|The Man from Swift Current|
|© 2011 Russ Nielsen
All Rights Reserved
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We got a phone call from my Uncle Carl on October 1st telling us that Grandpa was in the hospital and it didn't look good. Uncle Dave arranged for the family caravan down east to see Grandpa. Nancy and I went with Uncle Dave while Aunt Kate went with Mom and Dad and Eric. Uncle James and his family drove their own car down as did my brother, Gary and his family. Fortunately, the weather was good the entire trip and we were able to make good time. We stayed with Uncle Don and Aunt Sylvia in Fenwick, Ontario, while Uncle James stayed with Uncle Carl. All of the adults went up to the hospital to see Grandpa. The next day, all of the grandkids were allowed to go up to see him and say our good-byes. Shortly after we left, the hospital called to say that Grandpa had passed.
The day of funeral came and we all went out to our cars and drove from Fenwick to St. Catharines. It was a good thing we had left early because we had to stop and wait for the bridge to close over the Welland Canal. It seemed that the big tanker in front us would never pass through the canal. Under normal circumstances, I would have begged to pull over into the parking lot at the locks to watch the big tanker move through them. The Welland Canal connects Lake Erie with Lake Ontario allowing the big ocean-going vessels to get past Niagra Falls. I guess I am a typical guy. I like planes, trains, boats and automobiles! The tanker finally moved far enough down the canal for the bridge to close and we continued our journey to the church. As we drove down the road, I thought about the conversation I had with my cousin, John, just moments before leaving the Uncle Don's house.
***** Flashback *****
John came into the room and came up behind me and wrapped his arms around my waist as I was standing in front of the mirror trying to get my tie on straight and said, "Hey sweet cousin, you haven't told anyone our little secret have you?" as he breathed on the back of my neck and nibbled my ear.
This was the moment I had dreaded since we had arrived at the house. For the last few years, I had managed to convince my parents to stay at Uncle Carl's house when we came to visit the family so I could avoid see John. But because all the family was here this time, there wasn't any room at Uncle Carl's.
John, who is 24 and quite a bit bigger than I am and even with the growth spurt I had over the summer he still stood a good 4 inches taller than me. With his arms wrapped around my waist, the memories of what had happened between us popped into my head and made me shudder. Our little secret was a series of events that happened when I was 12 years old and he was 17. We were staying at his house since we were visiting from Saskatchewan for a few weeks during the summer. Mom and Dad frequently left us with our cousins as they were busy with family matters and were going to different relatives' houses. John would corner me in one of the upstairs bedrooms and sexually abuse me. This happened multiple times over the course several days and he threatened to beat me up if I ever said anything. At the time, I was so scared and confused, I promised him I wouldn't tell anyone. Every time we came to visit, I tried to avoid being alone with John. I had been mostly successful over the years. Returning to the present, my mind finally connected to my mouth, "Yeah, I've kept our little secret. You don't have to worry about me telling anyone."
"Good, just make sure that it stays that way," John said. With that, John released me and walked out of the bedroom.
I stood just staring into the mirror unable to move. I was still shaking inside from the encounter. I thought I'd gotten over the fear and feelings of guilt when I remembered how he used me. I rarely thought about anymore but when he put his arms around me and started breathed on my neck it brought it all back as if it had just happened. He had made feel like I was the one who wanted him to use me that way.
I stared at myself in the mirror trying to control the tears that had started to roll down my cheeks. I wiped my face with the back of my hand and shook my head to clear out the unwanted thoughts. I finished straightening my tie and left to join my parents in their car for the drive over to St. Catharines.
***** End Flashback *****
Finally, we pulled up to the Grapeview Free Methodist Church. Dad parked the car and we all piled out and joined the rest of the people filing into the church. There were several pews at the front saved for the family where Uncle Dave sat waving us to come forward to join them. I sat down next to Ben and Cynthia with Nancy on the other side. The organist was playing Bach's "Sheep May Safely Graze." It seemed so peaceful here. As the music stopped playing, the minister rose to begin the service. I turned to look around the church. I was completely surprised to see my brother, Randy, and his partner, Shawn, moving to sit in the very back. I smiled and gave a little wave of welcome which Randy and Shawn returned. I leaned over and whispered to Nancy to look to the back of the chapel but to be quiet about. She looked and smiled at our brother and squeezed my shoulder as if to say everything would be alright.
I don't remember much of the service. I my mind was too occupied with worry about how Dad would react to seeing Randy and Shawn, again. I needn't have worried. Randy and Shawn were not to be found in the chapel as we filed outside. My Dad and his brothers were the pall bearers and escorted the casket out of the church and lifted it into the waiting funeral hearse. As we headed to our cars, I went over to Uncle Dave and asked, "Did you call Randy?"
"Yes, I did. I told your dad that he had no right to withhold the news from his son even if he decided to punish himself and his family for his arrogance and selfishness by disowning his own flesh and blood. I told him that the rest of the family wouldn't tolerate such behavior and would welcome Randy and Shawn into our homes and would treat them no differently than we do our own immediate family members, that is with love and respect no matter what they do or what manner of life they choose to live. We had quite an energetic discussion about it. I just hope that I got through to him. I told Randy and Shawn the same thing when I called them about Grandpa's passing. They are staying at a hotel here in St. Catharines and will leave for Vancouver tomorrow morning. You should ride with your parents over to the cemetery for the graveside service. Be quick about so your Dad doesn't get upset with you."
I quickly walked over to the car where Dad was impatiently waiting. I climbed in and Dad pulled into line behind the hearse. The minister dedicated the grave and the women threw roses on the casket and we each said our good-byes to Grandpa. I don't remember crying but my Mom took me in her arms and wiped my tears from my face. Randy and Shawn came up behind us and joined us in a group hug of comfort. Randy was crying, too. Mom gave them both a hug, "Oh, I love you so much, Randy. I've have missed you terribly. Shawn must be taking good care of you. You have such a healthy glow about you. I'm happy for you both."
Randy started crying even more as Shawn held him close. "Will Dad ever change, Mom?" he asked.
"Just give him time, son. He has already started to soften. Your Uncle Dave gave him quite a bit to think about the other day. You should be grateful that Uncle Dave is on your side. He and your dad are very close and your Dad really loves and respects him."
Just then, Dad came up to our little group standing by Grandpa's grave, "Randy and Shawn, may I speak to you both for a moment?" he asked hesitantly.
Randy and Shawn looked at each other and nodded their heads in the affirmative. Dad continued, "I owe you both an apology for rash words and arrogant behavior towards you. I, especially, would like to ask you both to forgive me for being so selfish and unable to accept the fact that you love each other very much."
Randy grabbed Dad in a bear hug and started crying as he said, "I forgive you, Dad. I never stopped loving you even though you threw us out of your home and told us never to return."
Through his own tears, Dad whispered, "Randy, I love you, too." Dad turned and pulled Shawn into a bear hug, "I love you as well. I guess I should call you my son-in-law since I see you both are wearing wedding bands,"
Shawn gave Dad a big smile, "Yes, sir, you are correct in that we were married two months ago."
Both Mom and Dad said, "Congratulations!"
Mom said, "That means you are still newlyweds! No wonder you guys decided to stay in a hotel rather than with one of the relatives!"
That statement made both Randy and Shawn blush deeply.
I just whistled and whooped it up which caused both of them to become even more embarrassed if that's possible.
As we walked back to the car, Nancy and I pummeled Randy and Shawn with questions about the wedding, etc. Finally, Randy said, "Alright, alright, we will tell you all about our wedding tonight at dinner, okay!" He pulled Shawn away to get in their rental car as Dad impatiently honked his horn for us to get in the car.
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