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Second Time Around

Chapter 27

By Arli J

Edited by Radio Rancher
Based on Characters from Pinochle, by E Walk

We didn't see much of the Bensons, or of Grant, for that matter, for the next couple of days. The boys were home from England, and the family was getting ready to go to the nude dude ranch for a week of rest and relaxation. The boys stopped in a couple of times to tell us a little about their time in England. They promised to tell us the rest when they returned. They wouldn't have much time in Fremont, since they were planning to drive to Ithaca in time for the opening of school. Ben had won that argument with his father. Gregg and I suspected that Ben had more of his father in him than Beau may have realized.

After the family left for the dude ranch, Gregg and I settled down to the business of making Fremont our home. We bought groceries, so that we wouldn't have to eat in restaurants all the time. We did some work on the lawn. Beau had apparently had someone caring for it while we were gone, but there were things that weren't done the way Gregg would have liked them done. We went through the house, dusting and straightening, so that it looked lived in.

Nights together seemed more special. We would watch TV in the evening, cuddled on the couch, and then we climbed the stairs together. I was getting over my anxieties about sharing the bed with Gregg that he had shared with Jerry. And there was a peaceful feeling about those nights, almost like a blessing from Jerry. I think we both felt it, but we never talked about it.

The days slipped by, and our life was filled with peace and contentment, until the day Gregg came rushing out of the house, as I was weeding the flower bed. He was terribly upset. I took him back into the house and got him seated on the couch, so that he could get control of himself and tell me what was going on.

He had just had a call from Becca. She and Beau had returned a couple of days earlier than they planned from the dude ranch. Beau's doctor had discovered a growth on his liver and wanted to do a biopsy on it.

We looked at each other, and the awful reality of the situation struck us both. Cancer. The possibility of cancer growing in Beau's body. Beau was only fifty years old, ten years younger than Gregg and nearly twenty years younger than I am. If Beau could get cancer, what were we facing? We clung to each other and cried for a few minutes, until we regained control. Gregg looked at me with a pathetically hopeful expression.

"They don't know it's cancer. That's why they're doing the biopsy. We can always hope that it's a benign growth." He seemed to want my reassurance.

"That's true, Gregg. There's no sense in getting upset until we know for sure what's going on." We sat on the couch, holding hands and comforting one another in our fears. Mortality is a terrible thing to face. We all dream of being immortal.

Finally we got up and went out to the kitchen for our own form of universal consolation, a cup of coffee. Buoyed up, at least temporarily, by the jolt of caffeine, we went on with our lives. It seemed, though, that we didn't have much to say to each other, but both of us were wrapped in our private thoughts.

It seemed like eternity until the phone rang again, and Becca told us the good news. The growth was benign, and Beau would be fine. Brian was at the hospital with her, and he had taken charge. She was going home to rest for a while, and Brian would call them when Beau was awake.

We looked at each other and both breathed a huge sigh of relief. Then Gregg looked at me.

"Brian? He's fourteen years old! This is a lot of responsibility to dump on a kid!"

"You know, Gregg, I've had the feeling, in the short time that I've known Brian, that he's a lot more like his Dad than Ben is!"

"I think you're right about that! Beau has always been a take-charge person, doing what needed to be done and getting other people to do what they needed to do, whether they wanted to or not. And, it seemed that he was usually right! He's a remarkable man, and Brian is going to be just like him, I think. He'll take charge, tell people what to do, and make them feel that they need to do it, whether it's what they want to do or not."

We had a quiet evening, and we went to bed early. It's a good thing we did, because Ben and Grant were at the house very early to pick up the last of the things they needed to take with them. Their car was loaded, and they had a friend from the dude ranch who was going with them, since he was starting at Cornell, too. We had a rather emotional parting from the boys. We wouldn't be seeing them for quite a while, and we were both worried about what they might find in Ithaca. But we didn't say anything to them about the situation there. If Beau and Becca hadn't told them, it certainly wasn't our place to say anything.

Grant did tell us that Beau was home from the hospital, and Brian had taken charge of him, telling him what he could and couldn't do. The amazing part of this was that Beau seemed to have accepted it. Gregg and I both had a hard time believing that Beau would take orders from anyone but a doctor, and certainly not from his fourteen year old son! But there it was!

We puttered around the house all morning; there wasn't much that needed to be done, but we didn't want to be far from the phone, in case there was any news about Beau. About ten o'clock, the phone rang. It was Becca. She asked us to come over to their house. She and Beau needed to talk to us. We told her we'd be right over.

When we got there, Becca opened the door and took us into the living room, where Beau was sitting in his pajamas, propped up on pillows in his chair with his feet on a footstool. Brian was hovering over him like a mother hen.

Beau asked us to sit down, and Becca went out to the kitchen. She returned shortly with three cups of coffee and a glass of orange juice. She handed the juice to Beau, who set it on the table beside his chair. Then she brought the tray over and set our coffee on the coffee table. She took her own cup to the chair next to Beau's chair and sat down. Brian took the tray back to the kitchen and returned to hover near his father's chair.

Beau picked up his glass, took a sip, and returned the glass to the table.

"We asked you to come over, because we've made some decisions, and some of them affect you guys, you in particular, Harley. Becca's worried about me." He gave her an affectionate smile, and she reached over to pat his hand. "Having a biopsy on your liver can be a life-changing experience." He grinned, but it wasn't the old, confident grin that was Beau's trademark.

"Becca and I have been having a long talk." He turned to Brian. "Could you find something to do for a little while, son? We need to have a serious conversation here."

Brian sighed, leaned over Beau's chair and kissed him on the forehead. "Yeah, I know. The grown-ups want to talk, so the kids have to go play!" He gave his father a grin that was almost a duplicate of Beau's grin. "I'll be a good boy, Dad, but you'd better be a good boy, too, and follow the doctor's orders, or we'regoing to have a serious conversation later!" He dodged the swat his Dad aimed at his bottom and laughed on his way out of the room.

Beau shook his head and looked at Becca. "Where did we go wrong?" She tried unsuccessfully to hide her smile.

"I don't know dear. With the examples he's had to follow, I can't understand how he turned out the way he did." She looked away, struggling not to laugh out loud. Beau shook his head and grinned; then he turned serious again.

"This has been a real eye-opener for both of us. It takes something like this to make you realize that you're not going to live forever, and you'd better decide what's most important in your life."

I glanced over at Gregg. I could see by his expression that he was thinking almost the same thing that I was. We had had our own epiphany when we heard the news, and it came as quite a shock to both of us.

Beau continued, "Becca and I have been talking over what's most important to us, and what we should be doing with the rest of our lives. God knows that we don't need to make more money! If we divided what we have among all four of the kids, they'd all be millionaires, so money isn't an issue for us.

"I work because I enjoy working. I'm doing what I enjoy doing, helping other people to be successful in their lives. But we've decided that it's time for me to relax and let someone else do all the legwork. I've decided to turn the home office over to Zack and Mark. Zack's been working for me for a while now. He has a degree in business management, and he knows what he's doing. Mark isn't needed any more. Ty's kids are out of high school and in college, and they don't need a Nano any more. He's going to school part time to learn more about the business, and he's working part time with Zack at the office. Between the two of them, I have every confidence that the business is in good hands. Of course, I'll still be around to help out, if they need me or to advise them on any questions they may have, but, basically, I want to be out of there. We have three teenagers at home, and I'm ashamed to say that I really don't know any of them all that well. I plan to remedy that situation. We've been talking over things that we can do together."

Becca spoke up. "Yes, we've talked about taking trips as a family during school vacations. Brian really gave us a slap, when he asked us, in so many words, if we loved him. Of course, we do, but apparently we haven't shown them how much we love them. If we spend more time with them, get involved in the things they're doing, the things that interest them, maybe they'll see how much we really care!"

"And Becca made it very clear to me that I need to spend a lotmore time with Brian! I had Jeff, when I was his age, to guide me and pull me in when I got out of control, but Brian's been on his own. That's going to change!"

I was confused now. Everything they had said made sense, but I still didn't see how it applied to Gregg and me. I glanced over at Gregg, and he looked as if he were as confused as I was. Beau must have seen the looks on our faces, because he continued.

"I feel almost guilty, guys, because I dragged you back to Fremont on what turned out to be false assumptions. I didn't plan it that way; I had every intention of fitting you, Harley, into our operation here. And I want you both to know how happy we are that you're here. Becca and I are fond of both of you, and we want you to be happy here. But the way Zack and Mark are organizing the office, there won't be anything for you to do, Harley. It looks as if you've been retired before you begin."

Gregg looked at me and then at Beau. "I can't speak for Harley, but I'm not unhappy with that idea at all. We had quite a shock with the news of your biopsy. It really made us think about the fact that we're in our sixties, and who knows how much time we may have left together? We haven't talked about this, but, personally, I'd like to spend as much time with Harley as I can. I know how I felt when I lost Jerry, and I don't want either one of us to have to go through that. Life is too short, at best, and there comes a time when you either enjoy it or you waste it. I don't want to waste the life we have left together."

I looked over at him. He had tears in his eyes, but his jaw was set; he meant every word. I reached out and took his hand; then I turned to Beau and Becca. "I guess Gregg just said everything there is to say, from our point of view. I agree totally with everything he said." I squeezed the hand I was holding and smiled at him.

Becca stood up; she had tears in her eyes, too. "I think we should go to the club for lunch today." She turned to Beau. "Just the four of us, but while we're there we'll make dinner reservations, to bring the kids." Beau smiled at her.

"That sounds good to me. The four of us can all go in one car."

She glared at him. "You are not driving, Mister! Remember what your doctor said, no driving for two weeks, or you might pull out your stitches!"

He grinned at us. "She gets really bossy sometimes!" But he reached out and squeezed her hand. "Yes, Boss! I'll be good! You're almost as bad as Brian!" He looked over at us and grinned.

"Give 'em an inch, they think they're a ruler! I'm not sure I'm going to survive retirement in this house! I may have to go back to work, to save my sanity and my life!"

"I don't think so!" Becca glared at him in mock anger. We were all laughing by now. Becca went to the stairs and called Brian. When he appeared at the top of the stairs, she told him our plans. He nodded and went back to whatever he was doing. We got ready and left the house.

I drove to the club. Gregg was sitting next to me, and Beau and Becca were cuddling in the back seat. I glanced in the rear-view mirror, and they looked like a pair of teenagers on a date.

Because it was a weekday, we had no trouble getting a table. When the waiter brought our lunch, we all ate heartily. We all seemed to be hungry after our morning's discussion. As we relaxed with our coffee after lunch, Beau looked over to Gregg and said, "So, do you have any plans for what you want to do, now that you're free to do anything you want?"

Gregg glanced at me before he answered. "We haven't had a chance to talk about it, obviously, but I've got a few ideas I'd like to run past Harley, to get his feelings on them."

"Well, let us know, if there's anything we can do to make it easier for you. I really am feeling a little guilty about this whole situation."

I spoke up then. "Beau, there's no reason for you to feel guilty! You were thinking of us and trying to do something good for us. After the way you were treated in Ithaca, I know that I would have reacted the same way. And you certainly didn't plan to go to the hospital! By the way, how's the ankle doing? You seem to be walking pretty well on it."

"My doctor tells me that I should have the cast off by the first of the week. I'm not having any pain at all from it."

"As if he'd admit it, if he were!" Becca's tone was sharp, but the smile she gave Beau was full of love.

I felt that I needed to be sure that Beau understood what I was saying. "Beau, I'm sure that, if everything had worked out the way you planned, I'd be employed in your office right now. It didn't happen that way. You had no control over the situation, and you have no reason whatever to feel guilty."

He grinned at me, the old Beau grin. "Thanks, Harley. I really do feel better now." We left the dining room and went to the desk, where Beau paid for our lunch. Then we took them home. We didn't stay; it felt as if we had a lot to talk about when we got home.

When we got there, Gregg took me by the hand, as we entered the house. He led me to the couch. "Wait here; I'll put coffee on, and I'll be right back."

I was a little puzzled, but I just sat and waited. He was back in a couple of minutes, and I could hear the coffee pot burbling, as it brewed. He sat down next to me, turned so that we were facing each other, knees touching.

"I don't know what you're thinking, what plans you might have, but I'd like you to consider an idea that popped into my head while we were talking to Beau and Becca. This house belongs to Grant, you know; I signed it over to him, when I moved to Ithaca. We had planned to rent it out, so that he would have an income while he's in school. We can pay the rent, just as if we were unrelated tenants. But I've been thinking about something else, ever since we came back to Fremont. I love this town. I have a lot of happy memories here. But I'm getting older, and I'm really not looking forward to another Nebraska winter. I don't know about you, but I don't deal as well with the cold as I used to.

"You won't get any arguments from me there! The last few winters in Ithaca have been really tough on me. And, lest we forget, I'm eight years older than you are!"

He laughed. "You couldn't prove that by me! I don't think I could deal with you, if you were any younger!" Then he turned serious.

"But how would you feel about moving to a warmer climate? We're not bound here, now, so there's no reason we couldn't do it, if you want to."

"You know, that's not a bad idea, at all! I think I could adjust to living where I didn't have to shovel snow or wear socks to bed to keep my feet warm during the night." I had a sudden flash of memory from twenty years ago.

"I heard this guy talking one day; it was late in the fall, and a group of us were discussing the coming winter. He spoke up and said, 'I'm going to strap a snow shovel on the front of my pickup and drive around until someone asks me what that is. That'swhere I want to live!' And we all agreed with him. I never saw him again, so I don't know if he actually did it, but I've always thought that was a great plan!"

Gregg laughed. "I've got a snow shovel out in the garage, if you want to try out the idea!"

"No, I don't think I need to do that, but I do think it's a good idea to think about living in a warmer place. Neither one of us needs to suffer from the cold, not to mention the nuisance of having to get dressed up like a trip to the Arctic, just to go to the corner to get a paper!"

After supper we decided to skip TV and spent the evening online, checking out different areas where we might want to live. We finally settled on central Arizona, not so far south that it was beastly hot in the summer, but not so far north that we might have cold winters. We went to bed, happy with our decision, and cuddled until we both fell asleep.

Gregg decided to call Beau and Becca the next morning to tell them what we wanted to do. We knew that if there were any flaws in our plans, Beau would spot them and tell us how to avoid them.

Brian and his sisters would be starting back to school tomorrow. Brian would be entering high school as a freshman, and he was quite nervous about that. The girls were still in middle school, so they were looking forward to seeing their friends again.

Becca invited us over for coffee. When we got there, we went out to the kitchen. Beau was sitting at the table. "It's really great to have Brian going back to school and out of my hair. They have orientation today, and classes start tomorrow. Now I can enjoy a cup or two of coffee, without him telling me how bad it is for my health!" He shook his head. "I just don't understand how he got that way!" Becca looked over at us, grinned and winked.

"Sit down, guys! I'll get you some coffee." She brought us steaming cups of coffee, went back to the cupboard and brought out a package of Danish rolls.

Beau grinned.

"Something else that Lord Brian won't let me have!" He grabbed a Danish and took a big bite. A look of total contentment came over his face as he chewed. Becca smiled, but said nothing. She sat down and passed the Danish to Gregg.

"So what's going on, guys? You sounded really mysterious on the phone, something about some ideas you've been checking out and want to talk to us about. Come on, what's up?"

Gregg grinned. "Would you be upset if we left Fremont, when we just got here?"

"What?" Beau was sputtering around a mouthful of Danish. He managed to swallow, and took a sip of coffee. "Are you guys planning to go back to Ithaca?"

"No, we've talked it over; neither of us wants to face another cold winter. We're getting to the age where the cold weather is a real problem for us."

Becca smiled. "Well, that makes sense to me! I'm not quite your age yet, but there are times I'd just as soon be somewhere warmer than Fremont in January!"

Beau nodded. "I agree with you on that, but what did you have in mind?"

"We were online last night, and we've sort of decided on someplace in central Arizona. That way we could miss the extremes of southern heat in the summer and northern cold in the winter."

Beau acted almost as enthusiastic about the idea as we were. "Listen, guys, why don't you check and find a town that meets your needs. You can go there and spend a week or two, to see if you like it. Just let me know when you want to go, and we'll send you down in the corporate jet. When you're ready to come back, we'll fly you back here."

I was overwhelmed. I knew that Beau was generous, but this was way beyond anything I would have imagined. "Beau, that's an awful lot to ask of you…" He cut me off.

"You're not asking; I'm offering. And Becca can tell you how I pout when someone refuses my offers."

Becca nodded with a very serious expression. "You guys don't know the half of it! He's miserable for days, and he can make everyone around him miserable, too!" She grinned and patted his arm. "But we love him, so we put up with it!"

We went home and went back to the computer. We were checking out the state of Arizona, when we lucked onto just what we were looking for. Prescott, the county seat of Yavapai county, is located 55 miles WNW of the geographic center of Arizona. It has a population of about 41,500 people, and is located on the edge of the Yavapai reservation, which extends into the city limits. Prescott is located at about 5400 feet altitude, meaning that it is cooler than the cities in the lower, southern area, but it does not have the severe winters of higher locations in the mountains, although it can have a total snowfall of up to about two feet in the winter. The winter of 2005-2006, however, had only three inches of total snowfall. That sounded good to us. Prescott has a four-season climate, although moderate, so we should feel at home there. We decided that we needed to check this out firsthand.

We went to bed that night, contented. Things were beginning to look up for us, after a little disappointment. We snuggled together, and Gregg whispered in my ear, "Did you know that I love you, Mr. Gordon?"

"I sure hope so, because I love you, Mr. Garrison." We were soon sound asleep.

Next morning we were relaxing over breakfast, when the phone rang. I glanced at the clock. Who would be calling us at 8:30 in the morning?

When I picked up the phone, I was surprised to hear Sally Lundgren's voice. "Oh, Harley, I hope I didn't wake you! I forgot until just before you picked up the phone that we're in different time zones." She sounded really apologetic, but I just laughed.

"No, Sally, we were just finishing breakfast. What can I do for you today?"

"Harley, I just had to call you with the news! Your house and Gregg's store are both sold! Gregg's idea about calling the Business Owners' Association was brilliant. It didn't take them long to decide that they wanted the building, especially after I took the Board through the building, so that they could see the condition it's in. And your house went to the first couple that looked at it. He's a new professor at Ithaca College, and they were afraid they wouldn't be able to find anything, this close to the beginning of the school year. They've been out of the country; his wife's family lives in Ireland. They just loved the house and the big lawn. They have two little kids, so the place is perfect for them!" She paused a moment, and I was beginning to hear a "but…" in the silence, when she burst out with the news, "They took it at the price we were asking, and they're willing to pay closing costs and my commission. They're just so happy to have found the place of their dreams!"

She paused again, but this time I think it was to catch her breath. "I've been working with Hank Dolan. We have all the paperwork done, so all it needs is your signatures on the contracts, and the checks should be in the mail tomorrow. Where can I fax the contracts for your signature and Gregg's?"

I gave her Beau's fax number; he had told us to have anything faxed there that we needed to deal with in Ithaca. Sally promised that she would fax the contracts right away. I told her that we would go over, sign them, and fax them back later this morning. We were both happy when we hung up the phone.

I went back to the kitchen. Gregg was looking at me with big questions on his face. "Who was that, so early in the morning?"

"Oh, nothing very important. Let me get a cup of coffee, and I'll tell you about it."

"Would you pour me another, too, please?" I poured two cups of coffee, took my time setting the pot back and sat down with my cup. I gave him a little grin.

"So, you really want to know who called?"

"Yes! What's the big mystery?"

"It was Sally Lundgren. Your store and the house are sold. We have to go over to Beau's house later and sign the contracts, so we can fax them back." I couldn't keep up the cool act any longer. "Gregg, we got what we were asking for the storeand for the house!" He looked at me in shock for a moment, then jumped up and gave me a big hug.

"Oh, Harley, that's just wonderful news! I think that Someone is watching out for us and has pulled everything together just perfectly!"

"I have to agree with you there! It's all too perfect to be plain coincidence!"

We celebrated our good fortune with another cup of coffee; then we hurried around to shower, shave and get dressed. I decided that I should call the Bensons to be sure that it would be convenient for us to come over now.

Becca answered the phone. "Oh, Harley, I was just going to call you. We got some faxes that might interest you."

"I know, Becca. Sally Lundgren called me and told me the good news. If it's all right with you, we'll be over in a few minutes. Sally said that, if we got the signed contracts to them today, our checks would be in the mail tomorrow."

"Oh, Harley, that's just wonderful news. I'll have to confess; Beau and I read the faxes, and we're so happy that you got what you were asking for the house and the store! Come on over; I'll have the coffee pot on."

"I don't know if either one of us need any more coffee this morning. We've been celebrating our good fortune with a caffeine overdose."

She laughed. "Well, we'll see what we can do about that! And there are still a few Danish left that I hid from Beau and Brian."

We went over to their house, and Becca escorted us to the kitchen. Beau sat there with a big grin on his face. "Boy, talk about someone who can fall into a bucket of…" he paused, looked at Becca, and blushed, but he continued, "and come up smelling like roses!" She just laughed at his embarrassment.

"Well, anyway," he continued, as his face regained its normal color, "it looks like you guys are all ready to go, wherever, and whenever, you want to."

Gregg spoke up excitedly. "We found the place, Prescott, Arizona! We looked it up on Wikipedia, and it sounds like exactly what we're looking for. We said we'd like to be somewhere in the middle of the state, and Prescott is 55 miles west-northwest of the geographic center of Arizona!"

Beau was roaring with laughter now. "And come up smelling like roses! You two really do take the cake! So, when do you want to go visit? Is there an airport nearby?"

Yes, Prescott airport must be pretty good-sized. They offer daily flights to Los Angeles."

Well, then, I guess they'd have no problem accommodating our jet. Just decide when you want to go, and we'll make the arrangements."

Becca was sitting there with a big smile on her face. "It sounds as if we need to celebrate here! Would anyone be interested in a nice Danish to go with your coffee?"

Beau glared at her. "You said the Danish were all gone!"

"Beau, do you remember, when the children were little, if they asked for more candy, we would tell them it was all gone? We just didn't want them to eat too much at a time. Some children never grow up!" She kissed him on the forehead, as she went to the cupboard and brought out the plate of Danish.

"Man! If you can't even trust your own wife!" Beau was growling, but he couldn't hide the grin.

"And, anyway," Becca continued, "if Brian had found them, he'd have thrown them away—or eaten them himself! You should be thankful that I saved them for you." She looked very smug at the moment. Beau growled something under his breath, then took a Danish from the plate.

We chatted about what was going on in Fremont and about our plans for the trip to Arizona, as we sipped coffee and ate Danish. When we got up from the table, the Danish were really and truly all gone.

We went into Beau's office, and he brought out the contracts for us. We looked them over; none of us knew enough about real estate to understand all the contents of the contracts, but we had faith in Hank Dolan. Gregg and I signed the contracts, and Beau faxed them back to Sally Lundgren's office. We left soon afterward.

We decided that we needed our own private celebration, so, despite the fact that we had just finished two Danish apiece and two or three cups of coffee (we had lost count of exactly how much we'd had this morning!), we decided to go out for lunch. Neither of us was very hungry at this point, so we settled for chef's salads and iced tea. Neither of us really wanted another cup of coffee.

After lunch, we went home. The excitement of the morning, combined with full stomachs made us decide that we really wanted a nap. It was getting quite warm out, so we went into the bedroom, stripped down to our boxers, and stretched out on the bed. As we relaxed, the events of the morning caught up with us, and we were soon sound asleep.

Editor's Notes: That was interesting. The utility companies are going to wonder if these two guys are ever going to make up their minds.

Arizona is indeed a beautiful place. My mom used to subscribe to a magazine called Arizona Highways. It had beautiful pictures of the scenery there, and a lot of wonderful sunsets. I have been to phoenix to visit once, and I found it was very hot in the Summer. The next person that tells me that a hundred and seventeen isn't hot there because it is a dry heat, I am going to tell them that an oven is a dry heat too, but I still don't want to live in one. Prescott seems to be a better idea, than Phoenix. I am getting near the point of wanting to live somewhere that Winter isn't a terrible thing to endure. I think I could actually live the rest of my life without seeing any more snow. Being an Albino and being very sensitive to light, The concept of snow blindness is a much more serious issue for me. That doesn't even take into account the problems of the cold wet snow getting in my boots and the work involved in shoveling the darn stuff. Prescott is sounding better all the time.

I was thinking about the idea of moving to the California Wine country, once Arli mentioned it to me, and spending hours stomping grapes. I can still see that one episode of I Love Lucy, with her and that Italian lady stomping around in that vat and the lady pushing Lucy down in the grapes. I laughed so hard, I was afraid I would pee myself. Apparently I am easily amused.

Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher

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