I’ve got a burning question that I can’t ask my parents because it would hurt their feelings. It’s the kind of question kids shouldn’t ask their parents without a darn good reason. I’ve got lots of reasons but they’re all jumbled up in my head like a tangled ball of string, so I’m not sure if they’re darn good or just stupid. I asked my brother Dave once but he just glared at me like I was a total dork and told me to get the hell out of his room. He’s nineteen this year and going away to college in the fall . . . I’m not sure if I’m going to miss him or not.
I roll over in bed and watch Dave sleeping across the room. We’re in Dad’s old room at Gramps’ house, a thousand miles from home, on our annual two-week summer vacation without mom and dad. Gramps is my favourite person in the whole world. Mom says he’s quirky and his train runs on a different track but I think he’s cool. I can ask Gramps anything even though sometimes it takes all day to get an answer. That’s why I’m going to ask Gramps my burning question - because I know I’ll get an answer if I’m patient.
Dave mumbles something in his sleep, grins like he just farted in church and got away with it, then hugs his pillow and settles down. I roll back over and stare at the ceiling until I hear Gramps fighting with the coffee machine in the kitchen downstairs.
With my robe and slippers on, I quietly slip out of the room and go to the top of the stairs where my burning question pops into my head once more and I chicken out. I make my way to the bathroom at the end of the hall, tinkle and flush, then wash my hands three times while trying to get my nerve back. With nothing left to do in the bathroom as an excuse, I go back to the stairs and descend like a warrior on a great mission. At the bottom step, which squeaks loud through the quiet house, I hold on to the worn acorn-shaped post and wonder how many times Dad had held that same post while trying to sneak in the house late at night when he was young. I let go of the post and march down the hall.
“Gramps? Was I adopted?” I ask with as much bravado as I can muster as I enter the kitchen. There, it’s out. I finally asked my burning question.
If the question surprises him, it doesn’t show. He just stirs the pot on the stove and doesn’t even look up. “Do you want raisins in your porridge,” he asks.
“I guess,” I answer, taking my seat at the table. “So, was I?”
Gramps takes his time scooping tons of raisins into the mixture and stirring them in with an old wooden spoon. Only then does he finally turn around to look at me. “Why do you ask, son?”
I’m ready for this and answer as fast as I can. “Because I don’t look like mom and dad. Dave does but I don’t. Mom’s got red hair and dad’s is dark brown and so is Dave’s. Mine is black. Mom has brown eyes and so does Dave, and dad’s are hazel. Mine are blue.” I get out of my chair and go stand beside him. “And I’m taller than them too. I’m even taller than you. See?” The tall thing is my best argument because it’s the most obvious. If I keep growing I’ll be a giant by the time I’m Dave’s age.
Gramps chuckles but nods. “Go drink your juice.”
I sit back down, ignoring the glass of orange juice. “And there’s more too, like all that crazy stuff I do. It’s like I’ve got too much energy and they can’t keep up with me, not even Dave. They even say they don’t know where I get it from.”
By this time Gramps is back stirring the pot, adding dashes of cinnamon and tasting the results. “Family resemblance sometimes skips a generation,” he explains. “As for your Tazmanian devil, that’s just a part of being young and full of life. Every kid goes through stages like that. Yours is just more pronounced is all.”
“And I’m gay too,” I blurt out like an idiot and instantly regret it
“Who’s gay?” Dave asks, entering the kitchen at the worst possible moment and pouring himself a cup of coffee.
I groan. “I am,” I answer honestly because I really don’t care about that. I want to know if I’m adopted.
“You’re not gay,” Dave says, taking his seat opposite me.
“You’re not gay, Josh. You’re only fourteen years old. How could you possibly know something like that?”
“I’m old enough to know I don’t like girls,” I inform him even though I’m not sure if we’re talking about the same thing.
Dave turns toward Gramps. “Don’t listen to him Gramps. He’s just trying to push your buttons.”
Now I’m getting mad. This isn’t going where I wanted and at this rate I’ll never get an answer to my burning question. “Shut up, Dave. You’re just a big bully like the rest of those guys you hang out with who think they’re smarter just because they’re old enough to drive --”
“That’s enough, both of you,” Gramps intercedes as he puts steaming bowls of porridge down in front of us. “Eat before it gets cold,” he commands in his usual casual manner. Nothing seems to phase Gramps. He passes out spoons then gets his own bowl before taking his seat at the head of the table.
“You were adopted, Joshua,” he says to me between bites. “You’re old enough to know the truth and you’ve obviously concluded as much on your own.”
I stop eating and stare at him. Finally, the truth has been revealed for once and all. But all the rest of the questions I have wash out of my head like a burst pipe and I’m left speechless. I steal a glance at Dave where his spoon is suspended in mid air near his mouth. He doesn’t look very surprised though, more expectant as he stares back at me.
“Eat up boys,” Gramps tells us like this is just another ordinary day.
Dave’s spoon makes it way to his mouth and I put mine down because I’m not hungry anymore. I don’t know what to ask next or even if I should. I thought knowing the truth would set me free, like the Bible says, but I don’t feel free. Just more mixed up.
“Your parents were going to tell you, Josh, in a year or two when you get older but since you asked straight out I thought it best to answer straight out,” Gramps says. “I’ll catch the devil for it but that’s on me, not on you son.”
I look up from my bowl thinking that’s the truth. Dad and Gramps don’t get along all that great at the best of times. This bombshell sure won’t help even with Mom running interference. This is going to be a long two weeks.
“You father was adopted too,” Gramps adds, finishing his bowl of porridge with a lick of his lips.
I’m stunned into the stratosphere and look at Dave. His spoon is once again hovering near his lips but his expression is now one of utter surprise. He’s glancing from Gramps to me and back again like a monkey. I suppose my reaction isn’t much better . . . two revelations from Gramps within five minutes of each other has got to be some kind of record. And these revelations are whoppers.
Gramps stands and goes to the sink to rinse his bowl. “You boys finish up then I want you to go to the store. Your grandmother has a list of things she needs. There’s money on the hall table. I’ll tell you more when you get back.” With that, he strides out of the kitchen leaving us to our imagination.
Grams No. 5, which we’d never in a million years call her to her face, has good days and bad days because of her arthritis. Gramps has been married four times before. Two have passed away and the other two divorced him. But that was before we were born. Grams No. 5 is the only one we’ve ever known. Today must be a bad day because she’s not up yet so Dave and I rinse our dishes as quietly as possible and put on our jackets. This is going to be one heck of a day.
Authors Note: You have been reading Part 1 of 3 of the Prologue to the draft fictional novel series "Dr. Richard Maine & Me" . . . a work in progress. With the advent of Gay marriage and Gay adoption in the western hemisphere comes the opportunity to move gay fiction from the tired-and-boring romance genre to the mainstream family saga genre. This breakout novel series attempts to portray gay families as equal to, if not better than, the traditional family model. There is no graphic content nor erotica within this work.