However bad things may seem at any given moment, they aren’t worth dying for.
Things do get better and dreams do come true.
I never win anything… ever. Want an example or two? No? Well my sister bought me a lottery ticket every Christmas for six years. I never once got even one matching number. I went to a 4H sewing club year-end celebration. There were five guys there and they had draws for four hats. Guess who didn’t win one. Then the National lottery. Within the first month it reached a record $60,000,000… no winner. Then by the end of the second month $120,000,000.
The day after the draw I was watching the local news broadcast. Once again we were told about all the important events the powers that be wanted us to focus on. A pianist, who I guess plays the piano for a living, was cutting a rump roast up into rump steaks. Occasionally he would toss a little piece to his dog. Not being a physical labourer, he was not very skilled at using a knife and separated the index finger of his left hand from the rest of his left hand at the second knuckle. Apparently this makes playing the piano rather difficult. In his panic to stop the bleeding and dial 911, he knocked his finger off the counter and his dog swallowed it. He was rushed to the hospital, with his dog, and after some effort the doctors were able to sedate the dog and retrieve his somewhat discoloured finger and reattach it. Lucky bugger, right?
Well, somewhere in the news broadcast they mentioned the lottery winner was from my city. You know where this is going, don’t you? I listened carefully to the winning numbers, 07 26 27 31 32 33 42, found my ticket and read my numbers. They were 07 23 25 28 30 35 40. I got one number right… finally. If it wasn’t for bad luck, I’d… you know the song. I mean, even the clumsy pianist got his finger sewn back on, after they got his dog to puke it up. I got one number right… one number.
But luck or no luck, all was not lost. As of the end of February, I was officially, finally, retired. However, it wasn’t long before I was also officially getting bored. Wasn’t retirement supposed to be fun? Take a trip I was told, get a new hobby, volunteer, take a course or two. Take a course or two? What the hell? I didn’t need more education. I had enough of that crap in high school and university. I was supposed to be relaxing and having fun, not studying for exams.
Unfortunately, with my luck, education it was to be, and my education began in the most horrific way possible. On my way home from visiting friends one evening, a boy purposely stepped in front of my car. Thank goodness I wasn’t going as fast as he thought I was, and I was quick enough to hit the brakes before I hit him. But I did hit him.
Do you have any idea how horrifying that is? I hit a boy with my car and I saw his face a second before he went down. I will never forget that look. As long as I live, I will never forget that look.
He was in hospital for six weeks and in an induced coma for one of those weeks. Since I had a lot of free time, I spent most of that time at the hospital. At no time did anyone come to see him except a social worker. I learned from him the boy’s name was Bradley Anderson. I also learned that he had been in a foster home, and when contacted, his foster father simply responded that he deserved to die. Apparently Bradley was an abomination in God’s eyes.
I was in total disbelief. How could anyone who fostered and cared about kids feel this way? What was Bradley’s supposed problem? Seriously, what the hell? I was already determined to get to know Bradley, but that made me all the more determined. After hearing about his idiot foster father’s view, I had to wonder what the hell had his life been like. Evidently bad enough to make him want to die and step in front of an oncoming car?
Finally, after two weeks, he was moved out of intensive care. The minute they got him settled in to his new room on the ward, I was standing at the door.
When he looked towards the door and saw me, I started to walk slowly towards him.
“Hi Bradly,” I said as I approached his bed.
“Hi,” he responded looking at me closely before asking, “You my new social worker or something?”
“Or something,” I replied, “You remember a blue VW?”
He continued to look at me for a minute or so before responding with, “Oh God, no,” and turned away to face the window.
I immediately made it clear that I wasn’t there to give him any crap. I was there because I was worried about him and wanted to make sure he was okay.
When I said, “Make sure you’re okay,” he turned, and with tears in his eyes, simply said, “I’m never going to be okay.”
“Maybe I can help make things okay,” I responded.
“Why would you do that?” he asked, “You don’t even know me.”
“I know you’re hurting,” I told him, “And no one your age should ever be hurting as much as you obviously are.”
“What if I’m possessed by Satan?” he asked with a distinct edge to his voice.
“Possessed by Satan?” I asked.
He just looked at me.
“You believe that?” I added to try to get an honest response.
“You serious? No I don’t believe in Satan,” he responded coldly, “Or religion, it’s fucking bullshit.”
“So you’re kind of okay then?” I questioned, “except for those bruises.”
He looked at me again for a minute or two with a seriously questioning expression.
Then he totally focused his eyes on mine and asked, “Would you still want to help make things okay if you knew I was a faggot? If you knew I like dick? If you knew I like to suck dick? If you knew I like sitting on dick?”
I just smiled at him and asked, “Is that supposed to be some kind of deal breaker or something?”
This time I got the big look of disbelief, as he said, “You’re joking, right?”
“Bradley, being gay is seriously no big deal,” I answered, “I mean what the fuck? Who cares? It’s just who you love, or maybe, at your age, what you love…like dick. It sure as hell doesn’t define who you are as a person. And it has dick all to do with being possessed. Oh, and I’d prefer it if you used the word gay, not faggot.”
Okay, now the ultimate look of disbelief.
I sat on the edge of his bed and immediately had a sobbing boy in my arms. About five minutes later, he pulled back, looked me in the eyes, and said in the most plaintive voice I’ve ever heard, “Please be for real.”
I simply pulled him into a tighter hug as he rested his head against my shoulder, his forehead touching my cheek and just sighed. After several minutes of silent hugs, I could feel his body relax. I think he had finally convinced himself that somebody actually cared.
I learned a lot about Bradley over the next couple of days. Being treated like Satanic crap at his foster home, as horrible as it was, was not his only problem. To save his soul, Bradley had been enrolled in some Pentecostal-run bible school, and his life at school was equally horrific. Hardly a minute went by between bullying episodes. Nothing was ever done to prevent it or reduce it, as the other students were simply ‘trying to help him,’ and/or were ‘expressing their religious freedom.’ Along with everything else, he was assigned to a counsellor for an hour a day prayer session, asking their god to release him from his gay demons.
I no longer wondered why he stepped in front of my car. It was obviously just a matter of time. What really brought tears to my eyes was learning that being hit by my car was his fifteenth birthday present to himself.
For all my self-satisfying self-pity about lottery numbers, in my teens I had had real parents who loved me, fed me, supplied a roof over my head, and I had friends, lots of them. I wasn’t isolated, or stuck in some horrible religious school, and I didn’t spend any of my time in fear of what the next day might bring. This was so not the case for Bradley… and I became determined to change that for him.
We spent pretty much every minute of the day’s visiting hours together during the few weeks until he was to be released. Once he was allowed, I think we wandered over every square inch of the hospital and hospital grounds. Bradley, or Brad, when he could relax and be himself, was a total sweetheart. He loved to run, laugh, joke, get serious and philosophical, and above all, be held. Heaven to Brad was a quick hug, or better yet, a long cuddle. When the time came, his boyfriend would have to be a serious cuddler.
I worked with his social worker on the side, and when his release date arrived, he had a new foster home, his ninth. His new foster father was quite a nice guy actually, and a pretty lucky guy to be honest. That would be me by the way. Social worker approval or not, there was no doubt in Brad’s mind who he was going to accept as family. He had met his big foster brother, Scott, who was a mere thirty years older than him, and his foster sister-in-law Marsha. He also met his three foster nephews, Ryan 19, Jason 14, and Marshall 17. Jason being the only one who was younger than him. But being the sweet kid he is, he didn’t expect them to call him Uncle Brad all the time. Oh yeah, and none of them gave a rat’s ass that he was gay. In fact, Marshall offered to introduce him to Kyle, who was apparently 16, very cute… and very single.
When Marshall and I went to pick him up on his release day from the hospital, I can honestly say I’ve never seen a happier teenager. He never stopped talking the whole trip home. Of course Marshall was close to being just as happy as he was, so the non-stop conversation was, thankfully between the two of them, and I could actually focus on driving.
When we pulled into the driveway, he just silently stared at the house. Then, without warning, he jumped out of the car, ran to the front door, punched in the code I’d given him, and disappeared into the house. Marshall wasn’t far behind. After closing all three car doors, I made my way into the house. From the excited voices, I knew Brad had found his bedroom. As I got to his door, there he was, stretched out on his bed, grin from ear to ear, pointing out everything in the room, with Marshall just standing there laughing.
When he saw me, he jumped up, ran over, and gave me a big hug.
“I can’t believe this is mine,” he exclaimed, “All mine. Thank you… Dad.”
Okay, that crossed a line, and it was all I could do to keep tearing up. It was the first time he had actually called me Dad, and not Jeff. Marshal noticed and gave me the biggest grin ever.
Just then, Marshall’s phone rang.
“Yep, we’re here,” was all he said.
I didn’t think anything of it until there was a knock on the door. When Marshall jumped up and ran to the door, I began to wonder what was up. I didn’t have to wonder for long. About a minute later he walked in the door with a very cute, and apparently very shy young man.
“Hey Brad,” he said with a grin, “I’d like you to meet my best friend, Kyle.”
Okay, time to retreat to the kitchen for a coffee and leave the boys to do their thing. I was a bit surprised when he introduced Kyle as ‘my best friend,’ but I still had to grin to myself. Marshall wasn’t wasting any time setting Brad and Kyle up. About an hour later, the boys came out and Marshall announced they were going to the park, if that was okay. Obviously it was, and they were gone. It felt so good to see how quickly Marshall was including Brad in his life, making it so much better than it seems it had been, and since Brad and Kyle seemed to be standing quite close to each other, apparently Kyle’s life might be getting better too.
When the boys finally returned, some three hours later, it was quite obvious they had found a football or soccer game going on in the park. It was also quite obvious that it had rained yesterday. All three of them were covered in mud from head to toe, and obviously the only pair of jeans I bought for Brad hadn’t even made it through a day unscathed, and one pair wasn’t going to be enough.
I have to say, I was relieved when Marshall and Kyle decided that maybe heading home to shower and change was a good thing. For a few seconds I was imagining a whole new dilemma. I had raised a son who had girlfriends and that was relatively easy. Now I had a son who would have, or already had, a boyfriend. I had no idea of the protocol involved if Marshall had suggested a shared shower, you know, so Brad and Kyle could get to know each other better. I know it’s no big deal with in-school locker room showers, but they’re not quite as cramped for space. So hmm, in the future should I do an internet search, or trust my gut instincts. Since I didn’t need some pathological haters up my ass, I decided on gut instincts.
After a shower, Brad appeared in the kitchen in his very tacky old jeans. When I asked him what he would like for dinner, he asked what I wanted. When I suggested pork chops since I had them thawing in the fridge, he took over. Well, let me tell you, I haven’t tasted anything close to as good as what he created. Pork chops, mashed potatoes, gravy, baby carrots, and Caesar salad. All put together in less than an hour. Was my luck changing? Oh yeah. But, if this was going to happen often, my luck had better stay changed, or weight was going to become a problem.
Not surprisingly, a few minutes after we finished cleaning up, the front door opened and we now had company. Marshall, Kyle, Jason, Karen (I think), and Angie walked into the kitchen. Marshall had two DVD’s with him and invited me to join them to watch The Martian and Seashore. Okay three young couples and an old man watching movies together? I wasn’t too sure if this would be wise or not. As I listened to them chatting away, I also saw my quiet solitary existence disappearing… yes!!!
I decided I would watch one movie with them and then leave them to enjoy the second one on their own. It was decided that Seashore would be movie number one. Now I have never watched a gay-themed movie before, but I must say I enjoyed this one. It wasn’t the most riveting drama I’ve ever seen, but it did explore the relationship between two teens, one gay and one supposedly not. It also explored a bit about how a parent’s ignorance or attitudes can influence a child’s fears and emotions even into young adulthood. We actually discussed it a bit before I took my leave and left them to enjoy movie number two.
During The Martian, Marshall appeared once, and Brad appeared once. Both appearances were for food or beverages. Marshall did find cheese, crackers and peanut butter, and Brad did find orange juice and grapefruit juice. He passed on the grapefruit juice though. Okay, snack food, juice, and soda pop, would now be on my grocery list. By about 11:30 everyone had gone home and Brad and I were on our own. I got a big hug as he curled up beside me to watch the news.
“I couldn’t even imagine life being this good,” he said quietly during a commercial.
“I’m glad you’re happy here. You deserve to be happy,” I replied, which got me another big hug.
He didn’t quite make it to the end of the news before he kissed me on the cheek and headed for bed.
He was up bright and early the next morning. After the muddy jeans episode, we had decided a shopping trip was in order. We had discussed his tacky old jeans last night, which included a big rip caused by him hitting the pavement. It hadn’t taken me half a second to decide they had to go.
Brad’s response was emphatic though. “This rip is the reason I’m here,” he stated, “These jeans will always remind me of what my life was and what it is now. They will remind me of how you came into my life. They represent my first taste of love.”
How could I argue with that? They represented everything he ever dreamt of and felt he now had. Their sentimental value was immeasurable and it took me less than another half second to decide they would never go.
Shopping meant we needed help. Since Brad had never actually shopped for clothes, and my taste in clothes might be a little outdated, it was decided that Kyle, Jason, Marshall, and Ryan would meet us at the mall. If you have never been shopping for boy’s clothes with five boys, don’t. Five boys means five ideas of what’s cool. We had several discussions, no arguments though, about shirts, T’s versus regular, bands or whatever that should or should not be displayed on them. Then boxers versus boxer briefs; tighty-whities didn’t stand a chance. Then shoes, leather versus canvas, runner’s vs casual, high-tops versus regular, Adidas, Puma, Nike, Salomon, Vans, versus whatever. I can’t really say it was fun, but it was definitely interesting, and I now know what kind of underwear each of my grandsons wears. Interestingly, it was Kyle who made all the key decisions if Brad couldn’t make up his mind.
Since I would have five boys for dinner, it was decided unanimously that pizza was a health food, and we should order at least three extra-large; pepperoni, Hawaiian, and vegetarian, not because any of them are vegetarian, but we do need our veggies. We didn’t forget Pepsi, BBQ traditional wings, Hershey’s Chipits cookies, and chocolate dunkers, or good old-fashioned Cinnaparts from the pizza place, all for a group of ten. And leftovers, you ask? Not even a single chocolate chip.
I wasn’t too sure about eating in a half-circle on the living room floor, while watching The Force Awakens, was a good idea, but it worked. As I watched the boys, I knew Brad was loving his new life, but I was loving mine too. Maybe I didn’t win the lottery, but I had won something much better.
The boys stayed until almost midnight. Apparently they were helping Brad fold his new clothes and put them away. As they were getting ready to leave, I got a look from Brad that I had never seen before. I soon came to recognize it though. Combined with Marshall’s smile, it was his ‘Can Kyle sleep over?’ look. I glanced at Ryan and got a smile and a shrug, which was no help at all. Jason giggled which really didn’t help. Kyle’s look was much the same as Brad’s.
Finally, I just decided ‘what the hell.’ This boy had tried to kill himself because life was intolerable. Maybe it was time his life became excellent. I said, “Yes,” and got the biggest hug ever. I think he was as excited as I would have been if I’d won that freakin’ lottery. Then again, maybe he did. All other things aside, he knew he was finally loved by me, by his nephews, and yes, by Kyle. This was their first sleepover, but certainly not their last. Sleepovers were also not just confined to our place, and it seems Kyle’s folks were well aware of the relationship their son was having with mine.
I met Kyle’s mom and dad when we invited them over for a big family BBQ. Well I say family, but that included close to a dozen new friends Brad now had thanks to Marshall and Kyle. You see, like a good nephew and boyfriend, they were nice enough to share.
Today was also a big day of celebration. In fact, it was so special that even the youngest were allowed to, albeit a small, enjoy a glass of champagne. You see, today was the day that Bradley Anderson became Bradley McKinley, the newest member of the McKinley clan. That’s my clan by the way, in case you didn’t catch that. I was no longer his foster dad, I was officially and legally Brad’s dad.
As the party progressed, we even had some neighbours come over to see what we were celebrating. Not surprisingly several of them ran home to grab a steak or ribs of their own. Some came back with potato salad, green salad, ice cream, cake, squares, and even champagne. Brad was quite surprised to realise that even the neighbours cared about him and were happy for him.
As I looked over my backyard, BBQ smoking, Frisbee flying, football flying, basketball bouncing… full of kids with their boyfriends and girlfriends, and family, and neighbours, I think how we so often look at ourselves and find something to complain about. I started off whining about being unlucky, but in all honesty, I’m the luckiest man alive. I was raised by a family who loved me, then raised a family who love me, who are now raising a family who love me, and if that didn’t make me lucky enough, I get to raise Brad who loves me, and his sweet, cuddly, very acceptable, young boyfriend, Kyle.
As Brad reminded me, with a grin and a hug before we went to bed, dreams can come true, and when they do we need to be here to enjoy them.
Thanks to Colin for editing, prepping, and posting this story for me.
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This story may contain occasional references to minors who are or may be gay. If it were a movie, it would be rated PG13 (in a more enlightened time it would be rated G). If reading this type of material is illegal where you live, or if you are too young to read this type of material based on the laws where you live, or if your parents don't want you to read this type of material, or if you find this type of material morally or otherwise objectionable, or if you don't want to be here, close your browser now. The author neither condones nor advocates the violation of any laws. If you want to be here, but aren't supposed to be here, be careful and don't get caught!