Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Man from Swift Current Chapter Thirty Nine - Glenn's Family

Chapter Thirty Nine - Glenn's Family 

Rick awoke in Glenn’s arms.   It was still dark and Rick could barely see Glenn’s face.   He tried not to move for fear of waking Glenn up.   Rick tried to go back to sleep but his mind kept racing. 

He thought, “The last thing I remember was crying my eyes out and Glenn’s arms holding me tight.   I remember feeling so alone and abandoned by my family that being here with Glenn’s family made me realize even more just how much I had lost.   I know it wasn’t their fault that I was feeling so badly.   The more they accept me as Glenn’s partner and extend their love for him to me, the more it hurts.   At first, I was very excited to be here and to finally meet Glenn’s family.   I didn’t expect to be emotionally crippled by the love they have shown me.   I’m so used to being in complete control of myself that my emotional instability is making me crazy!   I have never been this out of control before in my entire life.” 

“The only thing that keeps me going is the fact that I know that Glenn loves me unconditionally.   I am absolutely certain of that fact.   I see it in his eyes and he demonstrates it with his every word and his every action.   I feel so totally unworthy of Glenn’s love.   He is so trusting and so child-like in his love for me.   I can’t help but feel love for him.”   

“Yet, I feel so torn up inside.   Glenn has told me many, many times he’ll stand by me as I work through my problems.   He has encouraged me to seek out professional help but I’m too afraid of what I might find out to do that, yet.   I still haven’t been able to reconcile myself to the fact I’ve fallen in love with a guy.   I don’t feel like I’m gay inside but I can’t hide from the fact I love another guy.”

“My troubled thoughts must have manifested themselves physically because Glenn began to stir.   His arms unconsciously tightened around me.   I held my breath for a moment to see if he would go back to sleep.   After a moment, his hold on me relaxed as he sank back into a peaceful slumber.   I tried to relax as well and finally succeeded in getting back to sleep.”

Rick succeeded in falling asleep because the next thing he knew it was morning.

*** ***

We were up early and on our way to Aneroid.   My Dad wanted to be on the road early.   So we had a quick breakfast and loaded all of our things into the trunk of the car.   Nancy, Rick and I sat in the back with Mom in the front passenger’s seat.   It was a little cozy being stuck in the middle but I didn’t mind since I had an excuse to be in close physical contact with my lover boy!   Rick put his arm around me as I snuggled up close.  

Dad glanced in the mirror as we started the trip to our farm and said, “No making out in the backseat boys!”  

I turned three shades of red and didn’t say anything.  Rick laughed and replied, “Not a problem, Dad.”

Dad took Highway 4 out of Swift Current and then turned on Highway 43 to Vanguard.   About half way to Vanguard, Dad looked in the mirror for a second and asked, “Are you up for a quick visit to your cousin, Lorna?”

“Sure, Dad, if that’s okay with you, Rick?”  I said, looking at Rick who nodded his agreement. 

Nancy spoke up, “I’m glad we are stopping to see Lorna and her family.   I wanted to see their new baby.”   Turning to Rick, Nancy explained, “Lorna and her husband, Duane, have three darling little girls.   The baby is 5 weeks old.”

Mom spoke up, “I wanted to stop for a few minutes to see the baby and drop off a gift.   We called them last night to make sure they would be home this morning.”

We spent the rest of the trip to Vanguard giving Rick a rundown on our family.   Nancy took out a piece of paper and drew out a miniature family tree to show Dad’s brothers and sisters and their families to show they were all related.   She even wrote down where they lived so Rick would have an idea of who lived close by and those who lived down east.

“Where is down east,” Rick asked, looking a little puzzled.

Nancy explained, “Its southern Ontario in what we call the banana belt.   It is further south and east of here so we call it down east.”

“So some of your family lives in southern Ontario?” Rick asked.

“Yes, in St. Catharines not far from Buffalo, New York,” Nancy explained.

It wasn’t long before we arrived at Lorna’s home.   Lorna invited us in and I introduced Rick to Lorna and Duane.   The baby stole the show from that moment on.   We all took turns holding the baby as Mom visited with Lorna.   It wasn’t long before I could see Dad getting anxious to be on his way.   Mom noticed as well and told Lorna we needed to be going.   We wished them well and climbed back into the car for the last leg of the trip home.  

Dad headed straight south from Vanguard to Aneroid.   As we approached the farm from the north, Dad slowed down a bit so he could show Rick where our land started.   We soon turned down the lane towards the farm house.   The field next to the house lay fallow just as Dad had told Uncle Dave it was.  

Dad pulled the car up next to the door and announced, “Welcome home boys!”

Dad had painted the garage and had added the name of the farm and the date it was settled over the garage door, “Lindon Acres, 1910.”

“Wow!  Has your family really been here that long?” Rick asked.

“Yes, it has.   Our family originally settled in Belleview, Ontario, in 1856.   However, as the family grew in numbers over the years, we have spread out a bit as Nancy showed you on the way here,” Dad said.   “We're very proud to be Canadian farmers.   Of course, we are also just as proud of the rest of our family’s accomplishments such as my brother, Allen, who is serving as the Minister of Finance in Ottawa.”

We unloaded the car and carried everything inside.   I led Rick up to my room.   We put our stuff down and closed the door.   Rick looked around my room.   He walked over to take a closer look at my soccer trophies sitting on a shelf above my dresser.

“You didn’t tell me you played soccer,” Rick commented.

“Well, the subject never came up.   We've always had so many other things on our minds,” I said, smiling up at him.

Rick intentionally ignored my suggestive comments and continued to examine the photos on my dresser.   “You were so cute when you were younger.   What happened?” Rick laughed as he reached for me.

I evaded him and sat down on my bed and said, “What happened?   Well, I became the handsome young man you fell in love with, Rick.   That’s what happened lover boy!”

Next Rick moved over to look at the photos that were hanging on the wall.   “Who took these photos?” he asked.

“I did.   I love photography.   I took several classes in school and I think I did pretty well for an amateur photographer.   I have a Pentax 35 mm I ordered through the mail.   I also managed to save enough money to buy a couple of other cameras,” I said as I got up from the bed and moved over to my dresser.

“These are my cameras,” I said, showing him the Pentax, Vivitar and Olympus cameras and the different lenses for each of them.

“You must be pretty serious about photography to invest so much in this kind of equipment,” Rick commented upon seeing the different cameras and lenses.   “Which one is your favorite one?”

“I like the Vivitar.   It’s the easiest to use and I don’t have to carry a lot of extra gear with me to take good photos.   I took these photos with this camera,” I said, pointing to the photos on my bedroom wall.

Rick stood in front of a photo of two seagulls gliding on extended wings with the sun shining through their feathers.   “How did you manage to take this shot?”

“That one was taken in Duluth, Minnesota, on the shores of Lake Superior.   Dad took us there a couple of summers ago.  The wind was blowing so hard off of the lake that day the birds were hovering just over my head.   I thought I would take a chance and snap a shot of the birds just to see how it would turn out,” I said.

“It sure is a cool shot.   Why don’t you bring it with you to hang in our apartment?” Rick asked me.

“That’s sound like a great idea.   I will probably take a few more of my photos with us when we return to school,” I said as I pulled out my portfolio.   “Here are some more of my favorite photos.   We can pick out the ones we like the best and take them with us.”

We were sorting the photos out on my bed when someone knocked on the door and a tall, dark-haired, well built guy walked in and said, “Hey little brother, welcome home.”

I jumped up and gave him a big hug.  It was obvious I loved my brother.   “I’m glad to be home,” I said.   Turning to Rick, I said, “Rick, this is my brother, Eric.”

“Glad to meet you, Eric.   Glenn has told me you are his favorite brother,” Rick said, smiling at Eric extending his hand which Eric shook firmly.

“He had better say that after everything I’ve done for him over the years,” Eric said as he winked at me to let me know he was teasing me.

“Mom tells me you two are life partners.   Is that true?” Eric asked.

“Yes, it’s true Eric,” Rick answered, putting my arm around my waist.

“Well, I guess I should start calling you my brother-in-law, Rick.   Of course, you will have me to deal with if you don’t treat my baby brother right,” Eric said laughingly but I could tell he was dead serious about what he said.   I hoped Rick would never have to deal with Eric’s wrath!  

I looked over at Rick and I saw this had registered with him as well.   “You don’t have to worry, Eric.   I love your brother very much and I will never hurt him,” Rick said.   “Glenn, your family never ceases to amaze me.   First, your parents accept me as your life partner and even your siblings have not only accepted me but have expressed their support of our relationship.”

Eric said, “We’ve had our ups and downs as a family.  The hard times have taken a heavy toll on us but we’ve managed to overcome our problems and have come out closer and stronger as a family.   I’m sure you’ve already heard Randy’s story.”

“Yes, I met Randy and Shawn when they picked us up from the airport,” Rick said.

“Good.   I hope we never have a repeat of what happened between Dad and Randy,” Eric said fervently.   “That was a very dark time for our family.   Guys, Mom needs some help in the kitchen getting things ready for tonight.   She wants you two to join her in the kitchen.”

“Okay, we will be right down after we put these photos away,” I said.

Eric left us to clean up the photos.   I put away the photos we decided not to take with us and left the ones we wanted on top of my dresser.   Rick and I went downstairs to see what Mom wanted us to do for her.

I asked, “Mom, what do you need us to do for you?”

“Will you peel these potatoes and make them into a potato salad while I make some homemade rolls?” Mom asked.

“Sure,” I said.   Mom had already pulled out all of the ingredients to make potato salad.  We quickly peeled the potatoes and chopped up the celery, onion and dill pickles.   I mixed up the mustard and salad dressing and stirred it into the vegetables.  I pulled out a spoon and dipped out a sample for Rick to taste.

“How do you like it?” I asked Rick.

“It tastes pretty good.   Not bad for a farm boy!” Rick said.

I punched his shoulder and said, “I know how to cook better than you do buddy boy!”

“That is true, but I’m sure you learned everything you know from your Mom,” Rick responded with a smile.

Mom looked over at us and laughed.  “Yes, I did teach him everything he knows about cooking.   Glenn spent a lot of time in the kitchen helping me cook.”

“Those are my favorite memories of home.   I love spending time with Mom in the kitchen, especially in the morning before everyone else gets up.   I used to go out running every morning before breakfast.   I’d shower and come down here to help Mom with breakfast,” I said.

“How come you don’t go out running anymore?” Rick asked.

“You dare ask me why I don’t get up early and go out running after you wear me out every night?” I asked, laughing as Rick started to blush.

“Glenn!  Stop embarrassing your partner!” Mom scolded me.  “Give the boy a break!  Besides, you are starting to embarrass me as well,” she said sternly.

“Sorry, Mom.   I didn’t mean to embarrass you,” I said, looking over at Rick.

“Hey! Don’t forget me, too?” Rick teased.

I put my arms around him and looked up into his face.  "I’m sorry if I embarrassed you.”

It was too much for me to resist.   I had to give my lover boy a quick kiss even if my mother was watching.

“That’s okay,” Rick responded after we broke off kissing each other.

My Mom nodded her approval, “That’s better.   Are you two finished with that potato salad?”

“Yes.   We are finished putting together the salad,” I responded.

“Okay, put it in the refrigerator to chill until dinner.   I’ve got things under control here.   Glenn, why don’t you play for Rick since I know you haven’t been practicing as much as you should?” Mom suggested.

“I don’t know, Mom.   Rick, are you up to listening to me practice?” I asked.

Rick nodded his head in the affirmative, “You know I love to hear you play.  It is so relaxing.   You're pretty good on the violin, too, but I like the piano better.”

We moved into the front room where the baby grand piano stood.   I sat down at the piano and motioned for Rick to join me.   Rick sat down on the bench and put his arms around me.

“What do you want to hear?” I asked.

“I like the Beethoven sonatas you played at your Grandpa’s house a couple of weeks ago,” Rick said.  “I’m going to sit on the couch where I can relax and enjoy the music.”

“Just don’t fall asleep on me like Grandpa does!” I laughed and jabbed Rick in the ribs as he got up off the piano bench.

“Don’t worry!   I’m going to listen to see if you make any mistakes.   So you had better do your best, lover boy!”  Rick said as he sat in the recliner and put the foot rest up and stretched out with his hands behind his head.   That is what he calls his listening mode!   I executed the piece beautifully and flawlessly.  Once I had finished with the Beethoven, I moved on to some of my favorite Chopin pieces.  

Rick started to drift off as he watched Glenn playing.  He knew once he got started Glenn would lose himself in the music.   It was if he was in his own little world he became so completely absorbed in the sound and feel of the music.  

Rick thought to himself, “I love watching his face as he plays.  It’s so expressive of his feelings about the music he’s playing.  When I'm listening to Glenn play, it makes me realize just how lucky I am to have found him but I'm not handling the fallout of loving him very well.”

“Rick it’s time for lunch,” I said, shaking him by the shoulder.

Rick opened his eyes and stared into my eyes.   I bent over and kissed him.  “I love you, Rick Lernier,” I said, “even when you fall asleep listening to me play.”

Rick put down the foot rest and I grabbed his hands and pulled him up out of the chair.  It was a good thing I did because he was still a little groggy from taking a nap.   Rick automatically leaned on me to keep his balance.

“Are you okay?” I asked.   “You seem a little unstable.”

“I’m okay.   I just got up to quickly that’s all,” Rick replied.   “Remind me I need to tell you something later.”

“Sure, Babe,” I said, smiling up at Rick.   “You know I always love talking to you.”

We joined my family in the kitchen.   There were some new faces Rick didn’t recognize, a very handsome man who looked just like Glenn only taller and a gorgeous woman with auburn hair, green eyes that sparkled, and a beautiful smile.   Before anyone had a chance to introduce Rick, he was surprised when two little kids grabbed him around the legs.

One, a little girl with auburn hair and freckles, looked up at Rick and said, “Mom says you are our new Uncle and you're in love with my Uncle Glenn.”

Before he could say anything, the other one, a boy with blond hair and big blue eyes who looked a couple of years younger, said, “Yeah, can we call you Uncle Rick?”

“I’m sorry, Rick.   I’m Glenn’s sister-in-law, Jessica, and these are my children, Miriam and Jack.   They are 6 and 4 years old and they are very excited to see you.  I hope you don’t mind that they call you Uncle Rick?”

“No, I don’t mind.   I was just surprised that’s all,” Rick finally managed.   He knelt down as the children released his legs so he could look into their eyes as he talked to them.  “Miriam, to answer your question, yes, I am in love with your Uncle Glenn and I am happy to be your new uncle.   Is that okay with you?”

Miriam’s green eyes lit up as she thought of her next question.  “Does that mean you are going to marry Uncle Glenn?”

“Yes, it does if he’ll have me,” Rick said, looking up with a smile at me.

“Of course, I’ll have you!” I responded, ruffling his hair.

Miriam clapped her hands together and jumped up and down with excitement.   “Can I be in the wedding?”

“Yes, Miriam, when we have the wedding, you can be in it.” Rick said, smiling at her as she started dancing around the kitchen.

Rick turned his attention to Jack who had been standing there thinking.   “What’s up, Jack?   Do want to ask me a question, too?”

“Does this mean you and Uncle Glenn can play ball with me?” Jack asked.

Rick nodded, “Yes, we can play ball with you if that’s what you want to do?”

Jack smiled and reached his arms up to give Rick a hug.   Rick picked the little guy up and gave him a hug in return.   Jack smiled and looked into Rick’s eyes.  “I like your eyes, Uncle Rick.   They look like happy eyes.”

“You have happy eyes, too, Jack,” Rick responded with a grin.   “I’m glad you want to play ball with me.”

Rick set Jack down and stood up as Jack asked, “Can we play ball after lunch?”

“Sure Jack,” he said, grinning at the eager little boy.

“Thanks for being so understanding with our children,” Jessica said.   “Let me introduce you to my husband, Gary.”

Gary reached out his hand to take Rick’s.   “I’m glad to meet you, Rick.   Mom has told us a lot about you.   I’m happy Glenn has met someone who will keep him out of trouble.”

Rick laughed and said, “I don’t know about keeping him out of trouble but I will keep a very close watch on him.”  Rick couldn’t help noticing how similar Glenn and his brother, Gary, were in physical appearance.   “You look a lot like Glenn.”

Gary laughed.  “Yes, we've always looked a lot alike except for our height.   Glenn has always been the shortest one in the family and I’ve always been the tallest.”

I chimed in, “But I’m not the shortest one anymore!”

“Are you sure, little brother?” Gary laughed.   “We will have to measure you to see how tall you are now.   You still look short to me!”

“That’s only because you and Rick are so tall you make me look short!” I retorted.

Jessica came to my defense, “You know he’s right guys.   I’m not short either but you two make me feel short.”   She came over and put her arm around me.   “We have to stick together, Glenn.   These two will gang up on us otherwise.”

Watching them standing there together, Gary could see they were almost the same height.   “Yeah, Glenn, even Jessica is taller than you,” Gary said, laughing at my expression.

“She is not!   She’s wearing heals,” I protested.

Jessica gave me a kiss on the cheek.   “Don’t worry, Glenn.   It’s okay if I’m taller than you.   You have Rick to defend you if you need him.”

I looked at Jessica in exasperation.  “Jessica, I don’t need Rick to defend me.   I can hold my own you know.”

Mom intervened before anyone could respond, “Okay, let’s sit down to eat before the food gets cold.”

We all sat around the table and enjoyed a great meal.   The conversation revolved around farming and Gary’s dreams of expanding his operations by buying the neighboring farms.   He has a real passion for farming.   As Gary talked, Jessica kept watch over the children to make sure they ate some of their food.   They were so excited to see us they didn’t want to eat.

As soon as we finished eating, Jack went over to Rick and asked, “Can we play ball now?”

Jessica smiled at her son and said, “It looks like you have made a fan already, Rick.”

Rick responded to Jessica, “Yeah, now I have to make sure I honor my promise to play ball.”   He stood up from the table.   “If you will excuse us, I did tell Jack we would play ball after lunch.”

Dad said, “Go ahead Rick and take Glenn with you.   Gary and I have some things we to discuss.”

Jessica and Mom nodded their approval as well.   Rick took Jack by the hand.  “Come on, Jack.   Let’s go outside and play ball.”

I followed Rick and Jack outside.   Jack took us over to the garage.  “You have to open the garage.   Grandpa keeps the balls in there.”

I stepped forward and pulled up the garage door so we could go inside.   As soon as the door was high enough, Jack ran inside to get his ball.   Before the garage door was all the way up, Jack had returned with his ball.

“Here’s my favorite one.   Let’s go play,” he said with a big grin.

We played kickball until Jack sat on the ground and said, “I’m tired!”

Rick went over and picked up the little guy up and handed the ball to me.  “Glenn, will you put the ball back and I will meet you back inside.   I think we need to get a drink of water.   How would you like that, Jack?”

Jack grinned and put his arms around Rick’s neck.   “You're the best uncle!   When are you coming to live with us?”

“Well, Jack, Uncle Glenn and I are still going to school so we can’t come here to live until we have graduated from school.   Is that okay with you?”

“Does that mean you will be going away, again?”  Jack asked his little face pulled into frown.

“Yes, Jack.   It means we will be at school for awhile,” Rick said.   “But I promise we will come back to see you.   Is that okay?”

“No, it’s not okay!   I want Uncle Glenn and you to stay here,” Jack said petulantly.

I came to Rick’s rescue, “Jack, what if we play ball with you every day while we're here visiting?   Would that make you feel better?”

Jack’s face brightened as he grinned, shouting, “Yes, yes, yes!   Can you come to my house and play ball, too?”

I responded, “I’m sure we can come over tomorrow unless Grandpa and Grandma have other plans.”

Rick carried Jack as we headed back inside.   Everyone had moved into the front room.    As we entered, Jessica looked up and asked, “Jack, did you have fun playing ball with your uncles?”

“Yes, I did.   Can they come play ball at our house tomorrow?” Jack asked excitedly.

“Yes, Jack.   Your uncles can come over tomorrow and play ball with you,” Jessica answered.   

Rick put Jack down and he ran over and climbed up on his Grandpa’s lap and looked up into his Grandpa’s face.   “Grandpa, can we go fishing at Lac Pelletier?   You promised we could go when Uncle Glenn came home to visit.”

Rick looked over at me in surprise.  He said, “I had no idea Glenn even liked to camp let alone go fishing.”

I smiled and explained, “Dad used to take us camping at Lac Pelletier and we did a lot of boating and fishing there when we were younger.   Lac Pelletier is just one of the 100,000 lakes in Saskatchewan.”

Dad responded to Jack, “Yes, Jack we can go fishing if Glenn and Rick are okay with that.”   Dad looked over at us for confirmation.  

“I think we are up for some fishing.   It sounds like great fun!” Rick said grinning with the same excitement as Jack.

“Good.   Jack, we will be over before sunrise to pick you and your Dad up so we can get out on the lake just as the sun comes up.   Are you sure you want to get up that early?”

“Yes, I do.   It’s Dad that has problems getting up early,” Jack said, smiling at his dad.

We all looked at Gary who laughed.  “Jack is correct about that!   I hate getting up early!   Jack is always up at the crack of dawn, wanting someone to fix him breakfast.   Remember, Glenn, you were always the first one up in the morning helping Mom fix breakfast for the rest of us?”

“Yes, Mom used to send me upstairs to get the rest of you lazy people out of bed!   I learned to run fast to keep from getting beat up sometimes!   You and Randy were especially bad about getting up early,”  I responded.   “Eric and Nancy were usually awake and getting dressed when I came upstairs to get you all for breakfast.”

“When are Randy and Shawn coming down?” Gary asked.

“They should be here later this afternoon.   They promised to be here in time for dinner,” Mom answered.   “Randy called me just before you boys came in from playing ball with Jack.”

“Uncle Ben and Aunt Katie will be here as well,” Dad said.   “Uncle Ben and your cousins will be spending the night with us.   We’ve made up the motor home for the girls.   Uncle Ben will be using the spare room.   Aunt Katie is going spend the night with Gary and Jessica at their place.”

Eric spoke up, “Laura is coming up with Uncle Ben so she can spend some time with us as well.”

Rick asked, “Who is Laura?”

“She’s my fiancée.   We plan to be married next June after school gets out.   Laura will graduate from the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon in the spring,” Eric said.

“What is Laura graduating in?” Rick asked.

“She is graduating as an education major and plans to be a teacher,” Eric responded.   “We are hoping she can get a teaching job close to home either in Kincaid or in Shaunavan.   Glenn, do your remember Emil and Eveyln over in Hazenmore?”

“Yes, I remember them.   What’s up?” I asked.

“They wanted you to stop by and see them when you got home.   They have been asking about you,” Eric said.   “You used to go over and play the piano for them sometimes.   Old Emil isn’t doing too well.  If you want, I can run you and Rick over there right now before everyone gets here.”

I looked over at Mom and asked, “Do we have time to pay them a visit Mom?”

“Yes.   The rest of the family won’t be here until around 5 PM,” she said.   “I’ve got some fresh rolls and some homemade jam ready for you to take over to them.   You will find them on the counter in the kitchen.”

Eric and I got up and went into the kitchen and returned with the jam and fresh rolls.   “Let’s go Rick,” Eric said.

Rick followed us outside and climbed in beside me in the front of Eric’s pickup truck.   It was an old Ford F150.   It was silver when it was new but the paint had faded to a gun-metal grey with lots of rust spots all over it.   I scooted over closer to Rick as Eric started her up and shifted into first gear, letting the clutch out slowly.  

Rick took the opportunity to put his arm around my shoulders and pull me even closer to him.   He leaned over and stole a quick kiss.

Eric laughed at us and said, “Now, none of that you two.   You’ll have to wait until you’re up in your room tonight for anymore of that stuff.”

Rick was blushing furiously.   He was so accustomed to giving me a quick kiss when we got in the Jeep that he didn’t’ even give it a second thought.

I elbowed my brother in the ribs.  “As if you don’t kiss Laura when she’s riding with you,” I said accusingly.

It was Eric’s turn to blush.   “You got me there, little brother.   Okay, I guess I can’t give you two a hard time about showing your affection for each other.   I know Laura and I aren’t exactly bashful about how we feel about each other.”

Eric turned onto Highway 13 and turned east towards Hazenmore.   Hazenmore is a village just a little over halfway between Aneroid and Kincaid where our high school is located.   It wasn’t long before we pulled up in front of Emil and Evelyn’s home.

“Here we are boys,” Eric said.

Rick and I carried the rolls and jam while Eric bounded up the steps to the front door.   Before he had a chance to ring the doorbell, the door swung open to reveal a petite woman with very fine features.   She appeared to be in her late eighties.  

Evelyn invited us in, “I’m glad you could come, Glenn.   Emil has been asking about you all day.   His memory is going and he doesn’t hear too good any more.   Who is this fine, young gentleman with you?”   Evelyn eyes twinkled merrily as she smiled up at Rick.

“This is my partner, Rick,” I said by way of introduction.  “He’s my roommate at college, Evelyn.”

“Well, Glenn, you did pretty good finding him,” she said, smiling at me.   “He’s a real looker.   If I were only a little younger, I’d go after him myself.”  Evelyn laughed and patted Rick on the arm.   “Don’t you worry, Rick.   I’m sure Glenn will take good care of you.”

We had moved into the front room where there was a hospital bed set up next to the window.   There was a tall, gaunt looking man lying in the bed who looked to be asleep.

Evelyn shouted in his ear, “Emil, wake up!   We have company!”   At first Emil didn’t stir, so Evelyn shouted in his ear again, “Emil, wake up!   Glenn’s here!”

This time Emil opened his eyes and when he saw me he shouted, “Hello, Glenn!   I’m glad you came by to see me!   Who is that young fellow standing behind you?”

I stepped up to the bed and bent down to Emil’s ear and shouted, “This is Rick my roommate!”

“Glad to meet you, Rick!” he shouted.

Rick reached out and took the frail hand he offered.   It shook with the effort to lift it.   Rick gently laid Emil’s hand back on the bed.

“Glenn, will you play for me?” Emil shouted at me.

“Yes, Emil I will play for you!” I shouted back.

Rick turned to Evelyn.  “Glenn’s mom sent these rolls and jam over for you to enjoy.”

“Tell Eva thank you for me.   She has always been very thoughtful.   We farming folk have to stick together you know.   Don and Eva have been running our farm for the last couple of years since Emil fell ill.   I don’t know what we would do without them,” Evelyn said, her eyes filling with tears. 

 “We couldn’t have children so there is no one for us to turn to now we're older.   We have been friends with the Nielsens since before I can remember.   We kind of adopted their kids as our own, especially these two,” Evelyn said as she pointed to Eric and Glenn.   “Eric and Glenn have spent many hours helping Emil to plant and harvest our wheat and never have they ever asked to be paid.   We have tried to pay their father who just like them won’t take anything in return for helping us.”

Rick looked over at me and Eric.   We both had tears in our eyes.   Eric spoke, “Evelyn, you know you're family to us and we take care of our family!”

Evelyn sat down in an armchair next to Emil and signaled for us sit on the couch.   “Your Mom and Dad have asked us to move in with them so they could help take care of Emil but I don’t want to be a burden to them.”

Eric replied, “You know it’s not a burden to care for those you love, Evelyn.   You are doing it every day when you take care of Emil.”

“I know you’re right, Eric, but I’m a proud old fool who’s not quite ready to admit  I need someone to help me!   Glenn, why don’t you play something for us?” Evelyn asked, changing the subject.

I took a seat at the old upright piano and started to play.   Rick watched Emil’s face as the music started.   He watched Glenn’s hands fly over the keyboard and he tapped his hand to the rhythm.  Rick was amazed Emil could hear the music since he was so hard of hearing.

A little while later, Emil’s eyes closed and he drifted off to sleep.   Evelyn got up and touched my shoulder.  “You can stop playing now,” she said.   “Emil’s asleep now.  He was so excited to see you, Glenn.   Please stop by, again, before you head back to school.   It will really make Emil happy.”

“Sure, Evelyn,” I said as I got up from the piano bench.   “We're going fishing tomorrow at Lac Pelletier but maybe we can stop in the following day.”

“Thank you boys for coming over.   It’s nice to meet you, Rick.   The Nielsens are a fine family and you will always be well cared for by them,” Evelyn said, smiling at Rick. 

Eric and I gave Evelyn a hug and a kiss on the cheek before we left.   We climbed back into Eric’s beat up old truck and headed back home.

There was a silence in the truck for a few minutes as Eric drove down the highway.   Erick broke the silence, “Emil won’t be around much longer, Glenn.”

“I know,” I responded solemnly.   “I could tell he’s gotten a lot weaker over the summer.   I’m glad we came over today.”

I held Rick’s hand for comfort because I was about to cry.   Rick released my hand and put his arm around me and pulled me close to him.  “It’s going to be okay, Glenn,” Rick said, trying to comfort me.

“It’s just sad to see Emil fading away like he is,” I said.   “He has been like a Grandpa to me.   I have spent many hours with Emil over the years listening to his stories and helping him with the farm.   Evelyn has always been there for us.   She has helped our family as much as we've helped her.”

Eric said, “Don’t be sad, Glenn.   Emil has led a long, fruitful life.   He’s been a blessing to all of us who know him.   We will miss him but his body has worn out.   Evelyn has done her best to care for him.   Aunt Mary has been down several times to help get things set up and to train Evelyn on what to do to care for Emil.   Uncle Dave brought the hospital bed down from Swift Current so it would be easier to care for Emil.”

I put my head on Rick’s shoulder and let the tears come.   Rick reached over and wiped the tears from my face.  “Don’t cry, Babe.   Emil is still with us and we will come back to see him in a couple of days.”

We rode in silence the rest of the way home.  It’s funny how Rick has already come to consider my home his home as well.   He’s been in Saskatchewan less than three days and has been completely won over by my family.   They are an amazing family even I do say so myself!  

As we pulled up to the farmhouse, I spotted three more cars parked there.   One I recognized as Randy and Shawn’s but the other two were unfamiliar to me.   They must belong to Uncle Ben and Aunt Kate.  

Eric confirmed my supposition, “Uncle Ben and Aunt Kate are here and so are Randy and Shawn.”   His voice showed his excitement.    I smiled at his enthusiasm.  

I shook off my sadness and started to tease Eric, “Why are you so excited?   Just because your fiancée is here you think you should be all excited!”

Eric laughed, “Am I so obvious?”

“Yes, you are,” I responded.

“I guess I’m just as much in love with Laura as you two are in love with each other.   I could tell you were madly in love with each other the moment I saw you two sitting on Glenn’s bed sorting out photos,” Eric said.

Rick looked over at me and squeezed my shoulders.   “You’re right about that Eric.   I love Glenn very much and I don’t care who knows it.”  

Eric reached over and dapped fists with Rick.  “Right on!   That’s how I feel about Laura.”

We got out of Eric’s truck and Eric practically ran into the house he was so excited.   Rick and I followed him at a slower pace.   Rick took my hand in his and leaned over and whispered in my ear, “Am I that bad?”

“No, you’re worse!” I retorted.   “But that’s okay with me.   I love seeing how excited you are to see me.   It makes me feel very special.”

“That’s because you are special, Mr. Nielsen,” Rick said.

We entered the house and stepped into the front room which seemed full of people.   Mom waved us over to her so she could introduce Rick.   “Ben and Kate this is Glenn’s life partner, Rick.   They are going to school together at Georgia Tech.”

Rick put his hand out to shake theirs.  “I’m glad to meet you both.”

Uncle Ben said, “Nice to meet you.   Eva has been telling us what a nice boy you are.   She isn’t very easy to impress so you must be pretty special.”

His words made Rick blush a little.  “Thanks Uncle Ben.   I’m nothing special.   I’m just a regular guy.”

Aunt Kate disagreed, “No Rick.   Eva’s right.   You're special because Glenn chose you to be his life partner.   That makes you one of us now.   Glenn has always been a very good judge of character so if he thinks you’re special you must be.”

Now it was my turn to blush.  “Thanks Aunt Kate.   Rick is more than just a regular guy to me despite what he says.”

Uncle Ben said, “I understand you met my oldest daughter, Lorna, and her husband earlier today.”

“Yes.   We stopped on our way down from Swift Current,” Rick said.

“These are my other daughters,” he said as three young girls came up beside him.  “This is Rebecca, Jeannie, and Victoria.”

They spoke in unison, “Glad to meet you Rick.”

“Nice to meet you, too,” Rick replied.

“They have kept me going since my wife died.   I’m afraid I haven’t been a very good father since she passed away,” Uncle Ben said.   “Eva, here, says I need to find me someone and get remarried.”

“You know I’m right, Ben,” Eva said.

Uncle Ben nodded his head in agreement, “I know you’re right but it’s hard to start dating, again, after having been married so long.”

“I’m sure you’ll figure it out, Ben,” Eva replied with a smile.

The girls made their way out of them room when Nancy called to them to come upstairs to her room.   Rick and I sat down next to Aunt Kate.   Randy and Shawn soon joined us as did my Dad.  Rick had a nice visit getting to know them.  

*** ***

Rick couldn’t help but think of the difference between his family and Glenn’s.   He thought, “These people all seem very happy to let Glenn and I love each other as well as being okay with Randy and Shawn’s relationship.   No one had anything negative to say and they went out of their way to make us feel welcome as couples.   I feel like I have landed in a different dimension or on a different planet than the one where my parents and extended family live.   This place is full of love and acceptance.   It seems that everyone is valued for who they are and not for what others expect them to be.   Glenn’s family is everything I wish my family would be for me right now.   Am I a little envious?   Yes, but in a good way.   I’m happy for Glenn to have such a supportive family and I’m just as happy that they extend that same support to me as his life partner.  

I know things weren’t always like that for them.   Randy and Shawn have suffered through the same things I am right now with my parents.   Thanks to Glenn’s Uncle Dave and his mother, Randy and Shawn are, again, part of this family.   Knowing that Glenn’s family has managed to mend itself, maybe there is hope for my family, too.

I looked around the room at Randy and Shawn cuddling on the love seat, Eric and Laura holding hands next to me and Glenn on the couch.   I could see the love radiating from each of the other couples.   I’m sure that if I could see myself and Glenn, I would see that same love radiating from us as well.   Don, Glenn’s Dad, I still can’t quite bring myself to think of him as Dad, yet, brought in a chair from the kitchen and sat next to Eva.   The look she gave him spoke of their many years of togetherness and the deep abiding love they had for each other.   No wonder their children had such happy relationships with their significant others!   They had a great example in their parents!”

*** ***

We visited with each other until dinner time.   Aunt Kate and Mom directed us how to set the table for the large gathering of family.   Amazingly, we all managed to fit around the kitchen table which had been extended by the addition of several extra leaves.   The meal was wonderful and the company as well.

After supper, Mom and I entertained everyone with music.   As the evening wore on, Mom pulled out a couple of old songbooks and handed them out.   Pretty soon, we were all singing familiar folk tunes and songs from movies, etc.   All the chairs had been brought in from the kitchen so everyone had a seat around the piano.   On a couple of the songs, my cousins did a little dance routine and acted out the motions to the songs.  

When we had worked our way through the songbook, Mom suggested that we clear the floor and that we do some country dancing.   It didn’t take us long to move the chairs out and to push the furniture to the walls to clear enough space to dance.   Uncle Ben and Dad pulled out their guitars and Eric his harmonica and they started up some country music that had our feet stomping before they had completed their introduction.   I pulled out my violin and did some pretty fancy fiddling!   It was like having a country barn dance right there in the front room!

By the time we finished dancing, it was after midnight.   We helped put the furniture back and rearranged the chairs in the kitchen.   We said our good-byes to George and Jessica who took Aunt Kate home with them along with two very tired little children.

Rick helped me undress.   He undressed himself and joined me in bed as both of us were completely exhausted.

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