"What trust?" asked Jed, echoing the same response Grant uttered so many years before.
I smiled, responding, "Let's fix supper first, while we grill the burgers and eat, I can tell you more. Right now, I'm getting hungry; all of this talking's hard work."
It was obvious, the story I was weaving for my son not only enthralled and intrigued him, giving him insight into and a history of a father he didn't know existed until the day before, his father's relationship with his lover, and a family he never knew, but was serving as a much needed catharsis for my soul, allowing me to finally release and vocalize the anguished, yet so pleasant memories and feelings I've bottled up for so many years. For some reason, I felt no qualms or hesitations baring my past and my life with Grant, to Jed. Perhaps it was because he was of my flesh and blood or perhaps it was time I shared Grant with someone; someone who'd remember him, not as I could, but as someone who was my life, my soul mate.
The smoke from the grill, caused by the juices and fats dripping from the cooking meat, wafted up from the gas flame, spurting, flaring, and spiraling the aroma up into the gentle breeze gliding toward the lake. I could but imagine what those tantalizingly delicious aromas might be doing to the sensitive palates of a hungry fisherman floating out on the lake in hopes of catching a fat walleye or to the keen nose of the sow bear and cubs, if, instead, the smoke was drifting toward the forest where she lived.
We carried our burgers back to the porch and while we slowly savored our light supper, I continued my story;
"Grant and I struggled through those years at the University, not emotionally since we were so in love, our feelings for each other deeply embedded in our hearts, but financially. I continued to work at the library and other jobs I could find in the city and Grant worked at a fast food restaurant. We continued to go to class throughout the summers. My scholarships were good for my undergraduate studies, but when it came time to enter graduate school, I needed more than the library and part-time work. I applied for and received a graduate assistantship and later, a teaching assistantship in the Economics department, to assist with and pay for my tuition."
"Periodic trips to Momma and Daddy's helped keep the pantry full so we weren't hungry. That time we spent at home with them, their emotional support along with that of my sisters and their families, helped us through those lean years. We also found time for some recreation, mainly camping through the use of the camping equipment Momma and Daddy had at home. It was one of those camping trips to a National Forest in the north, after we were both awakened during the night by the distant yammering, yowling, and yipping of a pack of coyotes, Grant said to me, 'Someday, I'd hope we can own a place in the north, a place where we can retire, away from the stresses of the working world, but own it soon enough we can enjoy it while we're young.' It was the trust, Jed, which helped us with our first home and eventually led to fruition of our dream."
Grant called his father once he realized the letter was indeed not a hoax, intending to ask him what the trust was. Edward refused to talk to him or even acknowledge that a "trust" existed. We scrapped together enough cash for gas, packed our tent so we'd have something to sleep in, eschewing the expense of a motel, and drove over to Minneapolis.
The banker we met with was very understanding and quite thorough in his presentation of the material to us. He answered all of Grant's questions, patiently and thoroughly. My presence didn't seem to cause him any problem. The trust was established by Grant's grandfather on his mother's side and was to be used for his educational expenses; tuition, room, board, and a small stipend each month for incidental living expenses. Once the course of degree work Grant pursued was completed, if he'd attained the age of twenty-five, the remainder of the trust was to be paid to him. The trustees transferred funds each month to one of the bank's branches in Milwaukee where a check was issued to Grant. The trustees learned of Grant's graduation after calling a representative of the college bursars' office inquiring the amount due for the next semester's tuition.
On our way back to Madison, we stopped at a state park to spend the night. Sitting around the campfire, snugged up against each other, Grant, sputtered, "All these years and that old son-of-a-bitch never mentioned one word of this to me. If we'd known it was there, we could've asked for a little more in living expenses. Life would've been much easier. I'm surprised he even supplemented it before I met you. Probably tickled pink to get me out of the house and not have to spend a great deal of his personal money to keep me away and out of sight."
Although Grant was upset, he and I were both overjoyed at our good fortune. That night, as we sat around a small campfire discussing the possible uses of the trust, our love for each other was overpowering and compelling. I led him to bed, crawled into his sleeping bag with him, and encouraged him to take us to the heights of pleasure where we'd gone so many times before. Having Grant deeply seated in me, thrusting gently, taking his time and mine, in a rhapsody of love, relaxed us both, giving us peace, expressing our love and commitment to each other.
I'm certain it was more than just "not wanting to spend his own money;" although I agreed with Grant it was one method of getting him out of their way and reduce their day-to-day responsibilities for him. I believe Edward and Dorthea concealed the existence of the trust to control and then punish him, foisting their displeasure on him, and gain some perverse pleasure and satisfaction for themselves. Grant never questioned why the checks continued after we were tossed out of the house, fearful if he called attention to them, we'd be left without financial resources to continue our education. He just swallowed his pride, for my sake, and made the decision to allow his father (he thought) and mother to continue expending funds for his education. He assumed, all those years, that's where the money was coming from since the funds were drawn on a Milwaukee bank.
Dorthea's father evidently was just the opposite of her, more generous and perhaps, even loving, but I also think he knew his daughter quite well. When Grant was born, his grandfather changed his will, directing his land holdings, stocks, and other investments be converted to cash with half going to a trust for Grant and any other grandchildren, of which there were none, of his only child, Dorthea. The trust would be used by Grant and other grandchildren for higher educational costs, including tuition, room, board, books, and incidental living expenses. When each child reached the age of twenty-five, that child's share of the trust was to be given outright to be used in any manner the child wishes. Since there were no other grandchildren, the remainder went to Grant. The other half of the estate, after the sale of assets, was given to Dorthea.
There was a considerable sum remaining in the trust when it reverted to Grant, so once we were home, we discussed it with Momma and Daddy, along with Roseanne's husband, a certified financial advisor. Their advice concurred with the decision Grant's and mine; to invest a small portion in high risk for growth; a small portion in moderate risk for long-term growth; and the major portion (fifty percent) in low risk where our principle would be preserved. These investments served us well over the years.
We purchased a barely-used, low mileage, four-wheel drive pickup truck with a topper. It's use in job hunting, moving, camping, and getting around during Wisconsin winters would be invaluable to us. Domestic partners were unheard of in those days, much less civil unions, so Grant and I began putting everything we purchased in both of our names, signed powers of attorney declarations for financial and health care naming each other, and declared the other beneficiary on all of our life insurance policies. We may not be able to marry, but having an attorney for a life partner helped tie us together legally and financially. All of our bank accounts and investments were held in both of our names, giving each access to them. Our wills named each other as executor and beneficiary. Health insurance was the only item we had to buy as single policies, but our costs were low, once we were employed, since the employers picked up the major portion.
Grant held off on his job search until I landed my position with the University system. He reasoned it might be easier for him to find a position with a law firm once we knew where we'd be settling down. If nothing came along, he could always go into private practice and open his own office. My position as an instructor in Economics was at a branch of the University in the Fox Valley and Grant was hired by a large law firm in the same area. As a junior partner in the firm, he was assigned many of those cases the others didn't want to be bothered with, but it didn't bother him.
"Using part of the trust proceeds, Jed, gave us the down payment on our three bedroom home not far from the University. I sold that home when I moved up here permanently."
"What did you use to buy this place and when did you?" he asked in return.
"We really didn't have the spare money to afford something like this until Grant's father, Edward passed away. He left everything to his wife Dorthea. Three years later, when she died, her will named a small cash bequest and the house, to Grant and the rest went to charities. I'm certain her attorney advised her to leave him something to avoid a big court fight. She must've thought that big house would be an albatross around Grant's neck. She was wrong, the housing boom hit and Grant made out like a bandit when he sold it. The sale of that house provided the funding for this property."
The setting sun was beginning to cast its shadows as it slowly sank into the western sky, bringing to life that twilight mixed symphony of night birds and those of daytime calling for action or rest. Walking to the kitchen, retrieving another soda for Jed and a long-neck for myself, I returned to the porch, handed Jed his drink, popped the cap off of the long-neck, and resumed my dialogue.
"Our times in the Fox Valley were times filled with friends, entertaining, work and play, but holidays were always home with Momma and Daddy until they both passed away. Adele and her family moved into the house on the acreage and we still visited, but some of the holidays we hosted in our home. There was plenty of room and for those who wished to stay in motels, Grant and I arranged for discounts."
Once I was tenured, I received an appointment as an Assistant Professor and Grant was eventually made full partner in his law firm. Financially, we weren't doing too badly, since our salaries were adequate and our investments even better. It didn't mean we lived lavishly or spent our funds foolhardily, but we certainly didn't have to live as we once did when attending the University.
One spring day, Grant bounced in the door, jubilant, bursting at the seams to tell me something. "Guess what?" he exploded.
"You're pregnant," I responded.
"Ha, ha, don't you wish. I overheard one of the senior partners speaking to another about a large tract of land, with plenty of lakefront, in the middle of a national forest; an estate was placing on the market. Because of the remoteness, they weren't certain how quickly it would sell. Want to take a look at it?"
Grant knew very well what my response would be. He made an appointment with the realtor handling the property and we traveled to the north woods to look at this "remote" piece of property. The senior partners weren't wrong; the road to it was a National Forest Service road, gravel, and some distance from the nearest community. There was no electric or telephone service to the area. The lane, barricaded by a rusting cattle gate, was gravel at one time, but now mostly sand and rocks. The brush and small trees crowding the lane made travel back to where the old cabin stood difficult and slow. It was obvious the property hadn't been used for some time. The cabin sat in a clearing approximately one hundred yards from the lake front. Water for the cabin was from a hand pump on a well and the toilet sat behind the main structure about twenty yards away. The two bedroom cabin was in need of repair, but the roof looked sound as well as the basic structure.
The asking price was a bit steep, we thought, so we walked away from the realtor to visit about the possibilities the property might have for us. It really was just what we were seeking, although there was a great deal of work to be done. If we should buy it, we'd tear down the old cabin and rebuild with a nice three bedroom home. The three hundred and twenty acres of mixed hardwood, softwood, and pines offered opportunity for the seclusion and quietness we wanted. The stream flowing through the east side was a haven for brook trout and the lake, with only one public access on the far side, was well stocked with fish.
"Can we afford it without depleting the major share of our resources?" I asked Grant.
"The sale of the house will take care of the most of it. What better purpose could it be put to than to purchase property and build a house, using the money from the sale of the house we were tossed out of years ago? If possible, Edward and Dorthea would turn in their graves from the very thought."
We walked back to the realtor, made a counter offer, and then, to his surprise, wrote him a check for a considerable "earnest money" amount as a gesture of our sincerity. We were home about a week when the realtor called and informed us our offer was accepted. One week after that, we closed on the deal, signed the papers, and owned our forested lake front property. Grant and I were amazed at our good fortune.
The summer was spent, as weekends became free, fixing up the little cabin for habitation while we planned and built our home. I don't know who was more excited or enjoyed the property more, Grant or me. Traveling north, driving down the lane we brushed so our truck could navigate it more easily, and settling in the cabin was a catharsis for our minds, bringing us the relaxation, the closeness to each other we so much enjoyed. It was a delight, spending our time during the day, hiking the woods, fishing the stream for trout, the lake for other fish, puttering around outside, while our evenings were spent, by lantern light, planning and designing the home we'd build here the next spring and summer.
The home was to be three bedroom, with a stone fireplace, an outside wood boiler for heat with propane backup, a basement for storage and access to plumbing and electric, and "off the grid" with electric power provided by generators and solar panels. Later, we upgraded the panels as technology improved their efficiency, lowered their costs, and storage batteries became more advanced. Redundancy was built in the system with propane generators providing the backup and for heat.
That first year, we had one of the local snow plow contractors clear the lane each time it snowed so we'd have access any time we wished to our property. A wood stove in the little cabin provided the heat, a bottle gas kitchen range was used for cooking, and propane lanterns lighted the interior. We were fortunate, that winter, we were never snowed in. If we would've been, I don't know how we would've gotten out, walked I should suppose. Only young-people in love can disregard such hazards and be safe from all harm.
Christmas that year brought cross country skis for both of us and we learned to ski up and down the old logging roads lacing the forest. After a day outside, a warm fire and a drink, and bundled up with Grant (sans clothing) on the small sofa, was heaven on earth as far as I was concerned. Well, it became more heavenly if I was lying on my back, stretched lengthwise on top of him, his arms wrapped around me, and his firm rod implanted pubes deep, thrusting, tickling, stimulating my prostate until we were both orgasmic.
The next summer began our long-awaited construction project. The lane was improved to give our contractors better access, the building site and garden area cleared, a new well drilled, the property perked for septic and drain field purposes, and construction began. The site we chose was sufficiently elevated to allow a basement without concern of seepage from the lake. Once dug and the masons finished it with cement block, the carpenters began building in earnest. The walls were two by six inch studs and well insulated while the roof was of metal allowing snow to slip off and not burden the rafters with excess weight. Once completed, the home was all Grant and I envisioned when we planned it and a perfect place for us to retreat to and enjoy.
Night had fallen and the porch was cooling in the spring air and we were without sweaters, so speaking to Jed, "Let's go inside, curl up on the couch, and I can continue in some comfort."
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