A story of the joys and challenges of gay parents raising a family
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
The Lernier Family Chapter Five - Reconciliation
The Lernier Family Chapter 5 - Reconciliation
Rick led me to the waiting stretch limo where the chauffer waited to open the door for us.Our best men and their families soon joined us as Grandpa directed them to their places.I smiled as I heard Grandpa giving orders to everyone including the nursing staff that accompanied Grandma Nielsen.
Rick laughed and turned to whisper in my ear, “That’s typical for Grandpa.”
I nodded my head in agreement and turned my face to him.Rick took the opportunity to give me a quick kiss which drew a couple of whistles from the guys.
Egan asked his dad, “What are you whistling about?”
I laughed as Keith stumbled over his answer.Kerry joined in my laughter before coming to his rescue, “Son, your dad was whistling at Rick and Glenn because they were kissing.”
“Why don’t you whistle every time they kiss?You haven’t whistled before when they kiss,” Egan stated in all seriousness.
Keith answered, “It’s because they just got married today.We're teasing them about being newlyweds who are so much in love with each other they can’t help but show it by kissing each other.”
Egan looked at Rick and said, “Now you can be the official family storyteller since your Glenn’s husband.”
Rick smiled and agreed, “Yes, Egan, I’m now the official family storyteller.Do you want to hear one of my stories?”
Egan clapped his hands together in his excitement, “Yes, please!”
Rick began one of Egan’s favorite stories as we all listened.
It wasn’t long before my mind wandered as I recalled the changes that had come about in our relationship over the last few weeks.We have drawn closer together and are more united in our thinking.I remembered the series of events that seemed to be the catalyst for some these changes:
Rick and I were welcomed by Reverend Riegger as we entered his office for our second discussion.Rev. Riegger asked, “Did you boys finish your homework assignments?”
Rick answered, “Yes, we did.Here is our completed budget and we wrote down some of our ideas about raising a family.”
Rev. Riegger looked over our budget and nodded his approval, “Very well done.Now let’s have a look at your notes on raising a family.”
He read over our notes and then said, “Before we go any further with this discussion, we need to cover a few things to establish a good foundation for starting a family.First and foremost, your relationship must be one of co-equals.In other words, each spouse has equal responsibility to maintain a loving relationship.I’ve counseled with many couples where one or the other dominates the relationship. This is not right.Marriage is not about who has control of the other or who has to have the last word.Unfortunately, there is a tendency in many marriages for one or the other to exercise what I call unrighteous dominion.
“What is unrighteous dominion?It is when one spouse dominates the other and seeks to demean or denigrate their partner.Exercising unrighteous dominion can follow many patterns.It may be relatively mild when expressed as criticism, anger, or feelings of severe frustration with your partner.In more extreme cases, it may emerge as verbal, physical or emotional abuse.It often results in autocratic and often capricious demands for complete obedience to their commands.Eventually, they begin to look upon their spouse as someone whose sole purpose in life is to serve them.
Marriage is not an institution created for enforced slavery of one spouse to the other.Too often, couples enter into their marriages with blinders on.They refuse to see that their partner is only seeking to use and abuse them and is using the bonds of matrimony as an excuse for their unacceptable behavior.
I want to make sure that you both have a very good understanding that marriage is a sacred contract between two co-equals who will jointly rule over their home and family.Rick, you and Glenn should counsel together regarding every decision; honoring and respecting each other as you weigh the pros and cons.You need to establish decision-making patterns that will lead to joint decisions that you both can agree to uphold and implement.
This principle of counseling together will become the foundation for raising your family.As problems present themselves over the years, you will learn that when you counsel together as a couple it will draw you closer together and will give your children confidence that all family decisions are made in a fair and equitable manner. “
Rev. Riegger stopped for moment and looked each of us in the eyes, “Do you have a relationship of co-equals or do you have one where one dominates the other?”
Rick responded, “We work together as equals, Rev. Riegger.”
I nodded my agreement, “Yes, we treat each other as equals.Rick is always respectful of me and looks out for my best interests.I try to do the same for him.Our relationship is based on walking side by side, hand in hand through life helping each other as we go.We love each other and honor each other.”
Rev. Riegger smiled, “From what I’ve observed, I agree with you that you have a good relationship based on trust.However, if at any time, should your relationship change and become one of unrighteous dominion, do your best to work through your problems and return your relationship to the firm foundation it needs to have in order to be a loving and healthy one where each spouse is treated with respect, dignity, love and courtesy that true equals enjoy.”
I took Rick hand in mine, “Rick is my ideal husband.He loves me for who I am and makes me a better person when he’s with me.”
Rick smiled at me, “Glenn is the perfect life partner.He completes me in so many ways.I can’t imagine life without him.”
Rev. Riegger said, “Good.Now I want to briefly review what we talked about last time.Have each of you looked deep inside yourselves to determine that you love who and what you see in the mirror every morning?”
Rick replied, “I have, Rev. Riegger.I’ve given a lot of thought to forgiving my family for what they’ve done to me.I realize that I need to do that so I can dedicate myself to truly loving Glenn.I’ve wasted too much time and energy on it already!I want to use that time and energy to build a strong family unit that withstand anything that is thrown at us.”
I said, “I’ve done the same.For me, the challenge is to forgive my cousin, John, for what he did to me when I was 12 years old.I’ve held on to the anger and hatred I feel towards him for a long time now.I can see how it has warped my own self-image.For me to be able to love Rick completely and without reservation, I’ve got to let my bitterness go and learn to forgive not only John but myself for what happened.I’ve talked it over with Rick and we want to ask your assistance in resolving the bitter feelings that have come between Rick and I and John’s family.”
Reverend Riegger looked a little puzzled, “How can I help?”
Rick replied, “Would you be willing to act as a disinterested third party to help us talk through the family issues we have?”
“Yes, I’m willing to help.We can set up a family meeting here in my office.Who do you want to invite to meet us here?” he asked.
I said, “My Aunt Sylvia and Uncle Gordon and their son, John, and his wife.”
Reverend Riegger said, “Yes, I remember your Aunt Sylvia and Uncle Gordon very well.I married them here in this church just like I did your parents, Glenn.I would be honored to help you work through the problems you have.I will need more information about what happened between you all in order to help in the best way possible.”
Rick and I related what had happened that caused Aunt Sylvia to be so upset at us.I also related the events that occurred between me and John.
Reverend Riegger expression showed how upset he was hearing about what had happened to me.“I’m glad to see that you’ve finally been able to come to terms with what happened and are trying to complete the healing process.By talking to John and his family, it will help them heal as well.I will be very happy to help you set up this meeting.”
We set a date and Reverend Riegger made a couple of phone calls to request that Aunt Sylvia and Uncle Gordon meet with him as well as John and his wife, Vicky.They all agreed to come.
Rev. Riegger said, “Now that we’ve got that taken care of, let’s continue our discussions.You’ve both made good progress towards freeing yourselves of the things that will prevent you from devoting your entire being to ensuring the happiness of your spouse.Let’s move on to the subject of raising a family.Have you decided who will be the main caregiver when you bring children into your family?”
“I will be,” I said.“I really want to have children and to be able to care for them.I’ve wanted to adopt for some time now but we weren’t ready.”
Rick smiled, “Yes, Glenn has been pretty open with me about wanting to raise a family.I also want to have children so we’ve agreed to start the adoption process as soon as we return from our honeymoon.”
Rev. Riegger replied, “That’s wonderful!I’m very excited to see the two of you formalize your relationship and begin a family.Have you discussed how you plan to discipline your children?”
I said, “Yes, but there are so many different ideas about how to discipline your child.We are very confused as to which approach to take or who to even ask.”
“Well, the best source of advice is your own parents.They will be honest with you and will provide a good sounding board for your ideas.You will need to be aware of the laws regarding children where you live.Many jurisdictions have laws on the books prohibiting corporeal punishment.The best advice I can give you is to love your children unconditionally.They may break your heart but you will always love them.Remember that each child is unique and will require a very individualized approach to teach them correct principles.Of course, you will have each other to help keep things running smoothly.
Given that Glenn will be the main caregiver. Rick you will need to make an extra effort to praise Glenn for his efforts at home.Take the children out for ice cream or play games with them so that Glenn can have a break.He will be just as exhausted as you will be from a full day’s work.Pamper each other.Make sure to share every burden and that includes the housework!Don’t forget to take time to keep the romance alive in your relationship.”
Reverend Riegger then began the religious instruction.I looked at Rick to make sure he was okay with the direction the conversation was going.Rick seemed interested to hear what Reverend Riegger was explaining using verses from the Bible.I relaxed a little knowing that Rick wasn’t uncomfortable talking about religion.I turned my attention what the reverend was saying.
After about an hour of instruction, Reverend Riegger asked, “Do you have a Bible?”
Rick responded, “No, we don’t.Since the incident with my family, I’ve been pretty hostile towards any kind of religious discussions let alone have religious articles in my home.”
“Would you accept a new Bible as a wedding present from me to you?” he asked.
I looked over at Rick, not daring to speak.We’ve had some pretty heated discussions about religion so I wasn’t about to accept it unless Rick made the first move.
Rick looked at me and I just shrugged my shoulders, “It’s up to you, Babe.I know how you feel about things so I’m leaving it up to you to decide whether or not to accept it.”
Rick thought for a moment, “Okay, I’ll agree to it as long as you don’t give me grief about having some kind of Bible study with you.I’m not into religion and don’t want to have the hassle of dealing with an organized religion.”
I said, “I won’t try to have you study the Bible with me unless you volunteer to do it on your own.”I looked over at the reverend, “We’ve been approached about Bible study by several groups of people and we’ve had to be pretty blunt about not wanting anything to do with their religion.”
“I understand,” Rev. Riegger said.He got up and went over to the cabinet behind his desk.He opened it and pulled out a beautiful, leather-bound copy of the Bible.Inscribed on the cover were these words, “The Lernier Family Bible.”He opened the front cover to the page where he had recorded our names and our future marriage date.“Of course, the marriage date hasn’t come to pass, yet, but it will.I want you to have this Bible to serve as reminder of the discussions we’ve had.
I’ve taken the liberty to place bookmarks on some key chapters you should read together this evening as your homework assignment.It’s very important that you two discuss your religious views.You will need to reconcile those views so that neither one feels obligated to sacrifice his religious views to make the other happy.Religion is a very personal thing.Each of us has to determine where we stand in relationship to our Creator.
Glenn, you will need to be very patient with Rick.I know that you have a desire to have religion as a part of your life.You must remember that Rick has his own free will and choice to not have any religion or religious beliefs.The two of you need to decide how you will raise your children:with or without organized religion in addition to providing religious instruction at home if that is what you both desire.Remember that you need to counsel together.This is not about sacrificing your beliefs to make your spouse happy.It’s about establishing a framework for working together.Just like the work you did on your budget to establish a method for handling your finances, you need to agree on an approach to religion that will make you both happy.”
I looked at Rick, “I’m sure we’ll have some pretty long discussions about religion before we done.”
Rick responded, “What do you mean we’re “going” to have discussions?We’ve already had some intense discussions about it!”
I winced at Rick’s response to my statement, “I agree that we’ve had some heated exchanges about religion already.It’s something we’ll have to work on, okay, sweetheart.”
Rick seemed to mellow a little bit, “As long as you don’t jam it down my throat.”
“I promise to be circumspect in how I address the subject, okay?”
Rick finally smiled, “Okay.”
Reverend Riegger smiled at us and said, “I think I’ve given you enough to talk about tonight.We’ll see you next Tuesday for our next session.Dare I ask you to attend services with us this coming Sunday?”
He looked directly at Rick who said, “Sure, I don’t mind coming to services here.I know that you have a congregation that won’t judge us for loving each other.”
“That is correct.We accept everyone here.I will look forward to seeing you on Sunday then,” he said.
We shook hands and left his office.As we got in the car, I asked, “Are you really okay with going to church here?”
Rick shrugged his shoulders, “Yeah, I guess it won’t hurt to come at least one Sunday.”
“Thank you for agreeing to go to church.I know how uncomfortable you feel about it,” I said.
“Anything for you, Babe,” Rick said with his usual broad grin as he started the car and we headed back to Aunt Hannah and Uncle Carl’s home.
Rick and I had some very long and very intense discussions about religion over the next few days.We read the passages from the Bible the reverend had marked for us.In the end, we decided that we had very similar beliefs as far as doctrines go but where we differed was on the degree of participation we wanted with an organized church.We finally agreed that going to a church would have to wait but that we could study the Bible together as a family if we both agreed to it at a later date.
The following Tuesday we met with Reverend Riegger for the next class and were surprised to see Aunt Sylvia, Uncle Gordon, John and Vicky sitting in his office when he opened the door to let us in.
I quickly recovered from my surprise and managed to greet them with a smile, “I’m glad you came everyone.”I went over and shook their hands and took a seat next to Rick who hadn’t attempted to address them.
Reverend Riegger looked at me and said, “Thank you everyone for coming.I apologize for not letting you know that everyone would be here tonight, Rick and Glenn.After our meeting last week, I called them back and rearranged our meeting to take place tonight.”
He paused before continuing, “I’m aware of the circumstances that have given rise to the division that exists between you. I want to begin by reminding everyone to be civil and to let each person finish speaking before we interrupt or try to interject our own thoughts and feelings into the conversation.Is everyone clear about the ground rules?”
We all nodded our heads.Rev. Riegger turned to Rick first, “Rick, I believe that you should go first.”
Rick looked kind of stunned.We hadn’t really talked about how this conversation was going to take place.After a moment, he said, “Mr. and Mrs. Ridgely, I must apologize for the poor behavior I exhibited at your home the last time I saw you.I shouldn’t have reacted to what John said in such a violent way.”
I looked over at my aunt and uncle.Uncle Gordon nodded his head, “I accept your apology.”
However, my aunt sat with her arms crossed and a scowl on her face.I knew it was going to be tough to get her to listen to us.
Rick then looked at John, “I’m sorry I decked you, John.”
John, who had been looking at his feet, looked up at Rick and said, “I’m sorry that I made the remarks I did about you Glenn.Rick had every right to put me in my place.Before we go any further, I need to clear something up for my parents.I’ve already talked to Vicky and we agree that now is the time for me to come clean about what happened between me and Glenn.”
He recounted what he’d done and looked over at his mother, “Mother, I’m sorry I’ve caused you so much pain by telling you this.I know what I did was wrong and all I can do now is ask that Glenn forgive me.I can’t give him back what I took from him but I can try to help make things better by helping you to understand that Glenn and Rick are wonderful people and that you shouldn’t harbor any ill feelings towards them.”
By this time, tears were rolling down my face.I was holding onto Rick’s hand trying to get control of my emotions.After a few minutes of silence, I was able to say, “I’ve already forgiven you, John.I don’t know if we can ever be close but I want you to know that I want you to have the best of everything.”I stopped speaking because of the strong emotions I was feeling.“Vicky, I want you to know that John needs you to love him unconditionally so that he can heal from this experience.More than anything, he needs to learn to forgive himself for what he’s done.It’s taken me a long time to realize that carrying around the bitterness and hurt was damaging me more than it was anyone else.Rick has been the catalyst that has motivated me to become a better person and to learn to forgive.His love for me has given me the strength to change.I know that your love for John will help him to become a whole person, again.”
Vicky said, “Thank you, Glenn.I do know that John will need me to help him overcome this obstacle.When he told me about what he had done, I encouraged him to come clean with everyone and especially with you.I knew that something had been haunting him since we first met.We’ve been married for three years now and I’m glad that we finally have no secrets between us.It’s been hard for me to accept that the one I love could be capable of doing something so cruel and malicious.I know that John is a good man and that he will become an even better one now that he can move on and leave this behind him.”
My aunt finally broke down and started to cry.It had finally hit her that her darling son had done what she had tried to deny as even a possibility.Uncle Gordon handed her his handkerchief which she took and dabbed at her face.
She looked across the room at me, “I’m sorry, Glenn, for not believing you.I won’t try to excuse my behavior but the enormity of what happened between you and John while we were away with your parents is so overwhelming to me.I feel like I’ve failed my son somehow.That somewhere along the way, we didn’t teach him properly or that something we did brought this out in him.”
Reverend Riegger said, “Sylvia, there is nothing that you could have done to change things.I’ve seen how you and Gordon have raised your children from the moment you brought your first child home from the hospital.”
John spoke up then, “Mother, it’s not your fault nor is Dad’s fault that I did what I did.I’m responsible for what happened.I knew what I was doing and unfortunately, I was too stupid to grasp the consequences of what I was doing.I’m just grateful that Glenn’s life hasn’t been completely ruined by my selfish desires.I hope that you and Dad can forgive me for what I’ve done.I know that I’ve disappointed you and hurt you.”
Aunt Sylvia said, “I’ve already forgiven you, son.I’m just trying to adjust to the fact that it really happened and that everything has finally been brought to closure here in this office.I agree that we need to mend rifts we’ve made in the family.I will be the first to call your parents, Glenn, and apologize to them.I behaved very badly towards them when they were completely innocent of any wrongdoing.”
Rick said, “We’d be honored to have you all attend our wedding.I know Grandma Nielsen wants us to have a family photo taken with everyone in it.Will you come?”
Aunt Sylvia smiled at last, “Yes, we’ll come.Thank you for putting up with the stubborn old fool I’ve been about this whole situation.”
Rick responded, “Not a problem.I understand that stubbornness runs in the family.”He put his arm around my shoulders as he smiled at me.
Everyone in the room laughed.Aunt Sylvia said, “That’s true enough.Gordon can attest to that fact!”
Her husband wisely said nothing but nodded his head!Uncle Gordon said, “I’m craving some ice cream.Is anyone up for going out for an ice cream cone?”
I laughed, “Some things never change, Rick.Uncle Gordon has always loved his ice cream.He used to take us to the local ice cream shop every time we came to visit.”
“That’s true still.Let’s go,” Uncle Gordon said standing up.Reverend Riegger stood also and shook his hand.“Thank you, Reverend, for helping us get this situation resolved.”
“You’re welcome, Gordon.I look forward to seeing you, again, at the wedding,” he said.
The rest of us said our good-byes to the reverend.Rick and I hung back after the rest had left.I went over and gave Reverend Riegger a hug.“I can’t thank you enough for helping me tonight.”
“You’re most welcome.I didn’t do anything special.You, young man, are the one who did all the hard work and made it possible for us to arrive at a happy ending,” Rev. Riegger said with a smile.“Rick, you had better appreciate the wonderful man you have chosen as your mate.”
Rick smiled as he put his arm around my waist and pulled me close to him, “I agree I managed to get the best guy to be my forever friend.I definitely hit the lottery when I found Glenn!”
With that, we left the Reverend in his office and followed the rest of my family out of the church.The ice cream was great and I felt so free.I hadn’t realized just how liberating it would be to forgive John and to make amends with his family.I wouldn’t have to worry about avoiding him anymore and I could put those terrible memories into their final resting place never to torment me, again!And best of all, I had the love of my life sitting beside me just holding my hand and sharing his love with me.
I was brought back to the present as the limo came to a stop in front of the Stratford Whitehouse.Rick had finished his storytelling and the rest of our party was anxious to exit the car.Rick looked over at me with a wide grin, “We’re finally here!”
“Yes, we are, beloved,” I replied.Rick leaned over and kissed me.
“I love it when you call me your beloved,” he said.He tenderly stroked my cheek with his hand.“You’re so amazing.I’m glad you agreed to marry me.”
I looked into his eyes and saw his love for me reflected there.It sent a thrill up my spine to know that I’d found Mr. Right to be my husband.
We were interrupted by a very anxious young man.Egan said, “Come on, Rick and Glenn.It’s time to go eat!”
We laughed at our precious little cousin as we climbed out of the limo.We each took a hand and guided Egan inside to the waiting feast that adorned the long buffet tables.Egan’s eyes grew as big as saucers when he saw all the food, especially the large variety of cakes, cookies and sweets.
“That’s amazing!” he exclaimed.
Yes, Egan life is truly amazing I thought to myself as we helped him with his plate.
I hope you enjoyed this chapter. Comments are welcome.