STORY: Callum is the youngest of my brother’s three sons.
On the surface, he was a shy kid, but, hidden behind that facade was a bold boy who loved to take chances. He was often the one to push limits and act in unpredictable ways. For example, in first grade, when his teacher had to leave the classroom for a few minutes, normally quiet Callum ran to the front, stood on the teacher’s desk, and shouted, “Teacher is gone, it’s time to party!”
In some ways, Callum and I were similar in childhood. I was shy on the surface and lived in a world of my own. We were both musical. Unlike Callum, however, I had no interest in sports and seldom took chances in life, that is, until college. I worried about getting perfect grades, pleasing everyone, and avoiding conflict.
Living 1700 miles away, I was not as present in my nephews’ childhood years as I would have liked and our visits were infrequent. Back then, I did not see myself as the typical uncle my nephews deserved. I didn’t play softball with them or take them on wild rides at amusement parks. Still, Callum’s two older brothers and I found activities we could share: reading books with the oldest nephew and drawing with the middle nephew. With Callum, however, things were somewhat awkward.
Years later, just after Callum had completed grad school, we met for a family reunion at our cabin near Estes Park, Colorado. On the third day, Callum suggested that just the two of us go on a long hike to the summit of Flat Top Mountain at 12,500 feet. It was the first time I’d realized that we shared a love of rigorous hiking.
Our discussions rambled across a variety of topics. He said that I had inspired him to become a classroom teacher like me. He also came out to me as bisexual. I was impressed with how confident and relaxed he was about this revelation. He exhibited none of the angst or internal drama I had experienced when coming out years before. He said that my being open with the family and confident about being gay helped him to feel comfortable about his own sexuality.
Now, with Callum in his late 30s and me in my late 60s, we share a solid bond. We phone each other frequently and discuss educational pedagogy, philosophy, and politics. We have each lived in other countries and traveled extensively. Ten years ago, he married a bisexual woman from Niger in North Africa. They named their son after me.