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Robert watched the creek water glide by in that mesmerizing way. It made a nice sound.
“Can I remove my shoes and socks Daddy?”
“Of course, Robert.”
“Can you hold my fishing pole?”
“I got it.”
Robert shucked off his shoes and socks, making sure to set his nice shoes in clean grass. If he got his nice shoes dirty, Uncle Joseph would be cross. He took his pole back from his daddy as quick as he could. Robert wanted to be the one holding the pole if he caught a fish on the line.
“Thanks Daddy.”
Henry took off his shoes and socks too. When Henry dug his toes into the grass, Robert giggled did the same too. It was nice. Cool and soft. He liked nature a lot, and was glad when they could sneak off after church on Sunday to spend time in the meadow and have a picnic. The church was stuffy sometimes. Robert watched the fishing lure bob in the water.
“Yes Robert?”
“Can I ask you about something?”
“What is it son?” Henry asked.
“It’s about Uncle Joe.”
“What about him?”
“Why does Uncle Joe go to your room instead of his in the middle of the night?”
Henry stiffened. “How do you know that?”

Robert looked at his toes in the grass. “I got up to use the bathroom a few days ago. When I turned the corner, I saw Uncle Joe go into your room instead of his. I thought it was just a mistake cause he was tired, but he didn’t come back out. And no one said anything the next morning. He has his own room. I don’t understand.”
Henry exhaled slowly.
“…Am I in trouble Daddy?”
“What? No. Of course not.”
“But you seem upset that I told you this.”

Henry put a his hand on Robert’s knee. “You’re not upset. It’s just hard to explain.”
Robert waited.
“Do you remember when we had that talk about sex?”
Robert made a face. “Ew. Yes. It was soo embarrassing. And gross.”
Henry chuckled. “Yes. Do you remember how we talked about how when a man and a woman like eachother, they go on dates, and if they really like eachother, they may have sex?”
“Yes?” Robert said in that tone that he didn’t quite believe anyone would really want to do that.
“Well. Sometimes, very rarely. Not…all men want to be with another woman.”

Robert stared at him. “What?”
Henry rubbed the back of his neck. “When a man and a woman want to be together, it’s called attraction. Sometimes, a man is attracted to other men instead. And sometimes a woman can be attracted to another woman instead. And sometimes you can be attracted to both but that’s a conversation for another time.”
Robert processed this. “…Can men grow a baby inside them?” he whispers.

Henry smothered on a laugh. “No, only babies can grow inside women.”
“You said sex makes babies.”
“It can, yes.”
“But if a man can’t make a baby…. why would they want to be with another man?”
Henry looked pained. “It’s very hard to – oh look, you got a fish!”

There was a welcome distraction as Henry’s attention was refocused to his catch. They pulled the fish out and got it off the line. It was too small to keep, but Robert insisted Daddy take the camera out of the basket and snap a photo anyway before releasing the fish. They used the moment for a bit of refreshing up with drinks and a snack before settling back on the bank.

“Anyway…” Henry cleared his throat. “Do you want to continue the conversation?”
Robert thought. He nodded. He still hadn’t gotten his answer.
“What I’m trying to say is. Humans are very complicated. Although sex is what makes a baby, humans are attracted to each other for many reasons besides making babies. That’s what love is. There’s different kinds of love – like, how I love you. Or how you love the cat.”
Robert spoke up. “My Sunday School Teacher is always talking about loving God.”
“Yes. Love just means you care about someone a lot. And love between adults is a very very special kind of friendship. It means you have a partner who cares about you, and shares in making life decisions, and sharing expense things like buying a house. You can’t control who you fall in love with. God decides that for us.”
Robert processed this too. “So I don’t know if I’ll fall in love with a man or a woman?”
“Nope. Most men fall in love women though, so that’s likely to happen.”
“When will I know?”
“It’ll slowly happen when you’re older.”
“Huh.” Robert watched a bird hop along the opposing river bank.

”Also. Sometimes Robert…the world we live in thinks it’s very very bad that men can love another man. And they say very mean things. Your classmates probably would. And so sometimes a man who likes other men, will try to love a woman because it’s just easier.”
“You didn’t love Mom?” Robert looked horrified.

Henry was waiting for that but it was still like a gut punch. A wave of grief went through him. “Dear heavens, it’s not like that. I loved your mother. Very much. She was my best friend. I miss her a lot.”
“I miss her too.”
Henry takes a deep breath. He sets down the pole so he can give Robert a hug. He takes out his handkerchief and blows his nose. “When she died, my heart was very very broken. And it still is. I thought I would never love again. It’s been almost five years since we lost Anne to the cancer. I was happy though that I still had you, an I was happy with it just being us. But then I met Joseph. And he started to board in our spare room. And I started to fall in love. And I said, God has plans that we often do not understand.“

“If…God wanted you to love a man, and you fell in love with mom, maybe God thought he didn’t show you what his plans were the first time. And so he had to show you again?”
“Henry, that implies loving your mother was a mistake. I wouldn’t call her a mistake.”
“It’s ok. The world is very complicated, Robert. You will understand this more when you’re older. It’s a lot to think about.”
“Yeah it is a lot to think about.” Robert agreed.
“It is. You’re still young. You don’t really have to think about it for a while now,” Henry said with a smile. “But… how would you feel about if Joe and I loved each other? And slept in the same room?”

Robert thought about this and watched the creek again. He shrugged. Then he lifted his head as an idea popped into it. “If Joe slept in your room, the room would be open right?”
“Uh yes?”
“Can I move into that room, and then we could use the other room for a brother?”
Henry choked on his breathing. “Pardon?”
“I want Uncle Joe’s room cause it has that cool window seat. I can put lots of toys there. Or use it as a secret hide out. And then if I had a brother, I’d have someone to play with instead of Martin next door who is a baby and smelly – Oh wait.”
”What what?”
”You said a man can’t grow a baby. Well, I guess we could adopt one, like Orphan Annie! Only not Annie. Cause she’s a girl.”

Henry burst out laughing until tears streamed down his face. Robert looked confused as none of what he said was funny. Henry laughed until his sides hurt and it took him quite a moment to recover himself.
“Oh goodness. Goodness gracious.
“What’s so funny Daddy?” Robert huffed.
“I just – I love you so much Robert. You’re the best son I could have hoped for.”
“Even though I don’t like vegetables?”
“Even though. You will like those when you’re older too by the way.”

Robert gave his Daddy a look of incredulousness. “Being an adult means you like vegetables AND girls? Ugh! I want to stay a kid a forever.”
Henry began to laugh again. “Let me know if you figure out how to do that.”

Captions and stories are 100% fictional.


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