Tim would have carried the flag in the closing ceremony but he wasn't asked. Normally the athletes vote, but not this time. Tommie and John's protest had scared the USOC, and Tim and I are convinced that they wanted no chance of a flag bearer wearing an OPHR badge on their jacket - as Tim, Hal, Jim, and I had throughout the games. No one had actually asked any of us to remove them, but they clearly weren't popular. They were widely seen on black and Asian athletes, and some European whites, but very few American whites were seen with them.
So the closing ceremony was a very personal time for Tim and me. Jim and Paul walked together, and Hal walked with a group of marathoners from several countries that had become pretty good friends in the week between the marathon and the closing ceremony. As we were assembling to march in, Billy came up to me and asked me if I would be willing to share Tim during the closing. I would, and I really couldn't think of anyone better to share Tim with. The three of us walked together. Some of the time Tim and I held hands, but it wasn't important; we had made our point during the opening. For a while Billy put his arm around Tim's waist, and they walked together. With the exception of me, nobody owed the kind of debt to Tim that Billy did, and he clearly understood that without Tim he might, just might, have been a champion diver in Fargo or maybe North Dakota. But here he was in Mexico, with his eyes firmly fixed on Munich. The two would dive together on the UND team this year, but they never again would compete against each other. I think that Billy knew that he was destined to become Mr. USA Diving, rising to levels that Tim never reached. Although it was unspoken as they walked together, beside me, it continued the special bond that had begun that time on the diving platform, in the middle of the night, following a long line, following Tim. I wasn't jealous, but I knew that as fellow divers their bond was different from the one that Tim and I shared: very deep and very special. Well, I say that I wasn't jealous, and I don't think I was, but following those thoughts I gently slid my arm under Billy's and took Tim for myself. He looked up at me and smiled, as if to say, "For you, Charlie, there's a special love." I believed it then, and I still believe it. Billy understood, and continued to walk with us, but he left the physical contact to me.
Right after the ceremony Fred approached us and said, "I know that you guys had the times of your lives, and I could never duplicate the thrill of a gold Olympic medal. But I want you to know that I haven't had a better time since my wife died. Knowing you, Tim, and you too, Charlie, has been the best thing that has happened to me since that horrible steeplechase. Don't ever worry about me, and don't ever worry about how much money I'm spending. I know that both of you have. Well, don't. I'd go to the poorhouse before I'd miss the times I've spent with you two. But don't worry, that isn't going to happen." He continued on like that for a while, and Tim and I realized that he was so giddy with excitement that he really wasn't paying much attention to what he was saying.
Then I realized that my mom was standing nearby, smiling broadly. She and Fred had been sitting together. She came up to me and said, "Fred's invited me to come back to Fargo with the group, instead of heading straight back to Indianapolis. Can I stay in your guest room?"
Mom? Fred? Well, at least she wanted to stay with us! "Of course," was about all I could say. "It'll be wonderful to have you in Fargo. How long are you thinking of staying?"
"I haven't the slightest idea. I'll head home when I'm ready, or when you two guys get tired of having me underfoot."
Then we all headed back for our last night in Mexico, the athletes heading for the Olympic Village, and the rest of the Gang, and all the hangers-on, heading for the hotel with Fred - and my mother. They were clearly moving as a pair!
Tim and I were back in our room. We'd started to undress, and were both naked to the waist. We were just sitting, exchanging small talk or just looking at each other. It was quite an adjustment to realize that the excitement of a lifetime was ending. It wasn't really a major let-down, but it certainly wasn't a pick-me-up either. There was a knock on the door. Tim yelled, "Come."
In walked James. He was wearing shorts and a tee shirt, with his silver medal on top. He took the medal off and laid it on the table near where Tim was sitting. "You know, Tim, I couldn't possibly have won that medal without the help you, Charlie, and everyone in North Dakota gave me for the last couple of months. You shared your home, your skills, your time, but most of all, you loved me. There really isn't any other word for it. You know I was a little uncertain about being so intimately involved with a gay man, but there was no reason for me to be. You told me that, and I believed you, and it was true. But that put a distance between us; never spoken, and never really affecting us. But it was there. Our relationship was less physical. We didn't hug as tightly, or as long. I couldn't help but wonder, 'Does a straight kid really belong here?'"
Tim interrupted, "James, you were loved and accepted unconditionally."
"Tim, I know that. That was the wonderful thing about you. Your love is always unconditional. It took me from then till now to learn how to reciprocate." He walked over to Tim, held out his hands to Tim who took his hands. James pulled him up from the chair he was sitting it, and then wrapped his arms around Tim and asked, "May I kiss you?"
Tim replied, "I'd love it."
Very slowly their lips met. Tim let James lead, but soon tongues were involved. It never acquired the physicality of the very sexual kisses that Tim and I exchanged, but no kiss every expressed the love between two people better than that one. My heart went out to both of them as I watched. This time I can truly say that there was no jealousy at all on my part. I knew that Tim would consider this a complete triumph of love and caring over prejudice and fear. I don't think Tim's Olympic experience could have ended on a higher note.
When they slowly parted, James said. "Thank you, Tim. You'll never know what your friendship has meant to me."
Tim picked up the Olympic medal sitting on the table, placed it around James' neck, kissed him again very briefly, and said, "Thank you, James."
James replied, "I wouldn't trade your love and friendship for a gold medal." Then he took Tim's right hand and very gently placed it against his groin. I wondered what was coming, but James spoke very simply, "I'm straight. I'm not asking to have sex with you. But I put your hand there, and I'm now holding it there, as a way of telling you that I have absolutely no fear of you, or of your sexuality. I owe you a debt that can never be repaid. I'm offering you my body - not as a form of repayment, but as an expression of love and trust."
Tim was speechless, but he gathered his thoughts quickly. He squeezed very gently on what was now James' very hard penis. "I can accept your gift, and I understand the spirit in which it's given. Thank you." Tim's hand came off and they hugged. Nothing more was said, and James left to go back to his own room.
Tim turned to me and said, "God! I was tempted to accept his offer. He has a gorgeous body."
"Why didn't you?"
"That wasn't what he wanted. That was the hardest thing James ever did, I think. He was saying to me, and to you, Charlie, that we were OK. We were completely accepted. Even to the point of his having physical sex. I think from James' perspective we did have sex; I'm sure that no other boy has ever squeezed his dick. He's been on quite a journey, and he's moved farther in the acceptance of human sexuality than he has in increasing his diving skills. He only got a silver in diving. He gets a gold in accepting."
I said, "Well, you had better do more to me than you did to him."
Tim said, "I wish you could get that charged up over a little squeeze through your pants."
"So do I. Maybe I could if the squeeze came from James.... Ah, well, we'll never know."
As I said that, his shorts came off, along with everything else. "Just hands tonight," said Tim.
"OK. Start with taking my pants off."
He did. He pushed me back on the bed, and knelt on the floor beside me. He made a circle of his thumb and first finger and measured it around the rim of the head of my penis. Then he moved it up and down, only touching me on the rim. His movement was less than a half inch up and down. In particular, he was careful not to hit the sensitive loose skin on the underside of my dick. He moved slowly, continuing to be careful not to touch anything but the rim.
God, it drove me wild. But at the same time that it was wildly erotic, it wasn't leading to an orgasm, just this wild ride. I couldn't hold still and thrashed around on the bed. When I did that, he would squeeze his fingers together just a little, so that they clamped onto the rim. That way his hand would ride with me as I thrashed around. Without the friction, I would settle down again, and the rubbing would begin anew. I don't know how long he kept this up, but I was almost wild. When I finally came, I shot half-way across the room. Tim kept up his motion, but very quickly I really couldn't stand it and I rolled over to make him stop.
"Quite a trip, wasn't it?"
"Jesus, yes. Where did you learn to do that?"
"It felt good as I played with myself, so I decided to try it. I may be on to something."
"I couldn't stand it very often."
"We'll see. Try it on me."
I did, but my larger hand on his smaller dick seemed to lessen the effect. Nevertheless, he had a pretty wild time. It was a good last night in Mexico. Tomorrow we would return home to Grand Forks, school, domestic life, and preparing for graduate school for him and seeking a clerkship for me.
We flew into Fargo about 7:00 p.m. the next evening. We had not released our travel plans to the press, so only about fifty people showed up at the airport - all waiting at the gate. I'm not sure how that many people learned our schedule, but mostly they were friends that were here to meet Billy and his family and coach, and friends of those friends. Fred had a small bus waiting to take the Grand Forks contingent on to Grand Forks. Fred was going to have the bus stop at a restaurant for dinner, but Felix would have none of it.
"I know it'll be late, but I have good food frozen in Tim's freezer. I can have a good meal ready in half and hour. Let's eat at home. The bus came to our house last, and Tim, I, Mom, Felix, and Fred all got out. By now it was 9:30, and Felix headed immediately to the kitchen. Within a half an hour he produced an amazing dinner of trout almondine, rice pilaf, and corn he'd picked and frozen the previous summer. Only Felix could produce a meal like that in half an hour! My mother was flabbergasted to learn that Felix was a really top-notch chef. Tim and I were used to it.
Mom opened the conversation, "I don't know what to say. This past three weeks has been unbelievable. Charles, I really wish your father could've been with us. I don't think he ever really accepted that fact that you would be an Olympic athlete. When you meet him in heaven, you must wear your gold medal."
"I will, Mom, I promise."
Fred said, "OK, guys. It's been a grand time, but you guys never live in the past. What's going to happen this year? What's going to be your grand finale in Grand Forks?"
Tim said, "There isn't going to be a grand finale in Grand Forks because we're only leaving for a few years. We'll be back. Grand Forks is our home."
"You're ducking the question. Grand finale or not, what do you have planned for this year?"
"Study, dive with Billy, keep up my gymnastics, urge on the women's aquatics program, keep the fundraising going, keep up gay night here at the house, the usual. Oh, yes, this is also a legislative year."
"Yes, it's all 'the usual.' What's going to be special this year?"
My mother entered in, "Study and graduate isn't even on his list. How can you possibly expect more than that?"
"I wouldn't expect it, except that I've watched him for three years and I'd be incredibly surprised if he was satisfied to have this year look a lot like last year - especially since this year he has no Olympic Games to build up to.
Tim said, "We've been spending so much time on the Olympics that we haven't really thought of what will go on this year."
"Bullshit. Pardon me, Mamie. Don't try to kid me. That little mind of yours is always thinking ahead. What're we in for this year?"
"There's too much separation between town and gown in this community. We need to get the students, as well as staff and faculty, involved with the problems of the community. We have a potential labor force approaching 10,000, we ought to be able to fix most of the ills of Grand Forks. I haven't got specific ideas yet, but I've been thinking about it for some time. Charlie and I are going to need help on this, Fred."
I said, "Charlie and I? This is the first time I'm hearing about this, what's this 'Charlie and I'?"
Felix said, "So, now you know Charlie. We're all just as lost as you, and you know we're all going to get sucked into whatever it is we're being sucked into."
Tim said, "Let's organize a town clean-up day to begin with. Our goal will be to get 3,000 students, staff, and faculty to comb the entire city and pick it clean of trash."
Fred said, "That'll be quite an organizational challenge, as well as an inspirational one."
"Who better?" I said.
I really don't know how long Tim had had these plans in his mind, but there it was - the big new project for his senior year. And it clearly wasn't going to stop with a clean-up day.
That night in bed Tim and I continued the earlier conversation. "Charlie, I'm serious about needing to heal the separation between town and university, and with using the assets of the university to improve the town. But there's another issue that's worrying me."
"Spill it, kid."
"The civil rights movement in this country has been almost invisible in North Dakota. The Twin Cities as well."
"Very few blacks live here."
"That's really no excuse for us to be so removed from things of real importance to the country. But I was thinking along other lines. The group that's discriminated against here isn't Negroes, its Indians."
"They're almost as invisible here as blacks. By the way, the current term is blacks, not Negroes."
"I know, but it takes getting used to. That used to be a negative word." Tim continued, "The difference here between blacks and Indians is that while there really are very few blacks in this part of the country, there are quite a few Indians. If they're invisible it's almost certainly because they're unwelcome."
"I'm almost afraid to ask my next question."
"And just exactly what do you plan to do about it?"
"There isn't a simple answer. But if I've learned anything from watching the civil rights movement from a distance, it's that the movement doesn't get far when the big, liberal, all-knowing, condescending white man decides what's best for the little darkies. I, we, have to start by learning something. There're a number of Indian students on campus. It's time to meet them, get to know them, and hear their perspective on Dakota life."
"I'll bet it isn't all peaches and cream."
"You can bet your bippy."
"Just an expression, but I think you have one."
Our giggling led to kissing, which led to sucking, which led to orgasms, which led to sleep.
Our dreams of life quickly returning to normal were immediately upset. Not only could we not walk across campus without attracting a crowd, the press was after us, national television networks were after us; peace was not ruling our lives. The second day after we were back the expected call from the White House came. All the gold medalists were invited to join President Johnson in the Oval Office on Friday of the following week, about ten days away. The USOC would arrange travel and lodging in Washington. I answered the phone and the caller asked for Tim. Tim only had one question, "All gold medalists?"
The answer saddened us, Tommie Smith, of black glove fame, was not invited; the USOC insisted that he was no longer a member of the US Olympic team. While Tim was willing to protest a lot, his question really only extended to his gay partner. Tim responded saying, "Charlie and I'll be there."
About twenty minutes later a second call came. It was for me. I ended up responding that Tim and I would be there.
We laughed afterward. The White House was simply not going to deal with the question of our being a pair. We got separate phone calls, even if they were to the same phone number. They simply weren't willing to ask, "Will the two of you come?"
We struggled over the Tommie Smith issue. Were we betraying him and what he stood for to go to the White House when he wasn't invited? Tim was distressed. "Charlie, I refused to go after Rome when you couldn't come, and you weren't an athlete. Now a black athlete's being excluded, and I'm going."
"Tim, personal dreams are important, just as political issues are important. And we're going to be together in the Oval Office - that's an important statement, just as our not going would be important in regard to the issues Tommie Smith has raised. We'll wear our OPHR badges proudly, hold hands proudly, and let those gestures make the best statement they can."
We did. The US team had won 45 gold medals, but considering that the men's basketball team had twelve players, that six four person relay teams won gold; and that a yachting pair had done so as well, a total possible 75 medal winners could have descended on the Oval Office. 72 were there, a remarkable number, considering that it meant a cross country trip for a lot of them. Illness kept one away, one absence was unexplained, and Tommie Smith was the third.
It was quite a day. We assembled at the Smithsonian Castle and were taken by two busses to the White House. Lyndon Johnson met us at the front door, shaking hands like a politician in the middle of a election - which he might have been, but wasn't. Flash bulbs popped, reporters asked questions as we walked, and we were escorted by the Secret Service and the President to the Oval Office. The speeches were sappy, the photo op more to the President's advantage than ours, our replies to the President even sappier, and then off to a picnic on the Ellipse. The press was kept at bay, a goodly number of the White House staff joined us, and the President came out to eat a couple of hot dogs with us.
There were some names you will recognize at that gathering. I mention them at the risk of being accused of name-dropping, but it was exciting meeting them and getting a chance to talk to them. Actually we had at least met all of them before, and Tim had gotten a chance to have some nice conversations. Mark Spitz had yet to become the golden boy of swimming, but he was on two relay teams that won gold in Mexico. He, like Billy Carson, who would be his teammate in Munich, would make his impact four years hence. His statements before the games that he'd win six gold medals didn't endear him to a lot of people, but he was pleasant enough to talk to. The contrast with Tim, who never claimed beforehand that he was going to do anything but walk in the opening ceremony and win "a medal" was quite startling. My kid is the greatest!
Bob Beamon, at 6'3" stood out in the crowd, though in this bunch he wasn't the tallest present. What had stood out was his spectacular long jump - more than 29 feet when the previous record was less than 28 feet. It was the most spectacular single feat at the Olympics. Tim had approached him specifically to thank him for his earlier refusal to compete against Brigham Young University, because of the racist policies of the Mormon church. That protest had gotten him thrown off the University of Texas at El Paso Track and Field Team, but had endeared him to Tim. Bob was from New York; I think that if he had been from the upper Midwest that he and Tim might have become good friends. As it was, I don't think either Tim or I ever had a chance to speak to him again.
Those of you who follow jumping events have heard of the Fosbury Flop, the rather backwards way that Dick Fosbury went over the bar to win his 1964 gold medal. It remains the dominant style for high jumpers today. Tim and I had a chance to chat with him a little there on the Ellipse. He was more in awe of Tim than he needed to be, and Tim had a difficult time putting him at ease. It was hard for me, who couldn't help but think of Tim as an overgrown Camp White Elk camper and not as an overachieving Olympic medalist, to understand how someone like Dick Fosbury would be awed by Tim.
Before President Johnson was whisked away by his aides, he pulled me aside and we had a remarkable conversation. The President said, "Charlie, I really have to apologize for not inviting you here after Rome. I hate politics, but I don't have any choice. It's a compromise you make when you decide to get into the game. I admired your little kid there more than I can ever say in public for telling me and the entire White House to go to Hell if we wouldn't invite you. And now you both are wearing that little badge. I know what it means. It means that we screwed up again by not inviting the Smith kid. All I can say is, 'Never become a politician unless you're willing to sell your soul.'"
I couldn't believe I was hearing this from the President of the United States, but there it was. Clearly I wasn't intended to quote it, and I never have except to Tim, and now almost 40 years later. I managed to say, "Tim's never willing to sell his soul. I don't think I am either. We debated a long time over coming here today with Tommie Smith not invited; but here we are, and we don't think we're selling our souls - it wasn't the White House that kicked Tommie Smith off the team. You've done great things as President and Senator, including epochal civil rights legislation. Thank you. And thank you for today's invitation. And your honesty."
The President got in just one more line before his aides, who had not heard the conversation, were ushering him off to his next meeting. That was, "I owe you one."
I made sure that Tim and I were holding hands when we were photographed leaving the White House. Beyond that, the day was Lyndon's.
In general the newspapers had already made all they could of the fact that Tim and I were gay partners. It wasn't even mentioned in the news coverage of the White House visit. For all I know, Johnson's men may have threatened doom on anybody that raised the issue in print. In any case, it wasn't raised on this occasion.
On our return home the University couldn't hold back, and they had a huge welcome home celebration for Tim and me. A State Police helicopter met us at the Fargo airport and we were flown directly to the campus and ushered into a completely filled field house. In fact, there was a crowd outside that couldn't get in, but got to shout at us as we were escorted inside. Prexy and Billy Carson were the joint masters of ceremony. Oh, God, it was maudlin. But I'll have to admit we ate it up. Listening to the University Band play the Olympic Hymn and then the Star Spangled Banner brought tears to both of our eyes. Then we realized that they intended to play the anthem seven times, one for each gold, with a huge projection during each of our performances side by side with him or me standing on the podium. For me, played last because my medal was last, the picture of shooting an arrow was nowhere near as special as Tim in midair, Tim on the rings, Tim....
We both had to speak, but weren't really capable of saying anything very intelligent. We thanked everybody we could think of, including the support that we had gotten from the entire University and especially Prexy. Then Tim closed for both of us, saying, "And now, we'd like to put this all behind us and just be fellow students. That's why we came to the University of North Dakota. Looking out at all of these wonderful faces, I'm so glad that we did."
Mom and Fred were in the group of V.I.P.s on the stage. They seemed happy together, but Mom was returning to Indianapolis the next day, with no certain plans to return. Tim and I were betting she wouldn't stay away long. It turned out that we were right.
That night, after we had said "Good Night" to Mom and Felix, we went into our room. I kissed Tim and said, "Fuck me, kid. That's what I need tonight."
Wordlessly he slipped off my clothes, then his own. I was led to the bed and rolled onto my stomach. My legs were pushed up under me so that my ass stuck into the air. Tim came up behind me, used KY liberally, and gently shoved inside me. Then he slowly let his torso drape over my back. Totally relaxed, he lay that way a long time before starting slowing moving in and out. He kept the pace very leisurely for a long time; in fact, I wasn't sure that he was going to be able to remain hard at the pace he was setting, but he did. Slowly the pace increased until he was banging me pretty hard. Then he reached around, grabbed my dick, and squeezed until we both came together.
"Charlie, I think I'm going to call that my Olympic Gold Medal Fuck. I hope you liked it as much as I did."
"God, yes, Tim. Kiss me."
It wasn't long before Tim was taking action to accomplish his goals for the year: He was seeking out and getting to know some of the Native American (then thought of as Indians) students on campus. He was also beginning to organize students and faculty for his plan to have a town clean-up. At this point, he wasn't talking about anything beyond the clean-up, but we both knew that his real plans were far more involved; they always were. To the maximum extent possible he sought to combine these efforts by getting his new Native American friends involved with planning the clean-up.
His conversations with the Native Americans were revealing. All had been exposed to various kinds of insults, and the phrase, "The only good Indian's a dead Indian" was not infrequently said in their presence and for their benefit. Housing discrimination was rife throughout the Dakotas and Minnesota - the home states of virtually all of the Native Americans on campus. Every man in the group said that he'd be afraid to walk into any small town bar in the region, for fear of physical violence. All of them, both men and women, reported a better atmosphere in Grand Forks than in most of the rest of North Dakota, probably because of the influence of the University.
Tim was shocked by what he heard, and immediately wanted to do something about it. Upon reflection, he realized that he was dealing with a problem that was beyond his ability to solve. That frustrated him, but, on balance, was probably good for him: he needed to realize that not everything wrong with the world was susceptible to a quick fix, not even a Tim quick fix! It also awakened the beginnings of a social conscience in Tim - and me as well. It wasn't lacking before; he had, after all, been seriously offended by the lack of women's athletic programs, and had done something about it - at least in aquatics. But the kind of prejudice that Tim's new Native American friends had experienced was entirely different. It offended Tim, and began a life-long concern for the rights of Native Americans. At the same time, Tim was gaining an appreciation and understanding of the civil rights movement as its conflicts played out in the South and in Washington - but those battles continued to be viewed from a distance. Tim was pleased, and a little proud, when several of the few African-American students on campus came up to him and expressed their appreciation for his wearing the OPHR badge throughout the Olympics. Many photos of him had been published with the badge prominently displayed.
The town clean-up was a logistical nightmare and a fabulous success. 3,763 students, faculty and staff participated for the University, joined by over a thousand volunteers from the town who were not connected with the University. The Fire Department provided excellent maps; the police arranged to close key roads where there were lots or old industrial sites that needed major cleaning, the city Department of Public Works and the University Maintenance Department ran trucks along predetermined routes all day to carry away the 87 tons of trash collected. Tim, with the help of a substantial part of the students and faculty of the athletics department, scheduled voluteers to cover particular parts of town.
The whole thing started at six one fairly warm early November morning. The weather cooperated by providing sun and little wind, if not balmy weather. Streets, lots, building fronts, alleys, parks, streambeds, you name it and Tim had people walking along filling plastic bags with trash. Separately collected returnable soda bottles netted well over $200! One particularly ugly small park in a poor section of town got the attention of Prexy and a team of students and faculty. They also became the focus of newspaper and television attention - carefully organized by me. Tim had insisted that I keep the focus on Prexy, not on Tim, and I agreed. There was no way, however, that the articles wouldn't say that Tim was the key organizer, and that Tim had been the Olympic.... You could write it in your sleep, and Tim really wasn't looking for that kind of publicity. There was, however, no avoiding it.
An important by-product of the event was a heightened awareness among the students, and faculty as well, of the extent of poverty in the town. Any town in America has its poverty-stricken areas. But it was startling for college students to learn that there were areas of town that still used outhouses. There were quite a few unpaved streets. Shacks were not uncommon in some areas. While the poverty was nothing like could be found in the larger cities of America, it was outside the experience of most American college students, and UND students were no exception. Tim didn't even have to be a leader in the movement that arose among students in the month after the event to demand that running water and sewers be extended to every home in Grand Forks. It cost the city money it was reluctant to spend, but within nineteen months that had been accomplished. The campaign had been accompanied by a huge sign erected on campus, facing a main street, which showed a large toilet in the process of flushing. The blue water was slowly painted over with white as the water seemed to drain from the toilet tank. The falling water line represented the number of houses left in town without flush toilets! I think the sign, erected at the beginning of the campaign, was the most effective tool the students used in moving the City Council! It was six months into the nineteen months before Tim was able to convince Prexy that neither Tim nor I had been responsible for the campus' huge toilet! Prexy symbolically held his nose when he went by the sign, but he realized that, even while it was incredibly ugly and in bad taste, it represented a very positive event in the life of the UND student body.
One day in mid November Fred hit us with a spectacular suggestion. He had been in touch with the Amasa Hotel, near Camp White Elk. They had 16 winterized rooms; other motels in the area had at least 30 winterized rooms. The Hotel could feed about sixty people. It was the perfect setting for a Christmas gathering of the Gang, parents, coaches, good friends, and hangers on. We would invite everybody and he expected most would show up. Fred envisioned that most of the outdoor activities would take place at Camp White Elk, and he had already been in touch with Stanley, who thought it was a super idea. So did Jeff who was moving into the directorship of the Camp as Stanley approached retirement. Fred, of course, expected everybody to be his guest. We couldn't refuse, we knew he knew how to put on a grand party.
Almost nobody did refuse. We ended up with 67 people spread around three towns in the UP, centered on Amasa and Camp White Elk. Most arrived a couple of days before Christmas Eve, and the last couple was gone on New Year's Eve. There was lots of snow, lots of food, lots of games, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, ice skating, car races on the ice of White Elk Lake, and lots of sex.
The highlight of the trip was when Tim convinced seventeen people to go polar bear skinny dipping in White Elk Lake. The ice was about 18 inches thick - it would hold cars. So they took ice saws and cut open a stretch of water about 40 feet long starting about 25 feet from shore. If you jumped in at the near end the water was about two feet deep, and was about four feet deep at the other end, deep enough to swim a few strokes. They put a ladder at the end so the swimmers could get out quickly, and blankets on the ice at the end so that bare feet wouldn't freeze.
Tim led the parade single file, 12 boys and 7 girls, out of a beach house nearby: go down to the lake, jump into the water, run and then swim the 40 feet to the ladder, climg up and into a waiting blanket. Tim, of course, declined the blanket and stood at the end cheering everybody on, ice forming on his naked little body. When the last one was out, he grabbed a blanket and led the parade back to the beach house, which had been well warmed by a pair of kerosene heaters. I was not among the skinny dippers, but most of the original Gang was. Ronnie, however, was smart - like me.
One of the skinny dippers was Dick, who had joined the group on Tim's invitation. He came down from his home near Lake Superior and stayed with Jeff at Camp White Elk, where both Jeff and Stanley had winterized homes. It seems that during the past year Dick had come down to the camp and introduced himself to both Stan and Jeff, noting the double connection: His uncle had sold Stanley the camp property and they had mutual friends in Tim and me. It was good to see Dick and we were delighted that he seemed to have found a friend in Jeff, even though they were about thirteen years apart in age. Our perception was that Jeff lacked friends - except for a huge number of summer friendships - as did Dick.
The skinny dipping certainly had a sexual element to it, especially for Dick, and it seemed clear that that was his main motivation for going in the water. In all other regards, sex on this trip was private. We knew that there was some trading and partnering going on - that was pretty much the norm when the Gang got together. However, it wasn't talked about and it wasn't a group event. On the other hand, the skinny dipping which involved two generations - Norman and both of Franklin's parents had joined in - started the process of breaking down the generational barrier among the larger group. We had no idea where that might lead, if anywhere. But it led nowhere that anybody was aware of that Christmas.
Christmas dinner was outdoors at Camp White Elk. We had four huge bonfires, and a row of small cooking fires. We had turkeys on spits, baked potatoes in the coals, huge pots of soup, vegetables, and cocoa, pies baking in reflector ovens around one of the bonfires, and sno-cream made from snow and cream, to make pie a la mode. I suppose that if you were served the same meal in a fancy restaurant you wouldn't have thought much of it, but in this setting it was one helluva Christmas dinner! We sat at a long table that seated 67. Felix still wouldn't tell us his age, but he insisted that he was the oldest person present and claimed the head of the table. Fred was at the other end, flanked by Jeff and Stanley, who were the hosts for the dinner. Dick sat next to Jeff. Phil stood and offered a cocoa toast, "To the Gang, and to all the parents and friends who've joined us. To Charlie, the counselor among counselors who made the whole thing happen, and to Tim, who knew a good thing when he saw it, and latched on tight. But most of all, to the truly exceptional people here, the parents who chose to understand their children. Three cheers. Hip, hip, hurray. Hip, hip hurray. Hip, him, hurray."
Tim saw that Phil was in tears as he led the cheers. Tim got up, walked over beside Phil, pushed him down in the chair so that they were almost eye to eye. Tim stood beside him and kissed him long and hard. "Phil, we all love and understand you. We're the family that you've missed." By now Franklin was holding him as well, and Phil's tears had passed. How parents could treat a son, a truly wonderful son, as Phil's did was simply unfathomable to everyone at that table!
Mom dropped into town frequently, always staying with us and spending most of her time with Fred. The frequency increased after the Christmas gathering! One evening during one of those trips Tim and I were sitting in the living room at about ten fifteen having just finished getting the house in order; we were starting to think about going to bed. That meant that we were beginning to contemplate just how quickly we intended to go off to sleep - I was thinking that I wasn't too tired and that a little "exercise" before we slept might be appropriate. I was hoping that Tim might be thinking along the same lines.
The front door opened and Mom walked in. She had spent most of the day with Fred, as she had the previous two days. I decided to screw up my nerve and ask an obvious question, "How come you come back here every night? You're going straight back in the morning, right?"
"Charles! I wouldn't spend the night at Fred's."
Tim rose to the occasion, "Why not?"
"Seriously," asked Tim, "Why not?"
"Fred and I aren't married and we aren't thinking of getting married."
It was my turn. "So what?"
Mom was getting a little red in the face; I wasn't sure whether it was embarrassment or anger. "I'm well aware that your generation doesn't believe that sex is reserved for marriage - or even your kind of commitment - but Fred and I do."
"What makes you think that Fred does? Have you talked about it?"
"I don't want to have sex with Fred."
"Are you sure that that's a true statement?" That came from me, and I knew I was pushing things.
After a long pause, Tim spoke up. "That question seems to be giving you a little bit of a problem."
"No. Yes. Oh, I don't know. I'll admit I've thought about it, but Fred and I have never said a word on the subject. It's just assumed that I would come home here every night."
I said, "Mom, humans aren't designed for a life without sex, regardless of the silly position of Catholic priests."
"I can't believe that I'm having this conversation. With my son. Good Lord."
Tim jumped in. "Mom, you've never been able to talk to us about sex. You've talked a little bit to Charlie, but you've never been comfortable talking with me. Maybe it's time we got past that."
By this time Mom was sitting on a chair near us in the living room. She said, "Come here, Tim. Give me a kiss."
He did, saying, "I love you, Mom. And there should be no closed subject among people who love each other."
"I love you too. Tim, as much as Charlie." She paused a long while, and then said, "Just how much do you talk about sex with your parents, Tim?"
We have no secrets. We tell them everything we do, and who we do it with. They usually aren't interested in details, but we would never withhold details that they were interested in."
"Who you do it with? You have sex with other people?"
"Yes," said Tim.
I spoke up, "OK, I need to remind you of my standard bit of advice."
"I know," said Mom. "Never ask a question if you can't deal with the answer. And never assume that you know the answer. I really have to decide if I can deal with talking about sex much the same way I talk to you two about tomorrow's meal plans."
"Charlie, I think I managed with you. Tim it's time for me to try with you."
Tim said, "OK, then I'll go back and answer the question that started all of this, which was 'Who do we have sex with?'"
"I guess I'm ready. But I won't promise not to be shocked."
I said, "Shocked is one thing; angry is another. Withdrawing from the conversation is still another."
Tim said, "In a nutshell, all of the Gang, and a few others. But on the whole it's just been the Gang. "
I said, "I don't think we should hold back. Add Felix to the 'few others.'"
"Felix! That dear man that cooks for us."
"That's the one. He comes down to our room for sex about once a week. He's a lot of fun."
"Wait a minute. The Gang is eight boys. But you've very intentionally expanded to include a number of girls: Tina, Carol, Sue, Nancy, maybe others."
"Has your sex included them."
"I thought you two were gay. Homosexual."
"We are. But I believe that there's a little gay and a little straight in everybody. There's more gay than straight in Charlie and me, but the straight is there."
Mom continued, "Let me back up a little. Tim, you just said that humans aren't designed for a life without sex. You and Charlie went three and a half years without sex before your 18th birthday, didn't you."
I said, "Without sex with each other. We weren't celibate"
Mom said, "I'm having an Ah Ha! Moment. I've been unbelievably naive, haven't I? Tina and Phil each kissed one of you goodbye at your wedding. I'm just beginning to realize the implications of that. I'm right, aren't I?"
"Of course," said Tim. "But first let me give you a kiss for calling it a wedding. That's the way we think of it." He walked over and kissed her.
"That's the way I like to think of it, especially when you call me 'Mom'. I love that.... You and Tina....were lovers?"
"Much more than that, but if by lovers you mean, sexually involved, then, yes."
"I'm getting brave. Did you have intercourse?"
"Yes, but just once, the New Year's Eve before I turned 18."
"Charlie, you and Phil?"
"Yes, we were roommates for our last month at Rockford. Neither of us knew the other was gay until a month before graduation. But we had a wonderful month together."
"Did Phil know about Tim?"
"Oh, yes, just like Tina knew all about me."
"I'll risk it. Charlie are you a virgin, in the traditional sense?"
"I lost my virginity with Priscy, my coworker in Iowa. She was a lesbian, but we had some good times together. Then she found a partner and moved on."
"She was at your wedding, wasn't she?'
"Yes. While we're telling all, you might as well know that Priscy and her partner and various members of the Gang have had sex together."
"Not a term we use, but, yes, group sex."
"And all this time I thought that the only thing different about you and Tim was that you loved boys, not girls. It turns out that that isn't quite true - you love both - and that there's a whole lot more to you to than I ever dreamed."
"Are you glad that you know?" asked Tim.
"I'm going to have to think about that, but you can't put the rabbit back in the hat."
Tim said, "This conversation started by talking about sex for you, not us."
"I'm not ready for that."
"Your body is; I don't know about your mind. But it's just a hang-up. Maybe Fred has the same hang-up, but I doubt it. I think he just has tremendous respect for you."
"Respect for me is a good reason not to have sex."
"No, respect for you is a good reason not to push for sex when he doesn't think you're ready to even think about it."
"We haven't accomplished much this evening."
"Charlie, we've accomplished a tremendous amount. I can't believe that I just had the conversation that I had. But I'm not sure that I'm ready for it to be the basis for a behavioral change - at least not the one you're looking for."
I said, "You know, I suggest rules to kids as well as adults. My prime rule for teens is, 'If you can't talk about it, you shouldn't be doing it.' In other words, talk first, act second."
Tim cut in, "The kids call it the fuck, dick and cunt rule."
"Tim!" That was me. I wasn't sure that I was ready for those words in front of my mom.
"Charlie, relax. I know the words, though I'll admit I rarely hear them."
Tim said, "It wasn't an accident that I used them, and Charlie uses them for the same reason when he lays out his rule. Talking means talking straight, not talking around the subject and speaking in euphemisms."
I said, "I hardly think that intercourse, penis and vagina are euphemisms."
"No, but they make it appear to be a biology class and not serious talk about sex."
I continued, "Talking before acting is very important. Try talking to Fred. You might find it easier than you think. Fred's really a very loving man."
Mom looked at her watch and said, "My goodness, it's after eleven. You boys're never up this late. And I want you to see I'm learning, so I'll simply note that at this hour you'll have to go straight to bed - no sex, you haven't time. Even if you are horny!"
Neither Tim nor I could believe that had come from my Mom, but it had. Clearly the conversation hadn't been lost on her.
The next evening Mom had dinner with us at our house. Tim had cooked; clean up would be a joint effort. Mom had spent the morning with Fred, but he had had a business meeting in the afternoon that was going to extend through dinner. He had promised to come by as early as he could. At dinner Mom told us, "Fred and I did talk this morning. If the conversation of last evening caught me off guard, you have to believe that the one with Fred this morning did too, only more so."
"You both were completely correct about Fred."
"Don't wait up for me tonight. I might not be coming home. I really don't know."
Tim said, "Don't worry, we're going to be having the sex that we couldn't have last night because we were talking to you."
We did have sex, and Mom didn't come home! We had one of our rare 69s and wondered what, if anything, Fred and Mom were doing!
A few evenings later they told us that they had an announcement. We were ready for wedding bells, but were surprised to hear that they had talked about it a long time and had decided that they were not interested in getting married. They enjoyed each other's company, but that marriage didn't make much sense for Mom at age 69 and Fred at age 51. But then they fooled us again by saying that they were going to continue their visits, and that Mom was going to start staying with Fred when she was in town. She was willing to admit that her son's attitude toward sex made more sense than her own, and she would endeavor to keep up with the times. Tim said that I looked so surprised that he wasn't sure whether I would make it through the dinner! I'll have to admit that I got a glimpse of how Mom must have felt when Tim and I confronted her with our relationship.
I asked Mom and Fred what the arrangements would be when he visited Indianapolis. She grinned and said, "Wayne and Gil are going to be in for a shock. Think they can handle it? I think I know how you boys felt when you came to visit your father and me for the first time!"
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