“I’ve always been proud of him.” Dad said. I was just walking out the door to find Jamie and see if he was ready to go. I stopped just before I finished opening the door. Who was Dad proud of? Certainly not me, Pear, maybe. I waited and listened.
“So, why are you still cold to him? He’s changed. Both of us have. He’s not the same kid that he was, and he’s made amends. Hell, I forgave him a long time. He even adopted my son.”
So, they were talking about me. I didn’t know what to feel. Dad just told Jamie he was proud of me, and even Jamie sounded just as proud. I didn’t adopt Kyle for any reason but selfish ones. When I first held Kyle and helped Jamie that first night, I knew that I wanted to be his father. I hated that Jamie was a father. He was gay, and it wasn’t fair. When I offered to adopt him, it was so that I could claim Kyle as my own. Jamie and Pons (was that really her name?) didn’t want him, so, why not me? I never expected to be a father of a child with another…man…but I was, and I wouldn’t take that away from Kyle or Jamie. We were a family. Unconventional, but still a family.
“I know.” Dad agreed with Jamie. Well, shit. He knows what kind of man I am now, and still he refuses to listen to me—or hear me out. Instead all I get are hard, cold stares and a punch in the face.
“Then why not just forgive him? You know, he hasn’t even forgiven himself? He’s tried to prove to you that he’s a better man so that maybe, just maybe, he’ll feel the love he once felt. Seriously, forgive and forget.”
“Jamie’s right,” Parker voice came out of nowhere. Where was he? How did he know what they were talking about? “I’ve been telling you for years to let it go. I see you staring at his picture. I’ve seen you hesitate with the phone. Just tell him what you want to say. What you’ve been wanting to say to him for so long.”
Did dad try to reach out to me? I closed my eyes, as my tears pooled. Today has been a roller coaster of a day, and my tears weren’t mine to control. Hana always was like a grandmother to me, even scolded me like one. I loved her, and I loved Parker like a grandfather. Now, here he was trying to mend my father’s and my relationship. I banged my head on the wall and hoped no one outside heard the noise.
“How,” Dad asked. It choked me up. How? How were either of us going to talk if neither of us had the balls to say what we needed to say? Well, fuck that. I opened the door and took a few steady steps. It was now or never.
“You can start by listening to my apology,” I said. I looked between Parker and Jamie, “Guys, thanks for sticking up for me, but, uh, could you give my Dad and I some privacy to talk.”
I waited for the two to leave. Kyle was fast asleep in Jamie’s arms, and I smirked. If I didn’t do this, then what would he see growing up? A father and son relationship based on hate? I didn’t want that. I cleared my throat and took a few more steps forward. One deep breath, and I finally looked my father in the eye and apologized, “I’m sorry.”
Dad grabbed me and pulled me into a hug. He whispered into my ear, “I’m sorry too, son.”
I cried on his shoulders and held onto him. I felt him sob and shake in my arms. He was crying too. Eventually, we let go, and I stood up straight and proud. “Can we please talk?”
“Yeah. Sit. I’ll grab us both a beer and we can talk.”
I sat, and he grabbed both of us a beer. I took a swig of mine and waited for Dad to sit next to me. I stared at my bottle for a long while. I wasn’t sure where to start. He spoke up first. “I never meant what I said. The moment those words came out of my mouth I regretted them. And the look you gave me after,” he shook his head and took a huge swig of his beer. “Fuck, I’ll never forget that look. It was anger mixed with hurt.”
“I still have nightmares about that night.” It was true. I wake up crying every time I dream of that night Dad sent me off to military school.
“Pack up, now!”
“You’re being shipped to a military school.”
“The hell I am!”
“You are. End of discussion.”
“You’re gonna side with a cock-sucking queer over your own son?”
“Call him that one more time, and I will throw you out. You’re no son. I’m ashamed to even think that you are.”
I shivered thinking about it. “I said some things too. I did things, and I regret things. I regret a lot of things. I’ve told Jamie how sorry I was. I’ve patched a lot of the pain I’ve caused. We’re best friends raising a kid together.”
“A fine kid, too. Carter, you don’t realize how proud I am of the man you’ve become, do you?”
I shook my head. Dad had never even said a word about being proud of me. “I always thought you were disappointed in me.”
“Disappointed? Have you seen yourself in a mirror? How can I be disappointed in a Lieutenant of the Army?” He shook his head and laughed. “I am so proud of you. When Parker came in the office that day you and Jamie showed up with Kyle and told me to come out, I knew something was up. You told me you were adopting Kyle, and I was stunned. Parker told me everything later about how you just asked, since no one wanted him. That you wanted him since you felt as unwanted as he was. It hurt to hear that you felt unloved, and it was all my fault. And today, when you walked into that recruiting office and all those recruiters stood up at attention to you, I’ve never felt so proud in my life. You’ve achieved so much, Carter, and in just a short amount of time.”
I shrugged, “I wouldn’t haven’t gotten this far if it wasn’t for the academy.”
“I don’t know. You had the grades before we sent you there. You were also an amazing football player. I still don’t understand why you gave it up at the academy.”
“After Jamie’s accident I couldn’t look at a ball without thinking about those assholes who ran him off the road. They were guys I hung out with, and they hurt someone. I just didn’t want to associate myself with the sport or them. I watch a few games now and then, but it just doesn’t hold its appeal like it use to.”
I paused and took a drink of my beer. Dad did the same. “So, you like Kyle?”
“I love him.”
“Good, cause I think the feeling is mutual.”
Dad laughed, “You kidding, he’s always trying to climb on me when he’s over. You’re doing right by him. He looks like Jamie, but he’s definitely your son.”
“Let’s hope not.” I scoffed. “I can’t afford him to act like me as a teen.”
“That’s where you teach him, Carter. You show him how to act, and give him guidance, and then hope he listens.”
“Like I listened?”
Dad snorted and choked on his beer a bit, “Ow that burns. Couldn’t wait to say that until after I drink my beer?”
“Nope,” I smiled.
Dad playfully punched my arm, “Smart ass. Come on, I’m hungry. Let’s go grab some dinner and hang out. Maybe I can find out if you have a girl in your life.”
“I wish.” I said as I stood up.
I headed for the door, but Dad stopped me, “Carter, I love you.”
I turned and smiled, “Love you too, Pops.”
“You know your mother is going to freak if we leave together.”
“I know,” I said with an evil smile that I knew matched Dad’s.