“I had a feeling that’s why you were calling,” Nick informed me, “but I’m not going back to live with my parents. They don’t really want me there anyway.”
“So you say, but I’d like to hear that for myself,” I acknowledged. “Our primary objective here will be to come up with a way to alleviate the tension between you and your folks, without causing legal problems for me and my family. It’s time to tackle this problem head on and come up with a plan as to how we will accomplish this. I have an idea I’d like to discuss with you and I hope you’ll agree to go along with it, once I’ve finished telling you the details.”
“Sure, Mr. Currie. What’s your plan?” he responded, more quickly than I’d been prepared for. I hoped he wasn’t just saying this to humor me and was prepared to consider my proposal carefully.
“Well, first I want you to call your parents and let them know that you’re all right,” I told him. “It’s important to contact them to get the ball rolling and gauge their reactions.”
“I can’t do that, Mr. Currie,” Nick informed me. “My dad will want me to come back home, so he can send me away to that dumb old military school.”
“That’s possible, but it’s important for you to let them know you’re okay,” I urged him, “especially if you’re serious about staying with us. You won’t be able to come live here unless we have your parents’ permission, or else they could have me arrested for kidnapping. We’ll do a 3-way conference call, if you’d like, and that way I can also hear what’s going on and I’ll be able to talk with your father afterward. Once you’ve finished talking to him, I want you to hang up and leave us alone, so I can talk to your father man-to-man. Would you agree to do that for me?”
“I guess, but it doesn’t sound like a very good plan to me,” Nick informed me, while sounding none to happy about my proposal.
“Just trust me and give it a chance,” I urged him. “If this doesn’t work, you’ll be no worse off than you were when we first found you.”
“That’s not very encouraging,” he snapped back, thinking about how it had been more difficult surviving on his own than he had ever imagined.
“Don’t worry, I think I can convince you father to give you a chance with us,” I offered. “Just be polite and try not to get into an argument with either of your parents. If you do, it will only make it much more difficult for me to succeed and for you to get what you want. Will you promise to do that for me?”
“I’ll try,” he replied, although not sounding very convincing.
“That’s all I ask. Just give me your home phone number and I’ll get things started.” Nick gave me the information and I made the conference call. I told Nick he would do the talking first, so he should be prepared to answer when someone picked up.
“Dad? This is Nicky,” he replied, but his voice was a little shaky. I guess this was more emotional for him than he’d assumed.
“Nicky? Where the hell are you?” his dad responded. “Your mother and I have been worried to death about you and have had all kinds of people searching for you. Are you all right, son?” Even though Nick might not be willing to admit it, I heard more worry in his father’s voice than Nick had led me to believe would be there.
“Yes, Dad, I’m fine,” he answered, meekly.
“Where are you and why did you take off?” his father wanted to know.
“I can’t tell you where I am, but I took off because I knew you didn’t want a gay son and that I was an embarrassment to you,” Nick replied, finally getting it off of his chest.
“Nicky, that’s not quite right,” he father replied, in a much calmer tone. “I just don’t think you’re really gay. I think you’ve just enjoyed some youthful experimentation and that you’ve mistaken those feelings for something more.”
“Believe me, Dad, I’m gay,” Nick insisted. “I don’t have any interest in girls and enjoy doing things with other boys. This isn’t a phase I’m going through and I’m not just playing around. I’m gay, Dad, and there’s just no getting around it.”
“But, Nicky…” he father began, but Nick cut him off.
“Look, Dad. No matter what you do or say, I’ll still be gay and I’m going to be gay as long as I live,” Nick insisted. “It’s just what I am. And besides, I don’t want to go to that military school.”
“Nicky, I’m just doing what I think is best for you,” his father tried to reason, although I assumed his attempt would be unsuccessful.
“If you want to do what’s best for me, then talk to Mr. Currie here,” Nick informed him, abruptly. “He helped me out when I needed it. Go ahead, Mr. Currie, talk to my dad.”
I wanted to do this alone, so I had to make sure Nick was off the line first. “Hello, Mr. Lawrence, this is Josh Currie. If you’ll give me a second, I have something that I’d like to discuss with you, but first I need to take care of something else. Nick, would you get Mr. O’Hara for me?”
“Sure, Mr. Currie,” he replied. There was a momentary lull before I heard Patrick come to the phone.
“Patrick, I just had Nick get you so I could be sure he wasn’t staying on the line and listening in. You can hang up now, and thanks for your help.”
“Sure, Josh, any time.” I heard the phone click and then Mr. Lawrence spoke.
“What was that all about? You mean Nicky isn’t with you?” he questioned, quite agitated.
“No, he’s staying with a friend of mine right now,” I informed him. “We discovered Nick on our vacation and helped get him out of a small jam. I left him there at my friend’s house, until we got back home and I could speak with you about his situation. I have an idea I’d like to suggest to you, something I’ve talked over with Nick and think might help both you and your son solve your differences. First of all, Nick told me you were sending him away to military school. Is that true?”
“Look, I’m not sure how any of this is your business, but that’s not very likely now,” he informed me, with a touch of hostility to his tone. “After he’d been gone for so long, I had to withdraw his name from consideration. I wasn’t sure if he’d come back at all, let alone in time to start classes, although I now suspect that was his intention all along.”
I understood where he was heading and tried to keep the conversation going in the direction I wanted. “Would you mind telling me why you decided to send him there?”
“Like I said before, I’m not sure this is any of your business,” he reiterated, before hesitating and considering what to do next, “but since you appear to be trying to help my son out, I’ll give you an answer. It was because he was doing so poorly at his regular school. He had too many other distractions there and wasn’t applying himself.”
“What would you say if I told you I thought I could get Nick to come home,” I suggested, “and could also give you an alternative to sending him to military school?”
“I’d say that would require a minor miracle,” he replied, sarcastically, “but if you could do what you claim, I’d be willing to listen to your proposal.”
“I’m sure that Nick would come home if you agreed to let him come to stay with my family during the school year and attend school here, with my sons,” I began. “He really hit it off with them after we found him, and we have a very good school system here. I’m the principal of the middle school and we have a very high percentage of graduating seniors going on to very reputable colleges. I’ll even sweeten the pot for you and throw in a guarantee. If his grades don’t improve by Christmas, then I’ll convince him to do whatever you decide would be best for him.”
“Why should this concern you and why should I allow this?” Mr. Lawrence asked, and I knew I would probably have asked the same thing if I were in his shoes.
“Those are very fair questions, so I’ll try to answer them for you,” I explained. “The first part is easy. Being an educator, I’m concerned about the welfare of children and right now I’ve got several sons of my own who could have very easily been where Nick is now.”
“Do you mean your sons ran away or that they’re gay?” he shot back, with a touch of amusement in his tone, thinking I’d gone through similar problems.
“What I mean is they came from situations that were detrimental to their well being and any one of the boys could have easily chosen to run away from them. You see, my sons are all adopted and some came from broken homes, bad situations or had no family to care for them at all. Nick is a very strong-willed young man, and if you hold firm to your stance about being gay and his falling grades, then I’m afraid Nick won’t want to return home and I won’t be able to convince him to change his mind.”
“Then you’ll just have to have your friend bring him here, willing or not,” he responded.
“And then what will you do when Nick runs away again?” I hinted. “You can’t be with him every minute of every day, and just getting him home won’t solve a thing. You’ll need to address the causes that made him run away in the first place, if you don’t want him to do it again.”
“I still don’t believe he’s gay…” he insisted, but I cut him off.
“Believe me, sir, he is. My friend has also informed me that Nick is not shy about approaching other boys to get what he wants either. Does that bother you?” I pressed.
“I’m not sure. I’ve always thought gays were immoral and freaks of nature, but if Nicky is gay, I know he doesn’t fit those descriptions,” he conceded. “I love my son and want him home, but I just don’t know how to deal with him right now.”
“Would you consider letting him come here and go to school with my boys?” I urged again. “I’ll make sure he keeps his grades up and I’ll help him deal with being gay.”
“Are you gay?” Mr. Lawrence snapped back, thinking I must have ulterior motives.
“No, sir, I’m a widower. My biological children were grown and on their own before I adopted these boys. I couple of my adopted sons are also gay and I can deal with them all at the same time.”
“But I don’t know anything about you or your family. How would I know that he’d be safe with you?” he shot back.
“Well, he was already with us for a while and I think we took care of him pretty well,” I began. “However, I’d be willing to come meet with you or have you visit our home, before you made a final decision. I just want to make sure that you’re amenable to this, so I can talk to Nick about it. Would this be agreeable with you?”
“Well, it does sound fairly reasonable, especially if it will help Nicky,” he concurred. “It’s just that I want him to do well in life, yet I’m not sure if I can deal with him any longer. I’m a busy man and Nicky and I don’t seem to have very much in common, now that he’s getting older. If you think you can help him out, I’d happily accept your assistance.”
“I’m pleased to hear that,” I informed him. “I’ve experienced some of your frustrations with my own children, as there was a period during which each of them seemed to drift away from me for a brief time. Eventually things worked out and we were fine after that, but it was difficult dealing with the uncertainty of the situation at the time. I think it’s just a part of children growing up. What would you say if I talked Nick into coming home now and then I’d come out to visit and meet with you and your wife a few days later. Then all of you could come here when it’s convenient and check things out, if you decide to take advantage of my proposal. Would that meet with your approval?”
There was a considerable pause before he spoke again. “If you can talk Nicky into coming back home, I’ll agree to the rest of your suggestion. I’m sure my wife will have no problems with it either, as long as Nicky is safe and we get to be with him again.”
“Fine, I’ll call Nick and explain the situation and then have my friend put him on a plane and send him back home, if he agrees,” I concluded.
“A plane? Where the hell is he?” he father snapped back.
“He’s in Texas right now,” I advised him.
“Texas? I thought he was still around here somewhere. He ran that far away?” His father was not only shocked, but I think this proved to him how desperate Nick was about his situation.
“Yes, he was a long way from your home when we first met him,” I explained, without telling him that I had transported his son over state lines, from Arizona to Texas.
“And where do you live?” he enquired.
“We live in Pennsylvania,” I informed him.
“That sure is a long way from here, but I guess I’m fortunate you were the one that found him,” he conceded, which showed me he was also grateful for what we’d done for his son already. “I shudder to think who else might have discovered him on his own and what might have happened to him. There are so many sick and demented people in this world.”
“Yes, I thought about that myself. It does make you wonder,” I agreed.
“Thank you, Mr. Currie, for your help,” he told me. “I can see you are nearly as concerned about Nicky’s future as we are.”
“Please, it’s Josh. Beside that, you’re welcome and I am deeply concerned about Nick,” I summed up. “I’ll make sure he is on his way home, just as soon as I can arrange a flight for him, and then I’ll fly out to meet you after that. You can decide what you want to do from there.”
“Thanks, Josh, and I’m Mike,” he informed me. This touch of informality showed me he was sincere about us working together to help his son. “I appreciate all you’ve done for us and look forward to meeting you.”
We talked a little longer and he gave me his address and the directions on how to get there. I told him that I’d call Nick back, set things up and then call him once more, to let him know when Nick would be arriving. By the time we finished our conversation, it felt like we were old friends. Now I had to call Nick, explain things to him and get him to agree to this as well.
At first, Nick didn’t want to give in and go back to his parents’ house, but he began to relent when I explained that his parents might agree to let him come stay with us and go to school here, if he was willing to compromise too. I suggested to Nick that he would stay with his folks until school started, then go back for Christmas break, and then he’d spend the summer with them as well. After some diplomatic finagling, I got Nick to give in and agree to the arrangements.
Within minutes, Nick seemed to have done an about-face and was more upbeat and looking forward to seeing his parents again. He was also excited to think he’d be rejoining us again in a few weeks and actually living with us, as well as going to school here. Once I got him to calm down again, I had him put Mr. O’Hara on, so I could explain to him what was happening.
Patrick agreed to put Nick on a flight for me, as soon as I could book one, so I finished that call and dialed the airline to purchase his ticket, putting it on my credit card. Once the arrangements were set, I called them back and gave them all the details. Nick thanked me again and said he’d see me soon. I was happy this had all worked out so we could keep him with his family, even though he’d be attending school here, rather than at the military school. It was just a minor accomplishment, but it managed to keep another family together and on good terms. I just pray they will be able to work out the differences between them.
Once all my calls had ended, I went out and told the boys about Nick’s compromise and the solution we had reached. They all seemed pleased to know he might be rejoining us and I felt things would work out just fine. Now, we just had to hope the Lawrences would agree to the arrangement and then everything would fall into its proper place.
The boys went off, so I started to putter around the house, cleaning up a little and taking care of some long neglected chores. It wasn’t long before Pat was beside me. “Want some help, Dad?”
“No, I’m almost done here, but thanks anyway.” However, Pat still remained there, looking in my direction. I knew there was more he wanted, but I didn’t say anything and left it up to him to make his move. Eventually he spoke.
“I actually came in for another reason,” he said.
“I sort of suspected that. What’s the matter?” I asked.
“Nothing is the matter,” Pat informed me. “I was just wondering where you were planning to have Nick sleep when he gets here.”
“I have been thinking about that, but I haven’t made any decision as of yet,” I told him.
“I have a suggestion,” Pat offered.
“What’s that?” I wondered.
“He could stay in my room, unless he doesn’t want to,” Pat explained. “I thought since nobody else would be alone, except for the two of us, we could keep each other company.”
“Yours isn’t the largest bedroom, but we could get a bigger bed for you to share,” I explained, “if you don’t think the two of you would be cramped in there together?”
“Maybe, but we’ll survive,” he replied, shrugging off the problem.
“Okay, if that’s what you want,” I responded. “I’ll go ahead and order a new bed, but I’ll also tell Nick his choices and then let him decide. Is that okay with you?”
“Yes, he should be the one to choose where he wants to go,” he agreed.
“Then it’s settled.” We both started to walk away, but then I stopped. “Pat, thanks for being so thoughtful,” I told him, but he just grinned and continued on his way.
Even though it wasn’t very late, we were all still quite tired, since our bodies were slowly beginning to adjust to the changes in time zones again. We decided to make it an early night and all of us went to bed. As I lay there thinking about everything that was going on, I reflected over my day and realized how much I had actually accomplished, even though it seemed as if I had done nothing. But tomorrow would be a new day and there would be many more things to do.