This is Granddad Bill. Billy's dad and Willie and Bob's granddad. Who better to tell this story of Willie? Well, this will just be part of the story of Willie-the beginning. His is an ongoing saga, and Charlie will have to return to it more than once as this story goes forward.
Charlie demands that his authors begin with a little autobiography, with emphasis on a sexual history. Time was when I would never have even considered putting this in writing, much less allowing it to be published! But here goes. I grew up in Fargo, knowing pretty much as far back as I can remember that I wanted to be a lawyer. My father was a trial lawyer and let me come and watch his courtroom performances as soon as I was able to sit quietly in the spectator section of the courtroom. I spent a lot of my high school summer vacations watching trials in Fargo, and sometimes in Bismarck.
I was a good student, but not much of an athlete. I played a little basketball and baseball, but never got beyond the junior varsity. Martha went to the same high school but was a year younger. We knew who each other was, but we weren't really friends-that began in college at North Dakota State.
Charlie wants to know about sex. There isn't much to tell. In the 1940's high school kids really weren't much into sex. We dated, let our hands roam in the movies and in the car, but only the bravest went further, and I wasn't one of those. I did have one really strange experience to tell about, however. I had studied French beginning in the eighth grade, and was really pretty good. I liked the course and the teacher so I took it all through high school. In my junior I was taking the last scheduled class-4th year French. Most of the other students were seniors who had begun French in ninth grade. And all of them were girls-I was the only boy in the class. One of the girls had a party for the class, a dinner, and I was, of course the only boy. Our teacher, Miss Sprague, was there. We had a nice dinner and afterwards were sitting around in their nice basement room, which in that era was called a rathskeller. Miss Sprague had to leave fairly early, so all that was left in the basement was me and seven girls, six of which were a year older than me. We were, of course, all speaking French and having a pretty good time. When Miss Sprague left the host girl opened her father's bar and got out some whiskey which was added to everyone's Coke. It wasn't my first experience with alcohol, but it was close to it. We weren't drunk, but we were certainly getting a little happy, when one of the girls said, "We've spent the year will Bill here and we've never seen his dick. Let's take a look at his dick."
I wasn't sure how to react to that, but a couple of the older girls were. They quickly grabbed me and were just as quickly joined by the rest. I found I wasn't able to resist at all. The girl who had started it didn't hesitate at all and went straight for my belt buckle and opened it, followed by my pants button and zipper. I tried to stop her, but the others held my arms tight. Before I knew it my shirt had been unbuttoned and my pants opened and pushed down below my knees. My underpants were not even close to concealing my hard-on. That didn't make any difference, because my underpants were quickly pulled down below my knees with my pants. I'd never been naked in front of any girls, and now my entire French class was staring and giggling at me. It was very clear that they had planned the whole thing in advance. Since I didn't have any choice, I decided that it was stupid to be upset, I'd just enjoy it. It was also clear that the girls had planned this much, but didn't have the slightest idea where they were going from here.
I teased, "Now what are you going to do?"
One of the girls got brave enough to touch my dick, and soon they were all hesitantly touching it and tickling it. Soon my balls got the same treatment. As they realized that I wasn't going to resist, they slowly let go of my arms and legs and all hands were trying to get in to fiddle with my most interesting parts. That was all it took and I had an orgasm, shooting a big load of cum all over their hands and my stomach. Regardless of how much sex education they had had, none of the girls was expecting that. I was quickly left alone to put myself together as they headed to the bathroom to clean their hands. Not that much cum had gotten on me, and I cleaned myself up with my handkerchief, pulled my pants up, buttoned my shirt, and was back together when the girls reappeared. I asked, "Now can I take your clothes off? Are any of you brave enough."
None were. None were even brave enough to talk to me about the evening for the rest of the time we were in school together. The next couple of French classes contained some awkward silences, but things did manage to return to normal. To this day I'm not really sure what to make of the episode. I guess it was just another learning experience. As I look back on it, it was a fun one, but I'm not sure I thought so at the time.
I started dating Martha in her freshman year-my sophomore year. I lived in the dorm, but she lived at home. We had both of our homes for privacy, as well as my car. We took advantage of that and were sexually active very soon after we started dating. We were engaged toward the end of my junior year and married right after my graduation. Martha transferred to the University of Minnesota where I would be in law school, but they had a three semester residence requirement and she didn't graduate until January, 1951, while I was in second year law. Billy was born that April-we didn't mess around-and Martha became a mother and homemaker. A damn good one too; just look at Billy!
But this is Wille's story. You've met him in these pages along with his brother, Bob; you know they're water rats; they're great kids; and they're the first of the next generation of the Gang. I'm ahead of things saying that; at the time I'm writing about nobody had even considered whether the next generation would become members of the Gang-though our thoughts about the need for a next generation certainly were instructive. We'd just begun to think about issues of sexuality as it related to the next generation, but "just begun" was definitely the operative phrase. Things began to move more quickly when, in May of 1985 I got a call from Sara, Willie's mother, my daughter-in-law, and for the record Gang member number 37.
"Hi, Dad, it's Sara."
"Hi, yourself. How are you? Nothing wrong to bring about this unexpected call?"
"Nothing at all. I'm passing on a request. It goes to you, but it'll impact on a number of people up there if you agree."
"If you're making the request then I'm sure that it's a reasonable one, and that I and others will agree. Now go ahead and prove me wrong."
"I'm passing along a request from Willie. Billy and I have talked about it and we approve. He'd like to spend the summer with you in Grand Forks."
"That sounds reasonable. We love to have our grandchildren around. What about Bob?"
"Bob's very happy here. He has lots of friends, and I think would enjoy being an only child for the summer. He sort of lives in Willie's shadow at times."
"Just who do you expect this to impact other than Martha and me?"
"Certainly Tim, and that means Charlie. One of Willie's main goals is to dive, dive, dive with Tim and anyone else who'll watch him, coach him, or just be a lifeguard. It's bound to impact Larry as well, and maybe Coach Harry Wilson in Iron River if Willie goes to the cabin with Tim-or anybody."
"How old is Willie now? Ten?"
"He's eleven. He'll be twelve in October. He's tall, and most people think he's about fourteen."
"What grade does that put him in?"
"He's finishing sixth grade. He'll go into junior high school in the fall. Technically he should be in fifth grade, but as you must remember, we got him into a private kindergarten at age 4, becoming 5 in October, and the public schools accepted him, after testing. When they tested him for first grade he was reading at the fifth grade level and doing fourth grade arithmetic. He's probably ready for high school next year, but we haven't tried to push him ahead."
"I know I speak for Tim and Charlie, and Martha. We'd love to have him. When, and how, would he come?"
"We had thought we'd drive him up, but we couldn't leave until about a week after his school's out. So he wants to fly. He's really anxious."
"Put him on the plane. Tell us when to meet him. We'll work out the other details when he gets here. I'm sure that he'll want to be involved in all the planning."
"I'm sure he will. Thanks, Dad."
"Aren't you going to miss him?"
"Of course I am. So will Billy. So will Bob, but he doesn't know it yet. But we know we have to let go. Willie's a great kid. We don't want to stand in his way. He really wants this. His school is out in two weeks, and he'll want to be on the next flight."
Willie could've gotten a direct flight from Indianapolis to Minneapolis and not changed planes. It would've meant our driving down to get him, and we wouldn't have minded. But he was confident in himself, and wanted to fly all the way to Grand Forks. That meant changing in Minneapolis. He was old enough to do that under the airline rules, and so off he went, on his own, to visit Granddad and Gran. He arrived looking tall, confident, and every bit of 14 or 15. You couldn't have convinced anybody on the plane that he was an eleven year old. And he wasn't reading the Hardy Boys. It was Chekhov, of all things! When I saw the book I knew we were in for an extraordinary summer.
I could go on for pages telling you about Willie that summer. He was so smart, so strong, so polite, so considerate. I had thought that Billy was a wonderful son, and he was. But this grandson was out of this world. In reflecting on Billy I knew all kids perform their worst for their parents. Naturally I was enamored with my grandson. But Willie was something special. I didn't know Tim as a pre-teen, but Willie was what I imagine him to have been like. Tim, on the other hand, thinks that Willie's far more spectacular than he (Tim) had ever been, but I'm quite sure that that's just Tim being modest. Charlie won't comment because he didn't know Tim until he was 14, but Norman agrees with me!
The day after he arrived we walked over to the university pool. Tim was there and he introduced Willie around, but most of the people at the pool had met Willie on one of his previous visits. Whenever he'd been in town he was diving whenever Tim was, and whenever else he could manage it.
This summer he planned to manage it a lot. Tim had pulled strings (!) and wangled Willie a pass for the pool at the family member rate. ("He's part of my family," insisted Tim. Who argues with the President?) He knew that he and Larry didn't have enough time to spend with Willie to keep him happy. So Tim had negotiated with Tom for Fyn and Arnie to work half-time over the summer. I paid them for the other half time and that way one of them was available to be at the pool with Willie whenever he wanted. And they were both better divers than Willie-at least they were at the beginning of the summer-so he could learn from them as well. They were thrilled to be paid for doing what they liked best in the world, and Willie was a joy to watch and teach.
Walking home from the pool that first day, Willie held my hand as we walked. Out of the blue, at least it seemed that way to me-clearly Willie had planned his approach-Willie said, "You know, Granddad, I think I'm bisexual."
Well, the idea of having a bisexual grandson didn't bother me. But to be told it so matter-of-factly by an eleven year old was a little startling. "What makes you think so?"
"I like both boys and girls."
"Most people like both boys and girls, but it doesn't make them bisexual."
"It does when you like them the way I like them."
"How is that?"
"I dream of them naked. I dream of touching them. I dream of them touching me."
I wasn't dumb enough to ask where he dreamed of touching or being touched. I did manage, "Willie, most boys your age aren't thinking sexual thoughts about girls yet, or boys. Most eleven year olds are at the 'girls are yukky' stage."
"Well, they can be yukky. So can boys. But I like both."
"Have you ever tried touching naked girls or boys-the way you dreamed?"
His long silence gave me a good clue to the answer. I continued, "Well, which was it, a girl or a boy?"
"Do you want to tell me about it?"
"You won't get mad?"
"Willie, I'll never get mad when you're telling me the truth. I may suggest that your behavior shouldn't be repeated, or make other comments. But I won't get mad. Trust me."
"I do, Granddad. I walked into the weight room at the "Y" gym late one afternoon. There were two boys sort of hiding in the corner. I could see that they were naked. I walked over and asked what they were doing. They said they were, 'Playing around, want to join us?' I said, 'Sure,' and pulled down my sweats and underpants. They tickled my dick and balls a little while and then asked me to tickle them. I did. It really felt good. The three of us have played around a couple of times since."
"You said both girls and boys."
"Mary Parker, a girl in my class, asked me one time if I wanted to play doctor. I knew that was just another way of saying, 'Let's take off our clothes.' I said, 'OK,' and we went in the parking bay where the AV truck parks. We were hidden behind the truck. She pulled down her pants and I pulled down mine. We didn't dare take them off, because somebody might come near. She looked very closely at me. Then she took hold of my dick and moved it around, examining it closely. I got a hard boner. She wanted to know all about that. I told her it always got hard when it was excited, and she was exciting. She played with my balls a little and then told me I could play with her. She let me put my finger inside her, and then she showed me her clitoris. She really got excited when I rubbed it. But then we got dressed."
"Have you done anything with her since?"
"No, that was just a couple of weeks ago, and then I came up here. When she found out I'd be gone all summer she said, 'We'll play in the fall.'"
"Do you want to?"
"I think so. It was fun."
"You're pretty young for that, Willie."
"That's what Mom said."
"You told your mom that story? Both of those stories?"
"Good for you. How did she react?"
"About like you are."
"Good for her."
"What about the two boys?"
"It was fun."
"And since both of these experiences were fun, you have concluded you're bisexual?"
"I like both boys and girls. I liked playing with both. Dad says that's what bisexual means."
"So why are you telling me this?"
"Mom and Dad are bisexual, aren't they?"
(And I thought I was ready for anything!) "What makes you say that?"
"They both sleep with Tim and Charlie when they visit. And I think they both sleep with most of the Gang. Doesn't that make them bisexual?"
"How do you know so much about the sleeping habits of your parents?"
"Granddad, how dumb do you think I am? I live in the house with them. It doesn't take any brains to figure out who's sleeping where. At first they tried to hide it, but they've given that up. Bob and I have been told very clearly that we don't talk about those things outside the family."
"Do you follow that rule?"
"Always. So does Bob. Mom and Dad trust us. We both try as hard as we can to live up to their trust."
"How old are you?"
"Eleven. Almost twelve."
"How old is Bob?"
"Nine. Almost ten."
"I feel like I'm talking to a sixteen year old."
"Oh, Granddad. I'm just eleven."
"I know, Willie. But you're an awfully grown up eleven."
A few days later Martha and I invited Tim and Charlie to lunch. Charlie was tied up with a series of small lunch get-togethers with his third year law students (an event that he had made an annual springtime ritual). So he told Tim to go ahead and eat with us and see what was on our minds-I guess I'd made it clear that we had an agenda.
We began by asking Tim about Willie's diving, how he was getting along with the other divers and Larry Knudsen, and the usual things that grandparents might ask. Tim was completely enthusiastic. Martha asked, "Is he really as good a diver as he thinks he is?"
Tim asked, "Martha, what makes you ask that? I've never heard him brag about his diving, never heard him put down another diver."
"No, neither have I. It's just the way he talks about diving. It reminds me of you, Tim. And Billy. You both just exude confidence without seeming haughty. So does Willie."
"I think that's a compliment. Well, Willie's going to be as good or better than Billy and me. And I think he knows it. At age eleven he's at least attempted every dive in the book. His repertoire of dives that he's mastered is impressive. His practice concentration makes me look like a piker. I'm totally impressed."
"He hasn't done much in competition, has he?"
"Not really. He dives in meets at the "Y" in Bloomington. He's been in a couple of junior meets. But he hates junior competition. He says, "Who wants to be at the top of a low heap. I'll begin competing when I'm good enough to compete in open meets."
"When will that be?"
"I would think this fall. Maybe we can get him to one or two this summer. I'd want to talk to Billy before I suggested it to Willie."
"Billy will follow your lead. He thinks you're God, Tim," said Martha.
"Billy's a smart coach and obviously a super dad. I think you're right that he'd defer to my judgement in this, but I'd still want to talk to him." The table was silent for a while and then Tim continued. "You must have something more than this on your mind. Spill it."
"Has Willie talked to you about sex?"
"Do you mean, has he told me that he was bisexual?"
"Obviously he has. Did you talk about it?"
"At some length."
"Did he tell you he's been playing around with a couple of boys and a girl?"
"How did you react to that?"
"Thoughtfully. I gather about the same as you did. He told me that he'd talked to you first."
"Do we have anything to worry about?"
"Nope. I did give him some pretty clear guidance about sex with adults. I warned him that adult-child sex, of any kind at any level, was both immoral and illegal. He could argue about the morality, but not the legality. And adults engaging in sex with an eleven year old could go to jail. If he ever suggested it, it'd be the same as inviting that adult to go to jail. Of course, the adult should say, 'No,' and only if the adult didn't say, 'No,' would a crime have happened. The law would demand the, 'No,' and if it wasn't given, bang, you're cooked.
"I went on. I told Willie that he was one really sexy boy. He looked to be sixteen, and teenagers and adults could easily be attracted to him. It'd be totally unfair for him to tease, and absolutely forbidden to invite."
"Did he get the message?"
"Very much so. He convinced me not to worry. But I do worry about a teenager that might look at Willie and think he was fifteen or sixteen and therefore a contemporary. It could be an easy mistake. The kid's five foot ten and a half. He towers over me."
"Could he handle that?"
"I think so. He says so. I guess I'm not worried. But our conversation went much deeper as we talked about bisexuality. I explained my belief that most people are somewhat straight and somewhat gay. Most people are more one than the other. Those that are really in the middle are the ones we should properly call bisexual. I told him that his mom and dad weren't bisexual in that sense, because they clearly preferred sex with each other, and in general with the opposite sex, even though from time to time they had gay sex, and enjoyed it. I said that I enjoyed sex with a woman, but preferred men, and most especially preferred Charlie. Someday he'd figure out which gender he preferred and what persons he preferred. Until then, he shouldn't worry about it."
"Tim, you're wonderful. He accepted all that?"
"Well, eleven, sixteen, or an adult, you never really know whether your counsel and advice is accepted. But it gave him a lot to think about. I wouldn't be afraid to bring up sexual topics with him. He's ready to think and talk. And clearly he's able to talk with adults, and that's really a good thing."
There was a regional swim and dive meet in Minneapolis in the middle of July. It would have junior events, collegiate events, and a full open meet. Tim asked Willie if he'd like to go and he said, "Only for the open meet. I'm not interested in a junior event."
"Willie, you'd probably be the youngest junior competitor."
"Who cares? I'm interested in knowing how good I am in the real world."
"Well, let's go find out."
A bunch of us headed down to Minneapolis, meeting Billy, Sara and Bob there. There were about 20 from the Grand Forks Gang, including Fyn, Arnie and Margie, as well as the Minneapolis six-who were about a month away from being six additions to the Grand Forks contingent of the Gang. Billy told Tim, "You get Willie as a roommate during the meet. He needs love and support, and it's you that he wants it from."
"He'd like physical sex as well as love and support."
"I'd say that was fine with me, and it would be in another world. But I know that you draw the line exactly where Charlie did with you, and Willie understands that."
"Like I understood it with Charlie."
"Yeah, something like that."
When Charlie heard that Tim was going to sleep with Willie he almost laughed himself silly. "Tim, now you're going to find out how hard it was for me to sleep with you the few nights I did before you were eighteen. Have fun."
When we were all together back in Grand Forks Tim said to Charlie, Martha and me, "God, Charlie, now I know what you went through those nights in my bed. And that damn Willie can wiggle just like I used to."
"Like you still do."
"Yeah, but now you can respond. Then you couldn't."
Back to the diving. When Willie arrived at the meet they had him registered in the junior events. They had looked at his age and just assumed he'd filled out the advance registration form wrong. Charlie was standing with him, but decided to say nothing unless he was needed. Willie didn't need any help. He calmly explained that the form had been correctly filled out; he'd be an open competitor. No, he didn't care if all the other competitors were at least five years old than he. He'd read the rules and there was nothing about a minimum age in the open category. It didn't matter that he was listed with the juniors, that was clearly their mistake, not his. Here, they could look at the copy of his registration form that he'd sent in. Well, if he had to, could he please speak with the chief judge? Who did he need to get involved in this, his lawyer, his dad, or his Uncle Tim? Oh, his dad and Uncle Tim are of the Olympic gold medal fame, and his lawyer is the dean of law at the University of North Dakota, and is standing right behind me. Thank you. It really wasn't that much of a problem, was it? And, no, my dad doesn't need to sign a permission, because he already signed the permission on the registration form, and had it notarized. Thank you.
The kid sounded so much like Tim it was eerie.
Tim reported that the under-18 national junior champion from the June Nationals would be competing in the open competition. It would be interesting to see him up against Willie. There were a few others that could be juniors competing in the open meet, but they were all at least 16. If Willie had looked 11 he would really have stood out. But he was almost as big as the 16-year olds and held his own very well. But if you looked closely, or heard him talk, you'd know you were talking to a younger boy. It didn't faze Willie.
Tim and Willie slept in Tim's old room at Norman and Betsy's home. The double bed was still there, and the room was filled with Tim's trophies and medals. They hadn't been there when Tim lived in the room, but Norman and Betsy had moved them in after he had moved out. Betsy said, "If we can't have the boy, we at least want the memories. And each trophy and medal is a wonderful memory."
Willie was gaga over the hardware. "You won all those?"
"Yes, and a lot of them are junior awards."
"I'm not going to argue about that. My mind's made up."
"I'll respect that, Willie."
"Are there more gymnastics awards or diving awards?"
"Probably gymnastics. You can win more medals in a single meet in gymnastics."
"This is really neat."
Before they went to bed Willie enlisted Tim's advice on which dives he should elect the next day for his optional dives. Tim told him to go for the high value dives. "There's nothing worse than to be beaten by someone who doesn't dive as well as you, but chooses tougher dives. If you're going to be beaten, you want it to be by grace and skill not by mathematics."
"Tim, for you that just means pick the highest value dives. But I can't do that. Which ones am I good enough at to choose? You've watched me dive, help me."
"No, you have to decide. I can tell which dives you've done well, but you need to limit your dives to the ones you're comfortable doing. Only you can tell that. Then pick the hardest from that group."
Tim told Billy and me during the meet that Willie's list was incredible. "If there is or was another eleven year old that can dive that list, I'd like to meet him."
"What about you when you were eleven?"
It turned out that there were 63 competitors in the open 3 m. springboard competition and 48 in the 10m. platform competition. In difficulty of dives chosen, Willie was 13th on the springboard and 8th on the platform. He was the youngest in both groups by almost five years. He got laughed at when he turned in his dive lists. When I witnessed that I thought, "That's a mistake for somebody. Willie doesn't take well to being laughed at."
The compulsory dives were first, and were generally easier than all of the dives Willie had picked for his optionals. Because of the confusion in his registration, he was at the bottom of the diving order in both competitions. By the time his turn came in the first round, people were getting bored watching, were ready for the next (and more difficult) dive to begin, and weren't particularly interested in what the little kid could do.
I guess I should give you a little aside. Athletic glory fades quickly. It had been 2 Olympiads and a year since Billy had retired from diving and Tim eight years before that. Their names were household words to their generation, but not to this generation of divers. Probably around a national meet they would've been centers of attention. But not here. So the fact that Willie was Billy's son didn't mean much, and the connection to Tim even less. The crowds weren't waiting expectantly for Willie to dive.
But did he dive? His first spring board dive was nearly perfect. A good part of the audience missed it. When the 9.7 score was announced there was a flurry of conversation, "Who was that? I missed that. Did anybody do better than 9.7? Who's that little kid? How old is he?"
The next round they were watching, and Willie didn't disappoint. He got a 9.7 again, and was solidly in third place.
The increasing difficulty of the dives wasn't Willie's problem. It was consistency. That was the rock upon which his dad and uncle had built their success. But consistency in a difficult athletic event is beyond the dream of any eleven year old-even Willie. His next dives were 9.3, 9.4, 9.3, 9.6, 9.1. A fantastic showing for a first meet, much less for his age. But not good enough to keep him in third place. He began the optionals in 11th place.
The mathematics were about neutral for him. Yes, his selected dives were more difficult than most of the other competitors, but most of the ones that had more difficult dives than Willie were also the ones leading him as the optionals began. But the numbers were very close.
Willie got lucky in the optionals. He was more consistent. 9.8, 9.6, 9.5, 9.6, 9.7, 9.5. But in the optionals, everybody's doing their best dives, and most scored pretty well. He ended up in 9th place, which put him in the finals scheduled for the day after next. The next day would be the opening round of the platform.
By now people were really watching him. People that had drifted away in the interminable succession of compulsory dives of 48 platform divers rushed back to the pool to watch "the kid." He gave them the show they wanted. I won't bother you with all the numbers. Let me just say that he was eighth going into the finals. I might add that the Junior national champion was in both finals, but ranked below Willie in both.
The first two nights in bed with Tim, Willie had been very well behaved. He'd worn his underwear, snuggled up to Tim just a little, and slept like a baby. The night before the springboard finals he told Tim, "I know the rules. I promise to respect them. But I also know that you and Charlie slept naked together when you were 14."
"How do you know that?"
"I've heard a lot of stories from Dad. But the answer to that came from Norman. I asked him this noon."
"I used to think that it was kind of neat that there weren't any secrets in the Gang."
"It is. Now get your clothes off. I'm bigger than you, so I get the rear position. I expect to learn all about your wiggles, and I understand that my hand has to stop at your belly button. I am right; those are the rules?"
"Charlie and I were lovers."
"You don't love me?"
"I'm going to lose this, aren't I?"
"OK, let's go take a shower."
Tim told me later, "Bill, Charlie and I were 20 and 14 when we slept together. Willie and I were 11 and 38. I couldn't believe the position that he'd maneuvered me into. He played with my belly button, my nipples, he tickled my ribs, he kissed me often. He obeyed the rules to the letter. In the morning he thanked me profusely, showered by himself, and got ready for the meet. He told me, 'Uncle Tim, I'm as ready for the meet as I'll ever be. Dad told me that sleeping with you before a meet was incredibly important for him, and it was for me. Thank you.'"
I told Tim, "Everybody knows that you and Charlie, and Billy, push limits, but ultimately respect them absolutely. We all trust you. And now we're going to have to learn to trust Willie. And you and I both know that it wouldn't have mattered if he'd grabbed your dick, but you were right to enforce the line. He needs to understand the importance of moral rules, and you taught him a good lesson last night."
"I've been told that I'm off the hook tonight, he wants to sleep with his mom and dad."
"Good for him."
All eyes were on Willie at the meet. If he'd come in 12th-last among the finalists-he'd have been the sensation of the meet. They'd be doing the same dives as the day before, plus two new ones: one a fairly difficult compulsory and another optional. Willie got brave and choose the most difficult dive he had any hope of doing well. He admitted to Tim that he was outside his comfort zone, but wanted to take the risk. Since Tim had been the ultimate risk taker in his career, he couldn't even try to discourage Willie. He simply said, "If you're sure, then, 'Right on!'"
It'd been tough watching my son, Billy, in the Olympics. Martha and I would almost hold our breaths for an entire meet, or at least it seemed like it. Well, if it'd been tough watching Billy, think about watching eleven year old Willie. Unbelievable! Dive after dive of what appeared to these prejudiced eyes to be absolute perfection. Well, the judges weren't smitten with their grandson and were grounded in the reality that his dives were less than perfect. But they were good. Damn good. And he came in fifth!
We knew we had a little kid, however, when he took his medal and walked over to the old diver that had laughed at him when he turned in his dive lists. The man hadn't made the finals, but had stayed to watch. Willie held the medal up and said, "Laugh at that."
His Dad had been more than a little upset at the performance. Willie had said, "I'm sorry, Dad. I know I shouldn't have done that. But he deserved it, didn't he?"
"Yes, Willie he did. But not from you. You've got to be bigger than that. And don't you dare give me your line about only being eleven. That isn't an excuse."
"How about the line, 'I promise not to do it again'?"
"Only if you mean it."
"OK, Dad. I mean it."
"Dad, I want to sleep with you and Mom tonight."
"Is this related to the discussion we just had?"
"No. I told Uncle Tim this morning. I want to sleep with you."
Sara told me the next morning that he had snuggled between them in bed and slept like a baby. "Sometimes you realize that he really is eleven years old. And then there I was for the second day sitting in the front row of seats watching my eleven year old son hurl himself off a high board or platform into a pool of very hard water. When he'd come up out of the water after doing one of his spectacular dives, I didn't know whether to cheer or give a sigh of relief that he hadn't hurt himself. I cheered. What else could I do? At least on this last day he was only 3 meters up on the springboard. That 10 meter platform really scares me."
The eleven year old received the sixth place medal from the platform. His career as a nationally recognized competitive diver had begun.
That summer Willie spent the first three weeks of August at the Pike Lake cabin. Fyn, Arnie and Sharon went over with him, along with Murray and Toppy, who knew the ropes regarding managing the cabin. Before they left, Tim took Willie aside and said, "There is to be no sexual teasing at the cabin-or anywhere in Michigan. OK?"
"OK, Uncle Tim. You've already warned me. I promise.'
Harry Wilson at Iron River was delighted to have Willie dive in his pool whenever it was not being used by the public and was available for diving. Either Fyn or Arnie or both drove him up every day. Sometimes Sharon went along, but there wasn't much for her to do. Harry's diving team was delighted to have two Olympic medalists working with them, and Willie was instantly popular in his own right. It was amazing how he could hold his own with the high school students socially as well as in the pool. Willie thought Harry Wilson was a super coach. "No pressure, just good advice," was Willie's description of Coach Wilson.
At the end of the summer, if you asked Fyn or Arnie who was the best diver among the three of them, they would refuse to answer. They did say that Willie had been true to his word and not been a sexy tease at all.
Willie spent time with us the next summer as well, but had a slightly shorter stay. His dad had taken him to a couple of regional swim meets during the year, and he was continuing to be noticed at the national level. By winter of the following year, at age thirteen, he was ranked 19th nationally. His repertoire of dives almost covered the book, and he'd gotten a couple of 10s on his easier dives. He was on his way, and hadn't even started high school.
And that's when he dropped his bomb. It was in January of 1987, in his 8th grade year. One Saturday morning at a leisurely breakfast with his parents-an unusual event because he was usually off diving at that time-he said, "Dad, I don't want to go to Bloomington High School."
"I don't like the swimming coach. He's too pushy."
"Are you planning to be a high school diver? We've never really talked about it. You don't have to compete on the high school circuit, you can just enter open meets if you want."
"I want to go to high school like a normal kid, dive on the team, make friends, be a teenager."
"Are you going to give up big diving meets?"
"No. I can do that and dive for my high school. I don't have to go to many big meets to keep up. You and Tim didn't."
"So, if you don't want to go to Bloomington High, where do you want to go?"
"Iron River, Michigan. The school is the West Iron County High School. Their teams are the Wycons. I want to be a Wycon diver for Coach Wilson."
Billy and Sara thought they were ready for anything. If he'd told them he'd gotten a girl pregnant it would've startled them less.
"Dad. Mom. Say something."
Sara composed herself first. "Willie, you don't live in Michigan. You don't know people in Iron River. Where would you live? What do you know about the school except that they have excellent diving facilities and a good coach? What about the teachers? The curriculum? The other students; you've only met the divers?"
Willie looked Sara straight in the face and said, "Uncle Norman says parents are supposed to say 'Yes,' to reasonable requests from their children. I think this is a reasonable request."
Billy finally got himself together enough to speak. "OK, if we're able to arrange this, and it could prove to be very difficult, will you make one promise?"
"What's that, Dad?"
"That if you get to Iron River and it isn't all you hoped for, you'll admit it at once and come home. If at any time it isn't what you hoped for, you'll admit it and come home. No staying because of your pride."
"I can promise that, Dad."
Sara said, "Willie, I'll miss you an awful lot if you live in Michigan."
"I'll miss you, too, Mom. But we'll be together a lot over the years. Right now I think I belong in Iron River and you belong here in Bloomington, Indiana."
"Where do you think you might live in Iron River?"
"There's a diver there, Hardie Hassett. He lives with his mother in a big old house. His father was killed in a logging accident a couple of years ago. If I paid room and board I think they'd like to have me live with them. It'd help their budget, and they have plenty of room."
Billy said, "You've been thinking about this a lot, haven't you?"
I started thinking about it last summer. But I haven't said anything to anyone, except you two.
To make a long story short, a trip to Iron River was arranged for Willie, Billy, Sara, Bob, Martha and me, and Tim and Charlie. An educational guardianship had to be legally established, with Harry Wilson as his guardian. The Hassetts were indeed willing for him to be a boarder, and were, in fact, charming people in a big old ramshackle house that any teenager would love. Hardie Hasset would be two grades ahead of him, but became a good friend. And Coach Wilson found himself coaching the best high school diver in the country, if not the world. "Recruiting" is out of bounds for high school athletics, that is trying to encourage top athletes to go to school outside of their usual districts. Both Billy and Willie were required to file sworn affidavits stating that this was entirely Willie's idea, and that Coach Wilson had made no attempt to encourage him. And those affidavits were absolutely true. Coach Wilson was the most surprised person on earth when Willie had called him on the telephone and asked if he could be on his diving team.
Sara did make one demand: "Willie, if you're going to be gone all winter, then you have to spend your summer at home with your family."
"Mom, that'd be wonderful."
"Thanks, son. I love you."
"I love you too, Mom. Thanks for being my mom."
A footnote from Charlie:
I'm going to add one note that a grandfather really can't add. Standing at poolside, looking up at the platform as Willie stood, perfectly still, perfectly poised for another dive, I knew that I was looking at a magnificent specimen of male humanity. It certainly reminded me of Tim at the time I first met him. Not only beautiful, but erotic. I could hardly avoid getting hard as I stared at him. Once Tim saw me staring and came up beside me. "Beautiful isn't he? He makes me think of you that first summer at camp."
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