Liam (by Grant Bentley)


By Grant Bentley

If any nice person, nasty person, place, event, happening, thing, or sport, seems familiar, it is purely coincidental.

How do you go from trying to survive on the wintery streets of a Canadian city
to Aberystwyth University, School of Art in Wales?

I saw him almost every day on my way to work for probably three weeks. He sat in the far corner of the vestibule in front of the building where I worked, his hat laying in front of him. He looked like he was about thirteen years old, was skinnier than hell, and looked like he hadn’t had a shower or a change of clothes for at least those three weeks. The odd person walking in would drop a little change into his hat. He’d give them a smile and say ‘thanks’ each time. I dropped in a couple of toonies and a loonie every day; that’s five dollars for you non-Canadians.

If anyone leaned in or tried to talk to him he would cower back against the wall like he was almost trying to sink into it, and if they got too close, he scramble out of the vestibule and run like his life depended on it. 

After a couple of days, I couldn’t get the picture of him out of my head. I couldn’t help but wonder why, and I couldn’t stop wishing there was a way to help him. How could I talk to him? How could I get through to him? How could I help him? As I ran at least a dozen scenarios through my mind, I knew if I came anywhere near him he’d run for his life.

Then, towards the end of the week, our beautiful fall turned into winter. We went from +15C on Wednesday to -8C with a -22C windchill by Saturday. He was there Thursday shivering and again on Friday still shivering but wrapped in some filthy blanket he probably found in a dumpster somewhere. I’m sure too, I noticed a couple of tears on Friday.

Of course Saturday was a day off for most of us so I thought maybe he’d find a warm place to hide. Still, I put on some warm clothes and made the ten block walk towards work. The street was almost empty. But there he was huddled up almost into a ball. This time there were tears. This time I did stop. And this time I did get too close. But when he tried to scramble away I caught him and pulled him into me. He cried and fought to get away, but not for very long. After a minute or so he just went limp and started sobbing.

I promised him over and over that I wasn’t going to hurt him, and insisted that I just wanted to help. I tried to explain that if he stayed there he was probably going to freeze to death, and I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I let that happen.

When he finally calmed down and actually looked at me, he simply said, “I can’t go back there.”

I had no idea what he was talking about, but I promised him I’d do everything in my power to make sure that didn’t happen. I really needed him to come with me. I had no idea what that help might be, but I wasn’t going to leave him here and I was honestly going try my best.

After repeating my promise several times, he finally agreed to follow me. He didn’t exactly follow me as he could hardly walk and I had an arm around him to help support him all the way. It was almost half an hour before we made the walk back, entered my apartment building, and were getting off the elevator in front of my apartment.

Just as I was about to unlock my door, I heard a voice call out, “Liam!”

It was my neighbour Jeffery’s voice and he was running down the hall as fast as he could. The next thing I knew he was hugging the life out of, I guess, Liam. In about half a second Liam was hugging him back just as tightly. And there were tears, lots and lots of tears.

The next thing I knew John and Lorna were standing in their doorway watching the proceedings. They’d heard Jeffrey shout Liam’s name and were instantly at their door. After about five minutes, two of which involved prying Jeffrey and Liam apart, the six of us were sitting in my living room. Jeffery still had an arm around Liam, and it was pretty obvious he had no intention of letting go any time soon.

After sitting in silence for what seemed like forever, looking at Jeffrey, John finally asked, “So this is Liam?”

“Yeah,” was Jeffery’s simple response.

Since Liam still looked like he was on the verge of dying, Lorna asked him if he’d like some hot chocolate and something to eat.

“Please,” was his simple response.

At that point Lorna and I went to work making a ton of sandwiches and a pot full of hot chocolate. After a couple of minutes, John decided the boys needed some time alone, and he joined us. In our very quiet conversation I learned that Liam had stopped going to school and just seemed to disappear one day. Jeffery had been totally frantic about his missing friend, and had spent almost every minute of his free time looking for him.

It seemed to me there might be more to their relationship than just being friends. At one point John glanced at them and smiled. That he seemed to be okay with it brought a smile to my face too.  

Once we had everything ready we rejoined the boys. Between the two of them, the sandwiches and hot chocolate didn’t last long. There wasn’t a lot of talking going on as they both tended to have their mouths full. Once they seemed satisfied, Liam’s story began to present itself.

He had been in foster care most of his life. After an altercation with foster father number eight, who as Liam put it, wanted to get to know him better than any foster parent should know any foster child, he reported it to his social worker and, after some investigation, he was moved to a group home.

That proved to be a total disaster. First, two of the older boys decided he was a better option than jacking off. Second, his usual social worker had moved away to another city, and his new worker, who he figured was just putting in time until he could get his retirement cheques, obviously didn’t give a crap about the kids. In fact when Liam reported the abuse, he simply told him to stop being such a whiny little shit, and if he didn’t like it, then stop bending over. When a couple of other boys decided to join in on the fun, even though he had no idea where he was going, or what he was going to do, he ran for it. That was more than a month ago.

Of course he didn’t think going social services was an option. He figured they’d just turn him over to his worker and he’d be placed back in the same group home. Going to school didn’t seem like an option either. He figured there’d just be one more step in his being forced back into the home. Plus, since three of the boys went to the same school, he didn’t think he’d be safe at school anyway.

Of course, since Jeffery had been so frantic, John asked why Liam didn’t let him know what was going on. The answer to that was simple, maybe naïve, but simple. As much as he loved Jeffery, he was sure he’d tell them, they’d contact social services, and so on and so on, and he’d back in the group home. He said he’d rather die than go back there.

John gave his head a little rub, smiled, and said, “You nearly did.”

“Yeah, I guess,” he replied with a shy smile.

The “as much as I love Jeffery” didn’t go unnoticed, nor did Jeffery pulling him in closer and hugging him tighter during this part of his story.

A few minutes later, neither did Jeffery’s, “You know, after all he’s been through and nearly freezing to death, I think Liam needs a nice long hot bath, you know, to warm up and clean up,” or the “Since he’s a bit wobbly, he’ll probably need someone to help him out too, you know, like to wash his back and stuff.”

I tried not to laugh, John did laugh, Lorna turned a couple shades of red, and Liam simply giggled.

It was quickly decided that, yes, a nice long hot bath was in order. Lorna dashed back to their apartment to find some of Jeffery’s old clothes for him to wear, and the boys disappeared into my bathroom. And yes, boys, as in both of them. I guess Liam was going to get the help he needed to wash his back, and stuff.

Of course my curiosity got the better of me and I had to ask John why he was so accepting and relaxed about Jeffery and Liam’s apparent relationship. He explained that Jeffery had come out to them two years ago, and that during his frantic search for Liam, he had made it perfectly clear he was in love with the boy.

Then he went on to say his older brother had been gay, past tense. He said his father had gone ballistic when he came out. He’d said he’d rather have a dead son than a gay one. Two days later that’s exactly what he had. His brother had jumped from the roof of a ten story building just two blocks from their home. At the funeral, John had sworn that if he ever got married and had kids, he would love them and care for them no matter who they loved. And Jeffery loved Liam.

I guess I should mention here that Liam was not thirteen as I initially suspected. Like Jeffery, he was in fact sixteen. Jeffery did appear to be sixteen. I guess that might have been because he was a tad taller than Liam, like about eight inches or so.

During the time the boys were somewhat preoccupied, the three of us had a serious discussion. It was decided lawyers would be involved, police would be involved, careers might be in jeopardy, and there was no way Liam was ever going to have feel concerned with where, or with whom, he was living ever again. He would be living just down the hall from his favourite person on earth.

Of course I wasn’t too sure how suddenly having a sixteen year old roommate was going to work out, but at that point it didn’t matter. He would never be sitting in that vestibule in front of the my building ever again. And anyway I could run screaming down the hall to John or Lorna for help if I ever needed to.

Lorna was able to find some of Jeffery’s old clothes. Like all good aunts, she had boxes of them for the nieces or nephews. So when Jeffery finally came out of the bathroom, she had something for Liam to put on that might actually fit him. And when he did finally appear, it was like night and day. He looked amazing. And from the look on his face, I’d say he felt amazing too. I must say, the boy cleaned up real well.

After John, Lorna, and I gave them a brief summary of our conversation, there were two of the biggest grins I think I have ever seen. And there were tears too, lots of tears, but happy tears this time. I also received two of the biggest hugs I think I’ve ever received.

Two weeks later, with the help of one of my law partners and the police, and after raising more than a little hell with more than a few people, I was officially a foster parent, with the option to adopt. One social worker was on probation and was told to get his act together or he was done for, one group home leader was beyond apologetic and swore he and his staff would be more diligent in caring for their boys, and four boys were charged with sexual interference and / or rape. And yes, it was a very eye opening two weeks.

Plus, after a very interesting conversation with a very sympathetic high school principle, Liam was promised every kind of help he might need to catch up on his studies and to pass his grade eleven year. Which he did.

Of course it wasn’t all roses. There were the trials he had to deal with. When one of the boys asked the judge why they were making such a big deal out of it since Liam was just a fag and probably enjoyed it, I could actually feel him tense up. The judge appeared to tense up a bit too. There was a lot of regret, apologising, wishing they’d never got caught up in moment of trying to be cool and joining in the ‘trying to fit in’ thing with the other three. When it was all over, boy number two, who was in it from the start, got a year, the second two boys got suspended sentences, but since he was the instigator and had no regrets, other than getting caught, ‘what’s the big deal’ boy got three years. The judge also made it very clear that if he ever saw his face in court again he’d regret he’d been born.

Liam never did see the two instigators again. The two who got suspended sentences however, returned to school shortly after the trial. Both of them sought him out and made sure he knew they were sorry and hoped he would forgive their stupid need to fit in, and yeah, right, be cool. He did of course. Needless to say they didn’t become friends, but they acknowledged one another and were civil to one another whenever they met up or were together.  

And moving on, and just so you know, I never once ran screaming down the hall to John or Lorna for help. In fact I seldom needed help and I couldn’t have asked for a better roommate. Liam was a wiz with a vacuum cleaner and duster, knew how the dishwasher worked, and the washer and dryer, and could cook better than my mother. Although cooking better than my mother wasn’t that big of an accomplishment.

I guess I should mention that I saw a lot more of Jeffery than I had in the past, but I assume that goes without saying. I will say the boys did share. I think they spent almost as much time at John and Lorna’s in Jeffery’s bedroom as they did at mine in Liam’s. And not to give the wrong impression, that’s where they did their homework, which Liam had a ton of by the way, and that’s where their game consoles were. They weren’t always alone either. It wasn’t very long before we met Jackson, Fiona, Jamal, David, and Lorne. And did my grocery bill go up? Uh, yeah, a little bit.

It wasn’t long before I figured out, or was told, that David and Fiona were a couple, Jackson and Jamal were a couple, and Lorne was recently dumped but looking, and since the girlfriend thing didn’t work out so well, he figured his best bet was to find a nice sweet, caring, boyfriend.

One of the more difficult things came about the day Liam and Jeffery decided, on the spur of the moment, to go to a high school volleyball game. About ten minutes after they left, Jackson and Jamal stopped by. When we told them the boys were gone, they stood there for a few seconds, and Jamal sort of sheepishly asked if maybe they could talk to me. I had no idea what they might want to talk to me about, but I said sure come on in.

It seems the boys had been together for several weeks and they, well Jamal, had a question for me. It seems he and Jackson were just out to their very closest friends, which in itself, he thought was scary enough. Jackson wasn’t out to his parents and was more than a little scared to come out to them. He didn’t think they’d disown him, but he was sure his life would be hell for quite some time.  Jamal, on the other hand, didn’t think he had a hope if he came out. His family were kinda old school, as he put it, and saw sex as an act of worship that could only take place between a husband and a wife. He felt that coming out would devastate them. At first I thought maybe he was going to ask for advice and there was no way I wanted to get involved in that, especially if it went badly. I never had the nerve to come out to my religious parents, and I almost understood their religion, so I had no idea of how to help him with his.

That was not his question. Simply put, his question was, if his parents found out he was gay, couldn’t deal with living with a gay son, and kicked him out, would I be willing to give him a home, at least until he finished school. Okay, wow.

I know he was quite aware of Liam’s story, and I guess that gave him the hope that maybe, if things got bad for him, I’d be willing to help him too. Of course my first thought was, ‘how do I say no?’ My second thought was, ‘there was no way I could live with myself if I did.’ So, after several seconds of looking into his questioning eyes, I said yes, if he was homeless, I would give him a home. There were a couple of tears, a big thank you, and a quick little hug.

A few days later when the whole crew were over, Jackson slipped out of Liam’s room and thanked me again. He said it meant more to him than I could image, as he constantly lived with the fear that Jamal, with the stress he constantly felt, could and would one day give up and end it all. He said it had been like a miracle how much more relaxed Jamal had been since that day. He said that, as much as Jamal never wanted to disappoint his parents, he now felt that if it happened, he at least had hope and would still have a future.

As it happens, that situation never arose, at least not as long as they were still in high school . However, I did notice that once in a while the whole crew, sans Jackson and Jamal, would head over to Jeffery’s. Sometimes they would miraculously appear after an hour or two, give me a shy sort of smile, and make their way over there too. Sometimes I wouldn’t see them until Liam was ready to crash for the night and they had to go home. Since they were taking several AP courses the others weren’t, I of course just assumed they were studying for some big exams or something.

Then I met Griff. And yes I did go out, and not just to work. We met at a local LGBT rally held to let the newly elected leader of our province’s conservative party know what we thought of his remarks about every school should automatically out all GSA members to their parents. Something which infuriated me, and Griff too. After the meeting we decided to go for a coffee and a chat. I quite liked him and apparently he liked me, so tomorrow being Friday, it would be dinner and a movie.  

We thoroughly enjoyed each other’s company and after a few weeks I invited him over for a home cooked meal before we went out dancing, and yes I can dance. He arrived about 5:00 and we chatted as I cooked. Of course he offered to help but I insisted this was from me to him. I had mentioned Liam to him so he was quite aware I was a foster parent. In fact he was quite impressed actually.

However the look on his face was priceless when seven rather noisy kids walked into the apartment, through the kitchen, and into one of the bedrooms, that being Liam’s of course. It took Liam and Jeffery about two seconds to turn around, walk back into the kitchen, and stand there waiting for introductions. I introduced them to Griff, they did their ‘hi how are you’ greetings and not surprisingly there was instant chemistry. Liam actually winked at me as they turned and headed back to his room.

As soon as the boys disappeared, he just smiled and said, “You’ve got a couple of great kids there. But I guess you already know that.”

I just laughed and replied, “Yeah I do don’t I? Actually I think have seven great kids and I’m pretty sure you’ll be meeting all of them one on one soon enough.”

I’d no sooner said that and Jackson and Jamal came out of the bedroom. They weren’t quite as direct as Liam and Jeffery but it was quite obvious they wanted to meet Griff. I introduced them and the boys gave him their biggest smiles, said hi, and quickly disappeared. After I gave him a quick rundown of Jamal’s story, he remarked that I never ceased to amaze him.

We did have a wonderful dinner, at least he said it was, and a great night out. It had been a while since there was someone special in my life and I was feeling very hopeful that Griff was going to, in fact, be very special. We had been going out for a few weeks now and I must say I was feeling on top of the world.

Of course I got the twenty question routine as soon as Liam made his way into the kitchen the next morning. After a few minutes, and apparently giving all the right answers, I got a quick kiss on the cheek as he sat down, poured a bowl cereal, and started breakfast.

It was another couple of weeks before I got the, ‘why don’t you stay over’ from Griff. We had been to see Sam Smith in concert, had gone for a couple of drinks afterward, and it was pushing 1:00am.

I thought about it for maybe ten seconds and replied with, “I’d love to.”

Strangely, when I got home the next day I didn’t get twenty questions. I did get a couple of big grins that suggested their imaginations were at work and neither he nor Jeffery thought they needed to question me. I just returned their grins with one of my own.  

It wasn’t long before sleepovers with Griff were routine, be it at his place or mine. It also wasn’t long before the boys considered him one of the family. And yes, he’d met all my kids and was on a first name basis with all of them. Oh, and I should mention I now had eight kids. Lorne had found himself a very sweet and caring boyfriend, Casey.

Liam’s grade eleven year did finally come to an end. As he mentioned just before the summer break, it was both the worst time of his life and the best time of his life. At which point he got a little poke from Jeffery, followed by a rather lengthy kiss.

And yes it was now summer holidays. Surprisingly, or probably not, the boys had been doing some serious job hunting in the past few weeks. Jeffery would be serving the esteemed clientele of Bernie’s Diner, and Liam would be flipping burgers for Tim Hortons. It didn’t take them long to determine that working sucked. Not necessarily because of the job itself, well maybe, but mostly because, for the first time in months, they weren’t basically together every minute of the day.

After some lengthy discussion though, it was decided they would probably survive the three weeks until John, Lorna, Griff, the two of them, and I would be on our way to the UK to spend a month in Wales, Scotland, and maybe England. I’m not sure what appealed to them the most though, seeing Wales and Scotland, or sharing a room for six weeks. Either way, they couldn’t wait for those three weeks to be over.

They were very soon over, we had miraculously made it through airport security without having to get naked, and were waiting to board our flight. Several hours later, and I do mean several hours, we were working our way through customs at Gatwick airport. An hour later we were on our way to the Courtyard by Marriot Hotel. An hour after that, we were enjoying a nice late evening meal in their restaurant and would soon be retiring for the night.

Then the next morning, breakfast done, and car rented, we were headed for the M23 motorway. And yes I know, considering they drive on the left side of the road, renting a car may sound foolish, but Griff had lived his first thirty one years in Wales, and had originally learned to drive over there, so he was quite used to it. After a couple of turns onto the M25 and then onto the M4, we were on our way to Aberystwyth.

We’d be spending three weeks with Griff’s brother Dafydd, or as he was better known, Dai. He apparently taught in the university there, or Prifysgol Aberystwyth, or as it’s more affectionately known, Aber, in the School of Art. And yeah, I couldn’t pronounce it either at first. Griff said he was into Film and Television studies as well as Fine Art. That got an instant reaction from Liam, and suddenly he seemed more keen on meeting Dai than he was on seeing the old castles, historic sites, and beautiful scenery of Wales. 

That changed though as soon as he saw Skenfrith Castle in, not surprisingly, the village of Skenfrith. And that would be five and a half miles north-west of the town of Monmouth where we also got to see Monmouth Castle or what there was left of it. Seeing and walking across Monnow Bridge on the other hand was an experience.  It’s the only remaining fortified river bridge in the UK and has its gate tower standing kind of in middle the bridge. Apparently when you cross it you’re walking through the ‘gateway to Wales’.

After that initial adventure, we had very restful night at the Lindors Country House. We then spent three days making our way across Wales to Aberystwyth. And if you’re wondering, no we did not take the shortest route. We saw White castle, Grosmont Castle, Tretower, before taking the most beautiful mountain road on to Aberystwyth. I don’t think I’ve seen Liam more excited than he was when we wandered through and around those historic sites, and I wish I could show you the two hundred or so pictures he took. As he said, the scenery was gorgeous, but the castles blew his mind.

We did finally get to Aberystwyth, and oh my god, what a beautiful little coastal town. For Liam and Jeffery, I think it was love at first site. It was almost like going back in time. The original Uni and architecture were … wow. It didn’t take long to realize it was pretty much a university town either. I think half the population were university students. And as soon as Liam got to meet Dai the questions flowed. Within an hour of arriving, a visit to Aber was already in the works.

I think we walked a thousand miles those few weeks though. Never mind wandering around all the historic sites, but the boys especially, were on the go constantly, exploring Aberystwyth, the beaches, the hills, and everything around there. We never did make it to Scotland but I have to say the trip was a total success anyway. And no a month is not enough time to see a quarter of what there is to see in Wales, and we were on our way home way too soon.

Liam’s grade twelve year was much like the last half of his grade eleven year. At least a couple of my eight kids were around almost daily. While the others were off having fun at Jeffery’s, Jackson and Jamal still put in their extra hours of study in Liam’s room. Lorne made it quite clear that having a boyfriend beat the hell out of having a girlfriend. Of course he made sure he did it when Fiona wasn’t around. Griff and I got closer and closer every day. In fact saying, “I love you” became a regular part of our daily conversation. Oh yeah, and he sublet his apartment. Want to guess why?

Towards the end of the kid’s grade twelve year, I went to work on what I hoped would be the best graduation gift I could give Liam. You remember that back when I became his foster father, we signed the forms, option to adopt? Well a week before his graduation ceremonies, he ceased to be Liam Robertson, and when they called out Liam McLeod, the grin on his face as he walked onto the stage to receive his diploma couldn’t have been bigger. And yes, when he looked at me, as he stood there with his diploma in his hand, there was a tear.

There was a tear in my eye too. I had been a, for real, father for less than a month, and in another month my favourite son would be on his way to attend Film and Television studies at Aber. And yes, Liam’s favourite boyfriend would be going with him. Jeffery however, would be going into Computer Science. I really wasn’t sure what I was going to do without him, or him and Jeffery, or without having all my kids around for that matter. But I did have Griff, and I was sure he’d do his best to keep me happy.

So, once again near the end of July, we had miraculously made it through airport security, and were waiting to board our flight. This time it would be Amsterdam with a connecting flight to Cardiff. Again we were going to have an amazing month of sightseeing, wandering the hills, and relaxing on the beach. But sadly only two of us would be flying back home. The boys excitement more than made up for it at the time though.

And, yes it was rather lonely when we got back. We did have Jackson and Jamal and/or Lorne and Casey drop by for a visit once in a while, but it wasn’t the same. Then, once university classes started, we saw less and less of them. Then seldom, if at all. Kids shouldn’t be allowed to grow up and move on.

Then one quiet evening while Griff and I were cuddled up watching a movie, he mentioned he had been thinking about returning to his homeland. I almost choked. Was I going to lose him too?

Then he gave me a squeeze and said, “You know if we were married, we could move to Wales, find a nice little cozy village, you know, like Aberystwyth, and live happily ever after.”

“Excuse me?” I questioned.

“Well, Dai could get me into the university teaching English, and with your reputation, you’d have no trouble getting a position as a barrister with basically any law firm over there.”

It took me several seconds, or maybe minutes to finally organize my thoughts … well sort of.

“Okay wait, a sec,” I said, before asking, “Did you just propose to me?”

“Uh, I think I did,” he replied, “No … I mean yes … yes … will you marry me?”

“Yes, of course. There’s nothing I’d rather do, trust me,” I replied, following it up with a big hug and even bigger kiss.

And that started a two month long process that resulted us having a change of address, that being from 12255 161st,  Edmonton, Alberta to 23 Alexandra Road, Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, West Wales. Needless to say, Liam and Jeffery couldn’t have been more excited, but obviously due to the expense and missing classes, they didn’t fly home for the twenty minutes it took us to get married. There were huge hugs however when we arrived at Dai’s. Dai had done his work too. Griff would be starting as a teaching assistant at the university in just over a week, and I had three interviews lined up with different law firms in town, also within a week. And I had my favourite son back, or as Griff put it, our favourite sons.

Life did soon gain a sense of normalcy. The boys off to school every day and studying. Griff and I were off to work every day and dealing with work related stuff. Of course walking and exploring were close to the top of our list of things to do, when it wasn’t raining that is. It was winter after all. I must say though, I was quite thankful I didn’t have to shovel rain. Then it was spring and then it was summer. Did you know spring starts in February in Wales, not April? I didn’t. I thought it was great.

Then one day, Griff and I were sitting out front enjoying a beautiful sunny afternoon when we saw two young guys coming up the street, suitcases in hand. As they got closer a grin appeared on my face and my eyes began to fill with tears. I jumped up, with Griff right behind me, and ran towards them as their pace changed from a walk to a run. It was Jackson and Jamal.

After big hugs and even a kiss or two, I was speechless. Griff however managed to say, “Oh my god …. how … when?” 

Jackson replied with, “We flew, and yesterday.”

We did finally calm down. Griff still had to do most of the initial talking and questioning. I guess their trip had been in the works for almost a year. Griff and I didn’t have a clue, but Liam and Jeffery had been in on it from day one. Apparently it was to be a surprise, and that it was.

About five minutes after they got there, Liam and Jeffery casually walked out of the house, and Jeffery casually said, “Hey guys, how’s it going.”

Well that’s about as long as casual lasted. A few more hugs, a few tears, and a kiss or two and we were all sitting around chatting up a storm. There was lots of catching up to do, and so much to say. It was almost like, where do you start? Of course the boys had no trouble figuring that out, and Griff and I basically sat back as spectators and listened.

Probably the most significant thing we heard, well one of the most significant, was that they were both out, at home and everywhere. Jackson’s parents weren’t thrilled but did eventually come around. Jamal’s parents were simply, ‘why did it take you so long to tell us ... we’re not stupid you know’ … to say he was blown away be their response would have been an understatement. Of course classes, grades, the rest of my kids and what they were up to, and when are we going to see some castles came up. And as Griff had put it, it was definitely an ‘oh my god’ moment … or two.

I think by the end of the summer the boys had covered almost every square inch of Wales, and half of southwestern England. Why southwestern England? Well Jamal had an uncle, aunt, and two cousins who lived in Exeter.

Griff and I didn’t get to go with them unfortunately, well once. Why? Well, except for two weeks, I had to work and Griff, being the sweetheart that he is, decided he’d stay home and keep me company.

Oh, and one other thing I think I should mention. The boys did take a couple of weeks off from exploring. Since Jackson and Jamal were here, and they decided John and Lorna needed a reason to visit, they decided to get married. And yes I know they were only nineteen, but they had been a couple and totally in love since they were fourteen. It was a small ceremony which of course had to be followed by a honeymoon exploring south Wales. And since I had time off, this was the once I mentioned, and all six us of did some serious walking around the likes of Pembroke Castle, Carew Castle and Tidal Mill, Kidwelly Castle, Weobley Castle, Manorbier Castle, Dinefwr Castle, Carreg Cennan Castle, and finally Cilgerran Castle. When we got back, I felt like I needed another week off to recover from my week off, and I couldn’t help but think, ‘damn these people built a lot of castles.’

Of course the summer had to come to an end, and yes there were tears when Jackson and Jamel had to head home, but they promised they’d be back. Apparently there were two square metres of the Welsh countryside and maybe one castle they hadn’t explored yet.

John and Lorna stayed with us until the middle of September, and yes there were tears when they left too. Of course the boys were about to start their studies, so the tears couldn’t last long.

And yes, normalcy took over once again. I’m not particularly sure I like normalcy, but I guess it’s okay once in a while. I did enjoy my job, Griff was loving teaching, and the boys were loving uni, so I guess it wasn’t that bad. We did have a bit of excitement when Liam and Jeffery received their UK passports. There was a bit of a celebration, dinner out and a glass or two of champagne each. You see, since I married Griff, a Welshman, Liam was my son, and Liam had married Jeffery, we all qualified for UK citizenship.

Of course the boys quite regularly had friends over. And only two of them regularly pestered Griff for help with their English assignments. We met Evan, Cai, Martin, Gavin, Glenda and Sara. The only couple in the group was Gavin and Cai. And sadly, being upstanding, mature, university students, no one was charging through the kitchen to Liam and Jeffery’s room, throwing themselves on the floor and fighting over who got the game controls first.

Okay, I lied. Yes they did and I loved them for it.

It wasn’t often, but once in a while, I’d be in a contemplative mood and think back to my life when I was on my own. Then I’d think about how great it was to have Griff in my life, and about how life changing finding Liam had been. Not just for him, but for me too. And I’d have to smile, as I’d get a tingly feeling, and realize I wouldn’t have it any other way. I mean seriously, could life get any better than this?

Thanks to Colin for editing, prepping, and posting this story for me.

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