The Lernier Family
© 2011 Russ Nielsen
All Rights Reserved




Chapter 27: Never Is A Long Time

We retrieved Kyle from the airport in Buffalo Saturday morning.   We waited near the baggage carousel for Kyle.   I kept an eye on the twins who were completely fascinated by the movement of the carousel.   "Don't go near the carousel, boys," I warned.   I moved closer to them anticipating that they wouldn't be able to contain their curiosity.   Despite my warning, they continued to move closer.   I reached down and took each of them by the hand, "Gentlemen, I believe that you two were asked to stay away from the carousel."

JJ looked up at me, "But it's moving, Daddy."

"I know it's moving, son.   That is the very reason I want you stay away from it.   I don't want you to get hurt," I explained.

I walked with them towards Rick.   Rick smiled and said, "Kyle is right there."   He pointed down the hallway.

The twins looked where Rick was pointing and saw Kyle.   Josh asked, "May we go to him?"

"Yes, you may," I responded and released the twins' hands from my grasp.

The two little boys ran towards Kyle who grinned and knelt down to grab them both in his arms.   He picked them up and carried them over to us.   JJ said, "We missed you, Kyle."   Each boy had wrapped his arms around Kyle's neck as if he were a very prized possession they had just found.

"I missed you guys," Kyle said.   He kissed each boy on the cheek and then set them down.   He hugged me and Rick.   "I'm glad to be with my family, again."

David pointed toward the baggage carousel, "Is that your suitcase?"

"Yes, it is," Kyle responded.   He walked over and grabbed it off of the carousel.

"If we're ready, let's go," Rick said.

Kyle smiled, "I'm ready."

We left the airport terminal and found our car in the parking terrace.   The children talked excitedly among themselves.   It didn't take us long to cover the 40 km. (25 miles) from Buffalo to St. Catharines.

We pulled into the driveway and piled out of the mini-van.   David carried Kyle's suitcase upstairs to Kyle's room while the rest of us went into the family room.   When David returned, Kyle said, "Thank you for taking my suitcase up to my room."

David responded, "No problem."

I had taken a seat at the desk in the corner of the room to finish typing up my notes for Justin's memorial service.   Kyle looked over my shoulder and asked, "What are you writing, Daddy?"

"I'm writing a eulogy for Justin's memorial service," I said.

"May I see what you've written?" Kyle asked.  

"Sure," I replied and exchanged places with Kyle.  Kyle read:

"I met Justin for the first time a during my sophomore year at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.   I went to a concert put on by the Twin Cities Gay Men's Chorus.   After the performance, I went up to the stage to speak to some of choir members and that is when Justin introduced himself.   I remember that he made a pass at me but I told him I already had a boyfriend.   At that time, I had no idea that we would meet him, again, under very different circumstances.

A few weeks later, we saw Justin at a club.   He joined us and as we talked.   He told us his life story.   I remember how shocked I was when he handed us a suicide note he had written.   From that moment on, Justin became a big part of our lives.   Justin was totally overwhelmed when we told him we were buying a house so that he could live with us.   We moved in together and we watched over him and stayed with him.   I went to therapy sessions with Justin so I could overcome my own demons while he struggled with his.       

We stayed up late on many a night talking about everything under the sun (or moon or stars).   Justin shared memories of his childhood.   He told me of his parents taking him to visit family in Quebec and that they would speak French when they didn't want the boys to know what they were saying.   He also said he knew he was in major trouble if his mother started speaking to him in French.   He never really learned to speak French but did understand enough to know what his parents said.  

During the summers of his high school years, he rode with his Dad who was a truck driver.   He drove a route from their hometown in Wisconsin to the Quebec border and back every week.   He was amazed that everywhere his Dad stopped to take a break from driving the people always gave his Dad food - pastries, cookies, bread, etc.   He used to tease his Dad about eating too much which just made his Dad laugh.   The people everywhere knew his Dad by name and would greet him with a warm smile and a firm handshake.   His Dad always introduced him as his driver-in-training.   Justin loved those summers on the road with his Dad.

Justin loved playing football and was a member of his high school football team.   He was homecoming king his senior year.   Of course, he went to the homecoming dance that year with the homecoming queen.   How little did she know that Justin had a crush on her older brother!  

After his first year at college, he was completely heartbroken when his parents disowned him for being gay.   His father told him he was no son of his if he was gay.   Justin returned to school determined to make it on his own.  To make ends meet, he worked as a security guard at a local bank.   He would go to the bank at closing time and help dump all the garbage and do some general cleaning and they would lock him inside the bank for the night.   He told me he didn't mind that job but it wasn't one he really enjoyed.   Besides, he said they gave him a gun but no bullets!  He said the best part of working there was that he was able to get his studying done for college and get paid for it at the same time!     

It was while he was working at the bank that Justin entered into a relationship that would prove to be one of his biggest challenges.   He met a man who used and abused him mentally, emotionally and physically.   That man eventually tried to kill him and nearly succeeded.    Justin's wounds from that ordeal went deep, so deep that none of us could even fathom it.   It was during his recovery from this relationship that we met Justin.  

That night at the club, after he had told us about his past, he handed us a suicide note he had written and asked us for our help.   We told him we had decided to adopt him into our family.   At first, Justin didn't believe we really thought of him as part of our family.   It took him a while for him to realize that we were for real and that he was, indeed, part of our family.   I like to think of us as a band of brothers – Mark, Brandon, Zach, Todd, Robbie, Adam, Justin, Brian, Ben, Rick and myself.  

We did everything we could to help Justin but nothing we did seemed to bring him completely out of his depression.   However, it wasn't long before our youngest brothers decided to take matters into their own hands when it came to Justin.   Robbie and Adam double teamed Justin!   They drew a circle of love around him that Justin couldn't escape.   Justin learned to love them and to trust them.   As time went on, we all grew to love Justin as our older brother.  I know I speak for all of us when I say that he took us under his wing to guide and to teach us how to be successful at life:   school, relationships, jobs, business ventures, etc.   He would often tell us that if we sounded like we knew what we were talking about that nobody would challenge us.   He encouraged us to do our research and gather all the information we could about whatever activity we were undertaking.    He insisted that we present ourselves with confidence.   He counseled with us and often chided us when we did something stupid.  

As our band of brothers can attest, Justin would nail us with the sharpness of his tongue when we didn't live up to his expectations.   He didn't do it out of malice but always with the aim of making things better.   He set high standards and expected everyone around him to do the same.  

When he got frustrated, two of his favorite sayings were, "There are too many people around here who think that work is a four letter word.   If it begins with "w" and ends with "k,"  they don't want anything to do with it.   The same thing applies if it begins with "t" and ends with "k."   They don't want to work or think."

Justin had many nicknames for the people he interacted with at home or at work; some weren't very flattering but were very apropos.   Some of those nick names were:  Tall Girl, Cowboy, Soldier Boy, Bird Brain, Wonder Boy, Captain Underpants, etc.   But more than anything, Justin was always there for us.  All of us were beneficiaries of his friendship.   When we were feeling down, he would always call.  Justin somehow knew that we needed to talk.   It was almost uncanny how he knew things.   He worried about his friends and their future.   He often gave counsel and provided a moment of comic relief to help cheer us up.    He even offered to drive to Philadelphia to give a friend the wheelchair he had in his garage.   Justin flew to New York City to help a friend go through his parents' things when they passed away.   He made a point of keeping in touch with his friends.   He often would tell me of his conversations with each of us and kept me up to date.   Justin was the glue that held us together. 

I am going to miss Justin because he wasn't afraid to tell me when I was out of line.   I'm going to miss his friendly smile and his off color jokes.   But most of all, I'm going to miss being able to pick up the phone and hear his voice.   I'm going to miss being able to tell him confidences and get his counsel."

Kyle finished reading what I had written and asked, "May I add my thoughts to what you have written?"

"Sure," I responded.  

"I think you should let all of us add our memories of Justin along with our thoughts and feelings to what you have already written, Glenn," Rick said.   "I'm glad that you volunteered to speak at Justin's memorial service because I don't think any of the rest of us would have been able to do it."

I nodded my head, "I know that Robbie and Adam are in no shape to be able to speak at Justin's memorial service."

Robbie nodded his head, "You're right, Glenn.   I'm an emotional wreck right now."

Adam said, "There is no way we could've put together the memorial service.   Just the thought of it makes me shudder."

"I'm glad you and Robbie are willing to let me take care of the arrangement.   I wanted Reverend Riegger to conduct the service but he is in ill health.   His replacement, Reverend Sonnefeld, has impressed my Mom and Dad," I said.

"They attend his services every Sunday," Rick said.   "We go to church with them when we're home."  I gave Rick an intense stare to make sure I heard him correctly.   It was the first time I have ever heard Rick refer to St. Catharines as home.   Rick returned my gaze and asked, "What?"

I decided not to make a big deal of it so I responded, "I was just thinking how good it is to be home."

Rick nodded his head, "It sure is."   He reached over and took my hand, "Yes, this is home, Glenn."   He leaned over and kissed me.

Adam laughed, "Robbie, I think we just witnessed a milestone in Rick and Glenn's marriage!"

"We sure did," Robbie smiled.   "Welcome home, guys!"

I smiled and looked at my husband, "I love you."

"I know," Rick said.   "It's hard not to call this home since Mom and Dad live here as well as Uncle Dave and Aunt Mary.   Uncle Carl and Aunt Hannah live down the street."

Robbie said, "Not only that, all the guys are living in Toronto now except the four of you."

"Even Greg and Cory have moved to Toronto.   We helped them move in a couple of months ago.  They found a place in our neighborhood," Adam said.

I looked at Rick and said, "We will continue to spend our summers here for the next few years until Rick is ready to make this our primary residence instead of the house in Virginia."

Rick nodded his head and said, "I want to stay close enough to my sister just in case she has a change of heart.   I haven't given up on her, yet."

"Well, she hasn't been exactly welcoming," I said trying not to show my frustration with Rick's insistence on contacting her despite her lack of interest in us or our family.

"No, she hasn't," Rick agreed.   "At least she still answers my phone calls."

"Barely," I responded, trying not to sound sarcastic.   I walked over and sat down next to Rick who put his arm around my shoulder.   I leaned against him and relaxed.

Zach said, "Don't give up hope, Rick.   Julie may change her mind at some point in the future."

"When I call her, she brings me up to date on what has been happening with the rest of our family," Rick said.   "However, we only talk to each other once or twice a year."

Our doorbell rang and Kyle went to answer the door.   He returned with Mom and Dad.  I got up and hugged them both.   Mom said, "I am so glad to see you, son.   I'm sorry that it has to be on such a sad occasion."

I didn't get a chance to reply because the twins had spotted them and came running over.   JJ exclaimed excitedly, "Grandma and Grandpa!"

Dad leaned down and hugged them both.   Then Mom took the twins by the hand and led them over to the couch where she sat down.  "Let me see how much you have grown."

Josh and JJ stood tall in front of her.   Josh said, "We get bigger every night while we are sleeping, Grandma."

Mom nodded her head in agreement, "You sure do, Josh."

JJ said, "Daddy says we will soon be as tall as Dad."

Mom smiled and said, "I'm sure you will grow up to be just as tall as your Dad."

"We are going to be four soon," JJ announced.   "And our cousins will be five."   JJ pointed to the triplets.

Mom said, "How are the triplets doing?"   She looked over at Robbie and Adam.

Robbie said, "They are doing well.   It's me and Adam that aren't doing so well at the moment."

"We're sorry for your loss," Dad said as he joined Mom on the sofa.

Adam acknowledged Dad's condolences and said, "We are doing okay now.   Our parents came over to the hotel to be with us for a few hours after it happened.   Mom and I went over to the house to get a few things before we left to come here.   We are going over to my parents place for dinner before the game tonight."

Zach said, "I have to leave in a little bit so I can get ready for the game.   I managed to get tickets for everyone.   I thought it would help take our minds off of what has happened."

Dad said, "That's a good idea, Zach.   I love watching you play hockey.   I also enjoy being able to brag about you to all of my friends.

Mom laughed, "He's not exaggerating!   He brags about you to anyone who will listen!"

"We told your Mom and Dad that since we adopted you into our family that they had to share the bragging rights with us," Dad said with a smile.

Zach laughed, "Mom did tell me that we were very fortunate to have three sets of parents instead of the usual two sets for a married couple."

"Actually, we have five sets of parents because there's Uncle Dave and Aunt Mary and Uncle Carl and Aunt Hannah," Robbie said.

Mom said, "That is true, Robbie.   It has been really wonderful to have so many of you living close to us."   Mom looked over at Ashley and David, "My, you have both grown up so much since you were here.   How are you doing in school?"

Ashley came over and hugged her and said, "I'm doing well.   I love my art class.   I brought some of my sketches to show you and Grandpa."

Mom smiled, "Why don't you bring them to me?   I would love to see them."

Ashley left the room to retrieve her sketchbook.   David said, "I'm doing alright.   Dad is a mentor for the robotics team and is taking me with him so I can see what they are doing.   I can't participate officially until next year though."

Dad said, "That sounds really interesting.   What do you like the most about it?"

"I like using the computer programs to make three-dimensional drawings," David said.   "I want to take a Java programming class so I can learn to program the robots the robotics team is building."

Ashley reappeared with her drawings.  JJ asked, "May we see them, too?"

"Yes, if you will let me sit next to Grandma.   You and Josh can see them, too."   JJ moved over and Ashley sat in between him and Mom.  She opened the sketchbook.   She held it so that the twins could see what she had drawn.

Josh exclaimed, "That's me and that's JJ!"   He pointed to the two drawings on the page.

"Yes, I drew you in the back of the car yesterday," Ashley said.

"Why does JJ have his eyes closed?" Josh asked.

"Because he was asleep," she responded.

"These are very well done, Ashley," Mom commented.

"My best drawings are of dragons and unicorns," Ashley said, turning the page.

"They are very well done," Mom said with approval.

Rick asked, "Do we get to see them as well?"

Ashley laughed, "Yes, Dad, you get to see them.   You have been so busy I haven't had a chance to show them to you."

Rick laughed and looked at me, "Remind me never to get into an argument with Ashley."

"Well, it's true, Dad," she said.

Mom patted her on the shoulder, "You tell him, Ashley.  I'm glad to see that you know how to stand up for yourself."

"I have to with all of these boys around," Ashley said smiling.

Mom nodded, "I know the feeling."

Ashley said, "I have drawn a couple of landscapes and a still life.   We have to show that we know how to shade different shapes to give our drawings dimension.   My favorite is this one."   She showed Mom a drawing of a dragon sitting on top of a hill.   She then showed Mom a number of additional drawings.   The last one was a drawing of a parrot that was partially colored in with colored pencil.

Mom said, "This looks like Uncle Justin's parrot."

"It is, Grandma," Ashley said.   "Since the parrot can't be at the memorial service, I decided to draw him and put his picture with the other pictures we are putting together.   I am making a poster with photos of Uncle Justin for display at the church."

"But we have photographs of the parrot you can use," Robbie said.

"Yes, but I wanted to draw something for Uncle Justin.   I plan to sketch in Uncle Justin's face in the parrot's feathers.   See I have already started," she pointed out Justin's face.

Mom said, "Show your uncles what you are doing, Ashley."

Ashley stood up and showed her work to us and to her uncles.   Robbie's eyes were bright with unshed tears as he said, "Thank you, Ashley.   I know that Uncle Justin would've loved to have it framed and hung in his bedroom."

"Dad, Can we get it framed before the memorial service?" Ashley asked.

"Yes, if we get the frame today," Rick responded.   "Will you have it finished soon?"

"I am almost done now.   I think I can finish it in about an hour or so," Ashley said.

JJ asked, "May we help you?"

Ashley smiled, "You may help me draw more pictures while I finish this one.   Is that okay with you?"

JJ clapped his hands in excitement, "Yes!"

Ashley asked, "Josh, do you want to make some drawings as well?"

Josh shook his head, "No, I want to color."

Ashley replied, "Okay, you can color while JJ makes the drawings."

Josh smiled, "Okay."

Ashley, "Let's go, boys.   We have work to do."

The twins jumped down from the couch and followed Ashley into the kitchen where she gave each boy some drawing paper.   She gave crayons to Josh and a pencil to JJ.   Each boy was happily engaged in their task as Ashley sat next to them to complete her sketch.

Meanwhile, Kyle had finished adding his memories of Justin to my document.   He got up and walked over to Mom and Dad and gave them a hug.   "Do you want to add something to Daddy's memory paper?"

Mom looked at me in puzzlement so I explained what we were doing.   She said, "I'm not very good at computers, Kyle, but if you will type it in, I will tell you my memories of Justin."

Kyle responded with a smile, "Sure, Grandma.   Grandpa, do you want me to do the same for you?"

Dad smiled, "Sure, Kyle."   He brought the laptop over and sat down next to Mom as she dictated to him.

After lunch, we took Ashley to get her drawing framed.   We also stopped in to see Uncle Carl and Aunt Hannah.   We called the guys and invited everyone over for a family reunion at our house with Uncle Dave, Aunt Mary, Ben and Janice joining Uncle Carl and Aunt Hannah, the Andersons, the Ingrams, Mark, Brandon, Greg, and Cory.

The smaller children were watching a DVD in the recreation room while the adults were in the family room relaxing and talking.   Kyle walked into the family room with David and Ashley.   He walked over to us and asked, "May we join the adults in here?"

Rick smiled and replied, "Sure; however, I would like one of you to stay with the little ones just to make sure nothing happens.   You can rotate between the three of you."

Kyle nodded, "Okay, who wants to take the first rotation?"

Ashley volunteered, "I'll go first.   Set the timer for 20 minutes then we can switch.   David will be next and then you, Kyle."

Kyle nodded his head, "Okay.   David, are you alright with that?"

"Yeah," David said and collapsed into a beanbag chair next to the couch.   Kyle took a seat next to Rick.

Ben asked, "Is the rest of our gang coming for the memorial service?"

"Do you mean Jimmy, Donica, Patty and Irene?" I asked.

"Yes," Ben said.   "Patty and Irene will want to be here for sure."

"I have called them all," I said.   "Most will make it but Patty wasn't sure she could be here."

"Has anyone contacted Justin's family?" Janice asked.

"I don't think so," I responded.   "I know that I haven't and I'm pretty sure that Robbie and Adam haven't."

"Shouldn't we let them know," Janice asked.

"Why?" I asked with more than a little bitterness.   "They didn't care about him while he was living; why would they care about him now that he's dead?"

Janice said, "I know how you feel about them, Glenn, but I would certainly want to know if one of my children died even if we weren't on speaking terms."

Rick could see that I was getting upset and spoke up before I could respond, "Let's call them after the memorial service is over and Justin has been laid to rest."

I looked at Rick and nodded, "Okay, we can call them on Tuesday."

Janice smiled, "Thank you, Glenn.   I know how Justin felt about his family and believe me I wouldn't try to contact them if Justin were still living.   However, since he has passed on, maybe it's time that his family begin to face the fact that their opportunity to reconcile themselves with their son is gone forever."

"It won't matter to them," I said.

"How do you know?" Janice countered.   "Have you talked to them?   Did Justin try to reach out to them?"

"No and no," I said.

"Then give them a chance," Janice pleaded with me.

"I suppose you think we should call Brian as well?" I asked sarcastically.

"Yes, I do," Janice replied, ignoring my sarcasm.   "Everyone who ever loved Justin should have a chance to say their "good byes" even if they can't be at the memorial service.   When someone dies, their loved ones need to be able to grieve for them – even those who believe they have disowned Justin.   They are still connected to him because at one point in their lives he was as beloved to them as you are to Rick.   You need to learn to open your heart and let the love you have for Rick flow into the lives of those around you Glenn, including those who have hurt you or have hurt those you love.   I know that it's difficult and that you don't want to do it.   I understand that part but the kindness you show others will come back to you a hundredfold if you let it."

Rick nodded his head, "That is why I keep reaching out to my sister, Glenn.   As long as I keep the communication channels open, I can keep my hope alive that someday my family will accept me and my family."

I looked from Janice to Rick and back to Janice, "It's not fair!"

"What's not fair?" Janice asked in surprise.

"It's not fair when you two gang up on me!" I protested.

Janice laughed, "Oh, Glenn, we aren't ganging up on you.   We are just trying to help you become the best that you can be."

"Now you sound like my mother," I retorted.

"Janice is right, son," Mom said.

"Mom…..not you, too," I whined.

Dad looked at me and chimed in, "Just admit they're right, Glenn.   It's easier that way.   I promise."

"Oh, alright, I'll call Brian," I said with a heavy sigh of resignation.   Rick squeezed my hand to let me know it was okay.

I looked across the room at Robbie and asked, "Do you have Brian's phone number?"

Robbie said, "I have it.   Justin gave it to me a couple of months ago.   Now that I think about it, Justin must have been planning this for a long time.   I remember thinking that some of his behaviors were kind of odd but I never connected it to his suicide plan until now."

Adam agreed, "In retrospect, there were many things that pointed to what he had in mind.   I guess that is what bothers us the most is that we completely missed the boat.   You would think that we would have been clued into what to look for after all the counseling sessions we had with Justin and his therapist.   We even did some volunteer work for the local suicide hotline so we would know what to do if Justin ever contemplated suicide."

"I think we saw what he wanted us to see, Adam," Robbie said.   "We wanted Justin to be getting better.   We wanted him to become a fully functioning member of our relationship.   Justin knew this and put on a happy face to keep us thinking he was okay.   I just can't believe we didn't see through his façade to discover what was really happening to him."

Mom said, "Adam and Robbie, I want you both to stop this line of thinking right now!   It's leading to a place that is not healthy for you or your family!"

Aunt Mary said, "You are right about that, Eva.   Boys, you need to stop blaming yourselves for what happened to Justin.   If you don't stop, you will end up in the same spot as he did.   You can't afford to do that with the three little boys who are dependent on you."

"But how do we deal with the pain, Aunt Mary?   How do we get past the sense of loss?   How do we learn to move past this?" Robbie said, trying hard to maintain control of his emotions but just barely.

"I don't have all the answers, Robbie, but going where you were headed is not it.   It's going to take a lot of love and compassion by those around you, Robbie.   You and Adam have a very extensive support network to help you through this difficult time.   Think about it.   You have your parents and Adam's who live close to you.   You also have all of us in this room plus all of the families and friends of what Glenn has christened your "Band of Brothers."   I think you have a whole host of family and friends who love you and want the best for you," Aunt Mary said.

Adam spoke the thought that was in my mind when he said, "But it wasn't enough to save Justin."

Aunt Mary agreed, "You are right that it wasn't enough to save Justin; however, neither of you went through the brutal physical attack and near death experience Justin did.   Remember how badly he was beaten by his first boyfriend?"  

She paused before she continued, "The two of you have had a loving supportive family who has stood by you from the moment you came out.  You both have older brothers who have taken you under their wing to guide and protect you since you were both in high school not to mention the rest of your band of brothers who love you and have surrounded you all of these years.   Brothers like Mark, Brandon, Glenn, Rick, Ben, Jimmy, Greg, and Cory."

"Don't forget the girls!" Janice interjected.   "There's me, Donica, Patty and Irene.  We have been there for you two since the day we met you guys."

Robbie's tears had ceased as he listened to Aunt Mary and Janice enumerate all of people who loved him and Adam.   He looked around the room at his parents, Adam's parents and the rest of us.   Then he looked at his husband and said, "Adam, they have a point."

"I guess we need to remember to count our blessings instead of dwelling on things we can't change," Adam said.

Mark smiled and said, "I think you are starting to get the picture."

Greg spoke up, "A big part of how Cory and I recovered from what happened to us was getting away from the place where we were attacked by my Dad.   Cory and I talked it over last night and we want you to move in with us.   We have a big enough house for you and the children.   That way you could build a new house or buy a different one."

Robbie looked at Adam, "I hadn't even thought about having to go back home to the room where Justin killed himself.   I don't think I could handle being there anymore."

Adam looked at Greg and said, "We will talk it over and let you know."

We continued to talk and catch up on all the happenings between all of the different families.   Dinner was an all-out banquet with lots of great food.   Aunt Hannah brought her pecan pies, Mark made his signature lasagna, Janice brought her broccoli salad, and I made fresh bread and rolls.   Everyone commented on how good the food tasted.   After dinner, we headed over to Toronto to see Zach play.    We had a great time and forgot about the reason that had brought us together.   We earned scowls of disapproval and outright hostility when we cheered for Zach when he scored a goal against the Maple Leafs.   After the game, we caravanned back to St. Catharines.

Ben and Janice stayed with his parents.   The Andersons and Ingrams stayed with Uncle Carl and Aunt Hannah, leaving Mark and Brandon to stay with us.   We pulled into the driveway followed by Zach and Todd and Mark and Brandon.   Before we got out of the car, I turned around and asked, "Kyle, will you help set up the air mattresses and sleeping bags in the recreation room."

Kyle replied, "Sure, Daddy.   David, come and help me."

Ashley said, "I'll help you guys get things set up."

The three teens made their way to the recreation room while Rick and I brought in the sleeping twins.   We sat them on the couch where they continued to sleep.   I walked into the recreation room to see what else needed to be done.

Kyle said "We have the air mattresses inflated, Daddy.   David and I will sleep down here with the little kids.   That way if they wake up and need to go to the bathroom, we can help them find their way.   I put up the new night lights you got yesterday so no one will fall over the furniture."

"Thanks, Kyle," I said.   "I appreciate your help.   Ashley, will you bring the twins' pajamas so we can get them ready for bed?"

"Yes, Daddy," she replied and disappeared upstairs.

Kyle went with me to retrieve the twins and we brought them back to the recreation room.   Ashley brought their pajamas.   We got them into their pajamas and tucked them into bed.   Mark carried his 6 year-old daughter, Giselle, inside and tucked her into a sleeping bag.   Mark said, "I'm glad we had Giselle change into her pajamas before we left Toronto."  

Brandon agreed, "Giselle was so excited to see Zach play she wore herself out cheering for him."

Mark stood up and gave Brandon a hug, "She is just like her father."

Brandon smiled, "Yes, she is."

Rick joined us and said, "Let's go into the family room and relax for a bit.   I am still wound up from the hockey game."

We walked into the family and collapsed on the couches.   A few minutes later the rest of the guys arrived.   Robbie poked his head into the family room and asked, "Is everything ready for the children to sleep in the recreation room?"

"Yes, everything is all set up.   You can take the triplets in and put them directly to bed," I replied.

Robbie said, "Thanks, Glenn."

We heard the guys take their sleeping children into the recreation room.

Brandon stretched out on the couch with his head in Mark's lap and said, "I'm glad you have made arrangements for everyone to have a place to sleep tonight.   I was a little worried that I would have to sleep on the couch tonight when you told me who all was coming over tonight."

I laughed, "It's a good thing that Aunt Hannah has really hit it off with the Andersons and Ingrams.   They often take turns hosting the others for games nights and they have stayed overnight at each other's homes quite often from what Aunt Hannah tells me."

Mark confirmed that it was so, "They have tried to get us to join them for their game nights but I would rather go out to the night clubs.   I like going dancing with my handsome husband.

He grinned and said, "We still have the magic touch.   When we go out on the floor, they always clear a space for us and watch with envy at such well-endowed guys dancing together."

Mark nodded his head, "We do cut a fine image when we go out."

"It's too bad we have to get back to Virginia so soon," I lamented.   "I would love to go out dancing before we go home."   I looked hopefully at my husband.

Rick laughed, "No, Glenn, we can't stay longer!   We have to get back.   The kids have school and I have a job that requires me to be in the office once in a while!  I pretended to pout until Rick said, "You look so cute when you stick out your lip like that!   Now I know where the kids get it!"   He kissed me and then started to tickle me!

He had me laughing so hard my sides hurt, "Rick!  Stop!"

"Only if you promise not keep mooning about staying here longer," Rick said grinning.

"I wasn't mooning about it but I could," I said with an evil grin.

Mark laughed, "Don't encourage him, Rick.   You know he'll do it!"

Rick grinned, "I know he will; however, I will save you all from getting an eye full by requesting a private audience."

I laughed, "I require advanced notice and payment in full at the time of service."

Brandon said, "It's good to know you haven't changed one bit, Glenn.   You were always such a tease!"

The rest of the guys joined us as I looked over at Brandon and said, "Now don't get us started about who was the biggest tease in college, Brandon.   I think you had me beat by a long shot!"

 Zach said, "He has you there, Brandon.   I remember how you tried seducing Glenn."

Brandon laughed, "I very nearly succeeded but for Glenn's faithfulness to Rick; however, Glenn pointed me in Mark's direction and I was lost from the moment Mark and I became lovers."

Mark smiled, "That's right, Brandon, because you were meant to be my husband."

Zach said, "I'm all tuckered out so I am going to bed.   Good night!"

Zach took Todd by the hand and led him out of the room.   The rest of the guys agreed that it was late and we parted company for the evening.

Instead of going to sleep, Robbie and Adam stayed up talking.   Robbie said, "I found Justin's IPOD in the car tonight.  Adam looked over at Robbie bracing himself for an emotional outburst.   Seeing Adam's look, Robbie said, "I'm okay, Adam, really I am."

Adam said, "Okay.   You had me worried there for a moment."

Robbie said, "I was trolling though Justin's playlists on the way back from the game tonight and found a song that really fits how I feel right now.   I want you to listen to it with me Adam."

Robbie plugged in his earphones and sat down on the bed.   Adam joined him and took one of the ear pieces and placed it in his ear.   The song, "Never Is A Long Time," started to play and soon tears were rolling down both of their cheeks.   Adam put his arm around Robbie's waist and said, "That's exactly how I feel, Robbie.  I remember Justin played that song along with many others from that band."

The next day they attended church services and spent the day getting ready for the memorial service the following day.   Monday dawned with a bright blue sky.   After a good breakfast, the guys and their children drove over to the church for the memorial service.   Reverend Sonnefeld welcomed them at the door and escorted them to seats near the front of the sanctuary.   They sang a hymn and then a prayer was said.   Then Reverend Sonnefeld got up to address the gathering.

He began, "We are all gathered here together to honor the memory of Justin Cardin.   We will first hear from one of Justin's good friends, Glenn Lernier.   Following him we will hear a special musical number."

He sat down and I made my way to the pulpit.   I said, "Good morning, everyone.   Before I get started, I want to thank everyone who is here today.   It is a testament to me of the huge impact Justin had on all of our lives that you would take time out of your busy lives to honor him today."

I ran through the many thoughts and memories that Kyle had collected over the last few days.   Together, Kyle and I rewrote them into a cohesive discourse.   As I narrated Justin's life story, we laughed and we cried together as we remembered our dearest friend.   When I finished, there wasn't a single dry eye in the church.

Then our band of brothers came up to the front of the sanctuary and we sang, "Amazing Grace," accompanied by Kyle and David on their violin and viola.   The song had been one of Justin's favorites and one that he sang often.  

To close out the service, Reverend Sonnefeld delivered a few words.   "Today we have paid tribute to a wonderful man.   One who knew many sorrows, yet, knew how to bring joy to those around him.   We have heard how he influenced so many of you for good.   I am here today to tell you that Justin has been gathered into the arms of his God where his sorrows have been lifted from his soul.  The things that tormented him are now gone and he is left only with the good things that happened to him.   Justin has returned to his Maker and now waits for us to join him when it is time for us to depart this earth."

"Through Justin, God showed His love for His children, who you are.   Justin was indeed a son of God and has returned to that happy place where he came from to be with us on earth.   We, who have been left behind, will carry our memories of Justin with us.   We must learn to enrich the lives of those around us and to always live up to the high standard Justin set for us in giving of his time and talents to those around him.   Rather than remembering his suffering, for he did indeed suffer great pain, you should remember the joy and the happiness he brought to your lives."

"While we miss our brother, Justin, we must move forward to build up our families and ourselves; to honor his memory by bringing joy into our lives.   Let us rededicate ourselves to living up to our potential as children of God.   Let us love one another and treat each other with kindness and respect.   Let us show our love by being tolerant of each other's weaknesses and reaching out a helping hand to our neighbor.   Honor Justin's memory by doing good and bringing joy into this world that needs it so badly.   Let us praise God!"

Reverend Sonnefeld finished his sermon and then led us in a hymn and a prayer.   We gathered in the church foyer to speak with Reverend Sonnefeld before we returned home.   We had everyone over for lunch and spent the entire afternoon with family and friends.   When everyone had left for their homes, Zach, Todd, Rick and I sat down around the kitchen table with Robbie and Adam.

"What are your plans, guys?" Zach asked.

Robbie said, "We have decided to stay here until we can build us a new home.   I can't move back into our house after what has happened."

"Thank you for offering us the use of your home," Adam said to me and Rick.

Rick replied, "I'm glad you accepted our offer, Adam.   It just made more sense to have you take care of our home instead of moving in with Greg and Cory.   I'm sure you would have had a great time but I think you need some time to heal without dealing with another couple."

Robbie nodded his head, "I need to get my head on straight before I can live with someone else.   Adam and I have scheduled some therapy sessions to help us through the grieving process.   Aunt Hannah has agreed to watch the triplets so we can spend the necessary time to work on us."

Adam said, "Aunt Hannah practically demanded that we leave the triplets with her every Friday night so we can go on date nights!"

"That sounds like Aunt Hannah," I said laughing.

"Our parents have also made it clear that they intend to exercise their rights as grandparents and claim a weekend or two of the triplets' time," Robbie said smiling.  

"It sounds like you have plenty of love and support," Todd said.

"Yes, we do," Robbie said.   "I'm still sad about what happened and I really miss Justin but I think we are going to make it."   He looked over at Adam who smiled and took Robbie's hand in his own.

We talked for a while about our plans for the future before we were reminded that the children were hungry, again!   We spent the next a couple of days helping Adam and Robbie move their stuff into storage and getting their home ready to sell.   We headed back to Virginia on Wednesday.   Kyle was getting anxious about missing his football game!   We got in late and immediately sent everyone to bed.   We climbed into our own bed totally exhausted.   Rick wrapped his arms around me and kissed me.   "I love you, Glenn."

"I love you, too," I replied and rested my head on his chest.   "Thank you for being such a rock for me this week, Rick."

"It's what we do for our loved ones," Rick responded.   "I know how close you were to Justin and I am glad we were there for Robbie and Adam as well."

I hugged my man as he smoothed my hair and gently rubbed my back.   His touch was so full of love.   I snuggle closer to him so that my body was molded around his.   It wasn't long before we both drifted into a deep slumber.

Prev To be continued . . .

A Note from Russ:

Roxette:   Never Is a Long Time -

Lyrics -