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"Confusion – write a short explanation of your personal understanding of this word, using your own stories to set the word in context for you."

Oddly enough, given the subject, I remember my ‘confusion’ incident extremely clearly. I could only have been five years old (almost six) when it happened. It was just before we moved away from San Pedro to Los Angeles for good and I lost my mom.

No, that’s too strong a relationship word for her; it was just before Jeannie abandoned me to ride the Oregon trail, leaving me behind with my dads. They weren’t my dads then – when she left they were still just my uncle Zach and his best friend’s brother, Shaun. But I had been calling Zach my dad forever. I knew that Roy (disappeared druggie) and Jeanne (wannabe good time girl) were my blood parents but I was a smart kid even then. I knew that if it’s yellow, waddles and quacks then it’s a duck – and Roy and Jeannie didn’t and Zach had been my papa duck from before I could remember anything. Once Shaun came on the scene he became duck number 2 and good riddance to the birth parents!

Anyways, back to the assignment, confusion. Back then, Jeanne had this mean boyfriend, Alan, the one that she took off to Portland with. He had the chance for a job and wanted Jeannie to go along with him that weekend to suss out moving to Oregon, and he didn’t want any rugrat tying them down. Being the natural born mother she was, Jeannie was happy to leave me behind for a jaunt and got wheedling Zach into babysitting me; she picked away at him but didn’t really care if he had any plans of his own! What was he going to say – “sorry Jeannie, I want to hang out with my boyfriend, ooh yeah, by the way, at 22, I’ve just realised I’m gay, so no I can’t look after Cody”? Even if Alan hadn’t have been on her case, with his sweet, accepting ways, she was homophobic enough in her own right to get on Zach’s case.

So Zach told Shaun he couldn’t come over, but guess what? Shaun was fine with having me and told him to bring me along! He didn’t mind my company; so when Zach went round for a barbecue I went too. Being a little tyke I fell asleep on the sofa soon enough. Guess the dads got a little quality couple time while I was out!

Trouble came once the weekend was up and Jeannie got back. I let slip where we’d spent the weekend and that’s when I got to hear the word ‘confusion’ for the first time. And it didn’t make any sense at all - not cos she was talking about sex and using confusion as a stand in, not because five year olds don’t have enough of a stock of words and ideas to fill in the gaps. No, the problem was Jeannie was not bright enough to use a word with so many syllables – she got it wrong.

Here’s how it happened, first off, she sent me off to my room, I mean, when the heck did she ever care if Alan and her girl-friends got high with me in the room? So, I trundled my truck off to my room but left the door open a crack and just accidentally on purpose played with my fire truck by the opened door.

She started off by telling Zach he was exposing me to his confusion, she seemed to think I was confused – about what? – see what I mean, straight off, confusing.

It had something to do with Zach and me visiting with Shaun - what? - I didn’t find their goodbye kiss confusing, it was cuddly! Jeanne kissed girls and guys goodbye all the time, especially when she was soaked in booze and weed.

Ok, she said I couldn’t be allowed to be dragged into Zach’s confusion? He wasn’t confused either. He was happy to be there, they both were. Maybe confusion was another word for very happy?

THEN Jeannie got really mean and started to say bad things about uncle Zach. I didn’t know what ‘a piece of Summer ass’ was but I could tell she meant it to hurt him. And it worked cos he was crying! I got so angry with her I bashed the truck into the bed but I didn’t have anything else I could do so I just sat on the ground crying for my dad. So yes, I was confused.

Later, and living in LA and hanging out at the LGBTQ+ centre and going to events and rallies in LA and the like I learnt fairly quickly about how a lot of 'straight' people had a cockeyed way of seeing things when it came to letting people be themselves, anyways, well before I was ten, I finally got to understand what Jeannie had been talking about – and it still made no sense!

What confusion was Zach in? He loved a man, a man loved him, both of them took care of me and supported each other and treated me kindly. Nothing confusing about that!

She had the nerve to emotionally blackmail Zach into making him choose between being allowed to continue being the parent to me she never was, or being with the man who made his life make sense – all because ‘he’ was ‘confused’! He surely was after she got her claws into him and nearly left Shaun for good, or I should say bad!

Well Jeanne, I hope you get to read this one day – for the record none of your boyfriends ever cared about me - or even about you for that matter! They used you and they wanted nothing to do with me. I never once saw any of your boyfriends be tender or loving!

In complete contrast my pop Shaun cared about me even when he and Zach weren’t together, and just as soon as dad Zach asked for his help, pop was there, caring for the both of us, taking us into his life and loving us in all the ways any child could ask for. And both of them are still there for each other and for me to this day.

So Jeanne, my definition of confusion is this – a homophobic, love-starved, biological mother lashing out at her supportive gay brother and getting in the way of true family feelings because she hasn’t a clue how to be a loving partner or parent herself.

This may not match what you’d read in a dictionary, but it is my definition of confusion.