Once comfortable on the couch, Jed scooted up beside me and settled down close, snugging up beside me. Smiling, feeling his closeness, knowing he was quite comfortable with me, I asked, "How's your leg doing, Jed? I'm really sorry I pushed you so hard yesterday."
"No problem; do you think we could go swimming tomorrow? The lake really looks neat."
Laughing, I replied, "Well, it might be a bit cool; the ice has only been out for about three weeks. Usually, the ice leaves the lake around the end of April and this is only three weeks into May. We'll have to check tomorrow, if it's warm enough to swim in. If not, we can always go fishing."
"I know what you mean when you see the lake as inviting, a place to swim and enjoy yourself. You'll have plenty of time for that in the future, but we certainly don't want to waste any opportunity while anticipating the future. I think sometimes, we tend to postpone things too much and then wish we hadn't. Grant and I didn't have a habit of doing that; no, we used those opportunities when the urge hit us. We'd swim and fish in our spare time whenever we were up here. I remember one unusually hot spring day we were sweaty and grubby from working all morning erecting a tall, deer proof fence around our garden. The urge hit us, a short time after lunch Jed, so we stripped bare-ass naked, jumped off of the end of the dock, and swam about a half hour. After we climbed out, there was hell to pay, I'll tell you!"
"Our baby-tender butts were sun-burned, that's what happened. We were so sore it was quite difficult to sit down for several days. The ride back home Sunday night was long and painful."
The late spring sun was more intense than we anticipated when we stretched out to allow the sun to dry us. Awaking first, I looked at Grant's bare back and butt, along with the calves of his legs and I knew, without looking, mine would be the same red, crinkly parboiled color. We gathered up our clothes and hiked up to the house.
Grant lay on his stomach on the bed while I slathered aloe-vera lotion all over his back, legs, and butt, "accidently" letting a slippery finger slip in and out of his now exposed portal, giving him a bad case of the giggles. When it was my turn to receive the lotion, he did more than brush my pucker with his finger. Painful as the physical contact of his crotch and stomach with my sunburned back and buttocks was, the pleasure we both derived from the end results more than compensated for it. Sunday was spent lounging- taking it easy – definitely not exposing tender parts to the sun, until we left for home that evening, after the sun was well below the horizon.
Other weekends and time off, was spent in fishing for brook trout in the stream, walleyes, crappies, and northern pike in the lake, and hunting grouse in the fall in the surrounding forests and fringe areas. Winter gave us the opportunity to snowshoe, cross-country ski, and warm, quiet times bundled together on the couch, sharing our lake home with each other, just being able to touch, kiss, and revel in the presence of the other. Roseanne's and Adele's families also came to visit while we were in residence, enjoying the place as much as we enjoyed having them.
Those were good times, sharing with family and each other. Life was good, so we thought; it all changed one fall day! We were back from a week up at the lake and Grant wasn't feeling well; achy, with abdominal cramps and diarrhea, but we attributed it to influenza since several in his office suffered from it the week before. He didn't seem to improve over the next few weeks, in fact, his condition worsened. He began to lose weight, tired easily, and "was off his feed" as he put it. At my insistence he made an appointment with our family doctor.
"Jed, that's another day in my life I find it very difficult to forget," I murmured to my son as he cuddled up closer to me and I secured an arm about him. "Our doctor called me in to his examination room where Grant was just getting dressed.
He bade me to sit down, saying, "Grant has given me permission to share the results of my examination with you. I know you two are domestic partners, but rules are rules, and you're not related by blood."
My heart began sinking, fearful of the news I dreaded.
"I'm referring Grant to an oncologist. There is a problem here I can't deal with or properly diagnose. I believe it is quite serious and I further believe there's a problem with the pancreas."
Grant looked at me with tear filled eyes, stood, embraced me and held me tight as my own eyes overflowed. We were both educated men who knew if the diagnosis was pancreatic cancer, the prognosis was death.
We traveled to the University Hospitals in Madison since we both felt more comfortable with the medical facilities and physicians in the city where we both received our education, where we met each other, and began our lives together. The many tests proved what our family doctor suspected, pancreatic cancer; a fairly aggressive type. Grant began a series of treatments in Madison and then transferred the care to a UW Cancer Center nearer our home. The doctors were so compassionate, but not hopeful. They could prolong his life, ease his pain, but not cure the disease.
Thanksgiving was celebrated with our family in Southwest Wisconsin and we were happy we made it to that Holiday. Christmas was a time for rejoicing, for celebrating us being together and again on our birthdays in February. I asked for, and received, a leave of absence during the Spring Semester as his condition worsened. The end of April, we began receiving home hospice care for Grant. The end was near and I feared facing it and the future alone, without Grant. Strange as it may seem, he seemed to be accepting the end with more calm and fortitude than I. We talked at great length, when he wasn't sleeping, about what he wanted me to do after he was gone, where he'd be buried, how everything was to go to me, and at the end, we'd take no extraordinary measures to prolong his life, such as feeding tubes. My heart broke every time we entered into one of these conversations, but it was a way for him to seek peace and for us to say goodbye.
The night the hospice nurse woke me and said Grant was asking for me, was the most difficult, painful, and longest night of my life. I went to his bedside, he quietly asked the nurse to leave the room so we'd be alone, and then asked me to crawl into bed beside him.
"Hold me tight, Parker, please," he requested, "so I can feel your warmth, your love, and you, my lover, for one last time."
I cried softly as I did as he requested. Could I do any less? This was the man I loved, the one I pledged my life, my fortune, my all to; he was the one person I loved more than life itself.
"You know I love you, don't you, Parker?" he murmured. I nodded and told him how much I loved him. "You know I always will and somehow, some way, we'll always share our love if only in spirit until we're one again. Please kiss me good night, so I may rest," and slowly slipped away from me on the second of May of our forty-fourth year of life, and our twenty-fourth year together.
I continued to hold him, unwilling to allow him to leave me, although leave me he did. No longer would I hear him laugh, feel his tender kisses, make love to him, or share my life with him; no longer would I be able to reach over in the night, touch him, and know he was with me. Finally, I rose from his bed, summoned the nurse, and sat down in the living room. The nurse made the necessary calls and before they removed his body, I kissed him one last time before his remains were placed in the closed casket we agreed on.
The funeral was quite large, attended by my family, who loved Grant almost as much as I, friends, colleagues of his and mine, all coming to pay their respects to him. Roseanne and Adele were my pillars of strength for me to anchor myself to, pulling me along to do what Grant and I promised each other. Without them that day and in the days after, I would've been lost, mired in my own grieve over my loss.
I could feel the tears from Jed's face slowly soaking the front of my shirt as he quietly asked, "Where did you bury him, Dad?"
"Just across the lake, in a little township cemetery overlooking the lake and our shore; I can sit on the porch for my morning coffee or my drink in the afternoon and see it in the distance. It comforts me knowing he's there, waiting for me to join him."
"More than just that, Jed, it keeps his spirit here on our property, where we can still be together. This may sound silly to you, but I still talk to him, seeking his advice and counsel, as I always did. In my mind, I know he hears me since I seem to feel his calmness, his peace when I do."
"Is that why you married my mother; because you missed him so much?"
"I think that's the only reason, now that I really think about it. After he died, I tried working harder, but just couldn't put my heart into it. There was no one to come home to or welcome home at the end of the day. I missed someone to share my bed with and to share my life with. I think that's what I was seeking most, someone to share my life with, when I picked up your mother in a small bar not far from where I lived. One thing led to another and then another, and pretty soon, we married, over the objection of my sisters, I'll have you know. They were right and I was wrong."
One thing certainly did leave to another; a quick blow job in the alley led us back to my house. This was my first time with a woman and someone other than Grant. Although I got my rocks off, it wasn't the same. I thought it might improve, but it didn't. She wasn't a replacement for Grant and I knew I never would find one like him.
"Within three months of our marriage, we both knew it was wrong. I tried to keep up appearances for several months after that, but she'd have none of it. She found the pictures of Grant and I and demanded to know who he was. I was honest with her and she left. Once the divorce was final, I solidified my resolve to get my life in order and move on with life. I firmly believed Grant and I could still be together in spirit and I didn't need to find a male lover or female for that matter, to replace him. Nothing could and I became content with that. I spent the next few years, before my retirement five years ago, writing and publishing a new textbook on Economics and improving the property here."
Those intervening years, prior to my retirement were very busy years. The research, writing, and collaboration efforts needed to produce the textbook absolutely devoured my time, along with my regular schedule of classes to teach. I refrained from any casual sexual relationships or contacts, satisfied with my life as it was. Grant was the one partner in life I'd ever have and had no desire to find another, although, I found myself quite lonely at times.
My five years of retirement were fairly good years, lonely but good years. I kept myself busy, after the sale of our house in the city, here at our lake home and property. Planting garden, harvesting and preserving what came from it, occupied some of my time in the spring, summer, and fall and swimming, fishing, and boating on the lake during good weather, occupied some more of it. Hunting, splitting wood, and readying the home for winter kept me busy in the fall. Winter was probably the loneliest since the days were short and nights long. It'd be in the darkness, in our bed, when I would absently reach over, expecting to find him there and not, when I would sigh deeply, suppress a sob, and indulge in some self-pity on my loss. It'd be then, I'd arise from my bed, make a cup of tea, sit in the living room, looking at his picture, and visit with him.
"Grant would've loved you to death, Jed, and you him, he so desired children," I commented. "What do you say tomorrow we run the boat across the lake to the cemetery and let me introduce you to him?"
Receiving no response, I looked down at Jed, head resting on my chest, sleeping soundly as only the young can. It was comforting, having him here with me, trusting me, surrendering himself to my care, relieving me of my loneliness. I looked over at the picture of Grant and me on my desk, back at Jed, and smiled to myself, finding more peace than I'd found in the sixteen years Grant passed away. He may've left me physically, but I could feel his presence, his satisfaction and pleasure, at the child we so desperately wished we could have during our years together, as Jed rested comfortably on my breast.
Gently moving his head, I rose, picked him up, and carried him to his bedroom. Placing him on his bed, covered him with a blanket, I kissed him softly on the forehead, saying quietly, "Nay, sweet one, for I am but your humble servant; it is thee we love, for thou art the fairest, the most magnificent, and in thee, Jed, our son, Grant and I are complete."
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