Brian and Lanny Go to Europe

by Nick Brady

Chapter 22

The day started early for Brian and Lanny. They had to be packed and at the airport to go through the rigorous security that was in place in Amsterdam. Their bags were scanned and checked, their personal documents were examined carefully by a polite but thorough official and they were allowed to proceed to the departure lounge for their seven-thirty flight.

"Are we good for this?" Brian asked for assurance.

"I think so. I emailed everybody with our itinerary last night," Lanny told him. "We're supposed to call when we get to Chicago so they will know when to meet us at the Tulsa airport."

"I'm ready to get back home and see my family," Brian said. "It wasn't that long ago that I didn't really have a family. I've missed them."

"Me too. It will be good to get back home. Then we need to talk to our folks."

"I'm a little nervous about that and at the same time, looking forward to getting past it."

"You'll get the chance before you know it," Lanny stood and pointed to their gate. "It's time to begin boarding."

Their backpacks were checked and they carried their rucksacks onto the plane. They had window seats near the rear of the airliner and scooted into them quickly to get out of the way while the other passengers found their seats.

After about ten minutes, the flight attendants were checking for seat belts and admonishing persons whose carry-on bags were not properly stowed. The lights flashed, the airplane started backing out from the terminal to take its place on the runway. They edged up until they were next in line, pivoted out on the runway, and started bumping up to the takeoff point. There was a pause, a roar of turbines, and they were off.

Brian had taken the window seat and Lanny was leaned over his lap sharing the view. The ground disappeared quickly and they plunged into a gray fog. After banking around and rising above the clouds, they were pointed to the shortest route to Chicago.

It was a long flight and they amused themselves with conversation, and a movie on the screen in front of them. They were served a light breakfast and made themselves comfortable. Now at the end of their journey, they realized that they were both exhausted. This was their first opportunity to sit still for any length of time and they fell asleep before the movie had barely started.

Four hours later they were awakened by the flight attendant asking if they wanted to eat dinner.

"Sure. If it's food, I'll take it," Brian yawned.

They sat up and lowered their tray tables to see what was on the menu. On the trays placed in front of them was what looked like a rather nice TV dinner, with sliced turkey, herbed rice, green beans and a roll. On either side of the dinner plates were a salad and a piece of chocolate cake.

"Not bad," Lanny leaned forward and sniffed. It proved to be tasty.

They dozed through a second movie and became alert when they felt the aircraft drop in altitude. "I think we're coming into Chicago," Lanny leaned over Brian's lap to look out of the window.

They made a large descending circle, then looked as though they were about to land on Lake Michigan. At the last moment the runway appeared below them and they felt the wheels bump on the ground. "We're in Chicago!" Brian watched as they sped past terminals with airplanes parked at the gates, or on their way in or out.

Since this was a connecting flight on the same carrier, their bags were transferred for them. They had their passports reviewed again before boarding the flight for Tulsa, but it went smoothly. Just prior to boarding they both made several brief phone calls, giving the time and flight number of the arriving flight to Tulsa. It would be less than two hours before they were home again.

They chatted and played with the video games on their cell phones until they began to descend to Tulsa. They were able to look out the window and identify some familiar landmarks. When they landed, they walked down the concourse to the baggage claim area, wondering if their messages had been received. As soon as they left the secure area and stepped into the main terminal, they saw the people who were waiting to greet them.

There were Marco and Marty with the twins, Benjamin and Samuel, hopping up and down in front of them holding a hand printed sign saying WELCOME HOME. There were Lanny's parents, Frank and Nancy, Melissa and Louisa, all smiling and waving. As soon as they came close enough they were swamped with hugs and kisses.

Everybody looked the same to Brian and Lanny, except the twins. "Have you grown in the last month or did I just forget how tall you guys are getting?" Brian asked.

"We'll be big enough to beat up on you pretty soon," Sam laughed.

"What did you bring us? Ben asked.

"Slow down guys. We brought you a little something," Brian told him. "It's great to see all of you."

"Are you OK?" Lanny's mother asked. "I was so worried about your fall."

"I'm fine. It was just a sprain and I saw a doctor and everything," Lanny assured him.

"Did you guys have a good trip?" Louisa asked.

"It was fantastic," Brian answered. "We were only gone a month but I think it will take at least a month to tell what all we did."

They walked to the baggage claim area and waited for their packs. Brian and Lanny tried to answer all their questions but it seemed like everyone was talking at once. What was clear was that they were glad to be home where their families were happy to see them. It was a good feeling.

When they walked out to the parking lot, everyone went to different cars. Louisa and Melissa in one, Lanny and his parents in another and Brian with his family in the Sienna.

Brian and Lanny turned towards each other. This would be the first time in a month that they were apart. "Uh, great trip Lanny. I'll see you soon."

"Right. I'll call you tonight after I talk with my folks," Lanny said uncertainly.

"Me too. It's going to be OK. Trust me on that," Brian assured him.

They hesitated a moment then gave each other a hug, turned and drove away with their families.

The twins jumped into the third row seats and gave Brian the middle to himself. Marty drove and Marco turned to Brian, "From your emails I gather that the trip was a success."

"Oh yeah. It was fantastic. I have a lot more pictures to show you. The ones I emailed to you were just the highlights."

"How did you and Lanny get along?" Marco asked.

Brian hesitated then responded, "That was great too. More than great, actually."

Marco smiled. "I was hoping that was the case. Do we need to talk?"

Brian felt a surge of relief. "Probably that would be a good idea."

"Lanny seems like a really nice guy," Marty called over his shoulder. "We talked to his parents several times while you were gone. They are good people – easy to talk to. I think everything will be OK with you two."

Brian sat back rather surprised by the feeling that his parents already knew what was coming."

"So what did you bring us?" Ben asked again.

"Is that all you can think about? Didn't you miss me?" Brian pretended to be hurt.

"Of course we did," Sam told him. We couldn't wait for the emails and photos you sent back. "We missed you something awful."

Ben nodded and grinned. "It just wasn't the same with you gone. I'm glad you're back."

"It's good to see you guys too – all of you," Brian smiled. "I hate to admit it, but I missed you a lot. And yes, I did bring you something. It's nothing much but I hope you will like it. Remember that I was limited on money and cargo space."

"Did Lanny really break his arm and save your life?" Ben asked.

"Not really. He grabbed me when I was about to fall and sprained his shoulder," Brian told him.

"What were you guys doing? That sounds exciting."

"It was fun. It was all fun. I can't tell you everything we did for a month in the first fifteen minutes. Let me catch my breath. What's new with you guys? Have you been working on your scout stuff?"

"Yes1 We went to Philmont you know," Ben said. "We didn't do any merit badges, but we hiked and canoed and lots of cool stuff."

"Really? I remember you talking about that before I left, but you didn't tell me you really did it," Brian exclaimed. "Man! I always wanted to go to Philmont Scout Ranch."

"It was cool, Brian. We got to ride horses up a mountain trail, and they had a killer Ropes course," Sam added. "I even got to ride a mule!"

"But we have almost enough for Star," Ben told him. "We just need to finish a couple of merit badges."

"Good for you!" Brian was pleased. "I might be able to help you with those."

The three brothers talked and joked all the way home. Brian took his pack into his bedroom, dumped them in the corner and sat down on the edge of his bed. His bed. Not a tent laid out over stones, not a bunk in a hostel, not even a king-sized bed in a decent hotel, but his very own bed in his very own home. Home at last. It felt good.

He looked around at the familiar walls hung with his favorite posters, the framed photo of his family at his Eagle court of honor. His family! It was good to be home. Now he had to talk to Marco and Marty about Lanny. He was hopeful that they would be understanding about what he wanted to do, although he was not positive he knew what that was. This was a new experience for Brian and he felt uneasy.

Brian looked at the pack which now contained mostly dirty clothes. He decided that laundry could wait. He sorted through the pack until he came up with the deflated soccer ball and plastic globe he had purchased in Germany. He rummaged in his dresser drawer to find a small air pump and added air to both. Slipping them back in the shopping bags they had been wrapped in, he walked back into the living room where his family was waiting. It smelled good in there.

"Are you hungry Brian?" Marco called from the kitchen. "It's your favorite – pan fried chicken with rice and cream gravy."

Marty grinned at him. "After eating all that elegant European cuisine, I hope our humble home cooking won't disappoint you."

Brian inhaled deeply. "Not at all. We lived on bread and cheese most of the time. We did have some good meals, but I'll take Marco's chicken anytime."

"What's in the bag?" Ben wanted to know.

"What did you guys ask for?"

"A soccer ball?" Sam brightened.

"You got it," Brian smiled and tossed the ball to Sam.

"Wow! That's a beauty!" Ben exclaimed as he and his brother looked it over. "It's a Puma, and real leather!"

Sam sniffed at it. "It's real leather all right. It even smells like leather. Thanks Brian."

Marco stepped in from the kitchen to see what the noise was about. "Nice ball guys. You should take care of that."

"I have something for you guys too," Brian said to Marco and Marty. "It's pretty lame, considering what all you did for me, but I thought it might make a decent souvenir. It just a plastic globe of the earth, but I traced out all the places we went on it with a Sharpie. See? Tulsa to Chicago, to Edinburgh, to London, to Dover, then a boat to Calais, then to Normandy and the American Cemetery where Lanny found his grandfather, then on to Paris. From there we flew to Munich where we planned to take a bus to Fussen to see the Neuschwanstein Castle, but we met this guy Fredrick."

"Who is Fredrick?" Sam wondered.

"He was this guy we met in the airport in Munich. He was driving to Fussen and asked us to join him. He turned out to be a really nice guy. We went through the castle then he took us back to his house in Munich and his family sort of adopted us."

"Adopted you? What do you mean?" Ben asked.

"I don't mean legally," Brian explained. "They were really nice to us and let us stay with them while Fredrick showed us around Munich. We went hiking with some of his friends, then one of them, Roth, got us to hike this famous Goldsteig Trail. That's where Lanny got hurt, but he's OK now. Roth is really a neat guy. Then Roth drove us up to Berlin, and from there to Amsterdam. He went back to Munich and we flew home. See? I's all traced out on the globe."

Brian took a breath and looked around at the surprised looks on the faces of his family.

"That must have been quite an adventure," Marco smiled at him. "I think it will take a little while to get all the details. In the meantime, dinner is ready."

It took no additional encouragement for them to gather around the table, join hands and give thanks for the meal. Sam and Ben talked with Brian about the cool stuff they did at Philmont, while Marco and Marty looked on and smiled. All their boys were home and all was well.

After dinner, the twins were shooed into their bedroom to do their homework and Marty cleaned up the kitchen, leaving Marco and Brian in the living room.

"It sounds like you two got a lot crammed into a month," Marco said. "That was the idea, of course."

"We did a lot, that's for sure," Brian admitted. "I have a lot more photos to show you besides the few I emailed home to you. I thought I might make a slide show out of them. It's easier to explain what we did if I have photos."

"Sure. That will be fun. I'm curious to know how you and Lanny got along."

"We got along fine, really good, actually. He turned out to be a great guy. Why do you ask?"

"As I recall, you didn't know him all that well before you went on that trip with him. It might have been sticky if you didn't get along well. I take it you became good friends."

Now Brian felt a little uncomfortable. "Uh, we did become good friends. Maybe more than just friends." He looked at Marco for his reaction. Marco looked interested, but didn't react, waiting for Brian to continue.

"Actually, we sort of, uh, we fell in love with each other."

"Do you think he is the one?" Marco asked steadily.

Brian nodded solemnly. "I think he might be. What do you think about that?"

"I think you have a lot of decisions to make."

"It doesn't bother you that I fell in love with another guy?"

"No," Marco laughed. "Why should it? We have talked enough for me to get a pretty good idea of where you are with this sort of thing. I just want you to be happy, Brian. If you have found someone who makes you happy, then I'm happy for you. I'm in no position to object to the gender. I happen to be married to another guy myself, if you will recall."

Now Brian laughed. "I was hoping that you would feel that way. I didn't really expect for this to happen. But we did so much together, both fun stuff and some serious stuff, and Lanny is so solid. I mean there is a lot more to Lanny than I thought. I think I really got to know him, you know?"

Marco smiled and nodded.

"Come on now. I'm asking for your advice on this. I've never felt this way before, and it's kind of confusing," Brian said.

Marco sat thoughtfully for a minute. "I can't tell you what to do. Maybe I can give you some things to think about. Is this something that will last? What about your plans for college? I guess I would advise you to go slow. Be sure that your feelings stay the same now that you are back in familiar surroundings. Just give it a little time, Brian."

"I know that's good advice. Really, that's what I expected you to tell me. But tell me this. How long did it take you to know that Marty was it for you?"

Marco laughed. "To be honest, about two weeks, a month at the most. I wouldn't use that as a good model though."

"How did you know? You guys have been together a long time and it seems like you're very happy together. How did you know that it was right?"

"That's a tough question, Brian. We just fit somehow. I was looking for someone like him and I suppose he was looking for someone like me. Frankly, it started off as mostly a sexual attraction. Then, as we got to know each other, it became much deeper than that. It didn't take that long for me. I was ready before Marty was. But everybody is different."

"Do you think that maybe you and I have a lot in common? We both had a rough start and maybe were looking for something, someone, stable and trustworthy. Is it like that?"

"I think that was part of it," Brian nodded. "But it was more than just finding a trustworthy partner. The better I got to know Marty, the more I loved him. We just fit. That's the best way to describe it. We were both a little screwed up, but we seemed to bring out the best in each other. Both of us wanted the best for the other. It was a gamble. I think it's always a gamble and you don't know what the odds are that it will work out. Maybe we were just lucky."

"Do you ever have any regrets? I mean, do you ever wonder if you might have found somebody even better?"

Marco shook his head. "No. I made a decision that seemed right at the time, and then I tried to make it work. Nothing is perfect. We get crosswise occasionally - that's part of the deal. Maybe the key word is commitment. A successful relationship is something that you work at. Certainly, it has been worth it. We were happy before Sam and Ben came into our lives, then it got even better. When you came along it got better yet. You guys complete us. The circle of love expanded when you guys came along. That's what happens with a family."

"You aren't really discouraging me," Brian observed.

"No I'm not. But I am telling you to be cautious. Be as sure as you can be, then go for it. I do think you should give it some time. I was quite a bit younger than Marty and he made us wait until I was eighteen. That meant we had a year to live together and really get to know each other."

"So you think it's OK to live together while you're getting to know each other better?"

Marco laughed. "I think I can see where this is going. Yes, I do think it's OK. In fact I think it probably the best way. Maybe it's like a test drive for a marriage. I don't much like to put it that way, but I think it's true. Is that what you two are thinking about?"

"We were never apart for a month in all kinds of stressful situations, and only drew closer to each other. I don't think we will get tired of each other. Watching him drive away from me at the airport today was sort of painful. I want to be with him all the time."

"How will you manage that?" Marco asked.

Brian sighed. "I don't know. We both blew what savings we have on our trip. We'll both be going to school and won't be able to earn that much. I guess to be realistic, we'll go on living at home and try to catch some time together whenever we can."

"Actually, it might be a good idea to give the relationship a little time to cool off," Marco suggested. "The last month was pretty intense. If you two still feel the same way a month or so from now, then we can talk about where to go from there."

Marty had come in from the kitchen and quietly joined them. He had been listening to their conversation with interest. "I hope this isn't a private conversation."

"No. Not at all," Brian assured him. "I need both of you in my life. You are the best friends I have in the world. This thing with Lanny is very new to me. I need your advice."

"I can only speak to you from my own experience," Marty told him. "When Marco and I first met, it was like lightning struck. We both felt like we had found what we were looking for. As you know, there is a significant difference in our ages, although it becomes less important as we grow older. But when we first met, I was twenty-three and Marco was not quite seventeen. We did move in together quite quickly, but I insisted that we wait until he was eighteen before we took the big step in getting married. It could well have been that after that year or so, we might have realized that we were not as well suited for each other as we first thought."

"But your feelings didn't change. How important was it that you waited?" Brian asked.

"It was important in several ways," Marty continued. "We got to know each other better, and the awkwardness of the age difference diminished. You and Lanny don't have that problem, but consider that two months ago the two of you barely knew each other."

"We aren't campaigning to get married right now. We just want to be together."

"I understand that. But I want to tell you that we did something else that was very helpful. Marco started going to church with me and Father Hoover sort of took us under his wing. His counsel and encouragement was very important. Marco went from being antagonistic towards the church to finding that it was very important to him. Father Hoover baptized him and encouraged him in many ways. Later, when the time was right, he married us. You know Father Hoover quite well. I would encourage you to seek his counsel."

"Brian nodded. "I should have thought of that myself. Lanny is an Episcopalian too. It might be a good idea if we both talked to him."

Marco smiled. "I have to admit I was sort of a lost sheep when I first met Father Hoover, but my time in that church has changed the way I feel about a lot of things. You can't go wrong talking to your priest."

Brian leaned back and asked, "So, where are we? You are more accepting of this than I expected. Do you approve of Lanny and me as a couple?"

Marco and Marty exchanged glances. "While you were gone, we talked about how we might feel if and when you came to the point where you are now," Marco told him. "I think what we want most is for you to be happy and productive."

"That's right," Marty agreed. "Who you find to be the right partner for you is really no one's business but your own. We appreciate that you are bringing us into the decision process, but ultimately, that decision must be yours. However, we do have a vested interest in your education. You have made plans to become a Physician and we would hate to see anything interfere with that. We would hope that any personal decisions you make will include the pursuit of that goal."

Brian felt a sense of relief. "Is that really your only concern?"

Marco nodded. "Yes. I think so. We feel like we know you fairly well, and know you to be an honorable, thoughtful and cautious person. We are hopeful that we can trust you to make good decisions. To be very honest, we will support you in whatever you do. If the path to becoming a doctor proves not to be the right one, we certainly will not abandon you. We just would hate to see you lower your goals."

"But what if Lanny and I want a place of our own? Neither of us has the means to pay for a separate place to stay."

"We know that," Marty replied. "If you were going to school out of the area, your housing would be part of that expense. It isn't a huge stretch for you to need separate housing here in Tulsa. Do you know what specific plans Lanny has for his education?"

"Now that you mention it, I guess I don't. I know he plans on college, but I don't know if he is already enrolled or where that might be. If he wants to go to school in another city then we will have to really look at our options. I would hate to be too far away from you guys. You're the rock that I hang onto."

"So a lot depends on Lanny?" Marco asked for clarity.

"Sure it does," Brian agreed. "I imagine Lanny is having the same conversation with his parents as we are having. I have no idea how that will go. His folks might pitch a fit. That would be a major hurdle."

"We have spoken with Lanny's parents several times while you were away," Marty mentioned.

"Really? What did you talk about?" Brian asked with a twinge of apprehension.

"We shared information from your photos and emails," Marty told him. "We were impressed by the places you visited and your observations about them. It was clear that you two were getting along well and making the most of your trip."

Marco added, "I recall that before you left, you mentioned that you and Lanny would return either as very good friends, or you would be sick to death of each other. It appears that you have returned as more than just good friends. Marty and I are very pleased to see that."

Marco continued, "I think that what you have to do first is to see where Lanny is. How does his family feel about your plans? What are Lanny's plans for college and where will that take him? How solid and lasting is your relationship? When you have determined those things, we believe you will make the right decision."

Brian nodded slowly. "So it really is up to me? You will abide by my decision? It's humbling to realize that you trust me in this."

"You are the one who will have to live with it," Marty smiled. "I think we are supportive of you and Lanny living together for a time, say at least a year, until you make the decision to marry. And that, of course, depends on Lanny's plans."

Marco added, "If you guys want to share an apartment, we might be OK with that. In the meantime, we would have no big problem with Lanny sharing your room if that would help. Or maybe you could stay with him, depending on how his parents felt about it."

"Really?" Brian asked in surprise. "But what if Lanny wants to go to school away from here? And what if I wanted to join him there?"

"If that did not prevent you from pursuing your own goals, then we could probably work with that," Marty said. "We like Lanny. He seems like a very good person and we wish him well. But you surely understand, that our primary interest is in you and your future."

"It's like this," Marco added. "You are our son for all practical purposes. We love you and want you to be happy and successful. We trust you and don't want to stand in the way of what you feel is right for you. We do appreciate your asking for our advice."

So, what do I do next?" Brian asked.

"You need to talk to Lanny," Marty suggested with a smile.

Brian smiled with relief. "I don't know how to thank you guys. I really don't deserve to be this happy."

"Now I will disagree with you Brian," Marco said seriously. "You are as deserving of love and support as any young man could ever be. I know you as well as anybody. You've shared your deepest secrets and fears with me and I have nothing but love and respect for you. Please do not ever think that you are unworthy of anything. You are a good person, Brian, and you have a bright future ahead of you. Do not be the person who puts limits on yourself. Go for your dreams. Be everything you can be. Be happy! Don't settle for anything less."

Brian nodded and smiled. "Thanks again. I don't think I have ever felt so free. I'll try to make you guys proud of me."

"We already are," Marty assured him.

"Well. If you will excuse me, I think I'll give Lanny a call." Brian said, and went into this bedroom and closed the door. He rang Lanny, who answered almost immediately.

"Hey Brian. I was hoping you would call."

"So, how's it going on your end?"

"Not as bad as I thought it would," Lanny said. "It was almost like they already knew about us. I told them that you and I got to know each other really well on our trip and wanted to continue to be together."

"Do they understand that our relationship is, well, not completely platonic?"

"They do. Dad was pretty blunt about that. He asked me if we were lovers."

"What did you say?"

"I told them the truth. I told them that we loved each other and wanted to be together for a long time, maybe forever."

"Wow. And you walked away alive?" Brian asked nervously.

"Mom was really good about it," Lanny said. "I think she has known for a long time that I'm gay. That part didn't seem to be a big problem for her. The idea that I have found a life partner so quickly did concern her. She kept asking me if I was sure about this. I told her that we wanted to live together for a while to be sure, and she seemed to be supportive of that."

"What about your Dad?"

"He didn't say all that much. I doubt he's crazy about having a gay son. But he didn't raise any objection. Basically he listened as Mom and I talked about our plans and asked a few questions. At the end, he told me that he just wanted me to be happy. I think Dad will be OK with us, especially after he gets to know you better and sees how wonderful you are."

Brian had to laugh at this. "That's good news, but I have another question for you. Where are you planning to go to school? I'm sort of on track here in Tulsa. If you are going away for school that will be a complication."

"I guess I haven't been very specific about my plans," Lanny admitted. "I want to be a Civil Engineer like my dad and there are a number of schools I was looking at. Part of what I wanted was to get away from home so I could be who I knew I really was. It seemed like that would be easier if I was away from home at school. Now, that's not necessary. As a matter of fact, I think I would like to go to school here in Tulsa. The University of Tulsa has a fine Engineering school. I think I would like to enroll there. My folks were sort of relieved about that. In particular, my dad liked the idea."

"So where are we, Lanny?"

Lanny paused. "The thing that both our parents said was that they want us to be sure. That maybe our feelings are a result of being so close for the past month and that maybe that will cool off after a while - not that I think they will - but that might be good advice."

Brian smiled. "My folks suggested that they would be OK with us sharing my room for a while. Maybe we could start having sleepovers."

"Yeah. A lot of sleepovers,"

"Another thing my parents suggested was that we talk to Father Hoover about all this. He has been a wonderful friend to all of us."

"You've talked a lot about him. I've been thinking about going to church with you anyway," Lanny admitted. "I would like to get to know him."

Lanny laughed. "This has turned out a lot better than I imagined."

"It has," Brian agreed. "We just got home today and I'm pretty jet-lagged. I think I want to sleep for twenty-four hours, then do some laundry. Let's take a day off and then get together for lunch or something day after tomorrow. We have a lot to talk about and we aren't going to figure out everything tonight."

"You're right. That sounds like a good plan. I just want to know one thing. Do you love me Brian? Do you really love me?"

Brian did not hesitate. "With all my heart. I don't think that's going to change."

"I hope not. I know I love you. I think this will work out," Lanny felt very positive.

"We'll make it work," Brian assured him.

"Love will find a way."

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