When the final game ended and it was time to go to bed, Ted grabbed my arm and made me stay behind, until the other boys had left. “I know this is going to sound weird and all, but would you sleep with me tonight?” he begged.
“And what made you decide this?” I asked, to clarify his request.
“It’s just that I’ve always wanted my father to love me enough to do it, but he never did” he responded. “I was hoping, since you’ve been so nice to me, you’d do it instead. It would be kind of like you’d be my father for a little while.” His eyes were pleading with me, but then he spoke again.
“If you don’t want to, you don’t have to,” he added, while looking disappointed. “I’m sure you think I’m really weird just because I asked it.”
“No, I don’t think that at all,” I assured him. “I believe each of my boys has slept with me at one time or another,” I confirmed, “so it’s not an unusual request either. If you don’t mind sleeping between Jake and I, I’ll check with him to see if he’d have a problem with it.”
“You mean you and Jake aren’t just friends?” Ted asked, having missed such an obvious fact.
I don’t think this revelation bothered him, but he had apparently been so focused on me that he hadn’t noticed anything else. I guess he just wrote off all the time Jake and I spent together as being friends and taking care of the family. He must have also written off my dancing with Jake as just another guy I danced with the previous night. I suppose he was also too busy with the boys to notice the passionate kiss Jake gave me, but I don’t think that would have made any difference to him. I don’t believe Ted’s interest in me is romantic, but more like a temporary father substitute.
“Yes, Jake and I are partners,” I advised him. “I hope that’s not a problem for you?”
“Oh, no!” he quickly answered, making sure he didn’t upset me. “It’s just that I guess I’d never realized it. I don’t know why, but that never occurred to me. What do the other boys think of you two being together?” he wondered.
“It doesn’t bother them,” I explained. “They just accept us as a couple and think of us as two dads.” He thought about this a few seconds and then nodded.
“They’re luckier than I thought,” he added.
“Don’t forget, they don’t have a mother to dote on them,” I added, so he didn’t think this was all roses and no thorns.
“I know,” he concurred, “but I’ve noticed they have some really neat aunts and uncles too.”
I agreed with his observation, while trying to explain how each of those people had come into our lives. He absorbed the information like a sponge.
“Well, do you want me to ask Jake if he’d mind if you slept between us?” I asked, getting back to his original request.
“I guess you could, but I was hoping it would just be the two of us,” he replied. He didn’t sound thrilled about the choice I gave him.
“Well, I could sleep in the middle and you’d still be next to me,” I offered.
“I know, but it still wouldn’t be the same,” he admitted, looking forlorn.
“Ted, if you’re looking for more than that,” I told him, “then you might be disappointed.” Ted looked confused.
“What do you mean?” he challenged.
“If you’re looking for a sexual encounter, it’s not going to happen,” I clarified. This drew a shocked response from Ted and his face took on a horrified expression.
“No! That’s not what I was thinking at all,” he corrected. “I just wanted it to be the two of us, but I wasn’t thinking of anything more than that.” He looked embarrassed that I had even suggested this.
“Dad… oh damn, I mean, Mr. Currie… err, uh, Josh…” Ted stammered and I realized he had made the same slip of the tongue earlier, when he also called me dad. I was also surprised by how totally flustered and confused it made him when this happened. I thought he might even bolt from the room, because he was getting so upset, or maybe just embarrassed by his verbal mistake.
“Calm down, Ted,” I told him, reading the panic in his eyes. “You haven’t done or said anything wrong.” He still didn’t look as if he believed me, and it appeared he might even start to cry.
“See, I’m a total idiot,” he scolded. “I’ve been thinking all day about how I’d like to have you for my dad and that’s the only reason I wanted to spend the night with you. Like you were really my father and I was still your little boy. I know it sounds dumb, but it’s been a dream I’ve always had, where my father would love me that way.” Now, he did start to weep, so I did my best to console him.
“Look, give me a minute to talk this over with Jake,” I advised him. “I’m sure he’ll understand.”
“No, cuz now you’re going to think I’m such a baby,” he blurted out, totally embarrassed.
Where in the world have I heard that line before? Damn, is it my turn to have to deal with all the boys with emotional issues? It isn’t that I don’t understand why he’s been acting the way he has, seeing he’s been robbed of most of his childhood by an overbearing father. All he’s ever wanted was a dad who would show his love and make him feel safe. Now he feels as if he’s found one, so I didn’t want to blunder and ruin this for him too.
“I don’t think that – never have and never will,” I assured him. “All I see is a young man who wants his father’s attention, but his father would never allow himself to let down his manly façade long enough to give it. Now, this poor boy longs for that lost opportunity and feels he’s found a substitute. There’s nothing wrong with what you want and I’ll bet nearly every one of my boys has felt similar longings, before they came to live with me. “ I paused briefly, before continuing, to see how he was responding.
“There’s something about a large percentage of American men that won’t allow them to show another male a little affection, not even his son,” I added. “It may be changing slightly now, since you see football players holding hands in the huddle or other athletes hugging and such. However, the mainstay American male is still too homophobic to do that just yet, no matter whom else he sees doing it first. Trust me, Ted, this isn’t your problem. The problem belongs to your father.”
He just looked at me, as if he were trying to read my mind, but I wasn’t sure why. I just told him what I thought and felt, so what was there left to read? I didn’t have time to figure it out for myself, before he gave me the answer.
“I think you’re being serious, and if you are, you’re the only person who understands how I feel,” he informed me, before he began to weep lightly again. “I’ve spent my whole life trying to please my father, just so he’d love me, but no matter what I did, he only despised me… and now that he suspects I’m gay, he absolutely HATES me. Why does he treat me this way?”
I grabbed and hugged him tightly against my body, to show him not all men were like that.
“I’d be willing to bet he doesn’t hate you,” I tried to explain, “it’s just that he’s been so conditioned to think that any kind of male-to-male affection is wrong. Please, don’t give up on him yet. He’s not hopeless, but he’s not going to change overnight either.”
“I don’t believe that,” Ted sobbed on my shoulder. “I know he doesn’t love me. In fact, I think he’s embarrassed by me. I can’t even stand being around him any more. Every time he looks at me, I can see it in his eyes. He’s angry because I’m not what he wants me to be.”
I knew there was no sense in arguing with him, so I just held him tight. I hoped what little love I could show him would help to ease the lingering pain he’s kept hidden in his heart. His body was trembling and I could feel the dampness soaking the shoulder of my shirt, as his tears began to seep through the fabric. I could also tell he was getting weak in the knees, so I moved us toward my recliner. When I reached it, I sat down and pulled him onto my lap. Then, I let him release all of his pent up anguish. Hopefully, this catharsis will be productive and allow him an opportunity to put this behind him, although I sincerely doubt it will end so easily.
After he began to calm down, I went to talk to Jake, so I could explain the situation to him. He understood immediately and said he’d go tell Shannon he would be spending the night with him. That way, I could bring Ted in with me.
That’s the great thing about Jake; he’s sooooo damn understanding about things like this. Even though he told me he was doing it because he wanted to spend more time with his son, I knew it was for Ted’s benefit. It was these special qualities about Jake that convinced me he was worth risking an estrangement with my biological children, even though those same children might not have seen it that way.
I went back to get Ted, who appeared to have settled down a little more. I took his hand, pulled him out of the chair and led him back to my bedroom. He was walking in sort of a daze until he hit the bedroom door and then his face began to light up.
“Thank you,” he said, gratefully. “You don’t know how much this means to me.”
“Oh, I think I have a good idea,” I told him, “but I’ll bet I’ll enjoy it just as much as you will.”
My comment made Ted smile for the first time in quite a while and then he hugged me. He held me in that embrace for many minutes, and when he finally released me, we stripped down to our underwear and climbed into bed. Once we were under the bedding, Ted slid his body as close to mine as he could possibly get. I could have sworn he was almost purring now, even though I believe it was just the sound of his gentle, even breathing that caused the illusion. However, it let me know how content he was at this moment and I was glad I had made this kind of an impact on him.
After turning off the lamp, I rolled on my side and faced him. I then put my arm across his chest and kissed him gently on the cheek. We lay there for a few more minutes, as I watched him enjoy our closeness, but finally I felt it was time to sleep.
“Good night, my boy, and sweet dreams,” I whispered to him, before closing my eyes.
“Night, Dad,” he mumbled, already drifting off. “I love you.”
I wasn’t sure if he was actually saying that to me or if he was pretending I was his father and finally treating him as he wished. Either way, he was satisfied and I knew he’d sleep well tonight.
When I awoke the next morning, I was still on my side, but Ted was also on his side, facing me. He had his arm draped over my body and one of his legs hooked over both of mine. He was also sporting a morning erection, which was poking into me. Although I was pretty sure this was not created by sexual arousal, just his need to urinate, I didn’t want to embarrass him. So, when I saw him beginning to wake, I closed my eyes and pretended to be asleep, so his condition wouldn’t be an issue. However, he remained as he was and made no move to go pee. After a few more minutes of this standoff, I opened my eyes and looked directly into his.
“Good morning, my boy,” I greeted him.
“Morning, Dad,” he responded, which caused me to worry slightly. Was he making more out of this than he was supposed to? My concern must have registered on my face, because he began to panic a bit, in response.
“Does it bother you when I call you Dad?” he asked, alarmed. “If it does, I promise I won’t do it again.”
“Ted, it doesn’t bother me. In fact, I’m flattered that you feel so comfortable saying it,” I stated, so I didn’t bruise his already batter ego. “However, I don’t want to replace your dad. I think you could still work things out with him, but if you can’t, we can discuss this issue again later.”
“I know, and I’m not using you to replace him,” he explained, “it’s just that I feel too close to you now to call you Mr. Currie or Josh.”
“Well, I can give you two other options then. You can call me Uncle Josh, if you’d like…” I stated, and then paused to study his reaction. It wasn’t as positive as I’d hoped for, so I continued. “Or you can call me Pop. Some of the other boys do that too, like Brandon and Nick. This is so they didn’t confuse me with their own fathers.”
His face lit up again. “Yeah, I like that… Pop,” he said tentatively. It was as if he were trying it out, to see how it felt to him. “Yeah, I like that a lot!” He grinned and squeezed me with the arm he had draped over my side. We stayed this way for a few more minutes, before I thought I should say something more.
“Well, do you think it’s time we got up?” I asked him.
“Do we have to?” he whined. “Can’t we stay like this a little longer?” He gave me a pleading look, hoping it would make me give in.
“We could, but isn’t there something you need to do?” I asked, hoping that would give him the required hint, without causing him any embarrassment. He thought for a minute, as he tried to figure out what I was referring to, and then it dawned on him.
“Do you mean my boner?” he asked, pressing it into me a little more firmly, but again, not in a sexual way.
“Yes, I thought you might need to use the toilet,” I explained.
“I do, but I don’t want this to end,” he reasoned.
“Well, go urinate and I’ll wait for you to come back. Then, we can cuddle some more, if you still want to,” I urged. “We just have to do something about it, because that spear is sticking into me and beginning to get a little uncomfortable.”
This statement made him chuckle, but he got my point, jumped out of bed and raced to the bathroom. Nothing happened for a few seconds, but then I heard his stream hitting the bowl. He must have really had to go, because it lasted a long time. However, shortly after I heard the toilet flush, he was bounding back into bed, with a big shit-eating grin on his face.
“You look happy,” I told him, as he scooted back in beside me.
“I am. I’m happier than I think I’ve ever been before,” he explained, as he swung his arm and one leg over my body. Once again, he was as close to me as he could possibly get, without crawling inside my skin.
Since I wanted to keep him feeling wanted, I slid my arm under his body and reached around behind him, so I could hold him close to me too. I know it was probably just my imagination, but the room seemed to brighten at that moment. It almost appeared as if this small action made him glow and added even more brilliance to the natural lighting. Although I knew this was scientifically impossible, it did make me wonder if his momentary euphoria could actually affect the physical laws of nature.
I guess when I did this, it also gave him a boost in confidence, because he kissed me. It wasn’t a sensual kiss, but they type a child would give his mother. That simple gesture was so sweet that it brought a tear to my eye, which Ted noticed almost immediately.
“I’m sorry,” he apologized. “I didn’t mean to upset you and make you cry.”
“You didn’t,” I explained. “That’s a tear of happiness.” After the meaning of my words sank in, he wiped the tear from my face with his fingertip and placed in his mouth.
“Must be why it tastes so sweet,” he mused.
I let him enjoy our continued closeness for another half hour or so, before I told him we had to get up. However, by then he was so completely satisfied, it wasn’t an issue any longer. As we were both slipping on our clothes, he walked over and gave me another hug, while letting the side of his face rest against my chest.
“I still wish you could really be my dad,” he stated. His love and affection for me were evident in his tone.
“So do I,” I replied, which surprised him, “but we both know that can’t be. I’ll continue to be your ‘Pop,’ if that will suffice, and I’ll be here for you, if and when you need me.” He hugged me a little harder after I finished my sentence, to show me he approved.
“Yeah, I’d like that a lot,” he agreed, as he lifted his head. He then gave me another soft, gentle kiss on the cheek.
Ted’s Aunt Jane arrived around 5:00 Friday evening, to pick him up. She was going to stay overnight this time, so I’d set it up with the Spences to have her sleep there. We’d all be going out to dinner with her first, so it wasn’t like we were just pushing her off on our friends. However, the minute we heard her car pull into the driveway, Ted bolted from the house and raced to greet her. He barely let her get out of her car before he was hugging and kissing her on the cheek.
“Aunt Jane, Aunt Jane… I love it here.” Ted gushed. “I wish I could stay with Pop forever.”
“Pop?” Jane questioned, while looking from her nephew to me.
“Yeah, he lets me call him that, cuz he didn’t think it would be right for me to call him Dad, like I wanted to,” Ted explained. His words were falling off his tongue so rapidly that we were all surprised she understood a thing he said.
“Very interesting,” she chuckled, while looking at me again. “I take it you two hit it off then?”
“Oh, yes,” Ted answered for me, thinking his aunt was speaking to him. “I got along great with everyone. That’s Sammy and Graham,” he announced, while pointing in their direction. “They’re two of my new brothers and also my best friends,” he stated, with equal conviction. “We got along the best, although I really like everyone here.”
His aunt was looking at him quite oddly and watching him carry on, while listening to his comments. Finally, she interrupted him.
“Josh, where is my Teddy?” she asked, playfully. “This can’t be the same depressed boy I brought here the day after Christmas.”
Her teasing caused Ted to look around to see if anyone was going to rag on him about the pet name she used for him. When he saw no one snickering or mocking him, he returned his attention to her.
“Oh, Aunt Jane. It’s me,” he assured her, “but the only difference is, I know I’m loved when I’m here. I wish Dad loved me like Pop does.”
“He does love you, Teddy, and so does your mother,” Jane confirmed. “How can you say that?” she asked, while looking at me, as if I put these ideas in his head.
“That’s what Pop keeps saying,” Ted acknowledged, “but I’m not so sure.”
“Ted, I told you to give them a chance,” I reiterated, for Jane’s benefit. “Your dad might begin to soften, over time.”
“Yes, I know everyone says he loves me, but he never shows me he does,” Ted argued. “He looks at me like he’s disgusted with what I am. He even avoids me, like I have some sort of contagious disease, and the only time he ever talks to me any more is when he screams and tells me everything he thinks is wrong with me.” I think his response convinced Jane I had nothing to do with his attitude.
“Teddy,” she said, “if you want, I’ll talk to your parents when we get back, to see if I can make them understand how you feel.”
“I doubt it will do any good,” he replied, dryly.
“Would you at least let me try?” she persisted. “I don’t think it will do any harm.”
“I’m not so sure of that, but you can try if you want,” he conceded, even though he still didn’t look convinced it was worth the effort.
“Okay, then give me a chance to do that,” she told him, as she looked hopefully in his direction. “I think they’ll make some changes, once they understand this isn’t just a teenage rebellion thing.”
Ted rolled his eyes after his Aunt Jane said this, but he had turned his head so she couldn’t see what he did. Since that issue had been settled, at least temporarily, I invited Jane to come inside, so we might have a cup of coffee and chat.