Scooter and Malachi

by Nicholas Hall

Chapter 17

"Come my beloved, let us go forth into the field; let us lodge in the villages."

(Song of Solomon)

Our life together takes a different twist.

A half hour after Seth and Alicia left with Dad, they were back on the dance floor. Seth flashed me a great smile and a "thumbs up." What I was about to say to Malachi concerning Seth was interrupted by Terrance cutting in to dance with me. It was a fast one so the slight difference in our height made little difference. Wiggling up close to me, Terrance proclaimed,

"Hope she doesn't forget to take her pill, otherwise, she'll produce nephews in litters," and danced back farther from me.

I made no comment; sometimes in life there are things better off left unsaid.

Malachi and I took up residence, after we were married, at the Resort. It only made sense and everyone agreed. The Parker Reunion was ever so much as fun as the Chen Family Reunion was. It wasn't interrupted, however, by any demonstrators. Our reception meal was a fish fry and the dance was provided by a disc jockey. Wedding cake and ice cream, along with a cash bar, except for soda (fountain) and beer (keg) was provided for guests at no cost. The Parker's aren't as reserved as one might think and we all had one hell of good time, even when some of the guys took us for a ride on their shoulders, marching around the dance floor while relatives toasted us, and down to the dock where they dumped us in the lake!

In the midst of all the change our family was undergoing during the summer, Dad suddenly came to the realization with me gone in the fall, Seth had no mode of transportation and would have to rely on the family van or Dad's vehicle for transportation. It'd also mean Mom would have to make more trips to town if my brothers didn't ride the bus. Dad cautiously asked if I wanted to give up my truck and he'd purchase me another. I really didn't; my truck ran well and besides, it was Grandpa's and I didn't really want to part with it yet. Seth got a pickup truck, used but in good shape, with instructions he was to use it to haul his brothers around as well.

Dad considered aloud to Mom, "With four more sons to go, we may as well have a used car lot."

I anticipated a tearful goodbye as we prepared to leave; our truck was loaded with what we thought we needed for our year in Madison. Anything we forgot or found we needed could be brought down by Seth or Mom and Dad when they came to visit or by us when we came home for the holidays.

I was pleasantly surprised. Mom and Dad now had even more reason to visit Madison, Seth had his own truck anticipating trips to Madison to see Alicia; Scotty, James' boyfriend this past year, moved and James moved on, Aaron was now sharing my old bedroom with Seth (guess why), and Samuel was nosing around some young girl at school. The only one was Terrance, who stood, a little misty eyed, as we motored down the drive, waving until we were out of sight, heading toward Madison and our life together.

Our cousins helped us move into my old bedroom in our former family home. We busied ourselves getting things put away, arranged, and settling in. Getting our class schedules, buying books, and everything else going with being a freshman at U.W. Madison occupied a great deal of our time as well. We also just had to wander around campus, sit on the deck and sip a soda while looking at the lake or snacking on an ice cream cone purchased at Babcock Hall.

The second week after classes started, Grandmother Chen invited us to Sunday dinner. Since they lived just down the street, we were able to walk down. It felt great, walking hand in hand down the street to her house. It was as if we'd done this all of our lives. She and Grandfather seemed so pleased to see us, as we were seeing them. We had a wonderful time with them. Sunday dinners would continue for about once a month throughout the school year. Grandmother Chen claimed we needed home cooked meals, but we both knew she enjoyed the company. She was great for having her grandchildren or children over for a dinner and made a regular practice of it. Malachi, for his part, loved it since he was able to share his early life with people who knew him and his father.

The dance studio where Jericho once worked and Malachi learned to dance, contacted us after we moved, wondering if and when Malachi could start work. They were eager to have him. We talked it over and decided neither of us would work until after the first semester. We needed to get our feet on the ground, become accustomed to university life, and comfortable living together as husband and husband. This final part was presenting no problems, in fact, it seemed as we just loved each other more.

Our studies kept us busy, but it didn't prevent us from enjoying campus life as well. There's so much to do on and off campus. The fine arts cultural opportunities and events are almost endless, as well as the athletic activities, and community events. Mom and Dad and my brothers were down for Homecoming. Seth wanted to bring his truck but the folks nixed it since "one vehicle is enough." It really made no difference since he was staying with Johnny. Johnny, Megan, Alicia, and Seth were together all weekend, "probably belly to belly," as Terrance so adroitly stated. Terrance and James brought sleeping bags so they could sack out on the floor of our bedroom and "enjoy our company" as James announced. Samuel, Aaron, and Mom and Dad stayed with Grandmother and Grandfather Chen. All our meals, except when at the game, were with them. Mom's siblings, who either lived in the area or close by, gathered there after the game for refreshments and conversation. It was a great weekend.

Homecoming wasn't the only time Seth made it Madison. He was down twice more between Homecoming and Thanksgiving, checking in with us and staying at Johnny's. I'll give him credit; each time he was down, he and Alicia stopped at our grandparents to visit and give them their love. Saturday night Seth and Alicia went out with us for pizza before going their own way. Sunday, if we were invited, was Sunday dinner at Grandmother and Grandfather Chens. Seth didn't mind getting home later in the evening as a result.

Thanksgiving seemed to arrive so quickly. We went home, now in two places, the Resort and Mom and Dad's, but the Resort was becoming more home for both of us. It's where we met, and where we lived when "home." Seth was off to Madison for the holiday, barely beating a snowstorm on his way down; one we missed by leaving after our last classes on Tuesday. It gave us a chance to settle in before "turkey day."

Terrance was anxious to let us know he'd taught Percy a couple of new words. "He squawks 'Hi yah, Minx' when I come into the room."

"Really?"

"Yah, really!" Terrance announced proudly.

Before we departed for Madison on Sunday, we discovered the Minx was busy in his language lessons. Percy learned another version of an old nursery rhyme; "Jack be nimble, Jack be quick; fucked himself on a candle stick."

Oh, well!

The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas seemed even shorter. We were so busy, not only studying, but doing what little Christmas shopping we could afford. It wasn't much, but we were able to get something for each of my brothers, Mom and Dad, and Uncle Cayden and Uncle Dave, as well as Grandmother and Grandfather Chen. Seth drove to Madison a couple of days before Christmas and brought Alicia up for the holiday. We weren't the only ones busy shopping. Alicia sported a diamond engagement ring! They announced they'd be getting married in June, in Madison. No surprise there! They were totally besotted with each other; much like Malachi and me.

Christmas break over, we concentrated on finishing our first semester and winter in Madison. Winter in the city isn't as isolating as it can be in the north. Public transportation and the variety of shops, theatres, galleries, and other activities help. The temperature in Madison is not as severe as at home, the snow not quite as deep it seems, and winter lasts less long, with spring coming sooner. Winter can be enjoyable or fucking nasty, depending on your point of view. We find it enjoyable.

Speaking of fucking, we found there's nothing quite as nice as snuggling up to each other on a cold winter's night, enjoying not only the sex, but the warmth and security found in each other's arms as we fall asleep or wake up in our bed as a married couple. Not only does Malachi personal scent act as an aphrodisiac, but as a warming comforter for my body and my mind. I would wake up some times, snuggle even closer, lay my face against his chest, and sigh in satisfaction, love, and gratification.

From the very first snowfall, Malachi and I would walk up the block to Grandfather and Grandmother Chen's, get out the snow blower and a shovel, and clean the drive, sidewalk, and steps. Grandmother always insisted on paying us and we accepted, not the coin she offered to compensate us with, but a cup of hot chocolate or a breakfast or a hug, a kiss, and a heartfelt thank you from her.

For me, it was something it seemed I'd always done. Before moving north, my brothers and I cleaned the walks and mowed the grass for them very willingly. Those simple, yet important chores to them, brought us closer to them and demonstrated our respect and affection for them. When we weren't around, our other cousins took care of the snow removal and mowing.

It was the right thing to do!

I remember a rather nasty late winter snow storm our first year at the University, dumping a prodigious quantity of snow on the city. Malachi and I worked long and hard cleaning up the white stuff in their drive and sidewalk. After we finished, we trooped inside and were rewarded with hot chocolate and fresh cake. My grandparents sat at the table with us, enjoying sharing in our treat. Grandfather asked simply,

"When you go from here, what do you see in your future?"

Malachi looked into the bottom of his cup, swirled the dregs around in the manner of one preparing to read tea leaves, pondered what he was to say, before looking up at our grandparents.

"These are questions Scooter and I have asked each other numerous times since Christmas. Scooter is seriously considering law. As far as where we want to be, as much as we love Madison, we love the north on Crystal Lake, the Parker Home, and the Resort even more. We want to spend our lives there. For me, I love all the arts, dancing, and chorography and I love Scooter, wanting to spend my life with him."

"Well, Malachi," Grandfather Chen spoke quietly, "the first two can last your living moments. The third one will last for eternity."

Our majors began to take shape after that with every intention and desire to apply what we learned back home. It'd take longer than four or five years, but while I was earning my doctorate in law, Malachi could spend time gathering the education and credits in those fields he loved as well.

Malachi began working two Saturdays per month at the dance studio. Generally, he'd be instructing the entire day with groups and individuals. He preferred ballet, but also did an excellent job of general dance instruction. He was a natural teacher it seemed. Whenever we danced together it was obvious to me at least. While he taught I chose to spend the day in study, cleaning our room and helping with general cleanup and maintenance at home, or walked up the street to visit my grandparents.

We also became quite active in a campus LGBTQ organization and, because of Malachi's own previous experience, the Rape Crisis Hot Line. Malachi and I worked the Hot Line one evening every other week and one Saturday night per month generally handling the male callers. We were surprised at the number of calls received and how many didn't want to report it to the police. They were more concerned with how to reconcile their own fears and live with the trauma as they tried to adjust to life post-rape. Their reasons for not wanting to contact the police were familiar to us; many times the authorities don't view them as victims, but as perpetrators or participants or as "abnormal". Fortunately, the Madison PD is more understanding and helpful, but it doesn't remove the stigma of rape and the degradation from it for males or females.

The first weekend of May was the fishing opener and the unofficial opening of the resort and camping season. We drove home to help at the Resort. The Resort was booked full and reservations for the entire season were just as heavy. Crystal Lake and Cayden's Cottages were becoming a very popular destination.

While we worked, in some of the down time, Uncle Dave and Uncle Cayden discussed with us their tentative plans for expanding the Resort operations from the current four cabins to eight.

"We have the combined resources," Uncle Dave explained, "to move ahead with the project. The lake front and back property is sufficient enough as well. Cayden sees no problem in obtaining county and town permits for construction and expanded use. We may have to make some changes to the septic system, but it'd present no problems as well. Our question is, what do you see as your future plans since it may affect what we do?"

They already had a fair idea, but I thought they really wanted reassurance from us. Speaking for both of us, I relayed our conversation with Grandmother and Grandfather Chen concerning our plans, emphasizing how important it was for us to return here to Crystal Lake and the Resort. Given the information informing us how integral part of their decision and the Resort we were, the four of us decided to move ahead. There was no doubt Uncle Dave and Uncle Cayden intended to include us in the ownership and operation of the Resort in the future. It was going to be a very busy summer.

There was some hardship for us, but we started going home each Friday afternoon after classes to work and back to campus on Sunday night. The traffic both ways was horrendous. There was no choice as far as we were concerned; we were needed to work and the Resort was as much our home as anyplace. It also meant no dance instructions for Malachi or Hot Line volunteering for both of us. Sacrificial decisions for both of us, but necessary if we were to help manage and grow the Resort.

Seth and Alicia's wedding was the weekend after high school graduation. Alicia's family wasn't as large as ours, but still the wedding and reception afterwards was large. Johnny served as Seth's best man and Megan as Alicia's bridesmaid. My brothers and I served as groomsmen. I wasn't offended by Seth's choice of Johnny since they'd been friends for many years. Johnny and Megan decided to marry in a year, deciding to get a year of college done first. It didn't prevent them from planning on living together however, "growing to know each other."

"Probably 'growing' a bun in the oven," Terrance giggled to James, who just rolled his eyes.

We still hadn't worked out living arrangements for Seth and Alicia since currently there were no openings at Parker House in Madison. Tentatively, they planned on living with Alicia's parents until something either opened up at Parker House or they could find other affordable living.

Back at Parker House, after the reception, Malachi leaned over me, checking to see if our two room guests, Terrance and James were sound asleep in their sleeping bags, nudged his favorite spot on my backside with his magic wand, nuzzled his head over my shoulder, and after nibbling erotically on my ear and neck, whispered, "Do you suppose Seth's trying to get her pregnant tonight?"

"Don't know," I whispered back. "Were you going to try the same with me?"

"Yeah," he sighed, slipping his long, thick, heat-seeking moisture missile into its silo for launching and, after a few tentative thrusts to ready me, took Captain Prodigious to warp speed.

The Resort kept us extremely busy. Construction was underway on the four new cabins. The new cabins would be winterized for all season use. There were snowmobile trails in the area, but none linked with the Resort. This was fine with the four of us since we preferred the silent sports enthusiasts including bird hunters in the fall, hikers, cross country skiers, fishermen, and family vacationers. The growing popularity of ice fishing on the lake did mean the use of ATV's and snowmobiles by guests to travel up and down the frozen lake in order to seek locations to fish.

It'd take some time to attract winter visitors, but we felt assured we would and the result would be increased profitability. Managing the winter season would require hiring some extra help until Uncle Cayden retired, in four years, and Uncle Dave in eight. Uncle Cayden would have his years in as a law enforcement officer and would retire with full benefits at age fifty-five.

The Chen Family Reunion over the Fourth of July was smaller in attendance then the year before when Malachi and I married, since many of our relatives attended Seth and Alicia's wedding in Madison. Dad and Mom still insisted, even after agreeing not to have a reception at the Reunion, on having ice cream and cake at the BBQ dinner at noon. It was a fun time. In the evening, at the dance, we watched Seth and Alicia dance. They were such a beautiful couple, truly and totally in love with each other. As they danced, Malachi gave me a kiss, murmuring. "Isn't love wonderful?"

Indeed it is!

In spite of having to work the Resort as well, we had a great time visiting with all of our cousins, aunts, and uncles. Grandmother and Grandfather Chen arrived the weekend before and left the weekend after the Fourth, enjoying having their family close and together. Little did we realize it would be Grandfather Chen's last reunion with us.

A week after the Chen Family Reunion, Grandfather Chen suffered a major, debilitating stroke, paralyzing his left side and impaired his ability to speak clearly. It took a great deal of effort on his part to make himself understood and a great deal of patience for those listening to sort out what he wanted.

Uncle Louie called Mom while Grandfather Chen was being transported to the hospital. Uncle Carl, a physician as well, would meet them there. She and Dad packed hurriedly and left immediately for Madison, after leaving instructions over the phone to me. Seth and Alicia were in Madison, living with her parents. Both were working in Madison, complicating Malachi's and my summer. The lawn care business we'd started had numerous clients and without Seth's truck, it fell upon either Malachi or me to either transport the others to the job or let Samuel use our truck. Most of the time we just let him. He was sixteen going on seventeen and was fully capable of doing so. I know Dad hated to have to consider another purchase, but this family crisis really pointed out the need for another vehicle. Samuel could use Mom's vehicle while they were gone if they needed anything.

Samuel was old enough, we thought, to ride herd on his brothers. Aaron would soon be sixteen, but Mom insisted on one of us be there at night while she and Dad were gone. She'd notify Seth once they arrived in Madison. "No sense worrying him unnecessarily."

James and Terrance decided to spend night with us and Aaron and Samuel stayed at home to keep an eye on the place, making certain everything was working properly. Dad was home within three days and gathered us together to give a report on our grandfather's condition. According to Dad, Grandfather Chen was improving, but we shouldn't get our hopes up for a full recovery. Dad wasn't particularly blunt, but very realistic, indicating our grandfather would probably never recover from this stroke and very likely could have another.

"You may as well know, boys," he said, "if your grandfather has another stroke, it may be fatal."

It saddened all of us. Terrance ran to Dad, sobbing, and was hugged tight. James sought comfort from my embrace; Aaron, Samuel, Malachi, and I suppressed our sorrow somewhat, but it really didn't stop the tears from flowing freely.

Mom's brothers and sister gathered in Madison for a sit-down conference and family decision. Uncle Louie, Uncle Bill, and Uncle Carl examined Grandfather Chen and agreed, once he left the hospital to enter a nursing home for therapy, he probably wouldn't be returning home. The nursing home would be the better place for him where he could receive nursing care and therapy.

According to Dad, Grandmother Chen had an entirely different opinion. A physician herself, she insisted her husband would return to their home. She was more than capable of caring for him, any therapy needed would be done there, and she'd arrange for a hospital bed and other items necessary for his care.

"Oh boy," I thought listening to Dad, "the battle lines have been drawn." Both of my grandparents were in their eighties, quite certain of their desires, and love for each other. She didn't want to be separated from him or vice-versa. I had a pretty good idea how the "conference" went.

Mom was home a week later. From the look on her face when we arrived at the house after she summoned us over, left no doubt who won the argument. Her call caused considerable discussion between Malachi and me on our way over, concluding it had something to do with us.

It didn't take long for us to find out! Seated on the porch, each of us nursing a cold soda, Dad sipping on a Brandy Old-fashioned Sweet, and Mom on a glass of wine, she cut to the chase.

"Your grandmother," she began, "and grandfather," sighing in a combination of disgust and resignation, "decided he'd continue his recuperative care at home under the supervision of your grandmother."

The way she kept saying "your grandmother" and "your grandfather" probably signaled the direction this conversation was going to go. Whatever was about to happen definitely involved Malachi and me.

"Your uncles and aunts and I have been in deep and sometimes contentious discussions concerning your grandparents. We finally put our collective feet down and informed them he cannot go home unless your Grandmother Chen agrees to have some help around the house. She agreed, only if it is you and Malachi. I told her I doubted you would've time to help out without neglecting your studies or burden yourselves with helping with housework, yard care, and other things in helping care for your grandfather. Right?"

Dad raised his eyebrows, Mom's eyes pleaded for us to agree with her. I looked at Malachi, he gave me a slight nod, and I replied, "No problem; we'd be happy to help. We did all winter."

Just before the fall semester began Malachi and I moved into a spare bedroom at our grandparents, Seth and Alicia moved into our room at Parker House South, and Grandfather Chen came home three days later.

He appeared so frail, helpless, and almost fragile to the point of breaking into splintering shards, so ------ old! Spotting Malachi and me as the attendants carried him, strapped to a gurney, through the front door, he managed a somewhat lopsided smile, winked his right eye, and gave an ever so weak wave with his right hand. The wheels dropped on the gurney and he was rolled into the bedroom he'd shared so many years with his beloved.

The room was rearranged to accommodate the hospital bed as well as the double bed he and Grandmother Chen occupied. Standing beside his new bed was his dear wife, my grandmother. Tears in both of their eyes, he waved her closer, she leaned over, their lips met, and they exchanged a silent, but deeply moving "welcome home."

Their eyes weren't the only eyes dripping moisture; Malachi and I had tears streaming down our cheeks as well. We waited while attendants moved him from the gurney to his bed, the pillows propped up to raise and support his back, and blankets arranged by Grandmother Chen before we stepped forward, kissed his forehead, and welcomed him home.

Uncle Louie and Uncle Carl, having followed the transport van home, stood in the doorway watching the homecoming unfold before them. Uncle Kenneth and Uncle Bruce stood behind them. I could only think, at the time, the medical and legal branches of the family were well represented. There was no doubt after they left, a full report would be made to those siblings not present. Malachi and I left the room when my uncles stepped in to visit with their father.

Before we slept that night, Malachi and I discussed our belief Grandfather Chen came home to either recover, which both of us doubted occurring, or to die, which we both concluded was his obvious wish. Either way, he was home with the love of his life.

Our life became a routine of helping Grandmother Chen prepare Grandfather for his day, including his meals, bathing him, getting him into his wheelchair (when he was able) so he was able to sit in the living room or kitchen, changing bedding, reading to him (he loved to be read to), taking care of chores around the house including laundry, fixing meals, going to class, and studying. Malachi and I gave up our Hot Line volunteering, but he continued to teach at the dance studio. We didn't find any of this overtaxing, tedious, or an intrusion into our lives. We did it because we loved him and taking care of him was no hardship. If we needed help, we only had to call upon Seth and Alicia, who stopped by every day anyway, or our cousins. On one stop, Alicia whispered something in his ear, his lips curled into a smile, and he gently patted her hand, clearly pleased by what he said.

Interspersed with all of this was a steady influx of visitors, when he was able to visit. Most were family but there were a few friends and former colleagues who'd stop by as well. Grandmother Chen would often brag how fortunate they were to such a loving family and group of grandchildren who never hesitated to help her and their Grandfather. Mom and Dad came down if not once a week, then every other week, and brought my brothers down a couple of times.

September seemed to cruise by and entering October, it seemed as if Grandfather Chen wasn't improving but growing weaker. My grandparents' attitude didn't seem depressed in nature, but not overjoyed either. I wondered how my grandmother was handling it. I found out late one night, waking to go to the bathroom, I finished my business, and walked downstairs to check on them.

I peeked in their bedroom. Grandfather seemed to be resting comfortably. Grandmother Chen, however, was not. She was sitting in a chair, her face wet with tears, looking sadly at her husband. I walked into the room, held out my arms, and when she stepped into them, hugged her.

"Oh, Josiah," she keened softly, "he's not long for this world. I will miss him so."

I could only nod my agreement; we all would miss him. She confessed they both realized his condition probably wouldn't improve and were pragmatic enough to decide to let nature take its course. He wanted to die at home and she wanted to be at his side when he did. I sat with her about a half an hour until she urged me to go back to bed. I called Mom the next morning, suggesting if she could get away, she might well come on down. I knew she'd be there later that day, so before I left for class, I made up a bed in one of the extra bedrooms.

Two days later, we were awakened by Mom.

"Scooter," she said softly, "call Uncle Louis and Uncle Carl and ask them to come over. Tell them Poppa is preparing for his journey."

Malachi and quickly slipped on shirts, pants, and shoes and scurried downstairs. Malachi accompanied Mom while I made the phone calls. Neither lived very far away so it wouldn't take them long. When I went back to the bedroom, Mom and Malachi were sitting in chairs, Grandmother Chen was on the bed, her arm around Grandpa's head, and they were holding hands.

Uncle Louie and Uncle Carl arrived and they quickly moved to the bedside, checked his vital signs, and waited. Grandfather opened his eyes and looked at Uncle Louie.

"Don't worry, Poppa," he said softly, "we'll watch after her."

Grandfather Chen turned his head toward Grandmother, said something in Chinese, she leaned over him, their lips met, and she rested her head on his shoulder. His breathing became shallower, each breath further apart from the last, until he breathed no more.

Dr. Roy Chen, PhD History, Professor Emeritus, wife of Dr. Carolyn Chen, M.D., father of nine children, and our grandfather, was cremated and the urn containing his ashes, was interred in the cemetery plot he and Grandmother Chen purchased in a Madison Cemetery many years before.

The family, my mom, dad, aunts, and uncles gathered again, ostensibly to discuss their mother's future. Again, she disagreed with their conclusions, insisting she was quite capable of managing her own life.

"I completed a medical degree, married the only man I ever loved, bore nine children, managed a household and medical practice, and am still of sound mind; an old body, but according to my personal physician, still fully capable of caring for myself."

Her children sat, not objecting since it'd do little good. She announced she'd asked Malachi and me to stay on and live with her. Seth and Alicia would be moving in as well at semester, since, "Alicia is pregnant and nothing like having a doctor in the house."

The conversation wasn't over however, since her children raised a number of questions.

"How will you manage when Malachi and Scooter to home during the summer and some weekends to work at the resort?"

"Seth and Alicia will be here."

When questioned about holidays when the Parker's gathered on Crystal Lake, she simply pointed at her other eight children informing them she'd be visiting and there were adequate grandchildren and great-grandchildren around to care for the walks or lawns and stay with her. Evidently she grew tired of their questions.

"Enough! I plan to do some traveling and before you ask, I'll have someone travel with me. As far as anything else, figure it out, knowing I'm going to be in this house until I join Poppa. We didn't raise a bunch of dummies. Don't humiliate me by tying me to a life Poppa and I didn't lead, nor would he want you to."

And so it was!

When we were absent from her home, our cousins down the block took over; someone stayed with her, the rest cared for her property; holidays she visited her children, summers, she traveled and one of her grandchildren traveled with her. She was extremely active socially as well. Both Seth and Alicia, Malachi and me, or another of her grandchildren accompanied her to fine arts events, activities on Campus, concerts at the Overture Center, Music on the Square, organizations she patronized, shopping, political events, and chauffeured her wherever she traveled.

Life with Grandmother Chen was a delight, particularly for Malachi. I grew up, until we moved up north, just down the street so stopping by her house was a daily occurrence for my brothers and me. Malachi, on the other hand, grew up with his father and a mother who really didn't want him or treated him with anything other than distain. The only grandparents he knew, were the Taylors, who he'd met the year before we were married. That meeting proved to be a debacle; his biological grandparents were just plain damned evil.

Us living with Grandmother Chen gave him the opportunity to be with a grandmother by marriage, who knew him when he was growing up, could relay stories from her view point of events familiar to both of them, and spoil him rotten. She was still grieving and would do so until the day she joined her husband and we respected that; not pushing, not becoming intrusive into her grief, only lending loving presence, and not trying to replace Grandfather Chen with our presence. We knew she was, not specifically by any overt, demonstrative, demonstration of "wailing and gnashing of teeth" but in a quiet way, by mentioning his name, describing some event they'd attended, and the sometimes sad look in her eyes.

Seth and Alicia moved in, as announced, and made themselves at home. Again, the house was familiar to Seth along with Grandmother's mannerisms and personality. It didn't take Alicia long to fit right in. She was working on a degree in Elementary Education and Seth was toying with a degree in Pharmacy. It was obvious by the look of Alicia his college degree wasn't the only thing he'd been toying with.

Alicia's mom and Grandmother Chen spent many a Saturday shopping with her for baby clothes, a crib, miscellaneous baby things, and discussing what bedroom they'd turn into a nursery once the baby was old enough to be out of their bedroom.

"Knowing your father-in-law," Grandmother joked to Alicia, "if his son is anything like him, he won't be satisfied with just one son."

She was most confident Alicia would have a boy since "Parker's and Chen's seem to produce more boys than girls."

Josiah Grant Dickenson-Parker II was born March 28. Mother and baby were fine. Seth said they decided to name him after me since "you and Malachi aren't likely to have any children no matter how hard you try," and "I wanted to name him after my best friend, my older brother." Josiah Grant Dickenson-Parker was nicknamed "Grant" and would answer to it the rest of his life. Grandpa Parker and Uncle Grant would be so proud and love it.

Our family and Alicia's had to celebrate of course. It wasn't the first grandchild for Alicia's parents but it was for mine. Mom and Dad were ecstatic and my brothers were just as bad. The poor little guy barely had a chance to nap, except in somebody's arms which was most of the time, when the Parkers came from up north to visit, now more frequently than before. Megan and Johnny would drop by a couple of times a week as well.

All of our lives took a different twist with a new baby in the house. Seth was a typical new, young father, worried about everything, and Alicia the same as a new mother, only she seemed to be able to handle it just fine. College classes for her and for Seth called in the services of Uncle Malachi and Uncle Scooter to babysit, feed and change young Grant, and get up nights with him sometimes when Seth and Alicia were just too tired. Well, we were too, but it was fun. Grant was such a good baby, there was little to worry about, most times.

It was nice having a doctor in the house, just in case.

I'd settled on pursuing a law degree, wanting to join Dad in his practice back home. Malachi was working on a degree in Art, but he was so tossed about what he wanted besides. He loved dance, loved painting, and loved choreography. A bachelor's degree would only take four years while my law degree would take seven. Tuition and fees cost big money and we didn't really have a great deal of it. Granted my tuition and fee, as well as all of my brother's, was paid from the educational trusts Grandpa Parker established, but it still cost us. Grandmother Chen arranged for some tuition and work assistantships for Malachi. He entered the graduate program and received a teaching assistantship and discovered he enjoyed teaching as well.

He visited with Grandmother Chen concerning his confusion, she just said, "go for it; get your art degrees and pick up some education courses as well" and he did. He would end up teaching part-time, in addition to his art work and resort, in a local community college and some night classes at our high school.

Grandmother Chen lived and traveled as she said she would, knowing Grandfather would want her to and have it no other way. There was always a grandchild eager to make a trip with her. I must confess her favorite traveling companion was James. He loved to travel. While he was in high school, the two of them, often accompanied by another cousin or two, traveled to China, India, and South America. She claimed James was along because of his propensity for language, since he now was conversant in Spanish, Chinese, as well as French, which he had the opportunity to use when she took Terrance and him to Europe.

"Terrance is interested in different cuisine's so," she announced before they left, "he should have the opportunity to try those on the Continent."

She really spoiled the Parker Brothers and for some reason, the others didn't complain.

Our next summer back at the Resort, with eight cottages instead of four, proved to be a little more challenging. Seth, Alicia, and Grant remained in Madison to watch over Grandmother's house while she tripped and be there for her when she returned. Seth worked a good job in Madison, but Alicia chose to remain at home caring for Grant. It did tighten up their purse strings, but it was working for them. Alicia did take a couple of on-line classes, working on them when Grant was napping.

There were only six of the eight cottages rented the first two weeks of June, but all eight were rented the rest of June, July, and August. The season would wind down the middle of September with fewer rentals. The winter season was looking promising, with about half of the cottages rented. Uncle Dave and Uncle Cayden decided to hire some extra help, my brothers, on weekends to ease the burden on them until Uncle Cayden retired.

Even so, with eight cottages, boats, and motors to care for, we still needed extra help during the summer. Uncle Cayden, Uncle Dave, Malachi, and I decided (we were being treated as equal partners) to hire Samuel and Aaron part-time during the week giving them time to manage their lawn care business with James and Terrance.

James and Terrance were both now more than capable and adept at running the outboard on the boat and made frequent trips across the lake to visit. Malachi and I tried to arrange one night per week so we could run over to Mom and Dad's for dinner and a visit. We still managed to talk to them almost every day either by phone or skype.

Returning to Madison in the fall was almost a relief, although we did go home several weekends to help at the Resort. We'd drive home Friday evenings and back to Madison late Sunday nights.

Our lives over the next seven years revolved around our studies, family, the Resort, and most importantly, each other. I didn't think our love for each other could deepen even more than when we first married, but it did. I couldn't imagine going through life without Malachi. I knew he felt the same way just the way he looked at me, hugged, me, or said, "I love you."

The year I received my law degree, Malachi was awarded his PhD, Seth received his pharmacy degree and went to work in a large pharmacy in Madison, moving to an apartment large enough for the four of them (yep, another boy, Benjamin, and another on the way), Samuel was accepted into the College of Medicine, Aaron was working on his MBA (Accounting), James was well into his Bachelor's degree with a major in International Business along with languages, and Terrance was in his second year as a Business Major. Samuel was married to Trish and they had two boys, Thomas and Michael; Aaron married Beth and they had one boy, Garrison; and Terrance had a steady girl, Olivia from Rockport. They'd been going together since their senior year of high school.

Samuel and Trish and their two, along with Aaron and Beth and their little one, lived with Grandmother Chen at one time or another. As another brother moved to town, another one and his family found an apartment. Terrance and James were the last to arrive so they ended up sharing a room. Let's face it, it was a big house, but not for all of us at once.

James was the closest of any of us to Grandmother Chen, traveling with her, escorting her when she went out, taking her shopping, and doing all of the household chores needing to be done. I often thought he was as close to her as I was to Grandpa Parker.

The summer after James graduated with his Bachelor's degree and decided to continue for his Master's and PhD, early one morning my cell phone jangled, waking Malachi and me. A quick glance at my watch told me this was no casual call. It was from James.

"Scooter?"

"Yes!"

James paused and with a slight hitch in his voice said sadly, "Grandmother Chen died about thirty minutes ago. Uncle Carl and Uncle Louie are here. I called Mom and Dad and Aaron and Terrance are helping me call the others."

"Are you okay, James?"

"Yeah; as well as can be expected."

Carolyn Chen's, MD, ashes were interred next to her husband in the cemetery at Madison. James, standing next to Malachi and me after the service, commented, "I'll miss her so!"

As we all would!

He asked, contemplatively, "Scooter, will I ever find a love like you and Malachi have and Grandpa Parker and Uncle Grant had?"

Placing my arm around my younger brother, hugging him fondly, reassuring him of our love for him, responded,

"Love comes from unexpected places, James, Be hopeful and patient."

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