I've read the story this far, and there are two comments that don't ring true. I guess they're true, because I don't really think that the characters here ever shade the truth. But when Cam is quoted as not being bothered by growing up in the shadows of Gary, Louise, and Shel it's hard for me to swallow. Then Bert is quoted as having talked to Cam about growing up in the shadow of a superachiever (Nels), and the two of them agreeing that it's no big deal.
Well, this is Bob Carson, and I'm here to tell you that it is a big deal. Growing up in the shadow of Willie Carson, successor to Billy, successor to Tim, was tough. I couldn't hold it against Willie; it wasn't his fault. And he was a super nice kid, and always nice to me. We got along well. But people just assumed that I was going to be a diver like my brother and dad. Or, maybe a racer, that would be OK. Well, how about being a flag football player? Not in anyone's picture.
OK, I like to dive. I'm told I'm pretty good. Before Willie went off to Michigan for high school, we dove together a lot. We did tandem diving, and people talked about how good we were. "And Bob's almost as good as Willie." You can't believe how many times I heard that. Willie didn't mind being compared to Dad or Uncle Tim, so why should I be bothered by being compared to Willie? Well, when people talked about Willie in comparison to Dad or Tim, they often commented that he was better than them as his age. Nobody ever suggested that I was going to be better than Willie. The best I ever got was, "He'll be as good as his brother." Shit.
The best thing that ever happened to me was Willie heading off to the UP to go to high school. I missed him. I guess I missed him a lot. He was fun, and, as I said, always kind to me. But I sure didn't miss the comparisons. I continued to dive, but I no longer had a big brother that set the pace, that practiced like the world would come to an end if you didn't get in your four to six hours a day, that could do any damn dive he set his mind to-even if he'd never done it before. The average diver learns a difficult new dive by practicing it on the ground, then on a trampoline, then he puts it together on the board. He'll screw it up time and time again until he gets it right. You've read Larry's description of Willie's working on a new dive (Episode 121-Hopefuls). He does it all in his mind. He stands on the diving board or platform and works it all out. Then he does the dive mentally, screwing up just the way most of us would when we try a new dive. Only when he gets it right in his mind does he head for the water. And it's good the first try-only to Willie it isn't the first try, it's the thirteenth, or seventeenth, or whatever.
I no longer had that to be compared to. But I also no longer had Willie's drive and determination to model. I relaxed. And guess what? I liked it. But I felt guilty at the same time. Was I carrying on the family tradition? What would Willie think? What would my dad think, or my mom? What about Uncle Tim, Uncle Charlie, the entire Gang? I'd think like that for a while and then drag my ass back to the diving pool and work some more. Dad encouraged me, but never pressured me.
Then I hit high school and I found out why Willie had wanted to go to school in Iron River. The coach of the swim team, which included the divers, was a real gung ho type. Push, push, push. I can't believe that it would've bothered Willie, because nobody could push Willie as hard as Willie pushed Willie, but it's different when it comes from the outside. By the third week of practice in the ninth grade I'd had it. I told Dad I was quitting the team, and he supported me fully. He asked if I'd like to change schools, try a different team, practice with the university team. He was open to anything. But he didn't push. He just made it very clear what the possibilities were-including going to Iron River if that's what I wanted.
I didn't. I decided that I could be very comfortable off the diving team. The coach was enraged, and Dad had to talk to the school principal to get the coach to leave me alone. I could understand his feelings. He'd expected to coach Willie and me, who he expected to be the two top high school divers of the decade. Well, Willie was! He got neither of us. He never really understood that it was his own fault. I'm pretty sure he blamed Dad. That's silly, of course; Dad and Mom would much rather have had Willie living in Bloomington with us, and Dad certainly had to have been disappointed when I stopped diving competitively. It's sad, because Coach was a pretty good technical coach. And I guess some kids responded well to his gung ho approach. I guess in the real world, that approach is especially true of football coaches. But Dad says that Coach Jumper with his streak at UND proves that there are other ways to successfully coach football.
So, then I became a kid with a shadow complex and a guilt complex. Dad could figure out what was going on in my mind, and he insisted that I not feel guilty. That didn't make me not feel guilty. I couldn't go back to the team; the breach with the coach would've been impossible to resolve. I didn't want to go to Iron River; and practicing with the university team really wasn't practical-even though Dad said it was and got Mr. Billings approval. Besides, I don't think I really wanted to be a competitive diver.
I'll have to say that grades were no problem. I got all As. The Carson competition gene is in me. If I was going to be in school, I was going to get As. I guess that may be the reason I wasn't willing to be a diver. I would've had to be at the top to be satisfied.
I played basketball for a while, but I wasn't really tall enough. There was no way I'd even think about football. Why anyone would put their body into football pads and go out and wreck themselves was and is completely beyond me. Risks are one thing, but some level of injury in football is almost certain. I know, I just held Coach Jumper up as an example, and now I seem to be condemning football. Well, who says I have to be consistent? But football wasn't for me, and Mom and Dad supported me completely.
I ran track in the spring. I liked the mile and was fairly good. But I won't ever run a four minute mile, so my heart really wasn't in it.
Was I a happy kid? I think so. I don't want to overemphasize all of this, but it did hang like a shadow over an otherwise pretty happy life.
Then things changed again. Dad took the job Tim offered him as aquatics coach at UND. We'd be moving to Grand Forks my junior year of high school-Willie's freshman year of college. Willie was going to live at home. I think he hoped to recover some of the family time that he'd lost by going to high school in Michigan. Willie did a lot of things backwards, why not that?
I guess I was pretty excited about the move. It would get me out of the Bloomington High School milieu, especially the sports, that I hadn't been really happy in. I'd pretty much made my exit from diving, so having Willie back was not going to bring back the diving comparisons. And, as I said, Willie was a nice guy and I was glad that we'd be back together. I had never had any resentment toward Willie for the comparisons I suffered.
To some extent I can understand how Bert can say that it's "neat" or "fun" to have an Olympic gold medalist as a brother. Our first year in Grand Forks was 1991 and it was the lead up year to the Barcelona Olympics. It wasn't lost on me that I'd have been old enough to compete. But Willie was consumed with getting Hardie ready for the Olympics, and I never felt any pressure. At Central High School my new friends didn't know any of the history of my once having dived a lot with Willie, so I never got questions about why I didn't dive. In fact, I deliberately cultivated a group of friends that were not involved with sports.
I got real lucky at Central High. I got in an 11th grade English class taught by a Miss Borders. She was tall and severe looking, with gray hair up in a bun. She lived alone and didn't drive. I think her entire life was devoted to her students. A fellow teacher picked her up and brought her to school in the morning, and her students took turns driving her home. It was considered an honor to get to drive Miss Borders home.
She sponsored a writing club, and her good students were all part of it. About every two or three weeks the club would meet at her apartment to drink Cokes, listen to music, and talk about writing. We dreamed so many dreams of being professional writers. Over the years I've kept in touch with quite a few of that group, and it amazes me how many of them have been writers of one kind or another.
Usually the music we listened to was classical. We'd listen to Miss Border's records or one or two of us would bring a record we wanted the others to hear. It wasn't always classical. I remember one of Miss Border's favorites, Anna Russell's album, A Square Talk on Popular Music, which Russell begins by noting that since pop musicians have loused up many classical pieces, she didn't see why she shouldn't louse up some popular music! We sat on the floor and laughed and laughed at Anna Russell and other comediennes.
One day as I was driving Miss Borders home she said, "Bob, you're a wonderful young man; you get excellent grades; you write beautifully; I know you have a great family; but somehow you seem unhappy. Well, not unhappy, but something just isn't right with you. Can you put your finger on it; would you like to talk about it?"
The instant she said it I knew what she was talking about. It was the twin emotions of shadow and guilt. I had never really been able to put them completely behind me. But did they show that much? I couldn't believe that she'd picked up those vibes. Well, maybe she hadn't. Who knew what she was talking about?
"I'm not really sure what you mean, Miss Borders. You've described me and my life pretty well. I'm happy."
"Bob, I may be mistaken; I hope I am. But if, someday, you'd like to talk about something that's bothering you, please let me know. I have a good set of ears. And I'm sure that you know that anything you say to me will go no further-no matter what it is."
"Thanks, Miss Borders. I appreciate it, but I don't think I really know what you're sensing. I really am happy."
I let her out at her apartment building and headed home. Shit, I knew what she was talking about, but I wasn't ready to talk about it. I wasn't ready to admit it was a problem. I didn't have problems. I was happy, successful, and so forth. Shit. I knew better.
It took me a month to screw up my courage to talk to Miss Borders. I arranged to drive her home and I told her, "Do you remember your offer to talk with me about something that might be bothering me?"
"Of course, Bob."
"I think I'm ready."
"That's good, Bob. I usually make it a rule not to invite students alone into my apartment, especially boys, but I think today would be a good day to make an exception. I don't really have anything to worry about with you, do I?"
I laughed. We both laughed. We got to her house and I parked the car. We walked in and she had me sit down in the living room while she got us drinks. She offered tea, coffee, and fruit juice. Then she said, "I'll bet you'd rather have Coke. I only have Coke when you kids're here on Friday's, but I think there's a bottle left." There was, and she offered it to me. I accepted, and she made herself some tea. She came into the living room where I was sitting and sat down. She said, "I think I should start this conversation. I was the one who said that I detected something amiss in your life. Let me try to put my finger on it.
"You seem to be a happy boy, and, by God, Bob, you're good at everything. You get As from me, are all of your grades that good?"
"I come from a family of competitors. We get As. It isn't a big deal."
"Would it be a big deal if you got a B? A big deal for your parents, for example?"
"I guess I have to tell you a story. It's sort of the defining story of the family. In high school down in Fargo Dad liked to dive. He was pretty good, and his hero was Tim."
"I assume you mean President Tim over at UND?"
"Sure. Well, Dad got his parents to come up to Grand Forks to see some show that Tim put on. He met Tim. They got to be friends and Tim became Dad's diving mentor. At some point Dad made a commitment to become as good a diver as possible. Tim made it very clear that if Dad was going to work with him, Dad would have to be as dedicated to his studies as to his diving. Bs were simply unacceptable grades. From that day to this, neither Dad, nor Willie, nor I have ever gotten less than an A. What would happen if I got a B? Probably nothing. But it simply isn't going to happen."
"Just that simply you decided to get all As?"
"I never decided. That's just what happens in our family."
"Is that kind of pressure what I detect is bothering you? I can't believe you can deal with pressure like that."
"Oh, it isn't pressure. No, that's not it at all, I'm sure. Carsons just get As. It isn't a big deal. But what about me makes you think there's some kind of problem?"
"It's hard to say. You seem pensive at times, like you're thinking about something that worries you. Then you seem to snap out of it. Sometimes you'll sit in class with a frown on your face; then you'll see me looking at you and your face will light up-the frown is gone."
"Yeah, you've put your finger on it. I can remember that happening at least once."
"More than once. So what were you thinking about with that frown?"
"Your brother, Willie?"
"Don't you and Willie get along?"
"Oh, we're best friends. I love him. It's just that I'm not him. I sort of live in his shadow."
"And you compete with his shadow?"
"No, that's the second part of the problem. I don't compete with his shadow. So I feel guilty, sometimes."
"You seem to be able to put these feelings into words fairly easily. Have you talked to other people about them?"
"Cam and Bert."
"You're going to have to help me out here. I don't know Cam or Bert, do I?"
"No, they're both in junior high. You may know their siblings. Cam is the younger brother of Louise Forsythe and Gar.... Just Louise."
"Am I missing something here?"
"Please don't go there. Cam and Louise live next door to Gary and Shel Oldfield. They're almost like siblings. Shel's a fourth grader at Kelly Elementary. Gary and Louise are ninth graders here."
"I have Louise for English. She's brilliant."
"Would you want to be her younger brother?"
"I see what you mean."
"It doesn't phase Cam. He lives next door to Gary and Shel, they're both as extraordinary as Willie, and it doesn't phase him. He says, 'It's neat.'"
"You've talked to him about living in the shadow of extraordinary siblings?"
"We call them superachievers."
"He takes it in stride?"
"Completely; so does Bert."
"And Bert's brother would be?"
"Nels, who just may be one of the best gymnasts in the world. We'll have to wait for the Olympics in Spain to know for sure."
"And that doesn't bother Bert?"
"Not a bit."
"But being in Willie's shadow bothers you?"
"Why shouldn't it? You're the one that asked if I'd want to be Louise's younger brother. And I said that I understood."
"Well, it does, and it shouldn't."
"So you've talked to Cam and Bert about this. They must be quite a bit younger than you."
"Four and five years."
"Most high school juniors don't pay much attention to junior high school kids. How do you happen to know them so well?"
"I knew this conversation would open pandora's box."
"So, what's in the box?"
"Tim met his partner, Charlie, at a summer camp in Michigan. Tim was part of a camper group of seven, from all over the upper Midwest. They all live in Grand Forks now. They've remained very close friends. Their parents live here as well. They call themselves the Gang. There have been some additions to the Gang, including my folks. All the kids are good friends and we call ourselves COGs."
"Children of the Gang."
"I should've see that one coming."
"Cam and Bert are COGs. I talk to them a lot."
"Let me get this straight. Not only do you live in the shadow of Willie, but of a whole bunch of superachieving COGs."
"And not being a superachiever makes you feel guilty?"
"Not everyone can be a superachiever. There's no reason to feel guilty."
"Miss Borders, this is hard to say, but I'm trying to be completely honest with you. It's not that I couldn't be a superachiever. I could be. I've just decided not to be."
"Wait a minute, you get straight As, but that doesn't make you a superachiever. That's just routine for a Carson. Have I got that right?"
"So in what other way could you be a superachiever?"
"I used to dive competitively, or at least I started to. Dad and Uncle Tim said I could be as good as Willie, and they think he's the best in the world. If I worked at it, I could be as good as Willie."
"I hear the problem right there, don't I?"
"Yeah. I could be as good as Willie."
"There's the shadow. And responding to it leads to guilt."
"You make a pretty good psychologist."
"No, Bob, you make a pretty good psychologist. I've rarely heard a young man analyze himself so well. The question is, 'What're you going to do about it?'"
"Well, I started by talking to you, thanks to your invitation."
"Well, self-understanding goes a long way. So does talking to people. But I sense that this conversation hasn't solved your problem. Would I be right?"
"I'm not sure the problem can be solved. But, yes, you'd be right, this conversation hasn't solved it."
"Have you talked to your parents?"
"No! They'd blame themselves. They'd immediately think that they'd put too much pressure on me. It wouldn't be true, but that's what they'd think. No way am I going to lay that kind of a guilt trip on them. It wouldn't be fair."
"You really love your parents, don't you?"
"Absolutely. They're fantastic."
"To produce children like you and Willie they'd have to be. You have it all, nature and nurture. There's no way you're going to reconsider talking to your parents, is there?"
"No. And you can't talk to them. You promised me confidentiality."
"I wouldn't breach it for the world, Bob. You have nothing to worry about in that regard. But who could you talk to, other than me?"
"I'm not sure."
"I have an idea. How about President Tim? Did I hear you call him Uncle Tim?
"All the COGs call the Gang Uncle and Aunt. They like it, especially Uncle Tim and Uncle Charlie, who don't have their own kids."
"I can understand that. I'm single and have no nieces or nephews. Nobody calls me Aunt Jenny. But I don't think I'd better get that started, even among my favorite students."
"Can I call you Aunt Jenny when we're alone?"
"Bob, I'd love that."
"Thanks, Aunt Jenny. I'd like it, too."
"Just like that you're comfortable calling me Aunt Jenny? Most young men would be very put off by that suggestion."
"I'm used to calling a lot of people Uncle and Aunt. I'd love to add you to the list."
"Bob, let me make a suggestion. Let me talk to Tim. I'm sure that he'd honor confidentiality. But if he hears all this from me it might be easier. Then you and he should have a talk. It may not solve anything, but I don't know any way to help you but to have you talk to the right people. Tim may be the right person."
"Thanks, Aunt Jenny. You can talk to Tim. I trust him completely. He's wonderful. So is Uncle Charlie."
Well, I'll move this story along. Aunt Jenny did talk to Tim, and he did talk to me. Several times. Long, wonderful conversations. We talked about what it was like to commit to a sport like Dad had, and how such a commitment took away many other important aspects of your life. He insisted that my choices were the sane ones, that he, Billy, and Willie were the ones whose sanity was in doubt. I laughed at that. But it didn't alter the fact that I had made a different choice. It was a choice I made, and one that I had every right to feel guilty about. Our last conversation ended with Tim saying, "Bob, I see where you're coming from. If you can't work it out in your mind, you're just going to have to learn to live with some level of guilt. You've done a marvelous job so far, keep it up. You know, I think the only person to have spotted it in you was Miss Borders. She's really quite a teacher. Are you going to have her again next year?"
"I hope so. But at Central you can't necessarily control who your teachers will be."
"That's too bad."
That conversation got me to thinking: Why couldn't I, well the whole class liked her, have Miss Borders next year if I, we, wanted? I talked with a few others in the class, and they all agreed with me that they'd like to have Miss Borders again for senior English. We put together a letter to the Principal, Mr. Egans, asking to be assigned Miss Borders the next year. Everyone, everyone, in the class signed it. We ended the letter asking to have a meeting with Mr. Egans before he might turn down the request.
He came to our English class about a week later. He had some excuse for asking Miss Borders to go down to the office, and he said he'd cover her class for her. He asked a lot of questions about why we wanted Miss Borders the next year. He explained how the teacher assignment system worked: different teachers got the best classes, because rotating them was the only fair way to distribute the workload. He explained that our different courses of study would make it impossible for all of us to be together in one class, regardless of who the teacher was. But he didn't say, "No." He told us that he'd have to think about it, and talk to Miss Borders.
The next day I drove Miss Borders, Aunt Jenny when she was riding in my car, home. She'd gone out of her way to ask me to drive her, and I was pretty sure she wanted to talk. And I was pretty sure what she wanted to talk about. "Bob, having the whole class ask to have me next year was quite a compliment. But you do understand that the school probably won't be able to grant your request, don't you?"
"No, I don't. We're all quite willing to change our course requests so that we can all have English together. It can be done. And if it can be done, why shouldn't it be?"
"You know that you and that whole class are a delight to teach. It's a teacher's dream. Shouldn't another teacher, a good one, on the staff get the chance to teach you guys?"
"If we're a dream class, it's because you made us a dream class."
"I'll certainly have to thank you for that compliment."
"It's true, and you know it."
"Aunt Jenny, we promised to tell the truth to each other."
"OK, yes, I think the class responded to me in a way that you probably wouldn't have to another teacher. We all just clicked."
"And we want to click another year."
"You're the ringleader of this effort, aren't you?"
"I started the letter. Everyone signed it."
"Will they accept a, 'No,' answer?"
"They might. I guess so."
"What will you do? You know, if you push too hard I could get in trouble. The other teachers are likely to think I put you up to this."
"If anybody suggests that I'll deny it; to the newspaper and the school board, if necessary. The rest of the class'll back me up. Guaranteed. This was our idea. It still is our idea. If we push against a, 'No,' answer, that'll be our idea."
"I think you're going to get a, 'No,' answer."
"Thanks for the heads up, Aunt Jenny."
We did get a negative response. It was gilded with all kinds of nice words about how much of a compliment it was to Miss Borders, but that it would set a precedent in class scheduling that if started, could complicate school scheduling in the future. Blah, blah, blah. It came down to, "No."
I went to Uncle Jim, who was the school athletics director, for advice. He suggested that I talk to the head guidance counselor. He gave me the name of a school board member whom he thought might be sympathetic. He suggested that I should take a small group in to see Mr. Egans.
We did all of that. The school board refused to discuss it, saying that it was a matter for the principal. That, at least, made it clear that the principal had the authority to grant the request; he couldn't pass the buck. Three other students and I went in to see Mr. Egans. He was so nice, so friendly to talk to, and stubborn as a mule. I told him that, and he just chuckled. He thanked me for the compliment! But he didn't change his mind.
The second to last week of school, in late May of 1992, not long before the whole Gang was off to Barcelona, Mr. Egans called me into his office. I had no idea what was up. I thought the question of our getting Miss Borders was dead. I'd considered various courses of action: The class was a group of high achievers (not superachievers, at least most of us!). If we all dropped out of music, theater, debate, the school newspaper, it would've messed up those programs. But it would've messed us up more. We'd all talked and decided that we'd given it out best shot and lost. Now we had to move on.
Mr. Egans asked if we were going to pursue the matter of Miss Borders teaching us any further.
"No. We've lost."
"We've lost. You have the final authority, and you said, 'No.' There's nowhere else to go."
"I'm surprised that you didn't ask for this meeting."
"I talked with you along with three other students. I said everything I could think of."
"Bob, it's time for some honesty here."
"There hasn't been?"
"I hate that."
"It comes from your friend, Aunt Jenny."
"What? How do you know...?"
"Jenny and I have talked a lot about your class. And you. Now it's time for you to listen. As soon as I talked to your class, back in March, I talked to Jenny. She told me all about you. Maybe she was breaching your confidentiality, but I don't think so. It was your parents that you didn't want told, and I haven't shared what she told me with a soul."
"I trust Aunt Jenny. If she trusts you, then I do."
"Thanks, Bob. Coming from you that means a lot to me. I asked Jenny if she knew about the letter. Had she put you all up to it? I was pretty sure she hadn't, but as a principal, I had to ask her. It was clear that she had no idea what I was talking about. You guys were very smart not to get her involved."
"She wasn't; at all."
"I know. She asked me, are you inclined to grant their request?"
"I told her I was."
"Just listen. She suggested that I turn you down."
"Just listen, Bob. Nobody betrayed you. It was then that she told me all about you. She was sure you were behind the letter, and she wanted to use the opportunity to teach you a lesson about yourself. She knew that you'd fight the good fight to get me to change my decision, and she believed that winning that battle would be good for you. It might help you get over the idea that you're living in the shadow of your brother."
"I was set up."
"I guess that's a fair way to put it."
"And at the end I was going to win?"
"That's the idea."
"And that's supposed to give me a big ego boost?"
"But for that to work you needed to call me in here, or maybe call the whole class in here, and tell us that we'd won; that we could have Miss Borders next year."
"But just I'm here, and you're telling me something altogether different."
"What's going on?"
"Jenny is a very shrewd lady, and she's been worrying about you for months now. She thought this might help you. She had the very best intentions. I went along. Your victory was scheduled for tomorrow. But I got to thinking about all of this last night. I decided that honesty was the best policy. Jenny has no idea that we're having this conversation. But I decided that you should know the whole story. And, yes, we have arranged to schedule the entire class for Miss Borders, third period, next year. There'll be a couple of new students in the group, but your whole group will stay together."
Tears were coming to my eyes, and I wasn't one to easily cry. I really didn't know whether to be happy or angry. And I didn't know who to thank and who to throw brickbats at. I was really very confused. I can't possibly recreate the words, but in the outpouring of words I managed to get all of that out and on the table.
Mr. Egans said, "I can't blame you for any of those emotions."
I remember saying, "Let me get this straight. Miss Borders wanted me to have to fight hard for this, so that the victory would help me get over my shadow and guilt issues."
"Especially the shadow business."
"And you went along?"
"I can't believe that you were willing to do all that for me. Whether it was a good idea or not, it involved a lot of work and time. All that for one student?"
"A student that Jenny thinks is worth it."
That hit me like a ton of bricks. I finally got it. I really was worthwhile in my own right. It didn't have a fucking thing to do with Willie. It was for me. I said to Mr. Egans, "Thank you for your honesty. I think that this conversation was worth more to me than thinking I had won a bureaucratic battle with a mule of a principal."
Mr. Egans laughed at that. "I think I'd appreciate it if the mule image stayed within this room."
"Mr. Egans, thank you. Thank you for letting us have Miss Borders next year. More important, thank you for helping me understand myself."
"Bob, a principal never gets a greater thanks than that. I'm so glad that you came here from Indiana. Were you sorry to move?"
"Oh, no. It solved a lot of problems. It got Willie and me back together. It got me away from the diving program that I'd dropped out of. And It got me Miss Borders as an English teacher. And I got a good principal out of the deal as well."
"Have a good senior year, Bob."
Mr. Egans walked with me to my English class, which I was now late for. He came in and very simply announced that he'd arranged to keep our class together for third period English with Miss Borders next year. There was a loud cheer. He said, "You can thank the persuasiveness of Mr. Carson here, and the willingness of Miss Borders to put up with you for another year. I told her she didn't have to, you know."
I drove Aunt Jenny home after school that day. I told her, "You know, everybody's been talking out of school. You told Mr. Egans about our conversations, and he told me about your conversations with him."
"Oh, he did. All the gory details. At first I was mad as Hell. Oh, sorry. At first I was very mad. Then I realized the lengths you both were willing to go for me. That was more of an ego trip than thinking I won a bureaucratic battle with....a principal."
"You were about to say something else."
"I promised Mr. Egans that I wouldn't repeat that. I honor confidentiality."
Aunt Jenny said, "I deserved that dig, I guess."
"You're forgiven, if there was anything to forgive. You know, Aunt Jenny, I don't think you're going to see any more frowns on my face in class. I think that I left my twin demons of shadow and guilt in Mr. Egans' office."
"Well, Bob, it didn't work out the way I'd planned. I guess I was being a little too devious. But John Egans proved that he was a good principal today. He understood you better than I."
"No. He got lucky. His approach could've backfired. I could've gotten so angry about the whole thing that I reacted badly. But I quickly realized that it'd all been done to help me. That you two were that concerned about me really moved me." At that point we reached her apartment. I leaned over toward Aunt Jenny and said, "I love you, Aunt Jenny." And I kissed her on the cheek.
I know, that kiss would've made a great ending to the episode. Miss Borders the writing teacher would've told me to end the story there. But I have to tell you about Barcelona. I know, you've read all about the sports and the medals. But there were more than a hundred Gang members and other hangers on in Fred's collection. We did a lot more than simply watch the games. I thought back to Tim'n Charlie's Grand Adventure. There was a really cute girl along on that trip-Judy and Jerry's daughter Jude. I was much too young then to see her in a romantic light. But in Barcelona I was sixteen and she was fifteen. Romance blossomed. Barcelona, with nothing to do but watch a few sports events, was a great place for a love affair. She seemed to be as interested in me as I was in her. We found the Nova Icaria Beach, the nearest beach to the site of the Olympics, and dramatically cleaned up-so we were told-for the Olympics. It wasn't private, in fact it was incredibly crowded. But nobody minded two teenagers being obviously in love. We alternated sitting under a big umbrella we rented and going into the Mediterranean. She was almost as much of a water rat as I was, and we swam, rode the surf, and played in the sand. And kissed. Other things had to wait until we were back in the hotel. After we'd been together about a week I decided that I should be a man and talk to her father, Jerry. I wasn't ready to ask if I could propose to his daughter, but I did ask if he'd mind if we slept together.
Remember, this was the Gang. That wasn't an outrageous question. He answered with, "Let's be a little specific here, Bob. Tell me just what you have in mind."
"Jude and I think we're in love. We're too young to be sure about that, and won't be for a while. We're both horny teenagers and would like to relieve that horniness together. One thing is going to lead to another. I won't push harder than Jude pulls. We'll honor whatever limits you set. If you don't set any, we'll make sure she doesn't get pregnant."
"I think you need a little lesson, Bob. Jude is the product of two very careful parents, who used a condom every time they had sex, but managed to have her anyway. She was conceived before Judy and I were married. She knows that, and she knows that condoms can fail. Having said that, I leave the entire question of limits up to the two of you. But I think I might suggest, and I will suggest to Jude, that she get established on the pill before you fuck her."
"I understand that completely, Uncle Jerry. We'll honor that." I talked to my parents as well, and got just about the same advice. We honored it.
All four of our parents came by the hotel room we were sharing one evening. Billy said to us, "There is a story that you two need to hear. It's appropriate that we tell it here while we're all attending the Olympics. You know that both Judy and I were Olympic diving medalists."
"Sure, we know that."
"Well, you know that love and support were always key to Olympic success in the Gang."
This time it was Jude that said, "Sure, we know that."
Sara said, "Well, Judy came down to Bloomington to practice with Billy as she was getting ready for the Montreal Olympics. She spent two nights with Billy and me. There was a lot of love and support. Quite specifically there was a lot of sex. She left a virgin, but just barely. Jerry knew all about it before he and Judy were engaged."
Jerry said, "Jude, you need to know that I was a long way from being a virgin when I met your mother. We've never regretted our past. And we've never regretted our sexual adventures within the Gang, and there've been plenty. We're all here tonight to tell you both two things."
"First," said Billy, "You don't need to come into this hotel room with feelings of guilt. Sex is healthy. Love is healthy. It's best when they go together."
"Second," said Sara, "Don't do anything tonight, or any other night, that you'll be unwilling to tell your parents, and your children, about. If it can pass that test, then go for it."
Jude and I knew then that we had the best parents in the world. I'll have to admit that keeping my prick out of her cunt for the next two months was difficult, but we succeeded. When we got home she started on the pill, and after her first period her doctor told her she was safe. Knowing Jerry and Judy's experience, we always combined the pill with a condom. I don't know whether that was necessary, but we didn't kill any rabbits. We got engaged right after her high school graduation, just as I finished my junior year at UND, and got married right after my graduation from UND, as she was finishing her sophomore year there. I took a job in the post office in Grand Forks. I'm getting way ahead of the story, but I stuck with that job and am now the postmaster of Grand Forks, North Dakota 58201.
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