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 Chapter 22: An Epitomized Christmas

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Kell
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PostSubject: Chapter 22: An Epitomized Christmas   Sun Dec 26, 2010 9:30 am

"Ohhh you boys are growing into such handsome young men!" my grandma squealed as we were taking our coats off. Before I could get a word in, she was drowning my brother & me in those grandma kisses everybody knows about. I hugged her back & kissed her cheek.

"Hi grandma," we said.

With Christmas coming up soon, my parents decided to have us spend part of the vacation visiting with my dad's parents' house since we hadn't seen them in a while. Since coming out to my folks, the whole "gay thing" had gone...quiet. It was just unspoken about at home & as always, the only person I talked to about it was Chris, seeing as he was my biggest fan. While I knew they were trying, I could still sense a mild level of discomfort in the air, usually with my dad. He loved me no matter what & he admitted that even though he wasn't all that comfortable with me being attracted to men, he was happy that at least it was Travis who held my heart. And I didn't blame him.

Travis was...the best. How many guys do you know are just one of those guys who EVERYBODY likes and yet, chooses YOU over everyone else? It's a great feeling if you've never felt it. It's like secretly rolling around in the idea that you beat everybody, you have something they'll never have. They'll never have the prized honor of having Travis Dole as their boyfriend. Growing up, I was always the one taking care of Chris, so it felt nice having myself taken care of by someone, & that's just what Travis did. In his arms, I always felt safe & when his arms wrapped around & under my arms from behind, I was always on cloud 9.

My mom & dad said their hellos to my grandma just as my grandpa came around the corner.

"Grandpa!" my brother shouted as he ran up to our grandpa.

"Off!" grandpa cried as my younger brother almost mauled him. "Hey boys!"

"Hi grandpa!" I said as I pried Chris off him so I could get a hug in.

"How you guys doing? My god, last time I saw you guys, you were this tall," he said, putting his hand down near his waist.

"Grandpa, it's only been like two months," I smiled.

He laughed.

"Yeah? Well you were still short back then too ya know," he shot back as he ruffled my hair. I couldn't help but smile at his comeback.

"I heard you got a new car," Chris said to him.

"I did. Maybe you boys can tell me what kind of car it is. After 50 years of hard work & all that money I've saved up...boy, it's tough to even know what I just bought," he joked.

"Can we see it?" Chris said, his eyes pleading to see what new toy our grandpa got.

"Sure, let's go see," he said.

I shook my head.

"Maybe in a bit, I wanna say hi to grandma first for a bit," I said.

He shrugged.

"Fine. But I'm not pulling you out of that shark tank. She'll smother you," he nudged me in the arm & walked off with my brother.

My dad's parents' were awesome. Grandma was fat with long gray hair always pulled into a ponytail & wore a lot of flowy blouse shirts. They kind of reminded me of the cape-like shirts my drama teacher wore. She had on a pair of thick framed rectangular glasses & she was ALWAYS cooking. When Chris & I were younger, she would constantly sneak us cookies under the table, or whenever we generally weren't supposed to have any. She was such the stereotypical cooking grandmother with a heartfelt, bubbly personality.

Grandpa on the other hand was anything but stereotypical. He was in great shape after years of exercise & staying on top of his health by always being active & on the move. Every time we saw him, he'd take us hiking, biking, swimming, jogging & always made time for a game of baseball or soccer with him, me, Chris, dad and a couple of guys in the their 20s down the road. Nearby, there was a wide open area full of dirt mounds where he took his motor bike to every now & then & rode around like a maniac. Grandpa could never sit still & I had plenty of memories of sitting in his lap or in his arms when he'd have casts & splints on. In addition to him being constantly active, he was also incredibly easy to talk to & if you needed him, he could easily take a break from his games to be an open ear.

I went back into the kitchen where my parents were talking to my grandma. When they were done, she came over to me & wrapped her big arms around me again. I hugged her back.

"Oh honey it's so good to see you again. You've grown up so much."

"Well I can't stay a baby forever," I smiled as she kissed me on the cheek.

"You should."

I smiled as she started walking over to the refrigerator.

"Guess what I made," she said with a grin. I always knew what she made for me, seeing as meat pie with creamy mashed potatoes was my favorite meal every time I visited. She threw it in the microwave & in no time, she was handing me my meal. The instant she handed me utensils, I started digging in.

"So how's school?" she said as she went to the sink & started rinsing dishes.

"It's all right. Other than my math class, I think I'm doing pretty good."

"What's going on with math?"

"Nothing, it's just stupid," I chuckled.

"Well make sure you don't fail. That's all that counts."

I smiled.

"How are you & grandpa?"

"Oh you know. I still cook for him when he gets back from nearly killing himself every day. Ya know Connor, sometimes I almost HOPE he gets himself killed JUST so I can say 'I told ya so'. He's a maniac. But he's my maniac & until he croaks I guess I'll just have to keep cookin' huh?" she laughed as she pinched my cheek & walked by me.

"So how are you and...?" she said.

I cocked my head.

"Me and who?" I asked.

"I dunno...maybe a special girl?" she said, her eyebrows poking up at the sky.

I gave a nervous laugh.

I got an extra shot of time as Chris & grandpa came back to the kitchen. Chris had a hugely happy smile on his face.

"GRANDPA GOT A 2011 MKZ!! HOW AWESOME IS THAT?! IT'S LIKE, A BRAND NEW CAR!" he shouted excitedly at us. Chris was good with cars.

"Dad, can you even afford that?" I heard my dad ask.

"Oh shut up & let me have some fun. And yes I can afford it," grandpa responded, mocking the last sentence. He & Chris headed back out of the kitchen, leaving grandma & me alone again.

"So? C'mon sweety, tell me."

"Oh, uh," I said rubbing the back of my neck, "I don't have a girlfriend."

"What?" she said incredulously. Just then, my parents walked up.

"What are you guys talkin' about?" my dad said.

"We're talking about how in the world Connor doesn't have a girlfriend," my grandma said.

My mom looked away while my dad's eyes hit the floor.

"Honey," she said to me, "you're such a sweetheart. You're gonna make one lucky girl very happy, you'll see."

"Mom..." said dad.

"What? All I'm saying is that he's gonna find a girl who's gonna be very lucky to have a boy like him. I guess I'm just surprised you haven't had a girlfriend yet, seeing with the way your father is."

It was true. Apparently my dad was quite the player back in the day. It wasn't until he was out of college that he finally found my mom.

"All right mom, that's enough," said dad. I smiled as I watched my dad, the big tough man he was, trying to talk down my grandma.

"Enough? That's what I kept saying to myself every other week you brought home a new girl..." grandma muttered as she went back to the dishes.

My dad rolled his eyes.

"All I'm saying is I'm shocked to hear how he hasn't found a girlfriend yet. He's a handsome young man, he's polite, smart, creative, talented, need I go on?" she reiterated.

"Look, grandma..." I started.

"Honey, can you give your grandma & us a few minutes alone?" my mom said. Suddenly, I felt nervous.

I looked her right in the eye, begging her not to do anything stupid.

"But-"

"Connor, there's nothing to worry about," my dad said.

I froze at.

"Go on."

My eyes were wide with anxiousness as I left the house. I sat down on the front steps & folded my arms across my knees. I stayed like that for a few minutes, hoping my parents wouldn't be insensitive enough to out me to my own grandparents. What was probably a few minutes passed like hours. I reached into my coat pocket & took out my cell phone. I dialed Travis' number, hoping he could talk some tranquility into my ears. There was no answer. Grr!

From far away, I heard a whoop & immediately knew right away that it was my brother. I stood up & started making my way through the trees to where I knew the open land was. In a matter of minutes I reached the dirt field & watched as my grandpa & brother raced each other on motorbikes up & down lumps of dirt around & around. My grandpa was dressed in a blue sports uniform with a blue helmet while Chris wore a uniform of the same kind but in red. As what appeared to be their last lap around, they slowed down as they got towards the finish line, which was constructed out of nothing more than two barrels 30 feet across from each other. My grandpa won by nanoseconds. They slowed to a stop & dismounted from their bikes, walking over to me.

"Connor, you are looking at a winner," grandpa boasted as he took his helmet off.

"Yeah that's 'cause you cheated grandpa," Chris shot.

"Pft, I don't know what you're talking about."

Chris scoffed.

"He rode up next to me, stuck his arm out & pushed me off my bike," Chris said, pointing at grandpa, "doing at least 35 miles an hour on dirt hills. My leg is sore, my arm hurts, my head aches...I could have died!"

"Is your jaw ok?" grandpa asked.

"Yeah, why?"

"Then shut up & quit being a sore loser," he shoved Chris in the shoulder. Chris stared in disbelief.

"Grandpa did you really shove him off?" I said with my arms folded.

"It was a TINY tap on the arm. Look, he's alive isn't he? Chris head back to the house so you can help grandma set the table for when we eat," he replied, scruffing Chris' hair as he walked back. Chris took off his uniform & handed it & the helmet to grandpa & although my brother didn't like losing competitions, I knew he loved it. After all, who has a grandfather like this?

Grandpa turned to me & stuck out the helmet & suit.

"You want a turn?" he asked me.

I shook my head.

"Sure?"

"Yeah."

I could feel his eyes looking at me for an awkward moment.

"Connor, you ok?"

"Yeah, I'm fine."

"You don't look it."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean you look like you got something on your mind. C'mon, spill it."

I shrugged & shook my head. "It's nothing, really."

"Liar."

"Grandpa," I laughed, "don't worry about it, it's nothing."

He put a hand on my shoulder & walked me toward a small hill of dirt for us to sit on. Once our butts were on the ground, he scooted next to me.

"What's goin' on kiddo?"

"Grandpa..."

"Don't 'grandpa' me. Whatever it is, you can tell me."

Could I? People finding out like the way my parents did was one thing. But TELLING a family member? Family was all new turf & I wasn't sure if I was ready to do it. I could feel my breath coming in short rapid breaths. I didn't WANT to tell him, but at the same time, I remember how good it felt to admit it to my mom & dad, my friends, Travis & even my brother way back when. And right now, I couldn't talk to Travis & my brother had just left. Logically, it was a pretty dumb idea to think about telling him when I was upset about something, but my heart told me to go ahead.

"Connor, you're sweating & it's below freezing out. You're scaring me," grandpa said.

"It's just that...grandma..." I started. I guess I was going for it.

"Grandma? Oh boy, what did she do this time?"

"No, no, she didn't do anything. It's just that, back inside she started asking me why I don't have a girlfriend yet."

"Yeah?"

"And I guess I uh, just... felt as though if you guys knew why...you'd think of me differently."

"What do you mean?"

"I...I, um...I'm just...ok, it's like this. Some guys are um, really into girls & others...they're, uh..." I stuttered.

"Connor, just say it, what is it?"

I gulped as I felt my throat start to close up.

"I'm..." I took a shaky breath, "I'm...gay grandpa."

Nothing.

I turned my head away from him & closed my eyes, hoping to hold back small tears that had made their way to the surface. I inhaled a hoarse breath as I waited for any kind of response from him. I almost wished I could have taken it back, but I knew better.

"Ohh...Well, I wasn't expecting that," he replied.

"Yeah..." I said, wiping a tear away.

Just then, I felt his arm drape itself over my shoulder.

"Just so you know, that doesn't make think any different of you, you got that?" he said.

My heart lit up at his words.

"Really Connor, I mean it. I couldn't care less if you're gay, straight or whatever. I just want you happy, that's all that matters to me."

"I didn't expect an old timer like you to be this liberal grandpa," I laughed as I wiped my nose with my sleeve.

"Well you know me. I can't afford to be an old man sitting in a rocker & cursing at the modern world. Besides, my brother, you're great uncle, was gay, so that kinda forced me to be ok with it a long time ago anyway."

I looked up at him. "Uncle Richard was gay?"

"Mhm."

"Dad never told me that. When did you find out?"

"Oh wow...psssh he came out to me when I was...maybe 24, 25 & he was 20."

"What happened?"

"I didn't really like it all that much for a while. But after a couple months, I came to realize it didn't change who he was. He was gay the day before & the day before that. Our parents were PISSED though."

"What did they do?"

"They refused to see anybody he was ever with, they rarely talked to him...they didn't even visit him when he adopted a baby girl."

"Whoa..."

"Mhm."

"It's too bad he died."

"Yup. That's what smoking does to you."

"What's grandma like?"

"Ehh," he said making a face, "she's not as cool as I am. She'd love you regardless, but it'd always be in the back of her mind."

"Do you guys ever fight about things like that?"

"Naw, we decided a long time ago to not talk about our personal politics. That way, it's one less thing to ever fight about. That's how we've stayed married for a million fucking years. We rarely ever fight & instead, we keep in tune with what we know we both love."

"Grandma says she hopes you'll die so that way she can be right about how insane you are to be doing all these sports," I smiled.

"Ha! Have you seen what she cooks? If I'm gonna die, it's gonna be from doing something I love, not from the felonious, but very tasty, hazards she calls my meals. I might as well just ask my doctor to inject death into me."

I laughed at his words.

"Besides, I'm pretty sure I'D be the one more happy with the dead deal. Nagging doesn't exist up there."

"Grandpa," I said with an accusing tone.

"Ohhh you know I'm just kidding. Your grandma & I love each other very much," he said, kissing me on the top of my head.

He was rubbing my back comfortingly as I leaned my head on his shoulder.

"Do your mom & dad know?" he asked me.

"Yeah."

"When did you tell them?"

I snorted. "I didn't."

"Ahh so they found out?"

"Yeah."

"How did they take it?"

"Mom's pretty cool with it I guess. Dad's uncomfortable, but he deals. He likes my boyfriend too."

"Travis, right?"

I nodded. Suddenly, I realized I had never told him about Travis.

"Wait, how did you know?"

"Chris was telling me one time about your new friend who's very nice to him. I assumed that's him."

"Oh. Well, yeah. Dad likes him, & he told me at least I made a good choice," I laughed.

"Well your father gets the less-cool part from your grandmother. This town is fairly conservative & it's where your dad grew up, so it's no surprise that he's that way."

"I guess I'm lucky. I could have had parents who hit me or kicked me out or did crazy things like that."

"That's true."

I rubbed the back of my neck.

"Chris blames himself for them finding out."

"Your brother knows?"

"Yeah. He was the first person I ever told."

"Oh. Why does he blame himself?"

"Some kids found out about me & they started picking on him & so he fought them back. Then he got in trouble & my parents had to find out from the principle the reason he was being harassed."

"Does he still think it's his fault?"

"I dunno. I talked to him about it a while ago but I don't think I'll ever really be certain."

We sat there in silence for a few minutes, just watching the living scenery all around us. It felt good, knowing that my grandpa knew now. I couldn't wait to tell Travis & Chris about it. Suddenly, I felt a twitch in my gut, telling me that I wanted more...more than just them to know. It was then that I thought of Jacob. I wanted my best friend back & it was working its way up to that point, but I had to wait a while longer before I could find someone other than my brother & boyfriend to talk to about things like coming out to my grandpa.

Grandpa stood up just then & extended his hand to me. It was then that I noticed just how cold it was.

"C'mon champ, grandma's got dinner ready by now, hopefully. Plus, it's cold out."

We started our way back towards the house.

"So what's Travis like?"

"Well, he plays sports, he's really popular & he's nice, funny & just overall a really cool guy."

"And...?" he trailed.

"And what?"

"I think there's one more thing you're leaving out you like about him," he grinned.

"Yes grandpa," I blushed, "he's attractive."

"Hahahaha, well good. Gay or straight, I want my grandson to have good taste. You should invite him over some time, I'd like to meet him."

"I don't know..."

"Oh c'mon," he said as he slapped his hand onto my shoulder, "we'll have a gay old time."

We laughed.

And that felt good.

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Chapter 22: An Epitomized Christmas
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