Not Far From the Tree (by Grant Bentley)

Not Far From the Tree

By Grant Bentley

If any nice person, nasty person, place, event, happening, thing, or sport, seems familiar, it is purely coincidental.

Sometimes, it seems, when you decide it’s time to come out to family
there can be a bit more involved than you anticipated.

Mom and dad divorced when I was three. Mom remarried a couple years after the divorce and Kevin was great. He wasn’t exactly the athletic type though. A  good book or a documentary on television was just his thing. We got along really well and he loved me and supported me in everything I was interested in, which was pretty awesome.

The good thing with Mom and my Dad was that they stayed friends after the divorce and even after Mom remarried. I spent every weekend and a month every summer with Dad. I loved my time with him too. Dad never did remarry. But a year after the divorce he moved in with Uncle Bob, and Uncle Bob was the coolest guy ever. Well, aside from Dad, of course. Weekends at Dad’s were always fun, hiking, swimming, skateboarding, skating, Frisbee throwing, and whatever else we could think of to do. It wasn’t surprising that both Dad and Uncle Bob were in great shape. Holidays were even better, travelling, camping in the mountains and the Okanagan, down-river rafting, canoeing, yeah all that kinda neat stuff. It was great. Time at home was great too, don’t get me wrong.

Then in middle school, I realized I was gay, like grade six. That’s when I found changing and showering during PE class interesting. Of course I was careful not to let the other guys know I found them interesting. Self-preservation you know. That was where I  met the love of my life, in grade eight. His name was Brady Johansen. One day as we were showering after a serious game of volleyball, I kinda noticed him notice me. He was pretty embarrassed about it too. I pretended I didn’t notice anything, but I made sure I sat with him at lunch the next day. We hit it off too… big time. Now, almost two years later, we’re kinda inseparable. Of course, everyone but our best friends think we’re just best friends. Self-preservation you know.

When we turned fifteen, we decided to come out, at least to our parents. It was decided it would be my turn first. I can honestly say I had no fear. Mom, Kevin, Dad and Uncle Bob were the coolest. Mom was a doctor and had her own medical clinic. Kevin was a psychologist and worked with the Family Resilience Project. One of the things it offers is free short-term counselling to sexual and gender minority or questioning kids and their families. Since I guess I could be considered a sexual minority, you can see why I felt I had no worries. Plus they had supported me in every other way, so I knew this would be no different.

I came out to them on Thanksgiving day. Mom just grinned, gave me a big hug, and asked me if Brady was coming over for some turkey dinner. I knew she knew Brady was my best friend, but I didn’t know she’d figured out that he was my boyfriend…several months earlier, actually. Kevin gave me a big hug too and told me the best thing I could do was always be myself. Let’s just say Brady and I had a wonderful Thanksgiving. We ate way more than we should have, cuddled up on the sofa to watch a movie with Mom and Kevin, and even snuck in a kiss or two. It was so cool to be us that afternoon.

When I asked her later why she thought Brady was more than my best friend, she simply said, “You can’t hide love.”

Next was going to be Dad and Uncle Bob. Dad was a building designer with Coventry Homes and Uncle Bob owned his own interior design company, Innovation. I knew they had a few gay friends, so like with Mom, I was pretty confident they’d be alright with it. There was the tiny little thought of, when it’s your own kid, it can be different, but it was only tiny. They knew Brady quite well too as he often came with me on holidays and weekends at Dad’s.

Anyway, the weekend after Thanksgiving was it. We were having brunch Saturday morning when I made the announcement. Uncle Bob nearly choked and milk actually came out of his nose. Dad just burst out laughing. I wasn’t sure if it was at me or Uncle Bob. When everything calmed down and Uncle Bob started breathing sort of normally again, Dad just looked at me with a big grin and said, “Oh my God,” before getting up and giving me a huge hug. Uncle Bob gave me a big hug too, after taking few minutes to get all the milk out of his nose.

Then it got quiet. Dad and Uncle Bob kinda looked at each other… for a few minutes, actually. I almost started to worry they were rethinking my announcement.

Finally Dad looked at me, cleared his throat a bit, and said, “Scott, I think maybe this is the time.”

“Time for what?” I asked, as another long silence started to make me a bit uncomfortable.

“Scott, Uncle Bob isn’t really your uncle,” he said quietly, followed by another kinda long pause.

“Okay?” I questioned.

“Well, he’s actually your other dad,” he answered.

 “Other dad?” I asked. Then as the light came on, I followed that with, “Holy shit! Sorry, I mean Oh Wow! Oh My God! You too?”

This time I got up to give the hugs and I was grinning ear to ear.

“Holy crap!” I exclaimed, “This is just too cool.”

By now Dad and — uh, Uncle? — Bob were back to grinning too. A rather long chat about hiding in closets followed. I guess coming out isn’t always just a kid’s fear. Sometimes it can be a parent’s fear too. They both said they wouldn’t have been able to live with themselves if I’d reacted badly and they’d lost my love. That would never happen, of course.

As we were cleaning up after brunch and our chat, I grinned and asked Bob if he was going to move his clothes out of my room now. You see, Bob’s room was my room on weekends and holidays. When I was over, he always slept on the pull-out futon in Dad’s room, yeah, uh huh. Anyway, I figured moving his clothes to where they belonged, and dropping the uncle bit were both kind of appropriate at this point. And I probably don’t have to tell you it turned out to be a very awesome weekend for all three of us.

When I got home on Sunday and Mom asked me how everything went, I think she knew instantly from my grin that I wasn’t the only one who came out during Saturday’s brunch. That’s when she explained the whole divorce thing. She said that even though they both still loved each other, they knew trying to stay together just wouldn’t work. I guess his parents, my grandparents, thought gayness was the ultimate sin, and so he’d tried to be straight. It didn’t work. I guess that’s also why I can’t remember ever meeting them. But that’s obviously no big loss.

Later, when Brady came over, I couldn’t wait to tell him and when I did, the look on his face was just too funny. Then he suddenly burst out laughing till he had tears running down his face.

“I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” he managed to say between snorts. Yeah he snorts when he laughs hard.

“The what?” I asked.

“It’s a grandma thing,” he managed.

“A grandma thing?,” I questioned.

 “You know, old people saying, it kinda means like father like son,” he replied still giggling.

When we were done laughing and giggling, we both concluded that our next weekend at Dad’s would be just too cool. We could hold hands, cuddle, kiss, and just be ourselves, and so could Dad and Bob. We also talked about how cool it was that I’d done it. I was out to Mom, Kevin, and Dad, and Bob too. Now it was Brady’s turn. He’d only have to do it once though, since his mom and dad were still together. He decided Wednesday at dinner.

Dinner at his house being at 5:30. I started to get nervous when I hadn’t heard from him by 7:00. That’s when my door opened and he came charging into my bedroom. He never knocks by the way. He had the biggest grin on his face so I knew everything was cool. He flopped down on my bed so hard I nearly bounced off the other side.

The first thing he said was, “They already knew.” And then began a play by play of the last two hours.

I guess close to the end of dinner he knew it had to be now. Although he never let on to me, he was scared, very scared.

Finally, he was able to say, “Mom, Dad, I need to tell you something.”

When a tear rolled down his cheek, his mom got up, pulled him into a hug and simply said, “You know we love you, no matter what, right.”

“Yeah,” he was able to say.

“No matter what,” his dad repeated.

By now he couldn’t think straight so he just blurted out, “Mom, Dad, I’m gay.”

“We know dear,” his mom responded.

“You know?” he basically whispered.

“Of course,” his dad replied with a smile, “Hell we’ve known since you were in middle school. We’ve just been waiting for you to finally tell us.”

“Well we suspected,” his mom added, “But we didn’t feel we should say anything in case we were wrong. You know.”

“Oh God,” was all he could say.

“So you and Scott, huh?” his dad questioned.

“Oh God,” he repeated.

“Come, sit down hun,” his mom said as she led him to the sofa.

That preceded a rather long conversation about, being gay, coming out, being afraid, being in love, having a boyfriend, and me. Apparently they think I’m a sweetheart… how cool is that?

By the time he was done, he’d cried, sighed, smiled, laughed, and cried again. Any tears were happy tears though. Of course we’d been cuddled up the whole time and I had managed to throw in a kiss or two. Especially when there were tears. But, all said and done, we were out, we were still loved, and we were happy little campers. Yes we were.

Oh yeah, and one other thing his dad said when they were talking about me was, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, does it.”

I had to laugh because I guess dad wasn’t as closeted as he thought he was back in the day. Brady said that Dad was one grade behind his dad in school, and it seems, even though it was never made into an issue, it was pretty much common knowledge that dad was a man’s man. The coolest part was that when I went over to Brady’s the next evening to work on homework together, nothing changed. I still got homemade chocolate chip cookies and a big glass of milk, and his dad still gave me a hard time for not undoing my shoe laces when I took my shoes off.

That weekend, Brady came with me to Dads, of course. When he picked us up and we both sat in the backseat, he just grinned. Yep, I was definitely enjoying this. Then when Bob came into the kitchen Saturday morning and gave Dad a quick kiss while Brady and I were sitting at the table, it actually made my heart tingle. I mean, a week or two ago it would have been almost impossible to imagine us all feeling this free, and I couldn’t have been happier. Saturday afternoon at the go-cart track was pretty awesome too. Just so you know, I am the champion. Four races out of five… look out NASCAR. Oh yeah, and Brady and I finally had a place to hang our clothes.

As per usual, Sunday afternoon came too soon and we were on our way home. This time it wasn’t just a drop off. Mom had invited Brady’s folks and Dad and Bob to have dinner with us. We chatted about almost everything, but it seemed reminiscing about high school in the good old days was on the top of the list. I gotta say, that was probably the most enjoyable dinner I’ve ever had, and I had to laugh when Dad found out his high school closet dwelling days weren’t all that successful. Oh yeah, and apparently Kevin was better known as nerd-boy. The kinda weird part about that is, it was said as a compliment and not a putdown. Go figure.

When the evening drew to a close, there were hugs all around, and I can’t tell you how good that made me feel. Brady and I belonged to three families that on this evening had merged into one, and yep, everything was just the way it should be.

Thanks to Colin for editing, prepping, and posting this story for me.

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This story and the included images are Copyright © 2016 by Grant Bentley. They cannot be reproduced without express written consent. Codey's World web site has written permission to publish this story. No other rights are granted.

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!