The Lernier Family
© 2011 Russ Nielsen
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Chapter 26: Justin

"Robbie, what has happened to Justin," I asked, dreading his answer.

"Justin is dead.  He committed suicide, Glenn," Robbie managed to get out between sobs.   "We couldn't stop him.   Adam and I tried, Glenn, but we didn't get home soon enough.   He called us to tell us good bye and that he loved us very much but that he couldn't go on living."

The impact of the tragedy left me numb.   Rick asked, "What happened?"   When I didn't answer him he took the phone from my hand and asked, "Robbie, what happened?"

Robbie said, "Justin's dead, Rick.   He's gone.   I can't believe he's gone."

Rick put his arm around me and I buried my face in his chest as the tears rolled down my face.   One of my dearest friends was gone.   I knew he was struggling but I thought he was going to make it with so many of our friends there in Toronto to help him.

"How did it happen?" Rick asked.

"Justin called me and Adam at our offices to tell us that he loved us and appreciated everything we had done for him over the years.   He said he couldn't go on living and that he wanted to tell us good-bye.   We rushed home but we were too late, Rick.   We were too late," Robbie said through his tears.

"Where are Adam and the triplets?" Rick asked.

"They are here with me.   Luckily, the children were at daycare.   We are staying at a hotel until we can get the house cleaned up.   The police were still there when we left to pick up the children," Robbie said.

"How did he do it, Robbie?" Rick asked.

Robbie burst into another fit of sobbing.   There was static on the line and then Adam said, "Rick, I don't think Robbie can talk about it anymore tonight."

Rick asked, "Can you tell me what happened?"

"Yes.   Justin shot himself with a pistol.   We didn't know that he had managed to buy a gun, or we would have taken it from him," Adam said.   "Justin seemed pretty happy the last few days.   That should have been our first clue that something was wrong."

Rick said, "Adam, take your family over to our house in St. Catharines.   Do you remember where we keep the spare key?"

"Yes, I do.  Thanks, Rick.   We will drive over there tomorrow.   We still have to talk to the police tomorrow before we can arrange to get someone to come in and clean the house," Adam said.

"Have you told Zach and Todd?" Rick asked.

"No, you are the first ones we have talked to since it happened.   Will you call everyone else?   We aren't up to the emotional stress to keep repeating what happened," Adam said.

"We'll take care of notifying the rest of the guys.   We will be there in the next day or two to help with making the funeral arrangements," Rick said.

"Thank you, Rick.   I knew we could count on you.   Love you," Adam said.

"I love you, too.   Hang in there, Adam.   We will be there as soon as we can get there," Rick said.   "I know you are trying to be strong for Robbie but don't forget to let yourself grieve for Justin.   It's okay to let your feelings show."

Adam was silent for a moment and then said, "I'm barely hanging on, Rick.   Now that we've told someone what happened and the children are in bed asleep, we can let our tears flow."

"Just remember all of the good times you had with Justin," Rick said.

"We do, Rick, believe me, we do.   He has been like another husband to me as he has been for Robbie.   Justin has been a very big part of our lives and we have really loved having him living with us.   Our only regret is that we weren't here to prevent Justin from carrying out his suicide plan."

"Don't beat yourself up over something you can't change.   There is nothing more you could have done, Adam," Rick said.

"Intellectually, we know that; however, there will always be something in the back of our minds that will make us wonder if we had paid closer attention to Justin's behavior, maybe we could have prevented him from killing himself," Adam said.

"Don't allow those thoughts to overwhelm you guys.   You have three beautiful children that need you.   Let your grief out now while they are asleep so you can be there 100 percent for them tomorrow," Rick said.

"Okay," Adam said.

"Remember that we love you, Adam," Rick said.   "Good night."   Rick ended the call and dialed Zach's number.

Zach picked up on the first ring, "Hey!   What's up?"

Rick said, "Put me on speaker so you both can hear."

"Okay, you're on speaker and we are both here," Zach said.

Rick relayed the information he had gotten from Adam about Justin's death.   Zach and Todd were silent after he finished.   "We will be leaving in the morning, Rick," Zach said.

"I haven't talked to Glenn, yet, about going up but we will probably be leaving for Toronto tomorrow as well.   Adam will be taking his family over to our place in St. Catharines in the morning.   There's plenty of room for all of us to stay there."

Zach said, "Thanks, Rick.   Let us know what your plans are."

"Okay," Rick said.   He ended the call and placed the cell phone on the night stand.   "What are we going to do?"

"We will leave tomorrow.   We need to make arrangements for the older children to get their assignments so they can go with us or we need to leave them with the Campbells so they won't miss school," I said.

"Let's ask the children what they want to do," Rick said.

We got up and made our way downstairs to the family room where they were watching a DVD.   Kyle saw us come into the room and immediately asked, "What's wrong?"

"Uncle Justin died today," I said in a choked voice.

Kyle immediately got up and came over to me and gave me a hug.   "It's okay, Daddy."   He smoothed my hair and then held me tight, again.   Kyle never ceases to amaze me.   Here he is comforting me and I should be comforting him.   Isn't that what parents were supposed to do?  

David stopped the DVD and looked over at Ashley who nodded her head in approval.   They both stood up and came over to me and wrapped their arms around me for a group hug.   Then Rick joined us, enfolding all of us in his comforting embrace.   After a few wordless moments, Rick said, "Let's go into the kitchen for some cookies and milk.   We need to talk to you three about our plans for the next few days."

He released us and we followed him into the kitchen.   Ashley grabbed plates and cups while David brought over the cookie jar.   Kyle retrieved the milk and we sat down together at the table.

Rick said, "We plan to leave tomorrow for St. Catharines.   We want all of you to go with us but we recognize that you may have important projects or assignments that are due before we get back.   We need to know if you need to stay home to take care of your studies so we can make arrangements for you to stay with the Campbells who will make sure you get to school."

Kyle said, "I don't have any tests or projects due until next week.   How long are we going to stay?"

"I don't know for sure, Kyle.   My guess would be a week at the most.   There haven't been any funeral arrangements made, yet, so we don't have enough information to tell you for sure how long we will be gone," Rick said.

Kyle said, "I want to go.   I want to play at Uncle Justin's funeral.   Last time we were in St. Catharines he listened to me practice and insisted that I keep playing.   I think he spent more time listening to me play the viola than anyone else I know.   I want to play his favorite piece for him one more time."   There were tears in his eyes as he finished.  

Rick reached over and put his hand on the young man's shoulder, "Okay, we will make sure you get on the program."   He then turned to David and Ashley, "What about you two?"

David said, "I can get my assignments from my teachers tomorrow but you will need to write a note explaining why I will be absent."

Ashley nodded her head, "I will need a note just like David.   I don't have any tests or major homework assignments due during the next week."

Rick smiled, "I'm glad we don't have to leave anyone home.   We will stop at both schools tomorrow morning to let them know what is going on and to get your assignments for the days you will be absent."

Kyle said, "I won't be able to miss my on-line physics class."

I nodded, "We have internet at the house in St. Catharines so you should be able to attend your on-line class sessions.    You need to make sure you take all of your gear so you can participate in class."

"I'll pack it as soon as were done here," Kyle said.   The school had provided special software for Kyle that required a couple of extra tools so he could draw his answers on the screen and participate in group activities.   I was pretty amazed at the technology as I watched him participate in his first few on-line classes.   His teacher was pretty amazing as well.   Watching Kyle do his school work really made me appreciate how much technology has changed our lives.

Rick looked over at me and asked, "Did I forget anything?"

I replied, "Nothing that I can think of right now.   I will call Aunt Hannah to let her know we are coming.   We need to call the rest of the guys and let them know about Justin."

"I'll do that now," Rick said.   He pulled his cell phone out of his pocket and dialed Mark and Brandon.   He stood up from the table and walked into the other room to talk.  

I looked at the three children seated with me at the table and asked, "Is there anything we have forgotten?"

Ashley said, "I think we need to make sure we bring plenty of entertainment for the twins."

I smiled, "Thank you for reminding me.   Can I count on you to help me keep them happy during the drive up?"

She smiled, "Of course.   I like reading them stories and playing games with them."

"Thank you Ashley," I said smiling at her.  

Ashley stood and came around to give me a hug.   "I love you, Daddy.   Everything will be okay.   Remember how you comforted us when Grandma died?   Well, now it's our turn to comfort you."

I smiled up at her and said, "You are such a wonderful daughter."

"I know," Ashley said.  "It's because I have two wonderful Dads."

Rick grinned and said, "At least one of my children recognizes how wonderful I am."

Kyle guffawed and responded, "That's because she's delusional."

Rick laughed, "Maybe but I like her kind of delusional better than yours."

Kyle protested, "I'm not delusional!"

"You are," Rick insisted.

I laughed and said, "Alright you two, it's time for bed."

Rick said, "You're right, Glenn.   It is getting late; however, that doesn't change the fact that Kyle is delusional!"

Kyle stood up and came around the table.   He gave me a hug and then hugged Rick.   As a parting shot, Kyle said, "If I'm delusion, then you must be getting senile from extreme old age!"   Kyle scampered out of reach as Rick tried to grab him.   Kyle laughed, "See, you're too slow!"

I shook my head and said, "You two are just too silly sometimes."

"Me, silly, never!" Rick said laughing.

I stood up and pulled Rick up from his chair.   I melted into his embrace and said, "Take me to bed, sweetheart."   I looked at the three children and said, "Up to bed with all of you."

We followed the children upstairs.   We said prayers with each one before retiring to own bedroom.  Rick helped me get undressed and we climbed into bed.   He pulled me close and held me as wave after wave of grief came over me.   I loved Justin very much and his death left a big hole in my heart.   Rick smoothed my hair and spoke soothingly to me, "It alright, Glenn.   Let the sadness come out.   You need to let it run it's course.   I'm here with you and I love you very much."  

We hadn't quite fallen asleep when we heard a knock on our door.  Rick called out, "Come in!"

The door opened and we recognized Kyle as he padded across the floor and sat down on the foot of the bed.   I reached over and turned on the lamp next to our bed.   Rick helped me sit up and I looked over at our son.   Kyle looked like the end of the world was just about to occur.   His puppy dog brown eyes were shiny with tears and I could see that he was very upset.   I said, "Come here, son."  I scooted over to make room for him to snuggle between me and Rick.

Kyle crawled under the covers between us and we wrapped our arms around him.   The tears started streaming down his face.   "Why did Uncle Justin have to die?   It seems like so many of the people I love are dead!"   His voice was choked up with emotion.  

Rick said, "Uncle Justin was very sick, son.   He has been sick for a long time.   He has tried to commit suicide several times since we have known him.   Fortunately, we have been able to save him from himself each time.   This time, he outsmarted us and succeeded in accomplishing what he set out to do."

"But we love him, Dad.   Why would he want to hurt us by killing himself?" Kyle asked still crying.

Rick replied, "His sense of self-worth was so low, Kyle, that he didn't see that he mattered to anyone.   You know that Robbie and Adam loved him, as did the rest of us, but that fact didn't make it past his defenses which wouldn't let him see that he was a son of God and someone who had divine worth.   Uncle Justin blamed himself for the fact that his parents kicked him out of their house.   He couldn't see that their decision to disown him was their decision and only theirs.  He also blamed himself for the fact that Uncle Brian left him.   In Uncle Justin's mind, he was the cause of all the bad things that ever happened to him.   The weight of all the guilt he felt was too much for him, Kyle.   He decided that in order to prevent any more bad things from happening to him or those around him that he would remove the source of the problem:  himself."

"How can anyone feel that way about themselves?" Kyle said.   His sobbing had stopped as he tried to understand what Rick had just told him.

"We don't know the answer to that question, Kyle.   There are many theories but no one really knows.   Each individual is so very unique that what might be the right answer for one person isn't the answer for the next one.   Despite the many advances in medical technology, we still know very little about how the brain works and what causes mental illness," Rick said.

Kyle said, "I wish there was a way we could have helped Uncle Justin."

"We feel the same way, Kyle," I said.   "We miss him just like you do.   Uncle Justin was one of the first friends I made when I moved to Minneapolis after your Dad went active duty with the Marine Corps.   He was in the Twin Cities Gay Men's Chorus with me and Uncle Brian.   I will really miss him singing with us like he did when we were in St. Catharines at Thanksgiving last year."

Kyle nodded his head, "Uncle Justin made a special effort to work with me on my singing.   He treated me like an adult instead of a kid."

"Yes, Uncle Justin always knew the right things to say or do," I acknowledged.

Rick asked, "Are you okay, Kyle?"

Kyle nodded his head, "Yeah, I just needed to be hugged.   Can I sleep here tonight?"

I looked over at Rick who smiled and asked, "Isn't a little unusual for a 15 year old young man to sleep with his parents?"

"Not if that young man needs comforting and really wants to be close to his Dads," Kyle said.

"Tell you what.   You can stay with us for a little while but you still have to sleep in your own room," I said.

Kyle said, "I just don't want to be alone right now."

Rick said, "I have an idea.   Let's get an air mattress and a sleeping bag.   Then you can sleep on the floor next to our bed.   That way, you wouldn't be alone but then we all will be able to sleep comfortably.  Will that be an acceptable solution?"

Kyle nodded his head, "Okay."

Rick and Kyle padded out of our bedroom and returned a short while later with the air mattress and a sleeping bag.   Rick inflated the air mattress and then unrolled the sleeping bag on top of it.   Kyle went to his room and returned with his pillow.   Kyle gave each of us a hug and then climbed into his sleeping bag.   As soon as Rick climbed into our bed, I reached over and turned out the light.

Kyle said, "I love you Dad and Daddy."

We chorused back, "We love you, too, Kyle."

Rick pulled me close and I laid my head on his chest.   Listening to the steady beat of his heart soon lulled me to sleep.    

*** ***

Kyle awoke in the middle of the night.  He looked around and wondered where he was until he remembered that he was in his Dads' room.   He got up and walked into the en suite to relief himself.   As he went to turn out the bathroom light, he looked at his sleeping parents.   He noted how his Dad protectively held his Daddy in his arms while Daddy slept with his head on Dad's chest.   He knew that his Dads loved each other very much and seeing them asleep in each other's arms only served to confirm what he already knew – Dad always protected Daddy.   It was just like how both of them had wrapped their arms around him last night.   He felt like he was in a warm cocoon with both parents protecting him and comforting him.   He longed to return to that cocoon where he felt that nothing would ever be able to hurt him or make him afraid.   He walked over and climbed into bed with his Dads.   He snuggled up close to his Daddy's warmth and wrapped his arms around him.

When I awoke, I knew immediately that Kyle had climbed into bed with us at some point during the night.   His arm was draped over me and I could see the bright yellow rubber wristband he wore on his right arm.   I could make out the words "Grandma, We Love You" and the date his grandmother died.  

I lifted my head to find Rick smiling at me.   He said, "I guess we should have just let Kyle stay in bed with us since he ended up sleeping with us anyway."

"I guess so.   He must have needed the comfort of being near us," I said.

Kyle must have been awake because he said, "I wanted to be in the cocoon."

Rick asked, "What cocoon?"

"I felt like I was in a protective cocoon when you both held me in your arms last night.  I felt loved and I knew that you both would keep me from being hurt," Kyle said.

Rick said, "Now I understand.   You can count on us to do our best to be there for you, Kyle.   We love you very much."

Kyle tightened his embrace, "I know and that is why I needed to be near you last night."

He released us and I rolled over.   I looked him in the eyes and said, "You are very special to us, Kyle.   We will always be there for you."

Kyle smiled, "I know you will be."   Kyle leaned over and kissed my cheek.   He got up and walked around to the other side of the bed and kissed Rick on the cheek.   "I'm going to get a shower."

As we watched our handsome young man leave our room, Rick said, "He reminds me of a little kid sometimes.   He is so trusting and open.   I hope he never loses that sweet innocence."

"I agree.   It's our job to love and protect him so he doesn't lose that innocence.   He has already suffered enough loss in his life that he doesn't need any more tragedy in his life," I said.  

Rick tightened his embrace and said, "I think we are up to the task, sweetheart, as Kyle so succinctly put it.   We need to get moving, Babe."

I kissed him and then I got up and helped pull him to his feet.   We enjoyed our morning shower and then we quickly dressed and began our preparations for our trip home.   Ever since we bought the house in St. Catharines, I have called that house "home" because that is where I want us to live permanently.   Rick protested at first that our house in Virginia is our home but he hasn't said much about it lately.

We spent the next few hours getting everything ready for the trip north.   Kyle came into the kitchen looking like the world had come to an end.   He said, "I can't go with you to Canada, Daddy.   I have a football game tonight.   How can I let my team down by not showing up for the game?"

I looked over at Rick and said, "I think we will need to arrange to have Kyle fly up to Buffalo on Saturday so he can honor his commitment to his football team."

Rick nodded his head, "I wondered how you were going to handle telling your coach about not being here for tonight's game."

"I forgot all about it until a few minutes ago, Dad.   Can I stay with the Campbells?   I love being there with the General," Kyle said hopefully.

"I'm sure they would be delighted to have you stay with them for a few days," Rick said.   "I will call them right now."

Rick placed a call to Mrs. Campbell.   "Hello, Mrs. Campbell.   How are you?"

"I'm fine, Rick.   How are the children?" she asked.

"They are doing just fine.   I need to ask you a favor," Rick said.   He explained what had happened to Justin and that Kyle needed a place to stay for a few days.

"We would love to have Kyle stay with us," Mrs. Campbell said.

"We will make arrangements for Jeff to drop him off at your home after school today," Rick said.

"That sounds like a plan.   I will take him to school on Friday and pick him up after school," Mrs. Campbell said.

"I will have Jeff take him to the airport on Saturday morning since the flight leaves so early," Rick said.

Mrs. Campbell said, "Thank you for being so considerate, Rick.   I'm sorry about your loss and we will be praying for you and the children."

"Thank you so much," Rick said and ended the call.   "Kyle, you will need to pack your suitcase so you can take it with you unless you want Jeff to bring you back home before taking you over to the Campbells."

Kyle thought for a moment, "Can Jeff bring me back here first?"

"I think so," Rick said.   "I will check with him and let you know."

Kyle smiled and hugged his Dad, "Thanks Dad for being so understanding."

"Not a problem," Rick responded as he ruffled Kyle hair.   Kyle grinned and left the kitchen and we heard him taking the stairs two at a time.  

I smiled at Rick and said, "You are such a wonderful father."

"And so are you, Babe," he responded as he leaned over and kissed me.

*** *** 

I called the two different schools to let them know the children were going to be absent from their classes and arranged to drop by each school to get their homework assignments.   We were soon all packed and ready to leave.   Rick called Jeff and made arrangements for Kyle's transportation to and from school as well as to the airport.   We caravanned to Edison High School.   We waited in the parking lot while Rick and Kyle went inside to let the office staff know Kyle would be missing several days next week.   Rick returned and we made our way over to Hayfield Secondary School where he did the same thing as he had at Edison except with David and Ashley.

Rick returned with David and Ashley.   We checked with Zach and Todd to make sure they were ready and then we headed north.   The drive to St. Catharines was uneventful.   The twins caused us to make a few extra stops for nature breaks but other than that they travelled very well.  

We pulled into our driveway and found Robbie and Adam's car was already there.   As we started to unload our vehicles, Robbie and Adam came out of our house to help us. 

"Ashley and David will you get the twins out of their car seats and help them into the house?" I asked.

Ashley replied, "Yes, Daddy."

David nodded and smiled as he reached over to unbuckle JJ.   JJ reached up and put his arms around David's neck.   "David, I need to go wee wee," JJ said.

I looked at David and said, "You had better carry him inside, David."  

David said, "Let's go, JJ."   He picked JJ up and they disappeared inside.

"Josh, do you need to go, too?" I asked.

Josh nodded his head.   Ashley said, "Come with me inside."   Ashley lifted him out of his car seat and carried him inside.

With the twins needs being attended to, we made short work of taking our luggage inside and upstairs to the bedrooms.   I could hear the television in the family room and directed the children to join their cousins.    Cameron said, "I'm hungry, Uncle Glenn."

"I will fix all of you something to eat.   Go join your cousins in the family room for now," I responded.

Cameron nodded his head and said, "Okay.   Can we have pancakes?"

I looked at Zach who was standing in the hallway with me.   Zach said, "Why don't we save the pancakes for breakfast?   What do you think about having some pasta?"

Cameron, satisfied with the answer, smiled and said, "I love pasta!   I will tell the others."

Zach and I went into the kitchen where the rest of the guys had congregated.  Robbie hugged his brother, Zach, while Adam did the same to his brother, Todd.

Adam released Todd and said, "Thank you for coming so quickly."

Zach said, "We knew you would need us to be here."

Robbie said.   "Thank you for letting us crash at your place, Glen and Rick."

"I'm glad you came," Rick said.

Adam said, "We went to the store and restocked the pantry."

"How much do we owe you?" I asked as I opened the pantry to see it was completely full.

"Nothing," Adam said.   "Since we don't know how long we will be staying here, we decided the least we could do was buy the food for all of us."

"You don't have to do that, Adam," Rick said.   "You know you are welcome to stay as long as you want because you're family."

Robbie said, "We know that, Rick, but let us do it for now.   At least it is something we can do…."   He broke off as he tried to control his emotions and failed.  Zach walked over and wrapped his little brother in his arms, holding him tight.   Robbie held onto to Zach as if he were a drowning man and Zach was a life preserver.   Zach smoothed his hair and patted his back.  

I looked over at Adam and saw that he was struggling to keep his composure.   Todd saw me looking at his brother and he walked over to Adam and took him in his arms, "It's okay to let the tears come."

Adam put his head on Todd's shoulder as Todd comforted him.   Todd held him tight as Adam's grief completely overwhelmed him.   He managed to say in a choked up voice, "I've tried to be strong for Robbie, Todd, but I miss Justin so much."

"Zach and I are here for you now.   You can let yourself grieve for Justin.   You don't have to play the macho guy anymore," Todd said.  

Adam clung to his older brother and let his feelings of loss and deep sadness wash over him.   His tears coursed down his cheeks soaking his brother's shirt.   He felt like he was a little kid, again, with Todd comforting him.   Todd had always been his protector and the one he had turned to whenever he was hurt or needed someone to talk to about what was going on in his life.   He hugged Todd tightly and said, "I love you, Todd."

"I love you, too, bro.," Todd replied.

Adam pulled back and wiped his eyes with the back of his hands and walked over and sat down at the kitchen table.   Todd sat down next to him and put his arm around his shoulders. 

Robbie said, "I love you, Zach.   I'm so glad that you came."

Zach said, "I'm glad we were able to come as well.   The good thing is that we are playing the Maple Leafs this weekend so I can be here for a few days."   Zach released Robbie and led him over to sit next to his husband, Adam.   Zach sat next to his brother.

I asked, "Is anyone up for a cup of coffee or some hot chocolate?"

Zach said, "I think we could all use a cup of coffee."   He grinned at me and said, "I'm sure the children would like some hot chocolate.   You know how much the twins love it."

I nodded my head, "That I do!"   After making coffee for everyone, I put some water on to boil for pasta and pulled out a couple of bottles of pasta sauce.    I looked in the fridge and found a green salad was already made.   I pulled it out of the fridge and placed on the kitchen counter along with several kinds of salad dressing.   I grabbed my hot chocolate and sat down next to Rick, "Thanks for making the green salad."

Robbie smiled, "You're very welcome.   I made sure I didn't use any of those spring greens you "love" so much."

I laughed, "Thank you for not putting them in the salad.   I like spinach and romaine lettuce but those spring greens are fit only for rabbits to eat."

"There are fresh rolls in the breadbox," Adam said.   "We stopped by the St. Joseph Bakery and picked up some fresh bread and rolls."

Rick said, "I love their fresh bread."

Robbie got up and went into the pantry.   He returned with a package of Danish.   "I know we shouldn't eat dessert first but since we're having coffee…"

I looked at Robbie and laughed, "You have always had a sweet tooth, Robbie!"

Robbie grinned and said, "It's because I'm so sweet."

I stuck out my tongue at that remark.   Robbie said, "I plan to collect the kiss you owe me for sticking out your tongue at me."

I laughed, "Okay, come and collect it!"

Robbie placed the Danish sweet rolls on the table and leaned over to kiss me on the lips.   "You were always my first love, Glenn.   I'm glad Rick still lets me kiss you."

I laughed, "No, I was never your first love, Robbie, but I was the first guy you tried to seduce!"

Robbie protested, "I didn't try to seduce you!"

"What do you call climbing into my bed and feeling me up?" I asked laughing at his faux hurt expression.

"I was innocent back then and didn't know what I was doing," Robbie said grinning.

Zach laughed, "You were never completely innocent, Robbie.   You were such a big flirt it's a wonder Adam was able to keep you from running off with every guy who came over to our house."

Todd said, "Not only that, it took two men to keep you satisfied!"

Adam grinned, "Yes, that is true, Robbie.   You have to admit that it took both me and Justin to keep you happy."

Robbie smiled, "Yes, I was very fortunate to have two wonderful men who loved me.   I needed both of you back then."

Adam said, "We both needed Justin, Robbie.   Remember how he helped us get through our high school classes?"

"Yes, he was a real brain and made us study before we could have sex with him," Robbie said.

"It was a good thing he made us learn something because otherwise we would have spent every free moment fucking him and each other," Adam said laughing.

"Justin was a good influence on both of you," Zach said.   "I had my doubts at first but all three of you seemed to thrive as a result of bringing Justin into your relationship."

I stood up and dumped the pasta into the boiling water and returned to the table.   We shared our memories of Justin with each other until dinner was ready.   We called the children for dinner and we gathered around the table.  

The triplets, Brian, Justin and Robin, climbed up on the bench at one end of the table.   I looked into their emerald eyes as they smiled back at me.   With their enchanting eyes, blond hair and cute little smiles, there was no doubt that their father was!  I looked over at Robbie who grinned at me, "Yes, I know they are mini-me."

Adam said, "Yes, they are and they act just like their father."   Adam put his arm around Robbie's waist and pulled him close and kissed his husband.  

Brian said, "We are twelve years old now."  

"How do you know that?" I asked a little surprised at the little boy's assertion.

"I am four, Justin is four and Robin is four.   Dad says that four plus four plus four equals twelve."

"Daddy says that means we will be fifteen soon because we will be five," Justin said.   "Daddy says that means we will be five times as good and five times as fun"

Robin pointed to the twins and said, "JJ and Josh are three.   So they are six when you add three and three together."   Robin demonstrated by counting his fingers.   "See how they make six?"

I nodded and said, "You boys are really getting so smart."

Cameron asked, pointing to himself and his twin, "How many are we since we are seven years old?"

Justin said, "You are seven plus seven."

Robin counted out seven on his fingers and then counted seven more, "You are fourteen."

Skye smiled, "That is correct!"  

I said, "You are all wonderful boys!   I want to know who is hungry?"  Josh put his hand up first, "I am!"   The rest of the boys followed his example.   "Okay, then!   Let's say grace."

Zach looked at Rick and asked, "May I say grace for us?"  

"Yes, please," Rick replied as he reached for my hand.   We all held hands as Zach said grace.

"We thank you, God, for the food we share at this table.   We ask you to bless this food.    We also thank you for Justin and the light he brought to our lives.   We ask you to take him to be with you and to help us to remember him always.   Amen."

There were tears in our eyes as we echoed Zach's "Amen."   

While the children dug in, I reached stood up and walked around the table and put my arms around Robbie and Adam.   I kissed each one on the cheek and said, "I love you."

Robbie took my hand in his and squeezed it, "I love you, too."  Adam put his arm around my waist and hugged me.

I returned to my seat and helped Rick with the twins' plates.   It wasn't long before every scrap of food was gone and we were clearing the table and cleaning up the kitchen.   After finishing up in the kitchen we retired to the family room to relax.

*** ***

Jeff sat in the stands watching Edison's J.V. football game when he noticed his daughters walking along the front of the bleachers with a couple of their friends.   The four girls were laughing and having a good time.   They sat down with another group of girls in the next section over from where he was sitting.   He had attended several of Kyle's football games before but had never seen his girls at the games.   In fact, they both had professed to be completely bored with football and had declined his offer to take them to the football game.   He was curious as to what had caused their change of heart.   He speculated that one or both of them had a crush on a football player.   He watched them closely throughout the rest of the game to see if there was one particular player they tended to favor.

Jeff wasn't sure who the player was that his girls were cheering for because every time Kyle made a touchdown, and he made several, everyone stood up and cheered.   Kyle was everyone's hero!   So far this season, Edison J.V. football team had yet to suffer a loss.  

After the game, he waited in the parking lot for Kyle to come out of the locker room.   He noticed his Caroline and Marie were hanging out near the entrance where the football players were just starting to come out.   Kyle came out with one of his teammates.   A tall, handsome boy with honey colored skin, an engaging smile, and deep brown eyes.   He was well muscled but not overly so.   He walked with an easy grace that reminded Jeff of a powerful big cat.   The two boys talked for a minute just outside the school.  Jeff was surprised when his girls stopped the boys and it appeared they had asked for their autograph since they handed the boys a notebook and a pen.  

The boys left the two girls standing by the door and continued into the parking lot.   Kyle saw Jeff and smiled, "Hey, Uncle Jeff, this is my friend, Robert.   Can we give him ride to his house?"

"Nice to meet you, Robert, and yes, we can give you a ride home," Jeff said.

"How did you like the game?" Robert asked.

"It was a great game and you did a great job, Kyle," Jeff responded and clapped Kyle on the back.

Kyle grinned, "Thanks, Uncle Jeff.   Robert is the quarterback.  He does a great job of getting the ball to me.   Without Robert, I wouldn't get any touchdowns."

"Robert you are a great quarterback," Jeff said.   "You have a great throwing arm!"

Robert said, modestly, "I'm not that good, really.   There are others who are better than I am."

"That's true but that doesn't mean you aren't good," Jeff said.   Jeff noted that the teenager seemed to almost stand straighter after hearing Jeff's comment.

"Do you see those two girls?"   Kyle pointed to Caroline and Marie.  

Jeff nodded, "Yes."

"They have been following me around school for weeks now.   Everywhere I go one or both of them is somewhere in the vicinity.   I almost feel like I'm being stalked," Kyle said.   "Robert told me that the younger one wants to go out with me."   Kyle glanced at this friend who nodded his head in confirmation.

Jeff wasn't sure how to react to what he had just heard.   On one hand, he wanted his daughters to go out with someone he trusted and he trusted Kyle while on the other hand he didn't want to subject Kyle to his daughter's nasty disposition.   He had been subjected to her sullen disposition and constant disdain ever since he had left her mother.   He wanted to warn Kyle to stay as far away from the girls but couldn't quite bring himself to say the words.   Instead, he opted to keep silent.

"What are you going to do about the girls?" Jeff asked as they got into his car.

"I'm going to avoid them.   They make me very uncomfortable.    Not only that, my Dads have told me I shouldn't date until I'm at least 16," Kyle said.

Jeff nodded his agreement, "You have to be careful with women, Kyle.   My ex-wife has turned my daughters against me.   Let me warn you not to get involved with anyone whose mother has been through a divorce, especially if it was a nasty one.   Too often, the ex-wife poisons the minds of their children against their father which is what has happened in my case.   Another thing to be aware of is the girl's mother.   If the mother is mean and nasty, the daughter will be as well.   If the mother is ugly and overweight, the daughter will be as well.   Always check out the girl's parents before you decide to date them."

Robert said, "My Dad says the same thing.   He told me I need to be very careful who I date.   They insist on meeting the parents of my friends before I'm allowed to go over to their homes."

Jeff said, "That is a good thing.   You should listen to your parents, Robert, because they have your best interests at heart."

Robert looked at Kyle's wrist and said, "I have always meant to ask you about your wristband.   Why do you wear it?"

"It reminds me of my Grandma.   She died a few months ago," Kyle said.   "I really miss her."

Jeff glanced over at Kyle and noted the sadness on the young man's face.   "She was a very special lady, Kyle."

Robert said, "My Dad says my Grandma is the best.   She loves to cook and is always happy.   He always teases Grandma that he would have married her instead of my mother if he had met her first."

They pulled out of the school parking lot and Robert gave Jeff directions to his home.   They dropped Robert off and then Jeff drove to Kyle's house to pick up his suitcase.

Kyle unlocked the front door and went inside.   Jeff waited in the foyer.   He heard Kyle in his room and decided to make some coffee while he waited.   He sat at the kitchen table to drink his coffee.   He thought about his daughters and the fact that Marie seemed to have a major crush on Kyle.   He still wasn't sure what to do.  

Kyle came into the kitchen carrying his suitcase and said, "I'm ready to go."

Jeff said, "Kyle, can we talk for a minute?"

"Sure.   What about?" Kyle responded.

Jeff looked Kyle and said, "Please sit down.   I have to tell you something."  

Kyle took a seat across the table from Jeff and waited.

"You know that I'm divorced, right?" Jeff asked.

"Yes, I know that your ex-wife has done everything in her power to make you miserable," Kyle said.

"You also know that I have three daughters," Jeff said.   "The oldest one has graduated from high school and has completely disowned me.  The two girls who waited for you outside the entrance to the locker room are my two youngest daughters, Caroline and Marie."

Jeff watched Kyle's face very carefully for his reaction.   Kyle returned Jeff's gaze.   "Thank you for telling me, Uncle Jeff.   I have heard you talk about them with my Dads.   I wondered if they were your daughters because of what you said earlier about looking at the mother before deciding to date a girl.   I figured you were trying to warn me."

Jeff felt as if a burden had been lifted from his shoulders, "Yes, I was trying to warn you without saying anything specific about them while Robert was in the car.   I love my daughters but I also know how cruel and vicious they are.   On one hand, I want them to meet someone like you who will treat them right but I also worry about how they would treat you.   I don't want you to be hurt, especially by my daughters.   They treat me very poorly most of the time.   There have been many weekends that I have wondered if I have done the right thing by trying to continue to be a part of their lives."

Kyle said, "You have done what you can for them, Uncle Jeff.   You are a good man and don't let them get you down."

Jeff held Kyle's gaze and said, "You are wise beyond your years, Kyle."

"No, I just have wonderful parents," Kyle responded.

"That you do, Kyle," Jeff said.  "Let's get you on your way.   Mrs. Campbell will be calling to find out what happened to you if we don't show up pretty soon."

Kyle laughed, "Yes, she will.   I love Mrs. Campbell.   She reminds me of my Grandma.   Thank you for being honest with me about your daughters.   I know it had to be hard to admit to me what they are like."

Jeff nodded his head and said, "It's the least I can do for you, Kyle.   I want you to be happy.   Be careful who you date, Kyle, because so much of your happiness depends on who you marry."

They walked out to Jeff's car and Jeff drove Kyle to the Campbells.   He pulled into the Campbells driveway and shut off the engine.

"I will pick you up at 6 AM on Saturday," Jeff said.

"Okay, I'll be ready," Kyle said.   "Thanks for the ride."

Jeff watched as Kyle walked up to the front door and rang the doorbell.   Mrs. Campbell opened the door and hugged Kyle.   She then waved to Jeff as he pulled out of the driveway.

Mrs. Campbell said, "Come inside, Kyle.   I have a late dinner waiting for you.   Leave your suitcase near the door there, dear."

Kyle followed her into the kitchen where the General was waiting for him.   "How is my favorite grandson?"

Kyle walked over and hugged the General.   "I'm doing great.   We won our game tonight."

"Congratulations!   We have heard what a great football player you are," the General said with a wide grin.   "I expect nothing less from you."

Kyle grinned, "I try, General."

"Please sit down and eat before it gets cold," Mrs. Campbell said.

Kyle took his seat and started to eat.   He was totally famished!   Mrs. Campbell was a fantastic cook and always made sure he had plenty to eat when he came to visit.

"You look pretty good, Kyle.   Working out with the football team has done wonders for you," the General said.

"He's growing up, dear," Mrs. Campbell said.

The General said, "Yes, he is and I am very proud of him."

Kyle finished eating the last bite of apple pie and then said, "Thank you for dinner."

"You are very welcome.   Why don't you take the General into the music room and play for him while I clean up the dishes?" Mrs. Campbell said.

Kyle smiled, "I would love to play for you, General."   He pushed the General's wheelchair out of the kitchen and down the hall to the music room.   Kyle took a seat at the piano bench and began to play.   After playing a few of his favorite pieces he looked over and saw that the General had fallen asleep.

Mrs. Campbell came into the room, "You have the magic touch just like your father.   Glenn's music always puts the General to sleep.   We loved having your Dads live with us, Kyle.   They are both very good men.   You are very fortunate to have them as your adopted parents."

"You are the second person today to tell me how wonderful my Dads are," Kyle said with a smile.

"Well, it's true, dear.   I wouldn't tell you something that wasn't true," Mrs. Campbell said.   "I know that you will turn out to be just like them, Kyle.   They are such kind and gentle souls."

Kyle stood up from the piano bench and walked over to the General's wheelchair.   "You and the General are wonderful people, too."

"Thank you for saying so, Kyle.   We try to treat others the way we want to be treated," Mrs. Campbell said as she led the way out of the music room and down the hallway to the elevator.   They took the General to his bedroom and Kyle helped move him into his bed and then assisted Mrs. Campbell to dress him in his pajamas.   Then Mrs. Campbell said, "You will be staying in your Dads' old room."   She showed him to his room and then said, "You can bring up your suitcase now.   I will have breakfast ready for you in the morning."

"Good night," Kyle said and gave Mrs. Campbell a hug and a kiss on the cheek.

"Good night, Kyle," Mrs. Campbell said and left Kyle to retrieve his suitcase.  

He brought his suitcase upstairs and then unpacked his things.   He put them away and then climbed into bed.   He lie awake thinking about his Dads and what it must have been like when they were staying in this room.   Kyle's thoughts lingered on his Dads and their love for each other.   It was such a contrast to Uncle Jeff's situation with his ex-wife and his children.   He couldn't fathom how Caroline and Marie could treat their dad so poorly.   Since he had lost both of his parents and his grandmother, he understood very well the importance of having someone who loved and supported him.   Why did Caroline and Marie feel justified in being disrespectful of their Dad?   The more he thought about it the angrier he got.   To him, it was pure selfishness on their part and the part of their mother.   He decided he didn't want anything to do with either one of them.   Someone who was capable of inflicting so much pain on someone else was not anyone he wanted to associate with much less date.  Having resolved the issue in his mind, Kyle rolled over and fell asleep.

The next morning, Mrs. Campbell knocked on the door, "Good morning, Kyle.   It's time to get up."   She opened the door and peered into the room.

Kyle rubbed the sleep from his eyes and said, "Thank you for getting me up."

"Get your shower, Kyle.   I will have breakfast waiting on the table for you," Mrs. Campbell said.   She withdrew from the room and closed the door.

Once she left, Kyle got up and made his way into the en suite.   He showered and dressed in his football jersey.   It was game day for the varsity team.   He grabbed his backpack and his football gear.   He didn't expect to play in tonight's game but he was to ready just in case.

He sat his stuff by the front door and went into the kitchen.   He looked appreciatively at the food on the table, "Thank you for the great breakfast."

Mrs. Campbell asked, "Will you say grace?"

"Sure," Kyle replied.   After saying grace, he dug into the mounds of pancakes, bacon and eggs that were on his plate.   He quickly finished and then helped clear the dishes.  

Mrs. Campbell said, "I will finish these later.   Let's get you to school."

They went outside and climbed into Mrs. Campbell's car – a new Lincoln Towncar.   She drove him to school and said, "I will see you after the game tonight.   Call me when you are ready to be picked up."

"Okay," Kyle said.   "Thank you, again, for everything."

Mrs. Campbell said, "Have a great day, Kyle."

Kyle waved to her as she pulled away from the kiss and ride and he joined his school mates as they made their way to class.   At lunch time, he went to the cafeteria with Robert as usual.   They had just settled down at a table with the rest of the football team when Caroline and Marie came over.

Marie said, "Thank you for signing our notebooks, Kyle."

Kyle said, "You're welcome, Marie."

Robert looked at Kyle and waited for him to invite the girls to join them.   When it was obvious that Kyle wasn't going to say anything, Robert said, "Do you want to sit with us?"

"We would love to," Marie said.   Caroline and Marie quickly took the seats across the table from the two boys.  

The rest of the football team watched as the two girls started chatting with Robert.   Kyle's friend, Troy, leaned over and whispered in his ear, "Aren't you going to talk to those girls?"

Kyle turned his head and looked at Troy and replied, "No way."

Troy looked surprised, "Why not?   They are both pretty cute."

"Looks aren't everything, Troy.   I want someone who will treat me with respect and isn't just out to be seen with a football player," Kyle said.

Troy looked puzzled, "You sounded pretty excited about the girls yesterday.   I know they were kind of stalking you but I didn't think you minded it so much."

"I will talk to you later, Troy.   I don't want to have an argument during lunch," Kyle said.

Troy saw that Kyle was serious and decided not to push the issue.   "Okay, if you say so."

"I do.   I promise I'll explain everything," Kyle said.

After school, Troy found Kyle in the boy's locker room getting ready for the game.   As the two boys dressed out in their uniforms, Troy asked, "So what was wrong with you today."

Kyle looked at his friend, "My Dad's security chief is Caroline and Marie's father."

"So what's wrong with that?" Troy said.

"Nothing except that Caroline and Marie treat their dad really poorly.   Since their parents' divorce, Caroline and Marie have blamed their dad for all their problems and their Mom has tried to keep the girls from having anything to do with their dad."

"What has that got to do with you dating Marie," Troy said.

"I don't want to end up being treated the same way Jeff is being treated.   If they are mean and nasty to their dad, how will they be to their boyfriend?" Kyle asked.

"You have a point there," Troy said.   "Okay, I get you now.   I won't bother you anymore about them."   He thought for a moment, "But you mind if I date her?"

"No, go right ahead!   However, you have been warned," Kyle said laughing.

Troy grinned, "I won't get serious with her.   I just want to have fun."

"You mean you want to get her into your bed!" Kyle replied.

Troy nodded his head, "Sure, why not?"

"You are crazy," Kyle responded.   They joined the rest of the team as they lined up to make their entrance onto the football field.

The game was a close one but Edison eked out a last minute field goal that put them in the lead.   They won the game and everyone was in a good mood.   Kyle called Mrs. Campbell who came and picked him up.   Kyle told her about the game and the rest of his day.  

After a few minutes of silence, Kyle asked, "Grandma, is it true that you can tell how a girl will treat you by watching her mother and how she treats her husband?"

Mrs. Campbell looked quizzically at Kyle and responded, "I think there is some wisdom in that statement.   It may not always be true but it does give you a pretty good idea because a girl's parents are her role models.   So you would expect that she would imitate the behavior she observed in her home."

Kyle asked, "Did your parents love each other like you love the General?"

"Yes, they did.   My parents were madly in love with each other.   I never observed them quarrel or ever exchange a cross word.   To me, they were the perfect couple," Mrs. Campbell said.

"My Dads are like that, too," Kyle observed.

"Yes, they are, Kyle.   They are perfect for each other.   They not only love each other but they love each of their children," Mrs. Campbell said.  

"I just wanted to confirm what Uncle Jeff told me about girls.   He said to watch how a girl's mother treats her husband and then I would know how she would treat me."

"He's right, Kyle.   I think you can tell the difference between a couple who is very much in love with each other and a couple who is staying together only for the children," she said.

"And you can tell how nasty a divorce was by how the children treat their parents," Kyle said.

"Sometimes that's true, Kyle, but not always.   Children tend to get angry at both parents for splitting up," Mrs. Campbell said.   "Children project their hurt and anger onto their parents who are the cause of that pain and anger."

"So they lash out at them?" Kyle asked.

"Sometimes they do that but at other times they withdraw into themselves and won't speak to either parent," Mrs. Campbell said.

Kyle absorbed this information and then said, "Thank you for talking to me."

"Not a problem," Mrs. Campbell said as they pulled into her driveway.   "I have saved you some dinner.   You should eat quickly and then get to bed.   You have an early day tomorrow."

Kyle nodded and gathered up his gear and followed Mrs. Campbell into the house.   He ate and then took a quick shower before repacking his suitcases before he climbed into bed.   As with the night before, he lay awake thinking about his Dads, Caroline, Marie and Uncle Jeff.   He finally drifted off.

The alarm on his cell phone awakened him.   He quickly got up and took care of his body's needs.   He brushed his teeth, made the bed, and grabbed his suitcase and went downstairs.

Mrs. Campbell had left a note on the table next to a plate of breakfast pastries.   The note read, "Help yourself and have a safe trip."   He grabbed a couple of pastries and started to munch on them when he heard a knock on the door.   He walked into the foyer and opened the door to see Jeff standing there.   Kyle said, "I'm ready.   Do you want a pastry?"

Jeff smiled at the young man, "No, thank you.   Is this your suitcase?"

Kyle nodded his head since his mouth was full.   Jeff grabbed the suitcase and put into the trunk of his car.   Kyle climbed into the passenger's side and buckled up.   He was surprised to hear someone say, "Good morning, Kyle," from the back seat.   Kyle turned and saw that Caroline and Marie were both seated there.

Kyle said, "Good morning."

Jeff had gotten in the car and looked over at Kyle, "I take it you know Caroline and Marie."

"Yes, we know each other," Kyle responded.   Kyle wasn't sure what to say next so he sat in silence looking out of the window as they sped towards the airport.

Marie said, "We asked Dad if we could come along for the ride this morning.   We didn't know that Dad knew you until last Thursday when we saw you and Robert got into his car."

Kyle said, "Your Dad was kind enough to give us a ride home."

"But doesn't Dad work for your Dad?" Caroline asked.

"Yes, he does," Kyle said.

"Then you must be rich to be able to afford to pay Dad's salary," Caroline said.

Kyle said, "I'm not rich.   My Dads might be but I don't know much about their finances."

"You said Dads," Marie said.   "Do you have more than one?"

"Yes, I have two Dads.   They adopted me a few months ago when my grandmother died.   I wear this wristband in memory of my grandmother," Kyle said raising his hand so they could see the yellow wristband.

Caroline said, "I'm sorry.   I didn't know."

"My parents were killed in a car crash when I was in the sixth grade and since my grandmother died, I don't have any living relatives.   My Dads adopted me and my siblings so we would have a home and parents who love us," Kyle said.

Jeff glanced in the mirror and didn't like the look he saw on Caroline's face.   He was about to say something to change the subject when Caroline said, "Do you mean to say your Dads are gay?"

Kyle turned around to face her, "Yes, they are."

She said, "How can you stand to live with them?"

Kyle's face went red with anger, "The question I should ask you is:   How can you stand to live with a mother who fills your head with hatred for your father; who turns you against everyone and poisons your mind.   At least my Dads know how to treat people with respect and dignity.   They know how to show love and support for each other and their loved ones.   It is certainly much better than living with a mother and a father who hate each other and who teach their children to disrespect and hate the other parent."

Caroline sat there with her mouth wide open in surprise.   She hadn't expected such a pointed response.   Each of his statements about her family had hit home as if they were torpedoes that had locked onto their target and had hit her broadside.   It was almost like Kyle had been living with their family and had seen the very behaviors he described.

Jeff cringed as he heard Kyle's response to Caroline.   Every word had hit him hard as well.   Before Caroline could respond, Jeff said, "I'm sorry for Caroline's insinuation that living with gay parents was a bad thing."

"It was outright condemnation of my Dads," Kyle said.   "Don't try to tell me it wasn't, Uncle Jeff.   She may not have said those words but she was thinking it and that is what led to her question.   I won't sit still for anyone saying anything against my Dads.   They love me and have shown me nothing but kindness and respect since I first met them.   I can't say that about very many other people I have met."

It was obvious that he meant the girls in the backseat even though he hadn't spoken it out loud.   There was a very think silence in the car for some time.   As they approached the airport, Jeff said, "Please accept my apologies on behalf of my daughters."

Kyle looked at Jeff and said, "I accept your apology.   Thank you for the ride."  

Jeff pulled over to the curb and Kyle jumped out of the car as quickly as he could.   Jeff popped the trunk open and Kyle retrieved his suitcase.   He slammed the trunk closed.   He had turned to enter the airport when he heard Jeff say, "Please don't be angry, Kyle."

Kyle turned to Jeff, "I'm not angry at you, Uncle Jeff.   I'm angry at Caroline.   She doesn't even know my Dads.   How can she assume that living with them is so bad?"

"She doesn't know anything," Jeff said.   "Please don't be angry with her."

Kyle looked at Jeff and replied, "I'll think about it."

Jeff said, "That is all I ask.  Have a nice flight."

Kyle smiled and said, "Good bye, Jeff."   He turned and entered the airport.    


Prev To be continued . . .