The Lernier Family
© 2011 Russ Nielsen
All Rights Reserved




Chapter 22: Phil and Garth

Rick was sitting in his office at the Pentagon finishing some paperwork when there was a knock on the door.   Before he could get up from his chair to open the door, it opened and Phil Magnacca entered his office closing the door behind him.   He looked at Phil in surprise.   It had been nearly three months since he and Glenn had seen him at a gay dance club in New York.   Rick had arrived in Washington, DC, early this morning from New York.   Lately, he had taken to riding the train down from Long Island.   He enjoyed the time to get caught up on his reading.   He usually caught the first train out of the Ronkonkoma Station on the Long Island Railroad into Penn Station and then caught the Acela Express train from New York to DC.   He took a cab from Union Station to the Pentagon.   Since traffic was making its way into DC, the ride to the Pentagon was a short one.   He looked Phil in the eyes and said, "Hey, Phil.   How are things going for you?"

"Not good, Rick.   Can we talk for a few minutes?" Phil asked, his dark eyes practically begging Rick to say yes.

"Okay, have a seat," Rick replied.

Phil sat down and then took a deep breath, "I think I am going to be fired for being gay."

"Why do you say that?" Rick asked in surprise.

"I made a pass at one of the Marines in the office," Phil said.

"Who was it?" Rick asked.

"It was Major General Bachman," Phil said.

Rick smiled, "I don't think you have anything to worry about.   He is a pretty straight arrow but I don't think you will be fired for making a pass at him."

"You don't know what happened.   I grabbed him in the restroom and gave him a deep, passionate kiss," Phil said.

"And how did he react to that?" Rick said, his curiosity getting the better of him.

"He said it was one of the best kisses he had ever had and that I had better be careful who I decided to kiss if I valued my life," Phil said.

"So what made you think you could kiss the general?" Rick said.

Phil blushed, "He slapped me on the ass when I passed him in the hallway and he has been flirting with me for a couple of weeks now."

Rick knew Major General Garth Bachman from his years in the Marine Corps Reserves in Atlanta.   Bachman had hired Rick on as a contractor when Rick had left the Marines.   He had been recently promoted from the rank of Lt. Colonel to the rank of Colonel when he had decided to go active duty and with the promotion came a new assignment at the Pentagon.   Bachman had told him he needed a few good men that he could trust to get the job done.  

Rick suspected that Bachman had prevented his expulsion from the Marine Corps for being gay.   One of his fellow Marines had informed him that someone had reported him to his commanding officer as being gay.   His commanding officer had been Lt. Col. Bachman.   Shortly afterwards, Bachman had approached Rick about leaving the Corps and joining his program at the Pentagon as a civilian contractor.   Fortunately, Rick's commitment to the Marine Corps was over and he decided to exercise his option to get out of the military.   Bachman hadn't mentioned his being gay at that time.   Later, Bachman had congratulated Rick on his marriage to Glenn.   The general had been very supportive of Rick with his family's needs since the twins were born and lately with the adoption of the three Reed children.

Phil's nervousness was very much in evidence as he waited for Rick to respond.   He had made a point of befriending Rick since he had discovered that he was gay.   That is how he had met the general.   From the moment he laid eyes on the guy, Phil had wanted to get him into his bed.   Phil liked older men and he especially liked men in uniform.   Most of his former lovers were either military or policemen.   When the general had started to flirt with him, Phil had been more than willing to play that came.   However, when he had kissed the general a few minutes ago, he had panicked and had run out of the restroom and straight to Rick's office.   He didn't know what to do because he had never had a relationship with someone who was in such a high position.

Rick looked at Phil and asked, "Why are you so nervous?"

Phil stopped fidgeting and answered, "I have never been in a relationship with someone with so much power before and in such a vulnerable one since the military doesn't allow gays to serve in the military.   I don't want to be the cause of the general's discharge from the military."

"I think that the general has a pretty good idea about what he is doing, Phil.   I wouldn't let it worry you.   Just relax and see where things go.   Garth may be playing with you to see how far you will go.   Knowing him, he may be testing you," Rick said.

"I can't just play along, Rick.   I want to have a long lasting relationship with him.   Maybe I will ask him to lunch and we can talk about it," Phil said.

"Phil, since when do you think you can ask the general out for lunch?   I think you need to wait until he approaches you," Rick counseled him.

There was another knock on the door.   This time Rick made it to the door before it suddenly opened as he reached for the door knob.   Major General Bachman stood in the doorway.   Rick smiled, "Good morning, General."

Bachman returned the smile, "Good morning, Rick.   I believe there is a certain young man hiding out in your office.   Do you think you could let me speak to him?"   Bachman paused and then said, "Alone."

Rick grinned and nodded, "Sure thing.   I will go get us some coffee.   I will be right back."  

Bachman moved back to allow Rick to leave his office and then he entered the office and closed the door behind him.  He walked over to Rick's desk and took Rick's seat behind it.   He looked over at the young man seated across from him.   He waited in silence until Phil finally looked up and met his gaze.   He smiled and said, "You shouldn't run off like a scared rabbit every time you decide to kiss a guy.   I was just beginning to enjoy it when you bolted from the room."  Phil looked at the general in surprise.   "Yes, I enjoyed the kiss as much as you did, Phil.   And to answer your unspoken question – no I'm not gay, or at least I wasn't until I met you.   I want to start dating you, Phil.   I felt a connection with you since the first time I laid eyes on you.   I have tried to fight off the feelings I have for you but every time I am around you I can't help thinking of how much I want to ravage your body."

The general stopped and waited for Phil to respond.   Phil was speechless!   He simply couldn't comprehend that his fantasies about dating and then living with the general seemed on the verge of coming true.   The general continued, "By your silence, I believe that you aren't opposed to dating me.    I want you to call me Garth from now on."

Phil finally seemed to come out of his trance and he said, "Garth, I am very honored."

Garth frowned and said, "Cut the crap, Phil.   There isn't any honor about what I am proposing.   I'm a dirty old man who wants to fuck your brains out, okay.   I know you probably have some romantic notions about having a "they lived happily ever after" relationship with me but I want to disabuse you of that idea right now.   I am willing to see what happens regarding a lasting relationship but I have to tell you up front that I can't wait to get your clothes off of you and have my way with you!"

Phil nodded his head, "I do want a relationship with you and I want you just as much as you want me."

Garth grinned, "Okay!   Since we both know what we want, I propose that we take this conversation to a more private location."   He stood up and walked around to stand next to Phil.   He reached down and took Phil by the hand and pulled him to his feet.   He pulled Phil into his embrace and kissed him.   He released Phil and said, "Let's go."

Garth led them out of Rick's office and then down the corridor.   Garth turned around and said to Phil, "Please keep up.   We don't have all day."   Garth led Phil to where he had parked his car and then drove them to a local hotel.   He pulled into the underground parking garage and they checked into a nice room.   They made their way to their room.   As soon as the door was closed, Garth locked it and then commanded, "Strip!"

The sharp command shocked Phil.   He looked at the Garth who had already begun removing his uniform.   Garth neatly folded it and placed it on the dresser.   Phil was standing stark naked in front of Garth.   Garth gave him an appraising look and smiled, "Damn!   You are so good looking, Phil."

Phil grinned, "You look pretty good yourself."  

Indeed, Garth did look pretty good.   Since his divorce, he had spent most of his time keeping his body in shape.   It was his way of dealing with the loneliness.   He had gone from a home filled with love and lots of activity to a dark and lonely existence in a small apartment.   His ex-wife had taken him to the cleaners.   He had to sell his business interests to pay the lawyers and to give his ex-wife her share of the businesses.   That had been his motivation to go active duty since he had been left nearly penniless after all of the court battles.  

His anger over the divorce had left him very embittered against all women.   His hatred of women had only increased over the years as he was repeatedly dragged back into court over custody of his children.   She had tried everything she could to get the judge to terminate his rights as a parent so that she would never have to deal with him again.   The latest court battle had left him even angrier than he had ever been towards his ex-wife.   The accusations she had made were so preposterous that even the judge had been disgusted by her bald-faced lies.   In the end, the judge had ruled against his ex-wife and told her that if she attempted to change the custody agreement one more time, that she would award full custody to their father.   The judge had also censured her lawyer for wasting the court's time with such specious and outlandish claims in order to persuade the court to award full custody to his client.   His ex-wife had looked daggers at him and had stomped out of the court room in a rage.  

It was after this latest incident that he had decided that maybe he needed to find a man as a companion.   Someone he could trust, someone he could count on to be there for him.   He knew he was taking a huge risk as far as his career was concerned but he was willing to take that risk.   Rick had introduced Phil to him a few months earlier.   He knew Phil was gay from the moment he met him.   More importantly, he knew that Phil was interested him.   He had pretended not to notice until two weeks ago.   He had made his decision to seduce the handsome young man who stood before him.    He smiled and took Phil in his arms and kissed him passionately.        

He pulled back and said, "I have never been with a guy before, Phil, and I want this to be just as enjoyable for you as it is for me.    I very much have to be in control but please help me to make this a good experience for you."

Phil smiled, "Don't worry about me, Garth.   I have dreamed about this moment from the day we first met."

Garth looked into Phil's eyes as he pushed him down onto the bed.

Rick returned to his office to find it empty.   He sat down at his desk and pulled out his cell phone.   He tried to call Phil but the call immediately rolled to voice mail.   Rick left a message for Phil to call him and hung up.   He shrugged his shoulders and went on with his work.   Later, he decided to have a late lunch since he had worked through the noon hour.   He had just taken a seat with his food when Phil sat down across from him.   His face said it all!

Rick said, "Let me guess – you just got laid."

Phil nodded his head, "Yes and it was as wonderful as I thought it would be."

Rick smiled, "I wondered when you didn't answer your phone if you hadn't gone somewhere with Garth."  Phil nodded but didn't say anything.   "Alright, I get it.   You can't say anything because of where we are."

Phil nodded and said, "I want to tell you everything, Rick, but Garth made me promise not to talk to anyone."

Rick nodded, "I am not surprised.   When are you going home?"

"I don't know.   Now that things are happening here, I'm not sure.   If I stay here past the end of this week, I will need to make arrangements for someone to care for my mother.   My sister has been staying with her the last two weeks but my brother-in-law has flatly refused to let my mother live with them and he won't allow my sister to stay any longer with my mother at my parents' house.   We don't have the money to pay for a care center or for a full time nurse to stay with Mom," Phil said looking extremely distressed.  

Rick could see he was deeply conflicted.   "You want to have a relationship with Garth but you don't know how to honor your commitment to help your mother at the same time.   Is that it?"

Phil nodded.   "Yes.   Up until now, I haven't had any reason to stay here in Washington for any length of time.   Whenever I have needed to travel, I have been able to manage because my sister has cared for Mom."

"Did Garth indicate that he wanted you to stay in Washington?" Rick asked.

"No, he didn't," Phil replied.   "I guess I made that assumption since he said he wanted to continue seeing me."

"Phil, you need to take things very slowly with Garth.   He isn't gay and I think you should take him at his word that all he wants from you is sex," Rick said.   "Isn't that what he told you?"

Phil's face showed that it was indeed what the general had said.   He nodded his head and then said, "Yes, he did say that.   He was very clear that he wasn't looking for a long term relationship."

Rick had finished eating his lunch and stood up to go.   Phil stood up and joined him.   They both returned to their respective offices to finish their day's work.   Rick was cleaning off his desk and had placed a number of folders in his briefcase to take home when his cell phone rang.   He pulled it out of his pocket and saw that it was Glenn.  He accepted the call and said, "Hello, Babe."

My voice was thick with emotion as I said, "Rick, Mrs. Reed has passed away."   I couldn't go on without completely breaking down.

Rick, sensing my distress, said, "It's okay, Babe.   I will be there in a few hours."

I managed to get control of my emotions, "Thank you sweetheart.   We need you."

Rick asked, "Where did she die?"

"In her bedroom.   She had lunch with us at noon and then said she was going to rest for a bit before continuing to work on her book.   When the children got home from school, she still hadn't come downstairs so I went up to check on her and found she had collapsed on the floor in her room.   I called 911 but the paramedics were unable to revive her," I said.

"How are the children handling it?" Rick asked with concern in his voice.

"The older ones are having a hard time, Rick.   The twins seem to be handling it okay but they really don't understand that Mrs. Reed isn't coming back," I said.

"I will be there as soon as I can," Rick said.   "I love you, Babe."

"I love you, too," I said.

Rick broke the connection and put the cell phone back in his pocket.   He picked up his office phone and dialed the general's number.   "Hello, Rick," Garth said.

"Garth, Mrs. Reed has passed away," Rick said.

"I'm sorry.   Please give my condolences to the rest of your family," Garth said.

"I will.   I will be heading home as soon as I hang up the phone.   I will probably need to work from New York until after the funeral," Rick said.

"That will fine, Rick.   Take all the time you need.   In fact, I plan to be New York as well," Garth said.

"Okay…." Rick said drawing out the word.

Garth laughed, "Okay, I plan to visit a certain person of our mutual acquaintance.   In fact, why don't you call him and we can drive up to New York together."  Rick didn't respond at first and Garth continued, "Don't worry, Rick, everything will work out.   We can talk more once we are on the road to New York."

Rick responded, "Okay, I will call him.   We will meet you outside your office in about 5 minutes."

Rick called Phil and said, "Mrs. Reed passed away this afternoon.   I am heading home.   Garth called and wants you to join us for the trip to Long Island."

Phil gasped, "You have got to be kidding."

"No, I am NOT kidding.   Meet me outside his office in 5 minutes," Rick said.   He hung up the phone and stood looking out of his office window.   He wondered what the general had in mind.   He was very worried about Phil.   He knew Garth wouldn't intentionally hurt Phil but the fact that he had told Phil he only wanted sex from Phil was a problem.   He turned around and left his office.   He met Phil outside the general's office.  

Garth opened the door and joined them in the hallway.   He looked at the two men and said, "Good.   Let's get going."

Garth led the way to his car.   The three men climbed inside and the Garth started the car.   Phil was seated next to Garth in the front seat.   Garth reached over and caressed the inside of Phil's thigh.   Phil put his hand over Garth's.   Garth looked over at Phil and said, "I hope you haven't had second thoughts about us."    Garth put the car in gear and they left the Pentagon.  

Phil hadn't responded to Garth's question.   He was uncertain about his own feelings and what he really wanted. 

Rick spoke up from the backseat.   "Garth, may I intrude on your conversation?" 

Garth glanced at Rick's face in the review mirror.   He nodded his head and said, "Go ahead."

"Garth, I know both of you and I am concerned for both of you so please don't get angry as I ask some very pointed questions," Rick said.   "First, what exactly are your intentions?   I mean is Phil a friend with benefits or is he someone you really have an interest in as a life partner?"

Garth wasn't surprised by the question.   He said, "I have been brutally honest with Phil about the fact that I find him attractive and that all I want at the moment is good sex from him."

Phil said, "Garth was pretty clear about that this morning."

"Are you okay with being Garth's sex toy?" Rick said.   "I know you have been in those kinds of relationships before and haven't been satisfied with them.   Are you sure you are ready for another friends with benefits situation?"

Phil answered, "I guess I am because I let Garth fuck me this morning and I sure enjoyed it.   Garth is great in bed!"

Garth laughed, "And so were you."

 "Then I will stop worrying about either of you and assume that you are aware of the risks that a gay relationship brings to someone in the military," Rick said.

Garth said, "I have considered the risks and I am willing to accept those risks.   I know that Phil wants a longer term relationship than just a one night stand.   I also know that I am still not ready to commit myself to any kind of a relationship.   I want to see how things work out between us before making any decisions I might regret later.   If you are worried that I will break Phil's heart, please rest assured that I will do everything in my power keep that from happening.   I have been hurt too deeply by my ex-wife to allow myself to hurt someone else."

Phil said, "I appreciate your candor, Garth.   Rick, thank you for being such a good friend and I appreciate your concern for me."

The conversation moved to other topics as they continued their journey to New York.   When they pulled into Rick's driveway, Garth said, "Thank you for driving up with us."

Rick responded, "Thanks for the ride.   I will let you know about the funeral arrangements when they are finalized."

Rick turned and went into the house.   He dropped his briefcase by the door and took his coat off and hung it up in the coat closet.   He walked into the family room to find Glenn asleep on the couch with a book open on his chest.   He walked over and gently removed the book and then knelt down next to his sweetheart.   He felt a tide of joy wash over him as he contemplated his husband's face.   Rick never ceased to be amazed by the depth of his feelings for this man.   He took Glenn's hand in his and he leaned over and kissed him on the lips. 

I was dreaming about being on a cruise ship with Rick and that he was making love to me when I awoke to find he was really kissing me.    Rick pulled back and I looked into his eyes, "I was having the most wonderful dream, Rick.   I was dreaming that you were making love to me and I woke up to find you were kissing me in real life.   You are my dream come true, sweetheart."

Rick smiled, "And you are mine….all of you."

I reached up and pulled his head towards me and kissed him.   I sat up and Rick joined me on the couch.   He put his arms around me and pulled me close.   "Let's go to bed.   We need our rest so we can deal with the funeral arrangements tomorrow."

"I already took care of those, Rick.   Remember, Maude paid for her funeral already.   She planned everything out in advance even down to the musical numbers she wants performed and what prayers she wants read at the service.   I notified the funeral home and they informed me they would take care of everything.   Since we are her only living family, I scheduled the funeral for the day after tomorrow which is the soonest they could do it.   Reverend Degen will conduct the service.   All we have to do is show up."

Rick smiled, "I am so glad I married you.   Thank you for taking care of everything."

I said, "However, I left the hardest part for you to do.   Each of the older children has asked to say a few words at the service.   Kyle has asked that you help him write down some things to say.   Ashley has already written a poem for her grandmother that she wants to read at the funeral.   David absolutely refuses to write anything down.   He says that he has nothing to say.   I don't have a problem with him not writing anything down but I think that he will regret not saying a few words at his grandmother's funeral.   Will you talk to him about it?"

Rick nodded his head and smiled, "I will do my best.   Come.   Let's go to bed."   Rick stood and took me by the hand to help me up.   He led me to our bedroom and helped me get ready for bed.   I was so mentally and emotionally exhausted that I just stood there and let him undress me and put me to bed.

We were sitting in the pews at the church listening to the service with our children sitting between us.   The service went exactly as Mrs. Reed had planned it.   She had chosen the readings, the music, and everything thing else.   At the appointed time, Kyle stood and went forward to read the tribute he had written for his grandmother.   Kyle's voice was clear and steady as began, "My grandmother was a saint.   After my parents died, she took us in and did her best to help us.   She loved us and cared for us.   These last few months I worked with her nearly every day on her life story and the history of our family.   I learned from her the value of hard work, how to be kind and gentle, and she shared her memories with me.   Those memories will live on forever now because she shared them with me and I will share them with my family.   She recorded many of them for us to treasure now that she has gone to a better place."

Kyle stopped as the tears rolled down his cheeks.   He turned towards the casket which was open showing his grandmother laying there.   He managed to continue, "I love you, Grandma."   He returned to his seat next to Rick.  

Rick put his arm around his shoulder and whispered, "Very well done, my son."

Kyle leaned his head on his Dad's chest and wept.   David stood up and made his way to the front of the sanctuary.   He cleared his throat and said, "My Grandma was the smartest woman I have ever known.   I love her very much.   I will miss her late night talks.   She could talk to me about so many things.   Grandma was always thinking and looking for more knowledge.   She taught me the importance of being open minded.   Grandma was logical and intelligent.   I hope I can meet her expectations of me.   Grandma always reminded me how stupid smart people can be.   She insisted that I not only learn new things but that I learn how to apply my new knowledge to improve myself and those around me.   She called that being wise.   Thank you, Grandma for teaching me to become not only learned but wise."

David returned to his seat on the other side of Rick.   Rick leaned over and whispered, "Well said, my son."

Next Ashley stood up and moved to where David had been standing a few moments earlier.   She pulled out the poem she had written:

"Grandmas are a gift

They are sent from heaven to lift

Our spirits and bring us joy

Grandmas help us enjoy

The Blessings we receive

Grandmas help us believe

That all things happen for a reason

That we will only be here for season

Thank you Grandma for the love

That you shared with us from above"

Ashley looked at her brothers and said, "Grandma made our lives so wonderful.   We will never forget you."

Ashley returned to sit next to me.   I said, "That was beautiful."   I reached up and wiped away her tears with my handkerchief and then put my arm around her.

Reverend Degen continued the service.   The twins were little angels during the entire service.   As we got up to follow the casket out of the church, JJ grabbed my hand.   He looked up and asked, "Where are we going now?"

I replied, "We are going to the cemetery where Grandma will be buried."   I looked behind me to see where Josh was.   I smiled as I saw he was holding Rick's hand.  

I looked into Rick's eyes and he smiled, "Don't worry.   I have Josh."

We made our way out to the mini-van.   Once everyone was situated, we followed the hearse to the cemetery.   Reverend Degen dedicated the grave and we were soon on our way home.

We arrived just as our friends began arriving.   We greeted them and led them inside.   John and Ann helped me set up the buffet table.   Ann and I had spent the better part of the last two days cooking.   Michael and Trish Gansel were there as well as Phil and Garth.   Zach and Todd came with Cameron and Skye.   As we were getting settled around the tables we had set up in the family room, I heard a knock on the door.   Rick got up to answer it and returned with Mrs. Prebich. 

I got up and gave her a hug.   "Thank you for coming.   Please join us."

Mrs. Prebich said, "Thank you the offer but I need to return to work.   I just wanted to personally express my condolences to you and the children.   Maude had become a dear friend of mine.   I have enjoyed visiting with her over the last few months and have learned to love her.   I will miss her."

While she was talking, Ann had put together a nice lunch for Mrs. Prebich.   She handed to Mrs. Prebich, "Take this with you.   Thank you for being a good friend.   Maude spoke very highly of you and we will always remember what you did for her."

Mrs. Prebich smiled, "Thank you, Ann.   I will see you later."   She turned to go and Rick followed her to see her out.

Rick returned and said, "Let's say grace."

We all held hands around the table and bowed our heads as Rick said grace.   Afterwards, we helped ourselves to the buffet.   I helped the twins with their plates.   Ann made their favorite – macaroni and cheese.   When I asked if they wanted something else besides macaroni and cheese, Josh said, "Dad, you know we don't like anything else."

"I know but I was hoping you would like to try something else," I said.

JJ said, "We like rolls.   May be have another roll?"

"Of course," I replied and placed a second roll on each of their plates.   "You have to eat everything on your plates before you get to have dessert."

Josh nodded his head, "We know."

I helped them get to their seats with their plates.   Cameron and Skye were already seated at the table with their plates piled high.   Rick came up behind me and wrapped his arms around me.   He said, "You are so wonderful."

I smiled and turned my head to kiss him.   "Thank you, Babe."

We joined the queue at the buffet table.   We sat down next to Zach and Todd.   "Thank you for coming on such short notice," Rick said.

Zach smiled, "We wouldn't miss Mrs. Reed's funeral.   She has been like a grandmother to our twins.   Cameron and Skye were pretty upset when we told them that she had passed away."

Todd said, "We miss you guys.   When are you moving back home?"

"School gets out the last week of May so I think we will be moving out of this house by the end of May so we won't have to pay rent for June," Rick said.   He looked over at his boss and his co-worker.   "I am sure you won't be unhappy to have me closer to work."

Garth smiled, "Of course, it will make things easier but I am glad that we were able to arrange for you to work remotely so you could get the adoption finalized before Mrs. Reed died."

"I am glad you guys moved here as well," Phil said.   "If I hadn't met you in that dance club a few months ago, I wouldn't have met Garth."

Garth looked at Phil and smiled, "I think Phil likes me."

Zach laughed, "I'd say that he more than likes you Garth.   From the looks of things, I'd say you need to take things to the next level."

Garth smiled, "I agree with you Zach.   Phil, I want you to move in with me.   You can bring your mother with you and I will arrange for someone to care for her while we are at work."

Phil's look of complete astonishment caused us to laugh.   John said, "You can close your mouth now Phil."

"You do look like a fish, Phil," Ann said.   "It's okay, dear, we understand that Garth has just rocked your world."

Phil finally closed his mouth and then he managed to ask, "Garth, are you serious."

"Yes, I am.   In fact, as soon as we are done eating, I want to start making arrangements for your mother's move," Garth said.

We could see that Phil was still having a hard time comprehending what was happening.   Rick said, "Phil, I believe that you and Garth have some talking to do.   Finish your lunch and then you two can go and do what you need to do."

Phil looked over at Rick and then back to Garth, "Okay."

Garth put his arm around his new found love and said, "Phil, I want everyone here to know that I love you."

Phil blushed and managed to say, "I love you, too."

We visited with our guests and enjoyed their company.   After cleaning up the dishes and putting away the leftovers, Ann and John bid us farewell.   John said, "See you tomorrow morning.   No sleeping in!   I will be waiting for our morning run."

Kyle said, "I will make sure they don't miss their alarm.   They might be getting old but they haven't become senile, yet!"

Rick laughed, "Okay, wise guy.   We will see who wins our little race tomorrow morning."

"I will because you haven't been out running the last few days.   You know how you old men are.   If you don't keep the muscles moving, they won't work anymore," Kyle laughed as he skipped away before Rick could grab him in a bear hug.   "You are also too slow to catch me."

Rick took off after the teenager who whooped at the top of his voice and ran up to his room and locked the door before Rick could catch him.   Rick said through the door, "I will be waiting for you when you come out!"

Kyle responded, "You will still be too slow."

Rick returned to the foyer and said, "We will see you tomorrow, John."

John laughed, "Kyle's a good kid.   He adores you two."

Ann and John left and then Michael and Trish Gansel bid us good bye.   Phil and Garth were next.   Rick pulled Phil aside, "Let me know what happens when you leave.  Okay?"

Phil smiled, "I will call you later."

They left holding hands as they went to their car.   Zach came up beside me and said, "I predict that they will be married soon."

Rick laughed, "That will be a minor miracle.   Garth is a general in the Marine Corps."

Todd said, "Well then, he will just have to retire won't he.   Phil absolutely worships the ground he walks on."

We returned to the family which had been transformed back into its usual self.   We sat down and visited with our friends as the children played games and watched their favorite movies.   Kyle managed to steal in quietly and wrap his arms around Rick without us hearing him.   He laughed and said, "I love you, Dad."

Rick said, "I love you, too, son."   Kyle released his Dad and came around to the front of the couch to take a seat next to Rick.   Rick placed his arm around Kyle's shoulders and asked, "How are you doing?"

Kyle said, "I'm okay.   I miss Grandma but I know that you and Daddy are here for me so I'm good.   Grandma knew what she was doing when she asked you to adopt us."

Rick smiled, "I think you're right about that, Kyle."

I looked around the room and relaxed.   It was good to be here with our friends and family.

Prev To be continued . . .