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Finding Tim

A Fourth Alternate Reality

by Charlie
With editorial assistance from Dix and John


It seems like ages ago that I said to Tim, "You know, we've led very interesting lives. I think I'd like to write the story."

"You're talking about a book, Charlie."

"Maybe. I think I'd like to be very modern and publish it on the World Wide Web."

"Perhaps as a serial."

"Yeah, perhaps. I guess so, otherwise, it'll be a long time before any of it gets published. You know, our stories are going to write themselves."

"You'll have to include the stories of a lot of the Gang to really tell the whole story."

"Probably. We'll just have to see how it works out."

"Big question, Charlie."

"What's that?"

"Our stories have a lot of sex. Gay sex. Straight sex. Intergenerational sex. Extramarital sex. Premarital sex. Raunchy sex. How much of that story would you include?"

"All of it."


"Yeah, wow."

"OK, you'd better get the permission of the Gang."

"I will, before I write anything."

"OK then, where are you going to publish it?"

"I've been reading a lot of stories on the Web. Some of the best are on a site hosted in England. It's called, 'It's Only Me from Across the Sea." All of the stories the webmaster hosts involve gay love and gay sex. But they're also good stories. I'd just publish it without worrying about whether people think of it as fact or fiction. They'd soon identify the characters, and it would be up to readers to decide for themselves whether a given bit of story was factual. But you and I, and the Gang, would know that they were all factual."

"OK, you have my permission. E-mail the Gang."

I did, and the rest is history.

But what a history. I can hardly believe that it's now three years and a hundred chapters later. It's roughly the length of two War and Peace. [Should that be "two Wars and Peace," "two War and Peaces;" or "two Wars and Peaces." Hell, I don't know and I don't care.] How does one celebrate an anniversary like this? Well, I've thought about that quite a bit and have an answer. I hope my readers are as enthusiastic about it as I am:

As this story was told, I limited myself to the facts as I knew them. Of course, I wasn't an eyewitness to everything, but when I wasn't, Tim was, some other member of the Gang was, or it was reported in the newspaper, something. Sometimes I asked a member of the Gang who was an eyewitness to write the episode. However, for the rest of Episode 100 I am going to let my imagination roam. I am going to go back through the 99 episodes that I've written, review some of my favorite scenes, and let my imagination run as to how those scenes might've played out in forums that I never knew about.

I am going to start at Camp White Elk in Episode 1. Carl's counselor was Dan. He was Dan Farnsworth, from Saginaw, Michigan. It was his second year at camp, and his last. He was a good counselor: Carl and the other boys liked him. I liked him and got along well with him. But we didn't become good friends. After we left camp that summer we never saw each other again; never wrote; never called. We may have exchanged a Christmas card or two. He was just one more of thousands of "friends" that we all make and lose as we go through life. But what did he see and think that summer as Tim and I fell in love? Franklin observed and spotted us as gay lovers. Did Dan? I have no idea. So here's Dan's story as I imagine it:

I grew up in Saginaw, went to high school there, graduating in 1958. Central Michigan University is very close by in Mt. Pleasant, and that's where I headed for college. After my freshman year I got a job in road construction, and I hated it. OK, I earned pretty good money, at least by the standards of what a college kid could earn in the summer back then-I think I was able to clear more than a thousand dollars. But I hated it. During my sophomore year I looked around for a different kind of job and saw on the Placement Office bulletin board that the director of Camp White Elk in the UP would be interviewing for counselors. I put my name in, was interviewed by Stanley, and got the job. It didn't pay much, but you got room and board. I think I cleared about $250 for the summer, but I loved it. Except for a couple of times driving through to Duluth and beyond, I'd never been in the UP, and spending the summer there was interesting. I liked the camp. I liked Stanley. I liked the boys. I went back for a second summer.

I got to know Charlie a little that first summer. We worked in different cabins, but we met often enough at swim time, when our cabins played together or against each other, and as we relaxed in the counselor lounge. I liked Charlie; he was a likable guy, and seemed willing to do anything for you if you asked. He'd been around the camp for years, as a camper, counselor trainee, and now, I think, was in his third year of being a counselor.

Charlie was a good counselor. I guess that's really why I got to know him. He worked well with his boys, and they all loved him. Literally, they'd do anything for him. The boys he worked with on the archery range thought the same thing. A couple of my boys that year got really interested in archery, just because of Charlie. There were always bubbling with, "Charlie, this" or "Charlie, that."

He always had time for a boy. I think that was really his secret. He never said, "Later," or "Maybe," or "How about tomorrow." It was always, "Tell me your story," "What's on your mind?" or "Let's take a little walk and we'll talk about it." Boys fought to sit as his table in the mess hall. Boys learned to shoot bows and arrows to spend time at the range with Charlie.

My second year of counseling I ended up in the same cabin with Charlie. It was Paul, Charlie, and me. Charlie was the head counselor, and Paul was the new guy in his first year. What luck to get put with Charlie in your first year! I considered myself to be lucky to be with him my second year. He was a great head counselor, never exerting authority when he didn't need to. He led by example, and almost never needed to give Paul or me directions. We knew what we needed to do, and we did it before he had to tell us.

Well, he wasn't perfect. I've seen him get mad a couple of times, once at a counselor who was doing something really stupid, and once at a camper who was deliberately doing something even stupider. He apologized later to the counselor, but told the camper that he was lucky that he only got mad and didn't break the kid's arm. It was a little rough, but I'll have to admit that the kid deserved it.

One day Charlie and I managed to get the same day off. He invited me to drive with him down to his cabin on Pike Lake and learn to water ski. I'd never water skied and was eager to try. It turned out that Charlie and his father were pretty good teachers: his father ran the boat and Charlie stood in the water and coached. He got me up on my sixth try, and we had a wonderful afternoon. Charlie was a good skier. He liked to ski on his pair of trick skis and could even turn around and go backwards on the damn things. I was lucky to get around the lake going forward on standard skis.

The last session of my second year was special. I had a camper named Carl who was really quite extraordinary. Smart, mature, talented, a born leader. And kind. That's the only word to describe Carl. Kind. Kind to me. Kind to his fellow campers. And, most unusual, kind to his younger brother, Tim, who was in Charlie's camper group. Well, Carl was extraordinary, but there really wasn't a word to describe Tim. No doubt about it, they broke the mold when he was made. He was a little kid, but there wasn't anything he couldn't do. And do better than everyone else. It turned out he was a state diving champion, and was a serious gymnast as well. He loved the water and swam, sailed, and canoed whenever he got the chance. The other kids loved him. They loved to watch him perform on the trampoline. He was so much better than the college student the camp had to teach trampoline that Tim was asked to help out instructing.

Tim had a thing for Charlie. He couldn't keep his eyes off him. Where Charlie was, Tim was. They'd take long walks out into the field and talk, almost every evening. When they'd set off across the field someone would always remark, "There they go. How long tonight?" It was usually about a half hour. I guessed that Charlie kept the two of them visible to avoid any rumors that there was more than conversation going on. As far as I know, there never was.

Then there was the entire camper group. Franklin was the biggest kid in camp, counting all of the staff. Jim and Andy made an interesting pair, and I think there was something going on with them, but if there was they were smart enough to not get caught. And Hal. The klutz. Hal, the Ugly Duckling. Hal the running white swan. I don't know how Charlie and the others accomplished with Hal what they did, but you only had to watch the newspapers tell of him in the Boston Marathon and the Olympics to know that something really special happened to Hal that summer. They took away his clothes and gave him new ones. They cut his hair. They ran him like a race horse in training. They made him swim miles. At first I was worried that they were tormenting him. I even talked to Stanley about it. Stanley had been watching, and had decided that if Hal didn't like it, he would say something. Stanley also trusted Charlie's judgement. It certainly turned out that Stanley was right.

Well, a few years went by and Tim made news as a champion diver, and then there was that fantastic announcement that he and Charlie were lovers. And there they were on the cover of Sports Illustrated. I still have that issue. At first my friends at work wouldn't believe me when I showed them the picture and said that I'd known them when they were falling in love. But I had some snapshots from camp to prove my story. Everybody wanted to hear Tim and Charlie stories for weeks after that. I still get asked to tell Tim and Charlie stories. The best one is the time they chased Tim down and pulled off his clothes. He'd been asking for it all week, and he got it. God knows what the whole camp might've done to him if Franklin hadn't picked him up and tossed him, bare-assed naked, into the lake. When he got back to the cabin he almost laughed himself silly.

I've often thought about that summer, now that I know it's final outcome. Certainly, Tim's remarkable athletic achievements were predictable as we observed him that summer. There was often speculation about just how good he'd become. Did we tumble that he was gay? Well, we certainly speculated about him and Charlie, but it was more in the manner of, "Well, they're going out of their way to make sure we know they aren't gay." I don't think we tumbled that they were. I did wonder enough to ask a couple of the counselors who'd been around a long time and knew Charlie. Both said that they'd never known of a single incident that might suggest Charlie was gay.

Well, he was. I don't think it would've bothered me back then if I'd known he was. Maybe I might've questioned his having one of the camper groups where the counselor sleeps in with the boys. The world's changed over the years, and I've changed with it. I guess, if I'm honest with myself, that I'd have to admit that I would've been upset to learn that Charlie was a gay counselor. I don't know what Stanley knew, but he certainly was never worried about Charlie.

I wish I'd kept up with Charlie. As we left camp that summer, I knew I wouldn't be back. I would be a senior and would either have a job or would be job hunting the next summer. We said goodbye. We said we'd write. We didn't. OK, I'll admit I got a Christmas card from Charlie that Christmas, with a little note in it, inviting me to come by the Pike Lake cabin and do a little more skiing. I never followed up. I wish I had. Who knows where life might've taken me if I'd kept in touch with Charlie. I live in Flint, about a hour from Ann Arbor where they spent three years. We could've reestablished contact. But after I hadn't followed up on Charlie's invitation to visit him at the cabin, I didn't feel comfortable trying to come back into his life now that he was an Olympic medalist and public figure. But I sure do like to point out to people that "I knew them when!"

My second imaginary story: Suppose your son was an athlete and had just qualified for the U.S. Olympic team. Suppose that the night he qualified he had dinner with the others that qualified for the team-men that he had never known. And suppose that he came home from that dinner and said that he was going off to North Dakota to practice full time with them, leaving in two days. That is just what James' parents experienced at the Olympic trials of 1976. Let's let our imaginations loose.

Wendy and I could hardly believe it when James qualified for the Olympic swimming team as a springboard diver. In fact, he had qualified second, behind Tim and ahead of Billy Carson. He'd always done pretty well, in high school and in college at IU. But there's something special about going to the Olympics, and here we were, the parents of an Olympic athlete.

There was a big crowd around the divers, especially Tim, who was quite the hero of the trials. He and Billy Carson were both from North Dakota, and obviously knew each other very well. But they seemed to be including James. We also knew Stan, who had qualified, along with Tim and Billy, off the platform. Stan had been at IU, a year ahead of James; they'd dived together three years; and we knew him fairly well. Soon James broke away and came over to us. He hugged his mother and shook hands with me. We both patted him on the back and congratulated him on his success. I said, "We'll take you out for a special dinner tonight, as soon as you can break free of everything here."

"Gee, thanks, Dad, but I can't tonight. Tim has suggested that he, Billy, Stan and I go for steaks together. Just the four of us. I knew you'd like to take me out, so I started to say, 'No, thanks.' But Stan whispered in my ear, 'James, this is an invitation you don't even consider passing up.' So I told Tim, 'Yes.' I hope that's OK."

"Certainly, son," I told him. But I knew Wendy would be disappointed and so was I. But it did seem as if Stan was right; it wasn't an invitation you wanted to turn down.

Coach Billings was putting together dinner plans for everybody in the group from Indiana, as well as any number of others that seemed to be insiders in the diving group. Tim's partner, Charlie, was in the group; evidently he wasn't invited to Tim's little dinner either. Seeing Charlie there didn't make me feel quite so left out of James' dinner group.

We all went to a local restaurant and occupied a whole section of the place. Wendy and I only knew the others from Indiana, and we ended up sitting at a table of parents of IU swimmers and divers. Stan's parents were near us at the table and we had an opportunity to ask them what Stan had been doing since he graduated. We were surprised to learn that he was in graduate school at the University of North Dakota, specifically so that he could dive with Tim and Billy. Wendy said, "It seems to have paid off; he's earned a trip to Mexico."

Stan's mother continued, "He says that it's been the most wonderful year of his life. It's a real community there. Stan, Tim, Billy, and, of course, Charlie. There are some others that he's become really close to as well."

"Does it bother him, or you, that Tim and Charlie are gay?'

"To be honest, we were a little queasy about that at first. It never bothered Stan."

"Were there any kind of sexual overtures?"

"Stan says that he's pretty sure that he could've had a sexual relationship with Tim and Charlie if he'd wanted. But he didn't and it was never suggested by either Tim or Charlie, or anyone."

"What makes Stan think he could've had a sexual relationship if he'd wanted to?"

"We asked him exactly that. He says Tim and Charlie have a small group of very close friends-most of them from the camp where they met. It's pretty obvious that the group is sexually active when it gets together."

"That doesn't bother you?"

"That's a tough question. It's not the world we grew up in. But we can't lead Stan's life for him. We have to trust him. He's absolutely enraptured with Tim-and Billy. And look where it got him. When he got his second in the national championships during his senior year at IU, he thought that was it-the pinnacle. He expected to retire from diving, get a job, find a wife, and live happily ever after. Then he decided to go to North Dakota and look where he is."

"We're eager to talk to James tonight. I have no idea where he'll be practicing for the next two months. I guess either in Bloomington or at some training site for the U.S. Swimming and Diving Team. What about Stan?"

"I'm sure that wherever Tim and Billy are-and they'll be together, that's for sure-Stan will be. I would guess it'll be in Grand Forks."

James got back to the hotel fairly late. He came into our room and seemed hesitant to tell us something. "What's up son?"

"Tim's invited me to come to Grand Forks to practice with him and Billy and Stan until the Olympics."

"Do you want to do that?"

"Yes, it's a real opportunity."

"Where will you be staying? When are you going?"

"They say that housing is no problem; I'll either be with Tim or Billy, or maybe some other friend. I'm due there the day after tomorrow."

"What? That's kind of short notice," said Wendy.

"Mom, these guys really don't mess around. Not only have they invited me, but they've warned me that I'm going to work harder than I ever have in my life. Tim and Billy evidently maintain a practice schedule that could kill the average athlete."

"We had dinner with Stan's folks tonight. They certainly speak highly of Tim. Stan's had a good year there. But are you ready for this? You've worked hard at IU, but you've never been any kind of super athlete." That was my question.

"Dad, yes, I'm a little worried. But I'd really like to do this. I made the commitment to them. They really believe that the four of us can take six medals and sew up every men's diving medal for the U.S. God, I'd love to be part of that."

"Get a good night's sleep, son. It looks like you're going to need it."

The next day I tracked down Ralph Billings and told him of James plans. "What do you think, Ralph? I really don't know much about Tim, except that he's one Hell of an athlete and he's gay. I'll have to admit that last worries me a little."

"I don't think you need to worry. I've been watching him for some time now, and there's never been a hint of sexual impropriety-unless just being gay is considered improper. I think it's a fantastic opportunity for James. I wouldn't try to stop him."

"Oh, I'm not even thinking about that. He's an adult, college graduate. It's his decision, and he's made it. But you can't expect his old man not to be just a little bit worried."

"I wouldn't be. I'd be excited. Honestly, David, I think you'll get a new and improved son back, and he won't just be a better diver. He'll be a better man. Tim seems to have that effect on people."

We headed back to Indiana that day, helped James get packed, and took him to the airport for his flight to Minneapolis and on to Grand Forks. He'd called Tim and given him the schedule and had been assured that someone would meet him.

We didn't see him again until the day before we all flew to Mexico City. We met him at the Indianapolis airport and he came up to Wendy and gave her a big, affectionate hug and a kiss. Then he did the same for me. James hadn't kissed me since he was a little kid. In our family men didn't hug and kiss, they shook hands. Ralph Billings had been right; we did get back a different son. That was just what we'd observed in the first minute. By the time we all went to bed that night we'd experienced a lot more. James had always been a good boy, but there was the usual tension between a teen and his parents. It had improved somewhat as he went through college. Compared to what other parents talked about, James was wonderful. But the kid that came back from North Dakota was helpful, kind, charming, mature-the whole list that Boys Scouts are supposed to be-and aren't. When we came into the house, his suitcase went immediately up to his room, instead of sitting in the hall until he needed something out of it. He didn't offer to help with dinner, he just walked into the kitchen and started doing things. At dinner he was full of conversation, and seemed eager to tell us everything about his experiences in North Dakota.

He went to bed early, kissing both of us goodnight! He was up early and running-over to the high school, around their track quite a few times, and back home.

Off to Mexico City. We stayed together in a hotel until it was time to for James to check in to the Olympic Village. We stayed three to a room, partly to save money and partly because extra rooms were very hard to come by. For those few days we really got to know James in a way that we never had through his teen years. We really had a wonderful son!

Then he got a silver medal. What a thrill, for him and for us. Right after the ceremony he hung the medal around his mother's neck; she was unbelievably proud. Watching him dive, win the medal, stand on the podium while the Star Spangled Banner was played (for Tim's first place), and then having him share the medal with us-well, it was the high point of our lives. James absolutely insists that we have Tim and Billy to thank, but mostly Tim.

James really shocked us later when he told us that on the last night in the Village he'd offered himself sexually to Tim. "Dad, I had to do it. There were two reasons. First, it was a thank you to Tim; I owed him whatever he wanted. But more important, I had to affirm him; I had to affirm who he is. We kissed very passionately, but that was it. I've never regretted it; on the contrary, I'm very glad for the experience."

I told him, "James, thank you for sharing that with us. It was very private between you and Tim, and clearly very important to you. I suspect it was important to Tim as well. I hope that you'll always remember Tim fondly. And I hope that someday you'll make as good a husband as Tim does a partner for Charlie."

"Thanks, Dad."

I'm glad to report that the last came true. James married Tricia, a wonderful girl from Indianapolis, where he's a very successful insurance agent. He learned from Tim to love people and do things for them. That philosophy has endeared him to myriad clients, and he's one of the most successful agents in Indiana. I'm as sure that he owes that to his experiences with Tim just as much as he owes his medal to Tim. The medal is framed over his fireplace in a place of honor. His two boys, racers instead of divers, are the heros of their high school swim team. James and Tricia have a relationship with the two boys that's special. James swears that Tim is his model.

I'm sure that Tim has affected many other families in ways similar to his effect on us. What a legacy!

My third imaginary story is about Ted. You probably don't remember Ted; he appeared in Episode 35. He was the young man from Ross in northwest North Dakota. He was gay, in the closet, and afraid to come out because his parents would find out. With their German Baptist heritage, he was sure that they could never accept his sexuality. Here's his story.

Talking to Tim and Charlie about being homosexual was wonderful. I'd never told anyone in my life that I was gay. I knew I was gay, because my erotic thoughts all centered on men and boys. I had crushes on several boys in high school, but could never let them know. I got to the "U" and here was this little kid, openly gay. And he wasn't just some little kid, he was a campus hero. He'd been on the cover of Sports Illustrated for his diving, his gymnastics, and for his very public commitment to Charlie. One day I approached Tim and asked if we could talk. He was easy to talk to, easy to get to know, and easy to trust. I came out to him, and told him most of my life's story. My sophomore year I met him on campus with Charlie, and the three of us talked.

They didn't really have an answer for me as to how to deal with my life, or my parents. But, without being specific about it, they made it clear that they thought I needed to be myself. They were right, of course. I realized that I had three choices: Pretend to be straight, marry some girl, and maybe destroy two lives; stay in the closet and be celibate, or perhaps have secret liaisons with gay men I met in bars or similar places; or come out and be myself.

I should've screwed up the courage to do it when I was at the "U". But I didn't. I knew that if I came out in Grand Forks that it'd get back to my parents, and I just couldn't face that. I really didn't need to go to graduate school. I was ready to look for a job, and I could've done OK. But I decided that I needed to go to graduate school completely outside of the sphere where I'd be in touch with anyone from Ross. I headed for the University of Missouri to get an MBA. I choose Missouri because it was away from North Dakota while still being in the Midwest, and because I knew that there was a gay support group on campus. I attended the first meeting in the fall. It was a gay/straight support and advocacy group, so just because I was there didn't mean I was gay. But a number of the men there were pretty specific about being gay, and I took the plunge and said the same thing. It was the first time in my life I'd said that in a public forum. The only two people I'd told up to that time were Tim and Charlie.

Before the meeting was over a young man named Woody had suggested that we go to the movies together later that evening. We did go to the late show, and as we sat in the theater Woody's left hand drifted over to my groin. It was the first sexual contact that I'd ever had with another person! I had no idea what to do, or even if I wanted to do something.

I completely lost track of the movie as my thoughts raced around possible responses to Woody's gesture. I thought that if I was going to be gay and out that it certainly implied sexual activity. I did think that I should get to know this guy a little before things went too far, but.... My thoughts were pretty confused, but I ended up letting my right hand drift over to Woody's groin. As soon as I did that, Woody's hand became much more active. However, there were too many people in the movie for us to do much more than we had. It would've been too risky to open a fly or go down under a waistband. So we sat there, ignoring the movie, and rubbing each other gently.

After the movie Woody was pretty direct. "You coming back to my apartment?"

I said, "OK. But tonight I'd just like to talk. I'm pretty new to all of this."

Woody proved to be a wonderful first date! He responded to that by simply saying, "Forget it," and turning and walking off in the opposite direction. I saw him a few times at the gay support group, but we never spoke. I learned a lesson-a lot of gay men are only in it for the physical sex. If I wanted more, I was going to have to work at it.

I did. I avoided the movies as a "first date," suggesting coffee, dinner, or a visit to the snack bar in the basement of the School of Business. I issued such invitations to almost everyone I learned was gay. In our first meeting I would tell people I was gay but that I had just come out and was totally unfamiliar with any kind of gay sex or gay relationship. Two or three were very kind and gave me lots of advice and suggestions, without insisting that we get into a sexual relationship. I "dated" one young man, a chemistry graduate student exactly my age, several times. I think I could've enjoyed seeing the relationship mature into a physical one. But he had a crisis in his family at home and had to drop out. I hoped that he'd return in the second semester, but he didn't. We kept in touch, but his father's mental breakdown had forced him to stay near home. He continued his studies at Washington University in St. Louis so he could live at home.

Finally I met the love of my life. His name was Winston Howell. He was a sophomore in the School of Journalism. I'd seen him a few times at the support group, but he'd never said anything to make it clear that he was gay. But he invited me to go to dinner with him one day after the meeting. I accepted, and we ate and talked till the restaurant was ready to close. I suggested that he come back to my apartment, since he lived in the dorm with a roommate. We talked till the wee hours. His background wasn't a lot different from mine, except that he'd come out to his parents at Christmas vacation of his freshman year. They'd been upset, but fairly accepting. On campus he wasn't really out, though he attended the support group regularly.

He'd eyed me for a couple of months before he got up the nerve to suggest dinner. As we talked it turned out that my experience with Woody was more sexual contact than Winston had ever experienced. At 2:00 a.m. Winston said to me, "Are you ready, Ted? I think I am."

"Yes, I am. But I'm not exactly sure what I'm ready for."

We were sitting across the room from each other, and he got up and walked over to me. As he approached I stood, and we fell into a embrace, which quickly became a kiss. It would be several experiences down the road before we discovered what a difference a tongue can make to a kiss!

Our hands started groping, and soon he was down on his knees, his hands fumbling with my belt, button, zipper, and briefs. I was so aroused from this that I shot in his face just seconds after he touched my penis. We both started apologizing to each other. Then at about the same time we realized how silly that was and we fell to the ground laughing. I quickly had his pants down, fisted his penis, and watched him explode, but all over his shirt instead of in my face.

Night after night we explored new and different things. It was wonderful. We couldn't get enough of each other. The second semester he moved out of the dorm and into my apartment. We never really thought about our relationship. We hadn't thought about being "life partners" or anything like that-we just knew we wanted to be together and share our bodies.

We did, however, learn to slow down a little and think about what we were doing. The more we thought about it, the more we liked it. Our thoughts did finally drift to the future, and we realized that we wanted to make our futures together.

Winston insisted that we had to tell my parents. So with great fear and trepidation we headed to Ross in June. I'd told my parents that I'd be bringing a friend home with me. We both had jobs in Kansas City for the summer and we were just looking for a week's vacation before the jobs started.

They had me in my old room and Winston in the guest room, which had a double bed. I remembered a story that Tim had told about when he'd first visited Charlie's parents. He'd had to learn to "rumple the sheets." I figured that that was going to apply that night in Ross.

At dinner, Winston set events in motion. I think he knew that I was going to put it off as long as I could, and he was determined that that wasn't going to happen. So he announced, "Ted has something he wants to tell you."

Dad said, "What's that, Ted." It was said so casually, and it was likely to be the fuse that set off a huge bomb, or so I feared.

"I've put this off too long. I should've shared this with you back in high school."

"Shared what, honey?" asked Mom.

"Mom, Dad. I'm gay. Homosexual. I love men, not women."

Mom turned white as a sheet. Not a word seemed able to get out of her mouth. Dad looked me straight in the eye and said, "The Bible says that's a sin."

"No, Dad, it's a fact, not a sin. I'm homosexual. I'm attracted to men; I'm not attracted to women. I've spent the last ten years trying to figure out what to do about that."

"And what're you going to do about it?" asked Dad.

"I'm in love with Winston. That's why he's here. He wanted to meet you."

"You brought the man you're lovers with, your sex partner, into my house?"

"I don't think of Winston as a sex partner. He's my life partner. I love him and expect to spend my life with him."

"He is not welcome in this house," said Dad.

"If he's not welcome, we'll be leaving. And I'll never be back until Winston is as welcome as I am."

"Good," said Dad.

Mom finally collected herself and spoke. Really, she shrieked, "No!"

Nobody knew what she was saying, "No!" to. No to my being gay, to Winston being my partner, or no to my leaving.

She continued. "You are not leaving my house. You are my son, and I love you. I will always love you. You are always welcome here. Winston is welcome here." She looked at Dad and demanded confirmation. "Isn't he? Aren't they?"

Dad was flustered. He sputtered, "But..., they..., Winston and he...."

"Aren't they?" demanded my mother.


"Aren't they?" Much louder this time.


And that was it. Dad wasn't happy, but Mom had asserted herself and that was that. From that day to this I've never talked with my father about my sexuality, about Winston's and my relationship, or any related topic. But life goes on. Dad is quite pleasant to us, treats Winston very nicely, talks quite happily about every other subject under the sun, from politics, to our jobs, to our house (which he always refers to as a house, never a home), to our plans for the future. It's as if the conversation that night at the dinner table never took place, and Winston and I are just good friends and roommates.

Mother, on the other hand, talks quite openly about our relationship-as long as Dad isn't around. She's apologized for Dad, but has asked us to accept his way of dealing with it. When we visit she always has the guest room with the double bed ready for us, and my room has been converted into a den for Dad.

For years I've thought of sending a letter to Tim and telling him how my life turned out. But those things get put off, and then so much time goes by that you're embarrassed to send the letter because it's so late. I'm determined to actually send that letter. Now that I've written this much, I'll just put a short note with this story and send it to Tim. I know he'd like to know how life turned out for me.

Of course, we know that this story has just been a figment of my imagination, because Tim has never gotten such a note from Ted.

My next flight of imagination for the 100th episode concerns Chief Justice Hiram Clark. Justice Clark died in office only a half dozen years after my clerkship. He never wrote his memoirs; in fact, he wrote almost nothing about his experiences on the court. The following is a chapter in his imaginary Memoirs.

One of my good friends in Washington was Sherm Wilcox, on the bench of the first circuit. Sherm was a good judge, a solid liberal, and wrote masterful opinions that held up under judicial scrutiny from the Supreme Court. His specialty was administrative law, and that helped keep him away from the highly controversial issues that are decided on the basis of things other than solid legal opinion-things like integration, abortion, pornography, free speech, and national security. We all know that Earl Warren created Brown v. the Board of Education out of social justice theory, not legal precedent. Hell, the constitution allowed slavery, and the amendments that abolished it didn't say anything about education. When we tackled abortion, we created a "right of privacy." Read the constitution from beginning to end and try to find a right of privacy. Some people call that judicial activism. Other call it pragmatism. Other called it legislation by judge. Call it what you want, the society has to move forward.

I was talking about Sherm Wilcox, a guy whose legal opinions I could count on, and who I could count on to give me moral support when my opinions earned the wrath of social conservatives like William Buckley.

The story of this chapter really begins with a telephone call from Sherm. "Hiram, I got a phone call from Lyndon Johnson this afternoon. He says I should look closely at a young man from North Dakota of all places. The kid wants to be my clerk next year."

"What law school?"

"I told you, North Dakota?"

"They have a law school in North Dakota?"

"Hiram, be serious. The University of North Dakota has a decent law school, I'm sure."

"For training prairie lawyers."

"Abraham Lincoln was a prairie lawyer."

"OK, you win that round. How did this kid get Lyndon Johnson tooting his horn?"

"I have no idea. I just thought you might like to know that Lyndon is still sticking his hand in from time to time. Making a personal telephone call about a clerk candidate is pretty unusual."

"Yeah, but so is Lyndon."

"He appointed both of us."

"Hey, I like Lyndon; he's a good man. But the last thing I would've expected him to do was call you about a kid from North Dakota. What do you know about the kid?"

"I've received a portfolio from him; it's mighty impressive. The most intriguing thing is his involvement in finding a number of Abraham Lincoln legal documents lost in old Illinois courthouses."

"It seems to me I remember reading about that. What's this kid's connection?"

"Evidently he was responsible for the entire thing; figured out that the papers might be there and led the expedition to find them."

"That doesn't make him a good clerk."

"The Dean of Law seems to think pretty highly of him. He was president of their Law Review. He enclosed several articles; they're good."

"Obviously you're going to interview him. I don't think I remember hearing of a University of North Dakota Law Graduate ever getting an interview. Maybe at the circuit level. Not our level."

"He's pretty clear that his goal is to clerk for one of you guys."

"Lots of luck. Keep me posted."

The next thing I heard Sherm had hired the kid. We all had to get used to the idea that his name was Charlie, just Charlie. Not an auspicious beginning in the District. I asked Sherm about Charlie and was simply told that he was the best candidate he had ever interviewed. Hired him on the spot. Incredible. Well, Sherm isn't easily fooled, I was eager to meet the kid.

That opportunity came earlier than I expected, and from a direction I certainly didn't expect. My wife, Sally, was invited by Alice Longworth to have lunch with Charlie and his partner Tim at Halversham's. Alice told Sally that Tim was the Tim of Olympic fame, and that he and his partner Charlie were fascinating. I told Sally to tell Charlie and his partner to come by my office in the afternoon with Sherm.

I'm trying to figure out how to describe that first meeting with Charlie. Let me put it this way, Sherm introduced me to the first clerk I'd ever met who wasn't intimidated by being introduced to the Chief Justice of the United States. Tim wasn't intimidated either. We had the first of many interesting conversations, always carried on as intellectual equals. Charlie, Tim as well, had a knack for giving deference to the office, while treating the person as an equal. Not one of us was his intellectual equal. My goodness, Charlie has one of the best legal minds I've ever encountered.

It was inevitable that he'd clerk for me the next year. Sherm told me his ambition was to, in Charlie's words, "Clerk for one of the Supremes," and then head back to North Dakota with Tim. Sherm confided in me that he was quite certain that Tim would be the President of the University and Charlie the Dean of Law. Apparently that little tidbit came directly from the present Dean of Law, whom Sherm had talked to several times about Charlie.

But I haven't really told you anything you didn't know, have I? Well, for openers, I wouldn't want to admit how much of the opinions I wrote that year was actually Charlie's work, or was drastically improved because of his edits and suggestions. If you study my opinions over the years, you'll find the best stuff I wrote was that year!

The young women around the court were all in love, either with Charlie or Tim. Tim wasn't around much, but when he did come in the building to meet Charlie for something there was always a murmur, and several people would screw up their nerve to ask for autographs. Tim always obliged. He let people have their picture taken with him as well. A couple of the young men around the court virtually outed themselves they were so enraptured with either Charlie or Tim or both.

It may be that the greatest impact that Charlie had on the court was simply being gay, out, and in love with his partner. He was a model for a group of people that were largely invisible, especially in the halls of the Supreme Court and the social circles of its justices. Change comes slowly, but there's no doubt in my mind that Charlie and Tim sowed the seeds of a number of legal changes that came along following Charlie's presence in Washington.

Up to meeting Charlie, my experiences with gays were as parade marchers and demonstrators. Now here was a young man who moved comfortably in the highest judicial circles, and sailed like a sleek racing yacht through equally high social circles, piloted by the indomitable Alice Longworth. Alice confided in me that she thought Tim and Charlie were her social coup of the decade, and that knowing them had restored ten years of her youth.

Taking Sally to bed on evenings after she'd spent time with Tim and Charlie during the day took ten years off my age as well!

Sherm and I, and several others, tried to get Charlie, and Tim of course, to stick around Washington. We were convinced that as soon as we had a Democratic president a court appointment, probably at the appellate level, could've been arranged for him. He would've made a brilliant judge. But he and Tim were determined to return to North Dakota, getting doctorates first. We kept in touch over the years, and Charlie insists that their decision to return to North Dakota was the right one. He is Dean of Law. Tim is President. They're certainly making an important contribution. Would the contribution they might have made in Washington have been greater? Maybe. Would their lives have been as enriching in Washington as Grand Forks? They insist not. I don't know; I'm a Washington man. All I can say is that it was a privilege for me to know them for two years, and to have Charlie work with (not really for) me for one year. I wish them well.

The last romp through my imagination is a little different. My mother is gone, and she never had the chance to write down any of the story of her life, or her experiences with Dad, me, or Fred. We talked with her some, but a lot went unsaid. This is my imagination of what she might say now as she looked back on her life:

Charles was, I guess, just an average kid in high school. He seemed happy, did only fairly well in school, and had little athletic interest. He did try to keep in shape, read a lot, had few friends but they were close ones. He set off to college at age 17 (to be 18 in October). His college years produced two major shocks for us. First was the disastrous first semester at Columbia, after which he came home with his tail between his legs, no plans for the future, and not much else. Jason and I didn't really know what to do with or for him. As we sat around one day I asked Charles what he'd like to do, right then, if he could do what he liked. He suggested he'd like to travel in Europe.

Jason was shocked. Flunk out of school (well, he hadn't flunked out, but that wasn't far from the reality), and get a trip to Europe. That's what you give to A students. But I wasn't so certain it was a bad idea. Travel in Europe was cheap in those days; it'd get him out of the house and doing something; and he just might grow in the process. So we made it possible. Believe it or not, he traveled to Iceland, Scotland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, both Germanies, France, Belgium, Holland, and England, for two months, for $ 750.00. What a deal! He came back, and wanted to try college again in the fall. Columbia wouldn't readmit him: he'd have been on probation, and not likely to get off in the required one semester. Where would he like to go? He had heard of Rockford College and suggested he might go there. Jason got on the phone to the admissions office. This was mid-summer. It's amazing how schools that think they're selective with admissions become dramatically less so by midsummer when they have open freshman spaces and the potential student would be paying full tuition. Charlie was off to Rockford.

He did OK the first two years. Jason and I were convinced that our $ 750 investment had paid off: Charlie was passing, getting a degree, and seemed happy. He spent his summers as he always had: at Camp White Elk. Then something happened. We got his grades for the first semester of his junior year and they were all As. We were as shocked by that as we'd been by the mess at Columbia. And it continued for four semesters. At graduation he got the "Most Improved Student" award. We loved our Charlie, and we would've done anything for him. But let's be realistic; this wasn't the Charlie we sent off to Rockford College four years before. He gave recognition to an unnamed "someone" whom Jason and I assumed was his roommate Phil. That might've given us a clue that Charlie was gay, but he and Phil were going off in different directions, and there was no suggestion that they were a gay couple. (Gay, yes; a couple, no; as we'd find out soon enough.)

He got a job in Des Moines with the Red Cross and did well. Published a book, for goodness sakes. Then that job was over and he seemed footloose. He visited us in February, traveling with a former camper of his from Camp White Elk. That seemed a little strange, but who could say? Tim was a pretty exceptional young man, delightful to have around. And then came the bombshell! "Mom and Dad, I'm homosexual, and this is my life partner."

I didn't know what to say, think, do, or believe. Jason was equally unable to deal with it. The one thing that I did know, right from the beginning was that I loved my son and wasn't going to lose him. That thought got me through the first days. Jason had a more difficult time, but he agreed with the basic idea that we loved him and weren't going to lose him.

Out of this came "rumple the sheets." That was my way of dealing with the whole thing. I simply didn't want to deal with any of the physical reality of their relationship. Some people would call that the ostrich approach-keep your head in the sand. I think otherwise. "Rumple the sheets" allowed me to continue a healthy relationship with Charlie, and Tim, while I was dealing with a new situation as best I could. They weren't offended by "rumple the sheets," rather they seemed to think it was funny. In fact, they were quite faithful at actually rumpling them, or doing other things that kept Jason and me from having to confront a reality we weren't ready for. But we could accept Tim and Charlie as loving each other, and us, and that got all of us through.

Jason and I began real movement on our journey to acceptance when we were in Minneapolis for the commitment ceremony. We marveled at how accepting Norman and Betsy were, at how much everybody loved everybody. We met Phil and Franklin and had another example of a wholesome gay relationship. Jason talked to Norman and together they got the idea of giving the boys a joint commitment gift of a house remodeling. They specifically discussed the symbolism of helping the boys with their house, and I was delighted later when Tim and Charlie made it clear to us that they understood, and appreciated, the symbolism involved.

I want to tell you about my two epiphanies with Tim and Charlie. Charlie's already told you about them, but he didn't know, or didn't communicate to his readers, just how epiphanous [look it up] the two moments were. The first occurred in the leaves at the lake cabin as I took a walk through the woods. A voice called out, "Rumpled sheets." It was clearly a warning that I was going to encounter a scene that the boys assumed I didn't want to see. They'd been scrupulous in not foisting their sexual activities on Jason and me. But something inside me seemed to say that it was time for a change. I kept walking and there they were, on the ground on a bed of leaves, stark naked, hugging each other. Their clothes were laying on the ground next to them. They were clearly embarrassed. I looked at them for a while, while they just hugged. If they'd let go of each other, they'd have rolled and exposed themselves; as it was their genitals were hidden as they faced each other and hugged. My mind raced. In that moment, I understood that it was their love for each other, not their sexual desires, that made them who there were. All I said was, "I don't think I need the rumpled sheets anymore." I could've said much, much more, but that summed it up.

Jason never had that epiphany. But he learned to accept the boys, enjoyed being with them, and clearly understood that Tim was the source of virtually all of Charlie's happiness. For that he loved Tim almost as much as Charlie did.

My second epiphany came after I had lost Jason. I was enjoying the company of Fred Milson, and clearly he was enjoying my company as well. We seemed to fit together, but neither of us was ready to think about marriage. In our circles, or at least in mine, if you didn't think about marriage, you didn't think about sex. I was staying with Tim and Charlie in Grand Forks, but I was really visiting Fred. I'd spent the day with Fred, and had just come back to Tim and Charlie's. Charlie asked, "Why don't you spend the night with Fred, you're just going back there in the morning?"

I had said, "I couldn't do that," and Tim chimed in "Why not?"

I didn't have an answer. Well, I did answer, with something about our not being married. But at that moment I realized that there really wasn't a good answer to "Why not?"

I shared that conversation with Fred the next day, and he agreed that there wasn't an answer to why not. We slept together that night, and many nights after. We were married. We lived happily ever after.

Fred was a wonderful man. He had so much money he didn't know what to do with it. Well, that really isn't true. He knew exactly what to do with it: make other people happy. Fred spent very little money on himself. I don't know how his stores made a profit; the pink list at the main store, that is, the list of people who got things free or at a deep discount, was as long as your arm. Amazingly, people didn't abuse it. He'd charter a plane if someone needed to go someplace, but he flew coach when he was by himself. I know, he took everyone to Europe on the QE2, but that wasn't for him, it was for the Gang.

Oh, wait a minute. The trip to Munich on the QE2 was after I had died. Charlie's imagination got a little confused there!

You get the picture. Right after I died, as everyone stood around and stupidly wondered what to say, Fred said, "I know that the one thing that she'd want said right now is 'Thank you, Tim.'"

Well, Fred was absolutely right. Thank you, Tim, for loving my Charlie, and me, and the whole world.

Well, this is Charlie again. We'll leave my imagination behind and return to reality in the next episode. In the meantime, Thank You, readers for sticking with me for 100 episodes!

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