"My goodness, Jed, it's almost time for happy hour and I haven't taken anything out of the freezer for dinner. While I fix my drink and get your soda, why don't you take some burgers out, put them on the counter to thaw, so we can grill later."
Jed was quiet while I spoke of Grant and I while at the university, listening with empathy and wonder, absorbing each and every word I uttered. His grandmother certainly did an excellent job of raising this son of mine. She really needs no other legacy than that which was now busying himself in the kitchen, setting out what was to be our evening meal.
Settling again on the porch, Jed and I savored our beverages, contemplated the surrounding area, until Jed, with eyes, face, and voice, bade me to continue.
"I canceled my room contract for the second semester and moved in with Grant. His apartment was perfect for the two of us, bringing us together as a couple, when in 1972-73 gays or 'homosexuals' generally didn't show any public displays of affection for each other. Society was slow in changing, but in a large University city change became more evident, although there were and still are, certain elements or groups who castigate and attempt to humiliate lovers of the same sex. Grant and I could've cared less at this point in our lives."
The second semester of the 1972-73 university academic year brought a new life to both Grant and I. We moved on from dating each other to living together, studying together, and lonely without the closeness of the other. Many times, for no other reason than he could, Grant would walk up to me, tell me how much he loved me, and give me a hug or a kiss. At night, if I studied late, he'd toss and turn in bed until I came to join him, wrapping his arms around me, snuggling up close, and with a soft, satisfied sigh, fall asleep. It never changed, his wanting, his needing contact with me, allowing the synergy of our souls, our love, to flow to the other.
I continued working at the Library, over Grant's objections, but it was important for me to make some sort of financial contribution to our household. The monthly stipend or allowance Grant received each month wasn't intended for the upkeep of two, of that I was certain.
When Easter break approached, we were faced with a major decision; which house to celebrate the holiday in? Momma and Daddy knew, the minute I changed my address and phone number, I'd found a boyfriend and moved in with him. It became really apparent, when I spoke of him often when visiting with them over the telephone. They were comfortable, happy for me, and anxious to meet Grant. I wasn't as certain concerning his family and neither was he.
The week before break was to start Grant began growing more silent, completely unlike his boisterous, exuberant, confident self, wanting to hold me more, almost reluctant to let me out of his sight. I thought I knew what the problem might be, so one night, as we lay in bed, I casually asked, "They don't know, do they?"
Grant inhaled deeply, stifled a sob, and choked out, "Not a fucking clue," and pulled me closer to him. His cheeks dampened with tears cascading onto my own face, streaming down on to my chest, flooding my heart with sadness for the man I loved – a man who was always so optimistic, self-confident, and energetic; my protector, my rock, now afraid with a fear he felt would tear us apart.
"They are pretty conservative and very demanding. They've no idea I'm queer or have found someone I love so much I'm willing to give up life itself for him. What will my father say? He's a very formidable man, accustomed to winning cases and having his own way. What'll we do if he disowns me and cuts off my monthly stipend, tosses my ass out of the house, and forbids me ever to come home again? Worse yet, what if he goes after you, throwing you out, and attempting to make me stay?"
Rocking him in my arms, caressing his hair while kissing away his tears, I likened myself to an Irish Sin Eater, capable of swallowing the sins of the dead, releasing them from the terrors of the after-world, yet knowing all I could do was to say simply, "It won't make any difference, what they threaten to do, we'll still have each other. It sounds trite to say, but I think it'll all work out."
Grant was quiet, introspective, until I felt a change in his body as I held him; there was a tightening, a strengthening, as he reached his decision, "Fuck it; if does, he does, I'll not abandon you. We'll make it just fine; might be a struggle, but dammit, we'll do it together," and without further ado, snuggled up against me and fell asleep.
The next morning, as we finished our second cup of coffee, he queried, "We're off Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. What say we go to Milwaukee Friday and Saturday and beard the lion in his den. If he sends us packing before Sunday morning, we'll spend the rest of the weekend at your folks. It's a drive clear across state, but so what!"
It sounded fine to me, so Grant picked up the phone, called his Dad and Mom saying he'd be home Friday in the afternoon and he was bringing someone he wanted them to meet. The die was cast, it was game on, and the devil takes the hind most.
The drive from Madison to Milwaukee, although not that distant, seemed to take days instead of hours. Grant was his confident self, mind made up, and ready to pursue whatever course life had in store for us. As for me, I was scared shitless. His family was one of prominence, a propertied family with wealth, and if Grant was correct and I had no reason to doubt him, headed by a father capable of souring milk with one look. How could I, a poor boy from Southwest Wisconsin, possibly be accepted by them? I certainly didn't have the social graces they must have, experienced the cultural opportunities that Grant was afforded or they enjoyed, or the educational background. I was the only one of my family to attend the university. We were just small town people, not hicks, not a collection of dolts, but just ordinary, hardworking, little wealth type people. We didn't have the advantages of Grant's family, but one thing we did have was love for each other.
Grant's parents, Edward and Dorthea, were married for a number of years before Grant came into the world. Edward, age 44, and Dorthea, age 39, had given up any hope of having children, so when his mother became pregnant and then birthed him, he was definitely a surprise and not entirely appreciated. Instead of seeing him as delight, they regarded him more as an intrusion into their well-ordered, comfortable life. It was more expedient for them to hire a nanny, an au pair, to care for him.
Grant looked at me, reached over and squeezed my hand, saying, "You're fussing again. If I love you so much, can they do any less?"
"Hell, yes," I replied, "they can toss our asses out the front door and the Easter basket right behind us. It'll probably be full of those marshmallow, sweet, chicken things anyway."
"Oh, Peeps; I love them," he answered.
Their home was in one of the wealthier suburbs and really quite nice. His mother and father met us, once we were inside, in the living room. Although they embraced him, it wasn't with the warmth I'd expect parents to give an only child. His father seemed stern, calculating as he shook my hand, assessing what he saw, determining if he could win or lose, nothing more. Grant's mother sort of smiled at me, but didn't touch me, and said, "Grant, you may take your guest's luggage to the guest room. Dinner will be at seven; that should give you time to freshen up and dress for dinner."
The moment of truth arrived. "No, mother," Grant said smoothly, but firmly, "Parker's luggage will go in my room. I really don't wish to be separated from him," turned and led me up the stairs to the second floor.
Jed was sitting almost on top of me, having scooted his chair close enough to hinder the action of my rocking chair, bringing me to a halt in my story. Knowing he had some question he was bursting to ask, I waited until, wide-eyed, he asked, "Jeez, Pops, what'd you do? They sound horrible already."
I nodded my agreement, saying to him, "By the time we reached Grant's room I was shaking like a dog shitting razor blades. I knew this wasn't going to a pleasant experience."
Grant and I put on clean shirts and slacks as we "dressed for dinner." Grant explained, ordinarily dinner on Friday evening was a tie and jacket meal, but if they were upset now, "they'll really be pissed before we leave so why wear ties and jackets." What an understatement that turned out to be.
Dinner was different, served by a "domestic employee," as Grant's mother explained. I'm willing to bet the pay was minimum wage and little else. The soup was a cold soup, cantaloupe or something and the main course consisted of two small lamb chops as the entre, a small serving of green peas and roasted potatoes decorated with parsley, and small custard for dessert. The meal was probably expensive, but lacked a certain amount of quantity; of course, so did the dinner conversation. Little was said, sort of like the soup, cold.
After dinner, we retired to the den where we made small talk; how is school, etc. His parents directed all questions to Grant and none to me. It was if I weren't present or even existed, for that matter. Clearly, they weren't pleased with our relationship. He noticed my discomfort, made some excuses concerning our weariness after such a long day, bade them good evening, and we went to bed.
Once in bed, he apologized for the atmosphere, but didn't reassure me that it would improve. Instead, he kissed me, rolled me onto my back, positioned himself between my legs, and entered me until our bodies meshed into one. After a long, slow, and sensuous coupling, bringing us both to fruition, he softened, but remained in me until he fell asleep.
The next morning, when I awakened, reaching over to secure his presence, my hand found, instead of Grant, an empty spot. I completed by morning ablutions, dressed, and meandered down the stairs in search of my man.
Approaching the dining room, I could hear Grant's voice, louder than normal, in an insistent tone, and his father answering with determined anger, "You heard me boy, drop this foolishness or you'll suffer the consequences."
His mother, chiming in, spat, "Never bring that perversion back into our house; he's disgusting."
Grant started to respond when his father interrupted, "If you persist in this dalliance of yours you'll receive funds only for tuition, books, and a living allowance, not a penny more. That little homo is using you for your money and nothing more."
Standing there, shaking out of anger, ready to step into the room and add my two cents worth, I heard Grant, in an equally determined, but very calm voice, announce, "Mother, Father, if that's your desire, then please continue to indulge in your fantasies. I love Parker and won't live without him. We'll be leaving as soon as he's awake and packed. Please don't bother yourself to show us the way out. I've been thrown out of better places than this."
I stepped into the room, looked at each of his parents, and said, "I'm awake and I can be packed in five minutes."
Grant walked up to me, tears in his eyes, and whispered, "I'm so sorry," and kissed me. I heard his mother give a strangled gasp and his father snort, "Oh, my God, how disgusting," as we left the room to go upstairs to pack.
"Did you ever go back?" Jed asked anxiously.
"Only to their funerals; Edward died about a year after we both graduated and Dorthea about three years later. The only reason we attended was I convinced Grant it was the right thing to do."
The drive from Milwaukee to Southwest Wisconsin was a long and mostly quiet ride as Grant struggled with the emotions over the confrontation with his parents and, I'm certain, how we were going to support ourselves as we moved forward in obtaining our degrees. He never mentioned it, but he had to be considering the reception he might receive from my family and what they'd think of him. It all changed when we reached my parents small house and acreage.
Grant parked in the drive, sat a moment, took a deep breath, and stepped out of the car. Momma and Daddy were standing on the front step and when we approached, she clapped her hands rapidly together in obvious joy. The first big hug and kiss was for me, then reaching around me where Grant was standing, trying to remain somewhat obscure, pulled him close to her, hugged him, kissed him on the cheek, and exclaimed, "So this is the handsome young man whom my Parker loves so dearly."
Daddy, smiling when Momma finally let loose of Grant, shook his hand, and hugged him to. Such a difference a drive across the state makes in a person's day and future. We carted our luggage to my bedroom (now the guest room), gave each other a hug and a kiss, and returned to the kitchen. Grant was all smiles, relaxed, and ready to begin again. Momma announced supper would be in an hour, but askedd, "Would you boys gather eggs and help Daddy feed the hens and the little pigs we have?"
What a day and adventure Grant was having; getting booted out of his own house, total acceptance in my house, and now, the city boy, feeding chickens, gathering eggs, and feeding pigs. It was a world he instantly fell in love with and wanted more of it, vowing someday we would own a place in the country or some land somewhere away from the city. I couldn't have agreed more, but at this point in our lives, we could afford little.
Supper (we didn't "dinner") was chicken and homemade dumplings using Momma's home canned chicken, served steaming hot from a big bowl set in the center of the table. Dessert was chocolate cake with whipped cream topping. Grant and I ate like we were starving to death. We were fairly hungry since we left Milwaukee without breakfast and drove straight through to home.
After supper, we helped Momma clear the table and do the dishes. Once done, the four of us sat down in the living room to relax and discuss the events of the day. Grant explained the situation at his house, the rejection, and his affirmation to his parents that I was his soul mate. Looking at my mother and father, he said very seriously, "Mr. and Mrs. Parker, I can promise you, we may not have a great deal in material wealth, Parker and I, but I'll always, always love him, never hurting him, and caring for him as long as I can draw a breath. All I ask of you is to give us your blessing and not revile us as my parents did. Two men can love each other with the same intensity, devotion, and commitment as a heterosexual couple can and we do."
Momma, tears in her eyes, and Daddy, choking back the emotion he felt so deeply, both stood, walked over to Grant and me, pulled us into their arms, and gave us their blessing. I felt Grant slump as he realized, they too, saw the love we had for each other and were so happy for us.
After we settled down, sat back in our seats, Daddy said, "You know boys, I don't have a lot of extra cash to spare, but we always have a big garden, eggs and chickens, and usually a pig or two we raise and butcher, so I'll make certain you won't go hungry. Parker, your momma will load you up with things from the freezers and canned stuff from the basement whenever you're home or need something."
"Maybe a chocolate cake once in a while?" queried Grant softly.
Momma laughed, "I'm positive I can manage that every now and again. We'll treat you no different than we did Parker's older sisters, Roseanne and Adele. We gave them what little help we could, but we made certain they had something to eat in the house and our support. We may not have much, but it's yours to share with us. One other thing Grant and Parker, I hope – no, I demand- you two finish your degrees and pursue your dreams, no matter how long it takes you. Always anchor yourselves here at home and all will be well- I promise you!"
We made love that night in more than just the physical, lustful, coupling of over-sexed males made, but in a relaxed, confident, and deeply emotional way also. Our joy for each other was reinforced knowing we were truly meant to be together; to share and celebrate each other with the approval and blessing of those who really count. Grant pledged himself to me in front of my parents; they approved, and welcomed him into their home. The emotional support they gave us, the offer of material assistance which they could little afford, meant more to both us than my parents could ever realize.
Easter Sunday, after church, we helped Momma prepare the ham, potatoes, and scalloped corn for dinner. Roseanne and Adele, along with their families, would be here for noon dinner and would also bring salads, desserts, and hot dishes for us to enjoy. They were as bad as Momma, however, ready and willing to feed an army.
Roseanne, her husband, and three children, were the first to arrive. Her oldest, Jonathon, age 13, stood shyly back, assessing Grant, as his mother and father greeted me with hugs and kisses. Roseanne beamed with pride when I introduced Grant as "my love, my partner in life" and clutched him to her, hugging him, and congratulating us. Jacob, her husband, shook Grant's hand and gave him a hug also. As they moved away to greet Daddy and Momma, Jonathon slowly stepped forward, hesitated a moment, and then embraced me with a ferocity unlike most teen-age boys, whispering in my ear, "Uncle Parker, I'm so happy for you. I hope I can be as fortunate someday."
Jonathon outed himself to me, but I made no overt response or acknowledgement, determining it was a secret he wished to keep to himself for a while, so I just whispered back, "You will, just give it time." He was a good looking young man, very talented, and bright. If he could get away from the small town he was growing up in, attend a college or university where he could grow and develop his mind and experiences, he'd find someone who would care for him or he for his partner, such as Grant.
Adele and her family arrived about ten minutes later and it was a repeat of the scene earlier with Roseanne, except Adele's oldest son was ten and her youngest, four. Even then, they were willing to accept hugs from Grant and me. Adele, after hugging me, turned her attention to Grant, and while giving him a warm and caring embrace, whispered in his ear, "Take care of my little brother or I'll cut your balls off." Grant's face turned red, looked at me quizzically, wondering if she were serious. I smiled and said, "I doubt if she would, would you sis? Probably leave them attached and stuff them up your ass instead."
Grant shook his head and started to laugh realizing Adele was joking with him, but also understood the seriousness of the remark. "Don't worry, Adele," he said, "I want to keep my balls and Parker, so don't bother sharpening up your surgical instruments." Adele was a surgical nurse in a hospital in Dubuque and loved the response she received from Grant.
Dinner time was a cornucopia, a smorgasbord of epicurean delights consisting of salads, hot dishes, desserts, fresh baked rolls, all to enhance the main entre, ham from one our own hogs. Daddy has the hams, shoulders, and bacon cured and smoked at one of the local markets, after the hog is butchered of course. We stuffed ourselves into an almost obscene stupor.
Grant enjoyed the day, visiting, getting acquainted with everyone. The real clincher came after dinner and we were all collapsed on couches, floor, chairs, suffering from the consequences of over-eating. I lay on the floor, head on Grant's stomach, listening to stories being told by my sisters, their husbands, and Momma and Daddy, when Scotty, Adele's four year old, scooted beside me, crawled up and stretched across Grant's chest, wrapped his small arms around Grant's head, looked deeply into his eyes and asked, "Are you going to be my uncle too, like Uncle Parker?"
Knowing if I turned to look or made any move, I'd spoil the moment I lay quietly, apprehensively, awaiting Grant's answer. Feeling his stomach move as he breathed deeply, he murmured in reply, "Do you want me to be, Scotty?"
"Oh, yes, I do," he giggled excitedly. "Uncle Parker is my favorite uncle and now you too," and relaxed on Grant, satisfied with the answer he received.
Scotty looked so calm, so content, lying on Grant and Grant looked equally as satisfied, holding a child in his arms, a small pang of regret coursed through me knowing as a gay couple, we could never have our own children or even adopt. Agencies and courts were not apt to permit or grant adoption, in those days, to same sex couples.
When day was done and everything cleaned up, my sisters and their families at their own homes, and the darkness of the early spring night was upon us, lying in our bed, Grant eased himself on top of me, secured his arms under my shoulders, kissed me as he only can, saying, "You know I love you more than ever, don't you?" Without waiting for an answer, he parted my legs and gently eased himself into that place where both of us felt complete, comfortable and fulfillment in our lives together.
The next morning after breakfast and before we headed back to the University, Grant became interested in the garden seed order Momma was putting together. For the next two hours, he and Momma and Daddy discussed gardening, food preservation, and preparation of the soil. His appetite for learning was insatiable. "Going home" to Grant meant going to Southwest Wisconsin instead of Milwaukee after our Easter there. It was as if his life before he met me never existed. It was at Momma and Daddy's he learned how to garden, animal care, hunting, fishing, camping, and all of those things I grew up with and took for granted, but he only read about. During the school year and vacation times, when we weren't working or engaged in study, we'd drive home to spend time with Momma and Daddy and the rest of our family. It was the home he never had while growing up and the love of an extended family he so desperately needed and wanted to love in return.
"I can't say the years at the University were easy, Jed, but Grant and I made it through and he graduated with a Juris Doctorate degree and I completed my PhD in Economics. Shortly after graduation, six months or so after our twenty-fifths birthdays, Grant received a letter requesting a meeting with a banker in Minneapolis to discuss his grandfather's trust."
"I remember the incredulous look on his face when he read the letter and exclaimed, 'What trust?'
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