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A Coming Out Story
As some of you know, I came out to my wife in February, and to my oldest son, who is 15, in April. I have been struggling with how to tell my 13 year old younger son Mark for the past 3 months.
Mark and I went camping this past weekend - just the two of us. We spent a full day of hiking and looking for wild life in the water and building a fire and cooking hotdogs and marshmallows on sticks (remember what it was like to be 13 years old?). As we ate, I told Mark that I knew he was aware that his mother and I were having problems but that we were doing pretty well and trying to work them out. I told him that I had told her something that she had some trouble handling at first, but she was doing much better with it - and it was something I wanted him to know. I talked a lot about being truthful. He was poking a stick into the fire, and not looking directly at me. I told him that I am gay.
He said: "You?" - kind of like he didn't know whether to believe me or not. But because of how serious I was, he knew that it must be true.
"Yes, me. I know it's hard to imagine, because here I am married with a couple of kids and I'm gay. That's not what most people would think could happen."
He nodded. I said: "I didn't know that something like that could happen, but it's true. And I love your Mom, and I love you and your brother, and I don't and never will regret having you. I want you to understand that." He thought a while. He wasn't poking the fire anymore. "Do you understand what I mean when I say I'm gay?"
"Does it matter to you?"
I said, "I told Rick about it." He knows that Rick is my best friend. He must know at some level that Rick is not gay. "Do you know what Rick said? ‘OK. That's cool.’ So it didn't matter to Rick." I was cleaning up the dishes now. "Are you sure that it doesn't matter to you?"
So I changed the subject, but whenever I'd ask him a question, he'd go back to poking at the fire and shrug his shoulders. I started to feel like maybe I had made a mistake in telling him. I started thinking that we all need heroes, and if my wife was right and I was his hero, maybe I had just blown it for him. Maybe I should have waited. And I was feeling pretty sad thinking about that.
But I also thought that I couldn't be someone I'm not, and I hoped that someday he'd be OK with it.
We both stared into the fire. At times he got up and blew at the coal-bed to get the fire going a little better, and at other times I would do the same. One time while he was blowing into the fire and poking around with a stick he moved close to me and stooped down just to the right of my right knee and I really wanted to hug him. But I thought I shouldn't. I didn't want to do anything that might make him upset.
Around 8:30, I said I was cold and went to the car to put on some long pants. We roasted a few more marshmallows. Then I suggested that we grab our chairs and go over to the field just on the other side of the trees and look for dragonflies, bats and shooting stars. So we did. We never saw any bats, but we did hear a screech owl. After a long time, I saw a shooting star, and shortly afterward, he did too. Around 10:00 he was yawning and I asked him if he was bored. He said: "No." But he looked tired, and we turned in.
I slept badly. I was still upset that I had hurt him somehow. When the sky started getting light, I opened my eyes. He raised his head up off his pillow and looked at me and waved, and then rolled over and went back to sleep.
He slept until 8:30, and I just lay there and watched him. When he seemed to be awake, I asked him if he wanted hot cocoa, and he shrugged his shoulders. I started getting discouraged again. So I told him that I wouldn't twist his arm, and got up and made some for myself.
He dressed and came outside. As I drank my cocoa, he poked around in the firebed and stirred up some hot coals and set some napkins on fire while I sat on a log and watched him. We didn't say much. I asked him if he wanted to go check out the brook that ran next to our campsite, and he shrugged his shoulders again. So we got our socks and shoes off, and picked up our walking sticks and headed off to the brook. We climbed on the rocks and stepped into the water, and poked around for maybe a half hour - and then we packed everything up and left the camp.When we got home he seemed to be acting normal. He was a big "X Files" fan, and in the evening he asked me if I would watch it with him. But by the time the episode reached its scariest point, he fell asleep. So I woke him up and suggested he go to bed and get some sleep, and then I shut off the TV and went to bed. It was way too scary for me.
As my wife and I were getting ready to go to bed, she said: "I want to prepare you for something: Mark said that he told his friend Paul that the next time you go camping that maybe you'd take Paul along, too. He said Paul's dad does take him places, but that it's kind of boring."
Well, I started feeling better again thinking that maybe I hadn't lost him after all.
Since last week end he keeps track of me more than he used to. He always seems to want to know where I am, where I'm going, and when I'll be back. I think he's afraid that I'll leave them. Someday that may happen but for now I'm not thinking about it.