|The Man from Swift Current|
|© 2011 Russ Nielsen
All Rights Reserved
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|Chapter 38: Rick Meets My Family|
The next morning, we piled into Shawn's Land Rover and headed west to Swift Current. Our parents planned to meet us at Uncle Dave's place. It was a smooth trip and it gave Rick a chance to see how flat the prairie really is. We sat cuddled up together in the back seat. I was really enjoying myself until Randy started peppering us with questions as we travelled. He seemed to be very interested in Rick's plans for the military.
"How do you plan to avoid being thrown in prison or kicked out for breaking your military's ban on gays serving in the military?"
"I don't plan on telling them," Rick responded his face showing his uncertainty.
"How do you think you will keep it secret?" Randy asked pointedly.
"I don't know, yet. I've been thinking about it but I haven't come up with a good answer," Rick replied.
"You know things could get very ugly pretty quickly don't you?" Randy asked seriously.
"Yes, I'm aware of the dangers to both me and Glenn if the military found out I was having sex with a guy," Rick said looking over at me.
"Rick and I have talked about it on a number of occasions but we don't have all the answers worked out, yet," I said trying to help Rick out since my brother seemed intent on delving into the subject.
"So tell me your plans thus far since you both have talked about it. I hope you aren't just leaving things to chance little brother," Randy said pinning me with the same look my Dad used on me when I was younger.
Rick answered for us, "We plan to move to a different apartment complex where it will be less likely that someone from the Marine Corps will see us. It also will keep my family from trying to do harm to Glenn or myself. I wouldn't put it past my Uncle George to send out a posse to try and take things into their own hands to carry out their brand of justice."
"Glenn, are you ready to go into hiding? I know how much you hate the idea of pretending to be something you are not. How are you going to keep from letting the whole world know that you are gay and that Rick is your partner?" Randy asked me holding my gaze.
"I'm not sure I can be successful at hiding who I am but I will do my best to ensure our safety from those who are too ignorant to know any better!" I said vehemently. I was starting to get annoyed with Randy's intense questioning.
"Glenn, can you really go back in the closet for Rick's sake?" Randy asked me.
"Randy, why are you badgering me so much about this? I've already told you that I can only do my best," I responded heatedly.
"What if your best isn't enough and Rick ends up in jail or worse beaten to death by the homophobic jarheads he has to associate with in the Marine Corps? How will you feel then knowing that you were the reason for Rick's suffering?" Randy asked not relenting.
I looked over at Rick to gage his reaction to Randy's comments. We had already discussed this issue and had argued plenty about it. We still didn't have a resolution to our dilemma. Rick's countenance was clouded. I could tell that Randy's questions had hit their mark and had really set Rick's mind to grinding through the possibilities of something bad happening to one or both of us.
Randy interrupted my thoughts as he spoke to Rick, "Rick, how will you feel if your military buddies decide to take out their anger on your partner? You have been hanging out with your fellow Marines for a while now. How will they react to the newsflash, "Rick's gay and loves butt fucking a man?"
Rick flinched at Rick's question, "They get pretty violent. I've seen them take out their anger on their fellow marines when they find out one of their own has done something they think has damaged their reputation as Marines. The physical punishment can be pretty extreme."
"Does the one being punished ever go to the police or report it to their superiors?" Randy asked.
"No, they know that it will just make it worse. The guys' need for vengeance makes them even more vicious and mean. It's not pretty if not downright scary when you think about those kinds of people having access to weapons that give them the ability to do some real damage," Rick said in acknowledgment of Randy's concern for our safety.
"I just wanted to make sure you two were considering all of the dangers of being openly gay. Americans are extremely homophobic and the U.S. military is even more so. That's why we have never even considered moving south of the border," Randy said grimly.
I knew that my brother was right. I had seen the way most of the Americans I knew looked down on other people just because they had different beliefs or their skin wasn't the right color. It didn't matter what the non-conforming things were; they weren't very understanding or tolerant of other people. Of course, I knew that my knowledge of Americans and their behavior was very limited. So I couldn't, in reality, make the same generalizations to all Americans that Randy was making.
Our conversation turned to more generic topics as we continued our trip. It took us a little less than three hours to travel the 250 kilometers from Regina to Swift Current on the Trans-Canada Highway. We pulled into Uncle Dave's driveway and started to unload our luggage when Nancy and Cynthia came running out of the house to greet us.
Both Randy and I were practically hugged to death. Even Shawn got his fair share of hugs, too. At that point, my sister, Nancy, asked me, "So Glenn, are you going to introduce me to your boyfriend?"
Rick looked surprised at first and then he just grinned as he put his arm around my waist, "Yeah, Glenn, are you going to introduce me or not?" he teased me.
I laughed at them and said, "Alright already, Rick, this is my sister, Nancy. Nancy, this is my boyfriend, Rick. There! Are you two happy now?"
"I'm glad to meet you, Nancy," Rick said extending his hand out. Nancy ignored it and gave him a hug and a kiss on the cheek instead.
"Welcome to the family, Rick. I'm glad to finally meet the man who has swept my brother off his feet! Glenn doesn't talk about anything else when he calls home," Nancy said as she gave me wink.
"Thanks, Nancy. Glenn is pretty special himself. I hope I can live up to his high standards," Rick said smiling at me.
Next Cynthia came over, "Rick, this is my cousin, Cynthia."
Cynthia also gave Rick a hug, "Welcome to Swift Current, Rick. Why don't you guys bring your things inside? The folks are all inside waiting for you."
Randy and Shawn had already gone inside so Rick and I followed the girls inside the house. We left our bags by the front door for the moment.
We entered the front room to see Mom giving Shawn and Randy a hug. Uncle Dave and Aunt Mary turned to us as we came in.
"Welcome home, Glenn," Aunt Mary said as she gave me a hug.
I turned to Rick and said, "Rick, this is my Aunt Mary and Uncle Dave."
"Glad to meet you, Ma'am," Rick said extending his hand towards Aunt Mary. She did the same thing the girls had done earlier -- she ignored his outstretched hand and enfolded him in a warm hug.
"Call my Mary or Aunt Mary. You are part of our family now," she said smiling up at my boyfriend's surprised face.
"You shouldn't be so surprised, Rick. Glenn has told us all about you and how much he loves you. Anyone who makes Glenn happy has to be very special," Aunt Mary said.
Uncle Dave gave Rick a hug and said, "Thank you for taking good care of my nephew. He's a great guy and deserves to have the best the world has to offer in a companion." Looking Rick over from head to toe, Uncle Dave said, "Glenn certainly chose well when he found you."
Rick was blushing now from all the praise Uncle Dave had given him. Next my Mom and Dad came over and Mom pulled Rick into her arms before I could introduce them.
She let him go and with tears in her eyes said, "Welcome to the family, Rick."
My Dad wasn't quite as welcoming as everyone else but he seemed resigned to the fact that he had another gay son the family. "Welcome, Rick. I'm glad to finally meet the man Glenn tells me is the love of his life." Dad extended his hand to Rick. Rick shook Dad hand and then without letting go of Dad's hand he pulled Dad into an embrace.
Everyone held their breath for a moment waiting to see Dad's reaction. Finally, Dad returned Rick's embrace.
Rick pulled back and with tears rolling down he cheeks he said to my Dad, "Thank you for not rejecting me as Glenn's partner. You don't know how much that means to me."
Mom spoke up, "Yes we do know how much it means to you. Glenn has already told us how your parents reacted to finding out you are gay. We have had our own experiences with how much damage can be done when someone is thrown out of his home and disowned by his parents."
As she said this, she looked over at Randy and Shawn. Both of them smiled back at Mom.
Randy spoke up, "But we managed to pull ourselves back together thanks to you, Uncle Dave."
"I don't deserve all the credit. Your Dad did most of the work. I just prodded him along to keep him moving in the right direction. Right, Bro.!"
Dad looked up from his contemplation of the carpet and acknowledged his brother's statement, "Yes, Dave, you helped me along quite a bit during that time not so long ago. I'm still not all the way there but I've learned to accept my sons and their partners for the wonderful people they are. Yes, Rick, I welcome you to our family as well. Just give me time to adjust to fact that it looks like I'll have another son-in-law soon! Of course, I expect that you will ask for my approval to marry my son at some time in the very near future!"
Rick was so overwhelmed with emotion that I pulled him over to the couch and sat down with him. I was as much surprised as he was at my Dad's last statement.
Dad laughed at our surprised expressions, "It shouldn't surprise either of you that if you mean as much to each other as Randy and Shawn do that you will formalize your relationship by getting married."
"Dad, we haven't thought that far ahead, yet. Of course, we will get married when the time is right for us," I said giving Rick a reassuring look.
Rick looked like he was going to completely break down and start sobbing his emotions were so strong. I could only imagine the thoughts that must be going through his mind after the horrible experience we had at his parents' home just a few days ago. The contrast between my family's reaction to us being a couple and his family's reaction was like night and day. To me, it was totally incredible.
I pulled Rick into my arms as Aunt Mary said, "Why don't we all go into the kitchen where I have a special treat for Randy and Shawn?" As I started to get up, she said, "No, Glenn. I want you to stay with Rick for a few minutes while the rest of us give you two some time to yourselves."
Aunt Mary shepherded everyone out of the front room and left me and Rick alone.
"Are you okay, Babe?" I asked.
"Yeah, I'm okay. I just need a few minutes to pull myself back together," Rick said as he reached for me and sat me down on his lap.
"I am so totally overwhelmed by the love your family has for you and me. I still can't fathom how wonderful it feels not to be rejected just because I love you, Glenn."
"I know how you feel. I love you, Rick. You had better never forget that!"
I kissed Rick gently on the lips and pulled back to smile at him. "Do you know that you are the only man for me, Rick Lernier?"
"Yes, I do Glenn. And I intend to be the only guy you ever have in your life and your bed!" This last was said as Rick started teasing me by putting his hands under my shirt and playing with my nipples.
"Rick! You are going to cause me to make a mess of my shorts if you keep that up!" I exclaimed putting my hands on top of his under my shirt. "I think you are sufficiently recovered now. Let's join the rest of them in the kitchen."
"You can be such a killjoy sometimes!" Rick complained but he let me get up and I pulled him to his feet and turned my face up to receive a kiss.
Rick took the hint and kissed me passionately putting his hands on my butt and pulling me close, letting me feel how aroused he was. I ran my hands up and down his back under his t-shirt loving the feel of Rick's muscles.
Randy, coming around the corner to check on us, said laughing at us, "Alright guys, you need to get a room! We are waiting for you in the kitchen. We were beginning to think you guys had gotten lost!"
We looked at each other and laughed, "Maybe we should get a room and soon!" Rick responded.
Randy shook his head and grinned, "I can tell you two are in love because you can't keep your hands off of each other."
We followed Randy into the kitchen. Everyone was gathered around the kitchen table. As we joined them, I noticed that there was a huge cake on the table. It was beautifully decorated and written with icing were the words, "Happy 1st Anniversary, Randy and Shawn." I looked around the table and saw that Nancy and Cynthia had joined us as well.
Uncle Dave said, "Congratulations, Randy and Shawn! Before we cut the cake, is there anything you would like to say?"
Shawn spoke up first, "Thank you for remembering us. I'd planned to take Randy out to dinner tonight to celebrate."
"Yes, thank you, Aunt Mary for the beautiful cake. I didn't think anyone would remember besides us," Randy said as a tear escaped and ran down his cheek. Shawn put his arm around Randy's waist and pulled him close.
Aunt Mary responded, ‘Why wouldn't we remember your anniversary? You both are important members of our family and we love you very much. Nancy will you get the ice cream out of the freezer, please?"
Nancy soon returned with the ice cream. Uncle Dave served up the ice cream while Aunt Mary cut and served the cake. Of course, the first two pieces went to the happy couple.
Uncle Dave asked, "Randy, how long will you be teaching at the academy?"
"I don't know for sure. They want me to take a permanent teaching position but I have told them I want to return to Vancouver. Teaching is okay but it's not why I joined the RCMP. I like doing real work instead of teaching others how to do it!" Randy responded.
Shawn seconded Randy's statement, "Randy's right. He's a much happier person when he's in Vancouver. Sometimes he gets to grumpy after a day teaching at the academy, I have to really work him over to get him to a point where he's fit company!"
"I don't get grumpy! Out of sorts, maybe! But NOT grumpy!" Randy retorted.
This made everyone laugh. Shawn responded, "I stand by my statement! You get grumpy!" Shawn leaned over and kissed Randy lightly on the lips to take the sting out his words.
Randy looked slightly mollified, "Okay, I will admit I can be GRUMPY once in a while but not very often."
Shawn said, "We need to return to Vancouver. I have a couple of projects to finish there that I am working on with a couple of friends. So I'm hoping that Randy gets transferred back there soon. Otherwise, I will have to commute between Regina and Vancouver and it's a long drive between the two places!"
Aunt Mary turned to Rick, "What are you studying at college?"
"I'm studying mechanical engineering at Georgia Tech. I hope to work for one of the auto manufacturers when I graduate," Rick answered.
"I'm going to study the same thing," I said, "Rick has promised to help me out since he's already taken the same classes I will be taking."
Randy laughed, "Are you sure that's all you and Rick will be studying?"
Rick laughed in response, ‘No, but we won't embarrass Glenn by enumerating what other subjects we will be studying!"
I was blushing furiously by this time. "Guys, you have already embarrassed the poor boy," Aunt Mary said in my defense. "I'm sure you will enjoy going to college at Georgia Tech. It's always good to have someone to guide you through that first semester. When I went to nursing school, one of the upper class students took me under their wing and showed me the ropes so I knew what to expect and wasn't surprised by anything the teachers threw at me."
"Where did you go to nursing school?" Rick asked.
"I studied nursing at Weber State College," Aunt Mary responded.
"Where's that?" Rick asked.
"It's a nice little college in Utah."
"You went to school in the States then?" Rick asked.
"Yes, I did. I grew up on farm in southern Alberta. My best friend, Molly, went to school in Utah. I hadn't been accepted into a college, yet, when Molly was admitted to Weber State. She convinced me to apply so we could room together if I got accepted. As luck would have it, I was accepted and I spent four years in Utah going to school."
Cynthia chimed in, "I want to be a nurse like Mom. I'm trying to convince Mom and Dad to let me go to the same school as she did."
Uncle Dave pointedly said, ‘We'll see, dear. Right now you need to concentrate on graduating from high school."
"How is Ben doing?" I asked
Uncle Dave said, "We drove him down to Minnesota two weeks ago to get him settled in his dorm. We met the hockey team coach and some of the team players while we were there. We talked to Ben last night and he seems to be very happy. He's made a lot of new friends and it appears he's got a new girlfriend, too!"
"That sounds like Ben!" I laughed. "He always had girls running after him at school. He never lacked for girlfriends!"
Cynthia agreed, "Yeah, I know. Many of the girls thought that if they were my friend, I would introduce them to my brother." She stuck her tongue out and said, "Yuck. I hated that. I was never sure if someone was just using me to get to Ben!"
Nancy said, "That happened to me some but not as much as it did to Cynthia. It was so obvious that Glenn wasn't into girls that most of them left me alone." She laughed, "In fact, I had a couple of guys ask me if I would help them get a date with my brother. I always told them no way! If anyone was going out on a date it was me not my brother!"
"I wasn't that obvious about it was I?" I asked. This caused Nancy to laugh at me.
"Yes, you were pretty obvious about being gay, especially after you hooked up with Ian! You two were inseparable! It didn't take much to figure out that you two were a couple!"
"But no one ever said anything to either one of us," I protested.
Cynthia responded, "That's because everyone knew if they said anything to you that both Ian and Ben would have beaten them to within an inch of their lives. They were very protective of you, Glenn. The guys at school knew the score and accepted the fact that you were gay or at least didn't say anything to any of us about it."
I was totally dumbfounded. I had no clue that Ian and Ben had put out the word to leave me alone. I knew that Ben's teammates took me under their wing and made sure I was included in all of their activities but I thought it was because they were nice guys.
"Seriously, big brother, you can be so blind sometimes,' Nancy chided me. "You don't have to worry about it anymore, Glenn. Rick will protect you now!"
"You bet I will! I've been doing that since I first met you." Rick said.
I laughed and gave Rick's arm a punch, "Rather you've been taking advantage of poor, innocent me!"
"Naïve, maybe, innocent – no way!" Rick responded playfully putting his hand on my leg and giving it a squeeze.
Nancy and Cynthia both snickered as did Randy and Shawn. Dad said, "Apparently, the younger people in the room know you better than you think." Dad smiled and winked at me.
"I was too innocent or at least I was until I met Rick," I protested. That caused everyone else in the room to laugh.
Uncle Dave disagreed, "No, Glenn. You may have been innocent at one time but I know for a fact that you lost your innocence a long time before you met Rick!" He looked at me and smiled. "You have to admit I'm right."
"Okay, I'll admit that I wasn't exactly innocent after I met Ian. So you are right Rick!" I conceded.
Rick's grin broadened as I blushed as everyone congratulated Rick for winning that round! Boy! What is this family coming to when they gang up against me! I'm glad they have accepted Rick and made him feel like he is part of the family.
Uncle Dave asked, "Did you boys want to go up in the plane later in the week?"
Both Rick and I responded, "Yes, we would love to do that."
"Don, is there still a fallow field next to your house that I can use as a landing strip?" Uncle Dave asked.
"Yes, there is. When do you plan to fly down?" Dad asked his brother.
"How about two days from now? Is that okay?" Uncle Dave asked.
"That sounds good to me. We will have lunch ready for when you arrive," Dad said. "Then you can take the boys up for a ride in the plane. Randy and Shawn are you coming down to the farm?"
Randy answered, "Yes, we plan to come down tomorrow. Is that okay?"
"Yes. We are staying here tonight with Uncle Dave and Aunt Mary and will head home tomorrow morning early," Dad said.
Shawn said, "Randy and I won't be up early so we will catch up to you at the farm later in the day."
"Please give us a ring to let us know when you leave here so I can have things ready when you arrive," Mom said.
"Sure thing, Mom," Randy responded.
"Uncle Ben and Aunt Kate will be coming over for dinner tomorrow night," Mom said.
Shawn said, "I will make sure we get there before dinner time. You know how Randy can be sometimes, Mom."
"I do, Shawn. I appreciate you taking good care of my son. Rick, I expect will do the same for Glenn," Mom said smiling at Rick.
"I'll do my best!" Rick responded, obviously pleased that Mom had recognized him as being important to my well being.
"Randy and I need to be going," Shawn said. "We will see you tomorrow. Thank you, Aunt Mary for remembering our anniversary." Shawn and Randy gave Aunt Mary a hug and kiss before they left.
Aunt Mary said, "Glenn, you boys will be staying in Ben's room. Your Mom and Dad are staying in the spare room."
"Thank you, Aunt Mary. We will take our things downstairs. Come on Rick," I said.
Rick followed me out of the kitchen to retrieve our luggage and I led him to Ben's room.
As we entered the room, I pointed to my bed, "That was my bed while I went to school here. This one is Ben's. We shared this room during our senior year."
Rick looked around the room and spotted Ben's scout shirt hanging in the closet. He pulled it out and looked at the patches and awards sewn on it.
"What rank did Ben achieve when he was in scouts?" Rick asked.
"He earned the Chief Scout award which is the highest award given to Canadian boy scouts. I guess it's like your Eagle Scout award. Ben is really an overachiever in every area of his life. He did it with his grades, scouting, playing hockey, and just about everything else really. I wish Ben were here so you could me him. Ben really is my best friend in the whole world. I know that he would approve of you as my boyfriend," I said.
Rick walked over to Ben's dresser to take a look at his hockey trophies. "Ben's team really won a lot of trophies didn't they?"
Joining Rick and putting my arm around his waist, "Yes, they did. Ben's teammates were my best friends in school. They really watched out for me and made sure I was included in all of their activities. I owe them a lot for making my senior year the best."
Rick looked me and said, "I'm going to make this next year even better than that!"
"I'm going to hold you to that," I said. Pointing to the photo sitting next to Ben's trophies, I said, "This is a photo of me and Ben at our graduation."
"He has blond hair just like you do," Rick remarked, "and he looks a lot like you only shorter."
I laughed, "Yeah, Ben hates that part. I had always been the shortest one in the family until last year when I passed Ben up in the height department but he has always been stronger than me. Let's join the rest of the family upstairs."
We enjoyed the rest of the day visiting with my family. Later in the evening, we challenged the girls to a game of Risk. Unfortunately, they beat us! Rick and I retired to our room and went to bed. We were pretty tired from two days of traveling. We had just switched off the light when there was a soft tap on our door.
My Dad asked through the door, "Can I come in?"
Rick responded, "Yes, Dad, you can come in."
Fortunately, we had worn our boxers to bed since we were too tired to do anything other than sleep. Dad opened the door and came into the room. He pulled out the chair from the computer desk and sat down.
"I wanted to visit with you two before we left for the farm," Dad said looking us each in the eyes.
"Okay, Dad," I said as we both sat up in our bed and looked at each other. It reminded me of a similar but not so pleasant a visit from Rick's dad. I hoped that Rick wouldn't freak out. I reached over and took his hand in mine to reassure him that we were okay.
"Glenn, you know how badly I messed up with Randy and Shawn. I want to start out right with you two. Can I ask you both to help me?" Dad asked.
We both nodded our agreement, "How can we help you, Dad," I asked.
"You can help me by being honest with me. And I will do my best to be honest with you. Please tell me when I'm being too critical or overbearing. I'm still not completely okay with my sons being gay. I will always hope that someday things will change for you and Randy," Dad held up his hand to forestall my response. "Please hear me out. As a parent, I always looked forward to the many grandchildren that my children would bring to my home. It gives a parent a sense of comfort that the future is secure when a new generation is born into the family. I'm telling you this so you can understand my feelings on the subject and why I sometimes react the way I do.
"I want you both to understand that I don't hate Shawn or you, Rick, for falling in love with my sons. Both of you are fine additions to our family. I am happy that my sons have found life partners that treat them well and love them very much.
"Rick, I will promise you that I will do my best to make you feel welcome in our family. Glenn has told us of the hardship you have experienced with your family recently. I ask you to be patient with your parents, Rick. Since I was the one in their position not so long ago, I can completely relate to their feelings right now. And just like me, they will eventually come to realize that it is more important to have their son in their lives and accept who he is than to begin a never ending cycle of hatred and tragedy in their lives and in those of their loved ones," Dad said.
Rick's tears were visible on his cheeks, "Do you really think they will ever change their minds?"
"Rick, I can't answer that question. I don't know if they will or not. I can only tell you that I know what they are going through and it's not pretty. I've been there. Seeing the hurt in your eyes and the tears you have shed for them, reminds of the pain and suffering I caused my own family with my stubbornness and refusal to accept Randy and Shawn as my sons who needed my love and support not my rejection and hatred. Once I started that cycle of hatred and rejection, it was hard to stop because I didn't want to admit that I was wrong. It took someone like my brother, Dave, to talk some sense into me and push me enough to admit that I needed to reach out and take the first step in restoring my relationship with my son and his partner. Glenn, you don't know what it cost me to let go of my pride and apologize to Randy and Shawn and then tear down the walls I had built to keep myself from seeing all of the damage I had done to our family. I am still trying to repair my relationship with my sons. I don't want to repeat the mistakes I made with Randy and Shawn with you, Glenn and Rick. I am here to ask both of you to help me to do better this time."
I put my arm around Rick's waist and held him tight as his body shuddered with his barely suppressed sobs. Rick put his head on my shoulder as I comforted him.
"I'm sorry Rick for making you feel worse than you already do," Dad said. "Please remember you can talk to me anytime. I may not have all the answers but I will always be there for you. For now, I will leave you to Glenn's comforting arms."
Dad left our room, quietly shutting the door behind him. I turned to Rick pulled him down on top of me and embraced him fully making sure he knew I was there for him.
I whispered in his ear as he quietly cried on my shoulder, "I love you, Rick. Everything will be okay." I patted his back and rubbed his shoulders. Eventually Rick's tears stopped and his breathing evened out. Much to my surprise, Rick had fallen asleep in the comfort of my arms.
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