The short distance around the lake from our house via the gravel road wasn't long but a quiet journey. I, lost in my thoughts and memories of Grant, and Jed, silently anticipating, seemed anxious concerning what lay before him in that place of death. There was naught I could say to him or even attempt to for that matter, to convince him I saw it not as a place of death, but a place where my love rested, awaiting my joining him. I often wondered if other people, who came to visit loved ones, saw it in the same light as I or became morbid and depressed as a result of their presence in the midst of stone memorials and buried caskets, this place of history.
The township cemetery is located on a hillock overlooking the lake, giving a sense of peace, a place of beauty, and a depth of time since it was established in the late nineteenth century. The lake stretched out in front of it, adding to the ambiance of the forest background of the open, serenely quiet well-tended, small memorial park. Etched in stone is a history of the township, through the lives and deaths of its ancestral residents.
I parked the truck near the wrought iron, arched entrance, preferring to walk from there to the grave site rather than drive, although the gate was never closed any time I visited. The short walk up the lane was made more pleasant by the new growth and blossoms of the clumps of multi-colored iris and the flowing, dangling strings and clusters of the Bridal Wreath, white and reflecting the morning sun as the dew slowly burned off of the flowers. Patches of Jonquils, planted over the years by those seeking to add color, added their mixtures of yellow and off-white to the landscape.
We stopped at the grave site, standing silently before the two stone monuments, one inscribed:
Grant Ambrose Hoffman
b. February 12, 1952 d. May 2, 1996
Beloved of Josiah Dickenson Parker
"Love is strong as death"
and the second inscribed:
Josiah Dickenson Parker
b. February 6, 1952 d.
Beloved of Grant Ambrose Hoffman
"Love is strong as death"
Little transpired between Jed and me as we stood there silently viewing the stones in front of us. I leaned over, brushed away some accumulated dirt and dust from Grant's marker, pulled a few weeds at its base, turned and smiled at Jed, when he began to speak,
"Hi, Grant, I'm Jedediah Dickenson Parker, Parker's biological son and yours by your union with him. You never knew me, or I you, and that's a shame because everything I hear from Dad concerning you causes me miss a person I wished I knew much better. I'm sorry I came along so late and missed you, but I still feel your presence as Dad visits with me about the good times you and he had. Dad really loved you and misses you terribly, but I'm going to try to fill in some of the gaps in his life and make you both proud of me. I'll be a good son for you, Grant, and if I'm not, I give you permission to have Dad kick my ass."
Finished, Jed cuddled up to me, gave me a big hug, and continued, "You know, Dad, this is probably the prettiest site in the whole cemetery and it's a huge one at that. Look," he said, pointing out toward the lake, "you can see our dock and house from here."
"That's one of the reasons why Grant and I bought this particular plot. There are actually twelve grave sites here in this family plot. We bought it thinking if our family ever did expand, we'd have room for more. Besides, neither of us wanted to be crowded; as if it made any difference once we're dead. At any rate, there's room for you and your family, if you should ever decide to have one."
Grant and I could see the little cemetery in the distance as we sat on our porch, breakfasting, lunching, or at evening cocktail. One spring morning, after a very successful crappie fishing expedition on some of the structure in the lake, as we motored our way back home from the far end, Grant, running the motor, suddenly switched direction from home to the far side toward the knoll where the township ancestors rested. A small sandy beach at the base of the knoll provided a place to land the boat and tie it up so it wouldn't drift away on us. Once off-loaded, we cautiously made our way up the short incline until we stood in a place of beauty, serenity, and one filled with history.
We wandered reverently amongst the tombstones, noting the names, ages, and the conditions of the various stones. Some were very old, with raised letters slowly succumbing to the elements of rain, snow, cold, and heat which return all things living and not-living, inert, to the soil from where they arose.
In no hurry to return home, we realized the fish we'd caught previously wouldn't keep much longer if they weren't cleaned and refrigerated, so we loaded up in the boat and Grant motored us across the lake toward home. As we pulled away from the shore, Grant turned around, looked back at the hillside cemetery and asked,
"Parker, what say we purchase a couple of grave sites here and make this our final resting place? We can be close to the lake and the cabin and if one of us goes before the other, we can still keep an eye on each other, so to speak."
Later that month, after contacting the township clerk for the sexton's name, we purchased a rather large family plot. As I reviewed the deed to the plot, I raised my eyebrows quizzically at Grant and snorted, "If you think I'm going to get pregnant and fill these empty lots with family, you've got another think coming."
"Well, we can try, can't we?" giggled Grant in reply.
Smiling at Jed, I knew Grant was pleased and so was I. "Let's go, Son. With both of your aunts showing up and a cousin to boot, we jolly well better be ready."
He looked up at me with apprehension, confusion, and then smiled at me. "Come on, Dad, they can't be that bad can they?"
Placing my arm around his shoulder as we walked back to the truck, I shook my head, "No, but I'm always going to be their littler brother and they fuss about me way too much."
"And you love every minute of it, don't you?"
The small community which I referred to as "town" was located about fifteen miles or so from home. It was much like other northern Wisconsin communities in lake and forest areas of the state, catering to tourists, fishermen, cabin people, weekenders, and resort visitors, during the spring, summer, and early fall, and hunters, ice fishermen, snowmobilers, and other winter sports people during the "off season" or winter to most people.
Our business district was basically a main street with a bank, grocery store, hardware store, law office, medical clinic, a large seed and feed store with a big greenhouse, a couple of gas stations, two restaurants, a couple of taverns, souvenir and antique shops, a couple of bait and tackle stores, and a sports dealer that sold and serviced boats, ATVs, and snowmobiles. The consolidated school, consisting of kindergarten through grade twelve, was located just off of the main street near the water tower and community park. Scattered throughout the surrounding area were more bars, bait shops, small "mom and pop" businesses, and antique places. There were beauty shops, a plumber or two who also did furnace repair, and a couple of electricians scattered here and there throughout the woods and on the lakes. Anything you wanted beyond the basics, you planned on a day long shopping trip to one of the bigger cities fifty plus miles away to visit one of the big box stores. However, the shopping district suited my needs and it was our choice to live here.
Our first stop was the hardware store and, after some sorting and approval from Jed, found enough handrails and hand holds to make the necessary changes at home. I just didn't want to chance him taking another tumble. Loading our purchases in the truck, we walked across the street to the bank where I kept a lock box, a small savings account, and a checking account. Local merchants would accept out of town checks, but with skepticism. Having a local checking account made it simpler for me and gave me some credence in the community as "living here" versus those who "just visited." When I needed more money for my accounts, I had it wired in from my bank in the Fox Valley.
We stopped at the Customer Service desk, explained what we wished to do, and were ushered into a small office occupied by a wizened, not very pleasant, Mildred Aldrich, a person for whom I had little love and who less tolerance for me, an openly gay, retired university professor. I was never certain if it was my sexual orientation which caused her distress or my educational background as an economics and financial management instructor.
Before I could say, "we'll stop back some other time," she frowned at me and said, "I understand you want to exchange your safety deposit box for a larger one, open an account for that boy, and add him to yours."
Now, she pissed me off and right now! I was about to lay into her and leave, when Jed took my hand, motioned to me to sit down, walked up to Mildred and, with a smile on his face, said sweetly, with the maturity and intelligence unusual in a fourteen going on fifteen young lad, "Ms. Aldrich, I'm no more a 'boy' than you are a 'girl.' If your concern is my being black, than you have a problem and if you have a problem, the bank has a problem and, as much as I'd love to own this bank after suing your tukus off, I'll just forget what you said as soon as you get the manager in here to take care of our business. You see, I don't like you."
Jed didn't survive the inner city on his physical strength, since he was small, but on his native intelligence, able diplomacy, and quick wits.
Mildred picked up her phone, punched in a couple of numbers, and just that quick, John Wagner, Branch Manager, was at her door. Looking in, he spotted me saying, "Hi, Dr. Parker, how can we help you?"
He stopped a moment, looked at Jed, and continued, "Who is this good-looking young man with you?"
"My son, Jed, Mr. Wagner, and we have some accounts to open here as well as exchange my present safety deposit box for another."
He ushered us into his office and without any further questions began the paper work to take care of our needs. As we worked, I explained how Jed came to be with me, my desires for his financial welfare and freedom, and how I wanted him to be able to access my accounts. John just smiled and nodded knowingly.
John, approximately twenty-five years previously, was in high school when he, Grant, and I became acquainted. It was one of those warm summer nights we were enjoying while on two weeks' vacation from the university and law offices. The cabin was bathed in full moonlight, the same moonlight illuminating the lake where Grant and I just enjoyed a very erotic nighttime swim. Still naked, sitting on our porch, enjoying a glass of wine, silent in our post-coital bliss, Grant reached over, placed his hand on my lips, and gave a hushed ""shhh." Pointing down the drive toward the main road where I fully expected to see some woodland creature reflecting the bright moonlight, I saw what he saw. Not a bear or some other normally nocturnal animal, but a flickering red light, almost resembling the tail light of a vehicle, barely visible through the trees, and situated somewhere down our lane.
After a moment or two, the red light was extinguished, but was replaced by the very faint glow of a smaller, white light. Curious, we quietly dressed ourselves in the bedroom, returned to the porch and, picked up flashlights, and walked silently down the lane where the mysterious lights had previously been shining.
Half-way toward the main road, backed into our drive, was a late-model pickup truck, the passenger door open, dome light on, and two bare-assed young men sprawled on the seat. One was leaning into the open door, spread across the other's back, mounting him in an excellent and acceptable fashion, butt arching high into the air as he slid his cock in and out of the willing and stretched portal before him, was doing a magnificent job of breeding his companion in a truly proper manner.
Grant smiled at me, motioned toward the copulating couple, seeking my approval to approach closer. The two, obviously young, were so intent on their pleasurable experience had no clue we were close, witnessing what they thought was a very private and secret affair.
The young man on top began whimpering, pumping faster and faster until he moaned, "I'm cumming Lee."
"Me too," was his companions squealing response.
Just as the one on top pulled back for a final push and throbbing release, Grant stepped up and shoved his middle finger up the lad's ass!
"Oh, shit!" he exclaimed, suddenly aware of something in his ass that didn't belong to his companion, shocked and frightened at the same time, shoving forward as far as he could to escape the intruder lodged deep in his pucker.
"Yes, yes, yes!" shouted the other, finding the final thrust forward just as sensual and fulfilling as he thought his lover did.
The young man's puckered asshole had almost a death grip on Grant's finger as he pushed inside his companion, unable to stop his orgasm, as he struggled to move away from the "whatever" was in his butt.
Finger still embedded, Grant leaned forward, shining his light on the two coupled lads and said, "Boo; we see you."
Lee, the one underneath, reared up in fright, damn near squeezing his lover's dick off trying to scramble up in the cab of the truck. Now that pretty hard to do with your pants down around your ankles and a cock up your ass, but he was trying. Try as he might, he didn't succeed. There was a soft "pop" as his companion's magic wand deflated and exited the portal where it previously had expended itself. Both boys were frantically trying to pull up their pants, tuck their wieners away, zip in the process, and decide whether to run or shit or both. Grant solved their problem for them by saying calmly,
"Calm down, boys. Get dressed and then we'll talk."
Once their equipment was stored away and everything secured, Grant began his usual very gentle, unassuming, and non-threatening questioning- a technique he'd perfected not only in the law office but in the courtroom.
"John Wagner," stuttered the fucker.
"Lee Johnson," coughed the fuckee.
"Who owns the truck?"
"It's mine," answered John.
"O.k. Lee, you stand over next to Dr. Parker so he can keep an eye on you and John, turn the truck around and drive up to the house. The rest of us will be right behind you."
Once we were at the cabin, we ushered the two of them in to the porch and invited them to sit down, where Grant continued his questioning.
"How old are you?" he quizzed.
"Eighteen," both responded.
"Just graduated this year?"
John and Lee nodded their heads in the affirmative.
"Going to college next year?"
Again, both heads nodded and they responded in unison, "UW-Madison" before Grant could ask "where."
"Been lovers long?"
"About three years," affirmed John, clearly the more dominant of the two and protective of Lee as he scooted just a little closer to him, wary of Grant's line of questioning.
"How about a beer?" Grant tossed out, totally throwing them off balance. It wasn't the kind of question or response they really expected the direction of the questioning to go. Although neither of them was of age, he figured they really needed a beer after the surprise they'd gotten this night; besides, they weren't going to spill the beans to the law after they'd been caught fornicating in the woods, on private property.
I retrieved long-necks for the four of us, handed them around, and after we all had taken a couple of long, well-deserved swallows of the cold, frosty brew, Grant began his gentle inquiry.
"How long have you two been using our place for your little get-togethers?"
John confirmed they had been using the place for about two years. "We didn't know you were here. Usually we see you in town and know enough to stay away."
I smiled, saying, "We arrived a couple of hours ago without stopping in town. We drove right out here, had a quick swim to cool off and saw your taillights in the drive."
John and Lee began chattering like blue jays, once they decided we meant them no harm and would keep our mouths shut about their sexual behavior. In order to keep their love affair secret in the small community and school, they sought out places where they could be together without discovery. Finding our place generally vacant, they usually parked in the drive and there enjoyed each other without prying eyes.
"During the warm, summer nights, we sometimes went swimming off of your dock. Once, after falling asleep in the truck, we drove in to the cabin, lay out on the dock, and watched the sun come up," Lee volunteered.
"Well, you're both old enough to fuck each other," Grant said with a bit of crudity, "and, it's getting late, so why don't you two take the spare bedroom, spend the night, and we'll talk more in the morning."
Morning came soon enough and while Grant and I were fixing breakfast for the four of us, we could hear some pretty frenetic thumping, followed by sensuous moans and groans, ending with a panted, "Oh, my God!" emanating from the bed room.
"I'd say someone just got a royal shagging," I murmured to Grant.
At breakfast, we informed the John and Lee they were welcome to use the drive, dock, and couch on the porch when weren't here and welcome to use the spare bedroom when we were.
"Well, Dr. Parker," John said interrupting my reverie, "Jed had his social security number with him, so all he has to do is sign the signature cards and we're all set."
Jed signed where indicated, shook John's hand, and when I shook it to leave, he leaned forward saying, "I still miss Grant. You guys were and are great friends and mentors."
"What was that all about?" Jed asked me once we left the bank on the way to the grocery store.
I gave him a brief synopsis of our friendship with John and his long-time partner, Lee. With our help and encouragement, they both finished college and now, in a slightly more enlightened world (not totally accepting, but somewhat more tolerant), lived together; John the banker and Lee, a Certified Public Account, with his office in a neighboring small town. John and Lee were two more of Grant's pallbearers at his service.
"Neat," was Jed's response; no more, no less – his stamp of approval.
We picked up milk, brat buns, since we would do bratwurst on the grill for supper, plus those other items I'd regularly add to my grocery list now that I had a teenager in the house.
That night, after dishes were done and day was over, Jed, butt dragging, gave me a kiss goodnight and tottered off to bed. I sat up awhile longer, looking at Grant's picture, remembering the good times we'd had with John and Lee as they grew in their relationship and careers. I was pleased with the day, pleased with my son, and pleased he was here with me.
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