|The Man from Swift Current|
|© 2011 Russ Nielsen
All Rights Reserved
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|Chapter 114: Dad’s Confession|
Mary opened the door, and met Don’s gaze. She wasn’t surprised to see him; she had hoped he would return, after he had some time to think things through. She saw the change reflected in his countenance, and knew things were going to work out for the best. She opened her arms to him and said, “I’m glad you came back.”
He let himself be enfolded in her embrace. He tried to keep control of his emotions, but failed. After a few moments, he managed to choke out, “Thank you for not sending me away.”
She held him tight, until she felt him push her away. She looked into his eyes and said, “Don, I told Dave you would be back, and I’m glad you came. You know how I like to be right.” She smiled, as he laughed at her admission. Mary could tell he was very nervous, so she said, “Please come inside.” She took him by the hand and led him into the front room.
His appearance in the doorway caused all conversation in the room to cease. Everyone waited, wondering what was going to happen next. Don looked around the room, meeting the gaze of each of the boys and his brother, Dave.
Dave started to speak, but Don held up his hand to silence him, “I’ve come to apologize.”
I looked at Rick, and we in turn looked over at Randy and Shawn, who were seated on the loveseat across from us. All of us wore surprised expressions on our faces. Quite frankly, I wasn’t sure I heard him correctly. I thought to myself, “Since when does my father ever apologize for something he’s done? I know of only one time he’s ever said he was sorry for something he did, and it was when he apologized to Shawn and Randy about kicking them out of his house; but, then, he had turned around and tried to get Shawn to divorce Randy.”
When the silence following his statement began to be uncomfortable, Mary said, “Please sit down, Don. We will hear what you have to say.” She looked around the room, her gaze lingering on her husband’s face. She said, pointedly, “We will listen to you, without interrupting.” Dave met his wife’s gaze and nodded he understood.
Don sat down in an armchair, facing them. He began by meeting his brother’s gaze and said, “I first have to thank Dave, for having the courage to tell me what I needed to hear; even though he knew it would make me angry.” He paused before continuing, “You have always been the wiser one of the two of us, and I’m glad you weren’t afraid of hurting my feelings, in order to get me to see the error of my ways.”
Dave smiled and nodded his head in acknowledgement. He knew how hard this was for Don. He was proud of his brother, for admitting he had been wrong, and admired his courage to face his sons and their partners. Of course, it remained to be seen what Don intended to do to restore their confidence in him.
Don turned to his sons. “Your Uncle Dave has rightly pointed out I’ve not been as good of a father to you as I should’ve been. I sent Randy and Glenn away from the farm to attend school here, as a way of removing any reminder of how I was failing as a parent. When Randy and I had our disagreement his senior year, I didn’t handle it well, and begged my brother to take Randy into his home. Now, I recognize how selfish I was to send you away. ”
Randy looked at his father and said, “That was one of the worst days of my life. You dragged me out of my bed at midnight, and drove me to Swift Current. That was the last time I saw you until graduation. I remember I hated you so much I would have been happy never to see you again. Uncle Dave and Aunt Mary talked me into speaking to you at my high school graduation. I was still so angry at you I couldn’t tolerate being in the same room with you. I signed up for the RCMP and went directly to their training school, in order to avoid going home with you to the farm.” Randy’s voice showed the bitterness he still harbored.
“I know. Dave told me,” Don said. “I knew you hated me; but, I was just happy you were moving on with your life, and would have the opportunity to become a ‘real’ man in the RCMP.”
Randy said, “Yes, I know. It was your definition of what a ‘real’ man is that started our argument in the first place.” His face reflected the anger he still harbored toward his father.
I said, “It was much the same conversation you had with me, only Mom stepped in to stop our argument. She knew where it was headed, and told you to back down. But in the end, you got your way. I came here with Nancy to finish out high school.”
Don said, “There is more to it than that, Glenn. I have to admit to you I was jealous of the special relationship you shared with your mother. I thought, if I sent you away, she would transfer her attentions to me, instead.”
I looked at my father in complete astonishment. Never had I ever even thought he was jealous of me. I had always been close to my mother, but I took it as a natural state of affairs; not something he had to worry about. The thought he worried about me replacing him in my mother’s affections was beyond my comprehension. How someone could get that idea about their own son just didn’t compute for me.
Don, seeing his son’s expression of disbelief, said, “It’s true, Glenn. I know it doesn’t make sense; but, you have to remember affairs of the heart don’t depend on logic and reason. I tried to convince myself, intellectually, I didn’t have anything to worry about, because your mother loved me. But as you know, I failed, spectacularly. When Nancy started hanging out with undesirable suitors, I decided not only would it be good to send her away; but, it would be a perfect opportunity to have your mother all to myself.”
Randy was just as surprised as I was to hear our father’s explanations of his behavior toward me. “You sent Glenn away simply because he and Mom are close?” His incredulity showed in his voice.
Don nodded his head. “I’m not proud of what I did, but it is why I did it. I need you to understand where I was coming from, and why I did the things I did. It is the only way I can see, for you to understand I’m being totally upfront with you. Dave made it clear to me you don’t trust me, and I’m going to have to do quite a lot to convince you to move from where you are right now.”
“Well, you do have that part right,” Randy said, with heavy sarcasm.
Don flinched at the tone of Randy’s voice. “I know you aren’t going to trust me, just because I say I’m sorry for what I have done to all four of you.”
“You can start by acknowledging Randy and I are happily married,” Shawn said. “The most offensive thing you have ever said to me was you couldn’t believe two men, who are married to each other, could possibly be as happy, or ever be as close, as a man married to a woman can be.”
Randy said, “In fact, we are closer than you and Mom ever were, at least from what I’ve observed. Maybe, when you were first married, things were different; but, from the earliest time I can remember, it has always seemed like there was a certain disconnect between you two.”
Don’s expression changed to one of extreme pain. His son had hit him hard with his statement. After his counseling session with Eva the day before, he knew Randy was right. He lowered his eyes to the floor, trying to gain control over his emotions. There was no way he was going to show any weakness in front of his sons. It was bad enough having to apologize to them for his behavior.
I watched my father’s expression and his body language, and knew what Randy said was true. “Mom must have told you the same thing, yesterday.” Don’s head snapped up, and his look of surprise confirmed I had guessed right. “Mom didn’t tell us what happened yesterday, just in case you were wondering. We guessed things didn’t go well, or she would have told us you two were getting back together.”
Don’s eyes were bright with unshed tears, as he struggled with his emotions. He finally was able to speak. “Your mother told me she never wanted to see me again.”
I looked at Rick, who took my hand in his. “Did she say why?” I asked, already knowing what the answer would be. Mom had told me on several different occasions she couldn’t go back to my father, if he couldn’t accept me and Randy as gay men.
Don looked at me and replied, “She said, as long as I rejected my sons and their partners, she didn’t want to see me again.”
There it was! I had wondered what had wrought a change of heart in my father. I knew it couldn’t have been anything other than something so catastrophic he had no other choice than to change his thinking. However, it wasn’t real, his apology and his professed sorrow for how he had treated us. He really wasn’t sorry for what he had done to us. He was only trying to get on our good side; so he could get Mom back. This whole thing was an act!
I looked over at Randy; then said, “I wondered what the real motivation behind your apology was. I’m sorry to be just a little bit cynical; but, this is really all about you, isn’t it? It has nothing to do with how you feel about us, or about how you’ve changed your views. I can’t help thinking all of this is just a ploy to get our mother to return to you. Do you honestly expect us to believe you’ve had a complete change in your religious beliefs? Do you really think we are so blind we can’t see through your attempts to make us believe you really accept us for who we are?”
Don knew he had just stepped on a landmine, and it had exploded, doing major damage to him. Before he had a chance to speak, Mary said, “Hold on a minute, boys. You weren’t here earlier today to hear the argument between your Dad and your Uncle Dave. I think you should hear your Uncle Dave’s side of this.”
Dave cleared his throat and said, “Let me tell you what I had to say to your father.” He looked at Don and said, “I think it will help him clarify his thoughts, as well as let you see he is being sincere.” Dave repeated their conversation for us. When he had finished, Don was looking at the floor, not daring to look his sons in the eye. He felt totally and completely ashamed of himself and his behavior toward them. They had every right to doubt him and his motives for being here tonight.
There was a heavy silence in the room for quite some time, as each of us were trying to decide if my father’s appearance of being sincerely sorry for his words and actions was real, or just a good acting job on his part.
Mary looked at each of us in turn and said, “If you can’t see your father is being earnest in his apologies to you, you need to step back, and take a look at your own reasons for holding onto your grievances against him.”
Randy said, “I don’t doubt he’s sincere in his apology, but I don’t know if I can trust him. He tried his best to separate me and Shawn; despite acknowledging us as a couple. Our relationship is as strong as ever, but it didn’t need to be challenged by someone who supposedly loved us unconditionally. Of course, I knew there wasn’t any unconditional love there from the moment he dragged me out of my bed in the middle of the night to bring me here.”
“He has already admitted to being an imperfect father for you,” Mary said, hoping to blunt Randy’s anger.
“No matter how sincere your apologies are, Dad, you’ll never be able to erase the pain and suffering you caused me. I wanted you to love me and to be there for me. Instead, you rejected me and made it clear you didn’t love me,” Randy said. He looked at Aunt Mary, and continued, “You witnessed it, Aunt Mary. You saw how much he hurt me. How can you expect me to pretend it didn’t happen?” Shawn put his arm around Randy’s waist and pulled him close. Randy put his hand on Shawn’s thigh, and said, “I’m okay, Shawn.”
“I’m not asking you to pretend it didn’t happen, because it did. However, I am asking you to give your Dad a chance to prove he’s changed,” Mary said, acknowledging Randy’s pain and suffering, while trying to mediate a positive outcome to the conversation.
I looked at my father, and said, “Okay, let’s say you’re really sincere about your feelings, and you’ve had a complete change of heart. Where does it leave us now? Are we supposed to pretend nothing happened and all of a sudden we’re just one big happy family?”
When Dad didn’t respond to my question, Rick took my hand in his and gave it a gentle squeeze. He met my father’s gaze and said, “I think we need time to absorb what we’ve heard. I, for one, am not sure how I feel about the whole situation.”
Shawn said, “I agree with Rick on this one. I can’t say I’m ready to let you back into our lives. I thought you had truly accepted me and Randy as a couple, when you apologized to us for disowning us. It came as a major shock to me, when you approached me about divorcing my husband and leaving him to become a true man; a man who would be free to marry a woman and sire children.”
“I was blinded by my own religious beliefs and those of my pastor,” Don said. “I believed every word my pastor said about gays, and I didn’t want my son to be gay, so I tried to convince you to leave him. I thought if you left him, he would be able to turn away from his desires to be with a man.” Turning to me and Rick, “I thought the same thing would happen if you left Glenn. I hoped, with Shawn and Rick out of the picture, I could force my views on my boys and they would obey my wishes.”
At that moment, I needed to get away from the man who called himself my father. I turned to Rick, “I need to get out of here for a while.”
Randy said, “I agree with you, Glenn. Let’s go get a drink at a local bar, and we can talk over what we’ve heard.”
Mary said, “Just don’t stay out too late, boys.”
Randy stood up and pulled his husband to his feet. He turned to Mary and said, “Yes, mother.” The sarcasm in his voice made the rest of us laugh.
Mary laughed and shook her finger at him. “You had better watch your manners, young man. I know where you’ll be sleeping tonight.”
Randy laughed, and said, “Yes, Ma’am.”
“That’s better,” she said. “Now, go relax and think over what you’ve heard tonight.”
We left the house and climbed into Shawn’s SUV. “Are we going to our usual place?” Shawn asked.
“Sure, why not?” Rick said, smiling at his husband.
Shawn drove us to the Buffalo Brew Pub near Memorial Park. He parked the car and we walked inside. We were quickly seated, and placed our drink orders. Randy and Shawn ordered chicken wings, while Rick and I ordered burgers.
Shawn handed me the keys to his SUV and said, “Here, you’re the designated driver (a.k.a DD!) I want to enjoy a couple of beers and I don’t want to worry about driving drunk.”
I nodded my head in agreement. “I’ll be glad to be the DD. I was tempted to order a beer, but I hate how I would feel tomorrow morning. I’ll stick with my diet coke.”
Randy said, “After what I’ve heard tonight, it’s going to take more than a couple of beers to get me out of my bad mood. I still can’t believe Dad expected us to swallow that crap about him having a change of heart. He’s never shown as much emotion in his entire life as we saw tonight. It just doesn’t seem natural to me.”
I said, “I don’t believe a word of what he told us tonight. It’s all about him and his desire to persuade Mom to go back home with him. It’s not about us at all. He always treated me like I wasn’t related to him, because I wasn’t into sports, or farming like he is. After hearing he was jealous of me, it’s all starting to make sense.”
Randy said, “But it doesn’t explain why he lost it when I told him he needed to stop trying to control my life.”
Shawn said, “He did say he was sorry for not being there for you.”
“I didn’t want him there. I hated him, Shawn, and I still don’t particularly like him. He may be my father, but it doesn’t mean there is any love lost between us,” Randy said.
“At least he acknowledged you’re a ‘real man’ since you joined the RCMP,” Shawn said, smiling. He put his arm around Randy’s shoulders. “I can attest to that fact.” He reached over with his other hand and gave Randy’s package a playful squeeze.
Randy grinned. “I’m glad to know I’m man enough to keep you happy.”
Shawn leaned over and kissed Randy on the lips. Someone behind us said, loudly, “I wish those guys would get a room.”
Shawn smiled and said, “I guess I’ve made someone a little uncomfortable.”
Rick said, “I’d say so. I’d like to say something, and I want you guys to think about it before you respond to me. I admit your father was completely out of line to step into our relationships. I’m just as angry about it as you are; however, I think we should at least establish a civil relationship with him. I have been disowned by my family, and I don’t want the same thing to happen here. It’s bad enough for me to be disowned by my own family, let alone by my partner’s, as well. If we continue our feud with your father, it will make it very uncomfortable for everyone. The rest of the family won’t want to offend anyone, and it will become a real hassle to orchestrate family gatherings. Can you imagine trying to have a family party; but, not being able to invite half of the family because they are fighting with the other half? Let’s accept the olive branch your Dad is offering and let’s move on. Honestly, we don’t intend to be here all that often; so we won’t have much to do with him, anyway.”
I looked at my life partner like he had just grown two heads. “What planet are you from?”
Rick laughed and said, “I’m trying to convince you and Randy to give your Dad some slack here. I’m not saying you have to get all lovey-dovey with him. Not even I could do that, given what has transpired between us. Let’s smooth things over for your parents’ sake. Mom wants to be with Dad, but she feels she owes it to us to defend us against his bigotry. I think we need to tell her we’re adults and can fight our own battles. We don’t need your mother fighting our battles with your father.”
Shawn looked at Rick with new admiration in his eyes. “Well said, Rick. I couldn’t have said it any better. Randy and Glenn, I’m with Rick on this one. We don’t spend a lot of time with your parents; and, if need be, we can further limit our time with them, if your Dad gets out of hand. I don’t think your Mom is happy with the single life. When I spoke with her last week, she sounded pretty down. She told me she is very lonely. I don’t want to be the one responsible for her leaving your Dad and living life alone. I know I wouldn’t do very well without Randy; so I can imagine how hard it has been on your mother.”
Randy said, “I think she has proven her point to Dad. She had some genuine grievances that needed to be addressed, and, hopefully, they’ve been able to resolve them.” He stopped to down about half of his beer. “I have to say I’m a little amazed he would even dare approach us, after what he had to say the last time we saw him.”
“Yes, it was a big surprise to me, too,” I said. “Okay, say we’ll do as you two suggest, and make peace with him; however, I really don’t want much to do with him. He still hasn’t earned my trust. I think we need to extract a promise from him that he will never interfere with us, or our families again. I want to adopt children, and I don’t want to have to worry about him trying to take our children from us; or turning them against us; because he has changed his mind about gays.”
Randy said, “Agreed. I could live with that. However, I’m not sure we can trust any promise he might make to us. But, we can always take precautions, knowing he might turn on us at any moment.”
Rick nodded his head in agreement, and said, “Thank you for listening to me and Shawn. I know it’s hard to forgive your Dad for what he’s done; but, maybe, over time, he will be able to demonstrate he has really changed.”
I looked at Rick, and said, “Now, wait a minute! I never said I had forgiven him for what he’s done.”
Rick said, “Okay, then can I say you’ll at least be civil to him?”
I nodded my head, and said, “Yes, you can say that much.”
The waiter brought out our food and more beer for the guys. Having resolved the matter of how to deal with Dad to our satisfaction, we chatted about other things as we consumed the wings and burgers.
Don sat in the front room with Dave and Mary after the boys had left, and said, “Eva made it very clear, when it came to choosing between me and our boys, I lost out. She was pretty forceful, when she told me she wasn’t coming back to me, if I continued my campaign to separate our sons from their partners.”
Mary said, “I completely understand her position, Don. If I were in her shoes, I would feel the same way.”
Dave said, “I hope you understand why she has taken a stand against you. If you don’t, she will never return to you, Don.”
Don said, “I’m trying, Dave, because I want her back in my life in the worst way. The boys are right in one respect, I’m willing to do anything to get her back, including apologizing to them for interfering in their relationships. Today, you pointed out my failings as a father and made me realize I need to do something to redeem myself in my sons’ eyes.”
“It remains to be seen whether or not you can earn back their trust,” Mary said. “I hope you weren’t expecting them to receive you with open arms.”
Don looked at her and said, “No, I didn’t expect them to speak to me at all; so I’m glad they at least heard me out.”
Dave said, “It’s obvious they weren’t convinced you really mean what you said. They see it as another one of your deceptions to get Eva to come back to you.”
Don said, “In part, they’re right about that. I won’t lie to them about it. I only hope I’ve done what I need to do in order to get Eva to give me a second chance.”
Mary said, “I’m not sure you have, Don. I think you’re going to have a difficult time convincing the boys you really accept them as gay men. Your self-righteous attitude still shines through pretty strongly, despite your attempts to hide it. It’s pretty evident you’re being forced to apologize, because you can’t get what you want any other way.”
Don said, “I’m having a really hard time, Mary. Apologizing doesn’t sit well with me, and I can’t hide that fact.”
Dave asked, “Do you want a relationship with your sons?”
Don looked at his brother, and replied, “To be totally honest, not really. Seeing them reminds me of what a failure I am as a father. I can’t forgive myself for not being there for them. I wanted to be a father to them like our father was to us, Dave. We were always close to him, and we knew we were loved and wanted. I feel like I let him down by failing to be as good a father as he was. I’ve never been able to accept failure, especially when it comes to my own life.”
“You could turn your failures into successes, if you can overcome your aversion to them as gay men,” Mary said. “You can still be a father to them, if you will allow yourself to turn this situation into a positive one for everyone concerned.”
Dave said, “I think Rick and Glenn are at a critical point in their relationship, Don. You could be a positive influence in their lives, by being a positive role model for them of how to forgive and forget past grievances; and, more importantly, you can show them how to repair a damaged relationship. You and Eva need to be role models for them. You have to be able to step outside of yourself and take a leadership role here. You need to show them you can be honest and genuine about your desire for them to be happy.”
Don nodded his head in understanding, as he listened to his brother. “I can see how I can make this work for all of us.”
They continued to discuss how Don could implement a strategy to bring his family back together in a positive way. They had moved into the kitchen for a cup of coffee, when they heard the boys come in. Mary noted they seemed happy from the way they were trash talking each other. She never understood why the guys needed to talk trash; but, she knew it was how they related to each other.
The four boys entered the kitchen. Randy said, “Good. I’m glad you are all still here.”
Dave smiled at his nephew. “We figured we would wait up until you guys returned.”
The guys took seats around the table. Mary handed me a cup of hot cocoa. Then, she handed cups of coffee to the others. She sat down at the table and said, “Okay, boys, what have you decided?”
Randy said, “We have decided we are willing to give Dad a chance to prove he’s sincere; however, there are some conditions.” He enumerated what those conditions were. He looked over at Don and asked, “Are you willing to accept our conditions?”
Dad nodded his head and said, “Yes, I am. They are reasonable, given the circumstances.”
Randy said, “Good. I’m glad that’s settled.”
Don looked around the table and said, “Thank you for giving me a second chance. I promise I will do my best to be the father I should have been all along.” His voice cracked with emotion. He blinked his eyes rapidly, trying to keep from crying. He cleared his throat, and managed to continue, “I am very humbled by all of you. You have been able to overcome your feelings toward me, and look past my obvious selfish desires, to give me a second chance. I know if I were in your place, I’m not sure I could be as forgiving, or as kind as you have been to me. I fully expected you to tell me to get lost; but, you listened to me and have given me an opportunity to correct the error of my ways.”
We looked at each other. Randy gave me a slight nod and I said, “I think we need to be upfront with you, Dad. We aren’t nearly as forgiving as you make us out to be. We are only doing this because we want our mother to be happy. This is something she wants very much. You still have yet to prove yourself to us. That is why we insisted on outlining our terms to you; so there won’t be any misunderstandings later on. We hope you and Mom can work out your differences, now we have removed the issue of your rejection of us as gay men who are happily partnered.”
Dave smiled and said, “Well said, Glenn. I’m glad you’ve been able to work things out.”
We finished our coffee and hot cocoa. I looked at Rick and said, “I’m beat. I think we should go to bed.”
Rick grinned and said, “I’m with you, Babe.”
We stood up and Rick said, “Good night. We’ll see you in the morning.”
Randy said, “We’ll be down shortly, as well.”
We left them in the kitchen and went downstairs to Ben’s room. Rick closed the bedroom door and pinned me up against it. “I’m very proud of you, Glenn. You handled yourself very well.”
I looked up into his eyes and said, “Only because you were there to support me.”
“I think we did the right thing. We don’t need to have an ongoing feud with your father,” he said. He kissed me deeply and his hands roamed my body. When we came up for air, Rick said, “Let’s get a shower.”
I grinned broadly. “Okay.” It was a long and luxurious shower, one that gave us plenty of time to show our love for each other.
Afterward, we dried each other off with a towel and walked across the hall to Ben’s room. We climbed into my old bed and Rick pulled me into his arms. “I love you, Babe.”
I replied, “I love you, too.”
I settled myself into his embrace and laid my head on his chest. It felt good to be in Rick’s arms. Everyone should have a lover like Rick. I smiled to myself as I drifted off into a dreamless sleep.
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