Jeff looked upon us with wonder, an amazed look on his face,"You guys…...you're the ones?" We answered that we were, and we'd appreciate it if he kept that information to himself. He shyly asked if he could tell his partner, and since we thought he meant his business partner, and that they'd have to work together, we told him sure, and he responded with," I can't wait to tell Jeremy that my new prospective clients are millionaires and two fathers with children." He then reverted to being a businessman and we had to explain about why we wanted a private meeting room, and a lunchroom too.
We then all met up again and Kenny wanted to know if we could roller skate in here. I told him that I didn't think so, that people would be working in here and we didn't want to disturb them. Brian had asked Deanna if we could see the lower space and she remembered we hadn't actually seen that yet so we all went back outside and she locked up as Jeff looked over the outside and what he could see of the roof as she did that. Then we all trooped into the walk-in basement area. It had those 10-foot ceilings and a huge wide open space as described to us. Jeff said it could be easily transformed into just about anything, and Deanna asked if an architect office would fit and he responded that his now was right next to the gym his partner owned, but both of them were being let go as tenants because the landlord wanted the building for a big retail space he was negotiating for. Brian and I looked at each other and I told Jeff that his plans for this space should be a shared space for an architect's office and a full-service gym.
Needless to say, the closing went off without a hitch and we took Deanna out to lunch after, with all the boys. She seemed even more comfortable with us today and a lot cheerier. When I again asked if she was sure she wouldn't like to spend Christmas with us she again thanked us for the invitation, but demurred again, saying that she and Ben were having a quiet day at her house. I mock chastised her, saying I didn't want her stealing our new hired foreman, and she laughed and told us that was one of the nicest compliments she'd ever had. Then she asked us what we would think about her moving in with him. I cannot say that I was shocked, but I was surprised. One glance at Brian and I knew he felt the same, so I responded that we thought it was a great idea, and if a wedding was in the future, we would be honored if they let us pay for it, not only as valued associates, but we'd be doing it for the boy’s surrogate grandparents. She smiled that smile parents get when they are proud of their children, and a few tears rounded the corners of her smile. She was happy again in her life.
That same afternoon, while we were tackling some more gift wrapping the phone rang and it was Ben, calling from the cottage, saying that the female dog, Bonnie, was in labor and had just delivered her first pup and we should probably bring the boys down and a couple of old towels. Brian came and told me and I explained to the boys what was going on at the barn and I told them that if they wanted to stay at the house we'd understand. All three wanted to go so we bundled up and I grabbed two big bath towels that I had spilled bleach on and we took off for the barn. The towels had been washed but I hadn't had time to cut them up yet for rags, but it made me promise to myself that there would be no more purchases of colored towels. Clyde, the male dog, was pacing and whining, just like an expectant father but he took the time to greet the boys. We then went to see how Bonnie was and Ben was with her, making sure all was well during her deliveries.
The puppies were so small, but then the parents were not huge dogs. She delivered 6 pups and by the time we returned to the house they had been licked clean and nudged to a nipple, Clyde lying alongside Bonnie as she rested. Ben said that for a first time she had done very well. Brian joked that he knew what 6 people were getting for Valentines! (I think he was joking!).
Friday morning was spent with Ray and we went over some of the things he had learned from the research compiled by Mr. Cleaver and he reported that the mortgages we wanted to be paid off, were all paid off and he had a bank check for $160,000 for Brian and me to present his father and Carl to help purchase a home. He told us the median price in their neighborhood and the check was more than enough to get them settled in a home. In separate envelopes were the canceled checks for the other mortgages, which we could give out, and the canceled check for our own. He also had the receipts for the credit cards that had come in the mail yesterday. Our two private ones were limited to $200,000 each, the one for Ben for use for farm materials was limited to $100,000. He said that anything over those amounts would have to be authorized by us as the CFOs. He told us that he and Bruce were looking forward to Christmas Eve with us and the boys, and our families.
Before he left we asked him if he had heard from Jeffrey Palmer and his partner Jeremy about the lower level of our office barn and he smacked his forehead and told us that it was a definite yes for the both of them, but because of that we might not get the drawings of the layouts until the week after New Year's, the end of the week. We told him we understood.
Our Sunday was a lot of fun as one or the other older boys came to either Brian or me to say they forgot so and so when they were gift shopping, so we took all the boys shopping again after church where the older boys sang again with the choir, but this time we took them to the smaller mall in Amherst and then when the forgotten presents were bought, we took them to see where Brian and I lived while we were in college. Don was surprised to find us on his doorstep, but excited to meet our family and to see us again. Unfortunately, Clint was working a shift as a lifeguard at the college pool and we didn't get to see him, but Don told us they couldn't be happier. When he asked how we were coping with the boys, teaching, and running the farm we told him that all was good and we liked the way our life together was going. Before we left we handed him one of the envelopes Ray had given us the other day, the one with his and Clint's name on it, and we asked that they open it together on Christmas morning. He, in turn, gave us a large platter of cookies that they had baked and intended to drop off later after Clint had returned home. With lots of hugs, we were soon heading home to get the new presents wrapped.
That afternoon we had our own visitors, David and John. They were over their flu and had just resumed their work schedules this past week. They looked tired, but happy to be out and visiting. They had been invited for dinner, but they wanted to meet Kenny and spend some time with the rest of us. Of course, the boys had to take them to see the puppies, and John fell for one that had a white stripe down her face and nose. The boys wanted him to take it home, but we had to explain that the pups had to stay with Bonnie for a few more weeks, until the babies were old enough to feed themselves from doggie bowls.
After their guided tour of the barn we all pitched in to prepare dinner and we sat and visited after dinner while the boys were watching TV. David loved being the EMT trainer for the fire department, but he still had to pull his shifts, at least until after the first of the year, and then he will be full-time days, as there were two more newbies my dad hired to fill vacancies that will be created when 2 of the older firemen retire at the first of the year. John was still enjoying teaching and he loved the challenge of getting his classes as involved in a book as he was. We knew that feeling well. They regretted not joining us for our Christmas party on the next day (Christmas Eve) and produced a present for Brian and me, a gift certificate for the Italian restaurant in our town, which we thanked them for, and then we gave them their present from us.
To say they were shocked doesn’t cover it, they were stunned and amazed. We told them that we considered them our closest friends, our mentors. The money used was only a drop in the bucket of what was left. The money we used to pay off their mortgage was not going to take anything away from our children, or their futures, or from any of the charities we were going to support. It was something we could do, so we did it. We couldn't think of a more deserving couple, other than our folks, and to us, they were as much our folks as our folks were. They were very choked up and we left them by themselves for a few minutes as we went and checked what the boys were watching.
When Brian and I returned to the kitchen the couple was hugging and kissing each other and when they realized we were back in the room we also got hugged fiercely and with a lot of grateful kissing, not the sex kind. We sat and talked about the office barn and then we told them about the architect, and his boyfriend partner who owned a gym, moving their businesses into the lower level of the office barn and that everyone hoped that all three businesses would be open by the end of April. We told them that we were planning on a trustee's meeting sometime around the end of February or the beginning of March.
I'd like to say that the next night when we presented our envelopes to our parents the reaction was the same, but it was even more so. The two couples were crying and hugging each other and then they each got one of us, and realized they hadn't gotten their birth son, but the kissing and hugging went on even after they had switched sons. We had done this while all three of the boys were upstairs with their aunts and uncles, doing I knew not what, but by the time they returned all three were dressed for church as everyone was coming tonight so they could hear Bobby and Mike sing. The big adults were very appreciative and Carl and Captain Harris told us they even had a house next to David and John's that they had looked at once already and they had just last night decided to buy it.
We all made our ways to the church, as our families were returning to their homes right after the Mass. The boys were all happy in the rear seat as they laughed about how their Aunt Betty had tried and tried to get Ray's partner Bruce all to herself. After seeing and realizing what was going on I took her aside and told my older sister that Bruce was spoken for, by Ray. It only took her a second or so before it hit her, and of course, she was embarrassed so I held her and told her we loved her, but she had to do something about developing her gaydar. She laughed and told me I should talk. Bruce then took her aside and showed her a picture of his younger brother, a freshman at the university in Amherst. He even set up a meeting for the two of them, both Bruce and Ray thought they'd be good for each other.
I really wasn't prepared as we listened to Bobby's rendition of 'Ave Maria' or his duet with Mike on 'Oh Little Town of Bethlehem' or Mike singing solo 'The Little Drummer Boy'. Brian had handed me his hanky, but I soaked that through. Mom had one of those small packets of tissues and by the last 'rumpa pum pum' Brian, Mom and I had gone through them. After the service, we waited in the front vestibule for the boys and we were told so many times how good the boys were. Deanna and Ben came over to wait with us and they had their arms around each other and she had a new ring on her left ring finger. She saw me notice it and she whispered to me, "I said yes, but there is no firm date yet". I hugged her tightly and so did Brian when I told him. We then shook Ben's hand and congratulated him.
The folks all said their Merry Christmases to the boys when they came down from the choir loft and they bid us all good night and they'd all be over for dinner about 2 PM the next day. I had been so nervous about cooking the big bird (my folks always got a thirty pounder) and the French meat dressing,(both pork and beef sausage mixed with spices and ground saltines, baked with the neck in the pan for turkey flavoring). I had stressed so much about it that Brian had contacted the chef at our favorite restaurant and asked if he could place a special order. It was worth every penny of the five hundred dollars he paid the man when we picked it up on the way home from church Christmas Eve. We put it all in the fridge to be put in the oven a few hours before the family all arrived. The veggies and sides and everything else was being brought by family members. We did make home baked rolls and plenty of deserts were obtained. The big table in the kitchen wouldn't hold us all, and I really didn't want to separate the group for the meal, so we dragged out the dining room table(I don't think we had even used the dining room yet)and put it alongside the kitchen farm table. Even with the chairs and benches, everything fit and there was plenty of room left for milling around or table hopping.
It was a joy filled day, with my younger brothers and sisters running around with our boys, Kenny getting a lot of attention, being the youngest here. It was a mild day for a New England winter, about 45 degrees, and when they were all getting too rambunctious for the house we bundled them up and the older ones took them all for a walk on our lane and of course they all ended up at the barn to see the puppies and to stare at the horses. Bobby and Mike were their heroes as they were the only ones to go up to and actually pet the horses and to give them a treat. They encouraged a few others to do the same and my brother Pat, the sports star, was game but the others shied away and stuck with the puppies, whose mother kept a sharp eye on all her brood.
The troop then came back in and a round of hot chocolate was had by all. The present exchange was fun, with the floor of the living room being covered in a shin-high pile of torn wrapping paper for a while, until Brian brought in a big empty trash bag and we began gathering up the debris and making sure something small wasn't caught up in the paper and thrown away with the trash.
All in all, it was a very pleasant day, everyone was quite pleased with their gifts, and how their gifts were received. The day after Christmas we decided to pack up the boys and go car shopping. We really needed something bigger to transport us all, and Brian had read in the paper about how a lot of new car dealers were stuck with the new inventory of this year's models and couldn't accept a lot of the new year to comes models so pricing on new cars was at an all-time bargain. The boys were jazzed to be going car shopping with us, so with our new credit cards, and everyone seated and belted in we took off for a row of car dealers in West Springfield, about 25 miles from where we lived.
I hadn’t anything in particular in mind, and Brian said he didn't either, so we started at one end and by the time we were at the third dealer the boys were starting to realize that this kind of shopping trip wasn't much fun, and so were Brian and I. This third dealership had a very big selection of imported cars and was a big dealer of Volvo and Audi. There were several BMW s and Mercedes as well. What caught Brian's eye was a Volvo station wagon. It wasn't the most glamorous thing to look at, but Brian told me it was one of the safest vehicles on the road, remember, this was 1967, there were no SUV s and most times a station wagon was preferable to a VW bus, although for camping or very long road trips the bus was probably preferable.
There were a few of the Volvo station wagons within the front rows facing the road so Brian parked near them and we all exited our car and began to look them over, Bobby and Mike staying close, and I had Kenny by the hand as we all looked over the details on the price tags on their side windows. I thought they were priced kind of high, but as Brian had pointed out, they did have the reputation of being one of the safest on the road. By the time we had looked over the third or fourth a man came out of the showroom, looked over at us, shook his head and yelled for someone by the name of James. Who I assumed to be James came running up to him and he gestured toward us and James, came over toward us at a much slower pace. James was a college-aged young man, still older than us, but I guessed by not much. He was a nice looking pleasant guy, but he kind of had that hangdog look about him that made me think he was sent to us as some sort of punishment. He smiled at us and asked if we needed any help.
Brian, without even looking up from the statistics listed on the tag, asked if we could take one of these station wagons for a test drive, and James stated he'd better look at Brian's driver's license. I asked why he needed to do that and he told me that his father had told him that a bunch of kids was out here and he was to get them to move on or at least get their parents to come in and look at cars with one of the salesmen. I asked if his father was the owner of the dealership and was he the man I had just seen him talking to at the door to the showroom, and James said he was afraid so.
James seemed alright, but I had seen men like his father before, they were bullies and I just wasn't in the mood for one of them right now, so I took Kenny and motioned for Brian to keep an eye on Bobby and Mike. I went in the showroom with Kenny holding my hand and I sat him on a chair outside the office I assumed was the owners and yes, there he sat puffing on a cigar, with his feet up on the desk. I said I had to make an urgent call, may I please use his phone. He mumbled something I couldn't quite hear, but pushed his desk phone an inch toward me. I dialed Ray's private number and whispered the situation to him and he asked me to put the man on the phone. I handed the phone to the man behind the desk and he sputtered something into the phone and then shut up and listened, sweat breaking out on his forehead and getting paler by the second. The feet came down off the desk and the cigar was stamped out in his ashtray. When Ray was done with him he was on his feet, mopping his brow with his handkerchief. He asked if I was Mr. Blackmer, and when I nodded at him he asked how he could help me. I told him he couldn't. That my family and I were looking to buy a nice safe car and we were going to be waited on by James as long as we were on his lot. I told him that his brief look at us as we looked at his stock told him a very wrong impression, and his attitude toward us and his son was something I just wouldn't tolerate.
I explained that as far as I knew he was the closest dealer of these cars in the area, and I could order one from somewhere else, but I'd have to have the car serviced here. I then told him I wasn't really happy about doing business with his company, but the safety of my children was more important to me, so when I purchased a vehicle from him, and it came in for service or maintenance I'd prefer it if he wasn't around when one of us came in to drop it off or to pick it up. Then I told him that we'd like to test drive the silver Volvo station wagon, and the Red Audi coupe and would he get the keys for James to accompany us.
OK, I had a little hissy fit, but I felt much better and then I went outside the office and took Kenny's hand and we went back outside to the others. Kenny went to Brian and said, "Dad B, you should hear Dad A, he talked mean to that man, but the man said he was sorry. Dad A was really mad." The man himself had put his suit coat on again and called to James that he had the keys for him to use when he took us out for our test drive. They met halfway, and all I could make out was, "Whatever they want" from father to son. Brian looked at me and I pointed to the silver station wagon, and the red coupe in the next row. He got a huge smile on his face and nodded in agreement.
By the time we got back from both of us having a chance to drive the amazing station wagon we were sold on it, and after we both had driven the Audi we were thrilled with that as well. We talked a little as the boys climbed in each to make sure they would fit or something, and Brian suggested he put the station wagon on his card, and I put the coupe on mine, that way we'd both still have a lot of money on both our cards. I agreed.
We both went over to James and asked him what kind of a deal could we get on the both of them, no financing, and we wanted them delivered, gassed up, registered and tagged and we gave him a card from our insurance agent. He seemed surprised, but dashed into his father's office and returned with a slip of paper with the two prices on it. Brian and I looked and we saw that almost five thousand had been taken off both prices. We agreed, and said we would walk next door while the paperwork was typed up, did he want anything from Hardees?
The boys were thrilled with their treats, vanilla milkshakes for all of us, as was James with his chocolate one when we returned a few minutes later. The two sales contracts were filled out, and contained our full names and titles along with our company name. I realized someone had spoken again with Ray to have gotten all that information. Then James asked if we had a bank check or even a personal one and Brian chuckled as he and then I handed our credit cards to James and asked him to put one each on each card, it really didn't matter which one on which card.
By the time everything was wrapped up James had told us he was an accounting major at one of the local colleges and we asked what his plans were for after graduation in the Spring. He said not too much, as things were kind of tight in the area. He resignedly told us he'd probably be stuck working for his father. Brian pulled one of our new business cards out of his wallet and asked James to give us a call a month before graduation, in May, and we might have something he might find more challenging. He thanked us and said he'd be sure to call, at that point the clerk came back with our credit cards and we put them away and then signed the sales slips. The cars would be delivered by the end of the afternoon the next day. We drove home and did some grocery shopping along the way, stopping at the same farm stand store where our Christmas tree came from.
Have you ever gone grocery shopping with two 12, almost 13, year olds and a five-year-old? They really had opinions about just about everything in every aisle and we had to go down every aisle, they just had to see what was down there, like there might be some new food they had never seen or tasted before. Brian wasn't much better, and after our second stop, I resolved never to take them all along on grocery shopping day. By the time we reached our hometown I was ready for something hot to drink and instead of heading right for home I pulled into the parking lot of the farm store. As soon as we walked inside I headed right for the coffee stand and was able to get my needed hot chocolate fix, but I also had to get four more for my family. We were able to get some great winter squash and some fresh greenhouse snap beans. The owner came over to see how our holiday went and the boys told her all about Christmas Eve mass, even though she had been there and had heard their marvelous singing, and their day with their big family yesterday. While that was going on I found some acorn squash that I thought would be fun to bake and let the boys eat right out of their rinds.
Once home we all pitched in and unloaded the car and while Brian and I put everything away Bobby and Mike took Kenny down to the barn to play with the dogs. While we were doing that Ray called and asked if he and Bruce could come and pick out a puppy from our litter and we told them to come over anytime, but to plan on staying for dinner. Just after that call, we got another from John who said that he really wanted to come out and see the little puppy he had picked out the other day, and he'd bring David with him. I told him that any time would be good, but to also stay for dinner. We had a great afternoon with the two visiting couples and all of them down in the barn playing with the puppies, right along with our boys. Just after dinner, we had unexpected visitors, Jeff and his partner Jeremy. Jeff apparently had spent several nonholiday related hours making sketches of our spaces at the office barn and had several he wanted us to look at and comment on before doing the formal plans needed for the contractor. The boys were watching a holiday movie on the TV so we asked Jeff to lay out all the sketches on the big farm table in the kitchen and we'd all walk around the table and voice our opinions.
Have I told you about Jeremy yet? He wasn't a muscle-bound god, but he was the next best thing. Man, Jeff was one lucky guy. They were so good together, both being very considerate of each other, and they really complimented each other in looks, Jeff being tall and lean and dark, and Jeremy being blond, a bit shorter than Jeff, but very well muscled. John nudged me as I was observing all the guys getting along so well together and he indicated Jeff and Jeremy and told me that Brian and I would look a lot like them in about 15 years. I couldn't wait. Neither one of us had any complaints in the bedroom, and we actually had more sex now than we ever did while in school, we were very happy together, and with the family, we had established. Now we were ready to share some of our bounties so I began to pay more attention to the sketches that Jeff had brought. Brian and I both agreed on one of the layouts he had drawn of our office space. His rendering took advantage of the 25 to 30 foot high ceilings, now shown with several skylights, by placing several tree-like plants scattered throughout the space, and sometimes defining the various workstations, while glass-fronted private office walls let in sunlight from the side windows into the central general office space. We liked that one a lot and Ray agreed with us.
The sketches for the lower level were just as impressive and all the guys were impressed with these, especially the sketch of the shower room for the gym into which Jeff had sketched a bunch of muscular nudes helping each other out during their shower. There were hoots and hollers about that one, and everyone wanted copies of it. John and David were in an animated conversation with Jeremy and Jeff and it seems that Jeremy not only had his first gym members, but two new business partners before the evening was over.
The next day we had a "clean the house day". Brian and I went through our bedroom and bath, and each of the boys tackled their rooms and baths, with the older buys giving Kenny a hand. Just before lunch Deanna and Ben knocked on the back door and brought in a big basket of fried chicken which we all ate while sitting together, after Brian and I quickly put together a few sides. Deanna told us she never saw two people share a kitchen as easily as we did. That made us feel good. After our tasty repast, we sat for a while with our elders and they announced that their wedding would take place during the Spring break, just after Easter this next year. We asked if they had a venue in mind and they both told us that our farm had a lot of good memories for them and they'd like to be married here, if we didn't mind. The weather would play a big part in where exactly on the farm the ceremony would take place, so that we would have to wait until closer to the actual date. We, of course, reiterated our insistence that they let us pay for the ceremony and the reception, and they asked us for one more favor, or two. They asked if we would walk her down the aisle, and to let the boys participate in some way. They were thinking as ushers or best men for Bobby and Mike, and the ring bearer job for Kenny.
She asked what were the boys talking about when they told her we were using them as slave labor and we explained that with all the people in and out ever since Thanksgiving we had realized the whole place needed a good cleaning, so we had split up and we had tackled our bed and bath, and we had told all three boys to pitch in and get their bedrooms and baths sparkling clean. We were supposed to be doing the downstairs this afternoon, and I just knew that the dirty clothes hamper would be filled by then and a couple of loads of wash would also have to be done. Deanna clucked sympathetically and told us that she would have thought we'd have hired someone to come in and help with all that, and in the kitchen as well. She saw the skeptical look on my face and said she knew we could do all of it, but while the boys were young, and so were we, we all should be spending more time together doing fun family stuff while the boys were all young enough to remember them, and us, doing things as a family. She told us she knew just the person for us.
So that's how Jeff's twin came to work for us five days a week. Jerry was a recent college graduate in hotel management. He had taken extensive cooking courses, as cooking was a big hobby of his, and since he was involved with a local he wanted to stay in the area. He and his life partner wanted someday to open a bed and breakfast inn with a full-service dining room to attract the locals. He had had several offers of employment, but accepting one of them would have required he move away for several years and he wanted to stay in the area. His partner worked for the local police department, and our little family knew him well, he was Officer Ollie Myers, who had given us so much assistance in the recent past. To say we were surprised would be a huge understatement. Hugely surprised, but very, very pleased for the both of them, and all I could think of was Mr. Cleaver, telling me at our financial meeting just the other day,"We're everywhere now". It fit the situation perfectly, we were all gay (I love that term, Brian and I couldn't stand "queer", even when thinking or talking about ourselves or friends, it is sort of derogatory, Gay doesn't fit exactly, but it certainly was better). We all held very responsible jobs and positions and we were all highly educated. We were men who had achieved a certain measure of respect in our communities and in our lives, I just couldn't bring my mind around the fact that others felt the need to dishonor and denigrate us as a whole without even getting to know us as individuals. I think that was basically why a lot of us chose not to live in cities, we liked the privacy that was achievable in the country just by putting some space in between us and them.
Jerry came to work for us officially on the Monday before New Year's Eve. He would return to work the day after New Year's Day, the day we had to return to school and the day Kenny would start kindergarten. Monday was so he could get used to the house, the kitchen, and our basic routine, especially as he would be in charge of meals the days he was working. As it turned out we all got along very well together, and when he had gotten used to the routine, and we had found he had to go home to cook for him and his partner we encouraged Officer Ollie (as the kids started to call him) and Jerry to either share our evening meal with us, or take some home so he wouldn't have to start their meal from scratch. It was so harmonious that when it came time for their lease to be renewed we talked them into sharing the huge bedroom at the end of the upstairs hall and we had the adjoining bedroom with direct access to a disused bathroom attached by having Ben cut a door between the bedroom and the huge room over the sun porch the one with the private sun deck.
Jerry told us during this early period that he and Jeff were parentless by the time they had graduated from high school and that was how they came to live with their aunt (Deanna Flynn) and that there was enough for one to go to college right away and they drew lots to decide who would go first and Jeff had won and after getting his degree and working a few years he paid for Jerry to start his courses in a four year college. He had been attending a local junior college to take care of his basic requirements during this time with Deanna contributing when they would allow it, but they were insistent on doing it for themselves which only made Deanna love them more. Jerry and Jeff had a chance to visit with their aunt a lot more now and we included them in the plans developing for her wedding and she, in turn, got more involved with the plans for our office space as the sketches became renderings, and then floor plans and construction materials lists and the specifications for the contractor.