The phone woke us, and we took turns in the bathroom. When we were dressed and ready, we walked over to the restaurant for breakfast. Then we went back to our room and packed up to leave. After a stop at the office to return the key and pay our bill, we were on our way.
We had decided to push as far as we could today, so that the last leg of the trip would be a little easier on us. We would be tired; Gregg was already showing signs of being more uncomfortable. I wanted to get home as early as possible tomorrow, so that we could get some rest before we had to find out what had been going on in Ithaca, while we were away.
We had been blessed with beautiful weather for the trip, and we watched the changing scenery as we drove. Gregg volunteered for the first part of the trip, but I didn't really expect him to last as long as he did. We had been driving almost three hours, when he suggested stopping for coffee.
We pulled into the next rest stop we saw, and both of us were glad for the chance to stretch some of the kinks out of our legs. I didn't even hesitate this time; I got a donut with my coffee. Gregg was chuckling, but he had one, too.
We went back outside and walked around for a few minutes before we had to get back into the car. Gregg was beginning to limp, so I offered to drive. His look of gratitude told me that I had made the right move.
Like yesterday, we drove mostly in silence, only commenting occasionally on something that had caught our eye along the road. I was really glad that I didn't have to make conversation; my mind was filled with questions and quite a few thoughts that I tried to ignore. I was so comfortable with this man, and I really liked him a lot, but I still had no clue about his feelings for me. A picture kept popping up in my mind, Gregg standing by the bed in the motel, dressed in just his boxers. I really had to fight this one! He is just so beautiful. It's hard to believe that he is sixty years old; his body looks twenty years younger.
We stopped a couple of times for coffee, not so much for the coffee, but so that we could get out and stretch. After our lunch stop, Gregg offered to drive again, and he drove a couple of hours before he needed to stop again. When we got back into the car, I was driving again. The afternoon wore on slowly, and it was almost six thirty before we found a motel and restaurant. We went into the motel office to register for the night.
The desk clerk was apologetic. "Gee, I'm sorry, guys. We're full up. There are several conventions in the area, and most of the motels are full. Where are you headed?" We told him that we were going straight through to New York, and he offered to call ahead, to see if he could find a motel with an opening. He finally found one, about two hours farther down the road, that had an open room. He reserved it for us.
We went into the restaurant for dinner and a little rest. When we finished, we walked around the parking lot for a few minutes before we got back into the car. Gregg didn't say anything, but I could tell by his expression and by the way he was limping that he was in pain. I didn't say a word; I just slid into the driver's seat and pretended not to see the trouble he had getting into the passenger's side. And we still had a two-hour drive ahead of us.
As we drove down the road, I noticed that Gregg kept glancing over toward me, as if he wanted to say something. Finally, after almost half an hour, he spoke. "I think we've got an elephant in the back seat."
I glanced over at him. He looked so serious, almost scared. I tried to lighten the mood a little. "He must be crowded, with all of our luggage there."
He smiled, but then turned serious again. "I think I need to explain to you about Jerry and me. There's a lot you don't know, and you need to know what he was like, what I'm like."
I slowed the car for a minute and turned toward him. "Gregg, you don't have to tell me anything you don't want to. It's really none of my business."
"But I want you to know, to understand. And it is definitely your business." He paused, then said, "I think it would be easier for me, though, if you weren't looking at me."
I turned my attention to the road and stepped on the gas. He took a couple of deep breaths and continued. "I'm not a brave person, never have been. When I was a kid, I got picked on a lot. I could never stand up for myself, and some of the older kids made my life miserable. Then, when I figured out that I was gay, it was even worse. I kind of pulled into a shell, like a hermit crab. I didn't try to make friends or join any clubs. I was never very athletic, so sports were out.
"By the time I graduated from high school, I was a complete recluse. It wasn't what I wanted, but I didn’t dare try to make friends. Then, when I went to college, I figured it would be the same, so I'd just concentrate on my studies. I hoped that, if I got good grades, I might make a few friends.
"The college assigned incoming students to rooms, two to a room. We had no choice of roommates. The guy I was rooming with was the complete opposite from me. He was outgoing, confident, at ease in any situation. It didn't hurt, either, that he was very good-looking. All the girls in the freshman class, and a few upper class girls, too, were trying to get his attention. He was friendly with all of them, but nothing more. Friday and Saturday nights he went out with friends, to a movie or to one of the frat houses. He had been offered invitations to join several of the frats on campus, but he didn't seem to be in any hurry to choose one.
"I, of course, wasn't invited to join a frat. I don't think the brothers even knew that I existed. I just stayed in the dorm and studied, or sometimes I'd go down to the community room and watch TV with the other losers. Then, one Friday night, my life changed forever. My roommate, Jerry, asked me if I'd like to go to a movie, just the two of us. I almost said no; why would he want to hang out with a loser like me? But he really seemed to mean it. He was smiling at me, and I couldn't resist that smile! We went to the movie.
"After the movie, we went to an all-night diner to get something to eat. We talked; he was so open and inviting that I was actually able to talk to him. I even confessed what my life had been like, and how I dreaded going out and meeting people. He listened, as if my dull life were the most interesting story he had ever heard. Then he did something that almost freaked me out. "He reached across the table and put his hand over mine. "You're gay, aren't you?" I was terrified; what would he do now? Would he stomp out of the diner and never speak to me again? Would he go to the administration and demand that his room be changed? Would he tell all his friends, so that I'd be even more of a pariah than I already was?
"But he didn't seem upset. He just smiled at me. "You are, aren't you?" I was on the edge of tears, but I fought them back. I didn't want to make a fool of myself, crying in public, and, worse, in front of him. I couldn't look at him. I just stared at my plate and nodded. I was waiting for the explosion, but instead he chuckled. "I wasn't sure, but I sure was hoping so."
"Something must be wrong with my hearing. He didn't say what I thought I heard him say! I glanced up, into the warmest smile I had ever seen in my life. He was grinning at me now. "I had to know for sure. I didn't want to be the only fag in the room." His hand on mine tightened into a firm grip. He smiled at me and whispered, "Let's get out of here. We've got a lot to talk about." He grabbed the check and went to the counter to pay the bill. Then he came back to the table. I was still sitting there in shock. I still couldn't believe what I had heard. He was laughing now. "Are you ready, or do I have to carry you out of here?"
"Outside the diner, he stopped and looked at me. "Let's go home, Gregg. I've got a lot of things to talk to you about, and I'd just as soon do it in the privacy of our own room. Is that OK with you?"
"When we got back to the dorm, he hurried me up the stairs to our floor. It was Friday night, and most of the guys were out, on dates, at parties, or just getting stupid at some local bar where college kids were never checked for age. We went into our room, and he locked the door behind us. "I don't want some drunk busting in, while we're talking." Was it my imagination, or was there a hidden meaning behind the word 'talking'?
"He sat down on the edge of his bed and kicked off his shoes. Shoving them under the bed, he looked up at me. I was still standing there, trying to figure out where this was going. "Sit down, will you? You're giving me a stiff neck." I sat down on my bed, facing him. I waited; I had no idea what to say. He sat there for a minute, then cleared his throat.
"I suppose you wonder what's going on. To be totally honest, so do I. We've been roommates a couple of months now, and I've been watching you." Watching me? Why? He continued, "You never seem to have much to say, so I have no idea what's going on in your mind, but I have to tell you, mymind has been really busy. I think you are the best looking, sweetest person I've ever met in my life. I hope that doesn't shock you, or scare you off before I have a chance to explain, but I had to say it. I've known that I was gay for five or six years, but I never dared act on it. It would have ruined my reputation in high school. I dated a few girls, but it never got serious; they just didn't do anything for me. And the guys I was interested in knowing better were all jocks, so I just stayed in my little closet. I thought when I came to college I'd have a chance to meet someone, but all the frat boys are such determined jocks, and there just didn't seem to be any future in that. That's why I haven't pledged a fraternity yet. I think I'm a born GDI." He chuckled, then got serious again. "I noticed that you never seem to go out, and you keep to yourself. You're polite and friendly to people, but you always seem to be alone, and I would almost think you like it that way, except that I've seen you looking at me and some of my friends when they drop in, as if you'd really like to join in, but don't quite dare. And I've seen you checking out some of the good looking guys on campus, so I took a chance. I was really scared that you'd walk out of the diner and go to the administration to get a different roommate."
"I couldn't help it; I started to laugh. "You probably won't believe this, but that's exactly what I was thinking when you asked me if I was gay. I was just hoping that you wouldn't beat the crap out of me first." Now we were both laughing. He turned serious again. "Gregg, I wasn't kidding. I meant every word I said. I think you're the best looking, nicest person I've ever met, and I'd really like us to be more than friends." He paused, a look of almost fear on his face, as if he'd gone too far. I was stunned; I didn't know what to say, but, fortunately, I didn't have to say anything. He stood up, crossed to my bed and sat down beside me. I was too scared to move, but then he put his arms around me, and he kissed me. That was it. I was a goner. We became lovers that night, and we stayed lovers for twenty years.
"He came from a little hick town in Nebraska. That's country! I grew up in Chicago, and even the college town where we were living at the time seemed like the boondocks to me. But he took me home with him on vacation, and I fell in love with his little town, Fremont, Nebraska. When we went back to school, I couldn't wait to get back to Fremont. We spent all our vacations with his family in Fremont. Chicago was just not my home any more. My family wrote letters occasionally, but they didn't seem to care if I came home or not. His family, on the other hand, just adopted me. The first Christmas I spent with them, they went all out. Jerry had checked out my clothes when I was out of the room, noting sizes and what I needed. Christmas morning I had this huge pile of gifts, "from Santa," and the whole family just watched and smiled as I opened them. We had a huge dinner, and I was so stuffed I could hardly walk away from the table. His Mom had found out, through him, what I liked best to eat, and it was all there on the table.
"After dinner, we took a walk down by the river. It was too cold to stay long, but we both needed to walk off some of the food we had eaten. When we got to the river, he brushed the snow off one of the benches, so that we could sit down. He drew me close to him and put his arm around me. I didn't notice that he was fishing in his coat pocket with the other hand, until he pulled out a small package wrapped in gold paper and tied with a green ribbon. He handed it to me. I was so embarrassed; I had given him a sweater that he was admiring in the college store, and he had given me a set of books that I had mentioned I wanted to get. But this was different. He looked at me and smiled. "Aren't you going to open it?"
"I carefully untied the ribbon, folded it, and stuck it in my pocket. Then I did the same with the wrapping paper. The box inside looked like a jewelry box. "Come on, open it. I have to know what you think of it." He looked like a little boy, half excited, half afraid.
"I opened the box. It was a broad, flat band, like a wedding ring, with tiny hearts carved into the surface all around it. Jerry reached over and picked the ring out of the box. "Look inside." I did; the inscription read 'All my love, forever.' That did it; I burst into tears. He held me close as I cried, his face a real tragic mask. He whispered, his voice choked with fear, "Don't you like it? Is it too soon?"
"I had to struggle to control myself enough to answer. "I love it. I'm just so surprised; I never expected anything like this in my life."
"He took my left hand in his. "I meant every word that's written there, and more." He grinned then. "There just wasn't room enough inside the ring to say all I wanted to say." Then he slipped the ring on my finger. "All my love, forever, Gregg." And he kissed me.
"He really meant it, too. For twenty years he was always there, my rock, my support, my comfort, my love. Then a drunk driver took him away from me."
Gregg paused, struggling with the emotions that boiled up inside him. I didn't want to say anything; this was his moment. I didn't want to interrupt it, to spoil it for him. Gradually, he regained control and continued.
"I was knocked unconscious, and came to in the hospital. They had checked my head, thinking I might have a concussion. But when I woke up, I was all right. I left the hospital the next morning. When I found out that Jerry didn't make it, I was in complete shock, but somehow I managed to get through the next couple of days. I went to the funeral home and made all the arrangements. The funeral director gave me time to be with him before the calling hours started. I just stood there, looking at him, numb. I slipped the ring from my finger and put it on his finger. It was all I had to give him.
"I got through the funeral, somehow. Beau and Becca were there. I think half of Fremont was there. But I really didn't see anyone. I only saw Jerry, lying there alone. Now we were both alone again. Beau and Becca wanted me to go to their house and stay with them for a while, but I needed to get home, to our house, the only real home I had known.
"It was a couple of days later that I got up in the morning and couldn't walk. My leg hurt so much I couldn't even stand on it. I finally called 911, and an ambulance came and took me to the emergency room. I was lying on the living room floor when they got there; I had fallen, and I was in so much pain that I couldn't get up.
"At the hospital I had x-rays and CAT scans and all sorts of tests. My hip was shattered, my femur was broken in two places and my knee cap was knocked out of place. The doctors couldn't believe that I had been walking on it ever since the accident. They hadn't even checked, because I seemed to be just fine when I came to, after the crash. I spent six hours in surgery, and they pieced me back together as much as they could. I was in the hospital for over a month, and then in physical therapy for almost two years.
"Beau called his lawyer, and they sued the driver who hit us. He came out of the accident with a few cuts and bruises. His insurance company settled out of court; Beau was threatening him with a two million dollar suit. If it went to trial, there were too many witnesses to the accident; he would have lost, and the insurance company knew it. They offered me a half million, all taxes paid, and Beau recommended that I take it, so I did. With Jerry's insurance, the house was paid off, and we had the money we were planning to travel on, so I was pretty well set, financially. But I really didn't have any plans for the rest of my life.
"Beau and Becca invited me to dinner one evening. Becca broached a new topic during dinner. "You really like children, don't you, Gregg?"
"Yes, I do. Jerry and I talked about adopting, but the laws here make it almost impossible for two gay men to adopt a child; we finally gave it up. Why do you ask?"
"I noticed the other day, when I was at the bank, that there's a little toy store for sale just down the block. What would you think of opening a business like that?"
"Well, I probably never would have considered it, but, now that you mention it, it's an interesting idea. I'll have to look into it." I did, and I really fell in love with the place. It would give me time with the kids that I'd never had before. The owner had some puppets that he had made. They weren't very good; he was no craftsman. But it gave me an idea. I talked it over with Beau and Becca, and bought the store a week later. When I was a kid, I always loved carving toys and things out of wood, so I thought I could carve some puppets that were at least as good, if not better than the ones in the store. Business was a little slow at first, so I had plenty of time to carve, and the former owner had left all his tools in the little workspace in the back."
"I was still missing Jerry terribly, so when I began to whittle, I thought I'd like to try to carve a puppet who looked like him. I worked and worked on that little guy, because I wanted him to be as much like my Jerry as possible. It would be my gift to Jerry.
"Well, you've heard the story of how Grant appeared in my life. What you didn't hear, because nobody but me knows this, is that Grant looks exactly like Jerry at the same age, the age he was when I met him."
He paused again and looked out the window at the passing scenery. We rode on a few minutes in silence. Then he shifted his position, so that he was leaned against the door, facing me. "I hope I haven't bored you, or shocked you with my story."
"Not at all! I've wondered, but I didn't like to pry. I'm so glad you trust me enough to share all your memories with me."
"Well, I wanted you to know who I am, what I've been. I think it's important for friends to share themselves with their friends."
Was that a hint? Was he expecting me to talk about myself? I wasn't sure, but there were things I wanted him to know, too, things about me that he needed to know.
"My life is rather dull, I guess. I graduated from college with a bachelor's degree, a wife and a baby. I wasn't sure what I was going to do to support my family, but I was determined to do it, and do it right. You see, I've led a sort of double life, all my life. I knew, at a very early age, that I was gay. I couldn't tell anyone; in the little town where I grew up, being gay was simply not acceptable. So, I worked very hard at being the type of person that was expected. I dated girls in high school, even though I was having an on and off affair with a married man. It started before he was married. In fact, he was a teenager when it began. But it went on until his second son was born. Then we just didn't see each other any more. I felt abandoned. I met my wife to be at work. She was the one who decided that she wanted me. I liked her, but there certainly wasn't any passionate feeling there. She was the one who initiated a sexual relationship. I didn't know anything; she had to teach me. When we were married, I made up my mind that I would be the best husband I could be. Everything in the past was just that, in the past. I was determined to be the straight and faithful husband. I was still in college, and I worked part-time for the college as a janitor to help with the bills. Of course, she got pregnant immediately. That scared me, but when the baby was born, I fell in love with him the first time I held him.
"Our relationship, if you can call it that, was an up and down thing. She is a strong individual; so am I. There were arguments about almost everything. We even separated a couple of times, for several months each time. She took our son with her, which really hurt me; I figured out later that it was intended to hurt. She had a motto: I don't get mad, I get even. She used to say that a lot. And she did. But her idea of getting even was to make me crawl. I'm not a crawling person, but I loved my son so much that I would do anything to keep him. I think she counted on that.
"We had our ups and downs. I had to go to school in the west for a summer, and she was so miserable on the phone that I decided to stay there, rather than come home to more arguments. Of course, she put my son on the phone, and he begged Daddy to come home. It broke my heart to tell him that Daddy couldn't come home, but I figured it was better than to subject him to more of our fighting.
"I stayed out there until Halloween; then I couldn't stand it any longer. I came home, only to find that she had taken an apartment and didn't want me around. I did get to see our son, visitation rights, you know, but it wasn't the same. Finally, we worked out something like a compromise, and I moved in with her. And wouldn't you know it? A couple of months after my son's seventh birthday, his brother was born.
"We struggled on for almost ten years. We were brought up in the old belief that "you stay together, no matter what, for the children's sake." What a crock that was! Then one evening I came home from work, and she had made coffee. We sat down at the dining room table with our coffee, and she announced, "I'm leaving you, and I'm taking the boys. I've told your parents, and we're having dinner with them tonight." I felt as if I'd just been hit between the eyes with a hammer.
"Dinner was a washout. My parents were both on the edge of tears, and I was still in shock. Mom had to ask the questions that I should have been asking. Where were they going to live? She was renting an apartment from a couple who had been our best friends. What was she planning to do? She had contacted a lawyer; she had a legal separation, and once we had been separated a year, the judge would grant a no-fault divorce. And that was it.
"I stumbled on for a couple of months, until she called me one day and said, "We need to talk." She came to the house and we sat down with coffee. She told me that she had decided she didn't want to wait a year in limbo; she wanted to get a divorce now. Her lawyer told her that she would need charges, reasons, that a judge would accept. They had sat down together and drawn up a list of charges which he said would be acceptable to any judge they happened to get. I got a call from the sheriff's office a few days later; I had to go and pick up the notification of the charges. When I got home and read them, they were patently ridiculous. She came up that evening to talk again, and we sat down and read the charges together. We were both laughing; they were so far from any truth in our lives that they were really almost funny. She told me that I should get a lawyer to represent me in court, if I intended to fight the charges. At this point, it hardly seemed worth the effort, even if I could have afforded one. So, I told her to go ahead, that I would not contest the divorce. She did. I had to pay support; she was generous there, because she had a good job, and she knew that I could not afford what her lawyer suggested. I had visitation rights, one day a week. And that was the end of my family. The older son graduated from high school and joined the army. The younger one grew closer to his mother; I found out years later that she had convinced him that Daddy didn't love them. That was why they had to move away. When I found out about this, I had a long talk with my son, and I explained some things that his mother had not mentioned to him. He believed me, and gradually we became closer. He still lived with his mother, and she continued to control his life, but at least he and I were on better terms.
"After I had lost my family, it hardly seemed to matter what anyone thought of me, so I began going to gay bars. At first, I just bought a beer and watched what was going on, but gradually I got to know people, and I felt more comfortable with the 'gay scene.' I hung out with the gay crowd for a number of years, but it really became boring after a while. There was such an attitude toward older people, and I was forty when I began going to the bars. I didn't fit in there any better than I fitted into the straight world, so I stayed alone most of the time. And that's where I was when I met you. I hope you were taking notes, because there's going to be a quiz."
Gregg just looked at me for the longest time without speaking. Then he said quietly, "Thank you, Harley. That must have been painful for you. I appreciate your willingness to share it with me."
"Well, I can't say that I'm proud of my past, but I won't say that I'm ashamed of it, either. I've always done what I had to do, and done it to the best of my ability. If it didn't work out the way I hoped it would, all I can say is oh, well,…"
Gregg sat for a while with a very thoughtful expression on his face. Then he spoke. "I don't know quite how to say this, so please don't be offended. I've known, since I first met you, that you're a lot like Jerry, in so many ways. He was always my strength and support. I could do things with his support that I wouldn't have even attempted on my own. And you're like that, too. I don't think I could have gone through with leaving Fremont and moving to a new place, even to be with my son; but you've been there through the whole process, like a rock, someone I could lean on when I was tired, hide behind when I was scared. At first, it felt as if I were being disloyal to Jerry's memory, but Thursday evening, at the cemetery, when Jerry spoke to us—and I know that it was Jerry—I realized that I wasn't alone any more. I had a friend, one I could count on, one I could lean on, if I needed to. You can't begin to know what you have done for me in the last week. You've changed my life, you've given me hope and a vision for the future. I have you to thank for that."
Suddenly I got brave. It's now or never. If I don't say it now, I'll probably never have another chance. "Yes, Gregg, you have a friend, who is willing to support you in anything you want to do. But what I'd really like is to be more than a friend. I certainly can't offer you anything like what you had with Jerry, but I promise you that you have everything I do have to offer, if you just reach out and take it." Now I was scared. Did I go too far? Did I say something that would hurt him, make him angry, disgust him. I couldn't face him, so I made a show of watching the road, even though there was almost no traffic around.
I jumped when he laid his hand gently on my arm. "Would you pull over for a minute, please?" I slowed the car and pulled off onto the apron of the pavement. His hand was still resting lightly on my forearm, as I pulled to a stop. I slipped the gearshift into neutral and flipped on the warning blinkers. When I turned to look at him, he was smiling, but he had tears in his eyes.
"Thank you, Harley. I don't know what to say, but thank you, Harley." A couple of tears slid down his cheek, and without thinking I wiped them away. He leaned toward me, and I reached over to hug him. He lay partly against my chest, and I leaned down and kissed his forehead. We sat there for a few minutes, with him pressed close against my chest. Then he pulled back a little. "Let's go, please. The motel can't be too far ahead."
And indeed it wasn't. We had barely started when we saw it just ahead of us. I pulled into the drive.
OH Arli!!! That was beautiful!!! I simply loved that chapter. I used up a box of Kleenex. I know everyone that reads this story has been waiting for this. They both love each other, I am sure of that, and yet they were both too scared to tell the other one, for fear of being rejected. They each sort of thought it was possible that the other one felt something similar, but just didn't want to take the chance of ruining the really nice friendship that was obviously developing. Of course, all that needed to be said, if there was ever going to be a chance of them becoming a couple. They had to let each other know how they felt. It is wonderful that it happened.
I have seen people, both gay and straight, hem and haw around the subject of love toward each other, each being terrified that the other one wouldn't want them. In fact a similar situation happened to my Mom.
Her first crush, a boy she knew in high school, was deeply in love with her, but he didn't have a lot of money, and his parents didn't like my Mom. They were very snotty people, and for some reason, they thought my Mom's family wasn't good enough for their son. This, from a family that was not particularly well off. I think they hoped that somehow he would find a rich, high class girl to marry. He and my Mom dated for a couple of years; then he stopped seeing her and stopped answering her letters, and she didn't hear from him in any way for a long time. It seems that one day he was in the grocery store and saw my Mom talking to a man. They were standing very close to each other and kind of leaning over toward each other. I don't remember what Mom said they were talking about, but whatever it was, it looked to Larry as if they were being very loving toward each other. Apparently they hadn't noticed him standing there, and when he said hi to them, neither one answered him. He decided right then that he would let Mom go and give her up to that man, who, he figured, wanted her, and whom he thought she wanted. That afternoon, he joined the Army and headed off to make his 'fortune'. As I said, Mom never heard another word from him, so she married that nice man she had been talking to in the grocery store, thinking that Larry had decided that his family came first, and that he didn't love her. As time went by, she grew to love my Dad, but she never forgot Larry.
Larry found a nice girl from a more appropriately connected family that his family approved of, and they married and had a couple of children, who grew up and are very nice.
Let's skip forward about sixty years. That's right, sixty years...
My Father has passed away after being married to my Mom for over fifty years. She had been having quite a hard time taking care of him for the last few years, ever since he had that stroke. He never quite recovered from that. Eventually, he had to be put in continuing care at the Veteran's facilities. She spent every day there with him for months, and finally he passed away; she was a total basket case for a while. She finally had to go to the hospital, from exhaustion, and had been there for about two weeks, after Dad passed.
Meanwhile, at almost the same time, Larry had been taking care of his ailing wife, who finally passed away, and he had moved back to the town where my Mom lived. He started searching around the old neighborhood where she and her family had lived, asking everyone he could find if they knew what happened to her. Finally, he found someone that knew her; they told him that she was in the hospital and he went looking for her.
As it turned out, he was not only an officer, retired from the army, he was a Presbyterian Minister. He was therefore in a position to visit people in hospitals. (What a nice coincidence.) He went up to her room and knocked on her door. She was lying there just on the edge of sleep, and he called her name.
"Alice, are you awake?" he said, very softly, not wanting to wake her if she were really asleep.
She opened her eyes and said, "Hello, Larry, What are you doing here?" It was almost as if she was just wondering why he bothered to show up after a few days. She told me she wasn't surprised in the least. She had dreamed that he would come and see her.
Larry was the one who was surprised, when she instantly recognized him.
Once he got over his surprise and was able to speak, they kind of caught up on each other's lives. It turned out that he didn't know that Carl was dead. He asked where Carl was. Mom told him that Dad had died, and that she was exhausted after taking care of him for the last couple of years, but she was happy that he was no longer suffering.
Larry told Mom about his wife dying, and how he had taken care of her for that last several years, till she passed. He was tired of being so far from his home and had decided to move back, and while he was there he had wanted to see her. When she asked him why he had stopped talking or writing to her, he told her about seeing her and Dad in the store, and explained that he thought they made a nice couple, and that they had ignored him. Mom told him that they didn't see or hear him that day, and that she had only decided to marry Dad after not hearing from Larry for a long time. She told him that she had never stopped loving him. And he told her a similar set of events. He had married his wife because he thought that Mom didn't love him any more, and they both had 'settled' for something, because they couldn't have the one they really loved.
Well, it turned out pretty nicely for both of them, as it happened. After several months of them seeing each other, once Mom got out of the hospital and they became very close, they talked about the possibility of getting married. He discussed it with his family, and his sister and her kids had a fit. They told him that Mom was out to get his money. He told them that wasn't true. Mom asked me what I thought, and I told her that I loved the idea, but I also told her that it was her life, and that she was old enough to make that decision on her own, and that no matter what, if they loved each other, they should go for it and tell his family to stick it, if they couldn't accept it.
He had testicular cancer and was not given very long to live, I think they had given him around a year or so. That had been the only reason they had not taken the plunge, since he didn't want to leave her a widow again so soon, he said. Mom told him that she wanted to marry him anyway, that whatever time they had together would be wonderful. So Mom finally married her high school sweetheart, and I gave the bride away. They were together for another five years, before he finally did die of the cancer. I believe that they both lived a lot longer and more happily together than they would have separately.
Was that completely off topic? Sorry about that. I always thought that I should have sent that to Paul Harvey or to Readers' Digest, as one of those really sweet stories that just happened to be true.
Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher
Note: Today is 21 July 2009 and I am going through chapters to check them for any mistakes that I might have missed. It has been quite some time since I had read this chapter, and I was crying from reading it, just as I did the first time. Then I came to the editor's notes, and I couldn't help reading them as well. I am so glad that I had written them when I did, because I had actually forgotten some of the details that I put in there. This story means even more to me now than it did originally.
Thank you Arli for writing this story and all your others as well. You have made a very nice difference in my life, not only from reading your wonderful stories, but from being your friend. Your friendship means so much to me. Thank you.
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