The Lernier Family
© 2011 Russ Nielsen
All Rights Reserved




Chapter 46: Dad’s Funeral

Zach stood in the baggage claim, waiting for his luggage.  His flight had landed slightly after 12 noon.  He was a little sore from the hockey game last night.  His team won, but he had been roughed up a bit (a common enough occurrence in his profession).  He stretched his arms high over his head, and moved from side to side, stretching his sore muscles.  His body still complained about the rough treatment it had been subjected to over the last 24 hours, including the flight to Toronto.  He had attempted to purchase a first class ticket; but they were sold out, so he had settled for a business class seat.  It had been one of the most uncomfortable flights he could remember.

He thought to himself, “I’m getting too old for this kind of physical abuse.”

He loved the game, and wouldn’t ever give up playing hockey.  However, he was giving some serious thought to retiring from playing professionally.  His contract was up for renewal at the end of the season, and he was afraid he was going to be traded to another team.  He didn’t look forward to uprooting his family and moving to a new city. 

His thoughts turned to his husband, who had followed him from one team to another, moving their family and staying home with their twin boys.  Fortunately, their last move had been to Washington, DC, which placed them near Rick and Glenn.   Living next door to their closest friends had been a huge blessing for his family, despite their recent issues. 

He and Todd had maintained an intimate relationship with Rick and Glenn since their college days; but, Rick and Glenn had set certain limits on their relationship, specifically, they would allow only their significant other to fuck them.  However, Todd had always chafed at those limits, wanting the four of them to have a completely open relationship, meaning everyone fucked everyone else. 

Todd had pushed Glenn pretty hard to relax their rules a few months ago, and ended up creating a rift between the two couples, one that hadn’t completely healed.  They were still extremely close; in fact, he felt closer to Rick and Glenn than he did to his own brother, Robbie, and his husband, Adam.  However, Zach felt it was time to physically distance themselves from Rick and Glenn, to allow time and distance to aid in the healing of their relationship. 

He had talked, at length, with Rick about his career and the options he had.  The end of the season was a little over a month away, and he needed to make up his mind what he wanted to do.  Rick had counseled him to follow his heart, and do what made the most sense for him and his family’s happiness. 

Todd had expressed his desire to move back to Ontario many times.  Moving to the Toronto area would put them close to both families, since both sets of parents had moved to the northern suburbs of that city.  His brother and his husband had also bought a new home closer to his parents, after Justin’s death.  He understood why they had moved, because he knew he couldn’t have returned to live in the house where Justin had committed suicide. 

Robbie and Adam had purchased the house adjoining theirs in The Annex area of Toronto.   It had worked well for both families, until Justin’s suicide.  Robbie and Adam consulted Grandpa Scarborough about selling their home; but he had convinced them to rent it out, as he and Todd had done with their home next door.  Grandpa had set up a trust fund, similar to Zach and Todd’s, for Robbie and Adam, putting the rental income into the trust for the triplet’s education. 

Thinking about Grandpa Scarborough brought Zach back to the present.  Glenn’s family had suffered a huge loss with his father’s passing, despite Glenn’s distant relationship with his Dad.   He hadn’t always approved of Glenn’s father; but he was a good man, and had tried to do what was best for his family.  He felt sad for his friend, and wanted to be there for Glenn, even though he hated funerals!

He spotted his luggage coming off of the luggage carousel, and grabbed it.  He walked through the baggage area and found his way to the rental car agencies. 

As he completed the rental agreement, the guy behind the counter asked, “You play for the Washington Capitals, don’t you?”

Zach looked over to read the name tag on the guy’s shirt.  It read, “Tom.”  “Yes, I do, Tom.”

Tom grinned.  “I thought I recognized you.  I remember watching you play for the Toronto Marlies.”

Zach smiled, and said, “I’m glad you still remember me.”

Tom asked, “Are you going to continue playing for the Caps?”

Zach said, “I’m not sure, Tom.  I’m trying to decide what I want to be when I grow up.”

Tom laughed, and said, “I understand.  I’m working on a master’s degree, and still don’t know what I’m going to do with it, when I’m finished.”

Zach smiled, and said, “Good luck, Tom.”

“Thank you.  Here are your keys,” Tom said.

Zach left the counter.  He found his rental car, and threw his suitcase into the trunk.  He climbed into the car, adjusting the seat and mirrors to his satisfaction.  He pulled out of the parking terrace, making his way south to catch the QEW (Queen Elizabeth Way).   It took him a little over an hour to drive the 106 km. (66 miles) around Lake Ontario.  During that hour, he made his decision to retire and move his family back to Toronto.

He pulled into the driveway of Rick and Glenn’s house and turned off the engine.  He sat in the car for a few minutes to gather his thoughts.  He needed to talk with his husband about his decision; but he didn’t think they would have any time alone to discuss it.

He started to get out of the car, when his twin boys bolted out the front door, rushing over to him.  He knelt down and took them both in his arms.  “I missed you guys,” he said, giving each a kiss on the cheek.

“We missed you, too, Dad,” Cammy said.

Zach was surprised when Skye said, “We want to live here, Dad.  We want to be near our grandpas and grandmas.”

Cammy said, “Yeah, we miss being with our grandpas and grandmas, Dad.  Can we move back here?”

He looked into their eyes, and asked, “But, won’t you miss living next door to JJ and Josh?”

“Yes, we will, but we want to be near our grandpas and grandmas, Dad,” Cammy said.

He looked up when Todd said, “They came up with that all on their own, Zach.  I promise I didn’t put them up to it.”

Cammy said, “We talked to Grandma Anderson about it, yesterday.  She said we had to talk to you, Dad.”

Zach stood up and pulled Todd into his arms, kissing him.  “Since the twins have already brought up the subject, how would you feel about moving back to Toronto?”

Todd grinned.  “I’d would love it.  Does this mean you have decided to retire?”

Zach nodded his head.  “I’m done with playing professional hockey.”

Todd kissed him, and said, “Is this what you really want to do?”

Zach said, “I’ve been thinking about retiring for a few months, now, and I’m absolutely certain I’m ready.   I want to retire while I’m at the top of my game.”

Todd nodded his understanding.  “I know we’ve talked about this before.”

“I think now it the right time to retire,” Zach said.

“Have you told Rick and Glenn?” Todd asked.

“I’ve talked to Rick about it,” Zach said.

“So, you haven’t told Glenn,” Todd said.

Zach shook his head.   “I didn’t want to do that, until I was ready to retire.  I didn’t want to stir up a hornets’ nest.”

Todd said, “I don’t think Glenn will be as upset as you think.  We’ve had a lot of time together over the last few weeks, and I’m certain he’ll be okay with it.”

Zach breathed a sigh of relief.  “I’m glad you’ve worked things out with Glenn.”

“Me, too,” Todd said.

Cammy pulled on Zach’s arm.  “Dad, are you coming inside?”

He looked down at his son, and said, “Yes, I’m coming.”

He released his husband, and walked around to the back of the car to retrieve his luggage.  He handed his suitcase to Cammy and Skye.  “Can you boys handle this?”

Skye said, “We sure can.”

Zach laughed, as he watched the two boys struggle to get his suitcase up the stairs to the front door.

Todd said, “They’ll manage.”  Todd put his arm around Zach’s waist, smiling at him.  “I was hoping you would finally make up your mind to retire.   I am more than ready for a change.”

Zach leaned over to kiss his husband.  “I know.  Things still aren’t quite back to normal between you and Glenn.”

Todd frowned slightly.  “No, they’re not; but, that isn’t the reason I’m so ready for a change.”

Zach looked at his spouse in surprise.  “Then why are you ready to move?”

“I want my husband to be home with me, not traveling all the time,” Todd said.

“But, you travel a lot, as well,” Zach objected.

Todd responded, “Not after you retire.  I’ve already decided to hire a couple of new guys to help manage the company.  I want to set up my headquarters in Toronto, and let others do the heavy lifting.  I want us to concentrate on raising our boys and spending time with our families.”

Zach said, “I’m very happy I made the right decision.”

“Me, too,” Todd said, as they entered the house.

Zach said, “I’m not sure how Glenn will handle the news.”

Todd said, “He’ll be fine, Babe.  You don’t have to worry about Glenn.  I think he’s ready for a change, even though he’ll be shocked you’ve made your decision.  I haven’t talked to him about it, because I didn’t want him to think I’m carrying a grudge against him for what happened.”

Zach stopped to pull Todd into his arms.  He looked searchingly into his husband’s eyes.  “Todd, you know things haven’t been the same between the four of us since before Christmas.”

Todd said, “I know; but, I’ve tried to ignore it because I love Glenn.  I don’t want to be the cause of more hard feelings.”

“That’s exactly what I mean.  Before, we didn’t worry about what we did or said, knowing we were loved and accepted by Rick and Glenn; but, now, I feel like I’m walking on eggshells whenever we’re around them,” Zach said.

“I talked to Glenn about it last week,” Todd said.  “He acknowledged he felt there were barriers between us, where none had existed.”

“And….?” Zach asked, prompting Todd to continue.

Todd said, “We promised to work to tear down the walls we’ve built up between us.”

Zach nodded his head.  “That’s good, but, you have to agree putting some distance between us will help.”

A look of deep sadness passed over Todd’s face.  “Unfortunately, I believe you’re right.”

Zach said, “I’m sorry, Babe.”

Todd kissed his husband.  “I’ll be okay, Zach.  I knew things couldn’t continue the way they were, and I’m just as much at fault as Glenn for the current situation.  We still love each other very much, and always will, no matter the distance between us.  But the best thing to come out of this mess is how much closer we have become as a couple.”

Zach smiled, and said, “You’re beginning to sound like Rick.  He’s always looking for the silver lining in every bad situation.”

Todd laughed, and said, “I’m glad you and Rick are great friends, and I know you’ll help me and Glenn to stay close.”

Zach took Todd’s hand in his, as they went inside the house.

The twins were playing in the family room and the teenagers were at Aunt Hannah’s house, where she was undoubtedly plying them with pies, cookies, and cakes!  The guys were sitting around the kitchen table, drinking coffee, and I had a cup of my favorite hot cocoa.  We had been listening to Zach’s recounting of his feats on the ice last night, when he stopped and cleared his throat.

He looked at me and Rick, and said, “I’ve decided to retire from playing professional hockey.”

You could have knocked me over with a feather!   I stared at him in complete and utter disbelief.  I knew Zach had considered retiring, but he always joked about it; so, I hadn’t believed he was really serious.

Zach said, “I’m sorry to surprise you, Glenn.  While you and Todd were in Austin the last time, Rick and I had quite a few discussions about my career options.”

Rick put his arm around my shoulders, and said, “I told you about our late night talks, after Zach would come home from his games.”

I nodded my head, looking at Rick.  “I remember you telling me about Zach’s plans.”  I turned my attention back to Zach, “But I guess I didn’t think you would really do it.”

Zach said, “I didn’t either, until this morning.”

Todd said, “We’ve talked it over, and we’re going to stay with my Mom and Dad for the next few weeks looking for a new home.  Zach won’t be able to stay, because of his game schedule; but, I’m pretty sure we can find a great place that will make us both happy.”

Jeff asked, “Will you still need a security detail?”

“That depends on where we buy our new house,” Zach said.  “We wouldn’t dare ask you to move here with us, Jeff.  We don’t want to risk angering Rick.”  He looked across at Rick, who smiled.

“Maybe Jeff would be willing to help you set up a new security operation at your new place.   He’s got a pretty good sense of who you can trust and who you can’t,” Rick said.

Zach said, “I think that would be a great idea.  I want to talk to Grandpa Scarborough, first.  I don’t want to spend money on a security detail, if we don’t need one.”

Todd took Zach’s hand in his.  “I would feel better about things, if we kept a security detail until we were sure we weren’t going to have to deal with any crazies.”

Zach grinned at his husband.  “Are you worried some crazy fan will take me away from you?”

“Well, you did say that the guy at the rental car place recognized you,” Todd responded, defensively.

Zach leaned over and kissed his husband.   “You don’t have to worry, Todd.  You’re the one and only guy for me.”

Jeff said, “I’ll be glad to help you interview the applicants for your new security detail, once you’ve decided on where you’ll be living.”

Todd said, “I found a couple of listings in Clarington, not far from our parents.  We want to be near both sets of parents.  We’ve been away from them for far too long.”

Zach said, “When I heard your Dad had passed away, Glenn, it made me think about our parents.  They aren’t getting any younger and we need to spend time with them while we can.”

Todd nodded his head.  “Your Dad was older than our parents, but still, it scared me a bit to think I could lose my parents at any time.”

I nodded my head in understanding.  “I get you.  We were kind of prepared for Dad’s passing, after he spent a couple of months in a nursing home trying to recover from that stroke.”

Rick said, “Still, it was hard to watch him going downhill so quickly.  We visited him a couple times in nursing home, and we could tell he wasn’t going to recover.”

I nodded my head.  “I was in denial, until Rick pointed it out to me when we were driving home from here the last time.”  I held back the tears that suddenly blurred my vision.

Rick squeezed my hand, and said, “It’s okay to cry, Babe.”

I shook my head, and regained control over my emotions.  “Mom has asked me to say the family prayer tomorrow, before the service begins.  She wants the entire family to be there, including Johnny.”

Cole said, “I can’t believe your mother is willing to have Renata at your Dad’s funeral.”

I shook my head.  “I don’t understand it, either.  Mom said she knew Renata still loved my Dad and deserved to say her ‘good byes’ to him, despite how she might feel about her.”

Jeff added, “Besides, Johnny is your half-brother.”

I nodded my head.  “He can’t help who his parents are.  He’s such a cute kid.”

Cole asked, “Are you going to have him stay with you next summer?”

I looked over at my husband, before answering him.  “I think so, but we haven’t worked out all of the details yet.”

Rick said, “I want him to stay with us, in Virginia.  I think he would have a great time touring around Washington, DC.”

I shook my head.  “I’m not sure he would, Rick.  You forget he lives in Montreal, which is only a couple of hours from Ottawa, and he goes there often; so, he’s been around some pretty awesome monuments and museums in our capital city, not to mention the many great places to see in Montreal.”

Rick said, “But, it would be something new for him.  We could take him out on the Chesapeake Bay and do some fishing.”

Rather than argue with him, I said, “Maybe we can split our time between our two homes.”

Rick smiled, and said, “Thank you for being willing to compromise, Babe.  I’m okay staying here all summer.  I just wanted to see if you would be willing to meet me half way.”

I punched him in the shoulder.  “You knew I would give in to you.”

“Yes, I did, and you love me, anyway,” Rick said, grinning broadly.

The doorbell rang, and Rick stood up and walked into the foyer to answer the door.  He returned with Cory and Nancy, each of them carrying a little girl in their arms.  Cory carried Randy, age 4, and Nancy carried Jessica, age 3.   Both girls have long blond hair and deep blue eyes.   Randy reached out her arms to Rick.

Randy said, “I want Uncle Rick.”

Rick took her in his arms, and kissed her cheek as she wrapped her slender arms around his neck.  “Hello, little princess.”

I took Jessica from Nancy’s arms, and kissed the top of her head.  “How’s my little girl?”

She looked up at me and said, “I’m hungry, Uncle Glenn.”

“Do you want some cookies and milk?” I asked.  I looked over at Nancy, who smiled and nodded her head, indicating it was okay to give her little girl cookies and milk.

“Yes, please,” Jessica said.

Randy said, “Me, too.”

Rick said, “Then, you shall have cookies and milk.”  He walked out into the hallway, and shouted, “Boys!   Do you want cookies and milk?”

Within seconds, the four boys were running down the hall to the kitchen.  When the twins saw Nancy, they ran to her and chorused, “Hi Mom!”

Even though we’ve always been close, my sister amazed me when she agreed to be our surrogate to help us start a family.   We’ve never hidden that knowledge from the boys.  We felt it was better for them to know she is their natural mother, rather than wonder who their mother was.  Not only that, we had made an agreement with Nancy, as part of the surrogacy arrangement between us, to ensure she would continue to be a big part of their lives after they born.

Nancy knelt down to hug them.  “How are my boys?

“We’re good,” JJ said.  He kissed her on the cheek.

Josh said, “I’m glad you’re here, Mommy.  I’m so sad Grandpa died.”

Nancy’s voice caught, as she said, “I’m sad, too, Josh.”  She released them, and said, “Get up to the table and you can have cookies and milk with the girls.”

The twins joined Cammy and Skye at the table.  Rick placed a booster seat on two of the kitchen chairs, and we sat the girls on them.  Randy looked up at Rick, and said, “I’m big now.  I don’t need a booster seat.”

Rick smiled at her.  “I’m sorry.  Here, I’ll take away the booster seat.”  She slid off of the chair, while Rick removed the booster seat.  He said, “There, all better.”

She climbed back up onto the chair and said, “Thank you Uncle Rick.”

I placed a plate of cookies on the table, while Todd got out the milk and started filling glasses.   Rick handed them out, then came up behind me, wrapping his arms around my waist.  He nuzzled the back of my neck.  He whispered, “I love you.”

I turned my head to meet his lips.  I replied, “I love you, too.”

The children quickly demolished the cookies as only children can!  I love watching the little urchins dip their cookies in their milk! 

When they were done, JJ asked, “Do you want to see our trains?”

Randy said, “Yes, I love trains.”

JJ jumped down from the table, and turned to me.  “Daddy, thank you for the cookies.  May Josh and I be excused, so we can show Randy and Jessica our trains?”

“Yes, you may.  Thank you for remembering your manners,” I said.

Randy looked up at her mother, who said, “You can go with the boys.”

Randy slid off of her chair and turned to help Jessica.  “Come on, Jessica.  The boys have trains!”

She took Jessica by the hand, leading her from the kitchen.  Cammy looked up at me, and asked, “May we have more cookies?”

I looked over at his Dad.  Zach said, “Okay, but only two more.  I don’t want to spoil your dinner.”

I handed out two more cookies each to Cammy and Skye, while Todd poured them another glass of milk.  Nancy said, “The boys have grown a lot, since the last time we were together.”

Todd nodded his head.  “Yes, they have.”

Cory said, “The boys look like carbon copies of their father.”

Zach grinned.  “Yes, they do.”

Cammy said, “We’re going to be hockey players when we grow up, just like Dad.”

Skye concurred, “Yes, we’re going to be even better than Dad.”

Zach laughed.  “If you’re going to be better at hockey than I am, you need to do a lot more practicing now.”

Cammy said, “We haven’t been practicing because you’re always busy, Dad.”

Zach met his son’s eyes, and said, “I know, Cammy, but, that will all change soon.”

Cammy said, “I’m glad you’re going to retire, Dad.  Now, you can spend more time with me and Skye.”

“That’s the whole idea, Cammy,” Zach said.

Cory said, “That’s news to me.  When did you decide to retire from playing hockey?”

Zach responded, “Today.”

Cory said, “I’m sorry to see you leave hockey.  I love bragging about you to my friends.”

Zach blushed, and said, “I hope I haven’t disappointed them.”

Cory grinned.  “You’ve always played well.  I was kind of hoping you would transfer to the Kings.”

Zach said, “I’m not sure where I would’ve ended up, since my contract is up this year.  I don’t want to keep moving my family to a new city, so I decided to retire, instead.”

Todd said, “We’re looking at homes near our parents.”

Nancy said, “I wish we could move closer to home, too.”  She looked at her husband, who took her hand in his.

“I’m sorry, honey.  I know how you would like to move closer to your family,” Cory said.

The twins finished their cookies, and Cammy asked, “May we be excused?”

Todd said, “Sure.”

They took their dishes to the sink, then scampered out of the kitchen.  With the children gone, the adults gathered around the table. 

Jeff looked closely at Nancy, and asked, “Are you okay?  You look really pale.”

Nancy gave him a wan smile.  “I’m just really tired.”

Cory said, “Nancy, you should tell them.”

Nancy turned to meet his gaze.  After a moment, she turned back to us, and said, “I guess you’re right.  I have MS.”

“What is MS?” I asked.

Nancy took a deep breath, and replied, “Multiple sclerosis, or MS, is an auto-immune disease that attacks the central nervous system.  It causes problems with vision, balance, muscle control and other basic body functions.  Some of the more common symptoms are fatigue, weakness, numbness or tingling, vertigo and dizziness.   I’ve begun to tire really easily, and I’ve lost the feeling in my fingers.  My doctors have put me on a special diet, and I go to physical therapy several times a week.”

I met her gaze, and asked, “What have the doctors said about your condition?”

Nancy said, “They think I have a good chance of warding off many of the worst symptoms.”

Cory said, “However, they have warned us things would change very quickly.”

I asked, “Do they have a cure for MS?”

Nancy shook her head.  “No, they haven’t found a cure; but, people with MS have the same life expectancy as the general population.  We just have to make a few adjustments, that’s all.”

Cole said, “One of my cousins, Alicia, has MS.  She’s in a wheelchair, now.”

Nancy said, “I could be in a wheelchair if the weakness in my muscles increases.”

Cole said, “My cousin is receiving interferon shots to prevent relapses.”

Cory said, “Nancy has chosen to use homeopathic remedies rather than using the shots.”

Nancy said, “I’m a nurse, and I’ve seen many of the nasty side effects some of the medications have.  I don’t want to subject myself to any of those.  I think using natural methods will help me more than all of those experimental medications.”

Cory smiled, and said, “You would think she would be more trusting of the medical community, since she’s a nurse.”

“It’s because I’m a nurse that I don’t trust them.  I’ve seen too many questionable practices to allow them to try things out on me,” Nancy said.

We continued to chat about MS – its complications and treatments, as well as their impact on Nancy and Cory.  A while later, we heard the door open and the excited chatter of our teenage children, returning from their visit with Aunt Hannah.  Kyle was the first one to enter the kitchen.

He saw Nancy and Cory and shouted over his shoulder to the others, “Hey, Uncle Cory and Aunt Nancy are in here!”

He walked over to Cory and gave him a quick hug, then turned to Nancy, enveloping her in his arms, kissing her cheek.  “How’s my favorite aunt?”

She smiled up at him.  “I’m fine, Kyle.  Stand back and let me look at you.”  He moved back to let her see him.  She said, “You’ve turned into quite a handsome young man.”

He gave her a cocky grin, and said, “What else would I be?”

She laughed, and said, “And you’ve still got the attitude!”

The rest of the teens entered the kitchen.  David, hearing Nancy’s comment, said, “Yes, he does.  He’s got every girl in the school running after him.”

Kyle blushed, but the grin on his face broadened.  “And all the gay guys.”

Purev said, “That’s true Aunt Nancy.  Several of my gay friends want to date him.”

Caroline confirmed, “Kyle has quite the fan club.  Fortunately, he has me and Marie to keep him from getting a big head.”

Marie laughed.  “We know what a dork he can be, sometimes.”

Kyle looked at her and protested, “Hey, I’m not a dork!”

Marie smiled sweetly at him.  “No, but you act like one sometimes.”

He looked at her sister, and asked, “Caroline, can’t you do something about her?”

Caroline looked at him and laughed.  “No, I can’t.”

Nancy said, “It looks like you’ve got plenty of good friends.”

Ashley said, “We have the best friends in the entire world, including the best dads in the world.”

Nancy looked over at us, and said, “I agree with you, Ashley.  You do have the best dads in the world, and so do Caroline and Marie.”  She turned to Jeff and Cole and said, “I hear you two are getting married.   Is that true?”

Jeff smiled, putting his arm around Cole’s shoulders.  “Yes, it is.”

“Congratulations!  I’m very happy for you both,” she said.

Cory said, “I’m glad to see more gay couples getting married.  I think being married brings a lot of stability to a relationship.”

Jeff said, “That’s what we think, as well.”

Cole said, “I don’t know about the stability thing; but, I know I want Jeff to know he’s all mine, and no one else’s.”

“I know that already, Babe,” Jeff said, leaning over to kiss Cole.

I said, “However, I still think that little piece of paper called a marriage certificate certainly brings many rights and privileges with it.  Here in Canada, the law recognizes my rights as a spouse.  I don’t have to worry about whether or not I have a notarized power of attorney to be with my husband and make decisions for him if he becomes incapable of making them himself.”

Rick said, “Glenn wants us to permanently move here, since our marriage is not recognized in Virginia.”

Nancy said, “Can’t you work from just about anywhere, Rick?”

“That’s true,” Rick admitted.  “But, I would prefer to stay close to the office, where the rest of the team will be working.”

Cory asked, “So, has your friend won the contract?”

Rick said, “We won’t know for a few more weeks.  Garth is pretty certain he’ll get the contract.”

“But with Zach and Todd moving back here, I think we should sell our river house,” I said.

Rick looked at me in surprise.  “I thought you liked living on the river.”

“I do; but, we’ll have to make some major modifications to the property before they move, since we won’t have a shared household, anymore,” I said.  “I’d prefer looking for a home closer to the children’s schools, or closer to your job.”

Rick said, “We’ll have to look into it when we get home.”

David asked, “Can we look for a house close to Mark’s house?”

Rick laughed, as he ruffled David’s hair.  “Yes, we can look for place in the same neighborhood where your boyfriend lives.”

Purev asked, “How about living near my boyfriend, Gabrielle.”

Ashley, always the peacemaker, suggested, “Maybe we could live somewhere in between.”

I looked around the kitchen at our teenagers and asked, “So, none of you would be upset if me moved closer to your high schools.  Is that true?”

They looked at each other, then back to us.  Caroline spoke up, before any of our children, “I know you weren’t asking for my opinion; but, I know it would make it easier for me and Marie.  We could sleep in, because Dad wouldn’t have to do as much driving.”

Jeff started to scold his daughter, “Caroline…”

I put up my hand, and interrupted him.  “Jeff, Caroline and Marie are just as much a part of this family as you and Cole, and Caroline has raised a valid point.  Moving closer to their schools will cut down on travel time to and from school for all of us.”

Zach looked across at us and said, “I’m glad you’re not upset with us for moving back to Canada.”

I smiled at my friend.  “Why would we be upset about that?  You’re moving closer to family, which is what we want to do, eventually.”  I glanced at Rick, to see his reaction to my words.

Rick’s expression was unreadable.  He knew he couldn’t really disagree with me without my family siding with me, especially my sister.  I knew we weren’t done discussing this topic.  I sighed, and looked at the clock on the wall.

“We need to get ready for the viewing.  Mom wants us to be there early,” I said.

The teens quickly exited the kitchen, making their way to their rooms.  As Kyle was about to leave, Cory asked, “Which room is ours?”

“The one at the end of the hallway.  The twins call it Mom’s bedroom, so we don’t let anyone else use it,” Rick said.

Kyle asked, “Uncle Cory, do you need some help with your luggage?”

Cory replied, “Yes, thanks, Kyle.”

Kyle grinned, and said, “No, problem.  I can handle this.”  He did his muscle man pose. 

Rick laughed, and said, “Okay, you’re done showing off, young man.  Off you go with the luggage.”

Kyle gave us his usual cheeky grin, and left the kitchen.

Nancy said, “I love that boy.”

I said, “You know, he would do anything for you, Nancy.”

Nancy smiled.  “Yes, I do know that.”

Cory said, “If he was just a little older, I’d be a little worried.”

Nancy laughed.  “Kyle is cute, but, you’re my one and only love, Cory.”

Cory leaned over and gave her a tender kiss.  “Let’s go up and get ready.”

He helped her up, and steadied her, when she lost her balance.  Cory frowned.  “Are you sure you’re up to going tonight?”

Nancy said, with determination in her voice, “No, I’m not sure; but, I won’t miss my father’s viewing.”

Cory put his arm around her waist to stabilize her, as they left the kitchen.  We followed them out of the room.  Todd said, ‘We’ll watch the little ones while you change.”

“Thanks, Todd,” I said, taking my husband’s hand and heading for the stairs.   Once we were in our room, Rick closed the door behind me, and pinned me to the door, kissing me.

When we surfaced for air, I said, “Rick, we’re supposed to be getting ready to go.”

Rick gave me a lecherous grin.  “I know; however, the only way I know of to help you through the next few hours is to make sure you know how much I love you.”

“But…,” I started to protest.

“You know I’m right,” Rick interrupted.

I looked deeply into my husband’s eyes.  “Why do you always have to be right?”  I tried to sound annoyed, but failed.

He kissed me again.  “Let’s get a quick shower.  You need to be distracted from worrying too much about your family.”

He led me into our en suite, and quickly stripped off my clothes, pushing me under the warm cascade of water.  He joined me a few moments later, and began his assault (not that I put up much resistance!)!

I was still in a state of bliss, as Rick helped me get dressed.  His gentle touch reminded me of how much he loves me.  My cell phone rang and he reached over to pick it up.  He looked to see who was calling.  Handing me the phone, he said, “It’s your mother.”

I gave him a quick kiss, before answering the call.  “Hello, Mom.”

“Glenn, Renata wants to drop by with Johnny, before we head over to the church.  Is that okay?” she asked.

I said, “That’s fine.  She’ll have to be here soon.  We’re heading downstairs to get the twins changed into their Sunday best, and we’ll be ready to leave.”

Rick finished dressing me, and I, in turn, helped him.   Rick came up behind me and wrapped his arms around me waist.   He met my eyes in the mirror, and said, “You look absolutely good enough to eat.”

I grinned, and responded, “So do you, Babe.”  I turned my head to meet his lips.  Rick led me from our room, with his arm still around my waist.   Just as we entered the foyer, we heard a tap on the door.  “That must be Johnny.”

Rick opened the door to find Johnny looking up at him.  Rick said, “Welcome, Johnny.  Please come in.”

Johnny rushed forward wrapping his arms around Rick.  “I love you, Rick.”

Rick smoothed the blond head of the young boy, and said, “I love you, too, Johnny.”

I said, “Hey! What about me?”

Johnny giggled and released Rick.   “I love you, too, Glenn.”  He turned to embrace me as he had Rick.   “I’m glad you came, Johnny.”

Renata stood on the threshold, watching her son greet his half-brothers.  She was grateful they had accepted her son as part of their family.  She had worried they wouldn’t want him around to remind them of what their father had done.  She was even more amazed, when Eva called to inform her of Don’s death, inviting her and Johnny to say their ‘good byes’ at the funeral.  She never expected Eva to even acknowledge her existence, let alone tell her she was welcome to attend her husband’s funeral.

I looked over at Renata, and smiled.  “Please come inside, Renata.  It’s too cold to be standing outside.  She stepped inside, and Rick closed the door behind her.

This was her first time in our home, and she looked around with undisguised curiosity.  She said, “You have a beautiful home, Glenn.”

“Thank you,” I said.   “Please join us in the kitchen for a cup of hot chocolate, while we finish getting the twins ready to go.”

I led them into the kitchen.  I placed a cup of hot chocolate on the table for each of them.  Rick said, “Please excuse me.  I’ll be back after checking on the twins.”

After Rick left, I sat down across from Renata and Johnny.   Johnny looked healthy and happy.  He wore his blond hair shoulder length, and his bangs half covered his eyes.  He kept brushing his hair out of his eyes, drawing my attention to his long, delicate fingers.  He was short for his age, but he seemed to be wiry and compact.

“Johnny, how are things going?” I asked.

He grinned, and said, “I’m playing hockey and our team is winning nearly every game.”

I looked over at Renata before asking, “What about your studies?”

A frown crossed his face.  “Not so good,” he admitted.

“How can I help?” I asked.

Before he answered, Renata said, “Maybe your brother could help you learn math.”

Johnny looked at his mother and asked, “How can Glenn do that?  He doesn’t live anywhere near us!”

I said, “We could Skype every night.  That way we could see what you’re doing and you could ask questions.  Rick has some pretty cool software we could use to help you learn math.”

Johnny still looked doubtful.  “Are you sure it would work?”

“Why wouldn’t it work?” I countered.

Johnny said, “Okay, but I have to warn you – I’m not good at math.”

I laughed, and said, “That makes two of us, little bro.”

Rick had returned to the kitchen, hearing the end of our conversation.  “I’m the one you want to help you with math, Johnny.   Glenn is lucky to add 2 plus 2 to get 4!”

I playfully punched him in the shoulder.  “Hey!  I’m not that bad.”

Rick looked at Johnny, and, in stage whisper, said, “He’s really that bad!”

Johnny giggled, and looked over at this mother.  “See, I’m not the only one who doesn’t like math.”

Renata ruffled his hair, and gave a sigh.  “I know, son.  I’m not good with math, either; but, you have to learn the basics.”  Renata turned back to us, and said, “Thank you for being so generous with your time.”

“Not a problem, Renata,” I said.

“I’m grateful your family has agreed to let me attend your father’s funeral,” she said.

“I’m glad Mom thought of it.  She’s already talked to all of us, and we agreed with her decision to invite you to join us as we say our last farewells to him,” I said.

The twins ran into the kitchen, shouting, “Johnny!”

Rick said, “Slow down, boys!  Let Johnny finish his hot chocolate before you attack him.”

Johnny pushed his cup back from him, and jumped down from his chair.  The twins immediately pounced on their youngest uncle.  JJ said, “Come look at our trains.” 

“Yeah, you’ll like them,” Josh said.

Each twin took a hand, pulling him from the room.  I laughed.  “They are so excited about their trains.”

Renata said, “Johnny talked of nothing else but playing with your boys during our trip from Montreal.”

The teenagers joined us, greeting Renata with hugs and kisses.  We chatted for a few more minutes, waiting for Jeff, Cole, Todd and Zach.  Nancy and Cory were the last ones to join us.  When they joined us, we gathered up the children from their trains, herding them out to our vehicles.   It was a short trip to the church, where the viewing was being held.

As we entered the church, we were greeted by the new Reverend.  He was a tall, thin man, with hauntingly beautiful green eyes set under dark bushy eyebrows.  He had dark brown hair, a hawk-like nose, and a square jaw.  He wasn’t particularly handsome, but he had a rugged charm that drew people to him.  He shook our hands, and introduced himself, “I’m Reverend Mallory.”

Rick said, “I’m Rick Lernier and this is my husband, Glenn.”

Reverend Mallory smiled, and said, “Reverend Riegger has told me a lot about you and your family.  Welcome to our church.   I’m sorry we have to meet under such sad circumstances.  The morticians have placed the casket in the sanctuary.  I believe your mother would like your family to gather in the sanctuary for a family prayer, before the viewing starts.  We’ve arranged for light refreshments to be served in the social hall.”

“Thank you for allowing us the use of the church, Reverend,” I said.

“We’re honored to have your family join with us.  Your family has a lot of history with our congregation, and we take care of our own,” he said.

We entered the sanctuary to find Mom was already there with Aunt Hannah and Uncle Carl.  We joined them at the front of the sanctuary.  We were soon joined by the western contingent of the family – Uncle Ben, Aunt Kate, my brothers and their families.   Last to arrive were Dad’s oldest brother, Uncle Allen and his wife, Aunt Margaret, and his baby sister, Aunt Sylvia and her husband, Uncle Gordon. 

Rick stiffened beside me as he caught sight of my cousin, John, and his family.  Despite the fact John had apologized to me, begging for my forgiveness as he acknowledged he and his friends had raped me, Rick had never forgiven him.  I felt the tension in him.  I whispered to him, “It’s okay, Babe.”

Rick scowled and whispered back, “No, it’s not okay.  He and his friends should be behind bars for what they did to you.”

I put my hand to his cheek.  “Babe, let it go.  Putting him behind bars won’t change what happened.  It’s better for me to let it go.  I don’t want him to suffer like Peyton did while he was in jail.”

Rick said, “It would serve him right for what he did.”

“No, Babe, it would only make things worse for all of us.  He is still my cousin, and I don’t want any more of our family members to ever be put in prison,” I said.   “Please, let it go.”  I took Rick’s clenched fist in my hands and massaged his fingers until he relaxed his hand, intertwining his fingers with mine.

I gave him a quick kiss, and said, “I love you, my prince charming.”

He grinned and squeezed my hand.  I looked over to see Johnny staring at us.  He had a puzzled look on his face.  Johnny had seen me kiss Rick before, so that couldn’t be what was causing Johnny’s confusion.  I beckoned for Johnny to come to me.  He stood up and walked past his mother and sat down between me and Rick.

I asked, “You look like you have a question.”

Johnny looked up at me, and said, “I do.  Our priest at our church said gays would be struck down by God.   You kissed Uncle Rick in the church, and God didn’t kill you.”

I said, “No, God didn’t kill us, because he loves us.  We are his children, just like everyone else who lives on this planet,” I said.

Johnny nodded his head.  “Mom always tells me that God loves us.  What the priest said didn’t seem right, especially since I know you and Rick love each other very much, and so do Randy and Shawn.  You are my brothers, and I know you aren’t evil people.”

Rick said, “I’m glad you’ve worked that out all on your own, Johnny.  There are many grown up people who haven’t figured that out yet.”

I said, “God loves all of his children.”

Johnny hugged me, and turned to hug Rick.  Renata was watching us, with a concerned look on her face.  I smiled at her, and whispered to Johnny, “You need to sit by your Mom.  She’s getting worried about you.”

Johnny said, “She always worries.”  He glided away from us, not making a sound as he returned to his seat by his mother.

Reverend Mallory stood up at the pulpit and said, “Welcome, friends and family.”

He went on to say a few nice words about Dad, then asked us to pray with him.  Afterward, we retired to the social hall.  As we entered, we were greeted by several tables filled with memorabilia – photos of Dad as a baby, a young man, etc.  Mom had put together a display of Dad’s scouting awards and his trophies from playing hockey for the local recreational league.  There were several scrapbooks of newspaper clippings, program leaflets, etc.  Someone had put together a slide show of Dad’s life that ran continuously on a large TV screen.  Rick and I stood in front of the slideshow, while I narrated for him the special memories each photo held for us, as a family.

Soon, the Reverend ushered Mom and the immediate family members back into the sanctuary when friends and extended family started arrive.   As Mom stood next to Dad’s open casket, greeting people, I noticed Grandpa and Grandma Scarborough arrive.   I tugged on Randy’s sleeve, and nodded toward them. 

“I’m glad they were able to come.  It means a lot to Mother,” I said.

Randy agreed.  “Yes, I’m glad they came, as well.”

John and his family walked over to me.  John smiled, and said, “It’s good to see you, Glenn.”

I returned his smile.  “Hello, John.  Vicky.”

“Let me introduce you to my little girls.  This is Barbara and Sharri,” John said,

I knelt down and looked the two girls in the eyes.  Both wore their brown hair in a ponytail, they had heart-shaped faces, like their mother, but had their father’s bright blue eyes, and generous smile.  “Hello, and how old are you?”

The oldest one answered, “I’m 5 and Sharri is 3.”

“You’re both looking very pretty tonight, and I’m glad to meet you.  I’m Glenn, your daddy’s cousin,” I said.

Barbara said, “Mommy told us Daddy’s cousins would be here tonight.”

I stood up and turned my brother, “You Mommy is correct.   There are a lot of cousins here.  Let me introduce you to my brother, Randy.   He’s married to an artist.”

Randy smiled down at his little cousins, and asked, “Do you girls like to draw?”  When both of them nodded their heads, he continued, “I’ve got some drawing paper and colored pencils, if you want to draw some pictures to add to the ones in the social hall.”

Vicky said, “That would be wonderful, Randy.”

Randy led them out of the sanctuary, while John remained behind.  “I want to apologize again for what I did to you, Glenn.  I know we resolved this issue between us years ago; but, I know I’ll never be able to make you whole after what happened.”

I put my arm around his shoulders, “John, I forgave you a long time ago.  I couldn’t continue to let what happened shape my life.  I want you to forgive yourself and move on.  You need to make peace with God.  Remember our discussion with Reverend Riegger?  He counseled you to reconcile yourself to God.  Have you done that?”

John shrugged his shoulders.  “Somewhat.  I wake up from nightmares about someone raping my daughters, just like what we did to you.  I don’t know how to make those nightmares go away.”

“Knowing how it happened, you can make sure your girls are never in a situation where they are alone with boys.  More importantly, you teach them what to watch for and to avoid situations where they could come to harm,” I said.  “It’s what we teach our boys, as well.”

John nodded his head.  “Thank you for the advice.  I can see Rick is still angry with me.”

“He always will be, John.  You hurt his beloved, and no one hurts me and gets away with it,” I said.

“Is there some way I can make amends to him,” John asked.

I shook my head.  “I’m afraid not, John.  He’s my knight in shining armor, and he’s not very forgiving of those who harm his loved ones.”

John nodded his head in understanding.  “I get it, because that’s how I feel about Vicky and my girls.”

“Then you also know how lucky you are to be allowed to speak to me,” I said.

He looked across the room to where Rick was staring at him.  He gave a shudder, and turned back to me.  “Thank you for your forgiveness.  Please tell Rick I promise never to harm anyone again.”  He hugged me and moved on to speak to my mother.

Later that night, Rick held me in his arms and asked, “What did that cretin say to you?”

“By cretin, do you mean John?” I asked.

Rick growled, “Yes.”

“He apologized to me again for what happened, and told me to pass on a message to you,” I said, caressing his cheek with my fingertips.

Rick scowled at me, and asked, “So, what’s his message?”

“He wanted you to know he would never hurt anyone again,” I said.

Rick said, “What about his cronies?  They’ve never come forward to admit what they did was wrong, and you haven’t been willing to go to the police.”

“What good will it do me, if I go to the police?” I asked.

“It will prevent them from raping someone else,” he answered.

“Maybe, John can help in that regard,” I said.  “I’m sure he knows where some of those guys are.”

Rick said, “It’s better than letting them continue to get away with rape.  Who knows who else they may have defiled for their sexual pleasure.”

“Rick, I don’t want to press charges against them,” I said.  “I know how you feel, but I don’t want to suffer through an investigation and a subsequent trial.  You know how hard I’ve tried to rid myself of the effects of that event in my life.  I DO NOT wish to relive it in order to put those men behind bars.  I’ve fought long and hard to get where I am with my mental and emotional health, and I won’t go backward, especially not to satisfy your, or anyone else’s, sense of justice.  I’m the one they raped, not you, Rick.  I’ve made my peace with John, and I could care less about the others; but, I want you to leave things well enough alone.”

Rick looked into my eyes, holding my gaze for a long time, before he sighed in resignation.  “Okay, I’ll do as you ask.”

I said, “Thank you, Babe.”  I gently kissed his lips, then laid my head on his chest.  He tightened his arms around me, providing me the warmth and comfort I needed.

The next morning, we were awakened by a veritable storm of children, as they came running into our room.  JJ and Josh had fetched their half-sisters, Randy and Jessica, and brought them to our room to wake us up.  The four children snuggled in between us. 

Randy looked up at Rick and said, “JJ said you give the best hugs, Uncle Rick.”

Rick smiled, and tousled JJ’s hair, “Did he really say that?”

Randy nodded her head.  “But, I think my Daddy gives good hugs, too.”

“I’m sure he does, little one,” Rick responded.

Satisfied, she grinned, “But, I’m glad JJ and Josh are willing to share their Dads with us.”

“I’m glad, too,” Rick said, smiling at his niece.

A while later, there was a tap on our door.  I shouted, “Come in.”

Nancy pushed open the door, and grinned at me.  “I see my daughters have found their way into your bed.”

Randy looked over the comforter at her mother.  “We wanted to wake up JJ and Josh’s Dads.”

Rick said, “And they succeeded.”

“I’m glad you’re so understanding,” Nancy said.

“They’re such sweethearts, just like their mother,” Rick said, grinning up at his sister-in-law.

Nancy laughed.  “Some things never change, Rick Lernier!  You’re still a charmer!”

Rick said, “I have to be, in order to keep this brother of yours happy!”

Nancy grinned, “I’m glad you two are still just as much in love as when I lived with you guys.”

Cory came up behind her, wrapping his arms around her waist.  He smiled over her shoulder.  “Glenn, I’m glad you claimed Rick, first; because Nancy has told me she loves Rick just as much as you do.”

Nancy laughed.  “I do love him; but, you’re still the love of my live, Cory.”  She turned her head to kiss him.  Turning back to us, she said, “You two will always be my favorite brothers.”

Randy giggled, and said, “Just like JJ and Josh are my favorite brothers.”

Nancy smiled at her daughter, and said, “That’s right, Randy.  Come on down to the kitchen, children, and leave your Dads to get dressed.”

All four of them scrambled down from the bed and followed her and Cory from the room.

The morning went quickly and we made our way back to the church for Dad’s funeral service.  There were a lot of flowers and potted plants surrounding Dad’s coffin.  Grandpa and Grandma Scarborough were seated next to my mother in the front pew.  All my immediate family was there as were my band of brothers from school, along with their families.  Seeing them all made me realize just how fortunate I had been over the years to have such a wonderful network of family and friends. 

Rick, seeing the tears in my eyes, put his arm around my shoulders.  “Are you going to be okay?” he asked.

“Yes, I’ll be fine, Babe,” I responded.

The service was beautiful and touched everyone in the audience.  Afterward, we followed the hearse to the cemetery, where Reverend Mallory dedicated the grave.  It was a cold, gray day and there was snow on the ground, but, I felt warm inside, because of the presence of my family and friends.

Dad’s casket at the cemetery.

Prev To be continued . . .

A Note from Russ:

Montreal’s Museums -

Ottawa’s Museums -

Canadian Monuments -

Music from Dad’s Funeral

Anne Murray – In the Garden

Handel: Messiah – I Know that my Redeemer Liveth

Kyle’s Song -

Music for this chapter:

Axel – Te Voy a Amar -

Natalia Jimenez – Creo en Mi -

Amaia Montero – Palabras -

Steve Grand – It Will Rain -

Journey – Faithfully -

Jencarlos – Irreparable -

Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms -