Growing Pains

by Dan

Chapter Nine

Saturday was a gorgeous day in more ways than one. To begin with, the weather was superb, one of those late fall North Texas days with very few clouds and temperatures high enough for swimming. It was also a great day emotionally, and a fabulous day for relationships.

We started the morning with breakfast in our swimming suits out by the pool. We had no sooner finished with our cereal and toast than Alex showed up in his trunks. As soon as Mitchell got to the edge of the pool, I knew things were only going to improve. Jason and Alex were sitting at the table, still in their trunks, watching as Mitchell stepped up onto the diving board.

Now, I remind you, Mitchell had always been reticent to doff his trunks if Alex was around. So it was a surprise to all of us, but more importantly to the boys, when Mitchell dropped his trunks while standing on the board. As he tossed them over to the side of the pool, he looked at Jason and Alex whose mouths were standing wide open and said, "What? You never seen one of these before?"

And with a wiggle of his hips that caused his limp member to sway in the breeze, he proceeded to execute a beautiful swan dive. When the younger guys had recovered their senses, they immediately got rid of their suits and joined Mitchell in the water.

When I came back outside after having cleaned up the breakfast dishes, all three of them were seated on the swim out at the deep end, deep in conversation. I found out later that Mitchell had been telling them what an ass he had been, how much he had learned the past week and asking them to forgive him and let him back into their family, so to speak. It was a testimony to Alex's and Jason's resiliency and Jason's love for his brother that they readily accepted his apology and immediately showered him with hugs.

I watched as they began frolicking just as they used to with the exception that all three of them were naked this time. Of course, I wasn't too surprised when the inevitable occurred, although I think each of the boys was a bit shocked for their own reasons. With all that close body contact, erections were soon evident, Mitchell's being the most obvious since it was the biggest. I think he knew exactly what he was doing, though, when he climbed from the pool and turned, displaying his hardon for all to see. And I suspect he got just the reaction he had wanted.

"Mitchell! Geez!" Alex exclaimed first.

"Good gosh, Mitchell! You wanta do something with that thing?"

"Aw, you guys are just jealous 'cause yours are so small and practically hairless!" he responded with a big grin on his face.

Me? I was turning red with embarrassment as I sat at the table taking in this interaction.

"What the heck is that, Mitchell, a garden hose?"

"I don't know, Alex, looks more like a straw from a Big Gulp to me."

Of course, Jason had been referring to the large drink we get at the Seven-Eleven stores, but when it dawned on everybody what he had said, we all about died laughing. Poor Alex had it the worst, because he was in water up to his chin and could hardly keep his mouth out of the water he was laughing so hard.

Mitchell jumped back in the water and the three of them continued trying to dunk each other as though nothing had happened. I knew right then that everything was going to be OK.

I was serving on the altar guild that month, so I had to go down to the church that afternoon to help prepare the altar for communion the next day. I left the three boys at the kitchen table as soon as we finished with lunch. I told them that at their age, I considered them all to be babysitting each other. Of course, they loved that.

When I got home I thought something was up. Alex was still there but left as soon as I walked in. Jason and Mitchell seemed a little nervous and a little excited both.

"What's up, guys? Why did Alex run off so quickly?"

"Nothing's up, Pop," Mitchell answered.

"He promised his mom and dad he'd be home for dinner, Pop. Now you go have a Guinness and watch some TV while Mitchell and I cook dinner."

Now I knew something was amiss. The boys would generally help with dinner when I asked them to, but they never initiated it themselves. So with my naturally suspicious nature, I roamed the house and pool area looking for damage. Finding nothing, I grabbed my stout and settled down in front of the TV.

Now I could tell you that they had fixed my favorite dinner with candle light and fine china and good silver, but that just ain't what happened. We ate in the kitchen as usual and dined on hot dogs, pork 'n beans and chips. Mitchell had corn and beets instead of hot dogs.

With such a lackluster dinner, I had concluded that nothing was up until the boys approached me in the TV room. As I sat in my favorite chair, the two of them took positions on either side of me. I looked from one to another, waiting for them to speak. I certainly wasn't prepared for what they had in mind.



Not sure I was hearing right, but already feeling that familiar tug on my emotions that warned me I was getting ready to embarrass myself, I just looked at them and waited. Mitchell spoke for them.

"Yes, Dad, you heard us right. Jason and I talked about it this afternoon. It's been awhile since mom and dad died in that plane wreck, and in all that time, you've always been there for us. You didn't even hesitate when we had grandmother ask you to take us in and take care of us. We talked to pastor this afternoon, too, about that meeting he had with you, and he told us how fast you said yes, that you didn't even take time to think about it or pray about it."

He paused for a moment, as though to collect himself, and then went on.

"And this past week has ... well, it's been pretty tough for all of us. And I've learned a lot. About myself, and about my other dad, and about Jason... and more importantly about you. I said it that night, and I want to say it again. I know our other dad loved me, but I don't think he could have loved me more than you do. Jason has been bugging me for a long time to call you Dad. I understand why, now, because he's been able to explain it to me."

For a moment I thought the dam holding back my tears was going to break as I saw a tear leak from Mitchell's eye and dribble down his cheek. Since he almost always had tight control of his emotions, this tear was a sign of the depth of his feelings, the level of his sincerity. He wiped his face with the back of his hand before continuing.

"I feel so bad because he couldn't tell me why he wanted to call you Dad, and I just kept insisting that it wouldn't be right. But you accepted his relationship with Alex so easily. And he knew our other dad would probably have thrown him out. You remember way back, when I told you that it was Ok for you to spend more time with Jason, show him more affection? Well, I meant it, and I've never felt that you showed me any less attention than I wanted or needed. But I've always been a little envious that Jason could get close to you so easily in ways that I can't. Like crawling up into your lap or hugging you regardless of where we are."

He was crying again, and it almost broke my heart not to reach out for him, but I sensed that he needed to be allowed to finish what he had to say, so I resisted the temptation and sat as quietly as I could. But my body was starting to shake with the emotion that was building up inside me and tears were beginning to leak from my eyes in spite of everything I was trying to do to prevent them.

"We love you, Dad, and we know you love us. But until this past week, I don't think I've understood just how much you love us. And now I feel the same way Jason has felt for so long. So we'd like to start calling you Dad. Please?"

"Please, Dad?"

I couldn't hold back my tears any longer. I had just heard words I thought I would never hear. Before I could speak or even move, Jason had settled himself into my lap, his arms around my neck. Yes, once again he beat Mitchell to it. Mitchell knelt down by the chair and tried to hug us both.

"Don't cry, Dad," Jason whispered in my ear.

"Oh, Jason... These are the best ....(choke)...tears I've ever shed. (Sniff)...These are happy tears, joyful tears. I wouldn't stop these ... (sniff)... tears even if I could. I love you boys so much."

"Jason and I love you too, Dad."

Later that night, after the boys had gone to bed, I was sitting in my chair contemplating the newfound joys of hearing them call me Dad when I heard one of them coming down the stairs. I looked up as Mitchell appeared beside me. He just stood there in his pj's, looking at me with eyes that were all red and puffy, clear signs that he had been crying. My heart went out to this 17 year old who so seldom shed tears. Remembering what he had said earlier, I patted my lap.

"Come on, Mitchell. You're not too old or too big to sit here."

He practically collapsed onto my lap, burying his head in my neck and wrapping his arms around my back. I felt his body shaking with his sobs as I rubbed his back and nuzzled my cheek against the side of his head. When he had finally calmed down, I asked him what was wrong.

He turned onto his side and pulled his arms in against his chest, resting his head on my chest just below my chin.

"I couldn't sleep, Dad. I was lying upstairs thinking about Jason, and me, and you, and my other Dad, and I started crying and couldn't stop."

"Well, son, that happens to all of us at one time or another. You seem to be able to bottle up your emotions, or at least your tears, with a pretty strong dam. But once in a while something happens that simply can't be contained, the dam breaks, and the tears fall. Guys like me have pretty weak dams so we cry more often. Stronger dams hold back more tears, though, so when they break, the tears really pour. What broke your dam, Mitchell?"

"I was just thinking about Jason, and how I reacted when I walked in on him and Alex. That got me thinking about our other Dad and how he would probably have reacted. Then I started getting really confused, and everything got all jumbled up, and I didn't know how to feel or what was right."

He had started crying again by this time, so I just stroked his back and his hair and whispered expressions of love and encouragement to him. When he had regained control, he continued.

"I love my other Dad, Dad, but when I think of what I did to Jason and how it was due to the stuff my other Dad had fed me about homosexuals, I get really mad at him. I mean, I love Jason with all my heart, Dad. He's always been so precious to me, and I almost lost him. And if my other Dad were still alive, I would have lost him. Our other Dad would have reacted even worse than I did, and instead of helping me see things as you did, he would have justified everything I said and did. And I would have lost Jason forever."

The love Mitchell felt for his little brother was obvious by the fact that he couldn't say any more than that without crying again. By this time, my own tears were flowing down my cheeks. Love does that to me to this day. Once again I let Mitchell calm down and continue on his own.

"That's what gets so confusing, Dad. If my other Dad were still here, I'd have him and Mom, but I would have lost Jason. So I don't know whether to be happy or sad that he's gone! SHIT! I'm so fucked up!"

He started crying again.

"Shhh, Mitchell. It's OK. You can feel both of those emotions, sad that your Mom and Dad are gone, but happy that you and Jason still have each other. There's nothing wrong with that. Those emotions don't have to be in conflict with each other."

"But if it weren't for you, Dad, I might still have lost Jason. I love you so much! Right now, I think I love you more than my other Dad."

I wasn't prepared for that, and it took me a minute to think of something to say.

"Well, Mitchell, I suppose that's OK. I mean, your other Dad has been gone for a while now, so it's understandable that as you get used to him being gone you can feel more love for the living than for the memory of someone who has died. But I would never want you to stop loving Tom. He was a good man and a good father except for his hang ups about homosexuals, and you should always remember that.

I know I love you as much as I could if you were really my son. I often wish that I could do something to make you mine for real. But short of adoption, that's not likely to happen. It's nice to hear you guys call me Dad, though, because I never thought that would happen."

We sat like that for a long time. After about 30 minutes, I realized Mitchell had fallen asleep. My legs also went to sleep from the weight of his body in my lap, but I wasn't about to complain. I just sat there and continued to rub his back gently, thanking God for putting me where I was.

Eventually, however, it was time for me to get to bed. Mitchell was too heavy to carry, so I had to wake him. I spoke his name several times and shook him until he woke up. When he was awake, he leaned back a little and turned his face towards mine.

"Now I know why Jason has always wanted to sit in your lap, Dad. This has been really neat." Then he leaned up and kissed my cheek as I hugged him fiercely.

The next morning at church, the boys joined me when I came down from the choir loft to kneel at the communion rail. As we knelt waiting for the wine and bread, the boys each took one of my hands and we prayed together. When I looked up, I saw that Alex and his family had come to the rail next to Jason, and Alex was holding Jason's other hand. I felt as blessed at that moment as I ever had in my life. The only thing that could have made it better would have been the presence of my daughter and her family. But they worshiped at a different church across town.

Almost every Friday, Alex would eat dinner at our house. The episode, as we called it, was often a subject of conversation, and I thought this was good. Getting the issue of the boys' relationship out in the open at home helped all of us, especially Mitchell. About three weeks after the episode, Alex was telling us of the entry he had made in his diary that night. Mitchell seemed amazed that this kid as he affectionately called him actually cried so hard he gave himself a nosebleed.

"You mean you actually bled on your diary?"

"Yeah! Two big drops, plop, ker-plop! I had blood all over my hand and arm by the time I got to the bathroom."

When he got to the part about all the guys being in one JOC or another, I stupidly had to ask what that meant. If I'd thought about it a second or two, it would probably have come to me. But as it were, I became the brunt of some good-hearted kidding.

"I don't understand, Alex. Do you mean the guys at school share those things?"

They all burst out laughing while I got red in the face. And of course that just made them laugh harder.

"Geez, Dad, you don't know what a JOC is?" asked Jason with a big grin.

"Well, sure, a jock is either an athlete or something you wear in sports to keep your precious little itty-bitty parts from getting mangled."

Mitchell laughed hardest at that one.

"Yeah, itty-bitty fits these guys all right! HA HA HA!"

"Oh hush, Mitchell. For a guy who doesn't eat meat, you sure carry enough around with ya all the time!"

Alex laughed and Mitchell turned red. That got me to laughing.

"So, explain it to me Alex."

"Well, it's not jock, J-O-C-K. It's J-O-C. Short for Jack Off Club. All the guys in jr high joke about being JOCS, that's Jack Off Club Studs. A lot of 'em are in one. Some are in more than one."

"Oh yeah? Which ones are you guys in? And how many?"

"Geez, Dad! Isn't that a little personal?" Jason answered, laughing.

"Hey, Alex brought it up!"

"Well, we aren't in any. But we're thinking of namin' the ones we know about."

Oh, kewl!" Mitchell added. "Let's see, we could have the LAP's and the TAD's."

"Or the DEO's."

"And the KYHY's."

"Wait a minute guys!" I hollered, chuckling at their fun.

"You guys must be mind readers. You all seem to know what you're talking about. Clue me in here."

"Well, the TAD's would be Touch Another Dick and the LAP's would be Lick Another Prick."

"I wanna be in that one!" exclaimed Jason, laughing even harder.

"Jason! Shut your mouth!" Alex exclaimed, getting red in the face again.

"And the DEO's would be the Do Each Other's," Jason continued, followed just as quickly by Alex.

"And the KYHY's would be the Keep Your Hands to Yourself group!"

By this time we were all laughing ourselves silly. Jason finally caught his breath and added some more, followed quickly by Alex and then Mitchell.

"Hey, how about the Sooners, Nooners and Nighttimers"

"Or the Seedless and Midnighters."

"And the Daytimers and the Tutors!"

"Wait a minute!" I said, laughing along with them. "I got most of those, but what are the Sooners, Seedless and Tutors?"

I thought I knew what a couple of them were, but I wanted to hear the boys explain themselves.

Jason defined the Sooners as those who'd sooner jack off than eat. Without thinking, Mitchell asked "eat what?" and we ALL turned red.

Alex said the Seedless would be that group of 7th graders than didn't cum yet, and he and I turned red.

And Mitchell explained the most obvious.

"The Tutors would be guys like me who teach the younger ones all the different ways to do it!"

No sooner had the words left his lips than all of us were struck by what he said. Three of us stared at him slack-jawed as his face turned thirteen shades of red. By the time he got to shade eight we were all laughing and his laughter added pigment to the next five shades.

We had hardly begun to breathe properly when Jason said, "I wondered what subject you were tutoring the year mom and dad died!"

That cracked us all up. Even the reference to his parents' death didn't dampen our mood. As we calmed down and began clearing the dinner dishes from the table, I reflected on the whole conversation. I was glad that the subject had come up, and we'd been able to laugh about it, because it had allowed the boys to let go and refer to their parents' death with levity rather than with sorrow.

... to be continued

© 2000 by Dan. All rights reserved.

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