September ended with a telephone call from Tom. "Charlie, Nancy and I want to talk to you. No, we need to talk to you. The telephone won't cut it. Could we meet halfway? My dad says he'll spring for a ticket for you to fly to Chicago, and we can spend a weekend in a hotel there. He suggests the Palmer House, the best I guess, and he's going to pay the bill-provided we share one room. Do you believe that? Where did I get a father like that? I don't know whether he's stingy or sexually liberal. Maybe both. He says he wants you to be our chaperone. Do you believe that? Can you come? Will you come? Please."
"Slow down, Tom. What's all this about?"
"Too complicated for the phone. You can come, can't you Charlie?"
"Sorry, kid, this weekend is scheduled for a club archery match. How about the next weekend?"
"Then you'll come?"
"Of course. How about next weekend?"
"Sure. My dad will make the arrangements and I'll call you back tomorrow."
The call back came from Sam. "Charlie all the arrangements are made, I'll send your ticket by Air Mail-there's plenty of time. I thought you ought to hear from me that this trip has Beverly's and my complete approval-in fact in was our idea-including the room arrangements. We saw your nighttime magic here, and we didn't want to close the door on the possibilities there. There's one very important thing you need to know."
"Nancy's eighteenth birthday was about a month ago."
"Thanks, Sam, I was a little worried about that. It eases my mind. Are you going to tell me a little more about what this's about?"
"I guessed you'd say that. OK, we'll go by your rules. I'm looking forward to seeing the kids."
I won the archery match, and spent most of the next week wondering what was on Tom's mind. On Friday I flew to Chicago and met Tom and Nancy in O'Hare airport as they flew in from Detroit. We took the helicopter downtown-it was a new adventure for all of us. I paid for it, because it was about the only thing that I was going to be allowed to pay for all weekend. We checked into the hotel, I won't even try to guess what the clerk thought, but he didn't seem inclined to care-it was room for three in my name and that was that.
Tom started the evening off by handing me a letter signed by both Sam and Beverly:
"First, the rules are the same as the last time you were with Tom. We trust you, and them, to make the right rules. We know that Tom and Nancy are a couple, and that they do things together that can't be done in the hotel lobby.
"Second, we want you to know that this weekend was our idea. Tom and Nancy have been struggling, asked us for advice, and we're in over our heads. And we can too easily bring our prejudices into the equation. So we suggested talking to you, and the trip to Chicago grew out of a conversation at dinner. Tom called you between dinner and dessert.
"Tom and Nancy are at a difficult time in their lives. They're approaching college, they're in love, and they aren't clear how to handle the next few years. We want to support them, but we aren't sure how. You have been so much help in the past that we thought you might be a good counselor for them. Tom trusts you completely, and I think that he has convinced Nancy to do the same.
"We aren't asking for miracles-and frankly I don't think that is what they need. They need a chance to do some clear thinking, away from two sets of parents who are quite confused about how to deal with a serious high school romance.
"Yes, Nancy's parents are behind the weekend-though to be honest I don't think Nancy has said anything to them about the three of you sharing a room. I decided that I wouldn't get into that.
"Charlie, we really have to thank you for coming to Chicago.
"Sam and Beverly."
I read the letter and then said to Tom and Nancy, "It's late. Let's sleep and talk in the morning. I went into the bathroom, washed up, changed into my pajamas and came out and got into the far bed. I lay on my side facing away and said, "Go to bed." They did. I didn't look, so I didn't see any of the interplay between them. However, they were quiet in the other bed, and we all went quickly to sleep.
I was up before them, showered and dressed, and woke them up. "Time for breakfast sleepyheads."
They made no move to get out of bed. Finally Tom climbed out and I realized why they were so slow. Tom was nude and clearly Nancy was as well. I simply said, "I am going down to the coffee shop for breakfast. Get dressed and join me as soon as you can."
I had orange juice and a newspaper while I sat and waited for them at the breakfast table. They got there in about twenty minutes. I said, "Pretty fast for a girl."
Nancy replied, "No sexist remarks. I can get dressed faster than Tom."
We ordered, and then I said, "Do you want to start the conversation now, or wait till after breakfast?"
Nancy was real quick, "Now." Tom agreed.
"Who's going to tell the story?"
Nancy said, "Tom is. He knows you and will be more comfortable talking. But I am with him in deciding to talk to you."
Tom spoke, "It isn't that big a deal. But we simply aren't sure where our lives are going, and we need help trying to think it out. We're committed to each other; we're in love. We're having sex, and are being careful. My parents know it, and I think Nancy's suspect, but we haven't specifically told them.
"We can't reach any decision about college. We both want to go, but are very unsettled about possible careers. We haven't a clue where to go to college. We want to get married, but don't know when. We have talked to our parents, but they're as confused as we are. We think they're willing to support our decisions, whatever they are, but they're at a loss on how to help."
"Have you talked to a guidance counselor at school?"
"Yeah, real helpful. 'You're too young to get married.' Then no help talking about a college that would meet both of our needs, because he wouldn't talk about us being in love-we're too young."
"He didn't even try. At least our parents tried."
"Tom, you had a wonderful psychiatrist when Julie died, wasn't it a Dr. Johnson? Did you talk to him?"
"I didn't even think of him. I guess we could. But I don't really think this is a psychiatrist kind of problem."
"Probably not," I replied, "I am just trying to explore where you have gone for help up to now. I assume that you have talked to each other about this a lot."
"Hours. But we keep going around the same circle. We can make the same lists of reasons to get married now, and then not to get married now. We can talk about a lot of colleges, but we don't get anywhere. Careers are just as unsettled."
"My inclination at this point would be to ask you about sex, and whether you had talked before you acted. But Tom has already told me about your first date, and I know that Nancy followed my rule. How have things gone since then?"
"He really told you all that?"
"Of course. Didn't he tell you that he tells the Gang, and that includes me, everything? If you're going to marry this guy, you have to understand that you're really marrying a Gang of eight."
"He warned me, but the truth is just now sinking in."
"Well, arouse me a little. Tell me something about your sex life."
Tom said, "We're having intercourse fairly regularly. We enjoy it. She's on The Pill, and having no problems. Sexually we're ready to be married."
I said, "Nancy, do you agree with all of that?"
"Yes, I do."
"How varied is your sex? Or do you only fuck?"
Nancy said, "Is this going somewhere? I am a little uncomfortable."
I said, "I don't blame you. Tom and I and the other boys in the Gang have something special. It can seem intrusive or offensive to outsiders. But I don't think of you as an outsider."
Tom said, "Nancy and I have talked about you and the Gang. But the reality takes a while to sink in. I'll answer your question. We use our hands, but mostly it's fucking. Nancy isn't comfortable with oral sex, and we haven't even talked about anal. That lays the facts on the table pretty plainly."
"Nancy, are you uncomfortable with talk like that?"
Tom said, "And this was the girl that wanted to talk about sex on the first date."
"I just wanted to be sure that taking me to bed wasn't your main motive."
"I know that. I knew it that first night. That's why our relationship has been so good."
I asked, "You're sure you want to get married?"
"Yes." From both.
"Now. Soon. Right away. But we think there are problems with that." That was Tom talking, but Nancy was nodding her head in agreement.
"And I'm supposed to give you the magic answer, right?"
"Yes. Oh, Hell, Charlie, we know you haven't got the magic answer. But can you help?" Tom again.
"I do have the magic answer, Tom. It's 'Buy the damn shoes.'"
"What?" That was Nancy. "Shoes? What about shoes?"
I said, "There's a story here. Tom, have you heard the 'Buy the damn shoes story?"
"No. Well, I guess it involves Hal, right?"
We were finished with breakfast. I asked where they wanted to talk today. They said the room, but it didn't have three chairs, and I wasn't certain the bed was the best place. We found a corner of the second floor lobby that was quite private, and had a nice grouping of comfortable chairs. I began by telling them the long version of Hal's story. I thought it might set the tone for further discussion. Tom was very much the hero of that story. And it touched on some sexual issues that needed to be out on the table. It took more than an hour before I got to "Buy the damn shoes."
Nancy asked, "You're telling us to get married. Now. Right?"
"If that's what you interpret from the story, then 'Yes.' Your answers earlier indicated that was what you wanted to do. You aren't looking for a decision, or help making one. You have your minds made up and are looking for confirmation, permission. I give it to you. But you don't need it from me; or your parents. You just need the courage of your convictions."
Tom asked, "Is it really that simple?"
Nancy said, "Yes, Tom it is. And Charlie's right. And now I know why you love him. He cuts right through all the crap and tells it like it is."
"What about college? Is there a magic answer there?""
"Well, questions one and two are settled."
"What are they?"
"One is, 'Are you going to the same school?' Answer, 'Yes.' Two is, 'What schools don't take married students?' Answer, 'Not many but some.' Carleton College won't take married students, I know. There're others."
"That doesn't move us very far."
"Farther than you think. Have you dreamed at all about colleges? Big? Small? Local? West coast? East Coast? Midwest? University of Michigan? Where are you in your thinking?"
"Big," said Tom, while Nancy said, "Small."
"Tom, why do you say 'big'?"
"I think I'd thrive in a large school."
"Nancy, why small?"
"I am fearful of a large school; you can get lost in the crowd."
"I see a problem," I said.
"We just aren't much in agreement. We'll work it out."
"I have to question how much you love each other."
"Charlie, that's not fair."
"Oh yes it is. If you asked Tim where he wanted to go to school, he would answer with the school that he thought was best for me. What he thought he wanted wouldn't have even entered his mind. You both answered my 'Why' question by talking about yourselves. You two are still thinking about yourselves before you think about the other. Problem there. Go upstairs and sleep on it."
With that I got up and left, saying "You don't need lunch. I'll see you for dinner about six o'clock in the room. Bye."
Promptly as six I opened the door. They were still in bed, lying facing the ceiling, talking quietly. It was clear they had been crying as well as talking.
"Do you want to talk now or at dinner?"
"Dinner," said Nancy.
I sat down in the chair and said, "It's time to get up and get dressed for dinner. This evening I am going to watch."
Tom started laughing. With that he jerked off the covers leaving Nancy laying there naked. She tried to cover herself with her hands, but Tom tickled her till she gave up. Tom said, "Don't be embarrassed in front of Charlie. I warned you that this would eventually happen." He kissed her, tweaked her clitoris with his finger and got up and went into the bathroom.
Nancy looked at me and said, "He did warn me. But he assured me that you were harmless. Was he telling the truth?"
"Oh, I'm afraid so. Go on and get dressed, I'll enjoy watching."
Soon we were having dinner courtesy of Tom's father. We walked to Henrici's, and had a very fine lamb dinner. Over dinner Nancy said, "Charlie. You were wrong. 'Buy the damn shoes,' wasn't the right answer. The more we talked the more we realized that we weren't ready for marriage."
Tom cut in, "You do understand that he knew that all along, right?"
Nancy asked, "Is that true, Charlie?"
"No. But the story of Hal, and the damn shoes, opened you to thinking. And your answers to the college questions certainly suggested that you weren't ready."
"Will we ever be ready? You know I still love him?"
"What about sex?" ask Tom.
"You aren't going to have any trouble working those things out. You don't need me. You're on the way to solving all your problems. And the college problems will fade away as soon as you're making your own decisions. I think my job's done. I'll send your father a bill."
"Damn if you aren't right," said Tom.
That night Tom slept in my bed. We all wore pajamas. The next morning they both kissed me very sweetly, thanked me for the weekend, and had breakfast in the room with me-naked at my insistence. I didn't want them to be turned off each other. I was pretty sure that at least by the end of college they would be married. And if Nancy was going to be one of the Gang, she might as well get used to me now. It was a good breakfast, a better shower, and a sad parting at O'Hare Airport.
The expected telephone call came shortly after I got home Sunday evening. "Charlie, this's Sam. Tom says they aren't getting married now and are happy about the decision. How the Hell did you pull that off? Beverly and I have been beside ourselves looking at a marriage that we didn't think they were ready for. But we knew that if we prohibited it we would either have an elopement on our hands or totally estranged children. Now they're happy with waiting. How?"
"Trade secret, Sam. But they're good kids. I hope they get married some day. Not too far off, but not now. Get them to tell you the story of Hal and his shoes. That was the secret. Get Nancy to tell it. Bye, Sam. Give my love to Beverly."
Tim's October letter came on Monday. He and Tina and Hal and Sue had spent the previous Sunday together-following Hal's morning run and Tim's morning gymnastics workout. Sue was trying to decide whether she wanted to go to the University of Oklahoma with Hal. She was a little concerned that the academics were not up to the highest standards. She was worried that Hal might not get the education he needed, even if he got his running. She was pushing either Duke or the University of North Carolina. They were asking Tim's advice. Tim didn't know much about any of the three schools, but he had asked the right question, "Sue, in your heart of hearts are you pushing Duke or UNC for Hal or because you don't want to go to Oklahoma?"
Sue thought for a long time, and then had started crying. "Hal, there's only one school I want to go to, and that's the one you want to go to. We're off to Oklahoma next fall. Case closed."
Hal had protested that he didn't see why UNC or Duke wouldn't be just fine for him, but Sue really had closed the case. She had realized that she had been thinking of herself, not Hal, in making the suggestions, and the only way she would forgive herself was to insist upon Oklahoma. And she never changed. I am jumping ahead of my story, but they're now both very happy graduates of the University of Oklahoma, and have greatly enjoyed telling Tim's father that they graduated from his school-in NORMAN, Oklahoma. Hal got a Master's in physical education from Duke and Sue got a Master's in social work, also from Duke. Hal had picked the school!
Tim's letter continued:
"Charlie, we have been making holiday plans. It hit me that this would be the last Thanksgiving or Christmas that I wouldn't be with you-I hope for a lifetime. I didn't just want to sit around and mope because you weren't here. Thanks to Hal and Dad, I have some rather unusual plans. For Thanksgiving we have invited Tina, Carol, Hal and Sue, and all their parents-and Sue's older brother, Sid-for a huge dinner. That's seventeen total. We'll have a ball. You'll hardly be missed, Charlie! Then, the big deal, on Friday Tina, Hal, Sue and I are going to drive to International Falls. We are going to spend Friday and Saturday nights in a motel, and snowshoe all day on Saturday. I've only been on snowshoes a few times, and the others never have. It should be a ball-snow on the ground should be at least two feet deep. Sharing one big room the two nights won't exactly be boring either. I'll miss you then, Charlie. Real bad.
"Dad surprised us with Christmas plans. At dinner a few nights ago he said, 'You know, this family's growing. Carol and Charlie are going to be delightful additions. But we have had almost eighteen years of joy with just the four of us. We have watched you boys grow into men, find your loves, and be ready to set out on your own lives. Your mother and I would like to celebrate the end of a wonderful eighteen years-the best of our lives-with a family adventure. Just the four of us. Charlie won't be there of course, and we're going to leave Carol and Tina behind as well. You two guys have an assignment: Pick a Carribean island that you would like to spend a week on. Tim, whether you like it or not, this's going to be a relaxed week. Nothing like the London trip. And we're going to enjoy ourselves and each other. Probably for the last time as our little group of four. It won''t be a sad time, because all of us are looking forward to the next stage of our lives. It'll simply be a celebration of the life we have had, and the life we're going to have. By tomorrow we want an island picked.'
"Carl and I immediately agreed that it had to be someplace off the beaten path. There're a lot of little tiny islands, but you have to sail to them, and often either have to camp or live on the boat. It had to be bigger than that for us all to enjoy it. We selected Nevis, of the British colony St. Kitts and Nevis. We're going to stay at the Manor Inn, an old converted plantation at the bottom of Mt. Nevis-we've read one travel book! Hike, swim, relax-even me-and dream of you, Charlie. And Carl will dream of Carol. And Mom and Dad'll dream of a quiet house and not having my alarm go off every morning at 5:30. And I'll dream of you, Charlie. Oh, did I say that? Yes, I'll dream of you, and me, and us, Charlie.
I was delighted for Tim. Both trips sounded wonderful. I could have been unhappy that I wasn't going to be along, but I was genuinely happy for Tim. And it made me dream of all the exciting things that Tim and I would be doing for the rest of our lives. I knew that life with Tim was never going to be dull. And if Tim ever slowed, not very likely, Hal, Tom, Jim, Andy, Franklin, and Ronnie would be around to liven things up. Not to mention Tina, Carl and many others.
But it did get me to thinking about my own holiday plans. I decided that I needed to make a trip to Indianapolis, and chose to go for Thanksgiving. That left Christmas open. What to do? Well, with my work ending on December 31, I certainly wasn't going to take extra days off; Christmas was a Friday, so I had a three day weekend. I would have the first three weeks of January to close up shop in Des Moines, and I would still be in Minneapolis before Tim's birthday. So I didn't need to spend my three days at Christmas working or moving. Actually it was three and a half days if you counted the fact that the Red Cross would close at noon on Christmas Eve. I still drew a blank on how to use the time. I don't know what finally made me think of it, but I decided to go back to Rockford. I didn't know many people there anymore, but I thought that there might be a few faculty members I would enjoy visiting, and it would be fun to look around the place again. I had spent some happy years there.
I had kept in closest touch with Gene, my mentor and the only person at Rockford that knew about Tim. I called him, and told him that I would be in the area around Christmas, and could I visit, perhaps on Saturday. He quizzed me about my plans, and soon I was invited to stay with him and his wife Ruth, Thursday night through Sunday, and have Christmas dinner with them. I hadn't really thought to impose myself-I was really just thinking about a visit and a meal on Saturday, but Gene would have none of that. So plans were made, and I was truly looking forward to the Christmas weekend.
I wrote my October letter to Tim, cheered his plans for the holidays, shared mine with him, and agreed that these should be the last holidays of our lives that were not spent together.
I shared my experience with Tom and Nancy, and compared it to his with Hal and Sue. "Tim, I know you'll always think of me first, and I am determined to be the same toward you. But slipping into a "me first" thought process is easy. We have to work at this love thing!"
I updated him on my archery-slightly improved, my lack of a love life,
and best of all the countdown on letters, this was number 37, out of 40, only three to go.
Both of our lives were busy with work/schoolwork, sports, and exercise routines. Time moved fairly swiftly, and soon I found his November letter in my mail.
"There is really only one thing important to tell you in this letter, but it is important for me-and Tina. You know about my holiday plans, and they haven't changed, though we know a few more details about Nevis-we have now read two travel books. And we have gotten motel reservations in International Falls-pretty simple in winter. I arranged for the others to rent snowshoes-not so simple in winter-I have my own. But I am getting sidetracked.
"Tina and I have been talking a lot about the changes that are going to take place in our lives in January. Parting won't be difficult for me, as I am going straight into your arms. I'll miss Tina, but I'll have you, and I expect Tina will continue to be a big part of my (our) life (lives). But Tina is going to be lonely-she hasn't got a Charlie. She has, of course, known from the beginning that this was going to happen, and she has known exactly when. That doesn't make it easier. Your letter, Charlie, saying that you hoped that she would be a life-long friend meant an awful lot to her.
"Well, Charlie, this really is going somewhere. You know that we have had sex, rather glorious sex, but we have never fucked (there is that word again!). I want to have that experience with Tina once before it all comes to an end. She is willing. Hell, she is eager as Hell, but staunchly refuses unless you approve. I have told her that you have already given your approval, and said it quite explicitly. Not good enough. It has to be specific for this time in our lives. She says that there is no way she is going to get off on the wrong foot with you, as she wants to be your life-long friend.
"So there it is. I don't want to fuck Tina if it is going to bother you in any way. But, in the spirit of the honesty that we have tried to extend to each other, I believe that it would be a fitting way to draw this stage of our relationship to a close. We have a date for New Year's Eve. Please write to Tina and tell her how that date should end.
"With all my love, and the assurance that I will live with anything you write, and won't resent it. And I will resent it if you have any reservations at all and fail to make them known.
I thought that that letter needed more than a "Go for it" reply. Here were two kids that, were it not for me, would be incredible lovers. They had a love that would survive anything-except for the fact that Tim had found me before he found Tina. Nothing about the whole deal had been fair to Tina, but she accepted it willingly. I owed her a real debt; one that I would be glad to spend a lifetime repaying. For right now, I wrote,
"Tim has written to me about your tentative plans for New Year's Eve. Actually I expect you are really talking about the first event of the New Year, 1965. What a wonderful way to start out the year! You certainly don't need my permission, and Tim is correct that it has already been extended. But you have no idea how much I appreciate your insisting on his writing to me.
"My job is now to convince you that I truly have no reservations whatsoever about his fucking you on New Year's. Tim finds that word jarring, and I understand. But I have firmly believed, and advocated with many of Tim's friends, the position that if you can't talk about it you shouldn't be doing it. So I use the word, because I know you are able to talk about it, and you should be doing it-at least once, with Tim, your true love-at least for now.
"Tina, you are going to meet a wonderful man, soon. You are too wonderful a girl not to. Whoever he is, I hope that the four of us will be close friends. I have known you only from a distance, but I have known how kind, supportive and loving you have been to Tim, and I can only thank you from the bottom of my heart.
"Happy New Year.
My November letter to Tim, number 38 of 40, was simply a carbon copy of the letter to Tina with a "38" in red magic marker in the upper left hand corner.
Soon after that I was off on a trip to Indianapolis to visit my parents. I had to take Wednesday off in order to travel-at just over 500 miles it was going to take me all of a day. I spent the time driving trying to think about what I was going to say to Mom and Dad about Tim. It was going to be awkward, in that I knew that Tim and I were going to plan a trip to visit my folks soon after we were together in Minneapolis-probably very early February. I needed to prepare them for that visit, without having a conversation about either my sexuality or Tim's role in my life. I was quite sure that the way to broach those subjects was with Tim present in the-very adorable-flesh. The best that I could do was hope that I would see an opportunity and take advantage of it.
Thanksgiving was fun, my brothers, actually half brothers and quite a bit older than me, were there with their wives. We had a good family gathering, and I took only a minimal amount of kidding about when I was going to find a girl. Naturally, the fact that my job with the Red Cross was ending gave everybody something to ask questions about, and I indicated that though this Red Cross position was terminating, my success with the book would allow me to get a job with just about any branch of the Red Cross. I was taking my time and trying to decide whether that is what I wanted to do. I mentioned that I was considering law school, but that I had no specific plans.
Friday, with just my parents, I moved the conversation to Camp White Elk, and the years that I had spent there as a camper and counselor. I told them about my super group-we had talked about them before. However, since we had last talked about Camp White Elk Tim had arrived on the national stage. They hadn't connected him with the boy from Camp White Elk. They were flabbergasted that the Tim from camp was the national diving champion two years running.
I had my chance. "Would you like to meet him?"
"Where does he live?" ask Mom.
"In Minneapolis. I am thinking about visiting him in January while I am job hunting. Minneapolis is on my target list. (All true, folks.) I think that he and I may take a little time off in February. We may do some traveling-unless he actually gets out of town he can't get away from swimming and gymnastics. We could come by Indianapolis and you could meet him. He's quite a kid."
"Your job'll be finished, but how'll he get off from school?"
"When you get straight A's and have for four years; when you are the national diving champion, and leading your school team to an undefeated swimming season; when you're a local gymnastics champion for the Twin Cities; when your coach will just about crawl on the ground to make you happy; it's amazing how the principal doesn't worry too much about your attendance record. Besides, unless there's a good reason, Tim never misses school. They'll let him have his little February trip, it leads up to some of the important diving meets."
"We'd love to meet him. I can't believe that you have remained that close to one of your campers."
"Tim's pretty special. So are his parents. They like me, and would like Tim to have a chance to have some time with me. Do you have anybody you would like to impress; perhaps in the business, Dad? Have a party and let folks be surprised to meet Tim. Not only is he famous, he's handsome and charming. Your friends'll fall all over him."
"We'll have to think about that, but let us know the dates."
I don't know whether they were naive, or whether it really made sense, but I got away with it. Nothing was untrue, but it left an awful lot unsaid. We were going to have a jolly week in February, were Tim and I!
Tim's December letter was about Thanksgiving. They had had a wonderful day on Thursday with the huge crowd. Tim thrived on crowds of loving people having fun together. Just add me to the mix, and it was indicative of many such gatherings in the future.
Friday the four drove the four hours (without snow it would have been three hours) up to International Falls. They had stayed in a small motel on the U.S. side but had set off the next day into Ontario to find hiking trails near Rainy Lake. The tourist office at the border had given them all the information they needed; they found the trail they wanted-a loop trail that followed the shore for about a third of the way around the loop. Total mileage about 6 miles-quite enough for inexperienced snowshoers in the short days of the northern winter.
The snowshoeing had been quite an adventure. The snow had been about 20" deep, plenty deep to make the snowshoes necessary in order to make any kind of distance. They had fallen, pushed each other, paused for snowball fights, raced, but most of all had done the hard hiking needed to make it around the circle-a distance Hal normally ran in about a half-hour-before daylight ran out. By starting early-not difficult for Tim and Hal, a little harder for Sue and Tina-they made it without too much difficulty.
Tim was in love with snow. Of course he had lived with it every winter of his life and had snowshoed a little in areas near the Twin Cities, but this was his first experience in really deep snow, in an isolated situation. Cold didn't both him-I was soon to learn how little it bothered him-which made him ideally suited to the snow environment. Hal was the same. The girls simply demanded that the boys carry their extra clothing and slow the pace to something close to reasonable.
Then there were the nights. It was hard to tell from Tim's letter whether the nights or the days were the real goal of the trip. Tim shared that it was Hal that had encouraged the single room sleeping arrangement. Sue had gotten over the trauma from the sexual assault she had suffered-at least as far as her relationship with Hal was concerned. But they had talked and both agreed that she needed to experience another man in a loving non-abusive relationship. Hal had suggested Tim. He knew that Tim was guaranteed to be kind; that he would respect whatever limits were agreed or that Sue wanted to impose; but would be open to let Sue push as much as she wanted. And Hal knew that Tina would be the same. He also was able to assure Sue that regardless of whatever else they did, fucking was not under consideration. Sue was comfortable with that, and urged Hal to suggest the trip and the room arrangement.
Tim had that background, and a previous briefing about the rape, and was ready for whatever Sue wanted at night; and he had alerted Tina who was equally ready. They had gotten up to the room just after dark. There were only two chairs, so they all lay on their beds, Tina and Tim on one, Hal and Sue on the other. After talk about the drive and the plans for the next day, Sue broached the subject of sleeping arrangements.
"Listen, you two. I know that Hal has filled you in on my unfortunate background for sex. And that he has told you that I need to move beyond Hal just to test my ability to relate to other men. He assured me that you're pretty open. But having said that, I don't know what's next. I am totally inexperienced."
Tim said, "Nothing has to be next. We can go to bed and let this ride till tomorrow night, or maybe later. Or we can decide to push a little. Sue that's completely up to you. You tell us what you want, we'll do it."
"Can I ask you to kiss me, Tim? Is that OK, Tina?"
"Yes," said Tim and Tina together. Tim moved over to the other bed, lay beside Sue, and kissed her softly. "More?"
"Oh, God, please."
Tim did push harder, and his tongue invaded her mouth, which she returned eagerly. Sue put her hand on Tim's groin and rubbed. "Can I do that?"
"You can do anything," said Tina. "He's yours, at least for tonight." Hal got off the bed and went over with Tina.
Tim continued to kiss Sue while he pulled his clothes off. Soon he was naked beside her, and her hand was still stroking him. "Do you want to undress?" asked Tim.
"Please do it for me."
He did, and they lay there nude together. "Let's just go to sleep, said Sue.
Hal looked at Tina and said, "I guess we're left alone." He took off his own clothes, as did Tina and they crawled into the bed together.
Hands roamed from time to time all night, in both beds. But not much more happened. They got up early and they were all sort of surprised to find themselves all standing around nude, sort of surreptitiously looking at each other. Tim decided it was time to get over that silliness. He stood in the middle of one of the beds, legs spread, arms up, back arched, and soon with a very hard penis sticking out at the other three. "Take a good look. Then feel it well. It isn't a secret; nor should it be off limits."
Hal made the first move. He took Tim's penis in his hand, brought Sue over and put her hand on Tim's balls. "It was dark last night. Today take a good look. Tim isn't embarrassed; you shouldn't be."
Sue began to cry very softly. Hal was immediately concerned that they had pushed too far. Tim got down from the bed. Sue stopped him and said, "No, that isn't why I am crying. I am crying because I have never experienced this kind of gentleness and kindness from men. Thank you. I want to explore further tonight. But we need to get to the trail for now."
That night they came to the room at about the same time as the previous night. Hal said, "I am going to start whatever it is that's going to happen tonight." He promptly took off all his clothes, and then started helping Tim do the same. Tina and Sue followed.
Sue said, "I know this's being selfish, Tina, but could I have the two men lay with me for a while?"
"Of course," said Tina. "That's why we came."
The boys did, and with Sue's encouragement they soon had her completely aroused, and not long after that she was experiencing an orgasm, for the first time from two partners at once. She said, "I'm both content and over my trauma."
They left Sue on her bed and the rest hopped in the other bed, and let things lead where that might naturally lead with three very horny teenagers. Tina had insisted that she wanted to see the two boys do 69, but had stopped them before they finished. From then on it was a free-for-all, and the end came quite rapidly. Sleep followed, with Hal joining Sue. Both coupples fell asleep in big hugs.
The next morning brought a four-way free-for-all, and it ended with nobody really knowing who took care of who's needs, but all were taken care of. They simply glowed as they drove home.
I was jealous but my time would come, and now I could think that and know that it was coming soon! My letter to Tim told about my visit with my parents in Indianapolis, and I warned him that his visit was likely to be very complicated. And that was letter 39, of 40. We could stop counting at last!
My Christmas was unexpectedly delightful. I set off on Christmas Eve for Rockford, arriving at Gene's shortly after dinner. His wife Ruth had dessert ready, and we all sat down for Christmas Eve plum pudding by the fire. Really! Plum pudding. I had never had it, and frankly it wasn't the most delicious thing in the world, but just the idea made it a wonderful experience!
Gene wanted to know everything that I had done since college. I told him about my work with the Red Cross and gave him a copy of my book. He was very pleased to get it, and put it on a shelf in his library reserved for the work of his students. He remarked that he thought that I had made it to that shelf sooner after graduation than any of the others. "I expect more from you Charlie.
"Charlie, are you still the overachiever that you were in your closing years at Rockford, or have you slipped back to a more normal lifestyle?"
My description of working on archery, while I kept up my job and got the book finished seemed to satisfy him. Then he asked, "How's your boyfriend? Of all of your stories, that's the truly remarkable one."
I said, "Tim's just the same. And he turns eighteen in about a month, and things are really going to change in our lives."
"Charlie, I have been wondering about something over the past year or so. Your description of Tim was very brief, but I think you said he was a diver and a gymnast, and pretty good at both. Is your Tim, the Tim? As in national diving champion?"
Ruth entered the conversation, "Haven't I seen pictures of him with a girl. It seems to me that the press has been pretty certain they were a pair. Aren't they always seen together?"
"You are going to give us a little more, aren't you?" asked Gene.
"Sure. The girl is Tina, they're great friends, a lot more than friends. They'd be engaged if I weren't in the background."
"Tina knows about you?"
"And she still is interested in Tim?"
"Tina told Tim early on that she was not interested in most of the boys in high school. Most of them thought the purpose of a date was to see how far you could get with a girl, and she wasn't interested. Tim was safe, fun, and they have had a wonderful time together. Tina and I have exchanged letters, and we expect to be good friends for a long time."
Ruth said, "I'm pretty lost here. Would somebody like to fill me in?"
Gene said, "Charlie that's your job. I'd like to hear the story again, it's so remarkable."
I never got tired of talking about Tim, and told the full story, the second time for Gene, the first time for Ruth. She was flabbergasted. "I've never heard anything like that. And, Charlie, I think that you're the first gay young man I have met."
"Not the first, just the first that admitted it."
"OK, that's really what I meant. I guess I could ask questions about that for most of the night."
She almost did. It was a fun conversation. Neither Gene nor Ruth seemed the least upset about my being gay, just very interested, curious. Gene reflected, "I wonder how many young men at Rockford are gay, fearful, and therefore extremely frustrated?"
I said, "Even I don't have a clue. I was only aware of two others the whole time I was at Rockford. Of course, I was in the closet like everyone else. One of those two is, as far as I know, still in the closet, and I couldn't share the name. The other you know."
"My debate partner, Phil."
"No. He has a partner who's living with him in Manhattan, Kansas, while they both go to Kansas State. His partner is Franklin."
"The Franklin from your story of Tim?" asked Ruth.
"The very same, and I played cupid."
Gene said, "Same kind of age difference."
"True, well one year less. But I didn't introduce them until Franklin was a senior in high school and had turned eighteen. Honestly, they were lifelong partners within a week or so. You'll have to meet Franklin some day, he's about the same size as Phil. They make quite an imposing pair."
"So what happens with you and Tim?"
"I head to Minneapolis next month to help him celebrate his birthday. Then we see what happens."
"What do you think's going to happen?"
"We're going to fall madly in love-we already are-and live happily ever after."
"On the national stage, hero of the sports pages. How's the public going to take to their little hero being gay, as opposed to having Tina as a girlfriend?"
"That, Gene and Ruth, is the $64 question. We don't know. But we're going to find out. And if it doesn't work, we're going to disappear into obscurity and live happily and privately ever after. That would really hurt Tim, but I am quite sure that he would put his love for me over national sports fame-difficult as it would be. I would urge him to go the other way, say it was a weak moment, marry Tina, and live happily ever after. That would be the smart thing for him to do. But I know Tim; I, his brother, Tina, his parents, his coaches-we could all try to talk him into that and he would refuse. I guess that's what makes Tim Tim, and it's what makes me love him. I have never had, even at long distance, and with letters only once a month, I have never had the slightest doubt of where Tim stood. He's solid as a rock."
"Your faith is touching," said Ruth. "I hope it's not misplaced. But, Charlie I trust your judgement. I hope it works out for both of you. Keep in touch, and we'll watch the newspapers."
"And you watch the opening ceremony of the Mexico City Olympics. Tim and I are going to be in the parade-he swears holding hands or we aren't going."
"I know how Tim's going to the Olympics. I think he's the first athlete that ever made national news by not going to the Olympics. But you? Sorry, Charlie, but you don't appear to be an Olympian."
"Looks can be deceiving. But I agree with you. However, Tim doesn't. "I told you I am working hard with my little bow and arrow. By force of will Tim's going to bring me up to Olympic level. He's also going to will it to be an Olympic sport; that decision will be made very soon. It hasn't been since the very early Olympics and there's a strong move to bring it back."
I continued, "What're the plans for Christmas?"
"Our kids couldn't make it this Christmas. Jim's studying in Europe and Sally's very pregnant, living on the west coast and not moving. That's why we were so delighted to get your call saying you would be in town. You can be our son for the holiday."
"I couldn't be more honored."
"We'll be alone tomorrow and Saturday we're having a faculty open house. You'll get to see a lot of your old professors. I'd love to tell the Tim story, but I guess you aren't ready for that."
"I am, and Tim is. But we need to be together when we go public, and any kind of talk in a group here would make the newspapers before I joined Tim in January. So I am afraid mum's the word this Christmas."
"That's what I guessed. But we are looking forward to being able to say 'We knew him when'."
"Charlie, you bring Tim to visit us. I'd love to meet him and, more importantly, I'd like to meet you two together. That's going to be remarkable."
For the next three days the conversation kept up, but not much was covered that hadn't been covered Thursday night. It was a wonderful weekend, and it kept my mind busy, thinking of the positive side of my situation. I knew that the downside was coming to an end.
I returned to Des Moines on Sunday afternoon, to start my final week of work. Thursday was my final day, and I had expected a lunch, or party, or some kind of going away. But other than nice goodbyes, everybody just left at 3:00 p.m. when they shut the office a little early for News Years Eve. I went home feeling a little down, but buoyed up by thoughts of Tim coming into my life.
About 7:00 p.m. the doorbell to my apartment rang and there was Priscy. She had told me she might be in the neighborhood, and that I should stay home to greet her. Jane was with her, and they were carrying a huge load of food. "Dinner," they announced and marched in, taking over the kitchen. I was shooed out of the kitchen, so I couldn't see exactly how much food was being made, but it looked like enough for more than three. At 7:30 the doorbell rang again. I opened the door to the entire office staff-and some of the blood bank workers as well. They all marched in. Langley, who appeared to be the ringleader, said, "I hope Priscy's here with the food. We're all starved."
It was quite a party, and it was a wonderful send off by a really great group of coworkers. They truly made me believe that I was going to be missed, and that I had made a contribution, not only to the Red Cross, but to them individually. What an evening. About ten some started leaving as they had to get to other parties, but my core group of friends stayed until the clock struck the New Year. Then with kisses all around I was left alone with Priscy and Jane. Priscy looked at me and said, "This's your last New Year without Tim. Jane and I intend to make the most of it."
They did. And while we played, I remembered that this was the time that Tim and Tina had decided would be their great moment of love. I hoped that it was going well for them.
Tim's last letter to me was fairly brief. He said that Nevis was wonderful, and that he had a great time with his family. He told me that he and Tina had, indeed, lost their virginity in the early moments of the New Year-and that Carl and Norman and Betsy approved. Do you believe that? He went on to tell me that Tina's parents knew what was going on as well, and were comfortable with it. And then he asked, "Exactly when will you be arriving in Minneapolis? I have to arrange the welcome mat." He said that he would share the details of his other adventures when we were together.
When I say that that was his last letter, I mean it literally. I have never had another letter from Tim. We have been together so consistently that there has never been a reason to write letters. Now in the era of e-mail there is even less reason. So I can say, quite accurately, that in his lifetime Tim wrote me exactly forty letters, and that is how many I wrote to him.
It was some weeks before I heard from Tim about the trip to Nevis and then his New Year's adventure. But to make this story flow, I think I should tell those stories now.
They had left Tuesday before Christmas and come back Wednesday before New Years, giving them a full week in Nevis. One detail of their planning tells more about their family than anything else. At dinner the night before Norman was to make the reservations at the Manor Inn he asked, "Shall I get two rooms or one? If I get one, we'll save money and have more to spend on other aspects of the trip. Or would you boys like your privacy? One room may be a little more togetherness than two older teenagers can stand? Maybe you would both like single rooms, but knowing you two, I doubt that."
Tim had looked at Carl and they communicated wordlessly. Carl replied for both, "One room. This's supposed to be a trip for the four of us to remember good times together. Then let's really be together."
Betsy asked, "Are you sure? It can be pretty close quarters with four adults in the room."
Carl had said, "Tim doesn't take up much room. It'll be OK."
Unlike many boys his size, Tim was proud of being 5'4", and he didn't consider the remark a put down. "I take up enough room that you won't sleep well in a double bed with me, but you deserve it."
Manor Inn, from which you could look out over the sea, and walk right out of your room to a trail up Mt. Nevis was absolutely charming. The Inn was full, but the island wasn't. If every room on the island had been full, it wouldn't have been crowded-they were truly away from the beaten path. Right where the boys had wanted to be.
Dinner the first night took a little getting used to. This was the British world, and you dressed for dinner. The American influence was strong enough that sports coats were acceptable-and it's a good thing, because that's all the boys had. Food at the Manor Inn was fabulous, and included in the room cost. The custom, as in much of the British Carribean, was to have breakfast and dinner at your hotel and venture elsewhere for lunch. There was some entertainment in the bar after dinner and soon they were drifting off to their room.
As soon as they all got into the room I think they realized that it was going to be pretty close quarters, even though it was a pretty big room. Carl broke the ice with, "Well folks. You two have three choices. One, you can be celibate for the week. Two, you can throw us out of the room for a while. Or, three, you can admit that you're married and do what comes naturally. What'll it be?"
Tim added, "Now we get to find out just how liberal the old folks are."
Norman looked at Betsy, and she looked back. It was clear that they had the same kind of telepathic communication that Tim and Carl sometimes displayed. Betsy said, "You won't be shocked? Your images of your stodgy old mom and dad won't be destroyed? It won't ruin your trip if we act like normal human beings? You won't tattle to all your friends?"
Tim said, "Mom, this's our family. We truly are aware of the sorts of things you had to do in order to bring us into the world. Just as it didn't shock you to learn that we masturbate, it won't shock us to learn that you two have intercourse. Why's this even a big deal? The world certainly places strange taboos on wonderful things."
Carl started to get undressed, but Tim beat him. Nobody could lose clothes as fast as Tim when he tried. Both boys sat on their beds with their knees pulled up to their chests and their arms wrapped around their legs just below the knees. You couldn't tell whether they were hard or not.
Family nudity was an acceptable norm in the family, but it had never carried the erotic overtones of the present situation. Norman undressed, and discovered that he was erect in front of the boys the first time in his life. Betsy, of course, didn't have such a large scale indicator, but both boys noticed erect nipples. The next thing the boys knew their parents were in the shower together, and then had slipped into bed together, having turned out the light. The boys went to the bathroom in turn, and then got into their own bed. The noise from the second bed indicated that their parents were, indeed, going through the motions of making babies, though they had taken precautions to insure that Tim and Carl didn't have an additional sibling.
Carl cuddled up behind Tim and let his hands roam. Tim returned the favor. Carl whispered in Tim's ear, "I have wanted to do that for years. You're just the sexiest kid I know."
Tim said, "Thanks. I think you're pretty attractive, too. But Charlie gets the nod."
"Well, I left Carol out of my reckoning. How far are we with going with this? Especially with Mom and Dad in the next bed?"
Tim didn't answer; he just slipped down in the bed, took Carl in his mouth and quietly settled the matter. He whispered, "It's my turn tomorrow night. And we don't try to keep it a secret." They drifted off to sleep, to the sounds of heavy breathing from the next bed.
Days were full of fun, sand, exploring the island, hiking to the top of Mt. Nevis, shopping, food, entertainment-usually in the bar-and repeat performances in the room. They got comfortable with each other, but always left the light out. Completely unspoken, it was agreed that listening was OK, but that watching was over the top. They never spoke about each other's adventures in bed, but it brought them closer as a family. There were truly no secrets from each other. What a wonderful state of affairs. I would be jealous of Tim's relationship with his family throughout my lifetime. But, as this story will tell, Tim's family became my family, and I shared his closeness with them. They would grow to be my Mom and Dad, and after my parents died, they filled the void completely.
The trip came to an end. It was a shock to get on a plane in Nevis, change once in Nassau and again in Miami, and then get out in six inches of snow in Minneapolis. But they were used to it, and adjusted easily. Tina met them at the airport and drove them home, and stayed. She announced, "Mom and Dad said I can stay here until I have to clear out for Charlie. Tim and I have the most wonderful parents in the world. Can you believe they would say that?"
Tim asked, "How do you know that my parents're going to let you stay?"
"Norman and Betsy? Say no? They don't know the word. That's what makes them the second most wonderful parents in the world, after mine, of course."
Norman and Betsy had been listening to all of this. Betsy said, "Tina, how about if I call your mom and we talk this over."
The mothers talked, as they had talked many times before about the strange relationship between their children. They decided that if the kids wanted the next three weeks together it was up to them. They wouldn't be doing anything that they hadn't already done. Well, there was one little tidbit that had yet to be shared with the older generation, or with anybody but me, for that matter.
New Year's Eve came and Tina's parents joined Betsy and Norman and the kids for dinner and a quiet party. Carl and Carol were at a considerably noisier party with their college friends. Since they would be drinking they were all going to sleep over at their hosts' house.
Just after midnight, as everybody had kissed everybody, Tim and Tina started to go upstairs. Tina turned to the four parents and said, "Tim and I don't believe in secrets. And we trust you to be accepting. Tim and I are going to truly love each other tonight. We have never done it, and we agreed that we would. Tonight. Amazingly Charlie has written to me and given me his blessing. His words were, 'I truly have no reservations whatsoever.' I hope that's true for all of you as well."
Norman was the first to reply, "No, Tina, it isn't true that we have no reservations. That's Charlie. He lives in a truly different world. I think it's a world that he shares with Tim and will with you. I don't think we live in that world. We grew up in a world in which parents are supposed to have reservations about the things their children do. But our job isn't to give either our blessing or our permission. As you have heard me say before, the back seats of automobiles, not to mention the haystacks of earlier eras, have long since allowed children to have sex without permission. It's our job to support you and love you, and let you move into the world as adults when you're ready. I believe you're ready. I know Tim's ready. We do support you. We do love you. We do trust you. And we always will. Good night, Tina. Good night, Tim."
Tina's mother walked across the room and kissed first Tina and then Tim. "Norman said it beautifully. I don't have anything to add. I love you both."
They went upstairs. They went into Tim's room, undressed, and lay on the bed. They lay quietly for a long time. Then two very inexperienced teenagers, with the maturity of many more years than they had lived, stumbled through their first time. They laughed, helped each other, loved each other, and finally slept in each other's arms.
They slept together every night till the day before I was to arrive. They always slept nude, and hugged each other tight. But they didn't have any kind of sex again. They knew their relationship was changing, and this was their way of adjusting to that change. I think they grew closer together in friendship as they dealt with the pain of the impending separation.
But, of course, there never would be a real separation. For Tina remained our closest friend, and the love between the three of us never diminished.
My fortieth letter was very simple. "Arrival January 24, 4:00 p.m. A grand dinner expected. Tell your folks that if all goes as expected, we will leave on January 27 for a honeymoon. Love Charlie."
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