The Man from Swift Current
© 2011 Russ Nielsen
All Rights Reserved




Chapter 116: The Nielsen Family Council

When we went up for breakfast the next morning, Uncle Dave gave us the news.   “It’s official.   Your Mom and Dad are back together, and your Dad spent the night at your Mom’s place.   They called us first thing this morning.”

Aunt Mary smiled and said, “I’m glad they worked things out.”

Rick said, “So am I.”

I had mixed feelings about my parents being back together.   “I’m not sure how I feel about it.   I still remember how violent Dad gets when he loses his temper.”   I looked over at Randy.   “Do you remember the day we hid in the attic, because Dad was so angry at our mother?   We watched him tear apart our furniture with his bare hands, and set it on fire in front of the house.”

Randy shuddered at the memory.   “Yes, I do.   Mom sent us up in the attic, to keep us out of harm’s way.   We were up there until Mom came to get us.   Dad had left in his truck by then.   He didn’t come home for three days.”

Uncle Dave looked at us in horrified surprise.   “I didn’t know that was why your parents all of a sudden purchased new furniture.”

Randy said, “There were many other things going on at our house, while we were growing up that no one else knows about.”

I looked at Uncle Dave and Aunt Mary, who looked like they were in shock.   “You knew Mom attempted to commit suicide a couple of times, when we were little.   I was about 10 when she tried to kill herself with Dad’s shotgun.   He tried to wrestle it away from her and it went off, blowing a huge hole in the front room wall.”

“She overdosed on sleeping pills about a month later,” Randy said.   “I found her passed out on the floor, and went to get help.”

Aunt Mary had gone white as a sheet.   “This is the first time I’ve ever heard about these events.”

“That’s because Dad threatened to beat us, if we ever breathed a word to anyone about any of the things going on in our home,” Randy said.   “We knew he meant it and didn’t dare cross him.”

“Now you understand why I have mixed feelings about them getting back together.   I know Mom loves him, but at the same time, he’s not good for her; unless, of course, he has really changed.   I kept watching him to see if he was putting on an act for your benefit, Uncle Dave and Aunt Mary.   He had everyone fooled at the church we used to attend.   The pastor thought he was the most God-fearing man in his congregation, but we knew better.   As soon as Dad left church, his piousness would evaporate like water in a desert,” I said.

“Knowing he wasn’t as religious as he pretended to be, I was shocked, when he threw us out of his house,” Randy said.   “I wasn’t expecting him to reject me and Shawn like he did.”

Uncle Dave shook his head in disbelief.   “I thought I knew my brother.”

Aunt Mary said, “What I want to know is, why didn’t your mother tell us about what was happening in your home?”

Randy said, “That’s simple; she was scared of what my father might do.   If you had witnessed how angry he was; and the brute strength he demonstrated as he tore apart our furniture, then setting fire to it, you wouldn’t be asking that question.”

Uncle Dave said, “Now I know some of what happened in your home, I will do my best to convince Don to get some counseling.   He needs to learn to control his temper and learn better coping skills.”

I laughed and said, “Good luck with that!   Mom has tried to get him to do that for years.   He has always insisted he’s not the one who is crazy.”

Randy agreed.   “You won’t get far with him.”

I was tired of talking about my Dad.   It only served to make me feel worse about the whole situation.   I decided to change the topic of conversation, and asked, “What are our plans for our last day here?”

Randy said, “I think Mom will try and organize a family reunion.”

“I don’t want to see Gary, or Eric, after what they had to say to us at Christmas,” I said.   “Mom set them straight about her reasons for leaving our Dad, but they still didn’t really seem all that sincere when they apologized to us.”

Rick said, “Glenn, you need to bury the hatchet and let things go.   Holding a grudge against them won’t help you, or them.”

“You’re asking me to just let it go?” I asked, in amazement.

“Yes, I am, Glenn.   You don’t need to carry another burden on your shoulders,” Rick said.

“It really hurt to have their homophobia on such prominent display after they seemed to accept us,” I said.

Randy said, “One thing I’ve learned over the years is you can’t trust straight people.   They say one thing to your face, then do another.   If you expect them to betray you, you will never be surprised when they do.   It’s better to take extra precautions when dealing with them.   Even though the laws of the land state discrimination against gays is illegal, it doesn’t stop it from happening.   The worst offenders are those who profess to be religious.   They claim the right to be free of the laws of the land, when it comes to treating us with respect and dignity.   They scream we’re forcing our views on them and we’re violating their rights.   Always beware of them, and don’t let yourself ever be seen as vulnerable.   Our brothers and their wives are prime examples of how straight people will turn on you at a moment’s notice.”

Rick said, “Randy, you aren’t helping.”

Randy said, “I’m sorry, Rick.   I can’t tell Glenn to turn a blind eye to their homophobia nor should you.”

 Shawn said, “Randy is correct.   You will be much happier if you surround yourself with people you trust.   We have a close circle of gay friends who are like family to us.   We have learned, by sad experience, to limit our interactions with straight people.   They always told us they are okay with us being gay; but they really aren’t.”

Rick said, “We’re pretty much doing that already, Shawn.   We have many great friends, most of them gay couples.   It’s so much easier to be around them, because we don’t have to worry about offending them by holding hands, or kissing each other.   Straight people think nothing of holding hands in public, or displaying affection for each other; but when it comes to us, they’re extremely offended and complain loudly we’re violating their space.   They never stop to think maybe we think they’re just as offensive to us with their public displays of affection.”

Randy said, “I’m glad to hear we don’t have to educate you regarding who you choose as your friends.   Just be particularly careful, since you’re living in a very homophobic part of the United States.”

I replied, “That’s true for most of the state; however, Atlanta does have a very active gay community.   I was surprised at the number of gay night clubs there are.”

Rick said, “Atlanta really isn’t as homophobic as it might seem.”

Randy looked at us doubtfully, “From what I’ve heard, it’s not exactly gay-friendly.”

“Well, compared to Canada, it’s definitely not a desirable place to live,” I said.   “I haven’t minded living in Atlanta; but I couldn’t live there permanently.   I want to move home after I finish college.”

Shawn looked at Rick and asked, “Are you okay with that?”

Rick nodded his head and said, “I’m okay with moving to Canada; but only after I finish my obligation to the military.”

Shawn said, “Are you sure?   I sense that you have some reservations about it.”

Rick looked at me and took my hand in his.   “I do have some concerns, but I’ve promised Glenn we’ll work those out, somehow.   For now, we are taking things a day at a time.”

I knew Rick didn’t want to move to Canada, because he still had hopes his family would change their minds.   To him, moving to another country made it seem like there was no hope of ever being reunited with them.   I got that part; so I didn’t push as hard to move home as much as I would have otherwise.  

The phone rang and we listened to Aunt Mary as she spoke into the receiver.   When she hung up, Uncle Dave asked, “Who was that?”

“It was Eva.  She asked if she could invite her entire family to our home for dinner tonight,” she answered.

Randy smiled and said, “I told you so.”

Aunt Mary replied, “That you did.   You know your mother very well.   She and your Dad will be here in the next hour to help get everything ready for tonight.   Eva is calling your siblings as we speak, to make sure they can make it for dinner with us.”

Rick looked over at me and said, “Are you going to be okay?”

I shrugged and said, “It doesn’t matter if I’m okay with it, or not.   Mother wants to do this; so I guess I’ll deal with it.   BUT, I’m out of here if Gary and Eric so much as breathe a word about us being gay.   I am so done with dealing with homophobic family members.   I am so disgusted with straight people’s sensitivities about gays showing affection in public.   It’s okay for them to hold hands and give their loved ones a kiss in public for all to see; but it’s not okay for me to hold hands with my boyfriend, or kiss him, because I might offend some poor religious individual who can’t keep his/her thoughts out of the gutter.   Heaven forbid if I cause them to sin because I happen to love another man.   Their false piety makes me sick.”

Rick put his finger to my lips and said, “It’s okay, Glenn.   We get it.”

Randy said, “We’re all on the same page with you, Glenn.   If any of them start mouthing off about us, we’re out of here.   I suggest we have our gear packed and ready; because we’ll drive back to Regina tonight, instead of waiting until tomorrow morning.”

Uncle Dave said, “I’ll make sure they behave themselves.   They will be told I won’t tolerate it in my home, and they can leave if they have a problem with my rules.   It is my home, after all.”

I smiled and said, “Thanks, Uncle Dave.”

We spent the rest of the day running errands for Mom and Aunt Mary.   They did most of the cooking, but we were sent for various and sundry items from the local Safeway.   Thankfully, Uncle Dave kept Dad busy, so we were able to avoid having a lot of contact with him.   I was still pissed off at him and everyone knew it.   It was a good thing we hung out with Randy and Shawn for most of the day.  

Later that evening, the rest of my siblings showed up with their families.   Eric, Laura, and Nancy arrived first from Saskatoon, where they are attending school.  They greeted Mom and Dad enthusiastically.   Nancy said, “Mom, I’m so glad you and Dad are back together.”

She smiled and said, “We aren’t completely there, Nancy.   We want to talk to all of you at the same time.   We will explain everything, then.”

Eric hugged Mom as did Laura.  “We’re glad to see you both here.”

Dad said, “We’re glad you came on such short notice.”

“We wouldn’t have missed it,” Eric said.

They moved out of the foyer and into the front room.  I waited to hear what Eric had to say.   I have to give him credit, because he immediately said, “Randy and Glenn, I am really sorry for what I said at Christmas.  It was wrong of me, and I should have known better.   I can’t blame anyone else but myself for being so easily influenced by Gary and Jessica.”

Laura said, “I have to apologize, as well.   I didn’t argue hard enough to convince Eric he was wrong.   I knew about some of the things happening between your Mom and Dad, but I didn’t make Eric listen to me.”

Nancy said, “I’ve been giving Eric hell for what he said to you guys.   He was dead wrong, and he knew it.   He was living at home with us when Dad disowned Randy; so he knew how hurt Mom was by it.   More importantly, he also knew of the other things Dad has done over the years.  I hope Dad is going to tell us he is willing to change.”   She glanced at Dad and said, “That’s right, Dad, none of us has been blind to how you’ve treated our mother over the years.”

Before Dad could respond, the doorbell rang and Uncle Dave answered the door.   We heard Gary and Jessica enter the house with Jack and Miriam.   The children ran into the front room.   Miriam ran to Mom, who scooped her into her arms.   Jack saw us on the couch and ran over to Rick and climbed up on his lap.

“Uncle Rick, I’m glad you’re here.   You missed my birthday,” Jack said.

Rick smiled and asked, “When was your birthday?”

“It was two days ago.   I’m 5 years old now,” Jack said, showing five fingers.

Rick said, “Congratulations!   We’ll have to celebrate your birthday today.   Is that okay with you?”

Jack asked, “Does that mean I get more presents?”

Rick laughed and replied, “I guess it could, if you’re really good.”

Jack thought for a moment.   “I’ve already been good today.   I shared my candy bar with Miriam.”

Rick said, “I guess that qualifies as being good.   Did you give her exactly half or did you keep the bigger piece?”

“We split it in half, so we’d have the same size piece,” Jack said.

Rick said, “I’m glad you were nice to your sister.”

Miriam looked at her grandmother and said, “Mom says you’re going to be living with Grandpa from now on.”

“Not yet, Miriam, Grandpa needs to do a few things, before I’ll agree to return to the farm with him,” Mom said.

“Mom says you shouldn’t have left Grandpa,” Miriam said.

“Well, Miriam, your mother needs to be a little more discrete when expressing her opinions around you children,” Mom responded, looking over at her daughter-in-law.

Jessica looked embarrassed and said, “I’m sorry, Mom.   I should not have said anything in Miriam’s hearing.”

Mom said, “I think it’s time we all had that talk I mentioned earlier.   Don, please invite everyone to join us here in the front room.”

Dad nodded his head and went into the kitchen.   He returned with Eric, Laura and Nancy.   Aunt Mary and Uncle Don brought in a couple of extra chairs, making sure everyone had somewhere to sit.   Jessica leaned over to Miriam and said, “Why don’t you take your brother downstairs to play for a bit, while we talk with Grandma and Grandpa.”

Mom said, “I think the children should stay; since they have already heard part of what has happened, they need to hear the whole story.   I want to make it very clear how things stand between me and Don.   You, most of all, need to hear both sides of what has happened before you rush to make rash statements, or judge me for leaving my husband.”

Jessica gazed at Mom with consternation.   She said, “Okay, Mom.”

Mom turned to Dad and said, “Don, I believe you have something to share with the family.”

Dad stood up and cleared his throat.   “Gary, Jessica, Eric, Laura and Nancy, I need to confess to you what I have done.”   He recounted everything he had done to me and Randy over the years.   He explained his reasons and the fact he wasn’t proud of what he did.   When he finished, he looked at Eva and said, “I need you to understand I have treated Eva very poorly over the course of our marriage.   A few days ago, we met with a marriage counselor and worked through many of my failings as a husband; and believe me, they are many.”   He went on to relate to us the results of their counseling session.   He stopped and looked around the room.   “I need to ask for your forgiveness as a family for the mistakes I’ve made.   I have acted selfishly, without regard to the trust you had in me as a husband and father.”

There were tears in Eric’s eyes.   “I’m sorry, Mom.   I saw what Dad was doing and I didn’t try to defend you, or talk to Dad about changing his ways.”

Gary looked sheepish.   He had been the most vocal in his criticism of our mother, taking Dad’s part against all comers.   “Mom, I owe you an apology, as well.   I’ve taken Dad’s side in all of this, not thinking about all of those times Dad mistreated you.”

Mom said, “I knew you had chosen to side with your father, but I think he has a little more to share with you.”   She looked at Don and said, “You promised to come clean about everything, Don.   You said there would be no more secrets.”

Dad gazed into my mother’s eyes for a long time before he finally sighed and said, “I did promise to put everything on the table.”

“To help you out, I’ll start,” she said.   “I had suspected for some time that your Dad was cheating on me, but didn’t have any proof.   Then, one day I was putting away your Dad’s socks and found a stack of love letters shoved into the back of the drawer.   I opened one of the letters and found it was from a woman named Rene from Hazenmore.   I confronted your father about the letters and he became very angry.   I sent you children to the attic, because he was so angry.”

Dad said, “I’m not very proud of what I did that day.”

Gary had gone completely white.   “I remember that day.   You tore apart all of our furniture and burned it.”

Jessica’s mouth was open in shock and disbelief.   Looking over at her, Dad said, “You can close your mouth now, Jessica.   Yes, you and Gary have said many hurtful things about Eva, as well as Randy and Glenn.  

Gary finally was man enough to look over at me and Randy.   “I think we both have some major apologizing to do.   I know we apologized at Christmas, but I still believed you guys were the cause of Mom and Dad’s problems.   I was dead wrong.  I can see that now.”

Jessica stared at the floor and wouldn’t meet our gaze.   When she didn’t say anything, Dad continued, “I have agreed to take anger management classes as well as therapy sessions, to help me figure out why I get so angry.”

Mom said, “Not only that, Don has been seeing Rene again.”

Gary looked at his father in pure astonishment.   “You’ve got to be kidding!”

“Don admitted he has been staying with her frequently since I left him,” Mom said.

Aunt Mary asked, “Why are you going back to him if he’s been with Rene the entire time you’ve been separated?”

“I haven’t agreed to return to the farm with Don until he has resolved his issues, including breaking things off with Rene once and for all; in addition to the anger management counseling,” Mom said.   “I plan to continue living here in Swift Current, until I can be sure Don has met all of his commitments to me.   One of those commitments was to tell the family everything that has been going on; and I meant everything.”  

Dad met her gaze and held it.   “I’ve upheld my end of the agreement; except for one thing.”   He looked around the room and said, “I need to inform all present that your mother and I won’t tolerate homophobic behavior within the family; AND that includes making derogatory statements, or denigrating them in any way.”   He paused and met Gary’s gaze.   “I know I’ve been one of the biggest offenders in this area and I’ve got a lot of changing to do.   One of the conditions your mother insisted on is I must lead the effort to make us a family again; which means everyone is treated with dignity and respect.   You may not always agree on things; but there must always be kindness and respect.   I have often failed my children as a father; however, it is one of my goals to be as good a father as I can, from here on out.   Do I have your support to help us heal as a family?”

He continued to look directly at Gary and Jessica and waited for their answer.   Gary squirmed in his chair and looked at his wife.   Gary finally said, “You have mine.   Jessica will have to speak for herself.”

Jessica looked around the room and stopped when her gaze met mine.   “I’m sorry I’ve said some really nasty things about you guys since Mom left Dad.   I didn’t know all of the facts and I made some pretty hurtful statements.”   She turned her gaze back to Dad.   “Yes, you have my support.”

Eric said, “Laura and I support you.”   He turned to me and Randy, “I’m deeply sorry for what I said about you guys.   Knowing what I know now, I was very wrong; and I hope you guys can forgive me.”

Laura squeezed his hand.   “Eric and I had planned to apologize to you even if this meeting hadn’t happened.   We’ve felt bad about how things went down at Christmas, and wanted to make things up to you guys.”

Randy smiled at Laura.   “Thank you, Laura.   Shawn has always insisted that you were Eric’s better half.”

Eric laughed and said, “That she is.”

Jabbing Eric in the ribs, Nancy said, “I’ve never doubted that fact. Dad, you have my support to move our family to a better place.”

Dad turned to us and asked, “What about you guys?”

Randy said, “Of course, Shawn and I will support you.”

Rick said, “I’m in.”   He put his arm around my shoulders and leaned over to whisper in my ear, “It’s okay to speak your mind.”

Dad looked at me and I returned his gaze.   He knew I was the skeptic in the room.  “I’ll support you, but it’s going to take a lot of work to make things better.   Change doesn’t happen overnight and the wounds from the last few months aren’t going to disappear anytime soon.   It’s going to take time to rebuild the trust that once existed in our family; and, to be honest, that trust may never be restored.”

Dad nodded his head and said, “You’re right about that, son.   We have a lot of hard work ahead of us.   Thank you for your support.”

Uncle Dave looked at his brother and asked, “Is there anything else we haven’t heard about?”

Dad sighed and said, “That’s about it.   True confessions are over!”

“What can we do to help you, Don?” Uncle Dave asked.

“Just be there for us when we need encouragement.   It’s going to be a long road for all of us, and especially for me, because I have a lot of changes to make,” Dad said.

Jack looked up at Rick and asked, “Does this mean you can play ball with me now?”

Rick laughed and said, “Yes, we can go outside and play ball; unless, of course, your parents had something else for you to do.”

Jack slid off of Rick’s lap and skipped across the room to his parents.   “May I go outside and play with Uncle Rick?”

Gary smiled at his son and replied, “Certainly.”

Jack turned around and looked at Rick.   Rick said, “Alright, Master Jack, let’s go outside.”   He stood up and took my hand to pull me to my feet.   “Come with us, Glenn.”  I smiled at my boyfriend.   He knew I needed some space.   It was obvious to me Gary and Jessica still had issues with us.   Rick whispered to me, “Don’t say anything, please.”

I gave him my “who me” look and said, “Let’s go, Jack.”

We followed a very excited little boy outside into the front yard.   Jack said, “I brought my soccer ball.   It’s in the car.”   He scampered over to his Dad’s car and opened the back door, retrieving a soccer ball.  He sat it on the ground and kicked it to Rick.   We dribbled the ball back and forth around the yard.

I said, “Let’s go around to the back yard.   I think we can rig up some goals back there.   If I remember correctly, Uncle Dave still has our soccer gear in his garage.”

We walked over to the garage and were met by Uncle Dave.   He smiled and said, “I thought you might want these.”   He handed me a set of bright red cones and a mini-goal net.  

“Thanks, Uncle Dave.   I thought you might still have some of our soccer stuff,” I said.

Uncle Dave opened the gate to the back yard and said, “I’ll send Randy and Shawn out.   I know how much Randy loves to play soccer.”

A few minutes later, my brother and his husband joined us.   We ran some drills with Jack.   I have to admit I was impressed he was as well coordinated as he was.   I asked, “Who has been helping you learn how to play soccer?”

Jack said, “Grandpa has been teaching me.   He says he wants me to be as good at playing soccer as you are, Uncle Glenn.”

I looked at my nephew in surprise.  “Did Grandpa really say that?”

Jack said, “Yes, he did.   Dad said you have always been the best soccer player in the family.”

Randy said, “Dad and Gary are right, you know.   You have always been the better soccer player; but I wouldn’t let it go to your head, Glenn.   You know I can always outrun you.”

I laughed and said, “That’s what you think.”

Randy grinned and said, “I not only think I’m faster than you, I know I’m faster than you.”

Rick laughed and said, “Okay, boys, let’s not start that.”

Randy ruffled my hair and said, “Okay, Rick, I won’t give Glenn a hard time, even though he deserves it.”

“I do not,” I protested.   “I’ve been a perfect angel, given the circumstances.”

Rick said, “Yes, you have, and I’m very proud of the restraint you’ve shown this afternoon.”

Shawn said, “Yes, I was very surprised you didn’t lay into Gary and Jessica.”

“I thought about it and I probably will still have some choice words to say to them, but it can wait until another time,” I said.   “Besides, we’re leaving in the morning and I won’t have to deal with their issues for quite some time.”

Rick said, “What Glenn is trying to say is we don’t have any intention of having much to do with them for a good many years to come.”

I looked at Rick and said, “Let’s just say our plans don’t include going down to the farm unless there is an emergency requiring it.”

Randy nodded his head.   “We understand where you’re coming from.   Shawn and I will have to see where things go from here, before we make our decision regarding how we plan to interact with them.”

Aunt Mary called to us from the back door, “Guys, it’s time to eat.”

Jack ran past us and shouted, “Race you!”

Rick broke into a sprint and caught up to Jack at the back step.   He scooped Jack into his arms and opened the back door.   “I think I won.”

Jack threw his arms around Rick’s neck and said, “I love you, Uncle Rick.”

“I love you, too, Jack,” Rick said, putting Jack back on his feet.

The rest of us followed at a more sedate pace.   We joined the family for dinner.   It was pleasant enough, but there were still some awkward moments.   After one particularly awkward silence, I said, “I’m heading to bed.   We have an early start tomorrow, and I’m exhausted.”

 I said my farewells to the family and left them to visit with each other.   Rick followed me down the stairs and into Ben’s room.   He closed the door and said, “Thank you for not causing a scene with Gary and Jessica.”

“I did it for you, Babe.   I certainly didn’t do it for them,” I said.

“You’re a saint,” Rick said.   “Did you know that?”

I laughed and said, “Which saint might I be?”

Rick pulled me into his arms and said, “Let me see…hmm.   I think maybe Saint Russell the Great might be too pretentious.   How about Saint Glenn, patron saint of all gay men?”

I grinned and said, “As long as it means you’ll fuck me tonight, I think it’s a great name.”

Rick locked the bedroom door and proceeded to seduce me.   I was half asleep when I heard someone knock on the door.   I rolled away from Rick and got up.   I unlocked the door and scampered back to bed, pulling the sheets over Rick and I as Randy and Shawn came into the room.

Randy said, “I’m sorry for waking you up.”

“Not a problem.   We should have unlocked the door before we fell asleep,” I said.

Shawn said, “We waited to come downstairs to give you and Rick some time alone.”

“Thank you,” I said.   “I needed it.”

“We know,” Shawn said.   “You were pretty amazing tonight.   You didn’t make one comment about how poorly they treated us, and you even were pleasant to be around.”

“We knew you had reached your limit with Gary and Jessica when we heard you announce you were retiring for the night,” Randy said.

“Yes, I was ready to give them a piece of my mind, but thought better of it,” I said.

“They asked us what they had done to offend you, and I told them,” Randy said.

I looked at Randy in surprise.   “I thought I hid it pretty well.”

“You did, Glenn, but you forget Shawn and I are gay men and were just as offended as you were,” Randy said.

I said, “I’m glad you told them, then.”

Shawn said, “Randy, we need to get some sleep.   We can talk tomorrow on the drive back to Regina.”

Randy finished stripping off his clothes and joined his husband in bed.   “Yes, dear, I’m all yours.”

“Yes, you’re all mine,” Shawn said, giving Randy a kiss.

I curled up next to Rick and laid my head on his chest.   It wasn’t long before I was out.   The next morning, we returned to Atlanta and things returned to their normal routine.

Tyler and Joey snuggled together in their new bed.   They had gone furniture shopping, when they arrived from Canada.   Tyler’s parents had given them money to buy a new bedroom set, as a wedding present.   Tyler had never dreamed that choosing bedroom furniture could be so much fun.   He and Joey spent time researching prices online and then, when they found what they wanted, they ordered it to be shipped directly to the house.   It had arrived 10 days later, and they had finished setting it up earlier in the evening.  

Tyler said, “How does it feel to be married to the handsomest guy in the entire world?”

Joey looked into Tyler’s eyes and said, “Tyler, it feels like I’m living a real life fairy tale.   I’ve found the love of my life, and I’m so happy.”   He caressed Tyler’s chest and abs with the palm of his hand.   “It helps that Rachel and Sarah have really taken to the Nájeras.”

Tyler said, “Mom and Dad have become good friends with them, too.   Dad told me Sr. Nájera is one of the most interesting guys he has ever met.   Mom and Dad are planning to drive down to Málaga tomorrow to look at some property.   Do you want to go with them?  We could find us a place at the beach near them.”

Joey smiled at his new husband.   “I’ll go anywhere you want to go, my husband.”

Tyler grinned.   “You don’t know how much that thrills me to hear you call me your husband.”

"I think I do, because it makes me very happy to call you my husband.   There were a few days there when I thought you would escape me,” Joey said.

Tyler leaned over and gave Joey a tender kiss.   “But that is all ancient history.   We are happily married and raising a family here in Spain, where our marriage is recognized and we have the same rights and privileges as straight people.”

“I’m even beginning to understand some Spanish,” Joey said, grinning at his husband.

“I’m very impressed with how quickly you’re picking up the language,” Tyler said.   “However, Rachel is learning it much faster than you are.”

“That’s because she’s not afraid to make mistakes,” Joey said.   “I’m very proud of her.   She has adapted much quicker to her new surroundings than I have.”

Tyler cupped Joey’s cheek with the palm of his hand.   “I have faith in you, because I know love will conquer all.   No matter what comes our way, we will face it together, hand in hand.”

Joey put his hand over Tyler’s and said, “I love you.”

“I love you, too,” Tyler said.

The next morning, they were awakened by Rachel.   She climbed onto their bed and managed to squeeze her way in between them.   Joey said, “Good morning, Rachel.”

Rachel said, “Good morning, Daddy.   When are you and Dad going to get up?”

Tyler said, “I don’t know, Rachel.   Maybe we should stay in bed all day.”

Rachel giggled and asked, “Does that mean you want breakfast in bed?”

Joey looked over at Tyler and said, “I think it does, Rachel.”

“Nana told me I could make you breakfast this morning,” Rachel said.

“She did?” Joey asked.

“Yes and Abuela said she would help me,” Rachel said.   Sr. and Sra. Nájera had become Abuelo (Grandpa) and Abuela (Grandma) to Rachel and Sarah.   Sra. Nájera was completely taken with the girls.   She had become ‘enchanted’ by them (those were her words) when they entered the house.   There wasn’t any doubt that Rachel knew the Nájeras loved her.   She wriggled out from between her two dads, and gave them each of them a kiss on the cheek.  

Joey helped her down off of the bed and said, “We’ll wait until you come back with our breakfast.”

They heard her little feet pad across the room and the door click shut after she left.   Tyler said, “She is such a lovely child.”

“Yes, she is,” Joey said.   His thoughts went back to their first day in Spain and how Sra. Nájera had won over Rachel.

They had just arrived at their new home.   Hank had paid the taxi driver and turned to look at the home Tyler had purchased.   He said, “It’s a very handsome home, Tyler.  I’m looking forward to meeting the Nájeras.”

They didn’t even have a chance to move away from the driveway with their things when the front door opened and the Nájeras appeared.   They made their way down the flagstone walkway and greeted Tyler.

“Welcome back, mi hijo,” Sr. Nájera said.   Then he said, “Introduce me to your family.”

Tyler turned to Joey and said, “This is my husband, Joey.”

Sr. Nájera stretched out his hand and said, “I’m Jose Alejandro Nájera Tello and this is my lovely wife, Marimer Elena Santander Cordova de Nájera.”

Sra. Nájera said, “Or you can call us Mamá y Papá.   I believe God sent me a replacement son in Tyler; and now, he has married you; so I’m doubly blessed.”

Joey smiled and said, “Then I will call you Mamá and Papá, since my own parents are so far away.”

Sra. Nájera pulled Joey into a hug and kissed him on both cheeks.   She smiled and said, “Welcome home, mi hijo.”   She turned to Hank and Louise.   “You must be Tyler’s parents.   I hope you don’t mind that I’ve claimed Tyler as my own son.”

Louise smiled and said, “I’m very glad Tyler has another mother to watch over him.”   The two women hugged and Louise said, “Thank you for taking such good care of Tyler.”

Hank said, “Yes, we are very grateful to you for everything you have done for Tyler.”

Sr. Nájera shook Hanks hand and said, “We are very happy to finally meet you.   Please call me Alex and my wife prefers to be called Mari.”

“This is Sarah,” Hank said.   He was holding Sarah in one arm.   She had both arms wrapped around his neck.  

Sr. Nájera said, “Hello, Sarah.   We’re glad you’re here.”

Sra. Nájera looked down at the little girl standing behind her father and said, “You must be Rachel.”

Rachel clung to Joey’s leg and peeked around it to see Sra. Nájera.   Joey said, “Rachel this is Grandma Nájera.”

Sra. Nájera said, “You can call me Abuela.”

Sr. Nájera knelt down to look Rachel in the eyes, “May we be your Grandpa and Grandma?”

Rachel said, “I have a grandpa and grandma.”   She pointed at Hank and Louise.

He smiled at her and said, “But you don’t have an abuelo and an abuela.   You can call us Abuelo and Abuela.   Is that okay?”

Rachel nodded her head and said, “Okay.”

“Would you like some cookies and milk?” Sra. Nájera asked.

Rachel said, “Yes, Abuela.”

“Then follow me and we will get you some cookies and milk,” Sra. Nájera said.

They followed her inside the house, hauling their luggage with them.   Sr. Nájera said, “Hank, your things have already arrived.   They were delivered yesterday.”

Hank said, “Thank you for being here to receive them.”

“I stored them in the basement for now,” Sr. Nájera said.

They followed Sra. Nájera into the kitchen.   Rachel climbed onto a chair.   Hank put Sarah in the high chair and fastened her seat belt.   Sra. Nájera pulled out cookies and milk and put them on the table.   The milk was the shelf stable kind in a box.   Sr. Nájera said, “Rachel, you can have as many cookies as you like.”

Rachel looked up at Joey, and he smiled, “You can have as many as you like, but you have to listen to Abuela when she tells you to stop.”

Rachel smiled and asked, “I’ll eat three now, but can I have more, later?”

Sra. Nájera nodded her head and said, “Yes, you may, and if you want to learn how to make cookies, there will always be cookies for you and Sarah.”

Rachel’s eyes got big as saucers and she asked, “May we make lots and lots of chocolate chip cookies?”

Sra. Nájera laughed and said, “Yes, and many other kinds.”

Joey smiled and said, “I think Rachel likes being here already.”

Tyler looked at Sra. Nájera, with a smile, and said, “We’ll have to keep an eye on Mamá, because she’ll spoil Rachel and Sarah.”

Sra. Nájera said, “It’s my job to spoil my grandchildren.   Don’t you agree Louise?”

Louise laughed and said, “Yes, it is, Mari”

Sr. Nájera said, “I think it’s time we left the women folk to watch the girls while we get your things situated.”

Hank agreed, “Yes, let’s get unpacked.”

They followed Sr. Nájera out of the kitchen and spent the rest of the day unpacking suitcases, as well as the boxes they shipped over from Virginia.

Tyler said, “Joey, our breakfast is here.”

Joey looked at Tyler and asked, “What did you say, Babe?”

“I said our breakfast is here,” Tyler said, smiling at his husband.

Sr. Nájera said, “Good morning, boys.”   He came into their bedroom, carrying a breakfast tray.  

Rachel ran ahead of him and pointed to us.   “Abuelo, the tray is for them.”

Sr. Nájera said, “I will give it to them, just as you say, mi corazón.”

He leaned over and placed the tray between the two men.   “Mamá says you must eat well today.   We are driving down to Malagá as soon as you boys are ready to leave.”

“We won’t be long, Papá,” Tyler said.

Sr. Nájera left them, and Rachel followed him out of the door.   Joey looked over at Tyler and said, “Have you decided whether or not we’re going to buy a house in Malagá?”  

Tyler smiled and said, “I think we should.   Staying with the Nájeras is okay, but I still want us to have our own place on the beach.”

“I agree with you,” Joey said.   “I know we’ll live half of the year on the beach, if we have our own place.”

Tyler gave Joey a lecherous grin, “I want you to be tan all over, no tan lines for my husband.   For that, we need our own place, where we can sunbathe in the buff, without offending anyone.”

“What about the girls?” Joey asked, knowing Tyler’s answer.

“We can leave the girls with the Abuelos.   You know the Nájeras and our parents will jump at the chance to have the girls all to themselves.   They practically monopolize all of their time now.”

Joey nodded his head, “The girls are really thriving with all of the attention they are receiving from their grandparents, both sets of them.”

Tyler said, “And so are their Dads.   However, it’s the one-on-one kind of attention that has made the most difference.”   He leaned over and kissed Joey.   He whispered into his ear, “especially from you.”

Joey gazed into his husband’s eyes and said, “I love you.”

They caravanned down from Madrid.   Tyler and Joey took the girls in their car while Hank and Louise rode with the Nájeras.   A few hours later, they arrived at the Nájeras’ beach house.   The gate swung open to let them pull into the driveway.  

It was a beautiful villa with a tile roof and red cement walls.   Tyler turned to Joey and said, “I’d love to have a place like this one.”

“You haven’t even been inside it, yet,” Joey said, smiling at his husband.

“I know it’s going to be wonderful inside,” Tyler said.  

They got out of their car and opened the back doors to retrieve the girls from their car seats.   Rachel asked, “Are we at the beach now, Daddy?”

Joey replied, “No, we aren’t on the beach yet, but we are at the beach house.   Abuela said there is nice swimming pool here for us to enjoy.   Do you want to go swimming?”

Rachel clapped her hands and said, “Yeah, I want to go swimming.   May we go swimming right now?”

“Let’s see what Nana and Abuela have planned for us, first.   Is that okay?” Joey asked.

Rachel nodded her head and said, “Daddy, you can put me down now.”   She wriggled to get free of her Daddy’s arms.  

Joey set her on her feet and she ran to Abuela and grabbed her hand.  She looked up at Abuela and asked, in Spanish, “May I go swimming, Abuela?”

Hearing his daughter speaking Spanish, Joey said, “I can’t believe how quickly she has picked up the language.”

Tyler said, “You would pick it up much faster if you stopped speaking English all the time.”

Joey responded, “It’s just so hard to communicate when I don’t have the vocabulary to express myself in Spanish.”

Tyler smiled at Joey, “It will come with time and lots of practice.   I know how to help you.   Let’s speak Spanish everywhere except when were alone.   That way, you can practice your Spanish, but, at the same time, we can continue to have clear communication between us.”  Seeing Joey’s doubtful look, Tyler continued, “Let’s just try it for a few days, and, if it doesn’t work, we can always revert to speaking English most of the time.”

Joey sighed, in resignation, “Okay, I’ll try it, but only for a few days.   However, you have to promise you’ll help me.”

Tyler wrapped his arms around Joey’s waist and gazed deeply into his eyes, “Trust me, sweetheart.   It will be okay.   I promise.”   He kissed Joey and rubbed noses with him.  “Are we good?”

“Yes, we’re good,” Joey replied, with a smile.

Tyler turned and undid Sarah’s seat belt and lifted her from her car seat.   “Sarah, let’s take Daddy inside.”

She made some happy gurgling noise and wrapped her arms around Tyler’s neck.   Tyler said, “She needs changing.”

Joey smiled and said, “It’s your turn.   I changed her just before we left.”

Tyler sighed, “Okay, I’ll do diaper duty.   Will you grab the diaper bag from the trunk?”

Joey replied, “Gladly.”   He opened the trunk and retrieved the diaper bag, handing it to Tyler.   “I’ll bring in the suitcases.”

Tyler left Joey to finish unloading the car.   He walked inside the house.   The foyer was beautifully appointed and made him fell like he was in some upscale hotel lobby.   Sr. Nájera said, “The girls’ room is up the stairs and all the way to the end of the hallway.   It’s the door on the left.   Your room is next door to theirs.”

Tyler said, “Thank you, Papá.”   He made his way upstairs and found the girls’ room.   He entered the room and found that the baby crib had already been made up for Sarah.   There was a changing table and a chest of drawers.   Against the opposite wall was a youth bed for Rachel.   Tyler smiled approvingly.   The Nájeras had thought of everything, as usual.   They were the perfect grandparents for the girls.   The Nájeras had charmed his own parents, as well.   Hank and Louise couldn’t say enough good things about the couple.   As he changed Sarah’s diaper, he reflected on how perfect his world had become.   He had a wonderful husband, two beautiful daughters, not one, but two sets of parents to watch over him and his family.   Some guys would have balked at having two sets of parents caring for them, but not Tyler and Joey.   They both thrived under the care of the four older adults.   Theirs was a charmed life.

He finished diapering Sarah and returned downstairs to find Joey had finished unloading the car.   Louise said, “Hand Sarah to me while you help your husband with the luggage.”

Tyler did as he was directed and handed Sarah to his mother.   He walked over and grabbed two suitcases.   Joey picked up the remaining two bags and the two of them walked up the stairs.   Hank and Sr. Nájera followed them with their luggage.   Tyler opened their bedroom door and stood there in amazement.   The room was huge!   There was a giant king-size four-poster bed with a gauzy white canopy that hung from the four bedposts.   The floor was covered with a deep, white carpet.   At one end of the room, there was a fireplace with a loveseat and a couch arranged in front of it.   At the opposite end, sliding glass doors opened onto a balcony that overlooked the swimming pool with a clear view of the ocean in the near distance.  

Joey said, “I love it already.”   He put down their suitcases and walked into the en suite where he found a Jacuzzi tub, and a walk-in shower with six shower head at different levels.   Everything looked to be made of marble and bronze.   Joey called to Tyler, “Sweetheart, I think we should start our little vacation in here.”

Tyler joined him and whistled, “Wow!   Yes, I agree, we should start here; however, we need to finish unpacking first.”

Joey nodded his head in agreement.   “This is going to be the best vacation ever.”

Tyler grinned and pulled Joey into his arms, “I can’t wait to get you naked.”   He kissed him deeply, before releasing him.

Joey protested, “That’s not fair!   You can’t get me all amped up, then leave me hanging like this!”

Tyler gave Joey his evil laugh and asked, “Why can’t I?”   He arched his eyebrows and grinned.

Joey laughed, “You are such a tease.”

“I never said I wasn’t,” Tyler said, as he opened up his suitcase and began hanging up his clothes.

Joey helped his, then opened the other suitcases on the bed.   They kept touching each other as they put away the contents of the suitcases.   They went next door to put way the girls’ clothes.   After they finished, Tyler pinned Joey against the door and said, “I want you inside me right now.”

Joey grinned from ear to ear.   He knew they were going to make many good memories on this trip.

Prev To be continued . . .

A Note from Russ:

Music that inspired this chapter

Amaia Montero – Quiero Ser -