Of all the strange phone calls I've received from my mother over the years, the weirdest was at 7:00 am one Saturday morning in November 2014.
"When you're in Washington, DC for your conference next weekend, why don't you drive down to Norfolk to visit your nephew? He lives there now."
What nephew lived in Norfolk? Last I heard, my sister's son was in Indianapolis, and Kenny's sons were all in Rock Island. Except Frank, who lived somewhere in Tennessee or...Virginia. "Is it Frank?"
"No, it's Robbie."
I can't be blamed for not recognizing his name. I'd forgotten about Kenny's stepson Robbie.
Kenny's first wife died of cancer in January 1993, leaving him 29 years old, working night shifts at the factory, with four kids, aged 10, 9, 7, and 5. The grandparents helped out a bit, but everyone gossipped that he remarried less than five months after the funeral to get free childcare.
His new wife, Angie, scandalized the Nazarene Church. She was a heathen Baptist! Eight years older than him! And divorced -- nearly the unpardonable sin! Plus she had three kids of her own: two girls, ages 13 and 10, and a boy, Robbie, age 15, nearly as old as Kenny!
By the summer of 1995, Robbie was living somewhere in Ohio or Pennsylvania with his grandparents. I don't know why.
Maybe he didn't like his new role as "big brother" to his stepbrothers and stepsister.
Maybe he didn't like living in the big, rambling house downtown, in a "bad" neighborhood.
Maybe the Nazarene rules seemed oppressive.
Although Ken adopted him, so he was technically part of the family, he cut off all contact with the Davises (he did sometimes call his sisters). As far as I knew, neither Ken nor Mom and Dad had heard from Robbie in 20 years.
How would Mom even know where he was, let alone want me to visit?
"He doesn't talk to your brother, but he talks to the girls [Ken's step-daughters], and they talk to me. They even had us over when he flew out to visit a couple of years ago." She paused. "It wouldn't hurt for you to go see him."
It wouldn't hurt. I could ask him why he left so abruptly.
Besides, I love Norfolk. It reminded me of my old West Hollywood friend Alan, and his boyfriend Sandy. Beautiful Colonial architecture, the Chrysler Museum of Art, lots of gay nightlife, 50% black population.
So I called -- it took Robbie a moment to remember that "Oh, yeah, Ken had a brother." He invited me down for a visit.
On the Saturday of the conference, I drove down to Norfolk and got a hotel room -- no need to press my luck. Then I stopped by an antique store to buy a gift, and drove to Robbie's house.
It was way on the north side of town, in Ocean View near the military base.
"Hi! I was hoping to finish before you got here. We were trying to spruce up the place."
"Oh, everything looks fine, believe me," I said, looking him up and down.
"You must be Boomer. My name is Beau." We shook hands. "Robbie's inside -- he's a little nervous." He wrapped a buffed arm around my shoulders. "Come on, let's do the reunion."
Calling him by his first name -- Robbie must be gay! Beau must be a boyfriend!
He led me into the house and yelled "The victim for the human sacrifice is here!"
Robbie appeared. My nephew was 37 years old, tall, slim, eyeglassed, balding on top. "Is this wise guy giving you a hard time, Uncle Boomer?"
None of my nephews and nieces call me Uncle anything. Way to make me feel old!
"Oh no, he's great."
"He smells like he's been skinning skunks!" Robbie exclaimed. "Beau, go upstairs and take a shower, and put on that nice shirt I got you. We're taking Uncle Boomer out to dinner."
"Yes, Master!" Beau shot me a wink and trounced up the stairs.
"Yep. On the wrestling team. And smart, too -- he's going to study engineering at Old Dominion. I really lucked out with this one."
Lucked out? Obviously Beau was a boyfriend! Of course Mom wouldn't have said anything -- the whole family practiced a "don't ask, don't tell" policy.
Robbie opened his gift and talked about his job -- at the Navy yard, but a civilian -- and the house -- $150,000 mortgage -- and asked me about the Plains, while I ruminated:
I'm not actually related to Robbie by blood, and since I only saw him a few times, I have none of the family-bond stuff that stifled erotic interest in my other nephews.
We could have a three way! My nephew and his boyfriend! I wonder if they are hung....
It didn't take long to find out. Beau came bounding down the stairs -- naked, his penis swinging between his legs. Bratwurst, cut, low-hanging balls, shaved pubic hair. I gaped.
"Beau! Where are your manners?"
"What -- we're all guys here! I can't find that new shirt."
"Look in your closet, next to your suit."
"Gotcha." He turned -- nice view of his butt as he walked up the stairs again.
His mother? Wait...
"Does...um...his mother live in Norfolk, too?" I asked.
"Oh, no, she's got her own place in Newport News [about ten miles away]. Beau is just with me on weekends. That's why I moved to Norfolk -- I wasn't going to go months and months without seeing Beau, so when Kathie's husband got a job out here, I came too."
Wait -- that's a weird thing to do for your boyfriend...
"Um...sounds like you get along well with Kathie."
Robbie shrugged. "I guess so. I mean, there's no hostility or anything. I like Joe, too. He's a good stepfather, supports the boy, but never tries to take my place."
I missed the implied criticism that my brother had not been a good stepfather -- I was too busy being embarrassed. Beau wasn't Robbie's boyfriend. They might not even be gay.
Way to make me feel old: my little brother's kid has an 18-year old son!
Who I just saw naked!
I smiled. That's got to be one for the record books: Sausage sighting of my nephew's son.
See also: I Visit Alan and His Boy Toy in Virginia