“Lincoln,” I said and rushed to him.
“Get away from me,” Lincoln loudly responded.
“Lincoln, come on.”
“Please leave me alone Garret,” he demanded. “JUST LEAVE!”
“Lincoln, I can’t do that,” I stated.
“Fuck! Just leave me alone, PLEASE,” he cried. I was taken back, it wasn’t the first time I heard him swear, but it was the first time it was directed at me or at least sent in my direction.
“What did you just say?” I paused, waiting for a response. “What did I say about using that kind of language. When you calm down, we are going to talk; I was just trying to help.”
I was blown away, I have never seen this side of Lincoln before, and it was worrisome. I decided to give him space, and walked out of his room and went to take a shower.
It was around 8:00 am when I got dressed and went downstairs. The viewing was not until later in the day around 6 pm. However, my parents are supposed to arrive around 1:45-2ish. I figured it gave Lincoln plenty of time to cool off. I didn’t know Rita had come yet until she stepped out from the laundry room.
“Good morning Rita.”
“Morning, how are you this morning?” She asked.
“Uhh… could be better, Lincoln sort of blew up at me. Used some inappropriate language, but I know he didn’t mean it. He is just really worked up,” I responded.
“What was it about?” She inquired as she started prepping breakfast.
“Honestly I am not sure,” I said. “Lincoln was having one of his nightmare or flashbacks… whatever you want to call it, and I wanted to help him, but he just told me to leave.”
“Hmm, that is quite odd,” stated Rita.
We were interrupted by Clayton walking into the kitchen and jumping into my lap.
“Hey Clay, good morning,” I said and wrapped his small frame in a hug. I know I said this earlier, and I don’t know what it is, but all the boys loved affection early in the mornings.
“Morning,” Clayton responded and kissed the side of my cheek.
“Thanks, buddy!” I replied and kissed the top of his head.
“Master Clay, what will you be drinking this morning?” Rita said in a British accent causing Clayton to laugh.
“You’re funny,” he giggled.
“Juice for him,” I said to Rita.
Jacob was the next to come down, and he occupied my other leg.
“Morning,” Jacob said as he leaned his head on my shoulder and sat on my thigh.
“Morning buddy,” I replied and kissed his cheek.
“I see you have your arms full this morning,” laughed Rita.
“Wouldn’t have it any other way,” I said lightly poking both boys in the sides causing them to laugh. Rita quickly made an observation when she brought Clayton his juice.
“Jacob, where is your underwear?” asked Rita jokingly
Jacob looked down and immediately blushed while moving his hands down to block her view and quietly whispered, “I forgot Rita was here.”
“It’s okay buddy, just pull down your shirt more to hide everything,” I insisted.
Jacob jumped off my lap, and the big baggy shirt fell to his knees, covering his boyhood. He took the seat next to mine and asked Rita for a glass of milk. Clayton followed his lead and grabbed the next position beside me.
Ryker was on his way downstairs wearing one of those tight pairs of underwear that showcased his butt to perfection and gripped his skin. He walked over and collapsed on me.
“Still sleepy,” I asked.
All I received was a simple nod of his head. I picked him up and sat him on my lap as he rested his head on my shoulder similar to what Jacob did.
“Have you seen Lincoln today,” I whispered to Ryker.
“No, he is in his room I think.”
“Alright,” I responded and kissed his cheek.
“Morning Ryker,” chimed Rita. “Milk or juice for breakfast?”
“Milk please,” he barely spoke.
“Someone isn’t quite awake,” joked Rita.
“No, he isn’t,” I replied as I was rubbing his back. We all chatted together for a few minutes until Rita finished breakfast and brought it to the table. She prepared omelets for each of us with sausage, peppers, onions, and cheese.
“Want me to get Lincoln?” asked Rita.
“No no, he just wants to be left alone for a little,” I replied.
Ryker hopped off my lap and went to sit next to Jacob. We ate and discussed our plans, as everyone seemed to be excited about my parents coming in. It was almost overshadowing the boys’ parents viewing tonight, but I guess it was a good thing because it kept the everyone’s mind at ease.
We finished eating when Ryker came up to me, “Garret, umm you think we can use the gym today? You said you would show me.”
“Yeah can we,” echoed Clayton.
“Umm sure, yeah I don’t see why not,” I responded.
Ryker looked somewhat dejected with my response even though it was his idea. We were cleaning off the table when Ryker touched my hand and leaned into me and whispered, “Could it be just us?”
I was confused by his question but thought it through. Maybe he didn’t want to be embarrassed, or perhaps he didn’t want distractions. I also viewed it as a chance to have some good one on one time with Ryker. I haven’t had the opportunity for anyone on one time with any of the boys, so maybe this would be a good start.
“Yeah sure,” I returned to Ryker. “Go put some clothes and shoes on.”
I turned to Clayton, “hey Clay, since this is Ryker and mine’s first time working out, we just want it to be us two, you okay with that?”
Clayton thought for a moment but spoke, “yeah I guess so.”
“Thanks, bud, how about we read that book of yours later,” I said to him.
“Yes,” Clayton cheered and went to the family room with Jacob to watch cartoons.
I went upstairs with Ryker, and we each went to our rooms to put on workout gear. I stopped by Lincoln’s bedroom on my way to the basement, and he still wasn’t in the mood to talk.
Ryker entered the Gym in red shorts and a tank-top. I didn’t even know I bought him a tank-top, but he was looking very serious about working out.
With him being so young, I started him off with 5-pound weights and showed him the proper routine to lift dumbbells. I didn’t want to start him on any of the heavy-duty equipment. We finished with a quick run on the treadmill, and Ryker seemed pleased with our short workout. We sat on the bench, and he said
“My arms hurt.”
I chuckled, “means you worked hard, your muscles are sore. If it doesn’t feel any better tonight just tell me. We can give you a massage.”
“What is a museage,” pronouncing the word wrong. This was the first time I heard Ryker say a word incorrect.
“A massage is when someone rubs another person’s body to relieve soreness or painful spots. So if your arms are still hurting, we can try to rub and loosen them up.”
“Oh,” replied Ryker.
“Well, good work out bud. But I have a suggestion… You need to hop in the shower, I can smell you from here,” I joked as I held my nose.
He replied by jumping on me and laughing hysterically, “How do I smell now?”
“Even worse,” I said and picked him up and threw him over my shoulder to walk upstairs.
Ryker was giggling and laughing the whole way up the stairs from the basement, and we finally made it to his room. I dropped him off on his bed and spoke, “Now I need another shower this morning from carrying your stinky butt all the way up here.”
Ryker just giggled and said, “love you, Garret.”
“Love you too, now get your butt in that bathroom,” I joked and proceeded to walk out of his room.
It was time to talk with Lincoln. I figured he had enough time to cool off and gather his thoughts. I wasn’t sure how I was going to handle this because I wanted to understand what made him feel the need to curse and yell.
I opened up his door and peaked my head through the crack. Lincoln was laying down in his bed under the covers sulking. I started to walk in when he said, “Please leave.”
“Listen, buddy, I can’t do that,” I replied and walked towards his bed.
“Pleeease,” he cried.
“Because, I don’t want to talk to anyone,” Lincoln said.
“That’s not a good enough answer to make me leave,” I returned and sat down on his bed.
“Why can’t you just leave me alone,” he began to raise his voice.
Sensing that he was on the edge of screaming again, I said, “because I’m bored and want to chat with you.”
Lincoln paused before speaking, “I don’t want to talk to you.”
He was slowly ripping my heart in half every time he said stuff like that, but I pushed on, “Welp! Looks like I will be doing a lot of the talking, you’ll just have to listen.”
To which Lincoln turned to his side facing away from me.
I laid down and rested my head on the free pillow and began chatting to a wall basically, “you missed an awesome breakfast. Rita made us omelets, and I believe there is an extra in the fridge that is up for grabs. I may go eat it, my first one was delicious. It had sausage, peppers, onions, and cheese. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.” I paused to catch my breath, “oh forgot to tell you that Ryker and I worked out, so If I smell it’s because I didn’t shower yet. I might be getting the stink all over your bed, that is pretty disgusting. I was going to shower before coming to talk with you, but I was just so excited to come into your room and see you! Also, plan on reading to Clayton, most likely we will read the book he brought from your guy’s house, I think it’ll be interesting, but then again I don’t even know the title yet. Oh did you hear about the….”
“Okay, Garret… I get it,” Lincoln interrupted.
“Get what?” I asked playing dumb.
“That you’re not gonna leave.”
“Hmm, oh did you hear about…”
“Okay okay, I am sorry,” he interrupted me again.
“For saying mean things,” he began to cry.
I placed my hand on his shoulder and rolled him over to face me. “Lincoln, I understand you are going through a lot. However, there is a proper way to handle it. Telling people to leave and get out, is not the way. Swearing at people or using that language, is also not it. The proper way to handle it would have been to ask for a moment alone, and not tell me to leave.”
“I’m sorry,” Lincoln stated.
“I forgive you buddy, but you are not allowed to use your Xbox or laptop for the next few days. Sound fair?”
“Yes,” he said in a dejected tone.
“Alright good, now that we got that out of the way, come here,” I said and dragged him from the covers into my chest for a hug.
He almost tackled me through the headboard of the bed and crawled so quick into my arms.
“I’m sorry Garret,” he cried “please don’t be mad, I’m sorry… I’m sorry I said mean things.”
“Lincoln,” I said as I rubbed his shirtless back. “It’s okay, I already said I forgive you! I just want to make sure you are okay.”
“Please just don’t send me away,” he sobbed.
“What? Lincoln, I wouldn’t ever do anything like that. I love you, and not once has that ever crossed my mind or will it ever,” I reassured.
“Are you going to, to, to beat me?”
“Are you kidding, absolutely not. Your punishment is not having your Xbox or laptop for a few days.” I kissed the top of his head trying to comfort him. I wanted to know what this flashback was, but I couldn’t get him to stop worrying about me being upset or mad.
“My d da dad, beat me when I didn’t listen or was bad,” Lincoln stated.
“I am sorry Lincoln, but I just want you to know that nothing you say or do will ever cause me to beat you. You have my word, and I don’t break my word. Ever!”
Lincoln just dug his face deeper into my chest. We sat like this for a few minutes until his crying subdued. I kissed the top of his head and just embraced him. Lincoln and Jacob were painting an unambiguous picture of their father’s attitude and beliefs, which were starting to upset me more and more. Who could mistreat kids, let alone these ones? They are all so unique, and the father took advantage of them either molesting, fondling, or beating two of four boys. I had to turn my attention back to Lincoln. However, I was nervous to push further but figured the sooner we talk about the flashback, the better.
“So Lincoln, I’m not going to force you to talk about the flashback, but I would like to know what happened if you would be so kind to share. However, if you do not feel like talking about, I completely understand.”
“Umm,” he stuttered. ” I, I saw mommy die again. And, and, the guy who was standing over me hit me on the back again. I… I… I could feel it again I swear,” he started to cry again. “It hurt so bad. And then he… he… he… I’m sorry Garret, I don’t kn know… I don’t know if I can.”
“Oh buddy it’s alright, I understand,” I said as I was wiping the tears off his face.
“He, umm… he pulled my shorts down and beat me more and more. It was so real, I could feel each swing hit my body. He hit me all over on my back, my butt, my head, my legs. I even heard one of the other guys say
‘he is going to die, stop hitting him.’
The guy who hit me st… st… started to stop, but then I woke up feeling all that pain from the flashback. I know it wasn’t real, but it felt real, and it was terrible,” Lincoln bawled.
I was speechless, I knew he had been through hell, but I didn’t realize it had been this bad. The sad part is that he hasn’t reached the worst flashbacks yet.
“Garret, I don’t want this to happen anymore,” Lincoln cried.
“I know, I know,” I said. “We are working on it buddy, I promise.”
“Why, why does this keep happening?”
“I don’t know Lincoln, and it’s killing me that I don’t have the answers to help.”
“Is it ever going to stop?” he quietly questioned.
I couldn’t give him a straightforward response because I didn’t know, “I can not answer that question because I don’t know Lincoln. However, I can promise you that I won’t stop looking for methods to help overcome these if going to Mrs. Ainsworth doesn’t work. Just don’t forget that I am here to talk with you about anything Lincoln. Anything that you ever want to discuss, I am always open to listen.”
“I know, I’m sorry for yelling earlier.”
“Lincoln, like I said, I forgive you.” I replied, “I love you kiddo, and I just want you to be happy.”
“I know, love you too,” Lincoln replied.
He was basically laying on me already, but he wrapped his arms around me for a tighter hug.
“Alright buddy, go eat that omelet. Rita will heat it up for you. I am going to hop in the shower, by the way, my parents should be here in about 2 hours.”
“Okay,” Lincoln said and he let me leave his bed. I got up and walked out of his room and into mine. As soon as I walked in, I shut the door and broke down. I was putting a strong face on for Lincoln, but I was crying inside. The emotions got the better of me, and I lost it. I just couldn’t fathom why someone would mistreat these boys, and hearing Lincoln’s latest flashback just threw me on an emotional rollercoaster.
I cried for about 5 minutes but knew I had to get a grip. I went into the bathroom and took my shower.
My parents were about thirty minutes out, and I was watching ESPN. The boys were up in their rooms, and Rita came over with my drink.
“Nervous?” she asked.
“Umm a little, but more excited than nervous,” I replied.
“Nothing to be nervous about, they are wonderful boys, your parents will love them.”
“Oh I know my parents will, but I am nervous about how the boys will react.”
“What do you mean?” Rita asked.
“I don’t know, I guess I am worried that the boys will act differently.”
“Garret, the boys didn’t act differently with me. They’ll do fine, I promise.”
“Thanks Rita,” I said. “Oh the viewing is at 6, do you want to ride with us?”
“Thank you for the offer, but I am heading to the grocery store after the viewing to pick up some stuff for breakfast in the morning,” stated Rita.
“Okay sounds good, when do you plan on staying through the night?” I asked. Whenever I have family or a big party come in, Rita will always sleepover and stay the night in the basement bedroom instead of driving back and forth each late evening and early morning.
“Awesome, thank you,” I replied, and Rita went to the kitchen.
I heard my name hollered from upstairs, but I couldn’t tell who it was so I proceeded to follow the voice.
“Garret,” I heard again when I reached the top of the steps. “Can you help me?”
“Yeah sure, what’s up Ryker?” I said and walked into his room.
“I need help picking clothes again,” he said standing in the buck.
“Alright, what are we feeling today?”
“Umm I’m not sure,” he replied
“Well, underwear would be a good start,” I chuckled.
He didn’t find my joke that funny and just looked at me with a glare.
“Okay okay,” I said and walked up to his dresser. “Umm, what about these red sweatpants?”
“Eww no,” he replied.
“Okay, how about khaki pants?” I asked.
“Hmm, but what shirt?” he inquired.
“What about this Blue and white long sleeve plaid shirt? It would look cute with the pants and would look good with your blonde hair and blue eyes,” I mentioned.
“Hmm,” he thought for a minute or two as he walked to his closet to look for more clothes.
“I don’t know how I can still see tan lines in the middle of winter,” I blurted out.
Ryker laughed, “because I didn’t like to go home during the summer, I was outside a lot.”
“I can tell,” I stated. “Sorry, back to picking an outfit, if you don’t like that idea, then we can go with the jeans,” I said as I threw him a pair of underwear.
Ryker caught them and began slipping them on around his skinny legs. “No I think I like the first idea,” he said.
“Good choice,” I replied. “It’ll match your eyes and go nicely with your hair and skin tone.”
“Thanks, Garret,” he said and walked over to give me a hug.
“Anytime bud, but now I have to go pick a better outfit. I was going to wear this, but you are out dressing me,” I laughed.
I thought if Ryker was already concerned with what he was wearing at the age of 8, then the teenage years will be a handful. I walked out of his room and decided to check in with all the boys.
“Hey Lincoln,” I said, “be downstairs in about 20 minutes!”
“Okay,” he replied. He was wearing jeans and a polo shirt. That was good enough for me.
I walked into Jacob’s bedroom and began to lay his clothes out. He was going to wear khaki pants, but instead of a plaid shirt, I suggested he wear a polo shirt similar to Lincoln.
Clayton was last, but he was just so adorable that he could make anything look great. I decided to go with jeans and a red plaid long sleeve shirt for him.
I went to my room and changed into jeans and a beautiful beige quarter zip sweater that I recently bought.
We all went downstairs and began watching some TV, Rita was kind enough to bring juice to each of boys as well as bake us a fresh batch of brownies. Each of the boys inhaled two, which brought a smile to Rita’s face.
Before long, I heard the doorbell ring. Little Clayton raced off my lap and headed towards the door. I am pretty sure he was at the door before my lazy ass was off the couch.
“Hi,” Clayton said as he opened the large door.
“Oh my word, you’re adorable!” My mother yelled.
“Thanks,” Clayton embarrassedly blushed.
I reached the door just as he finished his sentence.
“Hey Mom! Hey Dad! I see you’ve met Clay already,” I joked, and each gave my parents a hug. “Come on inside, we will get your bags later.”
We walked into the family room to three anxiously waiting boys.
“Mom, Dad, I want to introduce you to these guys,” I said. My mother was beaming with joy, as she had a smile from ear to ear. Rita was standing in the kitchen, just listening to the introductions.
“This is Lincoln he is the oldest of the boys,” I spoke.
“Hi Lincoln,” my mom began as she walked over and gave him a hug.
Lincoln seemed a little tense, but returned with a hug and spoke, “Hi, nice to meet you err…. umm what should I call you?”
“Hmm, what would you like to call us?” my Mother returned.
“I never had a grandma or grandpa that I know, could I call you that?”
“I absolutely love that idea, as long as I can call you my grandson?”
Lincoln giggled, “yes,.”
“Then its settled! So how old are you Lincoln?”
“I am 11 years old,” he replied
“11 is an awesome age,” My mom cheered and gave him another hug. Lincoln walked over and shook my father’s hand, and took a step back to his brothers.
“This guy here is Ryker, he is the second oldest of the brothers,” I said introducing him.
Ryker was less shy and went for a hug first.
“Can I call you grandma?” Ryker questioned.
“Of course you can darling! I love the sound of that. Oh, by the way, did you pick your outfit, because you look so handsome,” asked my mother.
“Thanks,” Ryker giggled, “Garret helped me.”
“He made the final decision though,” I injected. Ryker went over to give my father a hug. My dad was taking everything in and being more reserved. He was letting the boys take the lead, which I thought was smart of him considering some of the boys past.
After he hugged my dad, my mother asked, “so since Lincoln is 11 how old are you?”
“8 and a half,” Ryker replied.
“8 and a half? You could pass for a 10-year-old,” joked my father.
That was music to Ryker’s ear as he replied, “thanks.”
“Hey mom, this rockstar right here is Jacob, the second youngest and he is 7.”
“Hi Jacob,” my mom said and wrapped him in a hug.
“Hi,” Jacob returned, and went to my dad and shook his hand. Jacob was being his usual self and taking everything in, being reserved similar to my father. He wasn’t quick to show emotion.
“Last but not least, we have Clayton!”
“Clay,” he corrected as he said hi to my mom with a hug. “I am 5 years old.”
“5 wow, and thank you, Clay, for the hug,” my mom returned, and Clayton followed with a hug to my father.
“Well Gordon, should we give them their gifts?” My mother asked.
“Gifts,” the boys jumped like a puppy hearing the word treats.
“Oh guys, you didn’t need to buy them gifts,” I injected.
“Oh hush up Garret, we are going to spoil these wonderful kids like any other grandparents would,” stated my mother.
“Yeah hush up,” my dad joked.
“Yeah Garret, shhh” followed Lincoln which caused my dad to laugh even more.
“Alright fine,” I said and went to the kitchen to grab a glass of water.
My parents seemed to have everything under control, and my dad spoke to the boys, “we are going to need some help getting them from the car though.”
“I’ll help,” echoed all four of them.
“Onward to the car,” my dad said as he led the boys. It was like watching a line of soldiers follow my dad to the car, it was quite comical.
My mother stayed back and joined Rita and me in the kitchen.
“Hi Rita, how are you?” Asked my mom.
“I am doing wonderful, thank you for asking.” She returned and gave my mother a hug.
“I can’t wait to hear about your trip home,” replied my mom.
“Oh it was splendid, I’ll give you more details later. Could I get you something to drink?”
“Oh no thank you, Rita.”
“So mom,” I said and gave her another hug. “Thank you for coming up and showing your support.”
“That’s what families are for honey,”
“Well thank you.”
“Your welcome honey. And Garret, they are so adorable and cute. I mean they could be child models with their looks, especially Ryker. And when did you learn to match clothes like that?”
I laughed, “I just started laying out clothes for them, but I mean they are easy to dress, they look good in about anything.”
“Well maybe you could dress yourself a bit better,” joked my mom.
“Hah funny,” I said. “So what did you get the boys?”
“It was your father’s idea, so be mad at him.”
“Oh boy,” I thought and took a sip of my water.
“We got them a puppy!”
“What?” I spat out my water.
“Oh I’m hilarious,” laughing at her own joke. “No we didn’t get them a puppy, but we should have. The look on your face was priceless. But your father went to Bestbuy a few days ago and grabbed each of the boys a Nintendo 3DS.”
“Whoa, you guys didn’t have to do that,” I spoke.
“Garret, we spoil all the grandkids. If you want them to be treated like the other grandchildren, then this is part of it.”
“I know, I know. However I just bought them a few new game systems,” I returned.
“Now look who is spoiling them.”
“Well they deserved it,” I said.
“Exactly! They also deserve to be spoiled by their grandparents who have more money then they know what to do with.”
We were interrupted by 4 boys dashing into the kitchen.
“Garret Garret!!” numerous voices called.
“Guess what we got,” stated Lincoln.
“Hmm, I can’t think of anything,” I said playing dumb.
“Nintendo 3DS, we all got one!”
“Whoa, that’s awesome,” I said. “Be sure to thank them.”
“Ohh they did,” injected my dad, walking back into the kitchen. “I was nearly tackled with hugs from all of them. You should consider signing them up for football.”
“Thanks grandma,” stated Ryker.
“Yeah thank you,” Jacob spoke.
“Thanks,” Lincoln and Clayton said as all the boys gave my mom a hug.
“Alright boys, before you go up to your rooms and charge your devices, go grab grandma and grandpa’s luggage out of the car,” I commanded.
All the boys rushed back to the car and took the luggage upstairs. It gave my parents and me some time to catch up. Rita poured us each a glass of ice tea, and we went to the family room to chat.
“So what time do we have to be at the funeral home?” Inquired my Dad.
“Well, the viewing does not start until 6. However, we are going there around 5:30 for a private viewing before opening up to the public. I don’t expect many people to show however Kelly said she would stop by. The funeral home is about an hour away, so we have around 2 hours to get ready.”
“Alright, so anything we should know before heading into this?” asked my Dad.
“Umm, yeah so Jacob. As Mom and you know didn’t have a great relationship with his father. It is a sensitive subject, he hasn’t opened up to me much, besides obviously saying something about the abuse. He is a reserved kid, but once you get to know him, he is a sweetheart. Ryker and Clayton do not have much of a story, or at least I hope not. Then Lincoln, well he is in rough shape, he is a having tons of PTSD flashbacks and dreams so just be on the lookout for that at the viewing,” I said.
“He has PTSD?”
“Well not confirmed yet, but I can’t think of anything else. Just keep an eye open for it, normally he just freezes and doesn’t move, but most recent episodes have had him shaking of fear. If you see it, just come get me.”
“We will honey,” spoke my Mother.
“Thanks, guys,” I remarked. “These boys are so special to me, and I am glad you guys are here.”
“Well son, we can tell they are important to you. We haven’t seen you this invested in something since selling your business,” informed my Dad. “I am just happy we can support you, and I am looking forward to having the chance to know them more.”
“You’ll love them, I promise!” I said, “so how’s Pittsburgh been, have you guys seen Lucas much?”
“Pittsburgh has been great! Although we haven’t seen Lucas for a while, since Christmas he has been so busy with work, he can barely come home, but we did watch LJ, Ashton, and Jaxon a few days ago. Katherine dropped them off, as she had to attend a ball for Lucas’s work,” my mother said. “Poor Lucas was supposed to drop them off but got caught up at work, and Katherine didn’t look too happy.”
“How are the kids doing?” I asked.
“They are fine, LJ is so excited to come up here to see and meet his new cousins. Every minute he was asking us questions,” chuckled my dad.
“Oh boy,” I laughed. LJ is my one of my godsons, the other being Kelly’s youngest, Christian. My godsons and I have this special relationship where we can always joke around and just have fun with each other. We are very open with one another, and I love them like they are my own. “LJ is going to be bouncing off the walls.”
Lincoln walked into the family room and occupied a position on my lap. He rested his head against the right side of my chest and spoke.
“Who’s LJ again?”
“He is my nephew, but LJ is in 5th grade just like you, and he is really excited to meet you and your brothers,” I stated.
“Yup,” injected my father. “He is looking forward to having a cousin the same age as him.”
“Oh cool, I’ve never had a cousin,” Lincoln informed us.
“Well you’ll have tons to meet soon,” I said.
“Yess I’m excited,” spoke Lincoln.
“So what should we know about our newest grandson?” Asked my mom.
Lincoln tensed up and tried to nuzzle his body into mine but shyly spoke, “umm I don’t know.”
I thought, “way to go, mom, you guys were doing good, but the question seemed to spook him.”
Luckily my mother recovered, “you don’t have a favorite hobby, or favorite color, or a favorite movie, or sport, or favorite school subject?”
“Oh,” Lincoln said and relaxed a bit. “Umm, I like to read I guess. My favorite color is green, but I don’t really like sports that much, and my favorite school subject is umm math.”
“No favorite movie?” inquired my father.
“umm that movie we watched with the blue people,” Lincoln said looking up at me.
“Avatar? You didn’t even finish that movie yet,” I said poking him in the side causing him to laugh.
“I still liked it,” Lincoln returned. “What is your favorite things?”
“Hmm let me think,” spoke my mom. “I like to read as well, so maybe we can read a book together while I am here. My favorite color is purple, and my favorite school subject was history. I like to watch football with Gordon as well.”
“Well, I like football and Hockey,” spoke my dad. “Favorite color is Red, and my favorite movie would be Shrek. That movie cracks me up.”
We went on to chat for a few minutes, but I decided we should start getting ready. Getting four boys bathed and dressed in suits would not be an easy task. My parents went to their room to relax and unpack while I started to help the boys.
Ryker had a shower earlier, so he was in the clear for that, but I loaded Jacob and Clayton into the big bathtub in my room. To my surprise, Lincoln joined in with his brothers. We chatted with each other as Lincoln took over the bathing duties of his brothers. He was actually quite good and didn’t miss spots. However, he wasn’t comfortable washing Jacob’s private areas, so Jacob did that himself. I let the boys soak for a while as we were ahead of schedule. I figured I needed 20 minutes with each of the boys to get them dressed, and about 15 minutes for me. That left us with around 30 minutes of extra wiggle room and plenty of time to load the car.
It was time to get out, and one by one I was going to wrap them in a towel cocoon. Lincoln was first and ran through the towel as I didn’t have a good hold. He collided with and knocked me over with him falling on top of me. I was laughing hysterically, as were the other boys. We could have won America’s funniest home video award if we had a camera recording us. Lincoln stood up, which allowed me to wrap the towel around him. Needless to say, he didn’t win the quickest award. Luckily Jacob and Clayton’s attempt went much better, and I had them wrapped in towels. I sent each of them to their rooms and told them to just put underwear on.
I walked into Ryker’s room first, and said, “Alright bud, you drew the short straw, so you are getting dressed first.”
Ryker walked over to me, and I kneeled down and pulled off his khaki pants, and he took off his shirt. I stood up and threw a white undershirt on him.
“You ever wear a suit?”
“Nope,” he returned.
“Well since you like looking so good, this could be dangerous,” I chuckled.
“Because you’ll look so handsome all dressed up, you may never want to take the suit off,” I replied and kissed his forehead.
I handed him his button-down shirt, and he slipped it on his arms. I helped him button each button, and then I opened each pant leg for him to step into. I pulled his pants up and tucked his shirt in. Next was the tie, which he was fascinated with. Last but not least was the suit jacket, he put it on and went towards the mirror.
“Whoa, I look good,” stated Ryker.
All I could do was laugh. “Alright, buddy only one rule.. whenever you go to sit down for a long period of time, take the jacket off, so it doesn’t get wrinkled.”
“Okay,” was all he responded as he was too busy looking in the mirror fixing his hair. I went to Clayton’s room next and repeated the process. However, I didn’t put his suit jacket on and decided to wait until later to comb his hair. My next stop was Jacob’s room.
“Hey bud,” I said walking in. “Ready to get dressed?”
“No, I don’t want to go.”
“I don’t wanna see my Dad.”
“Listen, Jacob, I know it won’t be fun seeing your dad again. I don’t blame you for not wanting to go, but you made a commitment… you told me you were going to go to support your brothers, and I am going to hold you to that commitment.”
“But what if I cry?” Jacob asked in a concerned manner.
“If you cry? Then you cry, no one will blame you for crying, especially no one in this family. I am here for you, if you feel at any moment you want to talk when we are at the funeral home, just come get me.”
“Okay,” Jacob responded.
I went through the same dressing process with Jacob as I did with Ryker. I kissed Jacob on the forehead and proceeded to Lincoln’s room.
“Hey Linc,” I said.
“Linc?” Lincoln replied, “no one has ever called me that before.”
“I didn’t even mean to say that,” I laughed. “It just slipped out.”
“I sort of like it.”
“Well Linc, you ready to get dressed? Your suit is hanging in your closet.”
“Yeah, can you help me tie my tie, I don’t know how to do that.”
“I figured, that’s why I am here!” I stated.
Lincoln was putting on his clothes, and we were chatting the whole time.
“You nervous?” Lincoln asked.
“Umm a little, I am nervous about you boys. I just want you guys to have closure, and hopefully, we can start moving forward. I am hoping this can help with your flashbacks.”
“I hope it does.”
“We will have to wait and see. How do you feel about all of this?”
“Umm,” Lincoln thought as he was pulling his pants up. “I don’t know.”
“That’s okay bud, a lot of emotions are swirling around in your head,” I replied
“Ya,” Lincoln said. I knew he was thinking about something, but I figured it would be best to let it go.
“Can you help with the tie?”
“Of course,” I said. I did Lincoln’s tie for him, and we walked over to the mirror. He put his jacket on, and I said, “Now how did I get stuck with such good looking boys?”
“Really… you think I look good?”
“I think you look stunning Lincoln,” I said and kissed the top of his head.
“Thanks, love you, Garret.”
“Love you too, now one rule. When you sit down for long period of time, such as the car ride, be sure to remove your jacket, so you don’t wrinkle it,” I stated.
“Okay, I will” he responded.
All that was left to get showered and dressed was me. I had about 45 minutes before going to the funeral home, so I walked out of Lincoln’s room and checked on my parents real quick. They were fine and didn’t need anything, so I went into my room and got another shower.
Ever have a shower that felt amazing, you know where you don’t want to leave the warmth and step into the chilly breeze of your room? That was the shower I was having, and it was heavenly. Although I knew I had to step out and get dressed. It took me about 15 minutes to entirely get my suit on, and Lincoln walked in just as I finished my hair.
“Whoa,” he said.
“Uhhh na nothing,” Lincoln replied.
I chuckled, “didn’t think I’d look good dressed up?”
“Umm no no, just whoa. You look terrific,” Lincoln stated.
“Thanks bud,” I replied. “Lets head downstairs, are your brothers still up here?”
“No, umm they are downstairs. Rita is uhh… getting them… um drinks,” Lincoln stated without taking his eyes off me.
“Alright, go grab your suit jacket. I’ll be waiting downstairs,” I started trying to gain Lincoln’s attention.
“Listen to my words,” I said slowly and sarcastically. “Go grab your suit jacket! I’ll be waiting downstairs.”
Lincoln was off to his room, and I went downstairs to make sure everyone was ready to go. Walking into the kitchen, I saw the three boys sitting at the table talking with Rita. I went to the fridge and grabbed a bottle of water and saw Lincoln come down and join his brothers. Not long after that, did my parents come down the steps, “You guys all look so handsome,” spoke my mother. “You too Garret.”
“Thanks,” we all spoke in unison.
“Alright Rita, you sure you don’t want a ride?” I asked
“Thank you for the offer, but I have to go home first. Plus I need to change anyway,” responded Rita.
“Hey son,” spoke my father. “We are driving separate as well, we are stopping by Kelly’s to pick some stuff up for the family party on Saturday.”
“Okay?” I spoke because I didn’t know Kelly was preparing something.
“Alright boys hop in the Benz, I’ll be out in a minute,” I commanded. Off they went one by one out the door and into the vehicle.
I thanked Rita and went out to the car. We were on our way at 4:25, and would take us an hour to get there. The car ride there was mostly silent, I could tell the boys were thinking about their parents, as this was the first time seeing them again. I was curious, curious to know what the setting was, interested to see how the boys reacted, and curious to know if this would help or worsen Lincoln’s flashbacks.
We arrived at the funeral home and were greeted by the funeral directors. We waited behind the double doors, and the director asked us if we were ready. Before giving an answer I looked at the boys, no one objected and we proceeded in with Lincoln and Jacob on my sides holding my hand, while Clayton walked next to Lincoln and Ryker was next to Jacob. My parents were standing behind us, letting the boys and myself go in first.
We stepped in together and saw the two caskets lined along the back wall surrounded by flowers. There were so many flower arrangements that they filled the room to the left and right of the caskets. Everything looked very nice and thought out. We were walking up to the caskets, and I felt Jacob grip my hand tightly, and he stopped walking forward. He looked me in my eyes, and I saw fear. He was terrified to see his dad again, luckily my father noticed and came over and took Jacob by the hand and went to the corner to try and ease Jacob’s mind. The three other boys and I went up to the caskets, and we looked on at their parents.
The funeral home did a fantastic job with the bodies and mixed with the flower arrangements, everything looked beautiful.
However, all the emotions started, Clayton began crying and was soon followed by Ryker. Lincoln was remaining calm, but his grip on my hand was strengthening. I let the boys embrace their emotions, as it wasn’t easy. This was one of the last times they would be seeing their parents faces. We stood there for a few moments, and I decided to let the boys be by themselves to think. I was going to go check on Jacob but saw my father and him still in the corner. I went to go view the large flower arrangements, and the first I saw was from Kelly and Tom. It was a very thoughtful gift, the next one was from my parents. I went on to the following arrangement and saw it was from the grandmother who lived in North Dakota. I moved on to look at the next two and saw one was from Lucas and Katherine while the other was from Calvin and Charlotte. All the arrangements were so thoughtful that it almost brought a tear to my eye.
I was confused about all the smaller arrangements, and why there were so many, I couldn’t believe that this many people sent in flowers. I went to one and read the tag, “Sorry for your loss, can’t wait to meet you — your cousin LJ.” I walked to the next one which read, “We stand with all of you, and are deeply sorry for your losses, but want to welcome you to the family — love your cousin Ashley.”
My emotions got the best of me as I had to wipe a tear away from my eye, every single one of my nephews and nieces had a card and smaller flower assortment with a personalized message for the boys. My mom came over as she saw me wiping my eyes and gave me a hug and spoke, “this was their idea, each of the kids wanted to show support for you and the boys.”
“I, I am just at a loss for words, that is so amazingly thoughtful,” I said.
“It is pretty special,” stated my mom.
“Your welcome honey,” my mother said and hugged me again. “Be strong, these boys need you right now.”
I had to clear my eyes and go back to help the boys, I walked back to the casket where the other three were standing and guided Clayton and Ryker to the private room as they were a train wreck. I wanted them to cool off before people came to show their respects.
I walked back out to go to Jacob, I told my father to go and keep the other two company.
“Hey bud, you want to go up and see them. I think Lincoln could use some support right now,” I said.
“Umm not really, but I’ll go if you think Lincoln needs help.”
“I am so proud of you,” I said and I held his hand as we walked up to the caskets.
I started to hear some sniffles comes from Jacob as we reached Lincoln. Lincoln took hold of his brother’s hand and walked with us to the caskets.
“I don’t wanna see dad, just mom,” he spoke.
“Okay buddy,” I replied and went to her casket. We stood in silence for a few minutes, and Jacob was fighting back the tears the whole time. I saw Jacob glance at his father, and that seemed to push him over the edge, as he stepped away and went to the private room leaving Lincoln and me in the viewing area.
We went over to his dad’s casket, and Lincoln turned to me and said, “You know? The last thing I ever heard from him…..” Lincoln started to tear up.
“He said I am a faggot, to kill me because it will save him the embarrassment of having a queer son, and I was a worthless piece of crap…..
“wh… why didn’t he love me, Garret?”
I didn’t have an answer, so I just wrapped him in a hug.
“I hate him,” Lincoln yelled. “I HATE HIM.”
I picked him up, and we went to the private room to join the others, I figured it was best to get him away from the casket.
I started to think this might have been a mistake and I should have had them cremated, but realized this was another step in the recovery process and an important one. To my understanding, it gave the boys closure, but for Jacob and Lincoln, it was much more than that. It showed them that they wouldn’t live through the torment they use to live in ever again.
Everyone collected their thoughts, and we went out to the viewing area for guest to arrive. Rita was the first one, and the boys were delighted to see her. They wrapped Rita in a hug and thanked her for coming. Next was Laura the CPS worker, I was shocked to see her support but was thankful for it, as were the boys. Kelly arrived a short while after and few other people that I did not know, came to give their respects.
We had about another 45 minutes to go, and my brother Calvin showed up. I was surprised that he made the drive over here, it was about 2 hours from his house. My brother Calvin was a big guy, about 6’4 and weighed around 240 pounds but had similar characteristics to me. He walked in through the door and did not look too happy.
“You know I still exist, why didn’t you tell me about the funeral? I had to find out through Kelly and then were we able to send arrangements as well as the kids. I mean come on brother, we are here to support you, and your foster children,” stated Calvin.
“I know, I know, I am sorry man. You have to believe me when I say it slipped my mind, but I am so thankful for the support and the support of Charlotte and the kids. It really means so much to me, and I’m sorry,” I replied, I can’t believe I didn’t tell my own brother about the funeral, I told Lucas and Kelly, but must have forgotten to mention it to Calvin.
“Don’t worry about it bro, just give me a hug, and we will call it even,” he replied.
“Thank you for coming Calvin,” I said.
“It is what family is for, love you, little brother. I am here for you always, and Charlotte sends her condolences and wishes she could have come, but she had to watch the kids.”
“I completely understand, speaking of kids I want you to meet the boys,” I stated. I called them over and introduced my brother.
“Hey boys, this is my oldest brother Calvin. Calvin meet Lincoln, Ryker, Jacob, and finally Clayton.”
Without missing a beat, my brother spoke, “hey guys, you can call me Uncle Calvin or Uncle C. Whichever one you all like more, but I am so happy to meet all of you, and I can’t wait to know you more. I just wish it was under better circumstances, you all are in my families and my thoughts and prayers. I am sorry for your loss, and I know it can’t be easy. You have my support as well as everyone’s in our family.” It was a lovely greeting, I just wished it was under better circumstances as well.
“Thanks,” they returned.
“Thank you, Calvin,” I stated. The rest of the funeral viewing flew by, and everyone left beside Rita and my parents. The boys were looking at the flowers and started to realize that my nephews and nieces had customized cards. They were engrossed in reading them all. It allowed me the opportunity to go get the SUV and pull it around front.
It was 8 o’clock, and we were on the road to home. The car ride was filled with chatter about all the notes and flowers sent for support. We stopped for food at a McDonald’s and went home. We arrived around 9:30 and I told them to hang up their clothes, figuring Clayton would need help I went to his room and took off his clothes. It was a long day, and he was exhausted, so I put him to bed.
I went to Jacob’s room and hung his clothes up, as he was in the bathroom, so I didn’t know if he was going to bed or not.
My next stop was Ryker’s room where he had hung his clothes and was already laying in bed. I went over and kissed his forehead good night, and walked into Lincoln’s bedroom.
Lincoln just stripped down to nothing and was about to jump into his bed. I walked over and kissed his forehead goodnight, “Lincoln, I just want you to know. If you are gay or not, it doesn’t matter to me. I will support you no matter what. You are a fantastic person, and I will ALWAYS love and be here for you. What your father said was hurtful, and doesn’t represent you at all. You will never be an embarrassment, and I cannot fathom why he said those words. Don’t allow his comments to hold you back from being the kid you like to be. Gay or not, I will support your decision and love you no matter what.”
“Thanks, love you,” he said as he jumped out of bed and ran into my arms.
I just held him for a minute or two and patted his back to comfort him.
“Love you too, get some sleep. We have a busy day tomorrow,” I replied and walked out of his room.
On the walk back to my room, Jacob came into the hallway carrying his pillow and his stuffed animal, Riley.
“Ready for the sleepover?” he asked.
I chuckled, “of course, but we don’t have to share a room until Friday night.”
“Oh,” Jacob spoke lowering his head. He began to turn around slowly and go back to his room.
“Hey,” I said. “Where you going?”
“Why? I still want to have a sleepover with you tonight!”
“Really?” he said excitedly.
“Absolutely, let’s go!” I insisted and went to my room. I told Jacob to hop into my bed, and I’ll be out in a minute or two because I had to get changed.
I hung up my suit and sent a text to my parents, “be quiet when you come in, the boys are all sleeping.”
I jumped into bed and saw Jacob picking at his scar.
“Hey bud, let me see that again,” I said because last time I saw it up close, it didn’t look to be healing correctly.
“Okay,” he replied and then turned toward me opening his legs. Since Jacob liked to sleep in big baggy shirts and nothing else, it was easy to get a good look.
The scar seemed to be way better then it was the last time I looked at it. The redness seemed to subside, and hopefully, it would become less noticeable over time.
“Looks good,” I said and laid down on my side to face Jacob. Jacob turned his side to face me, and I spoke, “I am so proud of you today, you stuck to your word and were there for your brothers, that is awesome buddy,”
“Thanks,” he replied petting Riley the stuffed animal.
“How does Riley like her new house?”
“She likes it a lot,” Jacob replied happily. “She thinks is way better.”
I chuckled, “well that is good, I’m glad she likes it here.” I wrapped my arm around Jacob and pulled him in for a hug, he returned my hug and then flipped to his other side to snuggle up with me. He rested his head on my arm, and his butt was against my stomach. This was the closest I ever felt with Jacob, and I finally felt he was starting to actually trust me. I kissed the back of his head and said, “Goodnight bud, get some rest.”
He faded into a deep sleep shortly after and about 30 minutes later I heard my parents return home. My father turned on the downstairs TV, and I snuck out to go chat with him for a few minutes before returning to my sleeping angel.
“Hey son,” spoke my father.
“Hey,” I returned. “How was Kelly’s?”
“They were good, all the kids were interested to know about the boys and wondered what they were like.”
“Yeah, I bet. The flower and cards were something special, the boys talked about it the whole way home.”
“Well son,” spoke my dad. “I know Kelly’s and Lucas’s kids are thrilled to meet them, something like this happens very rarely.”
“Yeah, I know. Do you want a drink?”
“What ya got?” He returned.
“Johnnie Walker, umm Red/white wine,” I responded.
“Johnnie Walker please.”
“Alright,” I said and went to the kitchen and poured two half glasses.
I returned and sat down with my dad, “here you go.”
“Thanks. So I got to ask, what are your intentions with these boys.”
“What do you mean?” I said and took a sip of my drink
“Well, do you plan to adopt them or keep them as foster children? You are introducing them to the family, buying them presents, and having them call us grandma and grandpa.”
“Umm… to be honest, I haven’t thought of it yet,”
“Garret,” he said disappointedly. “What do you mean you haven’t thought of it?”
“I mean I have, but I am just taking it day by day.”
“Garret…. that is not the way to go about it.”
“There has been a lot going on, I’m just taking things slow, and I will think about that in the future.”
“Son, you’re going through a lot, trust me I know. But this isn’t something to put off, you need to talk with the kids and start the process of adoption if that’s what you want to do.”
“Can’t we just make it through this weekend?”
“Listen, I am not saying head down and apply for adoption tomorrow, but you need to start the process. I mean you are introducing these boys into a life that some would kill for. It will only cause more emotional devastation if they were taken away from you, or what if something happens to you and these boys are under the foster care system… they go straight back into the possession of the state, hell the state still has possession of them now. They could take them away from you at any minute if they found a reason to.”
“I know Dad, but it’s only been about 2 weeks, and I didn’t have them for like 3 or 4 days of those two weeks,” I returned.
“I just said I don’t expect you to go down tomorrow and apply but have you even asked the boys what they want to do? Or have you even looked into how long the process is, and what is required to adopt the boys?” My Father spoke, “now get through this weekend, but I would start looking into the idea of it sooner than later son. The adoption process is long and grueling, they don’t just hand you the kids, it takes a while. However, since they are in your protection with foster care, I don’t know if the process is shortened or not.”
“You’re speaking the truth, and you’re right. I should start looking into the process, but I’m not sure if I want to adopt them.”
“What are you talking about Garret? You’re starting to piss me off.”
“That came out wrong,” I said trying to retract my last sentence.
“Yeah? What did you mean to say because that didn’t sound good at all.”
“I don’t know, I love those kids, and I will do anything for them. I… I guess I am just scared,” I said in a dejected tone.
My father took a drink, pondering how he should respond, “I don’t blame you, this is something that you never have dealt with before. Hell, no one in our family has dealt with this, but son I don’t know what there is to be scared of.”
“Screwing up,” I replied.
“Screwing what up?”
“Everything,” I said and took a drink. “The boys are excellent children, I am just afraid that I will make a mistake somewhere down the line.”
“Son,” my dad spoke in a serious tone again. “Everyone makes mistakes, you should know out of all people. When it comes to raising children you better damn well think people make mistakes. However, one single mistake will not influence the turnout of the kids. It’s multiple and continuous mistakes that have a negative impact. It’s honestly a miracle that these boys are so good because obviously, their parents made those continuous and horrible mistakes with the stories you told me.”
He took another sip of his drink, and I thought about what he just told me.
“Garret,” my father said. “I know you want to adopt them. However, I don’t know if you know you want to adopt them yet. I do know that you wouldn’t be going through all of this, not to adopt. I just want to state that, we will support you and the boys. We couldn’t be happier for you, and we stand by your decision.”
“Thanks dad,” I replied. We sat and watched TV for a little, and I told my dad goodnight. I went upstairs to my room and crawled into bed.
Jacob barely woke up but cuddled with his head resting on my upper arm, and I soon fell asleep after laying down.