The Lernier Family
© 2011 Russ Nielsen
All Rights Reserved




Chapter 42: Kyle’s First Time Driving

The next morning, I awoke to find two pairs of eyes staring into mine.   I lifted my head from Rick’s chest, and smiled at our twins.   “Good morning, boys.”

They chorused, “Good morning, Daddy.”

I turned my head to find Rick smiling at us.   “Good morning, Babe,” I said, giving him a kiss.

JJ said, “Daddy, Dad said he missed your kisses while you were gone.”

I met Rick’s gaze, and said, “He said that, did he?”

Josh said, “He did.   I heard him say so.”

“I missed his kisses, too,” I said.   “I also missed getting hugs and kisses from my boys.”

I held out my arms to them, and they scrambled up on the bed.   They put their little arms around my neck and kissed me on the cheek.   “I love you, boys,” I said.

Each of them said, “I love you, Daddy.”

Rick asked, “Do I get a hug and a kiss, too?”

Josh said, “Yes, Dad.”

Rick scooped them into his arms, as they gave him a hug and a kiss.

“Did you guys sleep okay?” he asked.

“Yes, we did,” JJ said.   “We woke up and went exploring.”

I raised my eyebrows, and asked, “Where did you go exploring?”

“We went downstairs to the kitchen.   Aunt Sharon gave us pancakes with lots of syrup,” Josh said.

“Are you sure you ate pancakes?” I asked.   “You guys don’t have any syrup on your hands or face.   That doesn’t seem normal to me.”

JJ said, seriously, “Aunt Sharon washed our hands and face, after we finished eating.   She said that we needed to have clean hands and faces.”

Rick smiled, and asked, “Did you thank Aunt Sharon?”

“Yes, we remembered to say ‘thank you’ for breakfast, and for helping us get cleaned up,” JJ said.

Rick asked, “Has everyone else eaten breakfast?”

“No, just us,” Josh said.   “Did you know that Kyle snores?”

Rick laughed.   “No, I didn’t.   Did you hear him snoring?”

Josh giggled.   “Yes, we went in his room and his mouth was open.”

“Yeah, and he was snoring really loud,” JJ said.

“Well, you can tell him that he snores,” I said.

“Who snores,” Kyle said, from our doorway.  

It was apparent that he had just gotten up, since his hair was standing straight up on his head.   He wore only his school gym shorts, showing off his well-defined abs and upper body.   Rick’s weightlifting program, combined with his efforts at school, were paying huge dividends!   Our young man was growing up!

JJ and Josh chorused, “You do!”

They climbed down off of our bed and ran over to Kyle, grabbing him around the legs.

He knelt down and picked them up in his arms.   JJ said, “Kyle, your arms are almost as big as Dad’s.”

Kyle grinned.   “I’m trying to get bigger than Dad.”

He walked over and sat on the foot of the bed.   Josh said, “You’re already as tall as Daddy.”

Kyle said, “Yes, but Daddy can still beat me at arm wrestling.”

I asked, “Do I sense a rematch is in the offing?”

“Yes, Daddy, I want a rematch.   I’ve been working out with my friends, every day after school, as well as working out with Dad at home,” Kyle said.   He flexed his muscles, showing off his big guns!   The twins put their hands around his biceps.

JJ said, “I want muscles as big as yours and Dad’s.”

“Me, too,” echoed Josh.

The twins stood up on the bed, and measured their height against Kyle.   Josh said, “See?   We’re taller than you, Kyle.”

Kyle laughed.   “You guys are silly!”   They giggled and sat down next to their brother.  

Josh said, “We’re going to be taller than you, when we grow up.”

Kyle ruffled Josh’s hair, and said, “Maybe.   We’ll have to see.   You’ll have to exercise and eat right.”

Rick asked, “Have you decided what you’re going to do about football next year?”

Kyle nodded his head.   “Yes, I’ve decided I’m not going to do football.   I talked to Coach about it.   He told me that, in order for me to play, I needed to be much faster, or get much, much bigger.   I figure I’m not going to grow much taller, and I’ve been working on my speed with Brandon, but I’m not fast enough for Coach.”

“Brandon is your friend on the cross country team, right?” I asked.

“Yes, he’s lifting weights with me and Robert,” Kyle said.

“How’s Quinn doing?” I asked.

“He’s doing a lot better,” Kyle said.   “He’s got a new girlfriend named Kumara.”

Rick asked, “Who is that?   You’ve never mentioned her before.”

“Her family just moved here from Norfolk.   Her dad’s in the Navy.   She plays a cello,” Kyle said.

“That’s cool, “I said.   “How many cellists do you guys have now?”

Kyle said, “With Kumara, we have four cellists.”   Kyle said, “I’m first chair viola, now.”

“Congratulations!” I said.   “When did you move up from third chair?”

“Friday,” Kyle said.   “Danny and MeYong weren’t happy.”

“Since there are only four violas, I assume that Barry is still fourth chair,” I said.

Kyle said, “Yep!   Barry doesn’t practice at all.   His parents make him take orchestra.   He’s more interested in football.   He thinks he’s going to get a scholarship to play football at Michigan State.”

“Why Michigan State?” I asked.

“That’s where his parents went to school,” Kyle said.   “I’ve been thinking about where I want to go to school.”

“Where do you want to go?” Rick asked.

“I want to go to the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, like Daddy did,” Kyle said.

I said, “Have you been talking to Uncle Zach?”

“Yes,” Kyle said.   “I think it will be a good school for me; plus, you and Dad still own a home there.   I thought I could live there, while I go to school.   I know that you rent mostly to gays, but I wanted to ask you to make an exception for me.”

I looked over at Rick.   Rick said, “I’m okay with that, as long as you don’t mind being around gay guys.”

Kyle laughed, and said, “It’s not like I don’t live with four gay guys, already.”

“Yes, but we’re your family,” I said.

Kyle said, “That’s true, Daddy; but, I think I can handle living with a bunch of gay guys.”

Rick met Kyle’s gaze.   “I have no doubt that you can handle yourself.   My concern is how your roommates will handle being around you.   You’re a gay guy’s wet dream, Kyle.”

Kyle smiled.   “I like being the center of attention.”

Rick laughed.   “That was the understatement of the year!”

“Alright,” I said.   “We’ll plan on getting you into U of M –Twin Cities.”

I looked up, as Purev and David walked into our bedroom.   “Hey, guys.”

They, like their brother, wore only their gym shorts.   They were holding hands.  I looked over at Rick, and mouthed, “What?”   Rick shrugged, and shook his head.

They sat down on our bed.   I said, “Good morning, boys.”

They chorused, “Good morning.”

David said, “Purev and I wanted to tell you something.”

I said, “Okay.   Do we need to have Kyle take the twins downstairs?”

David said, “Yes, please.   I’m sorry, Kyle, but we need to talk to our Dads for a minute.”

Kyle said, “Let’s go to my room, boys.   I need to get a shirt on, before we go downstairs.”

He took each of the twins by the hand and left the room, closing the door behind them.

David said, “We wanted to talk to you about boyfriends.”

I leaned back against the headboard, and took Rick’s hand.   “Okay, we’re listening.”

Purev said, “We both have boyfriends.”

Rick said, “Yes, we know.”

“We wanted to know if it’s considered cheating on our boyfriends when we give each other a blow job,” Purev said.

I glanced at Rick.   Rick said, “It depends on whether or not you have talked it over with your boyfriends.”

David said, “Mark is okay with it, as long as we don’t do anything else.   But, he thinks we shouldn’t mess around, now that Purev has a boyfriend.”

Purev said, “I haven’t talked to Gabriel about it.   I’m afraid he’ll be mad at me, if he finds out.”

“Well, I think you’ve answered your question,” I said.

David said, “But, we want to still have fun with each other.”

“Then, you need to work things out with your boyfriends.   It’s not fair to them, if you’re messing around with each other behind their backs,” I said.

David said, “Okay, we’ll talk it over with them.”

Purev said, “You can talk to Mark, if you want, because he already knew we were messing around.   But, I’m not telling Gabriel.”

David said, “Let’s ask Mark what he thinks.”

Purev shook his head.   “He’ll tell Gabriel.   Remember, they’re best friends.”

I said, “Well, just be careful, boys.   Your boyfriends are good guys, and we like both of them.   You need to remember to treat them the same way you want to be treated.   Would you want them messing around with some other guy, without telling you about it?”

Purev shook his head.   “No, I wouldn’t.   I’d be really mad.”

“Okay, then you need to stop giving David blow jobs, until you’ve talked it over with Gabriel,” I said.

David looked disappointed.   “I was afraid you would say that.”

Rick said, “David, you know what’s right.   You really don’t need us to tell you.”

David nodded his head.   “Yes, I do.”   He looked over at Purev.   “Let’s call Mark.”  They stood up, and walked out of our room.

I said, “Wow!   I thought something was going on between them.”

“I did, too,” Rick said.   “I’m glad they finally decided to talk to us.”

“They are both really good kids,” I said.

“So are their boyfriends,” Rick said.

I leaned over and kissed my husband.   “It’s because they have good role models.”

Rick laughed.   “Maybe.   In Mark’s case, I’m not sure about that.”

I thought for a minute.   “You’re right about that.   I wonder what’s happening with Mark’s dad.”

“I don’t know,” Rick said.   David and Ashley haven’t said much about him.”

“Are the Henderson’s still staying with the Campbells?” I asked.

“No, Janelle and the children have moved back into their townhouse,” Rick said.

There was a tap on our door.   I shouted out, “Come in!”

The door opened, and Ashley walked into the room, still in her nightgown.   “Good morning, Dad and Daddy.”

“Good morning, Ash.   Did you sleep okay?” Rick said.

“Yes, I did,” she answered.   She walked over to our bed.   “Are we going to be home by dinner time?”

“Yes, we’ll be home by six,” Rick said.

“Great!   May I go over to Michaela’s house tonight?   She’s invited me over to study for our math test,” she said.

“That sounds okay to me,” I said.

Rick smiled.   “It’s okay with me, too.”

Ashley said, “Thanks, Dad and Daddy.”   She leaned over and kissed each of us on the cheek.   “I love you.”

“We love you, too,” Rick said.

She said, “I’ll call Michaela back, and tell her it’s okay for me to come over.”

“Okay,” I said.   She left the room, closing the door behind her.

Rick said, “Well, we’ve seen all of our children this morning.   I believe you’re now up to date on their activities.”

I put my hand up to his face, gazing into his eyes.   “I missed them, but I know that you provided them with all the love and support they needed while I was gone.”

Rick said, “I tried to do my best.”

“You are the best, Babe,” I said, giving him a gentle kiss.

Rick asked, “Do you think we should get up?”

“Yes, let’s get a shower,” I said, grinning at my husband.   “I need your tender loving care.”

He said, “Okay, I’ve got a husband to keep happy.”   He got out of bed, and turned to help me up.   He led me to our en suite.   He turned on the shower, and adjusted the temperature.   He stepped under the warm cascade of water.   He turned and pulled me into his embrace.   This is what I miss about not being home!  

We walked into the kitchen to find Jeff, Cole, Caroline, Maria and Kyle eating breakfast.   Aunt Sharon said, “It’s about time you two showed up.   Have a seat, and I’ll get you a plate.”

“Thanks, Aunt Sharon,” Rick said.

Kyle gave us a knowing look, and grinned, “Did you have a good shower?”

Rick met his gaze, and gave him the thumbs up sign.   “Absolutely!”

We sat down next to Jeff.  He asked, “What time did you guys want to get on the road?”

Rick looked at me, and I said, “Whenever everyone is ready to go.”

Aunt Sharon asked, “Why don’t you leave after lunch?   I’ve got teriyaki beef marinating in the fridge.”

Kyle said, “That’s my favorite.”

“I know.   I remembered how much you liked it the last time you were here,” Aunt Sharon said.

Kyle asked, “May we have the recipe?”

“Sure.   I’ll write it down for you,” Aunt Sharon said.

I said, “Okay, that’s settled, then.   We’ll leave after lunch.”

Kyle turned to Caroline and Maria.   “You will love Aunt Sharon’s teriyaki beef.   It’s totally awesome!”

Caroline said, “Don’t you mean ‘epic,’ Kyle?   Only old people say awesome.”

Jeff looked at his daughter, and laughed.   “I’m glad I’m not the only one who says that things are ‘awesome,’ instead of ‘epic.’”

Kyle said, “Everyone says, ‘epic,’ for everything.   I like being different.”

Caroline said, “Yes, you are different.   That’s why Catharine likes you.”

Kyle blushed, and asked, “What has Catharine been telling you?”

“Oh, nothing, in particular,” Caroline said, giving Kyle an innocent look.

Kyle said, “I know you girls talk about me.   Come on!   Tell me what she says about me.”

Caroline said, “You have to promise not to tell.”

Jeff said, “Caroline, are you going to break a confidence?   If you do, don’t tell Kyle anything without asking Catharine, first.”

Caroline looked at her Dad for a few minutes, then said, “Never mind.”

We finished our breakfast and helped Aunt Sharon clean up the kitchen.   We held hands as we left the kitchen.   Rick said, “I think we should stop over and see my mother, before heading home.”

I said, “I think that would be a good idea.   She seemed to really enjoy seeing the children.”

Rick put his arms around my waist.   “Thank you for being so understanding.”   He pulled me close and kissed me.

“I love you,” he said.

“I love you, too.”

I looked into his eyes, and said, “I’m trying to be more forgiving, Babe.   I haven’t gotten all the way there, as far as your mother is concerned, but I’m making progress.   After seeing her, I can’t deny her the opportunity to make amends.   She seems to be really putting in an effort to overcome her issues with us; so, I can at least make the attempt, for my part.”

Rick smiled, and said, “Thank you for saying that.   I’ve felt that way, since my first visit with her.”

We walked into the recreation room, to find our guys fully engaged in a video game competition.   Kyle shouted, “No fair!”

JJ said, “It’s fair!   I beat you!”

Kyle looked up at me, from his seat on the floor.   “JJ just creamed me.   It isn’t fair, because I shouldn’t have to suffer the humiliation of being beaten by a five year old.”

JJ stood up and walked over to Kyle.   “It’s okay, Kyle.   I love you.”   He put his arms around Kyle’s neck and hugged him.

Kyle’s look of disappointment evaporated, as his little brother said, “We can have a rematch, if you want.”

Kyle said, “Yes, I want a rematch.”

JJ sat down next to Kyle, and grabbed the game controller.   They reset the game, and were soon oblivious to anything but their game.   David and Purev were playing a different game with Josh and Ashley.  

Ashley looked up as we came over to see what they were playing.   “Daddy, this game is totally epic.   You should try it.”

I shook my head.   “I’m not a gamer.”

David said, “That is so true.”

I frowned at him.   “You didn’t have to be so quick to agree with me.”

He laughed.   “It’s a widely known fact that you suck at video games.   Just ask the twins.  They know.”

Josh looked up at me, and said, “JJ and I will teach you how to play video games, Daddy.”

I laughed.   “Okay, you’ll have to give me lessons.”

They turned their attention back to their games, while we took a seat on the couch.   I put my head on Rick’s shoulder, and took his hand in mine.   We sat there for a while, enjoying each other’s company.

My cell phone rang, and I pulled it out of my pocket.   I saw it was Mom, and answered it.

“Hey Mom!”  I said.

“Hello, son,” she responded.   “I’m calling to let you know that your Dad is in the hospital.   They’re not sure what’s going on, but they suspect that his kidneys aren’t working right.”

“If his kidneys aren’t functioning, are they going to put him on dialysis?”  I asked.

“Most likely,” she responded.   “I’ll call you back when we know more.”

“Okay, Mom.   Do you need us to drive up?”

She said, “Not yet, dear.   Don and Mary are here with me, so I’m not alone,” she said.   “I’ll call you in a while.”

“Okay,” I said.

I cut the connection and returned the phone to my pocket.   Rick asked, “What was that all about?”

“Dad’s in the hospital, and they think his kidneys have failed,” I answered.

He frowned, and said, “That doesn’t sound good.”

“I know,” I said.   “I’m a little worried about him.”

Rick put his arm around my waist, and pulled me close.  “I’m sorry that your Dad isn’t doing well.”  I turned my head and met his lips.   He gave me a gentle kiss.   “I’m right here, Babe.”

I said, “I love you.”

Rick released me, and he sat down on the floor, with his back to the couch.   He spread his legs and said, “Come here, Babe.”

I smiled, and took my place, leaning back against his chest.   His arms went around my waist, holding me close.   I felt warm and safe in his embrace.   I relaxed, and took his hands in mine, intertwining our fingers.   His huge hands dwarf mine.   Everything about my husband is big; that’s part of what makes him the perfect mate for me.   I still marvel at how I managed to capture his heart!

We watched the boys play their game, for about an hour, when Aunt Sharon came into the room.   “Rick, Uncle Stan wanted me to tell you that your cousin, Sam, is outside.”

I said, “I wonder what he wants.”

Rick said, “I don’t know.   Let’s go find out.”

I stood up, and turned to give Rick a hand up.  He took my hand, and led me outside.   Uncle Stan stood next to a man who looked just like his brother, Peyton, only younger.   He smiled, and opened his arms wide, embracing Rick.

“I’m so glad you’ve come home, Rick.   We’ve missed you,” Sam said.

Rick said, “I’ve missed you, too.   What brings you here?”

Sam’s expression changed to one of great sadness.   “I need you to get in touch with Peyton.   Mom isn’t doing well.   She has kidney cancer.   It’s spread throughout her body.   They estimate that she has less than three months to live.”

“How did you know we were here?” I asked.

“Aunt Vickie told us you had been to see her, and probably were staying here with your family,” he said.   “I’m glad you’re still here.   I was afraid I would miss you.”

Rick said, “I’ll let Peyton know.”

“Do you have his number?” Sam asked.

Rick said, “We do, but he made us promise not to give it to anyone.”

“Will you call him for me, and let me talk to him?” Sam asked, practically begging Rick to do it.

Rick pulled his cell phone from his pocket, and dialed Peyton’s number.

When Peyton answered, Rick said, “Hey Peyton!   How are you?”

Peyton answered, “I’m fine, Rick.   What’s happening?”

“Your brother, Sam, asked us to tell you that your mother has kidney cancer and only has three months to live,” Rick said.

There was a long silence on the other end of the phone.   “Where are you now?”

“I’m standing in Uncle Stan’s driveway, with Sam,” Rick said.

Peyton said, “Let me talk to him.”

Rick passed his cell phone to Sam.

Sam said, “Hello.”

“Hi Sam,” Peyton said.

“Thank you for letting me speak with you, Peyton.   I’m sorry I haven’t been in contact with you before now,” Sam said.

Peyton said, “It’s been a long time.”

“Too long,” Sam said.   “I’m sorry we haven’t been close.”

Peyton said, “Well, there’s not much more we can say about that, is there?”

Sam said, “You’re right about that.   I just wanted to let you know about mother.   I felt you had a right to know.”

Peyton asked, ‘“What about our father?   Is he just as nasty and mean as he was when I lived at home?”

Sam said, “He’s worse, now than he ever was.   Brianna and I don’t have much to do with him, nor do Elijah and Penny.   Both Elijah and I have moved to Raleigh, where we run our own construction business.   When Mom went into the hospital, last week, I came down to be with Dad.   I went over to visit Aunt Vickie, just so I could get out of the house.   That’s when I found out that Rick and Glenn were in town.”

Peyton said, “Rick told me he was visiting his mother.   Has Aunt Vickie really changed her spots?   I mean, is she really accepting the fact that Rick and Glenn are married?”

“I guess so.   She said that they were a nice couple and had a great family,” Sam said.

Peyton asked, “What about you, Sam?   Where do you stand on same sex marriage?”

Sam said, “I’m not violently opposed to it.   I’ve seen the damage it’s done to our family.”

“So, you blame Rick and Glenn for destroying our family?” he asked, very quietly, but steadily.

“No, I don’t’ blame them.   I blame our parents and Aunt Vickie for their extremism.   I blame the religious zealots at the church they attend.   Remember, how I hated going to their church?”

Peyton said, “Yes, I remember.   You were the most vocal about it, and the one who was punished for being so rebellious.”

“So, I guess you could say I’m accepting of gay marriage, as long as no one tries to force it down my throat.   Why do you ask?”

Peyton said, “Because I’m gay, and I’m married to a wonderful man who loves me.”

Sam’s expression of surprise was priceless.   Rick and I overheard what Peyton had said, and waited to see how he would respond to his brother’s startling revelation.   “I didn’t know, Peyton.   Is that why you haven’t been back home, since you got out of prison?”

“Yes, it is,” Peyton said.  

“No wonder,” he said.   We could see the wheels turning inside his mind, as everything started to fall into place for him.  “You know Mom and Dad would completely disown you, and send out a posse to murder you and your husband, if they found out,” Sam said.

“I know.   That’s why I’ve never told them, or anyone else in the family,” Peyton said.

“So, why are you telling me, now?” Sam asked.

Peyton said, “I thought you should know, so you will understand why I won’t be at our mother’s funeral; nor will I be traveling down to visit her, over the next three months.”

Sam nodded his head in understanding.   “I get it.   Thank you for trusting me with your secret.”

“It’s not a secret.   I live openly with my husband.   I just don’t want any issues with my family, so I don’t want anyone else in the family to know, except you.”

“I suppose that Rick and Glenn know,” Sam said.

“Yes, they do,” Peyton responded.   “Thank you for telling me about mother.   Please pass the phone back over to Rick.   I need to speak to him.”

Sam passed the phone to Rick.   “Hey!” he said.

Peyton said, “Please don’t give anyone my phone number.   I don’t want them calling here.   If you’re willing to give them your number, they can contact you with any news they want to communicate to me.”

Rick said, “I understand.”

Peyton said, “I knew you would.   I love you, Rick.”

“I love you, too,” Rick responded.

“I’ll call you later.   Jonathan and I will be in Washington, DC, next week,” Peyton said.

“Cool!   Chat with you later,” Rick said.   He ended the call, and turned to his cousin.   “Sam, you can call me, if you need to pass on any news to Peyton.”

Sam pulled out his cell, and said, “Okay, what’s your number?”

Rick gave it to him, and said, “I trust that you won’t pass that number on to anyone else in the family.   I don’t need to receive nasty phone calls from any of them.”

Sam looked into Rick eyes, for a moment.   “Thank you for trusting me.”

Sam put away his phone, and extended his hand.   Rick took it, and pulled Sam into a quick, manly embrace.

Rick released him, and Sam stepped back.   We could see the tears in his eyes.   “I wish things had worked out differently for us.   Maybe we can get together, sometime.”

Rick smiled, and said, “We’ll see how things go.”

Sam nodded his head.   “Yes, we’ll have to take it slow.   I realize that you don’t trust us, and with good reason.”

He turned to me, and said, “Take good care of my cousin.”

I said, “I will.”

He shook my hand, and turned to Uncle Stan.   “Thank you for not turning me away, when you saw me coming up your driveway.”

Uncle Stan smiled.   “It’s time for us to start mending fences.   Life is too short to keep holding grudges.”

Sam, again, nodded his head.   “You’re very wise.”

He turned and walked down the driveway to his truck.   He climbed in, and drove off.

Rick said, “It’s so weird that we’ve got your Dad in the hospital and now my aunt.”

“You have to remember that Dad has diabetes, and you know he’s not been very good at monitoring his blood sugar,” I said.

As we walked back into the house, Rick said, “Yes, I remember.   He had three of his toes amputated last year, because of his poor circulation,   I also remember that kidney problems come with high blood sugar, as well.”

I nodded my head.   “That’s right.”

Rick said, “We need to keep you healthy, Babe.   You could become diabetic when you’re older, as well.”

“Not with the exercise routine you keep us on,” I said, laughing.

He squeezed my butt, and said, “I have to make sure you maintain your good looks.”

I turned my head and gave him a quick kiss, before we returned to the family room.   Aunt Sharon looked up from the couch, where she was watching the boys playing their game.   “What did Sam want?”

“He came to tell me my aunt has cancer,” Rick said.

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Aunt Sharon said.

Rick said, “We called Peyton, to let him know.”

Aunt Sharon said, “That was good of you to do.   How are he and Jonathan doing?   We haven’t seen them since last summer.”

“They are very happy,” Rick said.   “They are coming to D.C. next week.”

“Give them our love,” Aunt Sharon said.   “We’re quite fond of those two.”   She stood up, and looked over at the girls.   “Do you girls want to help me in the kitchen?”

Ashley said, “Sure.”  She stood up, and looked back at her two friends.   “Aren’t you two coming?”

Caroline said, “We will in just a minute.   Maria’s texting with Erick.   Erick wants to go to the movies with us tonight.”

Ashley laughed.   “Alright, I’ll see you in the kitchen in a few minutes.”

Caroline said, “Let’s ask Dad if he’ll let us go out with Erick and his friend, Malcolm.”

Maria looked at her sister.   “Okay.”

Kyle, overhearing them, said, “Do you want to go on a group date with me and Catharine?”

Caroline said, “Sure.”

Maria said, “I’ll text Erick to see if he’s okay with it.”

David said, “May Purev and I join you, with our boyfriends?”

Kyle smiled, and said, “Sure, but we’ll need a couple of cars, and someone to drive us, since none of us have our licenses yet.”

Kyle looked over at his Dad.   “Will you…”

Rick smiled, and cut him off, “Alright, I’ll drive, and Daddy can drive as well.”

Kyle stood up, and walked over to give us both a hug.   “You’re the best Dads anyone could ever have.”

Rick said, “Thank you, son.   However, you need to practice driving.   You’ve got your driver’s permit; now, you need to start accumulating hours behind the wheel.”

Kyle had successfully passed the written test at the Department of Motor Vehicles, while I was in Austin.   Virginia requires 45 hours behind the wheel, before a student driver can take their driving test for their license, with 15 hours of those 45 driven at night.   Kyle needed to keep a driving log, detailing out the time driven, the time of day, and the distance.

Kyle made a face at his Dad.   Rick said, “I think we should go out driving, now, while we wait for lunch.”

Kyle complained, “But, Dad, I want to finish playing the video game with the twins.”  He looked at me, “Daddy…”

I raised my hands in the air.   “Don’t drag me into this.   You need to negotiate with your Dad on this one.”

Kyle met Rick’s eyes, and said, resignedly, “Okay.”

Rick laughed.   “You would think we were punishing you.   When I was your age, I couldn’t wait to get my driver’s license.   I wanted the freedom that having wheels gave me.”

Kyle gave him that ‘look’ that said, “You’re crazy.”   “Dad, things are different, now.”

Rick agreed.   “Yes, they are different, so that means you have to work harder to get your license.   I didn’t have to drive 45 hours before getting mine.   I took my test and had my license 30 minutes later.”

“That’s because it was so long ago,” Kyle said, grinning.

Rick said, “Watch it, buddy!”   He reached out a hand to Kyle.   “Help your old man get up.”

Kyle laughed.  “So, you admit you’re an old man!”

Rick grinned at his son.   “Only when it suits me.”

Kyle asked, “Do you want me to get your walker, so you don’t fall?”

Rick cuffed him up the side of the head.  “Don’t get insulting.”

Kyle laughed even harder.   “Okay, I’ll go get your cane, just to keep you from falling down.”

Rick went to cuff him again, but this time Kyle ducked and scampered out of reach.

As I watched the two of them leave the room, I marveled at the wonderful man I married.   Uncle Stan must have been reading my thoughts, because he said, “Rick is a good father to your children, Glenn.   You married well.”

I smiled, and said, “Yes, I did.”

Rick walked out the front door, and signaled Jeff to join him.   Jeff walked over, and asked, “What’s up, boss?”

Rick smiled at his friend.   “I’m taking Kyle out driving.   Would you care to follow us?”

Jeff said, “Sure.   Cole can keep an eye on things here.”   He pulled a walkie talkie from his pocket, spoke into it, “Hey, Cole!”

“Hey, yourself,” Cole responded.  

“I’m going to follow Rick, while he takes Kyle out driving,” Jeff said.

“Okay, I’ll come out front,” Cole replied.

A few minutes later, Cole appeared around the corner of the house.   He grinned, and slapped Kyle on the back.   “Go get them, tiger.”

Kyle laughed, and said, “Are you sure you don’t want to follow me, instead of Jeff?”

Cole shook his head.   “No way, dude.   I want to stay as far away from you as possible, until you learn how to drive.”

Kyle said, “I’m not that bad.”

“How do you know?   You haven’t even been behind the wheel of a car, yet,” Cole said.

Kyle said, “You just wait and see.   I’ll show you I’m the best drive you’ve ever seen.”

Rick said, “Okay, Kyle, let’s go.”

Rick walked over and climbed into the passenger’s seat of the Land Rover; while Kyle took the driver’s seat.  Kyle said, “Dad, your legs are a lot longer than mine.   I can’t reach the pedals from here.”   He used the controls to move the seat forward.   Then, he adjusted the mirrors.   He took the keys from his Dad’s hand.   He put the key in the ignition.   He turned the key, and the engine roared to life.

“Okay, back her out of the driveway, son,” Rick said.

Kyle put the minivan into reverse, and looked over his shoulder, as he backed out of the driveway.   He turned the wheel, as he pulled out into the street.   He stepped on the brakes, bringing the vehicle to a stop.   He put the car in drive, and turned, and straightened the wheels, as he pulled onto the road.

“Okay, drive us down to the stop sign, and turn right,” Rick instructed.   

Kyle asked, “Where are we going?”

“We’re going down to the high school parking lot.   You need to practice parking the car, and backing up,” Rick said.   He gave Kyle step by step instructions, as they went.   “It’s good thing it’s a weekend, because there isn’t a lot of traffic.”

When they reached the high school, Jeff parked his SUV at the entrance to the parking lot, while Rick directed Kyle to park the car.   “I want you to practice parking.   First, you’ll back into the parking spot behind us, then drive around to the other side of the parking lot, and pull in, facing forward.”

Kyle practiced parking, driving in reverse, and learning how to handle the vehicle.   After a while, Rick said, “Okay, let’s park for minute.”

Kyle parked the car, and turned off the engine.   He looked over at his Dad, and asked, “May I ask you a question?”

Rick said, “Sure, son.”

Kyle asked, “What do you do when you get really horny, and Daddy’s not around to fuck?”

Rick looked at Kyle, in surprise.   “Well, for the most part, I just suck it up, and wait until he’s home.   Why?”

“When I’m with Catharine, I get so horny, it hurts, especially my balls,” Kyle said.

Rick said, “I believe what you’re experiencing is called blue balls.   Remember, you asked me about blue balls, when we lived in Hauppauge.   My advice to you hasn’t changed, because I still believe the best way to relieve the pain is to jerk off, draining your balls of all that cum.   It will make you feel better.”

Kyle said, “I’ve never done that.  I always thought that I shouldn’t play with myself.”

Rick said, “That is what our church teaches, Kyle.   But, you asked me what you could do to relieve the pain.”

Kyle looked over at his Dad.   “So, have you ever jerked off?”

Rick laughed.   “I think you know the answer to that question, already.”

Kyle grinned.   “Yes, I did know, but I had to ask.”

“You also know that I got a girl pregnant, when I was in high school,” Rick said.

Kyle nodded his head.   “I remember.   You told us what happened, and it’s the main reason we decided, as a family, that it’s better wait to have sex until we’re 18.”

“That’s true,” Rick said.   “But, it’s up to you.   You can suffer with blue balls, or you can find a way to get your rocks off.   However, I think your body will naturally take care of the problem.   Have you ever had a wet dream?”

Kyle blushed, looking away from his Dad’s gaze.   “Yes.”

“Well, that’s how your body takes care of itself,” Rick said, laughing.   “There’s no need to be embarrassed.   Every guy has wet dreams.   Mine were about my girlfriend, when I was in high school.   After I met your Daddy, my wet dreams were about him.”

Kyle laughed.   “I bet those were some pretty wild dreams!”

Rick said, “The ones I remember were very erotic, I have to admit.   What about yours?”  Kyle blushed, again; but didn’t answer.   “Let me guess.   They’re about Catharine.”

Kyle nodded his head, and said, “Yes.   I sometimes sit in class, and get a big boner, thinking about her.   I have to think of something stupid to get it to go down, so I won’t embarrass myself.   Robert gave me such a hard time last week, because I couldn’t hide my hard on.   It got so hard, Dad, it hurt.”

Rick said, “I wouldn’t worry about it, Kyle.   You’re a normal teenage boy.”

Kyle smiled.   “Thanks, Dad.   I already knew I was normal, but I wanted to know what you do to keep from getting blue balls.”

“Well, now you know,” Rick said.   “Let’s drive back to Aunt Sharon and Uncle Stan’s house.   Lunch should be ready by now.”

Kyle turned the key in the ignition, and started the car.   He carefully backed out of the parking space, and drove them back to the house, with Jeff following him at a safe distance!

Kyle parked the car, and handed the keys to his Dad.   “Thanks, Dad.”

“You’re welcome,” Rick said.  

They both got out of the car.   Jeff walked up to Kyle, and said, “You did a good job driving.   I just hope Caroline will do as well.”  Kyle beamed at Jeff’s praise.   Seeing Kyle’s megawatt smile, Jeff laughed.   “Now, don’t get too over confident, Kyle.   You still have a lot to learn about driving a car.”

Kyle nodded his head in agreement.   “I know.   Dad won’t let me forget it!”

Rick put his arm around Kyle’s shoulder.   “I’m pretty confident that you’ll learn pretty quickly how to be a good driver.   Just look who is your teacher!”

Kyle guffawed, “You’re a crazy driver!   Just ask Daddy!”

Rick pulled him into a head lock.   “You’d better learn to respect your elders!”

Kyle said, “I’m sorry for insulting your driving!”

Rick released him, and Kyle scampered sideways, so he was out of reach, and said, “Just kidding!   You’re the worst driver I’ve ever seen!”

Rick chased him, and Kyle took off like a jack rabbit, making it to the door before Rick could stop him.   He rushed inside, and made a beeline for me.   He sat down next to me, and said, “Daddy, Dad is picking on me.”   He gave me a goofy grin, and hid behind me, as Rick came into the room.

I grinned up at my husband, and said, “I hear you’re giving Kyle a hard time.”

Rick laughed.   “No, it’s the other way around.   Kyle has been picking his poor, decrepit father.”

I laughed, and said, “Then, you had better come sit down, and rest your old bones.   We don’t want you to collapse from over exertion.”

Rick sat down next to me, and kissed me, while reaching behind me to tickle Kyle.   Kyle skittered away to the far end of the couch, laughing.

Rick said, “I’ll get even with you, later.   Just remember, I know where you sleep.”

Kyle grinned, and said, “That goes both ways, Dad!”

Aunt Sharon walked into the room, “Okay, boys, lunch is served.”   She smiled, as Kyle skipped past her on his way to the kitchen.   She looked us, and said, “You’re doing a good job raising your boys.   They all seem happy, and I can see the love they have for you.”

I smiled, and leaned over to kiss my husband.   “It’s because I such a loving husband.   They can’t help but be happy because he’s such a great Dad.”

Aunt Sharon said, “That’s true, but that also applies to you, my dear nephew.”

I looked over at the rest of the boys, and said, “It’s time to stop the game, boys.”

David said, “Okay, Daddy.”

He got up and turned off the video game.  He turned, and helped Purev get up.   The twins scrambled to their feet, and raced each other out of the room, followed by Purev and David, who held hands.  

We got up and followed her into the kitchen.   While we were eating, my cell rang.   I fished it out of my pocket to see who was calling.   Seeing it was my mother, I said, “Please excuse me.   It’s Mom calling from the hospital.”

Uncle Stan said, “Go ahead and answer it.”

I stood up and walked into the foyer, before answering her call.   “Hey, Mom!”

Mom said, “Hello, Glenn.   I wanted to let you know that they’ve determined that your Dad’s kidneys have completely stopped functioning, and that they’ve started him on dialysis.   They put a port in his arm, and he’s hooked up to the machine, now.”

“Is he okay?” I asked.

“They said he’ll be alright as soon as they get his blood clean,” she said.   “They said he will need to watch how much he drinks from now on, since he’ll be dependent on a machine to remove it from his system.”

“Do we need to come up, Mom?” I asked. 

“No, he’s doing much better than he was.   I’ll let you talk to him.”   She passed the phone to my Dad.

“Hello, Glenn,” he said.

“Hi Dad.   Mom says you’re doing much better,” I said.

“Yes, I am, but I hate being hooked up to a machine,” he said.   “Do you remember our discussion last time you were here?”

I said, “Yes, Dad, I remember that you wanted us to move back to the farm, and that we needed to be close to the land.”

 “Yes, that’s right.   God told me we need to be close to the land.   I’m glad you remembered.   I love you, son.   I always have.   You have married well, and I’m proud of you and your family.”

“Thanks, Dad,” I said.   “I love you, too.”

“Now, let me talk to your husband,” he said.

I poked my head into the kitchen, and said, “Dad wants to talk to you, Rick.”

Rick stood up and walked over to me.   I handed him the phone, and returned to my seat at the table.

Dad said, “Rick, I’m glad you didn’t listen to me, when I was trying to get you to leave Glenn.   You’re a good man, and you’ve made my son very happy.   I wanted to tell you that I love you.”

Rick said, “I love you, too, Dad.”

Dad said, “Let me talk to each of the children.”

Rick returned to the kitchen, and said, “Grandpa wants to talk to each of you.”  He handed the phone to Kyle, who walked out in to the foyer to talk.   He returned, passing the phone to David.   David passed it Ashley, who passed it to JJ and Josh, each child talking to my Dad in their turn.

When Josh was done, he handed me the phone.   “Grandpa says to give you the phone.”

I took the cell, and asked, “Did you want to speak to Uncle Stan and Aunt Sharon, as well?”

 “Sure, but before I do, I wanted to tell you one more time that I love you, Glenn,” he said.

I passed the phone to Uncle Stan and Aunt Sharon.   When they were done, they cut the connection, and handed me the phone.   Aunt Sharon had tears in her eyes.   “He’s saying good bye to his loved ones.”

Uncle Stan said, “That’s exactly the feeling I got, when he talked to me.   He thinks he’s going to die.”

I looked over at Rick, who said, “I kind of got that feeling, as well.   It kind of gave me goose bumps.”

I took Rick’s hand in mine.   “Well, let’s hope he’s wrong.”

We finished our lunch, and helped clean up the kitchen.   Rick said, “Let’s get our stuff together.   We need to be getting on the road.”

The children scattered to their separate rooms, and returned with their gear.   They headed out the door and loaded it in the back of our minivan and Jeff’s SUV.   We said our farewells to Uncle Stan and Aunt Sharon, and drove over to Smithfield, to see Rick’s mother, before we left for home.   We had a nice visit, and promised to come back to see her soon.

Later that evening, after they had returned home, Jeff volunteered to drive his SUV, taking his girls and their “friends” who happened to be boys, while Rick drove the van with the rest of the teens and their friends.   They took them to the movie theater, and dropped them off, with instructions to call when they were ready to be picked up.

Meanwhile, I stayed at home with the twins.   We were in the family room, in front of the fireplace, warming our toes.   JJ and Josh each had a stack of their favorite bedtime stories.   They sat on either side of me, and we began reading.   Well, I did most of the reading, with some assistance from the boys.

Josh said, “May we read the story about three pups and a worm?”

JJ corrected him, “It’s Four Pups and a Worm.   See, it says it right here.”   He pointed to title on the front of the book.

“Yes, but I think you should read it to me,” I said. 

JJ said, “I can do it.”

I was happy to hear him volunteering to read.   JJ had a lot of ear infections when he was small, so he couldn’t hear very well.   As a result, he was speech delayed.   His speech therapist had done wonders with him.   When he spoke, you wouldn’t know that he used to drop all of the consonants from the beginning of words.

JJ opened the book and began to read, pointing at the pictures.   When he was finished, Josh said, “It’s my turn to read.”  He chose Fox in Socks by Dr. Seuss.   He opened the cover, and began reading.   He stumbled on a couple of the words; but, otherwise did a fine job of reading.

Josh finished the book, and looked up at me.   “Daddy, you choose one.”

“Okay, I like this one,” I said.   I picked up Max Lucado’s “You Are Special.”

JJ said, “I like that one, too.  Grandma Campbell gave that to me.   She said that I was special, even when I couldn’t talk right.”

I remembered that day very clearly.   We had gone to the park to let the boys play on the slides and other playground equipment.   There had been several other toddlers there playing, while their parents watched.   A couple of them started talking to our boys, when one of them walked over to his mother and said, pointing to JJ, “He talks funny.”

JJ had overheard him, and had run to me, crying.   I took him in my arms, to comfort him.   I said, “It’s okay.   That little boy didn’t mean to hurt your feelings.”

JJ looked into my eyes, and said, “I’m trying to talk right, Daddy.”

I said, “I know, son, I know.   We’ll keep working with you to help you, okay?”

When we arrived at the Campbells’ home an hour later, JJ had gone straight into Mrs. Campbell’s arms.   He told her the whole story.   The next day, she gave him the book, telling him he was very special.

I was brought back to the present, when JJ asked, “Daddy, are you going to read the story?”

I smiled at my boy, and replied, “Yes, son.   I’m going to read it right now.”

We read more of their favorite books, taking turns reading them out loud.  I looked up at the wall clock, and realized that time had gotten away from us.   “Boys, it’s time for bed,” I said.

Josh said, “I’ll get the Bible.”

He walked over to the bookshelf, and took down our family bible.   He handed it to me.   “Dad marked where we are.”  He pointed to the little red ribbon that was marking the spot.  

I opened the Bible to the book of Esther.   I asked, “Were you reading about Esther?”

“Yes, Daddy,” JJ said.   “Ashley asked to read the story of Esther.   She was a very brave person.”

“Okay, let’s continue reading about her,” I said.

We finished the story of Esther, then, I said, “It’s time for bed.   Help me up.”

The twins each took a hand, and pulled me up.   They giggled.   JJ said, “You’re silly, Daddy.”

“I’m not as silly as you are,” I said, leaning down to scoop them into my arms   I carried them upstairs to their bedroom.  “Okay, go brush your teeth and use the toilet.”

They chased each other into their en suite.   I stood in the bathroom doorway and watched them as they took care of their needs.   They washed their hands, and ran past me, jumping up on their beds.  

I looked at them, and asked, “Did we forget something?”

JJ looked at me, and put his finger to his lips, thinking.   “Oh, we forgot to say our prayers.”   The twins jumped down and knelt beside JJ’s bed.   I joined them, and listened to them say their prayers.

I was in tears, when they finished.   Each of them had remembered to ask God to bless Grandpa Nielsen and Rick’s aunt.   Their simple faith touched my heart.

I pulled them into my arms, hugged them, and kissed them on the cheek.   “I love you,” I said.

“I love you, Daddy.” JJ said.

Josh echoed his brother’s words, “I love you, Daddy.”

“Hop in bed, boys,” I said, getting to my feet.   I tucked them into their beds, and walked over to turn on the baby monitor.   I’m still paranoid about losing our boys, after CPS took them from us when they just weeks old.   I don’t think I will ever get over the traumatic experience of having our boys ripped from our arms by those who should have been protecting us.

I shook off those bad memories, and turned the light off, closing the door behind me.   I walked across the hall to our bedroom, turning on the lights.   I walked over to my dresser and turned on the baby monitor receiver.   I turned on the gas fireplace and sank into an armchair, mesmerized by the flames.

As I sat there, my cell phone rang in my pocket.   I pulled it out and answer it.   “Hey, Mom!”  She was crying and I couldn’t make out what she said.   “Mom, I can’t understand you.   What’s happened?”

She managed to say, “Dad’s had a stroke.   He’s paralyzed on his left side, and can’t speak.” 

I sat in stunned silence.   I didn’t know what to think.  After what seemed like an eternity, I managed to ask, “What’s his prognosis?”

“They don’t know.   They have to run more tests to find out the extent of the damage.   They won’t know anything until tomorrow,” she said.

“Do you need us to come up to be with you?” I asked.

“Yes, if you can come,” she said.   “I would really like that.”

“I’ll talk to Rick about it.   At a minimum, I’ll fly up to be with you,” I said.

She stopped crying, and said, “Thank you, son.   I love you.”

“I love you, too, Mom,” I said.   “Call me, if anything changes.”

“Okay,” she said, and ended the call.

I dialed Rick’s number, and he answered.   “Hey lover boy!”

I said, “Hey yourself, Babe!”

Rick asked, “What’s going on?   Did your Mom call?”

I said, “Yes, she did, and it’s not good news.”   I related to him what Mom had said about my Dad. 

“Then, you need to leave on the first flight, in the morning.   Me and the children will follow you next weekend,” he said.   “I know that the teenagers have a lot of exams this week at school.”

I said, “You’re the best husband that a guy could ever have.”

“I’m glad you recognize my greatness,” Rick said, in a serious tone of voice.

I laughed.   “Yes, I recognized your greatness the first day I met you!   I can’t wait for you to get home, Babe.   I need you, now!”

“Patience, my son, patience!” Rick said, trying to imitate a Kung Foo master or something like that.  

I said, “You need to take acting lessons, Rick Lernier!”

Rick laughed, and said, “We’ll be home in about an hour.   The movie should be just about over.”

“Okay, love you, Babe,” I said.

“I love you, too,” he said, ending the call.

I leaned back in the chair, drawing my feet under me, staring into the flames.   My mind wandered, as I thought about Dad and how it must be very frustrating for him not being able to talk.   I said a little prayer of my own for my father, as I sat there.   I must have dozed off, because I awoke in Rick’s arms, as he carried me to our bed.   Seeing that I was awake, he grinned, and said, “I hope you’ve rested enough that you’re up for some nocturnal activity.”

I put my arms around his neck, and kissed him.   “What do you think?”

Rick said, “I think we should get a shower, before getting into bed.”

He set me on my feet, and took my hand, leading me into our en suite.   He turned on the shower, adjusting the temperature.   We quickly stripped off our clothes, and reached for each other.   Our lips met, and the flames of our passion soared heavenward.   A while later, we dried each other off.   I took Rick’s very erect steel pole in my hand, and led him into our bedroom, where he pushed me down onto our bed.

I looked up into his eyes, and grinned, “I need you to show me how much you love me.”

He responded by capturing my lips in a deep kiss, as he made me his, leaving no doubt that he loved me!

We lay in each other’s arms, enjoying the touch of skin against skin.   Rick said, “It has always amazed me that having sex with you keeps improving.   Each time is better than the last.”

“It’s because our love for each other grows, and makes our lovemaking that much richer,” I said.

Rick agreed.   “I think there is a lot of truth to that.”   He kissed me, and said, “I love you, Babe.”

“I love you, too,” I said.

I laid my head on his chest, and soon drifted off to sleep, listening to the steady beat of my husband’s heart.

Prev To be continued . . .

A Note from Russ:

Four Pups and a Worm by Eric Seltzer -

Dr. Seuss Fox in Socks -

You Are Special by Max Lucado -