Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Man from Swift Current - Chapter Three - Back to School

Chapter Three
Ben hoped to play hockey professionally and wanted to get a scholarship to attend college.   Ben is my idol.  He just seems to have it all together emotionally, mentally and physically.   He is 170 cm (5’7’) tall and extremely well built.   He works out constantly and prides himself on his excellent physique.   He is very good on the ice.   Ben is definitely one of the best hockey players I have ever seen.   Sharing a room with Ben has been both challenging and rewarding all at the same time.    He is always encouraging me to work out with him and to bulk up.   Only problem is I hate going to the gym.   It’s hard enough hiding my interest in other guys during regular classes let alone going to the gym.   I am always afraid one of the guys will catch me checking them out in the locker room.  My other fear is not being able to control my reaction to being around so many great-looking guys.  The last thing I need is for me to cause problems for Ben because of my lack of control.
Ben has taken me on as his special project to get me into shape.   He thinks that I should have a perfect physique like his.   After all, we are related.   As a result, Ben drags me to the gym three days a week to work out on the weights.   The other days of the week, we run, swim or play a pick-up game of hockey with Ben’s friends.  I am really not into all this physical fitness stuff but I love being around Ben and his friends so I guess I'll stick with it.
I love to swim.  In the water I can be graceful and coordinated.   Playing other sports, I just can’t seem to get it together.   I'm not very well coordinated and don’t do well in team sports.   I have always been the last one chosen for teams and only got on a team because someone had to take me.   More often than not I would just sit on the sidelines and cheer for those who were on the teams.
I am very shy and try not to be noticed.   I am really into music.   I play the piano and the violin.  My mother plays the piano and violin as well.   She has a great love of music and has encouraged all of us to learn to play the piano at a minimum.   I love to read and take myself to other places as I read about them.   At school, I am taking all of the usual subjects:   math, English, French, chemistry, P.E., etc. 
 I eat lunch with Ben’s hockey team every day.   It has been a great experience for me to be part of the group.   My old school, Kincaid Central, pulled kids from all of the surrounding farms in the entire area and had grades K-12.   We got a good education but the social aspects weren’t what you would call fantastic.   I had very few friends there.   Since we all came from the surrounding farms, we didn’t get together after school due to the distance and the lack of transportation.   Here at SCCHS, we don’t have to worry about the distance since we live close to the school as do many of my classmates.
As you can imagine, P.E. was both my favorite class and my worst class.   I dreaded having to go into the locker room and tried to be the last one to class so I could dress  somewhat in privacy after all the guys were already in the gym.   Coach always gave me a hard time about being late to class every day.    From the very first day, the guys seem to sense that I wasn’t a jock and again I ended up being that last one picked for the different teams.   On the second day of class, this kid named Ian picked me first for his team.   I did a double take and thought maybe I had heard wrong.    Then he repeated my name and waved me over to him.   I walked slowly over trying not to show the shock and surprise I was feeling.   As I got closer, Ian raised hand and gave me a high-five and said, “Welcome to my team, Glenn!”  
“Why did you pick me,” I asked as I looked him over….he was a little taller than me with dirty, blond hair and hazel eyes.   He had a handsome face in a rugged sort of way.   It was also obvious that he worked out at the gym.   I could really go for this guy!  I quickly looked away before I got caught looking him over as he answered my question.
“Because you are new to this school and so am I,” Ian said with a smile.   I looked at him kind of dumbfounded.   How did he know I was new to this school?  When I didn’t respond, he continued “I am an exchange student from Norway.  My mom is English so we split our time between London and Bergen.   Mom thought I should spend some time in another country besides England and Norway so I applied to come to Canada as an exchange student.   Who should we choose next?”
“Uh, I don’t know….how about that kid over there,” I said pointing to a tall dark-headed kid leaning against the wall.
Ian called out his name, “Brian, come on over and join our team!”    Brian broke into a smile when he heard his name and trotted over and high-fived both of us.   Choosing up teams went on until there were six teams of five guys for three games of basketball.   Our other teammates were Scott and Jimmy.   Both were about the same height and build as myself.   Ian organized us and put Brian under the basket since he was the tallest.  And so on.   After a couple of intense games, the coach blew the whistle for us to go get dressed.   Ian congratulated us for playing so well together.   We had won both games which made us all feel pretty good.   As we headed to the locker rooms, I started to hang back to give the other guys time to get dressed when Ian looked back and stopped to wait for me.
Ian asked me, “Why do you always come late to class and then wait until everyone is out of the locker room to dress?”
“I’m just shy that’s all.   I don’t like getting naked in front of other guys,” I said looking at the floor and shifting uncomfortably from one foot to the other.  
When I finally looked up, Ian was looking me directly in the eyes, “You have no need to be shy.   It’s just a bunch of regular guys and no one is going to make fun of you or anything.  You know…we all have the same equipment!”
“I know that but I just like having some privacy when I’m getting dressed,” I said.   I was starting to get a little defensive and it showed in my face.
Seeing my change in attitude Ian said, “I’m sorry, dude, I didn’t mean to make you angry.   I was just curious that’s all.   I’d like us to be friends.   I hope I haven’t spoiled any chance of that by asking you sensitive questions.”
“That’s okay.   Maybe we can get together after school sometime,” I said.
“Sure thing, how about today after school?   You could come over to my house and we could play some video games.”
“Alright, but I will have to call my Aunt Mary and let her know.   Where do you want to meet?”
“In front of the school, that’s where Pat picks me up and takes me home.   Pat and Gene are the family I am staying with here Swift Current.   They are part of the organization that sponsors foreign exchange students.   After spending my senior year here, I will go back to college in London.   At least, that is what my mom wants me to do.   My dad wants me to attend school in Norway.  So why are you calling your Aunt to get permission to come over to my house?   Don’t you live with your parents?”
“My sister, Nancy, and I are staying with my Aunt and Uncle so I can go to school in the city instead of staying down on the farm with my parents,” I said.   “My cousins, Ben and Cynthia, go to school here as well.”
“That’s really cool that your Aunt and Uncle are willing to let you stay with them!” Ian said.
We headed into the locker room to find that most of the guys had already changed and were heading out to their next class.   Ian and I had to quickly change and join them or we would be late for class.  Of course, I checked him out as he stripped down in front me.   I looked up to find he was doing the same thing to me.  
Ian looked up and caught my look and just laughed and said, “See, we have the same kind of equipment so you don’t have to be so shy.   By the way, I like what I see….Do you like what you see?”
I turned very red and just turned away to finish putting on my clothes.
“I’m sorry.   I didn’t mean to embarrass you,” Ian said as he came up behind me.   He put his hand on my shoulder and turned me around to look at him.   “Are we still okay?”
“Yeah, we’re okay,” I said.   “Come on, let’s get to class.”   I tried not to run away but Ian had to walk pretty fast to keep up with me as we left the locker room.  Ian’s comments had me wondering not only about myself but did I dare hope that he was of the same mind as I was.   It really had me shook up.   I could hardly think straight for the rest of the day.
Our friendship continued to grow over the course of the next few weeks.  Ian always picked me to be on his team and helped me try to improve my game no matter what the sport was for that day.   Ian is naturally athletic and plays every sport well.   Ian started joining Ben and I at our workout sessions at the gym that same week.   Ben and his crew began including Ian in their activities.   Ian was an instant hit with the guys.   He just knew exactly what to say and how to say it.   Ian’s sense of humor was a little on the odd side but he always managed to get everyone laughing at his jokes.
We spent almost every day together at his house or mine.  Uncle Dave and Aunt Mary treated him like he was part of the family.   Ian loves music.   He isn’t very musically talented but that doesn’t stop him from appreciating music.  
We were at Ian's house studying for a math test when Ian stopped studying and looked over at me on the couch.   He got up from the table and walked over to me.
“Here listen to this song,” Ian said as he handed me his IPod. 
I listened to the music for a minute and said, “I like it but who is it?”
“It’s my favorite rock group called A-Ha.   They are a Norwegian alternative rock band.”
“I’ve never even heard of them.  How come they sing in English?” I asked.
“According to their lead singer, they sing in English so they can sell their music to a much wider audience than just us Norwegians,” answered Ian.   “The Germans are just totally wild about them as are the Russians.  We are very proud of them.   Norwegians are the best at everything we do!”
“No need for any humility there!” I teased Ian.
“You’re right!   I can’t help being the best don’t you agree?” Ian joked right back as he struck his signature muscleman pose.
After slowly looking him up and down, I said, “Yeah……I agree you’re the best at failing math since you won’t study hard enough to pass the test tomorrow!   Your stunning good looks and charming manner won’t work on Mr. Manning.   He will still fail you!”
Ian grabbed a couch pillow and threw it at me.   That started a massive pillow fight that lasted for a good half-hour before we finally got back to studying.
As I got ready to head home, Ian grabbed a stack of CD’s from his room.  “Why don’t you borrow these CDs?   I have loaded all the songs on my IPod already.”
I took the CDs from him and said, “Okay, but the guys in this group A-ha certainly look like they’re ancient to me.   How old are these guys, anyway?”
“They cut their first record in the mid ‘80s and are still going strong.   My favorite is this one called Analogue.   Try listening to it first.   The older ones are definitely out of step with today’s music but they’re Norwegians so the music is still good---OLD, but good,” Ian said.
I just laughed at that comment.   It didn’t matter what I said, Ian would always find a way to turn things into a positive for anything Norwegian.   I think he does it in part because he’s homesick.  Aunt Mary honked the horn just then, saving me from having to comment as I hurried out the door.
The next day after school, we were all hanging out at our house when Ben brought up the subject of Jen.
“Hey, dude, how come you keep avoiding Jen?”  Ben asked me.
“I’m not avoiding her.   I just don’t have any classes with her,” I said.
“Jen thinks you hate her because every time she tries to talk to you at lunch or after school, you start to act funny and make excuses to get away from her,” Ben said.   “Maybe you could go a double date with me and my girlfriend.”
“What!! You have been holding out on me, dude!” I said.   “Since when have you had a girlfriend?”
“Yeah, Bro.  ‘Fess up,” said Cynthia.   “Do I know the girl?”
“Yeah, who is the lucky girl?” Ian asked.
“Oh, I know,” said Nancy.   “Its Penny Turner!   She’s in my math class and I’ve seen Ben talking to her in the halls between classes!”
“Oh, man, can’t a guy get a break around here!” complained Ben.   “I’ve tried to keep it quiet until Penny was ready to tell her friends.   You know how rumors spread at school.   Just because we want to start dating, everyone will start saying we’re getting married next!”
“Well, if you didn’t make it so obvious, no one would know.   And besides, Penny already told me she likes you a lot and has been pumping me for information about you all week,” said Nancy.
Ben looked a little worried when he heard that.  “Just what have you told her about me?”
“Oh, that you can be hard to get along with and that you are so arrogant and full of yourself that she needs to find someone better,” said Nancy with a smug little smile.
“You did not!” shouted Ben.
“How do you know?” asked Nancy
“Because I just know that’s why,” Ben replied.
After a few tense moments while they stared at each other, Nancy relented, “Okay, I told her you were a great guy and that she would have a great time going out with you.   Happy now?   However, I did say you have got to have the smelliest socks around though!”
“I do not!   Did you really tell her that?” Ben tried not to look concerned but didn’t succeed.
“Sure I did.   Why would I lie about something like that?”  Nancy replied.
“Now she probably won’t go out with me.”   Ben’s misery showed on his face.
Nancy couldn’t help teasing him some more, “Well, I did tell her that you don’t smell bad as long as you keep your shoes on!”
Ben looked stricken.   The look on his face had all of us laughing so hard we couldn’t stop.   I finally said, “Ben, don’t you know when Nancy is teasing you?   She didn’t say any such thing.   You are such a ninny sometimes!”
“I am NOT a ninny.  Besides, you haven’t answered my original question before Nancy got into it with me.   Will you go on a double date with me and Penny?   Maybe Ian could get a date and go with us as a threesome.”
Ian laughed, “Okay, okay, I will go with you guys as long as I get to take both Cynthia and Nancy as my dates.”   Both girls started giggling and quickly agreed that they would go with Ian.  They both have been drooling over Ian since the day they met him.   It’s kind of comical to watch them fawn over him.   Of course, Ian just loves all of the attention and encourages them by flirting outrageously with them.
“So when are you going to ask Jen?” Ben asked.
“I’ll ask her tomorrow, okay?” I said, resigning myself to the fact that Ben wouldn’t stop pressuring me until I asked her out.
Later that night, Ian asked, “Are you really going to ask Jen out?”
“Yeah, I really don’t have a choice now do I?” I said.
“I guess you’re right, Glenn,” Ian said.   “Ben won’t give up until you do.   Do you want me to ask her to go out with you?”
“No, I can do my own asking, thank you very much.   I don’t need you to make it any worse for me than it is already, okay,” I said.
“Don’t get so upset.   I was only trying to help since I know you are so shy around some people,” Ian said.
“Yeah, right….and I’m Santa Claus,”
“No, really, I was just trying help”
“Okay, Ian, I believe you.   Can we just drop it for now?” I said, more than a little irritated at Ian for even thinking of asking Jen out for me.   Ian is my best friend but he can sometimes cause me so much frustration.
The next day during lunch, I made my way over to Jen’s table and sat down next to her.   She looked up in surprise but didn’t say anything.   Her friends hadn’t come to the lunchroom, yet.   So I knew I only had a few minutes to ask my question.
“Jen, would you go with me to the movies this Friday night?” I asked.  Jen face lit up with a great big smile.
“Sure, I’ll go with you to the movies.   What time will you pick me up?” she said.
“How about 6 PM and we’ll get some pizza before going to the show?” I said.
“Sounds great to me!  I can’t wait until Friday.”
“Good, I will call you on Friday just before I leave to come pick you up.”   With that, I got up from her table and made a hasty retreat to the other side of the lunchroom where Ian sat watching me with Ben and his hockey buddies.
“Well, what did she say?” asked Ben.
“She said, yes.   What else would she say?” I said.
“Good, now she will stop pestering me and Craig to get you to ask her out.  Isn’t that right, Craig?” Ben said.
Craig responded, “It’s about time dude!  My sister is like a pit bull when she makes up her mind to do something and you have been on her list for some time now.”
I looked across the table at Craig to see a look of relief on his face.   Craig is a nice guy and has always been kind to me.   I kind of felt bad for ignoring his little sister for so long.   I’m sure she hasn’t made it easy for him, especially since we hang out together every day during lunch and we have a couple of classes together as well.
After school, Ian asked, “So, you managed to ask Jen out all on your own!”
“Yeah, I’ve never been so nervous about anything in my life.   Girls scare me to death!”
“Same, here dude.  I can’t come over tonight.   Pat and Gene have plans to take me to see some of their friends.   So, I’ll catch you tomorrow,” Ian said as he climbed into Pat’s car.
Friday finally came.   I called Jen to let her know we were coming to pick her up.   Ben borrowed Uncle Dave’s SUV for the evening.   When I knocked on the door, both Jen and Craig stepped outside.    Apparently, Ben had arranged for Craig to join us so there would be an even number.   We all climbed into the SUV and headed over to the local pizza joint then to the movie theater.   During our meal, I made small talk with Jen.   Mainly, we talked about school and our mutual friends.   I held her hand during the movie which caused her to smile and move her leg up against mine.   I was just a little uncomfortable but I made good on my promise to Ben.   I looked over at Ben.   He just smiled and put his arm around Penny and started kissing her.  I quickly looked away.   I couldn’t wait for the movie to end so I could get out of this situation! 
After dropping everyone off at their homes, Ben asked me, “Well, are you going to ask Jen out on a date, again?”
“I don’t know, Ben,” I said.
“What’s there to know!  Jen’s a cute girl and she obviously likes you.   Why wouldn’t you ask her out, again?”
“Ben, I’m just not comfortable around girls,” I said.
“What?  Are you trying to tell me you’re gay?”  Ben asked.
“No, but I’m just not sure of myself around girls that’s all,” I said.
“Well, the best way to cure that is to spend more time around girls!  So, why not ask Jen out on another date, but next time just the two of you go,” Ben suggested.
“Alright, I’ll think about,” I said.   “Can we talk about something else?” I said just little heatedly.
“Okay, don’t get all mad at me for trying to get you out of your shell.   You need someone to push you a little bit to get you moving and I’m just the person to do that for you”
I jumped out of the SUV as Ben parked it in the garage.  I guess I must have slammed the door too hard because Ben yelled at me, “Don’t break the door!   You really are a piece of work, ya know.”
I ignored him and found my way into the house and into our room.   I’m really not ready to talk to Ben about my sexual orientation right now.   Can’t he just leave me well enough alone!
Ben soon followed me and shut our bedroom door behind him.
“Look, cousin, don’t get all pissy with me when I am only trying to do you favor,” Ben said.  His face was a mask of anger and he had his hands all balled up in fists.
“Ben, I really do appreciate your help but not in the dating department.  I don’t want to be set up on any more dates and I don’t want to set up anyone’s expectations as far as a relationship goes.   I’m just not ready for that right now,” I said.   I was trying to calm him down but at the same time I wasn’t going to let him tell me how to run my life.
“Glenn, be honest with me.   Are you gay like your brother, Randy?”
“I don’t know, Ben.   I am so confused about that issue.  I like girls but I also like guys, too.   Don’t be mad at me, please,” I pleaded.  “I am still pretty angry at my Dad for disowning Randy and it’s caused me to really think about going out with a guy just to get to my Dad.   I know that’s not a good reason but I really am interested in guys as well as girls.   I dated girls at my old school but that was before the scene with Randy and his boyfriend.   They seemed so happy together.   Before that, I had never really considered that I could be happy with a guy.   I always thought I had to go with the girls to be happy in a relationship.   It made me sad to see Dad hurt Randy and Shawn the way he did.”
The anger left Ben’s face as he sat down on his bed and faced me.   “I won’t pretend I understand what you are going through.   I am just not wired that way.  I just need you to be honest with me, Glenn.   We have been best friends since forever.   Over the last few weeks, you haven’t been very talkative and I’ve tried to draw you out but you have always dropped back into your silence.   It really bothers me to see you this way.   It’s just not the Glenn I know.  I know how you feel towards your Dad and what happened with Randy but it seems to be more than that.  I will try to give you some space while you try to figure out who you are and I won’t keep at you to go out with Jen, but you really should look at trying to get out and date someone.   You are missing out on a lot of fun and a big part of our high school experience.”
“Thanks, Ben.  You are really the best friend a guy could ever have,” I said as I stood up and we knocked fists.
“You’d better believe it, dude.   And I’m your best cousin, too, don’t forget that either,” Ben said with a smile.
After that, we both got ready for bed and turned out the lights.   I was still really upset about Ben’s pressuring me to go out with Jen.   I couldn’t get to sleep right away.   I could hear Ben’s regular breathing as he fell asleep almost as soon as his head hit the pillow.   I kept thinking about whether I should just decide to try and get Ian to go on a date with me or not.   Ever since I first met Ian, I have dreamed of him sleeping with me and all of the things we would do in bed together.   I’ve gotten off in the shower many times fantasizing about Ian.   Talking to Ian is so easy and we like a lot of the same things.  I just feel better being around him.   Not to mention his perfectly sculpted body!   Just thinking about Ian gave a hard-on that demanded my attention and distracted me from my self-contemplation.
The next morning, I woke up to the smell of bacon.   I stretched and yawned and looked over to see Ben just waking up.
“Hey, cuz, we’d better get up if we want any breakfast,” Ben said.  “It smells wonderful!”
Ben got of bed and headed towards our bathroom.   After Ben finished, I took my turn to clean up and get dressed.   We both headed to the kitchen after making our beds and straightening up our room.   That ‘s one thing Aunt Mary was a very strict about….a clean room.
As we entered the kitchen, Uncle Dave asked, “How would you two like to help me out down at the store?”
“Sure, what do you want us to do?” I asked.
“We need to take an inventory of everything in the store,” Uncle Dave said.
Ben spoke up, “I’d like to do that.  I helped last time.   We had a great time!”
“Well, that’s settled,” said Uncle Dave.   “We’ll leave as soon as you two are finished eating breakfast.”
“Can Ian come help us as well?” I asked.
“Yes, he can.   Why don’t give him a call and have him meet us at the store,” said Uncle Dave.
We worked hard all day but we enjoyed doing the work.   I watched Uncle Dave as he got everyone organized and jumped in to help get the work done.   He reminded me so much of my dad sometimes as I watched him work.   I just wish my dad were as understanding and willing to listen to me as his brother.
We went to church on Sunday morning as usual and spent the afternoon playing board games and relaxing.   Sunday is my favorite day of the week.   Usually, I spend a couple of hours practicing on my violin and then playing the piano to accompany anyone who wants to sing.   My Aunt and Uncle have great voices and they love to sing.   Ian, Ben, Cynthia and Nancy sing along as well.   Today, our routine was about to change.
Uncle Dave interrupted our singing by asking, “How about we walk down to the convalescent center a couple of blocks down the road and sing for them?”
We all just stood there for a few seconds thinking it over.   Then all at once we all responded, “Sure, why not?”
“I’ll get the old time music book out so we can sing some of those golden oldies for them,” said Aunt Mary.   She pulled out a couple of music books out of a cupboard next to the piano.
We put on our coats and walked the few blocks to the center.   Uncle Dave opened the door for us and then went looking for the office.   A few minutes later, he showed up with a little old lady with gray hair in a business suit.   She wore a great big smile on her face.
“Thank you for coming.   I'm Mrs. Miller.  Our patrons get so lonely and Sundays are especially hard for them.   Come this way and I’ll show you to the sitting room where the piano is located.”
With that, she turned and led us down a long hallway past the doors of many of the patients who lived here.   Some were obviously bedridden.  Others were sitting in their wheelchairs just staring at the walls.   There were a couple of younger patients that were recovering from surgery or other illnesses.   As she passed some of the rooms, Mrs. Miller would give a cheery, “Hello” or “How are you today, dear?”
As we entered the sitting room, we could see that many of the home’s patients were already there.  They were gathered in groups talking amongst themselves.   There were a couple of nurses attending to them, making sure that they were firmly tied into their wheelchairs to keep them from falling out or comforting them and answering their questions.  Mrs. Miller marched up to the front of the room and made the announcement.
“Hello, everyone, we have some special visitors.  This is Dave and Mary and their family from up the street.   They have come to make some music and sing some of your favorite songs.”
With that introduction, I took my place at the piano while everyone else lined up facing our little audience.   We sang every song in the book.   Many of the older patients sang with us.   One woman in her 90s, shouted out, “I remember that one!   Sing it again, please!”  After we finished singing, we went from person to person to shake their hand, learn their names and visit with each one.   Margie was the 95 year-old who shouted out about her song.  
Margie said, in a rather shaky voice, “All of my family has already passed on.  I have out-lived my kids and grandkids.   So there is no one to visit me here.   I am so glad to have someone to talk to me.   Can you come back to see me, again.” 
This last was said with such pleading look, I couldn’t help but respond, “Of course, I will.   We’ll come back every Sunday.”   I leaned over her wheelchair and gave her a quick hug and Ian did the same.
“We'll be back next week,” Ian affirmed.  “And we won’t forget to come visit with you.”  
Margie said, “Thank you for being so kind to me.”   My eyes were wet with tears as I watched the tears running down her face.  
“Next time, I'll bring my violin to play for you.   Would that be okay?” I said.
Margie’s face was transformed by a huge smile that lit up her eyes, “That would be a real treat!”
“Good-bye, I will see you next Sunday then,” I said as I moved over to talk to an elderly gentleman sitting by the door.
“Hello, young fellow.   I’m Harry and I’m mighty glad you folks came today,” he said.
I reached out to shake his hand.  “Nice to meet you, Harry.   Thank you for listening.   I’m Glenn and this is my best friend, Ian.”   Ian reached over and shook Harry’s hand.
“I am happy to meet you, Harry,” Ian said.
“I’m 99 years old and I’ll be 100 next week.   I hope you folks will come to my birthday party,”  Harry said.
“It would be a real honor sir,” I responded.
I turned and beckoned to the rest of my family to come over.   I introduced them to Harry.
“Harry will be 100 next week and has invited us to celebrate with him,” I said.
“That sound great,” said Uncle Dave.   “We’ll make sure we’re here!”
“It’s nice to meet you, Harry.   Thank you for inviting us,” said Aunt Mary. 
We said our good-byes to the staff and walked back to the house.   As I took my coat off in the hallway, I turned to Uncle Dave and said, “Thanks for taking us there.   I really enjoyed playing for them and it brought so much joy to them.  I’d like to do it every Sunday if that’s okay?”
“I think that would a great idea, Glenn.  I’m sure that everyone else feels the same.   Let’s add it to our calendar to make sure we don’t have any conflicts,” Uncle Dave said.
We went the following Sunday to Harry’s 100th birthday party.   As we walked into the room, Harry waved us over to him.   “I’m glad all you young folks decided to show up to help me celebrate!” Harry said.  “It’s nice to have new faces in the crowd.   Everyone here has heard my stories about the old days many times.   I hope you have got some time to listen to some stories.”
Uncle Dave said, “Sure we do.   But let us entertain everyone with a few songs first before we settle down to visit with you if that’s okay?”
“Sure thing, I enjoy a good tune from the old days to help me remember when I was young enough to dance to those songs!” Harry said.
With that, we entertained them with music and song.   Uncle Dave and Aunt Mary even showed off a dance step or two.   They love dancing…ballroom, country and swing.   I brought out my violin and did some fiddling for them to dance to...you know, some good country tunes.   Pretty soon, we had everyone clapping their hands and stomping their feet.  After we started to tire from our entertaining, we went around to each person to shake their hand and visit with them for a moment.   I kept my promise to Margie and sat next to her while she shared her memories with me.  
Last but not least, we spent nearly two hours with Harry listening to his stories.   Finally, the nurse came in to take Harry down to the dining hall.   We followed him and the nurse down the hallway.   As we went, at each doorway, the nurse would stop pushing Harry’s wheelchair so he could say good night to his friends.   In the dining hall, the nursing staff had brought in a cake with candles lit and “Happy Birthday, Harry!”  written on the cake.   There were some reporters from the local paper there to take Harry’s photo and to ask him how it felt to be 100 years old.   They rolled their video camera as we all sang “Happy Birthday” to Harry as he made a wish and blew out the candles.
“This is the best birthday ever!” Harry said.   “Thank you all for coming to celebrate it with me!”
“No, Harry, thank you for sharing your stories and it’s been an honor to be your friend,” Uncle Dave said. 
We visited with him for a while longer and then said our good-byes to the staff.   We each wished Harry “Happy Birthday” again and gave him a hug as we left to return home for the evening.
The next day, Monday afternoon, Uncle Dave gathered us around the kitchen table.   This was rather unusual since Uncle Dave usually doesn’t come home until after 6 PM so we were a little nervous as we waited for him to tell us what was going on.
“I just got a phone call from the convalescent center.   Our friend, Harry, passed away in his sleep last night.”  We all sat there in a stunned silence.   Harry had been so bright and happy yesterday.   He was the life of the party.   The tears formed in my eyes and started streaming down my face.  I looked around the table and saw tears in everyone else’s eyes as well. 
“We should remember him as we last saw him….singing at the top of his lungs and telling his outrageous stories to everyone who’d listen,” said Uncle Dave.   “I am glad we took the time to get to know him.   And we will keep going back to visit all of the others who live there and bring a bit of happiness to their lives.  Is that okay with everyone?”
We all nodded our agreement.   At that moment, the phone rang and Aunt Mary got up to answer it.  She turned and looked at Cynthia and said, “It’s for you,” and handed her the phone.   After that we all went about our usual after school activities.  Later that night, I couldn’t help thinking about Harry and the full life he had lived.   Many of his stories were about life on his farm, raising a family, and enjoying his grandchildren.   Isn’t that what I wanted as well…..life on a farm like my parents with family and friends to share in the experiences…..but would I be able to find someone to share that life with me?  Would it be a guy or a girl?   How could I have a family if I fell in love with a guy?    Wouldn’t that put an end to all of my dreams of raising a family on a farm?  I still have so many questions about who I am.   Why can’t life be simple and straight forward like planting wheat on the farm.   You prepare the soil and plant the seeds and without too much trouble the wheat germinates and after a few months the wheat is ready to harvest.  Of course, there has to be sufficient rain for it to grow but other than that growing wheat doesn’t require a lot thought or effort.  It doesn’t require any soul searching or deep thought.   Maybe I should just go back down on the farm and things would work themselves out in time.

1 comment:

Biki said...

Lovely, sweet chapter!