That night, after my talk with the teenagers, the sex dreams took a turn for the incestuous.
Following our afternoon on the boat, Lynn’s boyfriend had broken up with her via telephone. Lynn made a tearful call to break this news to her mother, my brother Jesse’s ex wife Teri.
This got me to thinking about Teri. I realized I had not seen in her in a couple of years.
My subconscious took hold of that realization.
I would see Teri that very night.
In appearance, Lynn and her brother are perfect amalgams of their parents’ combined traits. Both parents are attractive, blonde, blue-eyed, with glowing smiles.
Their children share that description, but for one additional factor. In marrying Teri, Jesse had added several inches to the gene pool. She is around six feet tall, as are the kids. My brother Jesse, at five foot seven or so, is dwarfed by his ex and their children—an amusing detail in any family photograph.
My brother and his wife broke up a decade ago when she decided that she was a lesbian.
This came as a great surprise. At the time, Jesse and Teri had two young children and a new house.
My brother was distraught. Are you sure? he asked. Can’t we work something out? Maybe you can be a lesbian without divorcing me? Shouldn’t we stay together for the kids?
What else could he say? Divorce and homosexuality are equally alien in our family. All we know is that families stay together, no matter what.
It wasn’t possible, Teri said. She was already in love with someone else—a woman.
My parents were equally distraught. I might even venture that my mother’s distress surpassed even that of her son Jesse, arguably the person more affected by Teri’s decision.
To their great credit, though, my parents made it clear to Teri that that they loved her no matter what. Divorce or no divorce, she was still their daughter. She was still family.
(This by contrast to Teri’s own parents, self-styled sophisticates who told Teri to clear out her childhood bedroom in their home, as they no longer had a daughter.)
Mom called me with the news. I was stunned and felt terrible for Jesse and the kids—not to mention my mother, who could barely talk about it without crying. I hated what this was doing to my family.
But, I said, if this is what Teri wants, then that is the way it is.
How can you say that? my mother asked. They have children! What about their responsibilities to them?
I know, I replied, but what is the alternative? If she’s gay, she’s gay. She can’t stay married and pretend otherwise. I’m sure they will continue to meet their obligations in a new family arrangement.
Besides, I went on to say, it was very brave of Teri to come forward with this revelation. Coming out is very difficult, particularly given her family’s reaction. I felt compelled to support that. In fact, I was happy for her.
Mom hung up on me.
Perhaps I had gone too far.
Teri’s girlfriend left her not long after the divorce was finalized. Teri told Jesse she had made a terrible mistake and asked him to take her back.
It’s too late, he said. He was already engaged to someone else.
Since then, Teri has dated a string of men. None has quite stuck.
Naturally, this family history has been much in mind since the end of my marriage. Mine was the second divorce in my family, and my marriage was also ended at the wife’s behest.
“She’s going to regret this,” Mom says of my ex, “Just like Teri did.”
“Maybe so,” I say. “And if so, just as in that case, it will be too late.”
Mom nods. “Good. You can do better.”
The conversation with my niece and nephew must have brought those thoughts home. Thoughts of Teri brought her into my dreams.
I suppose that if I were going to have sex dreams with a family member, it was commendable that my subconscious had the decency to switch dials from my niece and nephew to their mother.
In the dream, I was giving Teri a tour of a house my parents had recently purchased. It was large, ancient and utterly devoid of furniture.
“Kind of drafty,” Teri said, shivering.
“If you are cold, I can show you a little secret to this house,” I said. “But you have to keep it between us.”
“Oh, I’m curious,” she smiled. “Show me.”
“You promise to keep it secret?”
I bit my lip. “Okay then, follow me.” I led her into the butler’s pantry and opened a closet door. “This way,” I said, reaching for her hand.
We descended a dark staircase, entering a sauna.
“Hey, that’s a nice surprise,” she said.
“Isn’t it? I love a sauna.”
I opened the door and led her into the steam.
When my vision adjusted, I could see that the sauna was full of nude men. Some were touching one another. All noticed us standing there, fully clothed.
“Oh!” Teri exclaimed, her hand rising to her mouth.
“I’m sorry,” I said quietly. “This must be men’s day. Come on, let’s go this way.”
I led Teri into a room with plastic mats on the floor.
I recognized it as a swinger club.
I only vaguely recollect the rest of the dream. It had to do with me fending off advances from entreating couples as I led Teri in search of the staircase upstairs.
I awoke and lay in bed, wondering at the occasional transparence of dreams.
Teri, so far as I know, is the only other member of my birth family to have any experience with bisexuality. Yet our experiences are so different that there is no reason for me to expect that she would understand my current life better than any other family member.
That following evening, we took Lynn back to her mother’s house. Teri came out to say hello to me and my kids.
I stepped out of the car to hug her neck.
“Well, you look great,” she said, pulling me close. “You’re getting some sun.”
“Why thank you, I feel pretty. And you look as lovely as ever!”
“No, no, I’m fat! Look at me”
“Nonsense, you are wasting away, you scrawny thing,”” I said. “You need to get some meat on those bones. Now come over here and say hey to the kids.”
It felt familiar to indulge in this exchange, so common among reuniting Southerners.
Teri leaned into the car and cooed at each of my children in turn. Lynn reminded the kids that this was her mother.
Teri reached around the car seats to hug my Mom and Dad.
“My goodness,” she said, standing to face me. “Your babies are so big! I feel so old.”
“Tell me,” I replied, my arm on Lynn’s shoulder. “I’ve been hanging out with this one, you know.”
We talked about our growing children for a bit before my kids grew restless. “We should get going to eat,” Mom called.
I kissed Lynn’s cheek and stepped forward to hug Teri goodbye.
“Keep in touch,” she whispered into my ear. “We’re still family, you know.”
I buried my face in her hair and kissed her neck. “Bye Sis.”