Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Lernier Family - Chapter Forty Seven - Jeff and Cole's Wedding

Chapter Forty Seven – Jeff and Cole’s Wedding

The morning after Dad’s funeral, I lay in Rick’s arms, enjoying the warmth of his body against mine.  A cold draft touched my bare skin, causing me to snuggle closer to him.  His arms automatically tightened around me.  I wasn’t sure if he was awake, since he often holds me tight during the night.  I’ve often joked with him about being my protector, even in his sleep!  He just smiles at me and pulls me into his arms with the comment, “That’s part of my job description, along with being wild and sexy!”  I moved my head, so my ear was resting over his heart.  I listened to the steady rhythm of his heartbeat, letting it comfort me even as my mind went back over yesterday’s events.

*** ***

For most of the day, I had held it together pretty well.  I felt I had to be strong for Mom, by staying calm and not letting my emotions come to the surface.  Then, I started to give the family prayer.  I still don’t know why Mom picked me to give the family prayer.  She knows how I feel about organized religion; but, I guess she knows I still have faith in God.  Whatever the reason, she made it clear she wanted me to give the family prayer, and NOT my oldest brother, Gary.  I wasn’t about to argue with her, and neither was Gary.  So, I started to give the prayer I had written; but, about half way through it, I lost it.  I couldn’t stop crying.  I can’t explain why I felt so much grief at that particular moment in time; but, I did.  Rick comforted me, putting his arms around me and holding me tight, as I struggled to regain enough control to continue.  After what seemed an eternity, I managed to finish the prayer I had memorized in Dad’s honor, with my voice thick with tears.

Up until that moment, I hadn’t really felt any grief at Dad’s passing.  Not that I didn’t have those feelings; but, it was like I had put myself into a cocoon, to protect myself from my emotions.  As I said the family prayer, that cocoon all but disappeared, and my pent up emotions came flooding out – quite literally!  I soaked Rick’s shirt with my tears, as the rest of family returned to their seats, and Reverend Mallory signaled for the doors of the sanctuary to be opened, permitting those waiting in the foyer to join us.  I stayed in the circle of Rick’s loving arms, until the twins pulled on my arm.  I looked down into their eyes, seeing their worried expressions.  I knelt down, pulling them into my embrace.

JJ asked, “Are you okay, Daddy?”

I tried to smile, and said, reassuringly, “Yes, I’m okay, now you and Josh are here.”

Josh said, “Dad said we always make you happy, Daddy.”

I glanced up at Rick, giving him a grateful smile.  “Your Dad is right.  You two always make me happy.”

Rick put his hand on my shoulder, giving it a gentle squeeze, and said, “We need to find our seats, babe.  Reverend Mallory is about to start the service.”

Rick bent down to pick up Josh, while I carried JJ in my arms.  Rick led us to our places with the rest of the family.

*** ***

My thoughts were brought back to the present, when I felt Rick’s fingers playing in my hair.  He nuzzled my hair with his lips, and said, “Babe, I know you’re awake.  What are you thinking about?”

I raised my head from his chest, meeting his brilliant blue eyes.  “I was thinking about Dad’s funeral.”

He put his hand to my face, brushing my hair out of my face.  “Are you okay?”

“Yes, I’m okay.  I was just thinking how much I’ll miss him.  I didn’t think I would,” I said.

“Why did you think that?” Rick asked, puzzled.  “I thought you had made your peace with him.”

 “I did, to a point.  However, you know how hard he was pushing us to move back to the farm, just before he died,” I said, pointedly.  “He even started to annoy you, too.”

“Yes, he was getting rather obnoxious about it; but, I’ll still miss him,” Rick said.  “He was a good man, and he tried to do his best by us.”

“Yes, he kept his word about staying out of our personal lives, unless we asked him for his advice; until the last few months,” I said, remembering the night, years earlier, when we had laid out our conditions for allowing him back into our lives; after he had tried to get Rick to leave me.

Rick nodded his head.  “Yes, he did keep his promise.”  He paused, a thoughtful expression on his face.  “But, I think what I admired most about him was how he treated Johnny.  He always made the little guy feel special, almost like he was trying to make up for everything he had done to you and your brother, Randy.”

“He was.  He told me he wanted to correct all of the mistakes he had made with us, by being there for Johnny,” I said, running my hand over Rick’s chest.  I traced the outline of his pecs and abs.  Rick tightened them, so they bulged under my hand.

He grinned at me, and asked, “Do you like the feel of my six-pack?”

I laughed and said, “Of course.  How could I not like the feel of your hot body?”  I leaned in to kiss him on the lips.  He deepened the kiss and his arms slipped around my waist, pulling me on top of him.  I felt his hardness pushing against me.  I met his gaze and gave him a lecherous grin. 

“I wonder what you have on your mind!” 

He grinned and proceeded to show me exactly what he had on his mind!  Later, totally exhausted, I lay in his arms, enjoying the feel of his bare skin against mine.  I cuddled closer to him, and practically purred my contentment, as he rubbed his hands up and down my back.

“Sometimes, I think I married a cat, when you arch your back like that,” Rick said, laughing.  “You’re even purring like one!”

I grinned at him.  “I feel like one, when you run your hands up and down my back.  I love it.”

“I love the feel of your body, Glenn.  It still amazes me when I think about how perfectly your body fits with mine,” Rick said.

I rubbed noses with him.  “That’s because we’re meant for each other, Babe.”

There was a light tap on our door.  I reached down, pulling the sheet up over us, before shouting, “Come in!”

The door opened, and Kyle walked into our room, striding across the floor to sit down on the foot of our bed.  He was wearing his usual boxer shorts, showing off his well-muscled chest and abs.  The muscles of his arms were bulging, as if he had just finished working them out.

I met his gaze, and asked, “Did you just finish doing pushups?”

Kyle grinned.  “Yes, you know I have a small workout routine I do every morning.”

I nodded my head.  “Yes, I do.  However, your Dad has been slacking off a bit, lately.”  I gave Rick’s arm a squeeze, causing him to flex his muscles.

Kyle laughed, and said, “Dad says he doesn’t need to work out as much on the weights because he gets his exercise in other ways.  I think he’s right from what I heard going on in here a few minutes ago.”

I gave him my “who me?” look, and said, “I never made a sound!”

Kyle grinned.  “Maybe you didn’t, but Dad sure did!”

Rick smiled at our son, and said, “Guilty as charged, and I did get a good workout!”

Kyle’s expression sobered, and I knew something was wrong.  “What’s on your mind, son?” I asked.

“I’m missing Grandpa,” he said, tears filling his eyes. 

I held out my arms to him.  He came into my arms, burying his face in my chest, his body wracked with sobs.  I looked over his head at Rick.  Rick enfolded us in his arms, holding us both tight against him.

“It’s okay, son.  We all miss him,” Rick said, kissing the top of Kyle’s head.  We held him, until the storm subsided.

Rick released us, when Kyle lifted his head to look into my eyes.  He asked, “Why do I lose everyone I love?  Seeing Grandpa laying in his coffin reminded of Grandma’s and my parents’ funerals.  I really miss them, Daddy.”

I wiped the tears from his handsome face, and said, “It’s normal for you to miss those you love.  I still remember when my Grandma Nielsen died.  Your Dad and I visited her often in the nursing home, before we were married.  She gave us lots of great advice and told us many funny stories about our family.  We miss her, like you miss your parents and grandparents.  You have to remember the good times you had with them, and keep your memories of them alive in your heart.”

“But, I want to talk to them.  I want to play my music for them,” Kyle said, his voice thick with tears.  “I want to play chess with Grandpa.”

I said, “I wish they could be here for you; but, you still have us, son.   We’re not going anywhere, anytime soon.”

Rick ruffled his dark brown hair.  “Don’t you love us?”

Kyle, still holding onto me, looked at his Dad, and said, “Yes, I love you; but, I’m afraid of losing you.”

Rick said, “I understand how you feel.  First, you lost your parents, then your grandmother, and now, Grandpa Nielsen.  But, you need to look on the bright side of things.  At least you got to know and love Grandpa Nielsen.”

“Yes, but who is going to play chess with me, now?” Kyle said, sounding like a small child.

I smiled and said, “I’ll play you a game of chess.”

Kyle returned my smile.  “Thanks for the offer, Daddy; but, you just don’t know how to play chess.”

I began to protest, when Rick cut me off.  “Babe, Kyle is correct.  You can’t play chess.”

I made a face at them.  “You guys are being mean.”

Rick laughed, and said, “No, we’re just being honest with you.”

 Kyle said, “Daddy, it’s okay.  Not everyone can play chess.”  He pulled back from me, and continued, “You’re good at many things; but, chess is not one of those things!”

I laughed, and said, “I can still beat you at checkers, though.”

“Only because you cheated,” Kyle accused, grinning at me.

“I didn’t cheat.  I just distracted you by asking you questions about your girlfriend.  You can’t blame me for your lack of concentration,” I said, tickling him.

Kyle leapt away from me, laughing.  “No, you don’t get to tickle me.”

“Well, don’t be so obnoxious, next time,” I said, grinning up at him.

“You love me, anyway,” he said, settling himself on the edge of the bed, just out of reach.

“Yes, I do.  Are we good?” I asked.

Kyle nodded his head.  “Thanks for cheering me up, Daddy.”

“I’m glad to be of service,” I said, smiling at him.

Rick asked, “How are the others?  Have they talked to you about grandpa’s funeral?”

Kyle shook his head.  “No; but, we talked about Grandpa’s death during our drive from Virginia.  I know Ashley’s having a hard time.”

I nodded my head in agreement.  “I saw her talking to Grandma.  I figured I’d wait for Ashley to come to us, rather than us going to her.  You know how Ashley can be about things.”

Kyle smiled, and said, “Yes, I know.  We’ve always been close; but, she hasn’t talked to me about Grandpa.”

There was a knock on the door.  Kyle got up and opened the door, to find Ashley standing there.  Kyle said, “We were just talking about you.”

Kyle looked over his shoulder at us, and said, “I’ll go start breakfast.”  Ashley entered our room and sat down at the foot of our bed, as Kyle left, closing the door behind him.

We could see Ashley had been crying.  Rick held out his arms, “Come here, Ashley.”

She moved into his arms.  Rick smoothed her hair, comforting her.  “I just need a hug, Dad.”

“It’s okay, little one.  All of us need hugs and kisses, especially right now,” he said.

She clung to him for a few moments, then lifted her head from his chest, looking up into his eyes.  “Why does it hurt so much when we lose someone we love?”

Rick replied, “It’s because we love them so much.  I think the more you love someone, the more you miss them, when they move on to the next life.”

“Do you really think there is a next life?” Ashley asked.

“Yes, I do,” Rick responded.  “I believe our loved ones are waiting on the other side to greet us and welcome us back into their company.”

“So, my parents and grandma will be waiting for me, when it’s my turn to die?” Ashley asked.

“Yes, sweetheart.  You shouldn’t fear death.  It’s the natural order of things.  We need to live our lives to the best of our ability, making the most of what God has given us.  Then, when we have completed our time on earth, we’ll rejoin our families in God’s presence,” Rick said.

Ashley looked over at me, and asked, “Is that what you believe, Daddy?”

I nodded my head.  “Yes, I do.  I know there is a God in heaven, who loves us very much.”

“How do you know that?” she asked, looking intently into my eyes.

“Grandma told me that when I was little,” I responded.  “As you know, you don’t argue with Grandma.”

Ashley laughed.  “Grandma always knows best!”

“See, you know how things are,” I said, grinning at her.  “But, seriously, I do believe in God.  I’ve felt His hand in our lives, protecting us and helping us.”

Ashley had a puzzled look on her face.  “But, I’ve heard you arguing with Pastor Wilson about things.”

“That’s because I don’t believe self-appointed religious experts have any more authority than I do to dictate what is acceptable to God and what’s not,” I responded.  “I like and respect Pastor Wilson, Ashley.  He is a good man, and he does his best to teach us the ways of God.  However, sometimes, I think he’s got it wrong.  That is when we have discussions about his views.”

Rick said, “Do you remember the promise we made to your grandma, before she died?”

Ashley nodded her head.  “Yes, you promised to take us to church, read the Bible with us, and to raise us as God-fearing people.”

Rick said, “That’s right.  We’ve done the best we know how to keep that promise.  We’ve also taught you to think for yourself, and not to let religious people try to fool you, or mislead you.”

Ashley said, “That’s why I’m asking questions.  I want to know what you and Daddy think about life after death.”

Rick said, “Remember we read about death and resurrection in the Bible?”

Ashley nodded her head.  “I remember; but, do you really believe what it says in the Bible?”

Rick said, “The Bible can be interpreted in so many different ways, Ashley.  That is why each person needs to ask God what is right.  You must pray to Him to ask for His help to know the truth of what’s in the Bible.”

I said, “People interpret the Bible to fit their own views, rather than seeking God’s truth from God Himself.  Too many churches claim to have the CORRECT interpretation of the teachings found in the Bible; but they pick and choose which teachings they accept as truth, while discarding those teachings that conflict with their views.  It’s like having selective hearing.”

 Ashley laughed.  “You mean it’s like the twins’ selective hearing; they hear only what they want to hear.”

“Yes, that’s right,” I said, smiling at her.  “So, back to your question, we believe we will live again with our families.  I like to think our loved ones are watching over us, along with the guardian angels.  I can just imagine your grandma giving them orders, telling them to make sure you’re safe.”

Ashley thought for a moment, before she smiled, and said, “I’m sure she’s doing just that.  She sure knew how to keep my brothers in line!”

I laughed, and responded, “I’m sure she never had to worry about you.”

Ashley gave me an impish grin.  “Of course, I was always a perfect angel.”

Rick ruffled her hair.  “Yes, you’ve always been my little angel.”

“Yes, she has you wrapped around her little finger, sweetheart,” I said, winking at Ashley.

Rick said, defensively, “She is our only girl.”

Ashley said, “And I’m very special.”

Rick said, “Yes, she’s special.”

I laughed, and said, “I don’t disagree; but, you have to admit Ashley always gets her way.”

Ashley grinned, looking up at her Dad.  “It’s because he loves me.”

“Yes, we both love you very much,” I said.

“I love you, too, Daddy,” she replied, giving us both a hug.  She stood up and stretched.

Rick asked, “Are you okay, now?”

“Yes, I’m good, Dad.  Thank you for talking to me,” she responded.

“We’ll always be here when you need to talk to someone,” Rick said, smiling at her.

She left our bedroom, closing the door softly behind her.  As she passed the twins’ bedroom, she could hear them talking.  She tapped on the door, which was opened seconds later by JJ.

JJ looked up at his sister, and said, “Ashley, we have a question.”  He took Ashley’s hand, pulling her into the room.

Ashley sat down on JJ’s bed and he climbed up beside her.  Josh sat on his bed, looking at his twin.  “You ask her,” he said.

JJ said, “We want to know when Grandpa is coming back.”

Josh said, “Daddy said Grandpa went to Paradise to be with our other Grandpa.”

JJ looked up at his sister, his eyes full of trust, and asked, “Is that true, Ashley?”  Not waiting for her answer, he rushed on, “We saw him yesterday at the church, but he was sleeping.  I wanted to wake him up; but Daddy said we should let him rest.  Daddy was crying, Ashley.  He was so sad yesterday.”

When he stopped to catch his breath, Ashley answered his question.  “Grandpa is with my parents and our grandparents, JJ.  They are with God, now.”

Josh had a puzzled expression on his face, as he asked, “But how can he be with God, if he’s sleeping?”

Ashley said, “His body died and they put it in the ground; but, his spirit went to live with God.”

“How do you know that?” JJ asked, putting his small hand on her arm.

She took his hand in hers.  “Because we learned about it in the Bible.  We talked about it a few days ago, when we were doing our Bible study,” Ashley replied.

JJ looked at his brother, then back to Ashley.  “I don’t remember that.”

Ashley laughed.  “That’s because you and Josh weren’t paying attention.  You were drawing pictures, remember?”

Josh said, “We weren’t drawing all the time.  I remember Daddy said people go to Paradise when they die.”

“I didn’t hear him say that,” JJ said, shaking his head.  “Daddy said Grandpa was sleeping.”

Ashley said, “Give me one of your gloves.”  JJ jumped down from his bed to retrieve one of his gloves from his dresser.   He handed it to her.  She said, “Put it on your hand.  He did as she requested.  “Let’s pretend the glove is your body and your hand is your spirit.  As long as your spirit is inside the glove, it moves around and has life.”  She pulled the glove off of his hand.  “Now, your hand isn’t in the glove anymore, just like when your spirit leaves your body.”  She asked, “Can the glove move without your hand in it?”

JJ said, “No, it can’t.  It’s not alive.”

“Exactly!  When your body dies, it’s like the glove without your hand in it.  It can’t move on its own, anymore.  When the body dies, we bury it, like we did Grandpa’s body, yesterday.  His spirit left his body and went to Paradise.  He’s there with my parents and our grandparents.”

JJ said, “So, it’s like Grandpa’s body went to sleep; but, his spirit went on vacation.”

Ashley laughed, and said, “Yes, it’s kind of like that.”

Josh said, “So, Grandpa’s spirit went to live with God.”

Ashley nodded her head.  “That’s right, Josh.”

He smiled, and said, “Now, that makes sense.”  He said it with such a grown up tone of voice, Ashley laughed. 

“You’re so funny, Josh,” Ashley said.  She stood up and walked over to his bed.  She hugged him.  “I love you, Josh.”  She turned and hugged JJ.  “I love you, too, JJ.”

JJ’s chocolate brown eyes met her hazel ones.  “I told Josh Grandpa was with God; but, he wouldn’t believe me.”

She looked at Josh, who grinned, his bright blue eyes sparkling with laughter.  “JJ and I were arguing about it, just before you came to our room.  I like arguing with JJ.”

“Don’t argue too much with him, Josh.  He’s your best friend,” Ashley said.

“We’re twins.  We’ll always be best friends,” Josh said, looking at his brother.

JJ confirmed his statement, “Yes, we’re special, because we’re twins.”

Ashley said, “Yes, you’re special; but, you boys need to get dressed and ready for breakfast.  Kyle’s cooking it for us right now.”

JJ, jumping up and down with excitement, shouted, “Yeah!”

“I’m going to my room to get dressed, while you boys change your clothes.  Don’t forget to put your pajamas away.”

They chorused, “We won’t forget!”

She said, “I’ll meet you in the kitchen in a few minutes.”  She left them, as they were pulling off their pajamas.

*** ***

Rick and I looked at each other, and I said, “We’ve heard from the two oldest.  I’m wondering if we’ll hear from the rest of the boys.”

Rick said, “I don’t think David will talk to us about your dad’s death, unless we ask him to share his feelings with us.”

“The twins asked me why Dad didn’t wake up.  I told them he was resting,” I said.

Rick frowned.  “Shouldn’t we tell them the truth?”

“I did.  I told them he wouldn’t wake up,” I said, defensively.

Rick put a finger to my lips.  “Don’t get angry, Glenn.  I’m just saying the twins are very intelligent.  It's better to tell them straight out what’s going on.”

I said, “Okay, we’ll talk with them at breakfast.  I think they know their grandpa died, because they’ve heard us talking to the other children.”

Rick kissed me.  “I know, but just the same, let’s make sure they understand what’s happened to their grandpa.”

Rick got out of bed, turning to pull me up into his arms.  “Let’s get a shower.”

I rubbed noses with him.  “Any time, big boy!”

He led me to our en suite, turning on the shower.   He adjusted the temperature, then pulled me under the cascade of warm water, kissing me passionately.

*** ***

Jeff looked into Cole’s eyes, and said, “I love you, Babe.”

Cole said, “I love you, too.  Are you ready to get married?”

“Yes, I am,” Jeff said, smiling at his lover.

“Then, we need to get up, soon,” Cole said.

“It feels kind of awkward having our wedding the day after Mr. Nielsen’s funeral,” Jeff said.

Cole put his hands on either side of Jeff’s face, and looked deeply into his eyes.  “Jeff, listen to me.  Rick and Glenn have already told us they want us to be married as soon as possible.  They even helped plan our wedding.  You need to stop worrying about it.”

Cole dropped his hands to Jeff’s flat, hard stomach, his brilliant blue eyes sparkling with mischief.   He loved Jeff’s well-muscled body, covered in dark brown hair, matching his brown hair and dark brown eyes.  He moved his hands lower, causing Jeff to moan in pure pleasure. 

“Cole Moran, I love you,” Jeff said, running his fingers through Cole’s long blond hair.  He pulled Cole closer to him, kissing him passionately.

When they came up for air, Cole laughed and jumped out of bed, leaving Jeff totally and completely aroused.

Jeff looked up at Cole, and said, “Oh, no you don’t!  You’re not leaving me like this!”  Cole turned, and started for their en suite.  Before he had taken two steps, Jeff wrapped his arms around his waist, lifting Cole off of his feet.  “Where do you think you’re going?” 

Cole laughed, turning his head to kiss his lover.  The two men were the same height (6’2”); but there, the similarities ended.  While Jeff was broad shouldered and well-muscled, Cole was lanky and lean, but wiry.

Jeff released Cole, before lifting him into his arms and carrying him back to their bed.  He grinned down at his lover, as he pushed Cole’s legs apart, lifting them over his shoulders.  Jeff captured Cole’s lips in a deep kiss, as he claimed him as his own.

*** ***

Cory held Nancy in his arms.  He looked into her beautiful face, marveling at the wonderful woman who had given him so much of herself.  His world was full of light and joy.  She was his everything!

He wished there were some way he could make the dark clouds on their horizon disappear.  They hadn’t shared with her family the full extent of how far the MS had progressed.  Nancy wanted to wait to tell them just how serious things were, until after her father’s funeral.

Nancy awoke, and looked into her husband’s eyes.  Seeing the worry there, she put her hand to his face, her fingertips tracing the outline of his jaw.  She smiled, and said, “Cory, stop worrying.  There’s nothing you, or I, can do.”

“I know,” he said, trying to bring a smile to his face.  “I only wish I could take this disease from you, Nancy.”

She caressed his cheek.  “I wish you could, too; however, we both know you can’t.  We have to live each day as best we can, Cory.  We need to make every day count, and not waste a single moment.  That means you can’t keep worrying about the things you can’t change.  Let’s spend our energy doing positive things.”

Cory sighed, and said, “You’re right, as always.”

She gave him a gentle kiss, then rubbed noses with him.  “I love you.”

She knew he would worry about her, no matter what she said.  The thought crossed her mind that maybe he was right to worry.  She had been feeling very weak.  She was afraid coming to her dad’s funeral had taken too much out of her emotionally and physically.

Her thoughts were interrupted by her two little girls.  They had come into the room, and were standing by her bedside.

Randi asked, “Mommy, are you okay?”

She smiled at her daughters, and replied, “I’m fine.  You can join me, if you want to.”

They climbed into bed next to her, burrowing under the covers.  She pulled the girls close to her.  She loved them very much.

Cory watched his wife and two daughters, and had a sudden premonition Nancy wouldn’t be with them much longer.  The thought caused his heart to nearly stop beating in his chest.  He loved her so much!

She turned to look at him.  “What are you thinking about, sweetheart?”

He smiled at her.  “I was thinking about how much I love you.”

She leaned over to kiss him.  “I love you, too.”

He put his arms around her and the girls, wondering how long the girls would last, before they decided they wanted to get up.  About five minutes later, Randi piped up, “I’m hungry, Mommy.”

“Me, too,” Jessica said.

“I bet you’ll find some breakfast in the kitchen, if you go look.   I can smell bacon,” Nancy said, smiling.

Randi said, “I’ll ask David to make us some pancakes.  He said he would, if I asked him.”

Cory said, “I think you should do just that.”

The two little girls tumbled out of bed, racing out the door toward David and Purev’s room.   They knocked on the door, calling out his name.

David came to the foot of the stairs, and called to them.  “I’m downstairs.”

They turned and ran down hall to the stairs.  As they came down, Randi asked, “David, will you make us some pancakes?  You said you would.”

David smiled at his little cousins.  “I’ve already made some pancakes.  Are you hungry?”

“Yes,” Randi said, enthusiastically.

“Then, come to the kitchen,” David said, leading the way.  Entering the kitchen, David helped them get up to the table, in between the twins and Ashley.  “Purev, we have two more customers.”

Purev looked up from the griddle, and smiled.  “I’ve got some hot pancakes ready to be eaten.”  He lifted the pancakes from the griddle and placed them on a couple of plates.  “I hope you like chocolate chips.”

Randi said, “I love chocolate chips in my pancakes.”

Purev asked, “JJ and Josh, do you want more pancakes?”

Both boys nodded their heads, their mouths full of pancake.  Josh swallowed his food, and replied, “Yes, please.”

Kyle met us in the hallway, as we came out of our room, freshly showered and dressed for the day.  Kyle looked us over, and grinned, “It’s amazing how good you look for two old men.”

Rick laughed, and responded, “You’d better be nice to these two old men, or you won’t be driving the car for a while.”

Kyle’s grin grew even wider.  “I think you’ve gotten so old and senile you’ve forgotten how to drive.  So, you need me to be your chauffer to keep you from getting lost.  You just don’t remember what a wonderful driver I am.”

I ruffled his hair, as we went downstairs to join the rest of the family.  “I’m afraid we do remember very well what kind of a driver you are!”

We entered the kitchen and took our seats at the table.  David smiled, and said, “Good morning!”

I said, “Good morning, David.  Thank you for cooking breakfast this morning.”

David said, “Purev did most of the cooking.”

I smiled and said, “Then, thank you, Purev.  Have Jeff and Cole been down?”

“We took breakfast to them in bed,” Purev said, smiling.  “Since they are getting married today, we thought they would like breakfast in their room.”

David laughed.  “We…kind of interrupted them.”

Rick chuckled.  “I bet you did.”

Purev said, “Jeff thanked us, and took the food trays from us.”

“We told them we would warn everyone not to disturb them,” David said, laughing.

Cory said, “What’s this I hear about breakfast in bed?”

“We took breakfast up to Jeff and Cole,” David explained.

“I was hoping I could convince you to take a tray up to Nancy,” Cory said, looking hopeful.

Purev said, “Sure, thing.”  He loaded a tray with two plates of pancakes topped with strawberries and whipped cream, eggs, sausage, and toast, adding two glasses of orange juice.  He looked over at Cory.  “Is that enough?”

“Perfect,” Cory said, smiling his thanks.  He took the tray from Purev and returned to their room.  He entered their bedroom to find Nancy had gotten out of bed.  He smiled at her, and said, “I was hoping to bring you breakfast in bed.”

She smiled back at him.  “Well, in that case, I’ll get back into bed.”  She did just that!  He placed the tray between them on the bed.  He helped feed her, and she him, enjoying each other’s company.

Meanwhile, downstairs in the kitchen, JJ said, “Daddy, Ashley told us Grandpa died and went to Paradise.”

Josh said, “And she showed us how our spirit leaves our bodies when we die.”

I looked at the twins in surprise.  “How did she show you that?”

Josh said, “She used a glove.”

JJ said, “I’ll go get it, so Ashley can show you.”

He jumped down from the table, and ran out of the kitchen.  We heard him climb the stairs.  It wasn’t long before we heard him coming back down, and he reappeared in the kitchen.  He handed the glove to Ashley.

Ashley said, “I think Kyle does a better job of explaining things.  She handed the glove to Kyle.”

JJ moved around the table to stand by Kyle, as he took the glove and started to explain, “Our spirits come from God; and, when we’re born, our spirits enter our bodies.”  He put the glove on JJ’s hand.   “We live our lives; and, when it’s time for us to die, our spirits leave our bodies and go to Paradise to live until it’s time for the resurrection.”  He pulled the glove off of JJ’s hand and laid it on the table.  “During the resurrection, we’ll get our bodies back.”  He put the glove back on JJ’s hand.  “Grandpa, our parents and grandparents are living in Paradise as spirits; so, when we die, we’ll see them again.”

I listened with interest to what Kyle was saying.   When he finished, I asked, “Where did you learn to use the glove to explain the difference between our spirits and our bodies?”

“The missionaries from Catherine’s church taught it to me,” Kyle said.  “It just made sense to me.”

Rick said, “It’s a good way to teach concepts that are a little difficult to understand.  But, I thought you didn’t go to her church.”

Kyle said, “I didn’t.  They came over to Catharine’s house for dinner.  We talked about where our spirits came from, and where we go after we die.”

“Why did they talk to you about that?” I asked, a little suspicion creeping into my mind.  Had they been trying to convert our son to their church?

Kyle said, “I asked them about what they believed happened to us when we die.”

“So, they didn’t try to convert you?” I asked.

Kyle shook his head.  “No, they just answered my question.  I told them I wasn’t interested in taking their lessons, when they offered to teach me their beliefs; I told them I had my own religion.”

I breathed a sign of relief.  Seeing my expression, Kyle laughed.  “I knew better than to get involved with them.  Daddy, you’ve made it pretty clear how you feel about Catherine’s church.”

David said, “After Kyle showed me the hand in glove example, I talked to Pastor Wilson about it.  He thought it was a good way to talk about God’s plan for us.”

Rick looked at David in surprise.  “When did you talk to him?”

“A couple of weeks ago,” David said.

Purev said, “We all went with him, remember?”

Rick nodded his head.  “I remember now.  I took all the teenagers to the church for a youth group meeting.”

Ashley said, “Yes, that’s when we talked to Pastor Wilson.  I told the guys I had a feeling Grandpa was going to die soon, and I wanted to know more about what our church teaches about what happens after we die.”

“I’m glad you talked to our pastor,” I said, feeling relieved our children had chosen to approach Pastor Wilson with their questions.

Ashley said, “You’ve always taught us to question things and to search for the truth, Daddy.  We were doing what you’ve taught us to do.”

“So, why did you ask us about our beliefs this morning?” I asked, puzzled.

“I was feeling a little sad, and a bit confused,” Ashley explained.  “But, mostly, I needed a hug from my dads.”  She smiled, and patted my arm.

I smiled back at her, and said, “I’m always good for hugs.”

“I know, Daddy,” she replied, smiling.  “Dad knows that, too.”

Rick grinned broadly, and said, “I do know it.”  He gave me a quick kiss on the lips.

Kyle said, “I needed hugs this morning, too.  I was feeling really down.  I’m glad you guys like giving hugs, especially Dad.” 

“He’s good for hugs, too,” I said, taking Rick’s hand in mine.

Kyle grinned, “I’m glad you’ve always taught me how important it is for guys to learn to express their feelings, appropriately.  I don’t have to put on a tough guy image, like some of my friends, trying to pretend I don’t have emotions.”

“So, does this mean you’re ready to start dating guys?” I asked, laughing.

Kyle shook his head, vigorously.  “No, Daddy, it doesn’t mean I’m into guys.  I love you and Dad very much, but I’m into girls.  I leave all the guy action to David and Purev.”

Caroline and Maria entered the kitchen, sitting down next to Kyle.  “What’s this about guy action?” Caroline asked, giving Kyle a friendly punch in the shoulder.

Ashley said, “Kyle said he was leaving all the guy action to David and Purev; but, he forgot about us girls.  We like looking at the guys, too.”

Caroline nodded her head.  “Yes, I’ve got my eye on Reilly Mosely.”

Maria giggled.  “He doesn’t even know Caroline exists.”

Ashley asked, “Do you have a picture of him?”

Caroline pulled out her cell.  “Yes, right here.”  She tapped the screen, then handed the phone to Ashley.

“He’s cute,” Ashley said, handing the phone back to Caroline.

Purev said, “Yes, he’s absolutely gorgeous.  It’s too bad I have a boyfriend, already.”

Caroline asked, “Do you know him?”

“Yes, he’s in my Spanish class,” Purev said. 

“Can you get his phone number for me?” Caroline asked.

“Sure,” Purev said.  “He sits next to me in class.  He’s really nice.”

Caroline said, “You’re the best, Purev.”

Purev grinned.  “Thanks, Caroline.  I’ll remind Gabriel of that, when we get home.  What do you girls want for breakfast?”

Maria looked at Ashley’s plate, gesturing toward it.  “I want what Ashley has.”

Caroline said, “The same here.”

Purev served them pancakes topped with fresh strawberries and whipped cream, with several sausages on the side, and a glass of milk.

Caroline said, “Thanks.  David and Purev, you guys will be wonderful husbands when you get married.  I hope I find someone who likes to cook, like you guys do.”

Marie said, “Maybe Reilly knows how to cook.”

Caroline giggled.  “Maybe.”  She dug into her breakfast.  She said, “Hmmm…these are the best pancakes ever!”

Purev grinned, and said, “You’re welcome.”

*** ***

Finished with their breakfast in bed, Jeff and Cole showered together.  Jeff soaped up Cole’s body, paying special attention to his private parts.  Cole said, “If you keep that up, we won’t make it to our wedding.”  He moaned with pleasure, as Jeff continued his ministrations.

“I don’t want you to forget what is waiting for you tonight,” Jeff said, kissing his fiancé.”

When they surfaced for air, Cole said, “It’s my turn to take care of you.”

They finished their shower, and helped each other into their tuxedos.  Cole stood in front of the mirror, admiring himself, when Jeff came up behind him.  Jeff slid his arms around his waist, and said, “I love you, Cole.”

Cole turned his head to meet Jeff’s lips.  “I love you, too.”

Jeff looked into the mirror, and grinned.  “I like how we look.”

Cole nodded his head in agreement.   “These tuxedos fit us perfectly.”

They had chosen to wear white tuxedos, with powder blue bow ties and matching cumber bunds.  After picking up the tuxedos from the wedding shop, they had taken the girls shopping for their dresses.  The girls had found matching powder blue dresses. 

Jeff looked at his watch, and said, “I think it’s time for us to head to the church.”

Cole took Jeff’s hand, leading him out of their room.   They made their way downstairs, where they found the girls waiting for them, with the rest of the teenagers.

Caroline said, “You guys look great!”

Marie said, “Yeah, Dad!  You look pretty good!”

Cole grinned at her, and asked, “What about me?”

Marie gave him a hug.  “You look great, too.”

Purev looked the couple over, and gave them a thumbs up.  “You’re looking good!?

Jeff smiled, and said, “Thanks, Purev.  I’m glad we got your seal of approval.”

Hearing them, Rick joined them in the front room and said, “I think we’re all ready.  Zach and Todd will meet us at the church.”

Jeff nodded his head, and said, “Zach called me last night, when they got to their parents hotel, to let me know things were going okay.  Their parents rented a suite, so they could spend time together.”

Jeff said, “I’m glad they’ll be at our wedding.”

Rick said, “Let’s go, then.”  He walked back into the kitchen and motioned for me to bring the twins.   We left the house and climbed into our vehicles.  We caravanned back to the church, where Reverend Mallory waited for us.

Reverend Mallory smiled, as he greeted us.  “I’m so happy to see you this morning.  Thank you for asking me to officiate at your wedding, Jeff and Cole.”

Jeff said, “Thank you for opening your church to us.  It means a lot to us to be married in the church.”

Reverend Mallory said, “As it should.  Follow me, please.”  He led us into the sanctuary.

As we settled into our places, Jeff and Cole followed him into his office.  Reverend Mallory closed the door and sat down at his desk, opposite the engaged couple.

“Did you do the homework I gave you?” he asked, raising his eyebrows.

Jeff said, “We started going through the questions; but, to be honest, we haven’t had time to do them justice.”

Reverend Mallory nodded his head.  “I understand.  Normally, we insist that couples take a series of marriage classes and complete the homework assignment I gave you.”

Jeff started to speak, but he held up his hand.  “I’m not saying you need the classes we offer; but, I would like to ask you to promise me you’ll take the time over the next week, or so, to do the homework I gave you.  I think it would be very beneficial to you as a couple.”

Cole looked at Jeff, and said, “I think we can find time to do as you ask.”

Reverend Mallory smiled, and said, “Good.   I promise you won’t regret spending the time talking to each other about many of the topics in your homework.  However, that being said, I wanted to spend a few minutes with you, before the actual ceremony.   There are a couple things I would like to ask you. Jeff, I know this is your second marriage and you have three daughters.  Is that correct?”

Jeff nodded his head.  “You’ve met two of them, Caroline and Marie.  My oldest won’t have anything to do with me.  Her mother turned her against me.”

Reverend Mallory nodded his head.  “That happens all too often in divorce situations.”  He paused, then, asked, “Have you two thought about having children together?”

Jeff looked at Cole, then back to the reverend.  “Well, not really.”

“This is your first marriage, Cole?” he asked.

“Yes, it is, Reverend; but, I never thought to have children of my own,” Cole responded.

Reverend Mallory said, “I wanted to make sure you two gave some consideration to having children together.  You have, obviously, worked out many other things in your relationship; but this is one you should give some thought; whether you want more children.  Some men are quite happy not have their own children, while others want their own flesh and blood to continue their bloodline.”

Jeff looked at his fiancé, and said, “I’m okay with having more children, if you want to find a surrogate to have our babies.”

Cole grinned, and said, “I would love to have more children.”

Jeff said, “We’ll talk more about this, after we’re married.”

Reverend Mallory said, “Good, then let’s move forward with your wedding.  After the ceremony, please join me here in the office, with your witnesses to sign your marriage certificate.”

They left the office, making their way back to the foyer, where the wedding party waited for them.

They walked into the foyer to find us waiting for them.  I gave them a big grin.  “Are you guys ready?”

Jeff put his arm around Cole’s waist, pulling him close.  “Yes, we’re ready.”

Caroline looked at her dad, and said, “We’re ready.”

Rick said, “We’re ready, as well.”  Jeff and Cole asked us to give them away, standing in for their parents.

Reverend Mallory said, “I’ll make my way to the pulpit, then the music will begin.  That will be your signal to make your entrance.  The girls will come first, and stand on either side of the altar, followed by you two and your escorts.”

We all nodded we understood his instructions.  He left us and entered the sanctuary.  We soon heard the music begin to play.  The audience came to its feet and the girls walked hand in hand down the aisle to the front of the sanctuary, splitting up to stand on either side of the altar.  Next, Rick escorted Jeff down the aisle, followed by me and Cole.   After leaving them at the altar, we took our places with our children in the front pew.

Reverend Mallory said, “We welcome everyone to this most important and blessed of events in the lives of these two men – the moment when they will be bound together as a wedded couple.”  He paused, looking at Jeff and Cole.  “You may exchange vows, starting with you, Jeff.”

Jeff took Cole by the hand, and looking deeply into his eyes, and said. “I take you, Cole Brian Moran, to be my partner; to have and to hold, from this day forward. I give to you my unending love and devotion. I promise to be true to you, to cherish you, and to share my thoughts, hopes, and dreams with you. I look forward to spending the rest of my life with you, my best friend. I will love you forever.”

Cole, in his turn, said, I take you, Jeffrey Scott Dunn, to be my partner; to have and to hold, from this day forward. I give to you my unending love and devotion. I promise to be true to you, to cherish you, and to share my thoughts, hopes, and dreams with you. I look forward to spending the rest of my life with you, my best friend. I will love you forever.”

Reverend Mallory smiled at the couple, and said, “You may exchange rings.”

Caroline and Marie handed the rings to their Dads, and Jeff and Cole slipped their wedding bands on each other’s hand.

Reverend Mallory said, “I declare you legally and lawfully wedded.  You may kiss your spouse.”

Jeff kissed Cole, while we clapped our approval.  After the applause died down, Reverend Mallory said, “I invite you to come forward to congratulate the newlyweds.”

We were first in line to greet the newlywed couple.  Rick hugged Jeff and slipped an envelope into his hand.   “Congratulations, Jeff!”

Jeff grinned, and said, “Thank you, Rick.   What’s this?”

Rick responded, with a broad grin, “It’s your wedding gift from the four of us - me, Glenn, Zach, and Todd.”

Jeff opened the envelope, and gasped.  “Rick, you guys shouldn’t have.”

Rick said, “It’s the least we can do.”

“But, who will take the girls home?” Jeff objected, his eyes wide open with surprise.

“Glenn will drive your SUV back to Virginia, while you and Cole go on your honeymoon,” Rick said. 

“But, we planned to take our honeymoon trip in the summer, after school gets out,” Jeff said, still trying to fathom the generosity of his friends.

“You can still take your second honeymoon trip, then,” Rick said, laughing at Jeff’s expression.

Cole leaned over and asked, “Jeff, what honeymoon trip are you talking about?”

Jeff handed the envelope to Cole, who opened it and stared in wide-eyed wonder at its contents.  He looked up at me and Rick, tears streaming down his face.  “Thank you.”

I hugged him, and said, “You’re welcome.  Congratulations!”

Jeff said, “We can’t thank you enough.”

Seeing Cole’s tears, Caroline asked, “Why are you crying, Daddy?”

Cole said, “Uncle Rick and Uncle Glenn have given us a wonderful wedding present.”

Jeff clarified, “They gave us a week long honeymoon trip to Hawaii, starting tomorrow, all expenses paid.”

I said, “We overheard you talking about taking your honeymoon trip to Hawaii next summer.  We decided it would be much nicer for you to go now, rather than wait.  You both have done so much for us, we thought it was the least we could do, to show you our appreciation for your love and support.”

Zach and Todd came up behind us.  “I see Rick delivered our wedding gift.”

Jeff said, “Yes, he did.  Thank you for the wonderful gift.”

Cole echoed his sentiments.  “It means a lot to us.”

Todd said, “We wanted you two to start your marriage off right, with a wonderful week in Hawaii.  I know we really enjoyed our honeymoon.”

Rick said, “We did, too.   So, we thought you should have the same experience, as we did during our first week of marriage.  It was great being able to focus all of our energy getting to know each other better, without any outside interruptions.”

Zach and Todd gave each of the newlyweds a hug and a kiss on the lips.  “Go and enjoy yourselves,” Todd said.

We moved down the aisle toward the entrance to the sanctuary, to allow the other guests to congratulate the happy couple.  Caroline and Marie ran up to us, and threw their arms around us.

Marie said, “Thank you for making our dads so happy.”

Zach smiled down at her, and said, “You’re welcome, Marie.  We think your dads are very special.”

Caroline said, “We agree they are very special; but, we’re grateful for what you did for them.”

“We think they deserve to have a wonderful time together, and we want them to be happy,” I said.

As we entered the foyer, Cammy and Skye were chatting with our boys.  Cammy said, “JJ and Josh, we’re going to get a new house.”

Skye said, excitedly, “We’re going to live near our grandparents.  I can’t wait!”

Cammy said, “Dad showed us pictures of the houses we’re going to see later today.”

Overhearing the boys, Zach said, “We’ve found a couple of houses we’re interested in buying.”

I smiled at them, and said, “I’m glad you’ve found something.”

Todd said, “I am, too.  I was worried we wouldn’t find anything we liked for sale at this time of year.”

The Andersons and the Ingrams joined us.  Sam said, “I hope you guys aren’t angry with Zach and Todd for moving away from you.”

Rick shook his head, and said, “We’re happy they want to be close to you.  We’ll miss them, but we’re glad they’re moving close to home.”

I grinned, and said, “We said they could move, as long as they have room for us to stay with them, when we come to visit.”

Todd put his arm around me, holding me close, and said, “We made sure each of the homes on our list has more than enough room for you guys to stay with us, for as long as you like.”

“Robbie and Adam are very excited to have their older brothers live close to them, as well,” Brad said.

“I’m sorry we won’t get to see them this trip,” I said.

Zach laughed, and said, “Did you think they wouldn’t make a trip down to see you?”

I looked at Zach in surprise.  “So, where are they?”

Todd grinned, turned me around, directing my gaze inside the sanctuary, and said, “They’re right behind us.”

Sure enough, there stood Adam and Robbie with the triplets, congratulating the happy couple.  “I didn’t know they were coming.”

“They wanted it to be a surprise,” Todd said, laughing at my expression.  “After Justin’s death, Robbie doesn’t handle funerals very well.  So, they decided to come down for the wedding, instead.  They told Jeff not to say anything to you, since they wanted to surprise you guys.”

I watched as Adam and Robbie started toward me.  Suddenly, their three boys raced past their dads, flying like the wind down the aisle, their blond hair streaming behind them.

They grabbed me around the legs, nearly taking me to the ground.   “Hello, Uncle Glenn,” they chorused.

I knelt down to take them in my arms.  “I’m so glad to see my favorite nephews!”  I hugged them, giving them a kiss on the forehead.  “My, my, you’ve grown up so much, since we saw you last.  Did I mention you three look a lot alike?”

Three pairs of emerald green eyes met mine.  Robin said, “Yes, we are identical triplets.  Don’t you know that, Uncle Glenn?”

“Yes, I do; but, you three are so amazing,” I said, grinning at them.

Brian said, “We’re amazing because our Dads are amazing.”

Adam and Robbie walked up behind the triplets.  Robbie grinned, as I looked up at him.  “Brian has got it right!  How could they not be amazing, since we’re their dads?”

I started to stand up, when Robin put his arms around my neck.  “Please pick me up, Uncle Glenn.”  I did as he requested.  His green eyes met my blue-gray ones, and asked, “When are you and Uncle Rick going to move next door to us?  Uncle Zach and Uncle Todd are moving here.  Why don’t you?”

I glanced over at Rick, then back to Robin.  “I would love to move in next door to you guys.  We’ll just have to work on Uncle Rick, to convince him we need to move.  How about we figure out a scheme to do that?”

Robin gave me a very serious look, and said, “Maybe Uncle Todd could find him a job here.”

I looked at Todd, and winked.  “I’m sure Uncle Todd could find him a job; but, I’m not sure Uncle Rick is ready to move to Canada, Robin.”

Rick said, “Before you go any further with this conversation, I’d like to remind everyone we have a house here in St. Catharines, already.”

Adam laughed.  “But that’s still too far away for the triplets.”

Robbie said, “And it’s too far for us.  We would love you guys to live with us, like when we were in college together.   I’ve missed Zach and Todd living next door to us, like when we first moved to Toronto.”

Todd put his arms around his brother-in-law.  “Now, it won’t be long before we’re living next door to you guys again.”

Robin said, “We want you to move here, too, Uncle Glenn.”

Rick said, “How about we come stay the summer with you guys?  Would you like that?”

Robin nodded his head, enthusiastically.  “We could go swimming in the pond, and ride our horses.”

Rick said, “Do you think your dads will let us do that?”

Robin turned toward his dads.  Before he could ask, Adam responded, “Yes, Robin, they may stay with us this summer.”

Robin clapped his hands together, and said, “Yeah!”

I put him down, and he ran over to his brothers, who had joined their cousins, Cammy and Skye, and the twins near the front doors.  Robin, excitedly, said, “Guess what?  Uncle Glenn and Uncle Rick are coming to live with us next summer!”

The triplets high fived each other.  Brian said, “I knew they would listen to you.”

Hearing Brian’s words, I looked at Robbie, who shrugged.  “What can I say?  My boys know what they want, and aren’t afraid to do what it takes to get it.”

Adam put his arm around his husband’s waist, pulling him close.  He kissed him, and said, “They are just like their father.”

Robbie gave his husband an impish grin.  “At least, I’m a good role model.”

Adam laughed, and said, “Well, I don’t know about that.”

The teens joined us.  They greeted their uncles with lots of hugs.  Kyle hugged his uncles and said, “I’ve got a new song I learned on the piano.”

Robbie smiled, and said, “I can’t wait to hear you play it, Kyle.”  Robbie clapped Kyle on the back.  “You’re a great musician.  I only wish I could play the piano like you do.”

Ashley said, “Don’t encourage him, Uncle Robbie!  He’s been practicing it non-stop since we got here.”

Kyle said, indignantly, “I have not!”

David said, “No, you haven’t played it non-stop, but you have played it a lot.”

“One of my friends shared it with me last week, and I liked it a lot,” Kyle said, by way of explanation.

“What’s it called, or is something you wrote yourself?” Adam asked, knowing Kyle had composed several of his own songs.

“No, I didn’t’ write it, but it’s still a really great piece.  It’s called Song of Simplicity by Elijah Bosenbroek,” Kyle responded.  “It’s totally awesome.  I downloaded the sheet music and learned to play it in about two hours.”

I laughed, and said, “And he hasn’t stopped playing it since.”

Kyle punched me in the shoulder.  “As if you don’t like playing it, as well.”

“I never said I didn’t; but, I’m not the one playing it all day long,” I replied, grinning at him.

“I play other stuff,” Kyle said, defensively. 

I put my arm around his broad shoulders, and said, “I know.  I just couldn’t help busting your chops.”

Noticing the difference in our height, Adam asked, “Since when did Kyle get taller than you, Glenn?”

Kyle grinned, and put his arm around my waist.  “Since about a month ago.  I’m 5’11” (181 cm.), now.  Daddy is now the shortest one in the family.”

“I don’t think so,” I said, shaking my head.

Kyle laughed.  “Let’s find out.”  He turned to the guys and said, “David and Purev, come stand behind Daddy.”

First David walked over and we stood back to back.  Robbie said, “David’s taller than you, Glenn.”

David said, “I’m the same height as Kyle; but I think I’ll be taller.”

Kyle smiled, and said, “Purev, your turn.”

Purev took David’s place, and Adam said, “Purev’s taller than you, also.”

“How is that possible?” I protested.  “I’ve always been taller than Purev!”

Purev laughed, and gave me a hug.  “It’s okay, Daddy.  I’m only an inch taller than you.  I’m 5’9” (175 cm.).”

Kyle said, “But, that still makes you the shortest one in the family.”

I ruffled his hair.  “No, it doesn’t, because Ashley is still shorter than me, as are the twins.”

Ashley said, “I will probably always be the shortest.  Mom and Grandma were the same height as me, and I look just like them.”

Robbie asked, “How tall are you?”

“I’m 5’4” (137 cm.),” she replied.

Robbie said, “You’re a very beautiful girl, Ashley.  I’m sure the boys are falling all over themselves to get your attention.”

Ashley blushed at his praise.  “I’m not that good looking.”

Adam said, “Yes, you are, Ashley.  Don’t let anyone ever tell you differently.”

Ashley did look stunning.  Her long, dark brown hair framed her heart-shaped face perfectly.  Her dark eyebrows accentuated her hazel eyes.  Her unblemished olive skin still held hints of the dark tan she normally sported during the summer months.  Despite being younger than the boys, her growth spurt had hit about the same time as the boys.  Her body shape had changed almost overnight, from that of a little girl to one of a young woman.  She also had great fashion sense! 

She hugged Adam, and said, “Thank you, Uncle Adam.”

Adam said, “You’re welcome, Ashley.”  Turning to David, he continued, “Are you keeping an eye on your sister?”

Ashley laughed, and said, “I’ve had people ask me if David’s my boyfriend.”

David added, “We don’t look a lot alike, so they get confused.”  David’s fair skin, blue eyes, and reddish-brown hair stood out in contrast to Ashley’s dark hair and olive skin.  “Ashley inherited Mom’s Italian good looks, while I take after Dad’s side of the family.”

Kyle said, “I got Mom’s Italian looks, but Dad’s height.”

Adam said, “I’ve never seen photographs of your birth parents.”

Kyle pulled out his wallet, and removed a tattered snapshot of his parents.  He handed it to Adam.  The photo showed his dad, standing tall, blond and very fair, next to a petite, dark haired woman.

“They are a very handsome couple, Kyle.  You look a lot like your dad,” Adam said, handing back the photo.

Kyle said, his eyes bright with tears, “I love our Dads; but, some days, I really miss them.”

I put my arms around him, pulling him into a tight embrace.  I smoothed his hear, and rubbed his back.  “It’s okay, Kyle.  We’re here for you.”

Kyle hugged me, then pulled away.  “I’m good, Daddy.”  He blinked his eyes rapidly, to keep the tears from falling down his cheeks.

I took him by the hand, and led him over to one of the couches that lined the walls of the foyer.  We sat down and I put my arm around his shoulders.  He said, “Daddy, I’m sorry.   I’m still having a hard time dealing with Grandpa’s passing.”

“I understand,” I said.

Ashley joined us, sitting on the other side of him.  “Kyle, I miss Grandpa, too.”  She took his hand in hers.  “We still have each other.  David and I aren’t going anywhere, and neither are our Dads.”   She looked over at me, and smiled.

Rick walked over to join us.  He knelt down in front of Kyle, taking his other hand in his.  He looked into Kyle’s eyes, and said, “Kyle, we love you very much and we’ll be here for you when you need us.”

Kyle nodded his head.  “I know you and Daddy love us very much.”

JJ, seeing Kyle’s sad expression, ran over to him, pushing past Rick.  He climbed up on Kyle’s lap, putting his small arms around his neck.  “Kyle, don’t be sad, anymore.”

Kyle hugged his little brother.  “Okay, JJ, I’ll try not to be sad.”

The newlyweds entered the foyer, followed by their girls.  JJ jumped down and made a beeline for Jeff and Cole.  He stopped in front of Jeff, looking up at him.  “Uncle Jeff, Aunt Hannah said to tell you she made a wedding cake for you,” he said, taking Jeff’s hand.

Aunt Hannah appeared behind the happy couple.  “Yes, I made you guys a wedding cake.  It’s already set up in the social hall.”

Jeff looked at her in surprise.  “You didn’t have to do that.”

“Yes, we did, Jeff.  You’re part of our family,” she said, smiling.  “Come this way, boys.”  She led the way to the social hall.  Jeff and Cole entered the hall, and stopped in surprise.  The entire hall had been decorated with balloons and streamers, with tables covered in white tablecloths.  The centerpiece of each table was a glass heart with two men, wearing tuxedos, holding hands in the center, surrounded with little glass flowers.  In the center was a three-tiered wedding cake topped, with two grooms holding hands surrounded by another glass heart.   Along one wall was a lunch buffet, waiting for us to dive in.

Jeff hugged Aunt Hannah, with tears in his eyes.  “Thank you for making this such a special day.”

Aunt Hannah said, “You’re welcome.  I had a lot of help setting it up.   I drafted Randy and Shawn, since they were staying with us.”

Jeff turned to the two men, and said, “Thanks, guys.  We appreciate you staying over to attend our wedding.”

Randy said, “Not a problem, Jeff.”

Shawn said, “We managed to get a flight out later this afternoon, so we’re good.”

Cole said, “Thank you for being here with us.”

Shawn smiled.  “You’ve made quite a catch, Cole.  Jeff’s a real gem.”

Jeff blushed.  “I’ll give you the cash, later.”

Shawn laughed.  “None needed, because it’s true.  You’re a good man, Jeff, and Cole is fortunate to have found you.”

Randy gave Cole the once over, grinning broadly.  “Of course, you’re quite the stud, as well.  So, I think Jeff made a good catch, too.”

Cole put his arm around his husband’s waist.  “I think we are good for each other.”

Shawn nodded his head in agreement.  “That you are.”

Mom came up to Jeff and Cole.  “Thank you for having your wedding, today.  I needed to be reminded of the great happiness there is in the world, when there is love between two such wonderful men.”  She hugged and kissed them both.  “I wish you both the best of everything.”

Aunt Hannah said, “Let’s eat, first.  Then, you’ll cut the cake.”

Cole said, “Thank you for everything, Aunt Hannah.”

She smiled, and said, “I love planning parties, and this one is a very special occasion.”

The rest of our family and friends joined us, as we moved to the buffet.  For the next few hours, we enjoyed each other’s company, while we ate our lunch.  Then, the moment arrived to cut the cake. 

Jeff and Cole both held the cake knife to cut a slice of cake.  They divided it into two pieces, feeding each other cake.   We snapped lots of photos to record the moment.

After helping to clean up, we sent Jeff and Cole off to begin their honeymoon.  Then, we said, ‘good bye,’ to Randy and Shawn, as they rushed to catch their flight to Regina.  We returned to our home, with our friends and family.  As the evening drew to a close, Nancy and I found ourselves sitting next to Mom in the family room.  The twins were in their beds, the teens were watching movies, and the guys were in the kitchen playing board games.

“Mom, how are you holding up?” I asked.

She took my hand in hers, and said, “I’m doing good, son.”

Nancy said, “What are you planning to do with the house here?”

“I’ll rent it out.  I’m moving back to Swift Current, to be close to the boys,” she said.  “Not that I haven’t loved living here; but, I’ve lived most of my life in Swift Current.”

Nancy asked, “When are you leaving?”

“Next month.  I need to pack up my things and sort through your dad’s things,” she said.

“Do you want us to help you?” I asked.

She smiled, and said, “I would love the help; but, I know you need to get back to Virginia, Glenn.”

“I think we can spend a couple of more days here,” I said.

Nancy said, “We’ll be here the rest of the week, Mom.  I think we can sort through most of dad’s stuff in that time.”

Mom said, “Thank you, Nancy.  I’m very grateful to both of you.  I wasn’t looking forward to going through your dad’s things.  It will be much easier if you help me.  Hannah and Carl will be over tomorrow to help, as well.  Gary and Eric have already started going through things at the house.  I told Gary to take your dad’s tools.  He can use them on the farm.  Eric already has his own tools, since he’s working as a plumber.”  She paused, looking like she was going to cry.  She managed to control her emotions, and continued, “I want you to have dad’s suits.”  I tried not to cringe.  My dad had horrible taste in clothes!  Mom, seeing my expression, laughed.  “Alright, I’ll give them to charity.”

Nancy said, “Dad never gave fashion a second thought.  I think giving them away, or burning them might be better.  I don’t know of anyone who would wear his suits.”

Mom nodded her head in agreement.  “I tried my best with him, Nancy.”

“We know you did, Mom,” I said.

We chatted for a while longer, before Mom announced she was tired, and was going home.  I called Gary to let him know she was heading his direction.  When I got off of the phone, Mom looked at me, and said, “I’m a grown woman, Glenn.  I don’t need a babysitter.”

I said, “Mom, I was just letting Gary know you were coming home.”

She raised her eyebrows, and said, “I am quite capable of getting home without someone looking out for me.”

I laughed, and said, “Okay, Mom.  I get the message.”

She smiled and gave me a hug.  “I’ll see you in the morning.”  She opened the door, and I watched her get in her car and back it out of the driveway.  I waved to her, and closed the door behind me.

Nancy stood next to me.  She started to tremble, and she clutched my arm.  “Nancy, what’s wrong?”

She said, “Help me to sit down.”

I helped her into the kitchen.  Seeing her, Cory immediately jumped up and held her other arm, helping her to the chair he had just vacated.  “Honey, are you okay?” he said, worry showing in his expression.

She looked up at him, and said, ‘I’ll be okay.”

I pulled up a chair next to her, as did her husband.  I met her gaze, and asked, “You haven’t told us everything, have you?”

Nancy’s eyes filled with tears, as she replied, “I didn’t want everyone to worry about me.”

I looked up at Cory, and asked, “How bad are things?”

Cory's lower lip trembled, as he said, “The disease is advancing at an incredible rate.  Nothing we’ve tried seems to slow its progress.”

Rick asked, “How long?”

Cory said, “If things continue as they are, Nancy may have a couple of years left, if we’re lucky.”  His voiced cracked, as tears ran down his face.

Nancy said, “I haven’t told anyone, until now; because I don’t want everyone to pity me.  I want things to go on like normal, for as long as possible.”

Zach said, “Have you been to one of the Multiple Sclerosis treatment centers where they have specialized therapies for MS?”

Nancy nodded her head.  “No, not yet.  We plan to go to the John Hopkins MS Center in Baltimore, after we leave here.”

I said, “You are more than welcome to stay with us, in Virginia.”

“Or we can rent you a house near John Hopkins,” Rick said.

Nancy looked up at her husband.  “I told you they would welcome us to their home.”

He smiled at her.  “You win.”

I asked, “What did you win?”

Nancy laughed, and said, “I bet him a milk shake you would open your home to us, when you found out about my need to go to John Hopkins.”

Cory blushed.  “I told her I wasn’t sure you would want us to stay with you.  You already have a houseful.”

Todd said, “We have plenty of room at our place, and we live next door to Glenn and Rick.  You could stay with us, while you go to John Hopkins.”

Nancy grinned at her husband, and said, “I just won a second bet.”

Cory said, “Nancy predicted you would also offer us place to stay.”

Zach said, “You’re family, Cory.  Nancy knows that.”

Cory said, “I know it, as well; but, I hate to impose on you guys.”

Robbie said, “Cory, you should know by now that we take care of our own.”

Cory looked over at Robbie and Adam.  “Even after all these years, it still amazes me how our family takes care of one another.”

Adam smiled.  “It’s just how things are, Cory.”

“So, it’s settled, then.  You’re going to stay with us, while you’re getting treatment at Johns Hopkins,” I said.

Nancy nodded her head.  “Yes, we’ll stay with you.”

We continued to chat about our plans, before we retired for the night.  Zach, Todd, Robbie and Adam returned to their hotel with their boys, since they were heading north with their parents to go house hunting in the morning.

Rick checked on the teenagers, admonishing them not to stay up too much later, while I went upstairs to look in on the twins.  They were fast asleep, in their beds.  As I closed their door, Rick came up behind me, slipping his arms around my waist.

“Babe, let’s go to bed,” Rick said, pressing his very erect male member against me.

I leaned back against his chest, turning my head to meet his lips.  “I wonder what you have in mind.”

Rick took my hand, leading me to our bedroom.  He closed the door, pinning me against it.  He kissed me deeply, as his hands roamed over my body, setting my skin on fire.  He released me and began stripping my clothes off of me.  Then, he lifted me off my feet, carrying me to our bed.  I shuddered with anticipation, seeing the look of pure animal lust in his eyes.  I grinned up at him, as he did a strip tease for me. 

“I need you,” I said, huskily.

He said, “I know you do.”

He joined me on the bed, capturing my lips as he made me his!

We lay in each other’s arms, enjoying the afterglow of our lovemaking.  I whispered in his ear, “I love you.”

Rick kissed me, and said, “I love you, too.”

Feeling safe and warm in his arms, I put my head on his chest, drifting off to sleep to the steady beat of his heart. 

*** ***

Author’s Note:

Music for this chapter:

Enya – If I Could Be Where You Are -

A Great Big World – Say Something (I’m Giving Up on You) -

A Great Big World – Already Home -

Ellie Goulding – Love Me Like You Do -

Axel – Tu Amor Por Siempre (I Want to Be Your Love Forever) Lyrics in English -

Lifehouse – Everything -

Elijah Bosenbroek – Song of Simplicity –

Cover Song of Simplicity -


  1. Wow so love this story. God I hate were going to lose Nancy. Keep this amazing story going. People if your reading this story tell the author how much you love it.

  2. I've read everything he's written and it just keeps getting better. Can't wait for the next chapter to come out. Keep up the good work Russ

  3. I have also read every word so far & love it!!! I was legally married in Toronto as soon as it became legal here, in 2003. My beloved husband died of cancer in 2005 - a short marriage but we were together for 37 years . So a long engagement!!! Sov I am loving this story Russ ... Please keep writing till you drop!!

    1. George, Thank you for the positive feedback. Still working on the next chapter (51)