|Chapter 6: Is Danny Going to Be Lost?|
sat at a desk cluttered with stacks of books, papers, pencils, and a
box of raisins. His elbows straddled a large textbook, his chin rested
on his fists, and his forehead wrinkled as he squinted at the page in
front of him, trying to memorize salient points about the Reformation
for an upcoming final exam.
Suddenly his concentration was broken by the shrill ring of the telephone on his dresser. Startled, his head jerked up, and he pushed back his chair to answer it.
"Dad!" Danny wrapped his arms protectively around his chest and leaned against the dresser.
I was wondering how you're doing. Mom talked to me a couple of days
ago, and she told
An uncomfortable silence hung in the air between them.
"You know, Danny, a lot of boys go through a phase where they might wonder if they are homosexual, but it doesn't mean they really are. I think maybe you have talked yourself into thinking you might be homosexual because of some feelings or experiences you've had." Michael paused. When no response from Danny was forthcoming, he went on.
"You really should consider very carefully the results of any decisions you might make," he warned. "Your career, for instance. If anybody heard you were a homosexual, you'd never be able to get a job teaching. And you would be asking for all kinds of discrimination and ostracism from other people, if they knew about it."
Still Danny didn't say anything, so Michael continued, unloading his concerns before he lost his nerve. "I'm sure I don't need to tell you about the dangers of AIDS." Michael's voice trembled slightly. He cleared his throat. "I'm not trying to hurt your feelings, Danny. I'm telling you this because I love you."
Danny chewed his lip and stared at a spot on the rug.
When he didn't answer, Michael continued, "If you think it would do any good, why don't you go see a counselor there and try to get some help. You can have him send the bill to me."
Danny straightened up and took a deep breath. "Sure, Dad. By the way, it looks like I'll have to stay here this summer and take a class in order to graduate. Maybe I can come home for a few weeks before fall quarter starts."
"Oh. That's too bad, Danny," Michael said in disappointment. "I was hoping you could be home this summer. It's been a long time since I've spent any time with you or even seen you. But I guess the most important thing right now is to plan for graduation."
He cleared his throat again. "Well, take care, and good luck on your finals. Goodbye, Danny."
" 'Bye, Dad."
anyone had been able to see both Michael and Danny as they hung up,
they would have been struck by the identical way they stood for a
moment, staring pensively at the phone, then straightened their
shoulders with a sigh and returned to their former pursuits.
In about a week, the first bill arrived from Dr. Slater, a psychotherapist practicing near the college. Kate picked up the mail.
"What's this?" She scrutinized the unfamiliar address. Tearing it open, she looked at the bill in surprise. "It looks like Danny went to see a therapist," she said apprehensively, handing it to Michael.
He glanced at the envelope with a grimace. "I told him to," he said flatly. "All I can say is, it had better get him over this nonsense." Kate was silent.
The next evening, Michael had to stay late at the office for a committee meeting. Kate paced restlessly around the house. Almost without thinking, she picked up the phone and dialed Danny's room.
"Hi, buddy," she greeted him. "We got a bill from Dr. Slater yesterday. I'm surprised that Daddy suggested you go and see him, knowing how he feels about psychiatrists, but I'm glad he did. Did it help to talk to him?"
"Yeah, it really did. Actually, I had gone to see him once before Dad called, and I paid for it myself. He said I should probably come back for two or three more sessions, at least."
"Well, I think you should go if it's helping. What ... what does he tell you?" Kate asked, curious, but trying not to probe.
"Oh, mostly he just encourages me to talk about how I feel. He's trying to help me accept myself"
"Oh," murmured Kate. Somehow, that wasn't quite what she had expected to hear. She realized she had been hoping Dr. Slater would help Danny to change, would "cure" him, but that didn't seem to be his goal.
Feeling suddenly tired, Kate sank down on the bed and leaned back against the pillows. She didn't want to discourage Danny from getting help, but she wasn't sure this was the kind of help he needed. Uncomfortable, she abruptly changed the subject. "Are your exams all over?"
"Yeah. I think I passed 'em all. I have a two-week break before summer school. I'm going to be working full time in the student affairs office next week, and the following week I'm going up to Portland."
"Portland!" exclaimed Kate. "Why are you going up there?"
"Have you ever heard of Kinship?" Danny asked.
"No, I don't think so."
"It's a kind of support group for gays in the church, and they're having a camp meeting just outside Portland."
Kate was nonplused. "Well, that's nice," she said at last.
The church has a support group for gays? "Do they have speakers and all?" she asked, puzzled.
"Well, as I understand it, they're not officially recognized by the church," Danny explained, "but some ministers from the church come and speak for some of the meetings."
After she said goodbye, Kate was surprised to find herself feeling almost jealous of Danny. What a relief it would be to talk to somebody. If she could find someone sympathetic, someone who was nonjudgmental, someone she could feel safe with ... Maybe Michael would be willing for her to go talk to a therapist herself.
But when the second bill came, Michael frowned. "How long is this going to go on?" he muttered. Kate looked at him with a worried expression.
When she saw a third bill in the stack of mail, Kate braced herself for an explosion.
"This is ridiculous!" Michael fumed. "It just doesn't make any sense to pay somebody good money to listen to you talk!"
"But, honey, Danny says it's helping him!"
"Helping! How?" Michael exclaimed. "He still thinks he's a homosexual, doesn't he? I'm going to call Danny and tell him to stop."
"But..." Kate started to answer, then clamped her mouth shut. She knew how Michael felt about psychiatrists. But she wondered how this would make Danny feel, since Michael had suggested it in the first place.
next time she talked to Danny, she was relieved when he said, "Well, I
was beginning to feel guilty about you paying those bills anyway,
because I knew Dad was expecting him to change me." Still, Kate wished
Danny could have gotten more help.
few weeks later, with the bright sunlight of a summer Sabbath morning
bathing the sanctuary in stained-glass
"Give of thy sons to bear the message glorious." Danny...Oh Danny! Danny was studying to be a teacher. He had dreamed of returning to Singapore to teach in the mission school someday. She and Michael had been so happy that their son wanted to serve God as they did. But now...Through the rest of the hymn, Kate fought to control her tears, silently willing Michael not to notice.
The turmoil of her thoughts separated Kate from the service, until she heard the minister say, "God is waiting for you, for me, to face up to our pain and brokenness so He can demonstrate His power to renew our lives. He is waiting for us to bring our pain and pour it out at the cross. Only when we have surrendered it to Him can He use it to transform our self-centered lives into channels for His love."
Oh, thought Kate with an inner gasp of recognition, I certainly have become aware of the pain and brokenness in my life. Are You trying to get my attention, God?
Bill, the youth pastor, stood at the door as Kate and Michael were leaving the sanctuary. "God bless you, Kate! Michael!" he greeted them and shook hands firmly. Did I imagine a searching look? Kate wondered.
Danny seemed to be quite close to Bill, she remembered. He asked me to invite Bill and his wife over for dinner one weekend when he and Angela were home, and I remember him talking to Bill a number of times after church.
Maybe Bill knows about Danny, Kate speculated. The more she thought about it, the more sure she was. Would I dare talk to Bill? she wondered. She remembered Dr. Zimmerman's recommendation. Her need to talk to someone was very great. Since her one conversation with Michael, he had tried to avoid the topic of Danny's homosexuality.
But can I admit to Bill that one of our children has such a problem? Kate cringed. After all, Michael and I are both leaders in this church, as well as in the denomination. We're supposed to be examples, to help other members with their problems, not to have problems ourselves.
But after several days, Kate's desperate need to talk to somebody won out over her sense of shame, and she rang the church office and asked for an appointment.
Bill welcomed her into his comfortable office, lined with bookshelves. Nervously, she sat down on the chair across from his desk. Coming straight to the point, she asked, "Bill, do you know about Danny?" After a pause, she clarified, "That he's homosexual?"
"Yes, Danny has talked to me a couple of times about it," Bill answered gently.
Kate folded and unfolded a tissue. With difficulty, she asked the question closest to her heart. "Is Danny going to be lost?"
Bill leaned forward intently and picked up a pen, rolling it between his fingers. "Kate, Danny didn't choose to have a homosexual orientation," he answered. "The feelings that he has are not sinful in themselves; it's what he does about those feelings that's important. Anyone who is single, whether heterosexual or homosexual, must struggle with controlling his or her sexual desires; even married people can have temptations. But it is only when we nurture immoral thoughts and act on them that they become sin."
Kate silently mulled over his words. At last, she responded wistfully, "If only he and Angela had gotten married, maybe he could have overcome this."
Bill shook his head. "Kate, I think Danny did the honorable thing by breaking his engagement to Angela when he realized that he couldn't love her in the same way she loved him. Sometimes homosexual men get married, thinking it will help them overcome their orientation, but it doesn't work that way. Instead, they often bring heartache to their wives, their children, and themselves, because their secret eventually becomes known. There is an example of that situation right here in our church."
mean Jay," Kate said, startled. Why hadn't she thought of him before?
Jay and Sheila were neighbors and
Instead of running away from the scene of their disgrace, Jay and Sheila had chosen to stay and live it down. Both Kate and Michael admired their courage and, as they became better acquainted, had almost forgotten their background. In fact, in the months since finding out about Danny, Kate had not even thought of Jay's situation in connection with him. Jay was active in the church, and his warmth and creativity made him an effective personal ministries leader. But Kate realized Bill was right. Jay and Sheila had certainly known heartache. Maybe...
"Bill, do you think Jay has become...heterosexual?" Kate asked.
Bill sighed. "No, Kate. But he has made an educated choice. He has chosen his family-his wife and children- over his sexual desires. Make no mistake; that is not an easy decision. But I believe God has honored and blessed him because of it."
Kate looked thoughtfully out the window, then turned back to Bill. Another question plagued her. "Bill, this has been so painful for Danny-for all of us-I just can't understand..."
She started over, in a more direct way. "Danny told me he prayed every day for years that God would change him and make him like other boys. If he wanted so much to be normal, why couldn't God have changed him?"
Bill was silent for a moment as he toyed with his pen. At last, he looked up with a sigh. "This is something no one really understands very well, Kate. I think maybe it is just something he will have to live with."
Suddenly, the possibility of a situation she had not really considered before loomed in Kate's mind. "What will I do if Danny finds a lover?" she wailed.
stiffened. He hesitated, then said, "If it were my child, I would treat
him the same way I would if he were on drugs.
Kate could understand Bill saying that, but in part of her mind, a newly acquired sensitivity made her aware of how those words could hurt. How can that attitude be reconciled with the idea of unconditional love? she wondered. Somehow, Bill's words conveyed a feeling of disgust and repulsion. Kate sensed that he didn't have real sympathy or understanding for the struggles a homosexual person faced.
"Bill...is it my fault,...or Michael's, that Danny is a homosexual? I've heard that if a boy is too close to his mother or isn't close enough to his father, that may cause him to be homosexual. I...I...I don't think our relationship is unhealthy..."
To her consternation, Kate's voice was shaking uncontrollably, and the tears that were always close to the surface these days streamed down her cheeks. Her tissue was in shreds, and Bill pushed a box across the desk for her.
Kate continued doggedly, "It's just that Danny and I have always had so much in common-music, writing, art-that we have been very close, but I never saw anything wrong with it. And, of course, Michael is very busy and engrossed with his work, much more so now than when Alex and Brenden were growing up, and he really hasn't had much time to do things with Danny, although I know he loves him. But he never has really seemed to understand Danny very well..." Her voice trailed off, and her shoulders began shaking with sobs.
"Kate, you and Michael mustn't blame yourselves," Bill said firmly. "As parents, we do the best we can, but we're human, and we make mistakes, all of us. And nobody really knows for sure what causes homosexuality. I don't think the things you mentioned are the reason Danny is homosexual, but even if they were, you have to remember that God understands. He works with us where we are right now, and He can bring something good out of the most hopeless-looking situations."
struggled to regain her composure as she thanked Bill and said goodbye.
Leaving his office, she slipped into the restroom across the hall and
bathed her eyes with cold water before heading back to work.
An hour later, Kate's fingers were flying over the keyboard as she finished making corrections on a manual she was updating. She stopped to spell-cheek her document before printing it out. At that moment, her phone rang. It was Sheila, who worked in an office upstairs.
"Hi, Kate. Jay just called and said he needs to work late tonight," she said with a sigh. "Do you think I could catch a ride home with you and Michael?"
"Sure," Kate answered. "See you at the front entrance at 5:30."
After hanging up, Kate stared thoughtfully at the phone. I wonder if Jay would be willing to talk to Danny? she mused.
As she and Sheila chatted on the way home that evening, Kate couldn't put the thought out of her mind. But how could she arrange it? She didn't want to embarrass Jay or Sheila. She couldn't come up with a solution to the problem, but the idea stayed in the back of her mind.
After dropping Sheila off, Kate and Michael pulled up in front of their house. "What's for supper?" Michael asked, opening the car door for his wife.
For a moment, Kate sat motionless with her eyes closed, feeling as if a heavy weight were pressing her against the seat. The constant tug-of-war with her emotions was exhausting. Drawing a deep breath, she slowly pushed herself to her feet.
"I don't know," she answered listlessly. "I'm too tired even to think about it."
Michael put his arm around her shoulders and drew her close as they turned up the walk. "What's the matter, hon?' he asked sympathetically.
let her head fall against his shoulder for a moment but ignored his
question. As they reached the door, she
"Sounds good," Michael said cheerfully as he gave her a playful spank and strode into the family room to turn on the TV.
After supper was over, Kate loaded the dishwasher automatically, her thoughts going over her conversation with Bill that afternoon and her idea of getting Jay to talk to Danny. It seemed as if all she ever thought about anymore was Danny's problem.
Absentmindedly, she cut a slice of bread and dropped it into the toaster. She wasn't hungry; in fact, she felt full; yet there still seemed to be a huge empty place inside. When the toast popped up, she spread it with butter and drizzled honey over it. Standing over the sink as she ate, she suddenly wondered why she was eating again. Disgusted, she rinsed her fingers and tore off a paper towel, wiping toast crumbs from her lips.
She walked into the family room and stood behind Michael's chair, intending to tell him that she was going to bed early. Ruffling his hair with one hand, her attention was caught by the documentary that was just beginning, following the evening news. A father and mother hovered over a young woman on a hospital bed; then a photo of two women smiling at the camera with their arms around each other filled the screen.
"She is my lover," said a woman's voice. "Now that she cannot care for herself, I want to take care of her." Kate half expected Michael to switch to another channel. When he didn't, she sat down on the couch instead of saying goodnight.
As the story unfolded, Kate and Michael sat silently staring at the screen, absorbed in their own thoughts and reactions. It was the story of two women, lesbians, who had lived together for eighteen years, when one of them was in an automobile accident that left her in a coma. Ignoring the longtime bond between the two women, the parents of the injured one had immediately taken control of her life and care, refusing to allow her partner to have anything more to do with her.
As she watched, Kate felt tom by conflicting emotions. Her moral beliefs told her that it was not God's will for two women to live together as lovers. Yet she could not help seeing the deep love, as well as the hurt and grief, of the woman from whose life a companion of many years had been torn. She could not simply sit back, detached from the situation, in self-righteous judgment and condemnation, as she once would have. Now, because of her knowledge of Danny's situation, she was projected right into the middle of the tragic predicament faced by the woman in the story.
She found her sympathies marshaling around her, rather than around the parents who were determined to do everything possible to keep her away from their daughter. The pain of the woman on TV became her pain, and Kate felt hot tears sliding down her cheeks. Even when she felt Michael looking at her, she could not stop crying.
At last, in a voice that echoed her own pain, Michael exclaimed in frustration, "This is killing you, Kate!" In that moment, in spite of all that remained unspoken between them, Kate suddenly realized that Michael had been much more aware of her suffering than she had thought. And maybe, it occurred to her, he also thinks about Danny's situation more than he lets on. Still, she sensed his reluctance to talk to her about it.
When the program was over, Kate got slowly to her feet. She was surprised when Michael spoke. "Gives you a little different perspective, doesn't it?" he commented reflectively. "But, Kate...," he looked up at her pleadingly. "You just can't let this tear you up so. It's going to kill you!"
overflowed again, and Kate couldn't speak past the lump in her throat,
but she leaned over and gently kissed his forehead in an attempt to
Danny passed the bank of mailboxes in the lobby of his
He waited until he reached the privacy of his own room before tearing it open. As he read, a mask of pain spread over his features, and tears filled his eyes, to be replaced by a certain look of hardness and determination.
Grimly, Danny strode out of his room, slamming the door behind him, and headed for the campus computer center. He was glad to find it deserted as he sat down and began to vent his hurt feelings somewhat incoherently in a long letter to his parents.
Dear Dad and Mom,The choir was already singing warm-up exercises when Kate hurried into the choir room. "Ah-ah-ah-ah-ah, Oo-oo-oo-oo-oo," she joined them as she slipped her arms into the flowing sleeves of her purple choir robe. She pulled the ivory satin stole over her head, centering the point, and picked up her music folder before finding her seat at the end of the back row.
"Take out the anthem," said Don, the choir director. "Sopranos, keep it light and floating on that first phrase." It was one of Kate's favorite pieces, "For the Beauty of the Earth," set to music by John Rutter. They had only gone through the piece once when Don glanced at the clock.
"Time to go. Let's pray."
After prayer, Kate led the way into the choir loft. Don seated the choir, then took his place at the organ. As she listened to the prelude, Kate glanced out over the church, crowded with worshipers. Her eyes lifted to the breathtaking stained-glass window that dominated the back wall of the sanctuary. She studied the magnificent mosaic of luminous glass pieces, in varying intensifies of purple, blue, and scarlet, separated by black leading. Somehow, it reminded her of a quilt.
The prelude finished, the choir stood to sing the introit. Kate's heart felt high and lifted up as their blended voices raised in a glorious invocation of God's presence. Throughout the first part of the service, she was caught up in the experience of worship. But after the pastor entered the pulpit and began his sermon, her exaltation slowly faded, and all the old distress and worries over Danny assailed her once again.
It was in church that her emotions seemed to be the most vulnerable. In every sermon that Dave preached, God seemed to be speaking directly to her. This morning he was talking about how parents feel such a heavy responsibility for their children's salvation.
Then Kate heard him say something that really struck home. "But that's really not your responsibility," he stated. "Your job is just to love them; it's God's job to save them."
As so often happened these days, Kate could not control the tears that sprang to her eyes. She stared straight ahead as the gorgeous colors of the stained-glass window swam and blurred.
Yes, God, she thought, only You can save Danny. But I can show him how much I love him, and maybe that will be a reminder of Your love. During the rest of the church service, she mulled that thought over in her mind.
As the organ thundered out the introduction to the final hymn and choir and congregation stood to sing, Kate suddenly had a vision. She would make Danny another quilt, a quilt as beautiful as the stained-glass window, a quilt as beautiful as she knew his life could still be.
GLOW | TOP | Contents | Chapter 5 | Chapter 7 |