Copyright © 2006-2018 Boudreaux. All Rights Reserved.
With the crisis of pregnancy resolved for the moment, I turned my attention to the business at hand. Grandma Sarah and Reynold were counting on me to help them organize their wedding. I had never known what a headache a wedding could be before then. Peggy and I had eloped and were therefore spared the agony of going over guest lists over and over again. Of course Grandma and Gramps, as he was already being called, had the opposite trouble of most prenuptial couples. Normally there is tension over whom to invite and not invite because of limited seating. Their problem was finding friends who were still alive and able to attend. We had space to fill and no one to do it.
"Cameron, I know you've been working really hard to put on this fantastic wedding for us," Momma Sarah told me that afternoon. "I don't want you to think that I don't appreciate it, but I have to confess something."
"Don't tell me that you and Reynold have changed the dates again?" I asked in horror.
"No, no, dear," she laughed lightly. "Cam, it's mighty sweet of you to want to spend all of that new money of yours on Reynold and me, but honey…."
"You are the mother I wished I had been born to," I told her quickly. "Nothing is too good for you and the man you love, not that I haven't learned to love him too."
"It's not that, son, really," she began again. "You are trying so hard to get a whole church full of people for our wedding, but the thing is we just want a quiet simple ceremony with the family. We'd be just as happy if you boys, the girls and the Walborns were the only people there when we tie the knot."
"I just wanted the day to be as nice for you as I could possibly make it," I tried to explain.
"I know that, Cameron, and Reynold and I both love you for it," she smiled. "You just save that money for those boys' futures, though. We don't need a big fuss made over us," she added. She was silent for a moment, as if she were weighing whether or not to say what she was thinking. "I think I know what this is about, Cameron. You told me that you eloped when you married your ex-wife. You are trying to make up for it by planning this fantastic shindig for us. Reynold and I both had big church weddings the first time around. We want something simple and meaningful this time. Pull out all the stops for you and Edan, honey. Make your own as big and beautiful as it can be, and we'll help you with it all we can."
"I guess this means I should cancel the appointment with the aviary to rent the doves to be released as you kiss at the end of the ceremony," I laughed slightly.
"Good heavens, yes," Reynold told me quickly. "I went to a wedding once for a colleague's daughter. They released the doves and the doves released all over her. Wedding dress was ruined."
"I would have had pigeon stew at a reception," Grandma stated firmly. I agreed wholeheartedly.
When Derek and Brendan came home from school that afternoon, they had news to share with the family. There was to be a state wide conference for gay straight alliances near the end of the month at the state capital. On the agenda for the meeting was the first election for state officers. Derek had been nominated for state president by his guidance counselor.
When Derek came downstairs for supper that night, Ephraim began humming "Hail to the Chief". Derek of course pointed out that he was only nominated for the office. He hadn't won the election.
"Yet," Daniel pointed out. "You're gonna take it by a landslide, little bro. How could they pick anyone but you?"
"There are two other people nominated," Derek reminded us. "Those people are probably perfect students, and really involved in school clubs and activities. What do I have to compete with that?"
"No negative attitudes in this house, mister," I told him firmly. "You sacrificed yourself so that Peter could escape from the gang at New Year's. No you don't have straight A's, but you are still on the honor roll."
"Besides, as gay as you are, no one expects straight grades from you," Brendan teased. We all groaned.
"I swear, his jokes are worse than yours, Cam," Edan said with a laugh.
We rented the restaurant where Gramps and Grandma had their first date for their wedding. The manager was not exactly thrilled at first. I think he was concerned about lost revenue until he saw us in person. He recognized us from the write ups in the newspaper and on the local television about the gang at New Years' and more recently the lottery winnings.
"You gave my daughter the courage to come out to me back in January, Mr. Ragland," he told me. "You also gave me the example to follow so that I could accept her and her partner. They're going to make me a grandpa in a couple of months," he added proudly.
"Well, congratulations," I said sincerely.
"As my thank you for keeping my family together, I would like to pay your party's bar tab for the evening," he offered.
"I appreciate the thought very much, but I can't let you do that," I told him. "I'm not even sure our lottery winnings can pay for Janice's bar tab."
"I heard that, Cammie," Janice growled. "I'll have you know that I have given up alcohol for the pregnancy."
"Yeah, it makes her sympathetic morning sickness worse," Beth confessed for her.
"It wouldn't matter, I insist that you let me handle it," the manager assured us.
"That's very kind of you," Grandma told him. "I also want to thank you for letting us have our ceremony here."
"It was the least I could do," the man informed her. "I watched you and Mr. Reynold come in here for several months, each of you always alone. I knew you would make one another happy if you had the chance, so I helped it along. The night you two met in this very dining room, I had the off duty wait staff fill up tables so I could ask the two of you to share a table," he confessed.
"You didn't!?" Grandma exclaimed. "You sly rascal, you. Thank you." She stepped forward and kissed the embarrassed man on the cheek. She saw his blush as he looked around quickly. "Don't worry, Reynold isn't here yet," she giggled.
"Maybe he's not, but my wife is," the man returned. "She is a very jealous woman born in the old country. She will have my ears ringing if she sees me being kissed by a beautiful woman…."
"Oh, you sweet talker," Grandma laughed as she too blushed.
"Grandma, Gramps is here," Ephraim announced. "You have to go hide somewhere so he can't see you."
"That's just an old wives' tale," Grandma tried to protest, but Ephraim and Peter weren't buying it. They insisted that she go to the ladies room and wait for the signal to come out. "You make me sound like the Normandy invasion. Ok, boys, I'll wait for the signal."
Reynold walked in just as the door to the ladies room closed. He looked very distinguished in his ivory tuxedo. Scooter was beside him in a black tux. The third person with them seemed vaguely familiar, but I couldn't quite place where I had met him.
"Cameron, Edan, I'd like you to meet an old college friend of mine," Reynold began the introductions. "Boys, this is the right reverend Edward James, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese. Eddie, this is Sarah's adopted son Cameron Ragland and his life partner, Edan Draper."
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Draper," the bishop said politely. He stared at me for a moment before adding, "It's good to see you again as well, Commodore Cammie of the USS Ragland." When he saw my astonished stare, the bishop smiled. "I don't believe you would remember me, but we met a few times at officers' club functions. I was the chaplain aboard your father's ship. How is your father?"
"I lost my parents this past year," I told him. "I did remember you, but I admit that I was unsure of how we'd met," I confessed. "How is your wife, sir?"
"I lost her ten years ago," was the reply. "Your father spoke very highly of you on our voyages. He was always more anxious to get home to see you than he was your mother. I don't mean to disrespect your mother, of course. He was just so proud of you. He was thrilled when you began training with Master Koji. I see from the papers that you continued your lessons with him to great success."
"Yes, the training he gave me as his heir has come in handy a couple of times over the years," I agreed.
"He was a good man, your father, and a good friend," the bishop told me sincerely. "I often regretted losing contact with him after I finished my tour of duty. I could never forget you though," he smiled. Turning to Reynold, he began to relate his first sighting of me. "We were at some deathly boring officers' club event, and when I could no longer stand the droning of the admiral, I snuck out for a breath of air. Who should I find playing sailboats in the fountain in front of the building? Take a guess what he was using for a boat though," he added as he began to laugh. "He had found the door unlocked to the admiral's office just next door to the officers' club dining hall."
"I was only five years old at the time," I defended myself.
"He was sailing the admiral's hand carved replica of Old Ironsides," the bishop laughed. "Wading in the fountain knee deep in his brand new dress pants to boot," he added.
"I had the pants rolled up," I again defended. "It wasn't my fault they kept falling back down. I at least did take my shoes and socks off first."
"Yes, well, when I pointed out that your pants were getting wet, you shed those as well," the bishop reminded me. He looked around at Edan as he added, "In fact, he shed everything. The little imp stripped down completely naked right before my eyes and proceeded to splash happily about the fountain."
"Well, I was happy until my mother caught me," I pointed out. "She wore my behind out that night, plus I had to go to the admiral and confess that I had been the one to ruin his model ship."
"That sounds like something this one would have done," Edan said with a smile as Ephraim walked up to them. "Bishop James, this is our son, Ephraim, and his boyfriend, Peter. Boys this is a friend of Gramps and Cameron."
"It is a pleasure to meet you both," Bishop James said warmly as he shook both boys' hands. "As I recall, you were both injured in the incident that took place at the beginning of the year. I am glad to see you have both recovered nicely."
"Thank you, sir," Ephraim said politely. "When did you know Dad?"
"I worked with Cameron's father when he was a very small boy," Bishop James responded. "I was transferred back to the states a few years before your grandfather, so I suppose your father was about your age the last time I saw him."
"You still recognized him after all those years?" Peter asked in awe.
"Yeah, I mean he's all old now," Ephraim added.
"Okay, no wedding cake for you guys," I teased. "I'll show you old."
The wedding started a few minutes later, and although I had no prior experience with the Episcopal faith, I found the service to be interesting, and romantic, yet sensible. When the bishop asked if they would take each other as husband and wife, there was another question posed to us the family. We were asked if we who witnessed their vows would do everything in our power to uphold them and support them in their marriage.
Perhaps the part of the ceremony that touched me the most came toward the end in one of the prayers that the bishop read. The prayer started off as a typical bless this couple sort of thing, but somewhere along the way, the bishop read something I don't recall having ever heard at a wedding before. He asked that God would give them grace when they hurt each other to recognize and acknowledge their own fault and asked the other and God for forgiveness.
I admit that I am a naturally emotional person. I cry every year over the stupid coffee commercial about the college son returning home for Christmas. I do not however, normally cry at weddings. I am proud to say that I did at this one. They were tears of joy for the wonderful family I have been given.
The following Friday afternoon, when I checked the mail, there was a letter addressed to President Elect Derek Eliot. He had won the elections just as predicted, with a landslide majority. Derek tried to pass it off as being due to the fact that people had seen him on television back at New Years, but I knew better. They had seen the same qualities in my boy that I saw. He is naturally good with people.
We planned a family celebration for the weekend and were all set to party all day Saturday, but the Walborn's brought sad news to the feast. Dan and Karen had been keeping a secret from the whole family, including their own children. He had been diagnosed with cancer. He had gone for tests the day before and the worst was confirmed. By the time it had been found, it was too late. Dan Walborn only had a few months to live at best.
The kids were of course devastated. Brooke clung to Daniel in tears and Peter stormed off into the woods, followed closely by Ephraim. Brendan and Derek walked out after the younger boys to make sure they were ok. The rest of us were so shocked we hardly knew what to do or say. Dan looked over at Daniel and Brooke and smiled peacefully.
"Daniel, I haven't had the chance to ask what your intentions are regarding Brooke," he began.
"I love Brooke very much, sir," he replied firmly. "I don't know if she feels the same, but I can't imagine my life without her."
"I love you, too, Danny," Brooke murmured through her tears.
"I thought that might be the case," Dan told the teenagers. "I know this is sudden, and more than a little off the wall, but ever since the day I first held her tiny body in my arms, I've looked forward to the day I would walk my daughter down the aisle and see her married to the man she loves."
"I was afraid you would say we were too young or I would have already asked for her hand," Daniel confessed. Brooke looked up into his eyes in surprise. "I want you to marry me, Brooke Walborn. I want you to be with me forever."
"Yes, Danny, I will marry you," she gushed.
"That is with your permission, sir," Daniel looked over at Dan and Karen.
"Well, you see, that is precisely what I was building up to," Dan admitted. "I don't want to miss my daughter's wedding. I may have to miss out on seeing Peter married to Ephraim, but I might not live to see that day anyway. Would it be asking too much to ask you and Brooke to marry before I'm gone?" Dan asked his future son-in-law.
"My feelings will never change for Brooke," Daniel answered. "Whether we marry tomorrow or in thirty years, I will still love her just the same."
"Me too, Danny," Brooke whispered. She reached up and kissed her man on his cheek before turning to her father. "Daddy, I never dreamed that you wouldn't be there for my wedding. I won't let it happen now."
"There is just one thing I have to say first," Daniel told us all. "I don't want Brooke to change her name. In fact, Mr. Dan, Mrs. Karen, if you will allow me, I would like to change my name to Walborn."
"Don't you want to take Edan or Cameron's name, son?" Dan asked him.
"No offense to either of them, because they did give me a home and a family, but Mr. Dan, sir, it was you that gave me a future," Daniel answered. "You gave me a job when I needed one. You taught me that I had to stand on my own two feet and make something of myself for my own peace of mind."
"I would be honored to have you share my name, Daniel," Dan whispered as he wiped tears from his eyes. "I've come to love you like a son since the day you came to work with me. Now is as good a time as any to tell you that I intend to leave the construction business to you and Brooke."
"What about Peter?" Brooke asked.
"Peter has his own dreams to follow," Karen answered. "He's never been that involved in your father's business. He wants to be a lawyer, and we are going to support him in that as long as he wants it."
"You mean I don't have to work construction like Daddy?" We all turned, not having heard the boys come back. "I love you, Dad, but I never liked your job."
"I know that son, that's why you won't ever have to do it, unless you choose to at some point," Dan assured him. "I know you want to be an attorney like Beth, and Lord knows the world needs more like her. Do your best at whatever you do, son, and I will always be proud of you."
"I love you, dad," the boy wept as he hugged his father tightly.
"I will always love you, too, son, even when you can't see me anymore," Dan replied solemnly.