Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Lernier Family Chapter Four - The Wedding

Chapter Four – The Wedding
As planned, we left early heading north.   Rick drove our Land Rover and I did the navigating.   We followed the Capital Beltway around to the west and north taking Interstate 270 towards Pennsylvania.   Rick had our route all planned out, of course, using MapQuest!   In fact, he had used a yellow highlighter to mark our route on the map so I could help him make all of the correct course changes.   We stopped in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, for breakfast at one of the local diners close to the freeway (by the way, don’t do it!   The food wasn’t that great!).   From there, we continued our journey.   When we hit Harrisonburg, we chose to follow the Susquehanna River instead of the route the MapQuest directions suggested.   It was a beautiful drive!  
We made it to Buffalo, New York, just as the afternoon rush hour began.   We joined the queue to cross the border into Canada.   After what seemed forever, we were finally able to break free of the traffic as we travelled on the Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW).     I directed Rick through the streets of St. Catharines to Guy Road.  
Turning onto Guy Road, Rick said, “I remember which house it is because it’s directly across the street from the Guy Road Park entrance.”  
We pulled into the driveway of Uncle Carl’s house.   As we unloaded our things, Aunt Hannah came out to greet us, “Hello, boys!   I’m glad you arrived safely.   Bring your things inside and put them in the spare bedroom then wash up and come join us at the dinner table.”   She gave each of us a hug and followed us inside.
We took our suitcases to the spare bedroom as directed.   We took a moment to wash up and made our way back to the kitchen.   It’s never a good thing to cross Aunt Hannah!   I’ve learned that the hard way over the years!
Uncle Carl greeted us as we entered the kitchen, “Welcome back, Glenn and Rick.”   He hugged each of us.   We all sat down around the kitchen table.
“I’ll say grace,” Uncle Carl said.    We all joined hands around the table as he gave thanks for our safe arrival and for the meal.
Aunt Hannah asked, “What time is your discussion with Reverend Riegger?”
“It’s at 7 PM.   I printed out directions to the church before we left Washington, DC.   It shouldn’t take us very long to get there from here,” I replied.
“Good.   That will give you time to freshen up before you go,” Uncle Carl said.   “Reverend Riegger is a very nice man.   Listen to what he tells you.”
I replied, “We’ll listen to him, Uncle Carl.   Mom told us the same thing.”
Rick said, “Aunt Hannah, this is the best meal I’ve tasted in a long time!   Thank you for cooking for us.”
Aunt Hannah beamed, “You’re welcome, Rick.   I love cooking for my family.   When you’re ready, I have a special pie I baked for you two.”
Hearing about the pie, I smiled and said, “Is it a pumpkin pie?”
“Yes, Glenn, it is.   I remembered that you love pumpkin pie so I baked one for you and I made a pecan pie for Rick,” she responded, giving Rick a quick wink.
It was Rick’s turn to smile, “Thank you for remembering my favorite pie!”
“They’re still warm from the oven.   Carl, please get the vanilla ice cream out while I get the pies,” Aunt Hannah said.
She served us the pie and Uncle Carl dipped up the ice cream.   There is nothing like warm pumpkin pie with a huge scoop of vanilla ice cream!   Of course, Rick would say it’s better if the pie is pecan not pumpkin!
After eating dessert, we both thanked Aunt Hannah for the wonderful meal and returned to our room.
I looked at my watch, “We have just enough time to shower before we have to leave.”
Rick grinned, “Does that mean I can’t fool around in the shower?”
I laughed, “Yes that is exactly what it means!   You’ll have to save yourself until tonight!   I promise to help you release your stress if you behave yourself!”
“I’m going to hold you to that promise!” Rick said as he led me into the bathroom and started the shower for us.   After adjusting the temperature, Rick pulled me into the shower with him and started washing me down.   He is so gentle with me and so loving.   I think there is no greater thing that shows how much he loves me as the care he takes to help me shower.   When he finished, I returned the favor.   We toweled each other dry and quickly dressed looking at each other in the mirror.
Rick wrapped his arms around me from behind and buried his face in my neck.   He nibbled on my ear and said, “I love you.”
I leaned back into him and replied, “I love you, too.”  I turned around in his embrace and gave him a quick kiss on the lips, “Mr. Lernier, you have only one thing on your mind!”
Rick’s most lecherous grin came out, “You bet!”
“You’re incorrigible!  Come on, Casanova.   We need to be going or we’ll be late,” I said kissing him, again, before moving out of his embrace.
As always, Rick chose my clothes and I chose his.   We started doing that for each other when we first started living together.   By mutual agreement, we chose identical outfits.   We both laughed as we hadn’t planned it out in advance!
We popped into the kitchen and I said, “We’ll be back in a while.”
“Okay, drive safely and tell Reverend Riegger “Hello,” for us,” Uncle Carl said smiling at the two of us.
We jumped in the Land Rover and I gave Rick the directions to the church.   About 15 minutes later, we turned into the church parking lot.   There were a couple of cars already there.   Rick pulled into a parking space and turned off the engine.
“Glenn, I’m really nervous about talking to a priest,” Rick said taking my hand.
“Don’t worry, sweetheart.   Reverend Riegger won’t bite you I’m sure.   I can’t say anything about what I might do to you later,” I said squeezing his hand reassuringly.   I am grateful Rick is willing to come to a church.   He’s been pretty adamant about his desire to not participate any form of organized religion.
We got out of the car and walked to the front door of the church which opened just as I was reaching to pull on the handle.   A rather portly, bald man stood there.   He smiled at us showing perfectly white teeth and a twinkle in his eye.   He looked to be my height.   He was dressed in khaki slacks and a navy blue dress shirt.
“Hi!   I’m Reverend Riegger and you must be Glenn and Rick.   Please come in,” he said holding the door for us to enter the building.   Once inside the foyer, he shook our hands and pointed down the hallway, “Come this way.   Let’s go to my office where we can become better acquainted.”
We followed him into his office and sat down on the sturdy leather sofa next to his desk.   He pulled his desk chair out from behind the desk and sat down in front of us.   He sat so close that our knees almost touched.   I wasn’t sure how Rick was going to respond since he doesn’t like people getting inside his personal space.   I quickly glanced over at Rick to see how he was doing.   He appeared to be handling it okay.
“First let me tell you about myself.   I’ve been here a long time obviously.   I was new here when Glenn’s Mom and Dad met with me for the marriage discussions.   They were as much in love as you two seem to be.   Many things have changed over the years but that is something that hasn’t changed!   Every couple that comes to my office for the marriage classes has that same look,” he said.   “Now, tell me a little bit about yourselves and how you met?”
Rick spoke first, “I’m from North Carolina and I just got out of the marines.   Glenn’s cousin, Keith, introduced us.”
“I’m from Swift Current and like Rick said, my cousin, Keith, introduced me to Rick when I came to visit.   I was trying to decide where to go to college and Keith was showing me around Georgia Tech.   Rick was Keith’s roommate at the time.”
I continued to narrate how we had finally gotten together and our journey together up to this point in our lives with comments from Rick every now and then to clarify an event or two.
When I finished, Reverend Riegger said, “It sounds like you know each other pretty well and have weathered a few storms in your lives as a couple.”
Rick replied, “Yes, it hasn’t always been easy, especially for me.   I’m still very bitter towards the church and its teachings.”
Reverend Riegger responded, “I can understand your feelings on the subject given your experiences with your family.   I’m glad that you’ve agreed to have a church wedding and have come tonight to talk with me.  I can only counsel you to remember that the church does not condone the behavior exhibited by your family.   True followers of Christ do not treat their brothers and sisters that way.   I hope that through our discussions that you will come to see that not all religious people are like that.   Our congregation is very warm and friendly.   My view is that we are all brothers and sisters and we need to care for everyone.   I took a trip to Hawaii many years ago and learned a concept that has stuck with me ever since.   They have a term, “ohana,” that means we are family and we take care of each other.   I like to believe that we are all part of the same “ohana” and that we don’t leave anyone behind.   It doesn’t matter who or what we are, we are still “ohana” and we will be there for each other.”
Rick took my hand, “I’m glad to hear that Reverend Riegger.   Too many times, Glenn and I have not felt like we belonged anywhere.   Yes, Glenn’s family has been very welcoming but society as a whole has been very hostile.   I hate the fact that I have to be careful who I tell that I’m gay for fear of being beat up and otherwise attacked and ostracized.”
“It’s been really hard for us not to show our affection for each other in public places.   Most people don’t understand what that does to a person to always be afraid of being beaten up or killed for being who you are.   I don’t trust people anymore.   I used to be really open and friendly, and still am to some degree, but not nearly as much as I used to be,” I said.  “We used to like to have all of our friends over to have a great time but we’ve stopped doing that because of some very ugly things that happened between us and our straight “friends.”
“I’m sorry that you’ve had to suffer through such things.   Human beings are far from perfect.   We tend to judge people unfairly and we do ugly things many times in the name of religion.   Those who truly understand their religion will react to you with kindness and love instead of anger and hatred despite how they might feel about you being gay,” Reverend Riegger said earnestly.  “And those that really live their religion have learned to love unconditionally.”
He continued, “Rick I hope that through our discussions we can try to repair some of the damage that has been done to your faith.   In order for you to be able to love Glenn unconditionally, you will need to forgive your family for what they have done.   That doesn’t mean you have to associate with them but you need to let go of the anger and the bitterness in your heart.   You must replace it with your love for Glenn.   Let the love you share fill your heart and purge all that ugliness from your soul.  You’re a wonderful person or Glenn wouldn’t have chosen you as his life partner.   Can you make a commitment to Glenn to let go of this burden you are carrying?”
Rick didn’t answer for a few moments.   I wasn’t sure how my guy was going to respond.   “I’m not sure I can forgive them,” he responded honestly.
I said, “I know I still harbor hard feelings towards Rick’s family because of how much they have hurt him.   I sometimes blame myself for what has happened to Rick because I fell in love with him.”
Rick squeezed my hand, “We’ve had this discussion many times, Glenn.   It’s not your fault my family reacted the way they have.   You need to stop blaming yourself for the actions of others.   Not only that, I’m the one who instigated this relationship if I remember correctly.”
I smiled at the memory of our first kiss, “Yes, you were pretty forward with me.”
Reverend Riegger said, “Obviously, you two have talked about this before but I want to reiterate the importance of learning to forgive others for what they may have done to you.   Next, you need to learn to forgive yourselves.”
Surprised, Rick asked, “What do you mean?”
“In order to love others, we need to learn to love ourselves and that includes forgiving ourselves for making mistakes.   We need to learn to trust ourselves to do the right thing and to learn from our mistakes.   Those who can’t forgive themselves often end up becoming depressed or worse they commit suicide because they can’t continue to endure the self-flagellation they subject themselves to in order to punish themselves for what they perceive as their only way to make up for the mistakes they’ve made or the character flaws they may have.”
I thought about what he said, “So you’re saying I need to let go of my self-hatred so I can love Rick unconditionally?”
“Yes, that’s correct.   You need to free yourself from that burden.   It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t feel remorse for something you’ve done wrong or that you shouldn’t try to restore or make right something you’ve done wrong.   I’m not saying that at all.   I’m saying that after you’ve done all you can to fix whatever you did, you need to reconcile yourself with God and let him take that burden from you,” Reverend Riegger said.
Rick asked earnestly, “How can I be reconciled to God when I’m angry at Him and blame Him for what has happened to me?”
“You’ve already taken the first step by recognizing that you’re angry.   Next you need to understand that God didn’t force your family to take the actions they have towards you and Glenn.   Each of us has the ability to choose for ourselves how we will react to the circumstances around us.   We can choose to do good things or we can choose to do bad ones.   Of course, we can’t choose the resulting consequences of those choices but we can control how we act.   God hasn’t turned away from you, Rick.   It’s you who have turned away from Him.”
I felt Rick stiffen when he heard those words.   I waited to hear Rick’s response.   When Rick didn’t respond, I looked at him and saw a pensive look on his face.  “Reverend Riegger we have talked about that at length.   We are not quite ready to embrace organized religion, yet,” I said hoping to give Rick a chance to think over what Reverend Riegger was trying to tell us.
“You’re not alone, Glenn.   Many same sex couples struggle with religion.   I encourage you both to examine the possibility that religion has a place in your lives especially if you plan to adopt children.   I believe that participating in religion is important for our spiritual development.   I know many who disagree but at least give it some thought.   Don’t discount the many good things that religion does for people despite the damage its adherents have inflicted upon society in its name.”
Rick said, “I’ll consider it, Reverend Riegger but I can’t promise it will change how I feel.”
“That’s all I can ask, Rick.   Thank you for being honest with me about your feelings.   I appreciate your willingness to share your lives with me.   It helps me to understand who you are and what will most benefit you as we move through the marriage discussions.   I will outline for you what the marriage discussions entail.   We will talk about finances, children, jobs, dating your spouse….”
I interrupted him, “What do you mean date your spouse?”
“It means that your courtship of each other doesn’t end just because you’re married.   You need to set aside time every week to go on a date.   Make it an official date,” he looked directly at Rick.   “Rick that means that you ask Glenn to go out with you to dinner and a movie or you ask him to join you for a picnic or some other activity you both like.”   Turning to me, he said, “Glenn, it means you ask Rick go out to a concert or join you at some special event.   You need to remember the small and simple things are the most important ones to help maintain a healthy, loving relationship.   Things like flowers, cards and chocolates or putting a special note in Rick’s lunch or a note taped to the refrigerator telling him how much you love him,” Reverend Riegger explained.
After a brief pause, he continued.   “One of the most important things about a marriage relationship is how you two treat each other so that it will last and be as fresh and exciting as you want it to be.   Do those topics sound okay to you?”  Reverend Riegger smiled at us and waited for our replies.
Rick responded, “Yeah that sounds okay.”
I nodded my agreement.
“Okay, first, I have some questions that I would like to ask you before we start into the structured classes.   You don’t have to answer these questions now if you don’t want to but I strongly recommend that you discuss them among yourselves later as part of your homework assignment from tonight’s discussion.   The first question is:   Are you two absolutely sure that you are committed to each other?” he asked.
I answered, “Yes.”  
Rick’s answer echoed my own, “Yes, we are.”
“Good.   My next question may seem offensive but I have to ask it.   Is either one of you attracted to or have had a relationship with someone of the opposite sex?” he asked.
Rick answered a little tersely, “What does that have to do with these marriage discussions?”
“The reason I ask is that I frequently counsel with same sex couples about infidelity in their marriages because one or both feels that sex with a member of the opposite gender doesn’t count as cheating on their spouse,” he said earnestly.   I could tell he was very serious about this subject.  
“I want you to avoid the heartache that comes from cheating on your spouse.   I want to emphasize that marriage means complete monogamy between the two spouses, in gay parlance, a completely closed relationship.  One couple said they wanted children so they cheated on their spouse.   When you’re married, having sex with anyone other than your spouse is totally unacceptable.   Having an intimate relationship with anyone other than your spouse is the surest way to a failed marriage and the pain and suffering that come with that.   I want to make it perfectly clear before we go any further tonight the importance of being faithful to your spouse.   Now, I repeat my question:   Are you two totally committed to each other,” he said looking us both in the eyes.
Rick said looked at me and answered, “I’m sure I’m committed to living my life with Glenn.   Both of us were in heterosexual relationships before we became lovers.   We’ve been together for five years now and we’ve been faithful to each other the entire time.”
Reverend Riegger asked, “Are there any children from these previous relationships?”
“None that we know about,” I said looking at Rick for confirmation.
“None,” Rick confirmed.
“Good.   That is one less thing to worry about.   Do you want children?” Reverend Riegger asked.
“Yes,” I said.   “We plan to adopt if we can.”
Rick said, “Or we’ll look into finding a surrogate to have our child.”
“Good.   I believe that having children together will help you both grow closer together and strengthen the bonds of love between you as you raise a family.   I’ve seen too many couples drift apart and eventually divorce because they cease to have anything in common with each other.   Having a family will give you both a strong sense of purpose and will unit you more than anything else can,” he said pausing for any comments from us.
He continued, “Of course, not everyone is cut out to be a parent.   That is a decision that you will need to discuss among yourselves.   Since you have indicated that children are a possibility, you’re homework for tonight is to write down your parenting philosophies.   By that I mean,  you need to discuss how will you discipline a child, who will take care of the children, what things do you envision you will need to do to adjust to having a child in the home.   How many children will you have and how will you provide for their future such as a college fund, etc.   The last thing you will need to do for next time is to develop a budget since we will be talking about finances.”
I said, “We’ve done some budgeting before so I think that shouldn’t be a difficult assignment.”
“I’m glad to hear that.   Next to infidelity in marriage, finances are the next most common reason people get divorced.   Having a good understanding of money management principles and how to control your wants and desires are key things to making a successful marriage,” Reverend Riegger said.
Rick asked, “How detailed should our budget be?”
“As detailed as you need it to be since it will need to be useful to you and Glenn,” he responded.   “That’s all for tonight’s discussions.   Do you have any questions of me?”
“No, I can’t think of any right now,” I said.
“Thank you for talking with us,” Rick said.
We said our good-byes and we left Reverend Riegger in his office.
“What did you think of his discussion, Rick?” I asked as we drove back to Uncle Carl’s house.
Rick replied, “Overall, I think it was good.   I don’t agree with everything he said but I’m okay with continuing the discussions.”
“He did have some good points about learning to forgive ourselves and others that I liked,” I said.
“Yes, those points really hit home with me.   I can see the wisdom in learning to forgive others and letting go of the bitterness I feel.   I’m just not sure I can let it go,” Rick said earnestly.   “I want to let it go and move past it because of the pain it still inflicts on my heart.”
“I will do all I can to help, Rick.   I love you,” I said as we pulled up to the house.   Rick turned off the engine and leaned over and kissed me.
“You’re my sweetheart, Babe.   Let’s go in and talk to Uncle Carl and Aunt Hannah,” Rick said.
As soon as we entered the house, Aunt Hannah called from the kitchen, “We’re in here, boys.   Come join us for some pie and ice cream.”
Rick grinned, “That’s why I love your aunt.   She always knows when I need something sweet!”
“You mean I’m not sweet enough for you?” I asked laughing.
Rick grabbed me and pulled me into a quick embrace, “Yes, you’re sweet enough for me but in a different way!”   He kissed me and let me go.
We entered the kitchen and sat down at the table with Uncle Carl while Aunt Hannah served the pie and ice cream.   As always, Aunt Hannah warmed the pie before putting it on the plate.
Uncle Carl asked, “How did it go?”
Rick responded, “It went okay.   The reverend had some good points for us to think about.”
“He gave us some homework for next time.   We have to make up a budget and we have to talk about having a family,” I said.
Aunt Hannah asked, “Do you mean adopting children?”
“Yes.   He wants us to write down our thoughts on parenting and everything that goes with having a family,” I replied.
Uncle Carl asked, “Do you boys plan to adopt?”
Rick answered, “Yes, we do.   I’m not sure how quickly we’ll start the process but we do want to have children.”
“That’s wonderful!” exclaimed Aunt Hannah.   “I know that your Mom and Dad will be pleased.”
“I know Mom will be.   She has asked me about it a couple of times now,” I said looking over at Rick.
Rick said, “We need to get settled into a new house before we can start thinking about starting the adoption process.   I don’t want to begin the adoption process before we’re ready.”
“I agree with you but I’m excited about the prospect of becoming a parent,” I said with enthusiasm.   “I want so much for us to have our own children.”
“I’m sure you two will be fine parents,” Uncle Carl said reassuringly looking directly at me.   “Glenn, I know where Rick is coming from when he says he wants to be settled before starting a family.  I would err on the side of caution since you will be facing a lot of opposition from adoption agencies as a gay couple.   You need to have everything completely lined up so there will be no excuse for them to turn you down when you try to adopt a child.”
Aunt Hannah said, “Carl is right.  You will need to make sure you don’t give them a reason to reject your request to adopt.   I know that we’ve had a number of gay couples try to adopt who’ve not made it through the process for one reason or another.   There is still a lot of prejudice against gay couples when it comes to adopting or fostering children.”
Rick said, “We have had some of these same discussions over the last couple of weeks.”   Rick took my hand, “It’s just that Glenn gets so excited about it he can hardly sit still!”
Aunt Hannah laughed, “That doesn’t surprise me in the least.”
We finished our dessert and bid my aunt and uncle “good night” and retired to our room.
We took care of our usual needs:  brushing our teeth, etc., and climbed into bed.   As we lay next to each other, Rick pulled me close and looked into my eyes, “Glenn, thank you for being so patient with me.   I know you have wanted to return to church for a while now but it’s still very hard for me.”
“I know, Babe.   I completely understand.  I think these marriage discussions will make it a lot easier for us.   I’ve still got issues to deal with as well so you can’t say you’re the only one who has had difficulty with the idea of going back to church,” I said.
“I think you’re right.   At least from what we’ve heard tonight, I can say that I feel more positively towards having a church wedding,” Rick said.
“I’m happy to hear you say that.   I know that you were doing this just for me and I love you even more for it.   I’m glad you are feeling better about having a church wedding.   I was worried that it would be a horrible experience for you,” I said giving him a gentle kiss.
Of course, that kiss led to another more passionate kiss, etc., etc., etc.
                                                                ***
I had been awake for some time when I heard a soft knock on the door.   I said, “Come in.”
Uncle Carl opened the door, “Good morning, Glenn.   Aunt Hannah has breakfast ready if you’re up for it.”
“We’ll be down momentarily.   It will take me a bit to get Rick out of bed though,” I laughed as Rick rolled over and put his arm across my chest and pulled me closer to him.   “See how he is in the morning?” I asked.
Uncle Carl smiled, “Yes, I do see.   I will tell your aunt it will be a while before you’ll be down.”
Rick stretched out gracefully and asked, “Do I have to get up?”
I watched mesmerized by the beautiful man beside me.   “No, you don’t have to get up,” I said as I caressed his chest.   “I think I want breakfast in bed this morning,” I said suggestively.
Rick grinned and said, “Hold that thought.   I’ve got to make a trip to the bathroom first.”
We both got out of bed and pulled on our boxers before running across the hall to the bathroom.   After we finished in there, we returned and began where we left off.   A while later we jumped in the shower together to clean up for breakfast.
As we sat down at the table, Aunt Hannah greeted us, “Good morning boys.   I hope you slept well last night?”
“We slept very well, thank you.   Those pancakes look delicious!” I exclaimed.
Rick agreed, “Yes, they look really good.   Thank you for making breakfast for us.”
Aunt Hannah replied, “You’re welcome.   Here is the syrup along with some eggs and sausage.”
Uncle Carl smiled at us from across the table, “It looks like you’re well loved Glenn.”
I laughed, “Rick did you mark me, again?”
Rick peered at my neck smiling, “Yeah, you’ve been well marked.   Nobody can deny that you’re mine!”
“I guess I shouldn’t complain.   Rick makes me very happy,” I said taking Rick’s hand and giving it a kiss.
“What are you plans for today?” Aunt Hannah asked.
“We haven’t made any,” Rick responded.
“Would you like to drive over to the Stratford Whitehouse to go over the arrangements we’ve made?” she asked.
I looked at Rick as I responded excitedly, “Yes, we’d love to see where the wedding reception will be held.”
Rick smiled at my excitement, “Yes, we definitely should go over the arrangements.   Glenn is very excited about it.”
I laughed, “And why shouldn’t I be excited?”
Rick joined in my laughter, “I didn’t say you shouldn’t be excited.   I’m just saying that you are very enthusiastic about everything that has to do with our wedding.”
“Aren’t you just as excited?” I asked giving him the “look,” at least that is what Rick calls it.
Rick squeezed my hand to reassure me, “Yes, I am but not in the same way you are.   You see, Uncle Carl and Aunt Hannah, Glenn won’t rest until every last detail has been attended to while I’m quite content to let him fret over it until he’s happy with the results.   I have no doubt everything will be wonderful.   Right, Babe?”
I agreed, “You’re right about that.   We make a perfect couple.   Rick is so calm about everything and I’m so excitable.”
Uncle Carl smiled, “Yes, you’ve always been pretty excitable, Glenn.”
We finished our breakfast and helped clean up the kitchen.   When we were done, Aunt Hannah said, “Let’s go over to Stratford.”   She took off her apron and led the way outside.
“Rick will you drive?” She asked.
Rick replied, “Yes, I’ll drive.”
I climbed in front with Rick while my aunt and uncle took the back seat.  We drove the 168 kilometers to Stratford in a little under two hours.   We pulled into the parking lot.  As we got out and walked towards the front entrance, Rick exclaimed, “Wow!   Aunt Hannah, you’ve out done yourself!  This place is beautiful!”
“I’m glad you approve, Rick.  Come this way and we’ll find James who talked with me on the phone.   We had Jenny’s wedding here so I’m sure they will remember us,” she said.
Aunt Hannah led the way towards the offices.   When the receptionist saw her she said, “Hello Mrs. Nielsen.   Welcome back.   I understand that we are hosting a wedding reception for your nephew.”
“Yes, Jenny.   We are here to show the boys the arrangements we’ve made.   Is James here?”
“Yes, he is.   He’s expecting you.  Go right back,” she said.
We followed Aunt Hannah back to James’ office.   When we entered the office, we saw a handsome man in his mid-thirties stand up from behind his desk.   He pushed back his unruly black hair from his face as he moved around the desk to greet us.   He flashed us a brilliant smile and his grey eyes rested on mine for a moment before he reached out his hand to shake mine.
“You must be Glenn,” he said holding onto my hand just a little longer than necessary.
“Yes, and this is my partner, Rick,” I said as I released his hand and put my arm around Rick’s waist.
He shook Rick’s hand, “Congratulations!   I’m very honored that you have chosen to celebrate your wedding with us.   Mr. and Mrs. Nielsen, welcome back.   I trust everything is going well for you since we last saw each other?”
Aunt Hannah replied, “Yes, it is, James.   Thank you for setting everything up for us on such short notice.”
“You’re most welcome, Mrs. Nielsen.   As I said in our earlier conversation, we always try to accommodate our returning customers.  Please sit down and make yourselves comfortable while I pull out all the paperwork so we can go over everything that we’ve planned.”
James picked up a folder from his desk and pulled up a chair across from Rick and me.   He spread out all of the brochures and photos on the coffee table so we could see the different rooms we were going to be renting for the evening.   “We will take you on a tour in a few minutes but I wanted you to see them here first.   We have also reserved a fireplace suite for the two of you for that week so you won’t have to worry about driving home after your reception,” he said.   Looking over at Aunt Hannah he said, “I’ve taken the liberty of reserving a block of rooms at the local hotel for your guests.   I will provide you their information so you can pass it on to any guests who wish to stay nearby.”
“Thank you James.   I imagine that we’ll have about the same number of guests as we had last time,” Aunt Hannah said.
“Good.   Then let’s take a walking tour of the reception rooms and the suite where you’ll be staying,” James said leading us out of his office to the main reception area.   He showed us the room where the reception would be held.   Then he took us to see the suite.  
Rick was very excited to see the suite.   He told James, “This is really nice.   I can hardly wait!”
James smiled, “It is very nicely appointed.   I’m sure you will enjoy your stay with us.   If everything is satisfactory, we can complete the paperwork and we will be all set for the big day.”
We returned to James’ office where Aunt Hannah signed all the paperwork.   Rick pulled out his checkbook to pay for the reception, “No you don’t young man,” Aunt Hannah said.   “The family is paying for this.   Between your grandparents and your Mom and Dad everything has already been taken care of here.   You just have to show up on time for your wedding!”
Rick smiled, “Oh, I’ll be on time but I’m not sure about Glenn.   He’s the one who gets all flustered about things.”
“Rick’s right, I do get all in a tizzy sometimes.   Rick always tells me to calm down and not to panic,” I said laughing at myself.
Uncle Carl laughed with me, “Glenn, you so remind me of your Grandma sometimes.   She was very much the same way and Grandpa was always the calm one.”
“We need to go over and visit with Grandma today, Rick.   How is she doing?” I asked.
Uncle Carl replied, “She’s doing fine.   She has finally gotten used to being in the care center or at least that is what she says.   She’s needs full time nursing care now.   She lived with us for a couple of months until it got to be more than we could handle.”
“Mom told me that you had to put Grandma in a full time care facility.   I have talked to Grandma on the phone a few times since then,” I said.
Aunt Hannah said, “They are still trying to get the infection in her foot under control.   They went in a couple of days ago and scraped the bone to remove the infection.   She has already told them she won’t let them amputate her foot if they can’t get the infection under control.   She said she doesn’t want to be like her mother-in-law who lost both of her legs before the end and the infection still killed her after all the suffering that was inflicted upon her.   She says she wants to go to her grave with all her limbs intact even if it kills her.”
“Yes, I know that, too.   Grandma was pretty vocal about it when I spoke to her a week ago,” I said.
“Then you know how stubborn she’s being about her treatment,” Uncle Carl said his frustration with his mother showing in his voice.
“Yes, Mom has told me how she refuses to do what the doctors are telling her to do,” I replied.
Aunt Hannah changed the subject, “Let’s go grab something for lunch.   I know of a nice deli close to here.”
Rick agreed, “I’m starving!”
We left the Stratford Whitehouse and followed Aunt Hannah’s directions to the deli a few kilometers away.    After a nice lunch, we got back on the road and returned to St. Catharines.   When we arrived back at the house, we dropped off Uncle Carl and Aunt Hannah and drove over to the care center to visit my grandmother.
We stopped at the receptionist’s desk to inquire about which room she was in.   The receptionist directed us to the lounge instead, “All of the residents are in the lounge area for a special musical program today,” she said.
As we entered the lounge, I saw Grandma sitting towards the back talking with her neighbors.   We walked over to her, “Hello, Grandma,” I said bending down to give her a hug and a kiss on the cheek.
“Hello, Glenn,” she said.    She motioned for me to sit next to her.   “Rick, come here and give this old lady a hug,” she demanded looking up at Rick with a smile.
Rick did as she asked.   She motioned for him to set next to me.   “I’m glad you stopped in to see me.   I was afraid you wouldn’t make it today when Hannah said you were going out to Stratford to see the reception center.”
“We made it out and back in good time, Grandma,” I said.   “The center is beautiful and we’re excited about having the reception there.”
“Have you sent out any invitations?” she asked.
“No, we didn’t plan to send any out, Grandma,” I responded.
“You should, dear child.   There are still many of our friends and family here who would love to come see you get married,” she said.
Rick said, “We’ll look into it for you, Grandma.”
“Glenn, why can’t you be sensible like your future husband?   I knew I liked you for a reason, Rick.   You’ve chosen well, Glenn.   I’m very excited for the wedding.   They tell me I have to behave myself or I won’t get to attend the wedding,” Grandma said with a wicked smile.
“What do they mean by “behave yourself” Grandma?” I asked.
“That means taking all of my medications and getting the infection in my foot under control,” Grandma replied.   “I hate taking all of those pills.   Sometimes I just throw them in the garbage instead of taking them.”
“Grandma, you are just being stubborn,” I said laughing at her expression.
“I know but it so much more fun than being the obedient little grandma everyone wants me to be,” she said smiling.
Rick laughed, “You’re so bad, Grandma.   I love it!”
“Rick, don’t encourage her,” I rebuked my sweetheart.   “She’ll be even more rebellious than she is now!”
Grandma smiled, “Don’t worry, Glenn.   I’ll take care of myself so I can be at your wedding but I can’t promise that I’ll do that after the wedding is over.   Hannah has already made arrangements for my transportation to and from the wedding.   Rick, I expect you to take good care of my grandson.”
Rick replied, “I will Grandma.   I promise!”
She continued, “I know you two have had your troubles like every other couple but those are all in the past now.   You must learn to love and care for each other in different ways as you start the next stage of your journey together.   You know you’re going to get a lot of advice from all of us old people.   We’ve seen a thing or two in this world so pay close attention to what we’re saying and apply what wisdom you can from what we tell you.”
“We will, Grandma,” I said leaning over to give her a kiss.   As we finished talking, the scheduled musical group took to the floor to begin the entertainment for the residents of the care center.   We stayed with Grandma through the program.
When it was over, she said, “Thank you for visiting with me.   Come back tomorrow afternoon so we can talk some more.   Right now, I’m tired.   Please push me back to my room.”
Rick stood up and took the handles of the wheelchair while I unlocked the wheels.   We pushed her down the hall to her room.   She shared a room with another lady who was bedridden.    As we entered, Grandma shouted, “Ethel, the program was wonderful!   I’ve brought my two grandsons to visit you for a minute!”   Grandma turned to me, “Ethel can’t hear too well so I have to shout.   Push me over to her bedside."  Grandma reached over and touched Ethel on the shoulder, “Ethel!   I want you to meet Glenn and Rick!”
Ethel finally looked over at us and smiled.   She said, “Nice to meet you.”
Grandma shouted again, “The music was nice, Ethel!”
“That’s good,” she said and turned back to looking out the window.
Grandma said, “Ethel is not doing well.   I don’t think she’ll last out the week.   She has told me several times that it’s her turn to die.   I keep telling her that she can’t die, yet, because I don’t want a new roommate.   I just got used to Ethel.   That’s the sad part of living here.   I just make a good friend and they up and die on you.”
“I’m sorry, Grandma,” I said with tears in my eyes.
“Don’t cry, Glenn.   Crying won’t change the fact that everyone here is old and in poor health.   Just remember, getting old isn’t for sissies!   It’s hard most of the time.   I have to hand it to those folks who come in here and continue to keep a positive attitude.   It’s too easy to get depressed in here,” Grandma observed candidly.   “I know this is the last stop before I pass on so I’ve decided to make the best of it.  Thank you for sharing your love of music and theater with me over the years, Glenn.   I know that your Grandpa appreciated it as well.   You’re a sweet boy,” Grandma said.   “Before I forget, I want you to have the wreath I made for you.”
She rolled her chair past us to her dresser and pulled a cloth wreath out of her top drawer.   “I embroidered the saying on it so you can always remember me when you see it hanging in your home.”
She handed it to me.   It was a piece of white cloth in the center of an embroidery ring trimmed with blue ruffles and white lace.   In the center, she had embroidered the words, “Love Makes Home A Piece Of Heaven On Earth, Love Grandma.”   Next to her name she had embroidered a small house with angels surrounding it.
“I know it’s not much but I wanted to do something extra special for you.   Your Mom will be bringing the quilt I made for you many years ago.   I made a special quilt for each of my grandchildren to be given to them on their wedding day so they would have something of mine in their homes.   I’ve asked your mother to stitch on the wedding date, place and your future husband’s name so it can be displayed at your wedding reception.”
Grandma’s eyes had grown bright with tears as she told me about the quilt.   “Yours will be the last wedding I will be able to witness in this life, Glenn, so you had better make it a good one!   Now, go enjoy yourselves before this old lady breaks down in tears.”
Rick and I hugged her and gave her a kiss on the cheek.   “Thank you, Grandma.   I love you,” I said.  “We’ll be back tomorrow.”
Grandma smiled and nodded her head, “I’ll be here.   Good-bye for now.”
Rick put his arm around my shoulders as we left the care center.   He reached over with his other hand and wiped away the tears that had started to roll down my cheeks.   “It’s okay, sweetheart.   Grandma isn’t going anywhere any time soon.”
I held tightly to the wreath she had given us.   “I want this to be in the foyer of our new home where everyone will see it as they come in the door,” I said.
“Okay, Babe.   We’ll have to make sure we decorate the entry way so it will look nice there,” Rick said.
We drove home in silence.   When we arrived, we went into the kitchen to show Aunt Hannah what Grandma had given us.   “She showed that to me last week and asked me to help her finish it,” Aunt Hannah said.   “Grandma did all the needlework and I used the glue gun to glue on the ruffle and lace around the edges.   You are very special to her, Glenn.   She has said that she is hanging on just to see you get married.   The doctors had told us that she had only a few weeks to live because of the severe infection in her foot.   They were very surprised by the turn around in her condition a few weeks ago when the wound on her foot began to heal.   She told them she had only one reason to go on living and that is to see her grandson get married to his sweetheart.   She asked me to pick this up for her at the hobby shop after that.   Since then, she has spent most of her time the last few weeks working on it so it could be finished in time for your wedding.”
Uncle Carl came in from outside and joined our little gathering around the kitchen table.   “I see Grandma gave you her wedding gift,” he said smiling.   “She was so worried she wouldn’t be able to finish it before the wedding.   She’s done nothing but talk about the wedding since you announced your engagement.”
Rick took my hand in his, “Your Grandma is very special, Glenn.   I’m glad we went to see her today.”
“So am I,” I replied trying to keep control of my emotions.
Rick stood up and pulled me to my feet.   “If you will excuse us, we have some homework to complete for tomorrow’s meeting.”
Aunt Hannah smiled at us, “Sure.   Dinner will be ready in about an hour.   I’ll send Uncle Carl for you when it’s done.”
We retired to our room where Rick stripped us both out of our clothes and pushed me down on the bed.   He had that wicked grin on his face that sets my heart racing every time!   “I hope you’re ready for the ride of your life!”
I tried to roll away as he pounced on me but he managed to flip me on my back and pinned my arms above my head as he straddled my hips, “Where did you think you were going?”
I smiled up at him.   Instead of answering his question, I said, “My!  What big eyes you have, Grandma.”
Rick bent down and started to nibble at my neck.   I said, “My!  What big teeth you have, Grandma.”
With that comment, Rick gently bit my earlobe.   Rick was being completely merciless as he continued to plant little gentle kisses all over my neck and face before he started working his way down my body.   My mind and body went wild with desire for this beautiful man who was soon to be my husband.
                                ****                         
Later, we heard Uncle Carl gently knock on the door.   “Can I come in boys?”
“Just a minute, Uncle Carl,” I said as Rick pulled on his shorts and I pulled on mine.
Rick crossed the floor and opened the door.   Uncle Carl gave us a knowing smile, “I glad you two are keeping each other happy.   I suggest you two take a quick shower and I will tell Aunt Hannah that you’ll be out shortly.”
Rick said, “Thanks, Uncle Carl.   We’ll be there as quickly as possible.”   Rick grabbed his toiletries and took me by the hand and led me to the shower.   A few minutes later, we sat down for dinner.
After dinner, we spent the rest of the evening in our room working on our homework assignments.   We did the budget first since that seemed the easiest.   Once that was done, we started talking about our parenting skills or rather the lack thereof.
“It seems that we both need to take some classes on parenting,” Rick said.
“I agree that we should take some classes.  I know that the education departments at most universities teach classes on how to discipline children, etc., for those who want to become teachers.   We could enroll in some of those kinds of classes but we should talk to our family about how they learned to be parents.  I don’t think they had any special classes back then,” I said.
“True enough.   I think we should ask Grandma tomorrow,” Rick said.
“That’s a good idea, Rick,” I said.
We continued talking about some of the other things Reverend Riegger had mentioned.   It was getting pretty late when we decided to call it a night.   Once we were in bed, I snuggled close to Rick and laid my head on his chest.  I love sleeping this way.   The steady rhythm of his heartbeat lulls me to sleep every time!
The time seemed to fly as we settled into a routine of going for run through Guy Road Park before breakfast then working on our homework from the marriage classes.   We spent every afternoon visiting Grandma.   We became very close to Grandma during the hours we spent together with her every day.   Grandma convinced the staff to let me play the piano for the residents for an hour every afternoon.   Those wonderful afternoons spending time with Rick and my Grandma will always remain bright in my memory.
Soon the day for us to check into the Stratford Whitehouse arrived.   We thanked Aunt Hannah and Uncle Carl for their hospitality and packed our stuff in the Land Rover.   We stopped in Hamilton on our way over to pick up some groceries for our stay in the suite.   When we arrived, James greeted us and led us to the suite and handed us our keys.
“I hope you enjoy your stay,” James said smiling.
We quickly put our clothes away and returned to the Land Rover to bring in the groceries.   As soon as we had put everything away, we went to sit on the balcony to watch other wedding parties taking pictures in the gardens surrounding the center.   I sat quietly observing them when Rick asked, “What are you thinking about?”
“I was just thinking how lucky I am to have found you,” I replied.
“I was thinking the same thing a few minutes ago.   It’s finally going to happen, Glenn.  The wedding is only two days away!” Rick exclaimed excitedly.
I looked over at my lover boy and grinned at him.   “I’m sure it’s going to happen because it’s my “happy ever after” fairy tale.   I’ve felt that way from the moment you first kissed me.   I remember thinking this is just like in the fairy tales when Prince Charming kisses the princess and they live happily ever after only it's really happening to me.”
Rick smiled and took my hand, “But I really am Prince Charming and you are my prince and we are going to live happily ever after.”
There was a knock on the door.   I looked at Rick to see if he knew who it might be.   He shrugged his shoulders and stood to answer the door.   I followed him back inside.   He opened the door to find my parents standing there.
Mom rushed in and pulled Rick into a hug, “I’m so happy for you both.”  She turned and did the same to me. 
Dad was a little more reserved in his greetings but I could tell he was just as excited about the wedding as Mom.
“Did everyone come with you?” I asked wondering if my siblings had made it into town, yet.
“Yes, the whole family is here in town.   We are all staying just a few kilometers from here.   We stopped to tell you Grandpa has hired a motor coach to take all of us over to St. Catharines from here so you don’t have to worry about anyone being late for the wedding,” Mom said laughing at my surprised expression.
She continued, “You shouldn’t be so surprised!   You know that Grandpa always thinks of everything.   When I told him I was a little concerned about the distance between the reception center and the church, Grandpa said he’d think about it and get back to me.   The next thing I knew he had it all worked out and told me he had hired a coach to take everyone to the church.”
Dad said, “You have to admit, Glenn, your Grandpa knows how to manage things.”
“You’re right, Dad, Grandpa seems always to take care of things.   So what time does our stage coach leave in the morning?” I asked.
“We should be leaving here no later than 8 AM so we have plenty of time for everyone to get ready on the other end,” Mom said.
Rick said, “I agree, we need to be on the way by 8 AM.   That means no sleeping in, Glenn!”   I playfully punched Rick in the shoulder for that comment.
“I’m not the one who has trouble getting up in the morning!” I exclaimed as my parents laughed at Rick.
Mom said, “Glenn has always been the early riser in the family.   He would get up and go running before the sun came up, then he’d return home to take a shower and cook breakfast before the rest us of were even thinking of getting out of bed.   So I’m sure he’s not the one that has trouble waking up in the morning!”
Rick grinned, “You got me!   Yes, Glenn still gets up early and goes for a run in the morning.  I’m going to start running with him now that I’m not in the marines anymore.   I’ll need to get the exercise or Glenn will make me fat with all his good cooking!”
“My cooking isn’t the problem.   It’s how much you of it you eat!” I teased Rick as I put my arm around his waist.
“Come in and sit down for a minute,” Rick said moving into the sitting room of the suite.
Dad commented, “Wow!   This is pretty nice.   You have a fireplace and a balcony.   Nice!”   He walked around the rest of the suite.   “This is a very nice suite,” he said approvingly.   He joined Mom on the sofa.
Rick and I sat together on the loveseat.  I snuggled up next to Rick and he put his arm around me.   Rick said, “We picked up our tuxedos this morning and I have the rings here in my pocket so we’re all ready to go.”
Mom said, “Good.   We are going to have the rehearsal here tonight that way we won’t have to spend four hours on the road tonight.   Your Aunt Hannah has everything figured out so we can arrange everything the way it is set up at the church.   Everyone will be here by five o’clock for the rehearsal with dinner at seven.   That gives us two hours to work out any problems.   Is that okay?”
Rick replied, “Yes, it’s more than okay Mom.   I’m glad you have everything under control so that Glenn won’t be worrying about it.”
I nodded my agreement, “I don’t know how I’d be able to function if you and Aunt Hannah weren’t taking care of things.”
Mom smiled, “You’re welcome, son.   Actually, we haven’t had so much fun in some time.”
Dad said, “I can testify to that fact!   You mother hasn’t stopped from the moment you announced your engagement!   She wants this to be the most memorable wedding we’ve ever seen.”
Mom beamed at her husband, “That’s right and thank you for supporting me in making this an occasion to be remembered by all of us.”   She leaned over and gave Dad a kiss on the cheek.
Rick whistled, “Wow, Dad!   You really scored!”
Dad blushed but still managed to reply, “Rick you’ll learn soon enough how to make your spouse happy.   It’s taken me a while but I think I’ve finally figured it out!”
Mom smiled and took Dad’s hand, “Yes, it has taken you a while but I think you’re doing fine now.”
Looking back at us, Mom said, “You two need to relax until you’re needed for the rehearsal.”  
“That’s what we had in mind, Mom,” Rick replied giving my shoulders a squeeze.   “I’m sure that Glenn will find ways to get anxious and worried but I’ve got the magic touch that will keep him calm, cool and collected!”
I looked up at my lover boy and grinned, “Yeah, Mom.   Rick knows all the tricks to keep me from getting nervous.”
Dad laughed, “I’m sure he has Glenn.”   Dad stood up and pulled Mom up with him.   “Come on, dear.   We need to let these two have some time alone.”
Mom laughed and led the way to the door with Dad following directly behind her.   She turned at the door and said, “Rick don’t leave any marks on Glenn.   We don’t want to have to retouch the wedding pictures!”
With that, they opened the door and left us to relax!
“Was that really your mother who said that?” Rick said laughing and leaning over to kiss me.
“Yes, that was my mother who said it.   Remember don’t mark me, Mr. Lernier, at least not before the wedding or I’ll have to tell my Mom on you!”
“We wouldn’t want that would we?” Rick grinned from ear to ear and proceeded to mark me…..just not on my neck!
                                                                                ****
 Rick’s strategy for keeping me from getting too uptight given the upcoming events was to make love to me!  I have to admit that it worked!   I didn’t have time to worry because he kept me very busy!   Everyone should be as blessed as I am to have a wonderful fiancée who understands me and knows what to do to calm me down.
We were showered and dressed as five o’clock arrived.   I gave Rick one last kiss before we opened the door to the suite and headed over to the banquet room where Mom and Aunt Hannah had arranged the furniture so as to imitate the church.  
Mom said, “Stay right there you two.   We aren’t quite ready for you, yet.”
We looked around the room to find the entire family already seated as if they were at the church.   I was so happy.   All my family from western Canada had made the trip down east to be here with us.   The Ontario branch of the family was also here except my cousin, John, and his family which didn’t surprise me.   The last time Rick and I were in the same room with John, Rick decked him and told him never to come around us ever, again.   I’ve never seen Rick as angry with anyone as he was with John.     
I put my arm around Rick’s waist and looked up at him, I said, smiling, “Everyone is here.”
Rick responded, “Yes, everyone is here.   Keith and Kerry made it with Joe and Katie.   Mom’s family is all here from Georgia and North Carolina, too.”
“They all love you, Rick, just like I do.   You’re the best fiancée I’ve ever had,” I said giving Rick a quick kiss.
Rick laughed, “I’m the “only” fiancée you’ve ever had, Glenn!”
We waited near the doorway until Mom signaled that she ready for us.   “First, Keith and Randy will come down the aisle with Keith on the right and Randy on the left.   As the best men, they will take up their respective places on either side of the altar.   Next, Rick will be escorted in by Grandpa.   Grandpa will escort him to the right side of the altar.  After the music comes to an end, the next set of processional music will begin and Glenn will come in escorted by his Dad to the left side of the altar.   Uncle Carl will play the part of Reverend Riegger.”
With that, Mom indicated that the music should begin.   With the first notes of the processional music ringing out, the audience stood up and turned to watch as Rick and I were escorted down the aisle to the altar (the altar was a table with a bible on it!).   Uncle Carl stood behind the altar.   When Rick and I were in place, Egan came up the aisle by himself holding a pillow where my ring would be placed.   He was skipping up the aisle displaying for everyone his excitement at being the ring bearer.   When Egan reached the front, he took his place to the right of Rick.   I looked over at him and smiled giving him a quick wink.   My nephew, Jack, was next to come down the aisle carrying a small pillow where Rick’s ring would be placed.   He walked calmly down the aisle and came and stood next to me.   He looked up at me with a grin.   Jack had grown a lot since we saw him last.   Of course, at age 10, he had started gaining height.
When we were all in our places, the music stopped and Uncle Carl said, “Welcome everyone to our wedding rehearsal.   Thank you for coming to help celebrate with us today.”
Mom stepped up, “Now that Carl has done his job, Rick and Glenn will exchange rings and then the married couple will lead the rest of us out of the church.”  
The music started again and we did everything in reverse.   Before anyone could leave their seats, Mom said, “Let’s give it one more try just to make sure everyone knows what to do.”
After we had completed everything to Mom’s satisfaction, we followed her lead into the adjoining hall where a dinner was waiting for us.   We found our seats and the wait staff began serving our meal.   Mom, Dad, Katie, Joe, Grandpa, Grandma, Keith, Kerry, Randy and Shawn sat at our table.   After we had finished eating, dessert was served.
Keith asked, “Where are you going to go on your honeymoon?”
I looked at Rick who smiled at me and said, “It’s a secret.   I haven’t told Glenn where we’re going.  I want it to be a surprise.   Grandpa will tell you after we’re gone.”
Kerry said, “I bet it’s some place exotic, Glenn.   Keith didn’t tell me where we were going either until we were waiting in line at the airport.”
Randy said, “I’m sure you’ll have a wonderful time no matter where you go for your honeymoon.”
Shawn agreed, “Yes, you will always remember your honeymoon.   Randy took me to Cancun, Mexico, where we toured all of the ancient ruins and spent lots of time on the beach and in the water.”
Grandpa said, “I took your Grandma to Savannah, Georgia, where we explored the surrounding areas including the beach.”
Grandma said, “We had a wonderful time.”
Mom said, “Your Dad took me camping as we took our trip out west after being married here.   We stopped at every provincial park and spent time fishing and boating and enjoying the outdoors.”
“We had a great time doing it, too!” Dad exclaimed.   “Your Mom knows how to cook over a campfire.   We especially enjoyed our canoe trip at Algonquin Park.”
Mom laughed, “Yes, we did.   That was when you fell out of the canoe and I had to help get you back in the canoe without swamping it!”
Dad joined her laughter, “Yes, you showed me up that day as being better coordinated than I am.”
Mom reached over and patted Dad’s hand, “That’s okay, honey.   You more than make up for it in other areas.”
This last made Dad blush.   Boy, I don’t know what has gotten into my Mom but she sure is keeping Dad going today.
We continued talking about the wedding the next day.   After dinner, we wandered around the room talking to everyone.   When we got to Joe and Katie’s table, I was surprised to see Ruth and her new husband, Bryan.   I wasn’t expecting them to come since Ruth still had feelings for me.
Rick was the first to break the awkwardness, “Ruth, I’m glad you and Bryan were able to come.”   He leaned down and gave Ruth a quick kiss on the cheek and then turned to shake Bryan’s hand.
“We wouldn’t have missed it,” Ruth said.   “Bryan and I just returned from a couple of weeks in Europe with his business.   You two should consider spending some time there.   It’s so beautiful.” Ruth said.
Bryan’s smile was a little forced but he managed not to make a scene.   It was obvious that he didn’t like me or Rick.   I shook his hand, “Welcome Bryan.   I’m glad you came,” I said trying to keep things going smoothly.   Bryan pulled his hand back as if it had been on fire.   His disgust showed on his face as I registered his homophobic response to shaking my hand.
I barely contained my anger and managed to turn to Ruth with a smile, “Ruth thank you for coming.”
I gave her a peck on the cheek and a quick hug.   Rick and I both turned to Katie and Joe, “Thank you for everything, Katie and Joe,” Rick said.   “You are very special people to us and I’m glad you could join us for our special day tomorrow.”   Instead of shaking their hands, Rick gave each one a hug and kiss on the cheek.
“You know I feel the same way Rick does,” I said.   “Thank you for being there for us when we’ve needed your support.”
Katie and Joe both had tears in their eyes as they acknowledged our thanks, “It’s been a pleasure to be there for you two fine boys,” Katie said.
Joe nodded his agreement, “We need to thank you for being there for our children, Keith and Kerry and especially for Egan.   Egan just adores his two cousins and talks about you both constantly.”
Rick said, “Well, we think Egan is pretty special, too!”
“We’ll see you in the morning,” I said.   “I’m taking my guy back to our suite to get ready for tomorrow.   Have a good night.”
They all said good night to us and we headed back to our room.   Once the door was closed, Rick pulled me into an embrace, “It’s almost here, sweetheart.”
I looked up at him and smiled, “Yes, it is.   I love you.”
Rick said, “I love you, too.   Let’s retire for the evening so we won’t be so tired tomorrow.”   Rick led me to our bedroom and proceeded to put me to bed and climbed in beside me.   We fell asleep in each other arms.
The next morning found me wrapped in a warm cocoon with Rick’s arms holding me close to him and my head on his chest.   As I started to stir, Rick kissed the top of my head, “Good morning, sweetheart.”
I looked into his eyes and gave him a tender kiss, “Good morning lover boy.”
Rick smiled at me and raised his hand to gently caress my cheek.   “You will always be mine, Glenn.”
I took his hand in mine and kissed it as his fingers meshed with mine.   “Shortly, we’ll be married and we’ll always be together,” I said holding Rick’s gaze.   “I love you, Mr. Lernier.”
We spent a few more minutes enjoying the closeness we felt for each other.   There is nothing like the physical touch of the one person in the whole world who loves you and accepts you for who you are.   I could feel Rick’s love for me radiating from every fiber of his body.   It filled my soul with pure joy.   No wonder I love this guy so much!
Rick murmured against my neck, “Babe, we should get up and get ready to go.   This is our big day.”
“I know.   I just wanted a few more minutes alone with you before starting our day,” I said cupping his face in my hands and kissing him passionately.
Rick said, “Any more kisses like that and we won’t make it to the wedding!   You have to promise to be good at least until after the wedding!”
I laughed my evil laugh and said, “I’ll promise only on the condition that you make endless love to me tonight!”
Rick’s eyes sparkled as he said, “You know that is one condition I will gladly agree to because I fully intend to do just that!”
Rick rolled off of the bed and pulled me with him.   We showered and shaved and got dressed.   We put together another change of clothes as well as our tuxedos and headed outside as the appointed hour had arrived.
I was totally unprepared for the sight that greeted my eyes.   There wasn’t just one but two motor coaches and a stretch limo waiting for us.   Grandpa spotted us and waved us over.
As I approached, Grandpa said, “You two are to ride in the stretch limo with your best men.   The rest of us will be in the two motor coaches.”
“Grandpa, thank you for thinking of everything,” I said giving him a hug.
“You’re welcome, grandson.   It’s my honor and privilege to be able to make your wedding a special one,” Grandpa said.
Rick gave Grandpa a hug and said, “Grandpa, you’re the best.”
“Thank you, Rick.   You two had better climb in so we can be on our way,” Grandpa said.
The chauffer opened the door and we climbed inside to find Keith, Kerry, Egan, Diane, Randy and Shawn already seated comfortably.  Everyone said, “Good morning!”
We took our seats and put on our seat belts.   However, before the limo started moving Egan decided he needed to sit next to us so he quickly undid his seat belt, “I want to sit next to Glenn and Rick,” he said picking up his booster seat and moving it next to Rick who helped Egan get settled, again.
Rick smiled at Egan, “Are you ready to be my ring bearer?”
“Yes, I’m ready.   Are you ready to get married to Glenn?” he asked in return looking at Rick earnestly.
“Yes, I’m ready, Egan,” Rick replied with a grin in my direction.
“Good because my Dad says it’s about time you two got married,” Egan said in all seriousness.
We all laughed at Egan’s statement.   I said, “Yes, your Dad is correct.   It’s about time we got married.”
Rick asked Egan, “Do you want me to tell you a story?”
Egan clapped his hands together with excitement and answered, “Yes, please!”
The rest of the trip to St. Catharines was spent listening to Rick tell stories to Egan.   Rick’s stories are the best!   I laughed just as hard as anyone else at Rick’s storytelling!  
We arrived at the church to find a van waiting with two nurses and my Grandma Nielsen.   While everyone was coming off the motor coaches the nurses were helping Grandma out of the van and into her wheelchair.   Grandma was beaming.   “Hello Rick and Glenn.   I told you I’d make it to your wedding!”
“Yes, you did, Grandma,” I said.   I turned to the nurses, “Thank you for bringing her.”
Mary said, “You’re welcome.   We’re happy to be able to help.”
Susan said, “We wanted to come to see you get married as much as your Grandma did!   Thank you both for coming to visit us every day since you’ve been here.   Your visits have helped all of us at the center.”
Rick said, “I’m glad we took the time to visit with Grandma and to get know everyone at the center.   It has enriched our lives as well.”
 Reverend Riegger came over to us, “Hello Ivy.   How are you doing these days?”
Grandma answered, “I’m fine now that my grandsons are getting married.   Thank you for helping them, Reverend Riegger.”
“You’re welcome.   They are fine men and I’m happy to be the one to perform the wedding ceremony for them.   Shall we go inside and get everything ready?”
Grandma said, “Yes, that would be good.   I don’t want to catch a chill out here.”   Mary pushed Grandma’s wheelchair through the church doorway and into the sanctuary.
Reverend Riegger said, “Ivy’s place is up front on the stand.”
Mary nodded her acknowledgement and proceeded to push Grandma up front.   Susan and Mary sat down next to her.   The rest of the family was filtering into the sanctuary.
Reverend Riegger said, “Now you two need to get changed into your tuxedos.   Come with me.”
We followed him to his office.   He opened a door that led into a private restroom that doubled as a dressing room.   “I’ll leave you two here.   Just close the office door when you’re ready.   You will need to wait in the foyer until the time comes to enter the sanctuary.”
We quickly changed into our white tuxedos.  Rick went over my clothing to make sure everything was in its place and I did the same for him.  
We closed the office door as directed and entered the foyer.  Grandpa, Dad, Keith, Randy, Jack and Egan were all in the foyer.
I looked inside the sanctuary saw that everyone was already seated and waiting for us.   Mom saw me and nodded her head.  
I looked around the foyer to make sure everyone was ready on our end.   Seeing that we were ready, I gave Mom the thumbs up sign and she turned and asked the organist to begin playing the processional music.
As the music began, Keith and Randy entered first.   When they reached the front of the sanctuary, Grandpa and Rick entered the sanctuary and proceeded up the aisle with Egan following in their wake.
As the music ended and the next piece began, Dad and I made our entrance followed by Jack.
We all took our seats and Reverend Riegger stood, “Welcome everyone.   We are gathered together to celebrate the most sacred event in the lives of two wonderful individuals.   Let us begin with a hymn sung by Mary, Eva, Nancy and Cynthia Nielsen."   They sang “All Things Bright and Beautiful.”
Reverend Riegger then lead the congregation in prayer followed by a reading of Psalm 127 by Grandpa Scarborough, “Except the LORD build the house, they labor in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.”
Reverend Riegger stood, “Glenn and Rick please stand.”  
 We stood and took our places in front of Reverend Riegger.   Reverend Riegger began the wedding liturgy:
“Dearly beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God, and in the face of this congregation, to join together these two men in a holy covenant of love and fidelity; Such a covenant shows us the mystical union between God and God’s people and between Christ and his Church;”
“The Holy Scriptures point to the offering and receiving of love as the principle sign of God’s presence; the union of two people in heart, body and soul is intended by God for their mutual joy, for the help and comfort given one another in prosperity and adversity; and that their love may be a source of grace and blessing to all whom they encounter. Today Rick and Glenn wish to commend themselves to each other exclusively and publicly, in making a solemn covenant as a seal and sacrament of their mutual love and devotion. This step has been carefully considered and is not enterprised, nor taken in hand, unadvisedly, lightly, or wantonly, but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly, and in the fear of God.”
Reverend Riegger asked the congregation, “Is there anyone present who knows of a reason why these two may not lawfully marry please declare it now?”
He paused.   Seeing no one raising an objection, he continued, “Rick, wilt thou have this man as thy partner, in the sight of God? Wilt thou love him, comfort him, honor, and keep him in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all others, keep thee only unto him, so long as ye both shall live?”

Rick answered, I will.”
“Glenn, wilt thou have this man as thy partner, in the sight of God? Wilt thou love him, comfort him, honor, and keep him in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all others, keep thee only unto him, so long as ye both shall live?
I answered,” I will.”
Rick said, “I, Rick, take thee, Glenn, as my partner, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part; and thereto I plight thee my troth.”
I said, “I, Glenn, take thee, Rick, as my partner, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part; and thereto I plight thee my troth.”
Rick said, “With this ring I thee wed, with my body I thee worship, and with all my worldly goods I thee endow: In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.”
I said, “With this ring I thee wed, with my body I thee worship, and with all my worldly goods I thee endow: In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.”
Reverend Riegger continued, “Eternal God, Creator and Preserver of all mankind, Giver of all spiritual grace, the Author of everlasting life: Send thy blessing upon these thy servants whom we bless in thy Name; that, as David and Jonathan’s souls were so knit together, so these men may surely perform and keep the vow and covenant betwixt them made, (whereof these rings given and received are a token and pledge), and may ever remain in perfect love and peace together, and live according to thy laws; protect them from all trouble and danger, and bring them, with us, to the heavenly feast of your eternal kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
“Forasmuch as Rick and Glenn have consented together in a holy covenant, and have witnessed the same before God and this company, and thereto have given and pledged their troth either to other, and have declared the same by giving and receiving of a ring, and by joining of hands; I pronounce that they be bound together, In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
“God, the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Ghost, bless, preserve, and keep you; the Lord mercifully with his favor look upon you; and so fill you with all spiritual benediction and grace, that ye may so live together in this life, that in the world to come ye may have life everlasting. Amen.”
Reverend Riegger looked at us and said, “You may kiss your partner.”
Rick put his arms around my waist and gave me a kiss!   We kept kissing while the cameras flashed to record our special moment – our first kiss as a married couple!
He released me and we turned to face our loving family and friends who have supported us over the years.   I am so happy I can’t stop from crying.   I know that seems like an oxymoron but it’s true!
Reverend Riegger said, “I present to you Glenn and Rick.”
We took our seats as Grandma Scarborough pushed Grandma Nielsen’s wheelchair to the center of the dais and opened the Bible to Psalms.   Grandma Scarborough read Psalm 128, “Blessed is every one that feareth the LORD, that walketh in his ways.”
Grandma Scarborough passed the Bible to Grandma Nielsen who read Psalm 67.   May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine on us--so that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations. May the peoples praise you, God; may all the peoples praise you. May the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you rule the peoples with equity and guide the nations of the earth. May the peoples praise you, God; may all the peoples praise you.  The land yields its harvest; God, our God, blesses us. May God bless us still, so that all the ends of the earth will fear Him.”
My grandmothers returned to their places.
Reverend Riegger stood and indicated that we should kneel before the holy table, “Let us pray.   Oh, God of love, thou hast established marriage for the welfare and happiness of mankind.  Thou hast said, “It is not good for man to be alone.”  Now our joys are doubled since the happiness of one is the happiness of the other.   Our burdens now are halved since we share them and divide the load.   Bless Rick as a provider of nourishment and raiment and sustain him in all the exactions and pressures of life.   May his strength be Glenn’s protection, his character Glenn’s boast and his pride, and may Rick so live that Glenn will find in him the haven for which the heart truly longs.”
“Bless Glenn.   Give him a tenderness that will make him great, a deep sense of understanding and a great faith in Thee.   Give him that inner beauty of soul that never fades, that eternal youth that is found in holding fast to the things that never age.”
“Teach them that marriage is not living merely for each other; it is two uniting and joining hands to serve Thee.   Give them a great spiritual purpose in life.   May they seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and the other things shall be added unto them.”
“May they not expect perfection of each other that alone belongs to Thee.   May they minimize each other’s weaknesses, be swift to praise and magnify each other’s points of comeliness and strength, and see each other through a lover’s kind and patient eyes.”
“Now make such assignments to them on the scroll of Thy will as will bless them and develop their characters as they walk together.   Give them enough tears to keep them tender, enough hurts to keep them humane, enough failure to keep their hand clenched tightly in Thine, and enough success to make them sure they walk with God.   May they never take each other’s love for granted, but always experience that breathless wonder that exclaims, “Out of all this world you have chosen me.”
“When life is done and the sun is setting, may they be found then as now still hand in hand, still thanking God for each other.   May they serve Thee happily, faithfully, together, until at last one shall lay the other into the arms of God.   This we ask through Jesus Christ, Great Lover of Our Souls. Amen.”
Reverend Riegger reached forward and took us each by the hand and raised us up.   “You may return to your seats.”
He addressed the congregation, “Thank you for being here to witness this blessed event.   Please wait until the happy couple has left the sanctuary before you greet the newly married couple.”
Reverend Riegger indicated that the ceremony was done and the organist began to play the recessional music.   I took Rick by the hand and we walked down the aisle to the back of the sanctuary and into the foyer followed by our best men – Keith and Randy, the ring bearers – Jack and Egan, and my Dad and Grandpa.
The rest of our family and friends joined us in the foyer to congratulate us.   The photographers and videographers were busy recording everything for us.   I’m grateful they are because I’m so happy and excited that I won’t remember anything except the moment that Rick put the ring on my finger and the moment when were bound together as a couple along with the kiss that followed.
After everyone greeted us, the photographers began organizing us so every family was photographed separately.   Then they took pictures of the entire group in front of the church.   We were photographed with each family, each set of friends, with our parents, grandparents, etc.   I’m sure that enough photos were taken to fill many photo albums (or least several memory cards)!  
Rick said, “We must be the most photographed couple ever by now!”
I laughed, “Probably you’re right.   But Mom and Aunt Hannah wanted to take advantage of the wedding to get as many family photos as possible.   It’s not very often that we can get everyone together in one place.”
The photographers asked us to kiss while we were photographed.   Now, that part I didn’t mind doing!’
They finally indicated that they were finished as were the videographers.   I know everyone was anxious to return to the Stratford Whitehouse where lunch awaited us.  
I think Egan expressed all of our feelings when he said very loudly, “Can we go now!   I’m hungry!”
We all broke out laughing at the young man!   Dad said, “Hear, Hear!!”   Dad’s remark caused even more laughter.  
Grandpa came up and asked, “Are you two ready to depart?”
Rick took me by the hand, “Yes, Grandpa, we are.”
I looked down at our clasped hands noting the ring on Rick’s finger.   I’ve never been as happy as I am at this moment.   I looked up into Rick’s face seeing my joy reflected in his eyes.   Our two hearts had become one.

4 comments:

  1. Bob from IndianaJuly 7, 2012 at 1:50 AM

    Thank you Russ for such an awesome chapter. I'm glad it's finally happened. I don't know when I've been so happy or cried like I did. It was beautiful.

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  2. Yes, it was beautiful, though I was sorry that the folks from Minnesota weren't there.

    George

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  3. I'm glad to have this opportunity to witness the great works of one Russ Neilsen's penmanship!
    The actual ceremony brought a happy smile and a teary face as I felt I was there with you all witnessing this fine 'union' of two great people!

    Geno

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  4. The Minnesota 'Band of Brothers' especially Greg and Cory not present or invited? Tyler & Jeff? Peyton & Jonathan? Russ, really? Sheesh!

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