Jason announces to his family that he’s gay. His sisters and his father tell him that it doesn’t make any difference, they love him regardless of whether he’s gay or straight or whatever. But what about his mother? Can she come to accept that her son is gay?
Betty dialed Mrs. Cantham’s number and listened to the phone ring. ‘Maybe she isn’t home,’ she thought, with not just a little relief. It was a very short lived relief, however, because the phone was answered.
“Cantham residence.” It sounded like a boy about Jason’s age, who she assumed was Jason’s friend Ron.
“This is Betty Phillips. May I speak with Mrs. Cantham?”
She heard the noise as the telephone handset was put down on a table, and then the boy saying, “Mom! It’s for you. I think it’s Jase’s mother!”
A few seconds passed and the phone was picked up.
“Hello, this is Tammy Cantham. Is this Mrs. Phillips?”
“Yes, Betty Phillips. I’m Jason’s mother.”
“It’s nice to hear from you. Jason and Ron have been best friends for such a long time, and I’ve been looking forward to meeting and speaking with you. I should have phoned you, but I work and you know how that is. Even with just one teenage boy and my husband there’s always a lot of things to do around the house when I get home, and soon it’s time for bed.”
“Yes, I do know. With two daughters and a son, two of them teens, well, sometimes they’re a joy to have around. Hmm.... You wouldn’t want to borrow them for a few weeks, would you?” Betty laughed, “No, I’m sure you wouldn’t.”
“Well, I might borrow Jason the next time the lawn needs to be mowed,” Tammy laughed. “Actually, he’s always helpful when he’s here, helping clean up after the boys have a snack, helping Ron with chores like watering the potted plants on the patio, and helping to take the trash cans out to the curb. He’s kind and polite and friendly and is always smiling. I’m sure you’re very proud of your son.”
Betty paused for a couple of seconds before answering. What Tammy Cantham said about Jason was true, Betty was proud of her son, and it was something that she almost forgot. “Yes, I am. Thank you.”
“Well, let me get to the reason why I wanted to talk to you, and asked Jason to have you give me a call. Jason probably told you that I’m a child psychologist. He told me you do Braille translation, and I sometimes deal with blind children. I’ve always felt that I don’t provide counseling that’s relevant for them. I’d like to learn more about Braille, how it works and what it might be like for a child to try to learn Braille. I’d like to take you to lunch someday soon and you can educate me about Braille based on your experience as a translator.”
“That sounds fine. I’m also looking forward to meeting you, Tammy. I’m available most any time except the first Tuesday of each month when we have our Braille Transcribers Association meetings.”
“Well, how about tomorrow? I don’t have appointments on Thursday mornings and I stay home to catch up on my paperwork. I live two blocks from you, at 2153 Linden, so if it’s alright, why don’t you walk over to my house around eleven fifteen and we’ll get an early start on lunch. Do you like Mexican food?”
“Actually, I love Mexican food.”
“Then we’ll go to The Cantina and get an outdoor table overlooking the creek. I’ll drive. The Cantina has a small lot and street parking can be a problem. Getting there early takes care of that. So, I’ll see you between eleven fifteen and eleven thirty.”
“I think we should go Dutch.”
“No, this was my idea and I’m going to be picking your brain about Braille, so I’ll pay for both our meals.”
“I insist we go Dutch, and I think you’ll agree. I’ll explain the reason when we meet tomorrow.”
“Alright, but I can be a hard sell when it comes to paying for lunch. I’ll see you tomorrow, Betty. Bye.”
Betty put down the phone. This seemed to be going very well. She would have lunch with Tammy Cantham and answer her questions about Braille, then ask her questions about Jason and if there’s a way to tell if he’s actually gay or just experimenting the way Doctor Byers suggested. Actually, she realized, what he suggested was only an alternative to Jason being gay. She headed upstairs to tell Jason about her meeting tomorrow. As usual, his bedroom door was open and he was sitting at his desk with a textbook and a spiral notebook open, hunched over and staring at the textbook, chewing on the eraser end of a pencil. Betty knocked on the door, making sure to do so softly so Jason wouldn’t be startled. He looked up and when he saw her he smiled. She returned a smile.
“Hi, Jase. You look very absorbed in your homework so I’ll just take a moment. I talked to Ron Cantham’s mother and we’re going to have lunch tomorrow. She told me that she’s interested in how Braille might help children she sees who are blind.”
Jason put down his pencil. “Does she see a lot of blind kids?”
“I don’t know. I’ll find that out tomorrow. I’ll let you get back to your homework now.”
“Okay, thanks Mom. Oh! I forgot something. I have a meeting with Mr. Brockton after school tomorrow. I want to ask him if I can take the Algebra 2 and Trig class and the AP Statistics class together next year.”
“Are you sure you want to take an Advanced Placement class in your sophomore year? Those classes are college level, and have much more homework than your regular classes.”
“I’m not sure about that. It’s one of the things I want to ask about. I read an article in Sunday’s paper about how much homework they give in high school now compared to way back when you were in high school in the olden days.”
Jason grinned, and Betty stuck her tongue out at him and chuckled. “Olden days? Indeed!”
“Anyway, the article said in high school now we have three to four hours of homework a day. The article said that when kids get to college they find that there’s less homework than what they had in high school. I want to talk to Mr. Brockton and find out if that’s true for AP Statistics, and if I can take it at the same time as Algebra 2 and Trig. If I take the AP Statistics class next year and Pre-Calc when I’m a junior, then I can take AP Calculus AB and BC both in my senior year. That’s a whole year and a half of math classes I won’t have to take when I get to college. Another thing is that in high school the AP Statistics class is a whole year compared to one semester in college, so the homework will be spread out.”
“Well, I’m impressed by how much you know already. If you already know all of this, why do you need to talk to Mr. Brockton?”
“He’s the head of the math department, and I have to have his approval to take the AP Statistics class at the same time I’m taking the Algebra 2 and Trig class as a sophomore.”
“You mean that class isn’t for sophomores?”
“Yeah, it usually isn’t. The course handbook lists it for eleventh and twelfth grades.”
“Well, let me know what he tells you. How are you doing in your Spanish 3 class?”
“A lot better. Ms. Grimbauer told me I’ve brought my grade up to an A, and if I keep it up I’ll have an A for my final grade. The reading is easy, but there’s a lot more writing in Spanish 3 and that’s a lot tougher for me.”
“How about Geometry?”
“I have A’s on all of my quizzes and homework so far this semester. Geometry is pretty easy.”
“Geometry is easy? That was one of the most difficult classes I had in high school.”
“I don’t know, I just find math easy. Anyway, I’ll talk to Mr. Brockton about this after school tomorrow. I’ll probably stop at Ron’s on the way home so we can do our homework together.”
“Alright. Be sure to be home by five. Your dad will be back tomorrow night and I’m sure he has a lot of tales to tell about that overpass construction project he’s working on in Davis.”
After his mother had left his room Jason sat at his desk and smiled. Even though he’d fibbed a bit about why he was seeing Mr. Brockton after school, the part that he’d told her was true and he’d just sort of accidentally on purpose skipped the GSA part. Even better, everything seemed to be back the way it always had been before he said he was gay. The way she’d reacted past few days were just an anomaly. ‘Anomaly.’ That was a good word, a word that carried a lot of emotion, a word that when he said it or read it made him feel just like he felt when his mom had mostly ignored him. Words were strange that way, the way that a word could make him feel, or that could sound like what it meant. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly.
He remembered that he was supposed to phone Ron and tell him how it went. He picked up his cell and speed dialed Ron’s cell.
“Hello, big boy.” Jason heard Ron laughing in the background. “I assume it was your mom that called mine, right?”
“Yeah, it went great. You should ask your mom about it and we can compare notes at school tomorrow. I gotta get back to my Geometry homework.”
“I’ll do that. See ya in the a.m.”
“See ya, lover boy.” Jason laughed as he disconnected the call.
‘Okay,’ he said to himself, ‘now recheck these problems so I can keep my A average. I need to get A’s so I can take the AP classes I want when I’m a sophomore — and after that, too.’
At the Cantham’s, a couple blocks from the Phillips’ home, Ron walked into the living room and sat down on the sofa next to his mother.
“Hey, Mom. Did you talk to Jason’s mom? Are you meeting her?”
“Yes to both. We’re going to lunch tomorrow.”
“Did she mention anything about Jason being gay?”
“No. And that’s the last question from you that I’m going to answer. The rest is client confidential.”
“Oh, wow! Does that mean I can’t ask Jason any questions anymore since he’s sort of your client too?” Ron grinned.
“Don’t ask silly questions, Ron.” Tammy couldn’t keep from smiling, which ruined the feigned irritation she had tried to use to impress her son.
Norm, Ron’s father, looked up from the book he was reading. “What’s this about Jason being gay? We’ve known that.”
“We’ve known that Jason is gay, but on Sunday he announced that fact to his family. His father and sisters are fine about it and they said they support and love him, but his mother appears to have problems accepting his sexuality. Jason was here this afternoon and we arranged a bit of subterfuge. Betty Phillips and I are going out to lunch at The Cantina tomorrow. She transcribes textbooks into Braille, and I’m interested in learning about Braille so I understand it when I have clients who are blind. The subterfuge is that I want to bring up that I know that Jason is gay and then talk about PFLAG and talk her into going to the meeting next Tuesday.”
“Think she’ll do it?” Norm asked. “The idea of going to a PFLAG meeting where everyone there will find out that her son is gay could cause her to be reluctant.”
“I expect that I can convince her to attend a meeting. If she’s reluctant, I’ll suggest that she can go anonymously.”
“What if she sees someone there that she knows?” Ron asked.
“Actually, that would be a good thing. Anyone who’s there who she knows is someone who has a son or daughter who’s gay. That will provide Betty with someone familiar to talk to and learn how they are coping with having a gay child.”
“Let’s see,” Ron’s dad said, “today’s the thirtieth of March, a Wednesday, so... the first Tuesday in April is...”
Ron interrupted, waving his smartphone. “It’s next Tuesday, the fifth of April.”
“Thank you Ronald, I just about had it figured out,” his dad said, glaring his ‘mean’ expression at Ron who started to laugh. That made his dad laugh as well, and then his mom laughed along with them. When she stopped she took a deep breath.
“Okay, the timing is perfect. Betty Phillips and I are going to lunch tomorrow, and my objective is to convince her that she and her husband should attend the PFLAG meeting next Tuesday.”
“Mom, are you going to tell her that I’m gay? She might think that I turned Jase gay, and because of that she might tell him that he can’t see me any more.”
“I’m going to be very cautious about what I say, Ron. I promise that I won’t say anything that might jeopardize you and Jason being able to see each other. Assume that as far as my conversation with Betty Phillips is concerned, you two are just best friends.”
“Okay, thanks Mom.”
“You’re welcome, Ron.”
The next day Ron stopped at the Phillips’ house to walk to Hillcrest High School with Jason and Jennifer. He rang the doorbell and stood smiling on the front porch. Jen opened the door and came outside, closing it after her.
“Jase will be right out. How’re you doing, Ron?”
“Good as usual. How about you? How are your classes?”
“Oh god, don’t even ask. Except for English 2 and California History and Government I’m sort of struggling. Biology is the real killer. I have Ms. Mateo. You’re not taking Biology yet, are you?”
“No, next year for me.”
“Well, stay away from any class taught by Mateo. She’s a terrible teacher. She gives us a chapter to read, we have to answer the questions at the end of the chapter, and then we do the experiments in class. In class she just sits there and watches for anyone who talks to someone and makes them both stand up and tell the class what they were talking about. I applied for a change to Mr. Carter’s class but it was full. Now I know why.”
Jason came bounding out of the house, followed by Thea, and his mother who closed and locked the door.
“I’m driving Thea to school this morning because she just remembered they have early schedule today. Do you kids want a ride?”
“No thanks, Mom. We’ll walk.” Jen replied.
The three walked to school, talking about the sort of things teens talk about. Jen talked more about her opinion of Ms. Mateo’s teaching capabilities, or more correctly, her lack of teaching capabilities. She said that one of the students in her Biology class is passing around a petition complaining about Ms. Mateo. She said that he told her that he has over sixty signatures already.
The discussion changed to sports, and the success of the Hillcrest basketball team. The team was at home for their next game, and it was against cross-town rival Livingston. Ron received a lot of kidding from Jason and Jen because his father is a teacher at Livingston.
“I don’t care about that. I’m a Hillcrest student and I’m going to the game and I’m rooting for the Eagles. I assume you two are going, right?”
Jen blushed. “Uh, I’m going to a movie Friday night with some friends.”
“Some supporter of our teams you are, Jen! I mean, come on, this is a game for us to hold onto first place. You can go to a movie any time. Go to the game with us!”
“Yeah, sis,” Jason added, “go to the game with me and Ron. Support the Eagles’ basketball team.”
“It’ll be crowded. Maybe we won’t get in. Our gym is small.”
“It’s at the Valley Community College gym. There are reserved seats. You can buy tickets at school today. We got ours day before yesterday. Dads going too.”
“You mean we wouldn’t be sitting together? I’d be all by myself?”
“We’ll go with you and trade in our tickets for three that’ll be together. That’s a bummer because we scored three courtside tickets.”
“Uh... we’ll need five.”
“Wait a minute,” Ron said. “Who’s the other ticket for?”
“Tom? Tom who?”
“Tom Larsen. We’re dating.” She looked at Jason. “It’s nothing serious, just going out to the movies and to grab a burger.”
“So, if you bought tickets today you and Tom would be sitting together. And you probably don’t care if we’re sitting with you. So we don’t have to trade in our courtside tickets. Right?” Ron asked.
“So you’re going to tell Tom Larsen he’s taking you to the Hillcrest basketball game at the Valley College gym and he’s buying the tickets.”
“Yeah, I will.”
“Good.” Ron seemed satisfied.
Now it was Jason’s turn. “I want to know who this Tom Larsen is. As your only brother I want to check out each of your dates to make sure they’re suitable for my big sister.”
“Tell you what little bro, you can check out Tom on Friday at the game. How’s that?”
“No way, sis. Tell you what, let’s go out for some pizza before the game and I can check him out there. We can go to Rocco’s, how’s that?”
“No. Tom’s taking you, so he pays for your pizza and for his.”
“What if I was taking Tom?”
“Then you pay for your pizza and for Tom’s pizza too.”
“Has anyone ever told you how cheap you are, Jason?”
“Yup, it’s one of my most endearing qualities, right Ron?”
“Absolutely! I endear it all the time.”
They arrived at school, and Jason’s first and second period classes went same-as, same-as, as usual. He rushed to his third period Geometry class, and before it started he was able to talk to Mr. Brockton.
“I’d like to talk to you about the math classes I want to take next semester and a couple of other things too. Can you meet with me right after seventh period today?”
“I had an appointment with another student for that time but that was just cancelled, so I’ll fill you into my schedule, Jason.”
“That’s great! Thanks a lot, Mr. Brockton.”
Third and fourth periods seemed to drag more than usual. Jason tried to focus on what the teachers were saying, but he was excited and sat through those classes watching the clock ever so slowly click past each minute. Finally it was lunch period, and he headed for the cafeteria to meet Ron so he could tell him about the meeting with Mr. Brockton after seventh period.
While Jason was heading for the cafeteria Betty was ringing the doorbell at the Cantham home. Tammy Cantham opened the door and smiled.
“I assume you’re Betty Phillips. I’m Tammy Cantham. Come on in for a few minutes.”
Betty smiled as she entered, partially because Tammy was smiling and Betty always smiled when someone she greeted was smiling, and partially because Tammy had the same kind of auburn colored hair as her son.
“Nice you meet you, Tammy.” She looked around as Tammy led her through the entry and past the living room into a family room. “What a nice home you have. It looks new.”
“We did a complete remodel. We started what was supposed to be a quick project three years ago and finally finished just before Thanksgiving last year. I’ll never go through a remodel again. I’ll sell the house and buy something new instead. Can I get you a glass of water or something else to drink?”
“No, thanks. Maybe we should leave for the restaurant just in case parking is a problem.”
“Yes, thanks for reminding me. My car is in the driveway, so let’s head out.”
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