As a single dad, I work pretty hard at trying to keep up a loving, functioning relationship with my eight-year-old son, Patrick. It's really hard balancing all the stuff I need to do to keep bread on the table and to make sure we have an actual table in an actual home. And then, of course, I need to give my son all the emotional support I can to help him grow into a well-rounded, adjusted adult. But, let's face it, life sometimes throws lemons at you and you don't have sugar to make lemonade. But you do the best you can do.
My foster father ran into a few roadblocks in his attempt to raise his family. The way he put it was "shit happens," followed by "quit your bitchen or I'll give you something to bitch about." As you can tell, he wasn't wasn't much of a nurturer.
But I resolved I was not going to be like that to my Patrick. I would listen to my son and let him know I was there for him for all of life's contingencies.
So, now that you know a bit about my resolve, let me tell you a bit about myself. I'm a 32-year-old widower with his own a small home maintenance company. I have my own teeth, hair and am not hard to look at. I'm also a frustrated, gay man who isn't sure how to explain this part of myself to my son.
I've been too busy trying to make a living for myself and Patrick to even consider dating or having any type of a social life. Any time away from work is always family time in this household. I don't want to miss a single part of Patrick's life as he grows, matures and becomes a man.
And Patrick? Here is an even headed, intelligent, fun loving, ginger haired boy with a ready smile and a desire for adventure. I've attempted to fill him with an empathy for others and a love of nature and, I'm happy to report, I've been very successful. This kid has a killer smile, a twinkle in his eye and has not yet grown ashamed of his Dad giving him a big smooch in public. So, I give him plenty because I know they will become a no-no one day.
So, here I am in the kitchen cutting apple wedges and smearing them with peanut butter for Patrick's after school snack. I've returned from the store after ordering a roast turkey dinner for Thanksgiving, which is tomorrow. I padded out the menu with a few things I picked up from the store. Also, gotta have snack stuff for the games after all.
Patrick's grandparents live about a thousand miles from us and so attending dinner with them is out of the question. As a foster child myself, I have no family on my side of Patrick's family tree. So, it's just my boy and I to celebrate together. But that's okay, we enjoy each other's company.
There are things I haven't explained with any detail yet to Patrick. For instance, my own sexuality. He knows I'm gay but I'm sure that has no meaning for him at this point in his young life. I mean, I haven't even been dating. However, I have been having certain urges and wonder how I would go about trying to meet someone without making Patrick feel threatened.
I know the boy will have a ton of questions over time. He knows that his mother was killed in an automobile accident when he was only two. I keep her picture up on the mantle, but Patrick admits he really can't remember her except very vaguely.
I loved Sharon, in my own way. She knew I was gay and so I made a safe, male friend for her to take with her to parties which enabled her to let her hair down and know that someone had her back and was looking out for her. We became roommates because we were young, times were tight, we were simpatico and sharing expenses just made a lot of sense.
One night, after finishing a bottle of wine between the two of us, Sharon confessed that she had some romantic allusions about me. She said "I know you're gay, Kevin, and of course I respect that. But, have you ever wondered what it would be like to make love to a woman?"
"By a woman, Sharon, are you speaking of yourself?"
Her cheeks colored up and she just grinned and nodded her head.
Well, to make a long and convoluted story as short as possible, we did end up doing it that night. I can't say either of us found it to be the epitome of great sex but it wasn't so bad. I can't remember the name of the comedian who said that the worse sex he ever had in his entire life was still pretty great. I have to concur with him. Plus, I had enough respect and natural affinity towards Sharon that it gave the act some real meaning.
But then something else occurred that really gave that act of intimacy some real meaning... Sharon got pregnant! By this point we had become so comfortable with one another that we went to a justice of the peace without even a forethought. I wanted the rights and obligations of fatherhood. I also adored the baby's mother even if I was not sexually attracted to her.
Patrick was the result of that night of intimacy and our subsequent marriage. He was able to enjoy the company and love of his mother for the first two years of his life. But one day, when he was strapped into his rear facing car seat, Sharon met a drunk driver and, subsequently, she left the land of the living. Patrick was fine... not a scratch. He claims to have no memory of that occurrence... thank God.
I hear Patrick come in through the door in the laundry room. We use that door because we kick off our shoes before coming into the house. I'm expecting to hear the usual "hi Daddy, I'm home." But what I hear nearly gives me a heart attack.
"Hi Daddy, this is my new Brother, Ben!" And two boys slide across the linoleum in stocking feet and come to rest where I'm leaning against the center isle.
Although I'm taken by surprise I try to recover quickly.
"Ben, eh?" I say, while looking at my watch. "Do you know how late you are young man," I ask, staring sternly at the boy. He gets a surprised look on his face and glances at Patrick, looking, I guess, for some sort of support. Patrick is just grinning back because he knows his old man will have some kind of zinger.
I see him visibly swallow and he quietly intones... "no sir."
I'm tapping my wristwatch now. "Your brother was home in time for dinner last night, but you? You mister are eight... years... late! How do you explain yourself?"
The youngster has realized it's just a tease. Patrick's giggling helped give it away. I get a smile in return as well as an answer.
"Sorry I'm late, Poppa. I stopped to help a little old lady cross the street. And boy... was she ever slow."
Patrick is howling and I've covered my mouth because I'm laughing so hard. Oh my God... how can a little kid be so quick with a funny response? I've got tears running down my cheeks. Patrick wraps his arms around Ben and is jumping up and down.
My diaphragm slowly returns to normal so I'm able to respond.
"Well, okay then. But see that you're on time tomorrow." A child's head, covered in brown curly locks, just gives me a deeply dimpled smile while nodding in return."
Well, we have quite a conversation while I peel and slice another apple for the boys to devour. They were followed by two cookies and a glass of milk.
"Ben and his dad just moved to our town, Daddy. They live in a motel while his Daddy looks for work and a place to stay.
"Ben," I say, while looking at the youngster. "Do you know if you and your Dad have any plans for Thanksgiving tomorrow?"
"Well," he replies, "we moved here cuz we were gonna stay with my Aunt Tildy. I guess we would have had dinner there. But my Aunt made us leave cuz she found out my Daddy is gay."
Then he curls his bottom lip and says, "I don't care if she is my Daddy's sister, she's just a mean old witch lady."
Patrick and I, both of us a little teary-eyed, look at one another.
"I told ya Daddy. Ben's my new brother." All I could do was nod in return.
The three of us climb into my maintenance van and drive over to the motel. There Ben introduces us to his Daddy, Joseph, who is 28 and was recently laid off when his manufacturing job was transferred overseas.
Well, Joseph and Ben shared Thanksgiving with us and we got along together so well that they received an invitation to stay with us while things settled out for them.
That was a year ago. Our sons are now nine and Joseph and I have been married seven months now. We are partners in the maintenance company just like in our lives. I love my new husband and adore my new son. This time there was plenty of sugar to make lemonade. Actually, Ben's making the lemonade while my hubby and I cook Thanksgiving dinner. This one is from scratch. Oh, and guess what? Aunt Tildy isn't invited.