“Just tell him to stay the fuck away from me,” Robbie told Jamie. “I’m here for Mom, that’s it. No one else.”
It was later the next morning and they were back in the waiting room. After Thomas had stormed out, Robbie had paced around the room. Finally, he left too, saying he needed some coffee. Jamie sat back down and eventually fell into a fitful sleep. When he awoke it was light out and Robbie was once again pacing around the room.
“What time is it?” Jamie had asked.
“A little after eight.”
“Have you seen Mom?”
“Yeah, she’s already up and in with Dad. No change,” Robbie added before Jamie could ask the next question. Everyone was hoping Fred’s condition would improve, even if it seemed unlikely.
“You okay?” It was obvious Robbie was still upset.
“Nothing changes in this town. But see, I have. I’m not the same little boy that was scared of his shadow and wanted more than anything to please his older brothers. I don’t give a rat’s ass what Thomas thinks, so just tell him to stay the fuck away from me. I’m here for Mom, that’s it. No one else.”
“Come on, Robbie, shit, the guy just got some really bad news,” Jamie said.
“What? That he isn’t the perfect husband and Lisa isn’t the perfect wife? Welcome to the real world dear brother.”
“Robbie, you know he didn’t mean anything. He’s upset. Dad is dying and he just found out his wife is having an affair. Cut him some slack.”
“My God! Does nothing change here? Are we caught in some time warp? Mom and Dad’s house looks exactly the same. Mom is still in denial about pretty much everything in life. Thomas is still a dick head to me and you still constantly stick up for him.”
“I’m not sticking up for him. He was wrong to talk to you like that, but jeez, Robbie, give him a break.”
“Yeah, you already said that and I said to tell him to stay the fuck away from me.”
Robbie stopped his pacing, locking eyes with Thomas who had appeared in the doorway. Thomas was the first to look away, looking down at the floor. Robbie knew it was probably the closest he would get to an apology, but for once in his life, it wasn’t enough.
“Jamie,” Thomas said, walking in and sitting next his brother. “ I need a favor. Will you go to the airport and pick up Lisa and the kids? Drive them to Mom’s and drop them off there.”
“Um, yeah, but why me?”
Thomas glared back his answer.
“Their flight lands at nine thirty.”
“She left a message on my voice mail that she’s coming. I’m not ready to face her. Okay, Jamie? Just do this for me.”
“Yeah, I’ll do it. But if she’s here in Gary, it will be rather hard for you to avoid her.”
“I know that,” Thomas snapped. “Just not right now, okay? Can you do this or not?”
“I said I would,” Jamie said calmly. It would do no good to snap back.
“In with Dad.”
“I’m going to go check on them.” Thomas stood, leaving the room.
Jamie and Robbie looked at each other. Neither said a word until finally Jamie sighed. “I better get going if I’m going to be at the airport by nine.”
“Nine-thirty,” Robbie corrected.
Jamie nodded. “See you later… Unless… You want to go with me?”
“No,” Robbie said with a chuckle. “I’ll stay here. Thanks, but you have fun.”
Jamie nodded again and was gone.
“Sara, I said I’d call you,” Jamie said after Sara had answered her phone. “Lisa’s on her way.”
“When will she be there?”
“I’m on my way to the airport now.”
“What? And you’re just now calling me?”
“I only found out myself a few minutes ago. Thomas just came in and asked me to go pick her up.”
“Why isn’t Thomas picking her up?”
Sara wasn’t in on all the drama going on in Gary. “Um, well, it sounds like they’re having some problems.”
“What kind of problems?” Sara asked.
“I don’t know. We’ll talk about it when you get here.”
“I’m booking a flight as we speak. Hang on, I’ll give you the arrival time.”
Jamie could hear her fingers clicking on the keyboard.
“Okay, looks like I can get a flight this evening. It arrives in Gary at seven-forty three.”
“I’ll be there to pick you up,” Jamie said.
“How’s your dad?”
“Tell your mom….”
“Sara, she’s not going to care. In fact I doubt she’ll even notice.” Sometimes Sara needed to be reminded it wasn’t all about her.
“Yeah, okay. See you tonight then.”
Robbie was sitting in the courtyard of the hospital. He had put off this phone call because he didn’t want to argue over whether Koi should be here with him. He wanted Koi here, but it would cause more problems than it solved.
“Robbie. How are you?” Koi’s voice was a soothing balm.
“Hanging in there.”
“How’s your dad?”
“Doesn’t look good,” Robbie said.
“Oh, Robbie, I’m sorry. Do you want me to come?”
“No… I mean, yeah, but no, don’t”
“Please? I want to be there for you.”
“Koi….” Robbie warned.
“Okay, okay. I understand. I do,” he paused then lowered his voice. “I miss you.”
Robbie sighed, “I miss you too.”
“You sound so tired. How are things with your brothers?”
“The same as they’ve always been,” Robbie said.
“I wish I could be there for you.”
“You are here for me. In my heart.”
“Aw, you always say the sweetest things. Have you been in to see your father, or are you just hanging out in the waiting room?”
Robbie was silent. How did his lover know him so very well?
“I’m not here for him. Besides he’s not conscious, he wouldn’t even know.”
“It’s not about him Robbie, it’s about you.”
“Me? What good would it do me? I’m here for Mom, that’s it.”
“You’ll be sorry if he dies and you don’t see him.”
Koi knew not to push any further. “Is Sara there?” He had met her a few times as the brothers visited one another. They had always gotten along well.
“No, not yet. Thomas’s wife, Lisa is on her way, so I figure Sara will be here soon too.”
“Well, tell her hello for me,” Koi tried not to sound hurt.
“I will,” Robbie said.
“Good. He’s busy playing referee to Thomas and me, trying to keep the peace.”
“Robbie, now is not the time to fight with your brother.”
“Tell him that,” he protested, then sighed. “Yeah, I know. It wasn’t in front of Mom.”
Koi sighed again. “God, I miss you.”
“Yeah. I miss you too. I better go. I’ll keep you updated when I can.”
“Lisa. Over here,” Jamie called out as he saw her and the two kids coming through the gate.
“Jamie. Hi, how are you?” she asked after making her way over to him.
“Hi, Uncle Jamie,” TJ said throwing his arms around him.”
“How’s Fred? Is it serious?” Lisa asked as Jamie scooped Ella up in his arms. “I haven’t been able to reach Thomas.”
Jamie tickled Ella’s belly. “Let’s get you guys to Mom and Dad’s first.”
Lisa nodded taking Jamie’s cue not to discuss it in front of the kids.
“Where’s Daddy?” four year old Ella asked.
“He’s with Grandma at the hospital visiting Grandpa,” Jamie answered.
“Yes, honey he is.” Lisa said.
“I want to go to the hospital to see Daddy.”
“I know, but they won’t let you; you’re too little. But, I bet Daddy will come see you at Grandma’s.” Jamie said.
That seemed to appease her.
Jamie helped Lisa gather their luggage then loaded the suitcases and kids into his rental car. The kids were restless from travel and anxious to get to Grandma’s to play.
“Uncle Jamie?” They were almost to the house.
“I got a new video game.”
“Yep. It’s a racecar one. Will you play it with me?”
“Well, did you bring it with you?”
“Okay then, I’ll play it with you.”
“Cool. Mom, Jamie’s going to play video games with me.”
“Yes, honey I heard,” Lisa said.
Jamie pulled the car into the driveway, and they got busy unloading the car and getting the kids settled in. “You are so good with them,” Lisa said once they had Ella occupied with a coloring book and TJ with a movie in the DVD player. “You and Sara need to have some of your own.”
“Yeah? Maybe someday.”
“So, how serious is Fred?”
“It’s pretty bad. I haven’t been in the room the last couple of times the doctor spoke with Mom, but I don’t think they expect him to make it.”
“Oh dear,” Lisa gasped. “How’s your mother?”
Jamie shrugged. “Putting up a brave front.”
“I’d really like to go to the hospital to see him. Would you stay with the kids? I promise I won’t stay long.”
“Yeah, go ahead. Take my rental,” Jamie knew this was not what Thomas wanted to happen, but he also knew that Lisa was part of their family and had been for most of her adult life. She had every right to be there. “Stay as long as you want.”
“No, you need to be there too. I’ll just stay for a bit. Is Sara here?”
“Not yet. She flies in this evening.”
“Uncle Jamie? Will you come play my video game with me?” TJ shouted from the den.
“Sure thing squirt,” Jamie called back as he handed Lisa the keys to the car.
“Robbie?” Lisa stood in the doorway of the waiting room. “Oh my God, look at you. You’re all grown up.”
Robbie looked up. “Lisa? Wow, so are you,” he teased.
“My gosh, last time I saw you, you were what? Seventeen?”
“Something like that, yeah.”
“You look good,” she sat down next to him. “Where are you living now?”
“New York? Wow.” The fact she didn’t know where he was living wasn’t lost on Robbie and only showed just how deep the rift between he and Thomas had grown.
An awkward silence fell between them. “I’m sorry about your father,” Lisa said.
Robbie shrugged and nodded his head.
“Lisa? What are you doing here?” Thomas asked walking in the waiting room. “Where are the kids?”
“At the house with Jamie. I wanted to see your parents.”
Thomas nodded. She had always been close to his parents; no matter what else had happened he had to give her that. “Yeah, come on, I’ll take you.”
Later that evening Susan had reluctantly agreed to go get a bite to eat with Robbie while Thomas sat with their father. Lisa was back at the house with the kids and Jamie was on his way to the airport to meet Sara.
“How are you holding up, sweetie?” Susan asked Robbie as they sat down with sandwiches and chips.
The question surprised Robbie. “Um, I’m okay.”
“I know this is tough on you boys too.”
“We’re doing okay Mom.”
“Yes, I know you are.” She paused, seemed to gather her thoughts, or maybe her courage, then went on, “Robbie, do you have someone? You know, some one to come and be here for you? ‘Cause if you did, you know he’d be welcome and I’d love to meet him.”
Robbie put his sandwich down, trying not to choke on the bite he had just taken. “Um, Mom… I…” he stammered, then finally lowering his voice, “How long have you known?”
“Known what, sweetie?”
“You said ‘him’, right? You said you’d like to meet ‘him’.”
“How long have you known?”
“So there is someone? I didn’t know; I just hoped there was.”
“No Mother, how long have you known I was gay?” he asked in a whisper, not wanting the other people in the cafeteria to overhear.
“Oh, that. Well, I don’t know, I guess I just assumed. I mean, you never said, but I like to think a mother can tell.”
“Why didn’t you ever say anything?”
“Well, you were always so private about that sort of thing. I was simply trying to respect that.”
Robbie tried to push down his anger; this was not the time to explode. “Does Dad know?”
“I would assume. I mean, we never really discussed it, but… well, I think we both just knew.”
“Why didn’t you say anything?” Robbie asked again.
“I don’t know, why didn’t you?”
“Because I was afraid you’d disown me. Why do you think I stayed away all these years?” This was unbelievable.
“I assumed it was because of your father. Because of how hard he was on you. I know he pushed all you boys, but it was different for you. You didn’t handle it like your brothers did. I figured you’d had enough.”
Robbie shook his head unable to wrap his brain around what he was hearing. “I stayed away because I didn’t want to tell you I was gay.”
Susan looked at him like he had just said the sky was red. “Why would you be afraid to tell us that?”
“I was afraid you would disown me, send me away, quit loving me.”
“Oh Robbie. You’re our son. Nothing you do could change that. Besides, we know it isn’t the sort of thing you choose, it’s just who you are.”
“Mom, the biggest fear of most gay kids is that their parents will find out and disown them, surely you know that?”
“Oh, I know it happens, sweetie, but those people are idiots. You don’t think your father and I are idiots, do you?”
“No Mom, I don’t think you’re idiots.” A little strange, completely dysfunctional, but not idiots.
“So, is there someone?”
Robbie chuckled. Sometimes his mother was unbelievable… and then there were times like these. “Yeah, there is.”
“Good, call him and ask him to come. Now, finish your sandwich and come visit your father with me.”
“I swear Koi, I’m in the fucking twilight zone.” It was two in the morning and Robbie couldn’t sleep. He was still reeling from his mother’s words earlier. “I’m not sure if I’m more relieved or pissed. How could she have known all this time and not said something? How could it have never occurred to her that I needed to know she was okay with it?”
“I’m sorry, Robbie. But at least it’s out in the open now, and she’s okay with it. At least you don’t still have that hanging over you.”
“Yeah, I suppose so. But, shit, I wasted so many years.”
“Don’t dwell on that, there’s nothing you can do. Besides, it’s not your fault,” Koi reasoned.
“Maybe it is, maybe I sold them short. If I had said something…”
“Don’t go there right now, Robbie. What’s done is done.”
Robbie was quiet, weariness starting to take hold. It had been a very long day. “I wish you were here.”
“Just say the word.”
Robbie closed his eyes; he wanted Koi’s arms around him more than anything. He needed a safe harbor to keep him steady here in this storm that was his family. “Come. I need you.”
“I’ll be on the next flight out.”