Thomas, Jamie, and Robbie stood with Susan by the casket at the front of the chapel while people filed in to pay their respects and give their condolences.
“Your father was a fine man,” the boys were told over and over again.
Thomas looked out at all the people that were mingling around the room. Lisa, Sara, and Koi were standing together on the other side of the room. Many of the well wishers were stopping to give their condolences to Lisa as well. She had been a part of the family for some time now and many knew her. Thomas began thinking of their years together; maybe he shouldn’t be so quick to throw it all away.
Another person walked up, “You father was my doctor for years. I just loved him. I’m so sorry for your loss.”
“Thanks,” each of the brothers mumbled.
Robbie looked across the room at Koi who caught his eye and winked. Koi seemed to be fitting in with the family. Sara and Jamie already loved him; Lisa and the kids had fallen for him too. Thomas was the only hold out; but then again, Thomas was the hold out on pretty much everything.
To Jamie the three hour wake seemed to last a lifetime. He stood, as always, between his two bothers, hoping to keep the peace. Their mother seemed to be holding up well, but Jamie wondered if she really was, or was it just a show, keeping up appearances. Some days when he looked at his family he had to wonder who these fucked up people were.
Koi seemed to be getting along great with Lisa; so did Sara. Maybe Lisa’s affair had made her more human to Sara. Whatever the reason, it was nice to see that the competition between them seemed to have been put to rest.
Finally, the wake was over and the well-wishers have gone home. Lisa went to pick up the kids, who had been left with a neighbor. It had been decided to let them skip the wake. Tomorrow TJ would go with Lisa to the funeral while Ella stayed with the neighbor’s teenage daughter.
Once home, Susan announced she was exhausted and going to bed. Lisa went to get the children settled. Thomas, Jamie, and Robbie took a seat in their father’s den. Sara and Koi joined them.
“Name your poison,” Thomas said opening up Fred’s liquor cabinet.
“Nothing for me,” Sara said. “I think I’ll turn in.” She had no desire to witness the train wreck that would happen if Thomas started drinking.
“Jamie?” Thomas asked.
“Chivas,” Jamie answered.
“How about you, Koi?”
“I think I’ll pass this time,” Koi answered. He knew if he started drinking and Thomas lipped off he wouldn’t hold his tongue, and while he looked forward to a confrontation with Thomas, now wasn’t the time.
Thomas shrugged, “Suit yourself.” He poured a few fingers into three glasses and handed one to each of his brothers.
“To Dad,” he said raising his glass.
“To Dad,” Jamie and Robbie echoed and downed their drinks. Thomas picked up the bottle and poured each another.
“By the way, did any of you know the fine man we kept hearing about all night?”
Jamie sighed and shook his head. “Thomas, give it a rest, would you?”
Koi leaned over to Robbie, “I think I’ll pass on this show.” He stood. “Good night, boys. I’m calling it a night.”
“Night,” Jamie said.
“Robbie? No comment from you?” Thomas said, ignoring Koi and turning the conversation back to their father.
“What? On how terrible Dad treated you? No, I think you have that song and dance down pat.”
“And what? He wasn’t hard on either of you?” Thomas asked.
Jamie shrugged. “It wasn’t that bad. Besides, I believe he always had our best interest in mind.”
“Robbie? You agree?” Thomas turned to their younger brother, wanting to start a fight.
“Dad and I had our issues, but he wasn’t nearly as tough on me as you were. You were the one that made my childhood hell.”
“Oh no, don’t blame your problems on me, dear brother. I was the one who tried to help you.”
“Thomas, you were an asshole then, and as far as I can tell, you still are.”
Thomas stared at Robbie, looking truly stunned at his words. He turned to his other brother. “Jamie?”
Jamie shook his head. “Thomas, yeah, you have always been a dick to Robbie. And now you try to deny it. I really don’t get you. You bitch about the way Dad treated you, when you treated Robbie in the same way, if not worse.”
Thomas sighed and slumped down in his chair. He looked at his hands in his lap as he spoke. “I didn’t mean to be an ass. I just didn’t want you to be a sissy, Robbie.” He stopped and looked Robbie in the eye. “I’m sorry.”
Robbie nodded. “Maybe you were trying to help me, but you had a shitty way of doing it.”
Thomas looked back down at his drink. “I’m sorry; I was just a kid. I didn’t know better.”
Thomas looked back up. “Now what?”
“What’s your excuse for being an ass now?”
Thomas frowned. “I… um….”
“That’s what I though,” Robbie said, standing up. “I’ve had enough.” He left the room to join Koi in his bedroom.
Thomas poured another drink and held the bottle out to Jamie. Jamie shook his head. Thomas shrugged and downed his.
“This Koi, he’s a good guy?”
“Yes, Thomas. He is.”
“Ella’s taken a shine to him.” Thomas gave a slight grin thinking of his baby girl.
“So has TJ,” Jamie said.
Thomas nodded. “Robbie’s happy?”
“I’m thinking of giving Lisa another chance.”
“What?” That seemed to come out of left field.
“I’ve asked Lisa for a divorce, but now I’m thinking maybe I should give it another shot with her. What do you think? Am I a fool?”
“No Thomas, you’re not a fool. But as for your marriage, I can’t say. Only you know the answer to that.”
Thomas nodded. “I suppose so.” He stood. “Come on, dear brother, we have another long day ahead of us.”
The next morning every one was subdued. Susan had asked Thomas to take her back to the funeral home. She wanted to sit with Fred alone for a while before the ceremony. Finally everyone was dressed and ready and it was time to meet up with Susan and Thomas for the funeral.
The director took the family in to a private room away from everyone. He explained that they had Fred in the foyer for people to have one last chance to pay their respects. He went on to say that soon they would close the casket and the pallbearers would carry it into the chapel. The family would follow behind.
“Thomas, maybe you should escort your mother,” the director suggested, “then maybe Robbie can walk with Lisa.”
“No, Robbie will walk with Koi,” Susan said.
“Mom, I think it would be better…” Thomas started.
Susan interrupted. “Better than what? No, you will walk with me. TJ can escort his mother, then Jamie and Sara, and then Robbie and Koi.”
“What will people think, Mother?” Thomas argued.
“They will think that I have a gay son and if they have an issue with that they can go fly a kite.” She turned to the director. “We’ll do it the way I said.”
“Very well. You’ll follow the casket down,” the man continued. “Then take your seats in the first row. After the service you’ll follow the casket back out in the same order. There will be a limo to take you to the cemetery for the graveside service. Everyone ready?”
The funeral was beautiful. The chapel was filled to capacity. Susan had asked a family friend and colleague to give the eulogy. He gave a fitting tribute to the man.
After the funeral and burial, the family returned home where a few of Susan and Fred’s closest friends stopped by to share a few memories.
Later that evening after everyone had left Susan sat at the kitchen table sipping a cup of coffee. Robbie came in and sat beside her. She knew he was taking Fred’s death hard; harder than his brothers, but she was waiting for him to start the conversation. Then she remembered his reaction to her knowing he was gay; she had been wrong back then to not say anything, she wouldn’t make the same mistake again.
“Robbie, talk to me,” she said.
“About what’s on your mind.”
Robbie frowned. “Dad never woke up.”
“I know sweetie, we all wanted a chance to say goodbye.”
“But I hadn’t seen him in years. Our last words were cross. I never got the chance to make that right. He died without knowing I was here.”
“Oh Robbie, my sweet child. He knew you loved him and he knew you would come home. He understood you better than you ever thought and he was so so proud of you for following your dreams.”
“Yes,” she looked at her other two sons who were standing nearby. “He was very proud of all of you. He knew he had pushed too hard when you were younger and he regretted it, but he only wanted you to challenge yourselves; he only wanted what was best for you. He may not have been the perfect father, but he did love you with every fiber of his being. That you can rest assured.”
Robbie, Jamie, and Thomas looked from one to the other, each with tears in their eyes.
“Don’t think that I don’t know what happened in my own house. I know you boys resented a lot of things your father did. But you can’t undo the past, so it’s time to put all that to bed.” With that, she rose from the table and took her cup to the sink to rinse it out. The men watched as she left the kitchen, each feeling a bit different about their childhood.
That evening Susan was in the den with Jamie watching the ten o’clock news. Robbie and Koi were curled up together on the sofa where they had fallen asleep earlier watching a movie.
Thomas had been helping Lisa bathe the kids and get everything gathered up for their trip home the next day. He went to the den to see if his mother needed anything while Lisa was getting the kids settled into bed.
“What are we watching?” he asked, taking a seat beside Jamie on the love seat.
“The news is getting ready to start,” Susan answered.
Thomas looked over at Robbie and Koi. “I still can’t believe you let them walk in together at Dad’s funeral. I can just imagine all the whispering going on after the service.”
Susan furrowed her brow. “Thomas. I didn’t raise you to be so judgmental. What is your problem?”
“Oh come on, Mom. You think Dad would have allowed this in his house?” Thomas asked, gesturing to his youngest brother.
“As a matter of fact, I know he would have been fine with it.”
“What makes you think that?” Thomas challenged.
Susan sighed, shaking her head. “Thomas, oh Thomas. Where did we go wrong? You remember George don’t you?”
George had been a close friend of Fred’s. When the boys were young George was a visitor in their home often. He spent many holidays with them and even went on vacation with the family once. Fred and George played golf many weekends at the local country club. Around the time Thomas was fourteen George became sick and died. Fred had been inconsolable.
“Yeah, I remember him.”
“Do you, Jamie?” she asked.
“Yeah, he used to bring us candy and some times he would play catch with us too.”
“Well, you see boys, George was gay. He was the best man at our wedding, Fred’s closest friend, and he was gay. He died of AIDS and I don’t think there was a day after that that your father didn’t think of him. So, yes, I know for a fact that Fred would have had no problem with your brother and his lover staying in our house or walking behind his casket, together as a couple.
For the second time that day Thomas sat shocked by the lecture he had received from their mother.
“Wow,” Jamie said. “Good old George. That is too cool.”
Susan shrugged. “It wasn’t cool. It was very hard for George. Things are better today, but back then George had to be very careful and keep so many things a secret. At least now, homosexuals have some acceptance, even if they still have few legal rights.
“You boys should stop for a minute and think about how much harder it is for Robbie and Koi. Their relationship can never be made legal. They can’t even be certain of visitation rights should one of them be hospitalized. The world is a very cruel place if you are gay.”
“Now look, you’ve made me miss the weather report,” she said tossing the remote aside and standing up from her chair. “I’m going to bed. Jamie, will you please wake those two up before you turn in? I don’t want them to wake up with a stiff neck from sleeping there.”
The next morning Ella woke Lisa and Thomas up much earlier than they had planned. “Come on, baby girl, let’s go get some breakfast and let your mother sleep,” Thomas said.
They hadn’t been in the kitchen long when Lisa came in. “I couldn’t sleep,” she admitted. “You can go back to bed if you want.”
Thomas shook his head, handing her a cup of coffee. “Nah, that’s okay.” He paused. “Lisa?”
“Do you love him?”
She stopped, sitting her coffee down. “No. I don’t, Thomas. I love you.”
“Do you want to make our marriage work?”
“Yes. Do you?”
She took in a deep breath. “We have so much to fix.”
“We probably should find a counselor.”
“You would do that? You would be willing to go into therapy?” She was genuinely surprised.
“Yeah, if you’ll go with me,” Thomas said.
She smiled. “Yeah, I’ll go with you.”
A few hours later Sara awoke in bed next to Jamie. She rolled over and snuggled as close to him as she could get.
“Hmm.” Jamie stretched and yawned. “Morning,” he said, kissing her on her nose.
“How are you this morning?” she asked.
“Hm, ready to be home.”
“Are we leaving today?”
“We’ll see what everyone else is doing. I don’t want us to leave Mom all at once.”
“I was thinking,” she started.
“Well, I think I’ll sublease my apartment until my lease runs out.”
“Oh? And where would you live?” he smiled.
She smiled back and playfully slapped him on the arm. “I set a date. How does the first weekend in October sound? I’ve already enlisted Koi to help me plan.”
“Are you sure?”
“I’ve never been more sure of anything. I want to be your wife; I want to be part of this family.”
That afternoon everyone was moving around through the house as though they were lost. Thomas had called the airlines and gotten a flight back to Boston for him, Lisa, and the kids that evening.
Jamie decided he and Sara would stay another day and had booked flights for the next afternoon.
Koi, Robbie, and Susan were sitting on the sun porch sipping tea.
“Robbie, you’ve never taken me on a tour of that big backyard.”
Robbie smiled. “Maybe next time.”
“You mean I get to come back?” he teased.
“Maybe…” Robbie chided.
“Susan,” Koi turned to her. “Why don’t you come stay with us in New York? We have plenty of room and you and I can get to know each other better.”
“Well, I don’t know…”
“Yeah, Mom. That’s a great idea. Come to New York with us,” Robbie agreed.
“For how long?”
“I don’t know, as long as you want; a week, a month, whatever. We have plenty of room,” Robbie answered.
“Well, I suppose. Sure, why not?” Susan talked herself into it. “It would be much better then wandering around in this lonely house.”
“Then it’s settled. I’ll go book the flight,” Koi said. “Would Friday be too soon to go back?”
“Friday would be fine, dear.” Susan answered.
That evening everyone was telling Thomas and Lisa goodbye before they left for the airport. Lisa promised to email Sara with some online sites for wedding plans. Thomas warned their mother about the weather in New York this time of year. “It will be hot and muggy, Mom, so drink plenty of water and stay in the air conditioning as much as possible.”
Then he turned to Robbie. “I’m glad you’re taking her with you. I hated to think of her being here alone.”
“It was Koi’s idea. I didn’t think she’d agree to it, but he convinced her.”
“Listen, Robbie, if you and Koi ever need any legal… I mean, if you wanted…” he sighed and started again. “I would be happy to draw up any legal documents for you, you know, power of attorney, will, stuff to make your relationship more binding legally; give you more rights.”
Koi had been standing beside Robbie and how held his breath, not sure how his lover would take the offer.
“Wow, thanks, Thomas,” Robbie said, then turned to Koi. “So, what do you think? Should we make it official?”
Koi let out his breath and smiled. “Define official,” he challenged.
“Well, Sara and Jamie are planning a ceremony, let’s have one too.”
Koi looked at him warily. He had always told Robbie there would be no ceremony unless they agreed to be monogamous. “Um, Robbie,” he wasn’t sure how to broach the subject in front of everyone.
Robbie smiled. “Koi, if I agreed to be yours and only yours, will you marry me?”
Koi’s face lit up. “You mean that?”
Lisa leaned over and nudged Koi with her elbow. “Say yes.”
“Yes,” Koi finally said.
Thomas smiled, reaching over to slap Koi on the back. “Welcome to the family.”
Jamie smiled. “Yeah, as fucked up as it is.”