“If well thou hast begun, go on; it is the end that crown us, not the fight.”
High school for the boys, although hectic at times for Stony and me, was deliciously fun watching Jeremy and Cage grow and develop into two fine academically and otherwise talented young men. Observation of their growing love for each other could only but contribute to the deepening, intense, and satisfying love Stony and I felt for each other. As the days turned into weeks and weeks transformed into months and then to years, we came to realize more and more one of us without the other was an anomaly, a thing out of place; an incompletion of the circle of life!
Grandpa Gifford, on his return the first year Jeremy came to live on the Island, called me and asked that I ferry him to the Island when both boys were in residence. As I explained to him, now the weather was decent, they were inseparable and they’d be home on the Island the next weekend. On Saturday I brought him over to the Island and while the boys were busy working in the shop, he sat with Stony and me sipping a brew while I explained the situation as I understood it. He listened patiently, nodding once in a while, asking a question when needed to clarify a point for his understanding and when I finished, he commented, “That’s about what I got from Peter, only his descriptions were more vivid and less complimentary than yours.”
He stood, announced he was going to the shop to visit with his great-grandson and his boyfriend, and excused himself. The three of them returned to the house just before dinner, having spent a couple of hours together, and said nothing concerning the conversation, only I noticed throughout the meal, Jeremy would grin at Cage every now and again and both would look at Grandpa Gifford. For his part, he’d smile back at them and wink, as if they shared a secret.
Whatever he said to them must’ve had a profound effect because since then they were more relaxed, assured, and positive in their outlook on life. I later heard he had a rather tense and heated discussion with both Aaron (his grandson) and Uncle Rod (his son). I’d loved to have been a mouse in the corner when that happened! In his eighties, Grandpa Gifford was feisty, never fearing a good fight when he felt the cause was just; a force to be reckoned with and a formidable foe. By the same token, he was understanding, loving, and tolerant of diversity and many other things, but he could not, would not tolerate a bully!
The year the boys were seniors in high school, the year they both attained the age of eighteen and thus the age of majority in our state, the state legislature legalized same sex marriage; not just domestic partnerships, but honest-to-God marriage, extending civil rights, that basic principle of freedom and justice guaranteed by our Constitution, amendments, and laws to all people, regardless! Stony and I decided we’d marry and when Jeremy and Cage announced their interests in doing the same, we agreed on a June wedding to be celebrated together before a local judge we’d befriended.
High school graduation for the boys and us watching, although exciting and wonderful and a step forward in their future educational accomplishments, paled in comparison to the euphoria the four of us felt the day we exchanged our wedding vows. When Stony and I exchanged our commitments to each other, pledging our hearts, souls, and treasures of love, companionship, burdens, disappointments, triumphs, body and soul for eternity, my heart was overwhelmed with emotion and thanksgiving. Jeremy and Cage repeated almost the identical vows following our ceremony, thus ensuring the success of the love they discovered and we all shared on Gifford’s Island. Stony became Earl Henry Jackson-Gifford and Cage became Kenneth James Anderson-Gifford as a result of the ceremony, by their own choice! As Cage so deftly put it, “If I’m going to live on Gifford’s Island, then I should be a Gifford;” end of discussion, thank you very much!
I just couldn’t resist throwing a party to celebrate the occasion and party we did. We invited family and friends to celebrate our weddings with us with food, beverage, and a dance. Mom and Jim, along with the entire Anderson family were in attendance, along with friends Stony and I made and a sizeable number of classmates of both Jeremy and Cage.
Noticeably absent was Jeremy’s family with one exception, his brother Peter who accompanied Grandpa Gifford. Grandpa was never one to miss a good party if he was invited to one and this was one he certainly wasn’t going to pass up! It saddened me, feeling Jeremy’s loss and separation, but it changed when he came to me and said, “J.T., the disc jockey is going to play a nice waltz for the wedding couples. After a minute or so, we want to trade partners so I dance with you, and then with Stony since you are my real family, the fathers I now have and love dearly.”
And so we did; I danced with Jeremy, Cage, and then Stony again. My lame leg gave me fits, but I’d be damned if I’d let it spoil the joy of the moment. I was really surprised, when Peter stepped forward, tapped Cage on the shoulder and danced with Jeremy. My mouth dropped wide open in astonishment when, spotting Cage standing there smiling at the two brothers, Grandpa Gifford stepped forward and danced with him. When the couples switched, Stony and I could see the light of compassion and justice shine brightly on the two newlyweds.
College was as a real hoot for the boys! We enjoyed traveling to the University, spending the weekend with them at their apartment, attending sporting and fine arts events, or just going out to dinner. During the summer and breaks at the University, they lived at home on the Island, working on their art work and crafts for the summer markets or just enjoying all of the benefits and pleasures of being home on the Island. Financially, Island Woodcrafters continued to be successful, providing sufficient revenue for college expenses and for us to continue upgrading utilities and modernizing the cabin and outbuildings on the Island.
The four years at the University went by quickly and Jeremy, graduating with an Accounting degree (along with his CPA license) and Cage with an Art degree, decided they’d like to settle down back home and find employment here. Fortunately, Carter decided he needed more room to accommodate his growing family, already two boys and two girls with another on the way,(Stony was dead wrong on this one- Carter was straight arrow and horny as hell), and bought a larger home near Mom and Jim. This opened up my old home, for some reason the past few years the boys declared it the “Annex,” and Cage and Jeremy moved in.
Peter stepped forward and offered Jeremy a partnership in his small accounting and CPA business; Jeremy accepted and Cage decided to work from a home studio, offering on consignment to various art stores his oils and photography. His landscapes and wildlife oils were extremely popular as well as his framed photographic images. A publisher began printing his some his works and offered them as limited edition, signed, and numbered prints. He did quite well!
For two years we thought the boys couldn’t be happier, but we failed and misread some of the signals they were tossing our way. It all came to a head one weekend when Cage, Jeremy, Peter, and another young man I didn’t recognize, motored over to the Island to spend some time with us. This, in itself, was not unusual for Cage and Jeremy, since they putted back and forth several times during the week when the weather was decent and so did we, but there seemed to be more of a purpose for this visit.
It wasn’t one of my better days; after working in the garden, helping Stony in the shop and other activities, coupled with a very warm, muggy summer day, my arm and leg ached terribly and Stony was applying some liniment to my muscles and sore spots when the four arrived. It was late afternoon, so once the ointment was applied and I was decently clothed again, we poured our afternoon cocktails and retired to the porch.
Settled with a drink in our hands, Peter’s friend began questioning me on my stiffness. I first I was reluctant to answer, upset he should be so bold, until Peter laughed and introduced me to Dr. Adam Randolph, recently employed at one of the medical clinics in town, and friend of Peter for several years, since their undergraduate years at the University. He was a handsome young man, Peter’s age, of average build and height, and long, delicate fingers, and a coffee-with-cream complexion. I smiled to myself, wondering what Aaron was going to do about this revelation; another son who was gay with an African-American boyfriend. I’ll bet there was or will be hell to pay for this!
All four of sat, silently, sipping our drinks, Adam making small talk inquiring about the Island, how pleasant and peaceful it was, until I finally said, “Jeremy and Cage, cut to the chase. There’s a reason why four of you are here and it’s not just to have a drink!”
“Well, J.T. and Stony,” Jeremy began, “we don’t to anger you or force you to love us any less, but Cage and I are having a bit of a problem.”
Thoughts began racing through my head and they weren’t nice ones; marital problems; Adam is not Peter’s boyfriend but a paramour of either Cage or Jeremy; one of the boys caught a deadly disease and that’s why there’s a doctor here. I was just about to shoot my mouth off, when Jeremy continued, “Before you jump to any conclusions, we want you to know Cage and I really miss the Island and the life on it. We’d like to move back home and perhaps build a small cabin for the two of us so we wouldn’t be in your way. I could continue to work with Peter and Cage could continue to paint. Peter and Adam would move into the Annex, if that’s alright with you two.”
Stony jumped right into the discussion, excited as hell; anytime he could erect something, he got excited, even if it was, in this case, a building and not part of his anatomy!
“Great!” he exclaimed, “Why build something separate? We could add on to the cabin, enlarge your bedroom, and add another room as a studio for Cage and a small office for you. Wouldn’t that be something, J.T.?”
Of course it’d be beyond my wildest dreams and those dreams became a reality! We enlarged the bedroom, added the studio and office, and changed the heating system in the cabin to hot water heat provided by an outside wood furnace/boiler which required stoking only twice a day.
Peter and Adam married and moved into the Annex and became frequent visitors to the Island. It was nice having a doctor in the family.
I’d like to say that Aaron forgave his sons and welcomed them back into the fold, but it hasn’t happened yet and I doubt it will.
Carter came by one day, his son John in tow, and quietly informed us that after years of investigation they had no more evidence of foul play in the deaths of Cameron Saint-Denis and Raymond Jackson than when they first opened the case and the Bureau was closing this particular phase of it. It was disappointing to Stony and me but in the back of our minds, we expected it. “However,” added Carter, “there’re just too many other similar incidents in states surrounding us and I’m not altogether satisfied with the explanations and disposition of some of the cases. In each of the instances I have concerns about, the death of the young man has been declared accidental or suicide or undetermined, but all involved alcohol. I’m not saying there’s anything to these, but I also received permission to copy our case file to the “Fibbies” (FBI) and let them take a look. I guess, on a personal basis, I’m really not quite ready to give up on some of these young men. Their families deserve an answer to questions they may have. Who knows something may turn up!”
Knowing Carter the way I do, I’m certain if there’s anything to be found, discovered, revealed, and then prosecuted, he’ll do it. After all, he didn’t get to where he is with the Bureau by being a dumb shit with a big cock!
Grandpa Gifford, bless his soul, passed away the fall the boys graduated from the University. In his eulogy, Jeremy finally said what Grandpa told Cage and him so many years before when he met with them in the shop. “Grandpa hugged us both, gave us his blessing and said, ‘I’ll dance at your wedding, when the jerks in the legislature legalize it, and I’ll hoist a brew at your graduation.’ He did both and more; he gave us encouragement and the same love he gave to J.T. and Stony.”
The winter wind is blowing the snow about the woods surrounding the Island on this New Year’s Eve, but the six of us, gathered to celebrate the coming of a new year, are enjoying each other’s companionship and love. Peter and Adam, both with the holiday off, arrived on snowmobiles, traveling across the ice on Johnson’s Slough, earlier in the day, so we’ve had time to visit, laugh, and reminisce. I look at Stony, seeing the contentment in his face and eyes, Jeremy and Cage cuddled up on the futon, and Peter and Adam bantering with them from their position stretched out on the floor, Adam’s head resting on Peter’s stomach, and I remember very well Uncle John Gifford’s admonition and advice that there was treasure on Gifford’s Island for those who seek it!
I remember also quite well a quote by Carlyle, “The wealth of man is the number of things he loves and blesses, which he is loved and blessed by.”
I am blessed and have found that treasure, lounging in our living room on Gifford’s Island!The End
(Author’s note: Each year, at or near college or university campuses in the several states of the Midwest and Great Lakes, reports of young college men meeting their deaths through accidental drowning’s, falls from buildings, alcohol poisoning, or other undetermined tragic means, are recorded, published, or broadcast to the rest of the populace. Most, if not all of those departures from life, link some sort of alcohol involvement, attributing that condition as one causation of the deaths and the cases are pushed away to obscurity. It’s often caused me to wonder; are we being overly simplistic and dismissive in our haste for judgment? Could these unfortunate young men, our hopes for the future now forever gone, be victims of bullying, torment, or humiliation by homophobic or uncaring classmates, community or family members or, more sinisterly, homicidal individuals, who for whatever twisted reason, feel they must save us from ourselves or remove temptation from their own personal desires? It is from this mystery- the wondering, the knowing not all of these tragedies can be easily dismissed, that resulted in the writing of “Gif’s Island.” Thank you for your support, encouragement, and love for those maligned by society and hope by reading this short novel, you honor and remember the loss, by whatever means or action it occurred, of our lovers, partners, friends, brothers, sisters, sons, or daughters. Thank you. N. Hall)
Thank you for reading “Gif’s Island”
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or locales is entirely coincidental.
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