole, and he's going to be in prison for a long time. When he's tried and convicted for what he did to you, that time's going to get longer. He's going to pay for what he did kiddo. His kind don't fare too well in court, and they have an even harder time once they go in."
"Are you going to forgive yourself dad?" I asked hopefully as I looked up at his furrowed brow.
"I'm working on it kiddo," he said. "It's not something I can just wake up and decide to do, son. It's a process."
"Is there something I can do to help you?" I offered, and he gasped a little, looking at me in disbelief.
"You know what, son," he said proudly. "You have to be the most unselfish little kid I know. I can't tell you how proud I am of you. I honestly don't know where it comes from."
"I learned it from you, dad," I said with a smile, beaming with pride at his compliment.
"From me?" he asked incredulously, and I grinned and nodded at him.
"I want to do everything just like you," I told him proudly. "So I had to get it from you."
We spent the remainder of the morning sitting on the beach talking. He told me about the house he was planning to buy, and about the fact that it had a built in pool and spa. Once I found that out I couldn't shut up about it, and I made him tell me all about the house again and again.
As the afternoon rolled around we got
up and shook the blanket down, then we folded it up and put it back in the
truck. When we left the beach we found a restaurant that served up hot clam
chowder in bread bowls, then we hit the road again. I thought we were heading
back early, but when we got back into
"Son, I've been doing some thinking," he said in a clear, confident voice. "I think it would be a good idea for us to see a counselor."
It was dark when we pulled out of
"Hey buddy," my dad said as he put the key in the top lock and turned it. "Are you okay?"
I nodded and rested my head back down on his shoulder, waiting for him to open the door and take me inside. Once we were inside, I let him carry me to my room, which was exactly where our day started. He laid me down on my bed and took my shoes and socks off, then he pulled my corduroys off and helped me out of my shirt. He found me a white tee shirt to wear, then he got me to sit up and told me to go to the bathroom.
When I got back, he was sitting on my bed with the covers pulled back. I climbed in and let him cover me up, then he leaned down and kissed me goodnight.
"I love you son," he said as he ran his hand gently over my face and smiled down at me.
"I love you too dad," I said, looking up at the man I would always admire.
"You have sweet dreams, okay?" he said, and I nodded happily at him. He was about to get up and go, but I stopped him before he could.
"Dad?" I said, trying to get his attention before he got up.
"Yeah kiddo?" he answered.
"Thanks for today," I said quietly.
"You're welcome, son," he said, pausing momentarily before he spoke again. "Thank you for being the sweet boy you are, kiddo. I love you, bud. Try to get some sleep now."
He turned my light off and closed the bedroom door, and for the first time in a long time, I fell asleep feeling perfectly at peace with my dad.
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