Jake's Hand – Take 2

Part 17

Finally, Commitment

It’s odd how good and bad things come in bunches. It was mid-September, and school had begun for Alec and Celly a couple of weeks before. Our trip to France was two weeks away, and we had all our passports and documents.

I was sitting watching the evening news, dinner on the stove in the kitchen, drinking a glass of chardonnay when I heard a key scraping in the door followed by Alec’s smiling face. He had been out shooting basketballs, his cheeks flushed from the exertion, his Mariner shirt damp under his arms and down his back, his black curly hair sweat-stuck to his forehead.

“Hi, Dad,” he said. “What’s for dinner?” Typical teen-age question asked every day.

“Liver and onions, over an eggplant puree,” I lied my normal what’s-for-dinner lie, which usually evoked some smart-assed remark from him and then a listing of the real dinner menu.

“Okay,” was all he said, as he took his knapsack and basketball up to his room to take a shower. After that exchange, I knew something was up. Alec always found out what really was for dinner. I heard the shower running upstairs, and shortly thereafter Alec emerged, bounded down the stairs, vaulted over the railing and landed on his feet next to the easy chair, where he sat forthwith. He was dressed in Levi’s and a sweat shirt. His feet were bare.

“May I get you another glass of wine?” he asked, eagerly.

“Please.” He was being a bit too solicitous, I thought. He definitely wanted something, I thought.

Alec brought the wine bottle from the kitchen, filled my glass, then returned it and poured himself some juice before re-emerging. He set the glass down and flung himself back into the easy chair, arms and legs sprawling. Long legs. After last month’s height measurement, I became officially the third tallest in the household.

He fidgeted nervously, like a 10-year old would do in the third act of an opera. After a while he said: “Dad, Celly and I want to treat Jake and you to a special camping trip and hike this weekend. The weather’s supposed to be nice.”

“It’s fine with me, but you’ll have to check with Jake. His schedule is the toughest to get into.”

“I already did. He’s okay with it, too.” I knew then that they were up to something if they had already made arrangements with Jake. “Celly and I want to make it special and do everything—all the food, all the wine, all the gear and all the packing except your private stuff. I mean everything.”

“Thank you. But you don’t need to.”

“Dad, we want to. It’s important, Dad. It’s really important to Celly and me.”

My curiosity was piqued, and I wanted to ask more, but Alec and Celly had made an offer that was too good to refuse. “Sounds wonderful.”  I relented.

“A deal?” I nodded. “But I get to drive, and we take Mom’s car,” Alec said. When I said nothing to oppose his transportation suggestion, the deal was sealed. He seemed to be overjoyed with the transportation plan. Anne had bought a new Caravan, perfect for car camping. I was still driving the beat up van that I had used to pick up Jake when he reentered my life, and Jake was driving the old Honda that he had purchased used in Boston and brought to Seattle. With Jake’s windfall, I expect he’d soon get a car that’s more reliable. On second thought, with him, that was not a foregone conclusion.

“We’ll leave early Saturday morning and go down near Mount Adams. Celly and I will pack Mom’s van over at her place on Friday night and come by about 6 on Saturday morning. Okay? You and Jake just bring your personal things, and we’ll pack those in at the end. Six o’clock sharp.” With that, the arrangements were set. Alec bounded back up the steps to study.

The alarm rang at 5:15 a.m. on Saturday. I reached across Jake’s naked body to turn it off, the contact of skin against skin stiffening my morning erection. I padded off to pee to get rid of one cause of my hard-on. By the time I got back, Jake was sitting on the side of the bed. He noticed my predicament, licked his lips provocatively and batted his eyelashes, but I pointed to the clock and shrugged. So much for Plan A; on to Plan B, then—coffee and the newspaper. It took just a few minutes to fetch the paper, make coffee, pour some juice, read the front section and return to the bedroom with a tray.

Jake was in the shower by then, so I put the coffee on the bathroom counter and went back to bed to read the newspaper. The Mariners had lost again. So what else is new? I thought. When I heard the shower being turned off, I got up and went into the bathroom. Jake was there naked, shaving, and generally being an attractive nuisance. So I pinched his bottom as I hopped into the shower. “Horny bastard,” he said.

Alec and Celly arrived promptly at 6, with, as I had suspected when I stopped Jake from raiding the cereal cupboard, croissants from the bakery. Croissants was real service.

The sky was still dark gray from low clouds, but they would burn off later in the day; it was typical weather in Seattle with a nearing autumn. I gave Celly a kiss, as did Jake. His kiss caused her to really light up, as it always did. Non-parental advantage, I guess. We all quietly ate our croissants at the kitchen counter along with more coffee and juice—and tea for Celly. Jake and I carried our few things to the van and climbed into the back seat. This may have been Alec’s first major excursion since he had gotten his driver’s license, and he seemed excited about it.

“Want me to drive?” I asked, mischievously. “I have many years of accident-free experience.” In response, Alec moved his hand to the back of his neck and extended his middle finger and scratched the far side of his neck. That answered the question and drew a chortle from Jake.

We drove down I-5, then east, then miles along a one-lane road, ending up in late morning at one of our family’s favorite campgrounds. The campground was at the west end of a 5-acre lake that sat at the base of Mount Adams. It was primitive, with pit toilets and no showers, so it was rarely crowded, even on busy weekends and particularly after Labor Day. The campground had one site that was particularly beautiful, but getting there required a quarter-mile portage from the parking place—long enough to discourage most people from using it or even seeing it, thereby ensuring it was available for the persistent. It didn’t matter that Saturday, because it was late enough in the season that there was nobody else there at all.

From the campsite we could see the reflection of the mountain in the lake. The campground was a perfect jumping off point for several nearby day hikes, one of which we would take before we settled in for the remains of the day. We paid our fee in a lockbox by the entrance, carried a few inexpensive things out to our site to indicate that we had claimed it and drove off to the trailhead for a day hike through the forest and up into the fall colors of vine maple, huckleberries and sumac and the late-season lingering wild flowers. The kids had packed a lunch, and we sat in the mountainside sun, enjoying the view of the waterfalls and glaciers coming off Mount Adams.

Our hike over, we headed back to the camp for the evening. It took us two trips to haul what seemed like an unusually large amount of equipment and heavy boxes through the woods to the camp site. Then Alec and Celly shooed Jake and me away so they could fix dinner. They handed us a bottle of wine with its cork pulled part way out as compensation for our eviction and told us to get lost for an hour.

“No crystal glasses?” I complained. “We’ll give each other dreaded diseases if we drink from the same bottle.”

Alec flipped me the second bird of the camping trip. “Take a hike, dad, we have work to do. Come back in an hour—no sooner, no later.” I couldn’t think fast enough for a retort, and I didn’t want to point out the obvious, that we had just returned from a hike, so I resigned myself with a stroll around the lake with Jake—not a bad second-best.

With an hour to kill and a small lake, we were in no hurry, so we stopped from time to time to look at the mountain in the slowly declining light and to catch each other’s dreaded diseases from swigs out of the same wine bottle. Of course, we handed the diseases back to each other whenever we kissed, which was frequently, so I figured it all came out even in the end. At one empty campsite we used the picnic table to give each other a calf and neck massage to ease tight muscles from the long climb of the day. It was a temptation to expand the massage, but we resisted. We still had the night ahead of us.

When we got back to camp, the sun was getting really low in the sky, bathing everything with overtones of red. The tents had been set up—Jake’s and mine sufficiently away from the kids’ to give us some privacy. The picnic table had been covered in, astonishingly, white linen. There were cloth napkins to match, along with the fine china from my cupboard and crystal wine glasses. Several candles were ready to be lit. Well, I knew now why there were so many boxes in the van.

“Okay, guys, whatever this is for, it better be good,” I said, with mock impatience. Jake was standing back leaning against a tree, arms folded over his chest with a bemused look on his face.

“Sit down and shut up, dad. Never look a gift horse in the mouth,” Celly ordered. “You sit down, too, Jake.” Jake and I sat side by side at the picnic table. The red tones in Jake’s hair and skin were taking on a warm golden glow from the light, accentuating the planes and angles of his face and lighting up his batik head band. I slid over next to him, and he put his arm around my waist.

I gave him a questioning look to see if he knew what was going on, but it was obvious from his expression that he also was in the dark. Alec went to the cooler and fished out a bottle of chardonnay, which he deftly opened, smelled the cork and brought over to us. He poured Jake a sample for approval, which was duly given, and poured some for the two of us.

“Take some for the chefs—but not too much for Celly. Okay?” I said in a fatherly tone. Alec poured himself a glass of wine and a half glass for Celly and took it over to her. I’ve always believed that the European way of introducing children to small amounts of alcohol—often mixed with water—when they were young is far more sensible than the prohibition-till-21 fiction that we have in the U.S.

The food was as grand as the table setting, and the kids had bought a chocolate truffle cake for dessert, which they served with Starbuck’s coffee from the Pike Street Market. They obviously had worked long in Seattle to plan and get everything ready to go.

“Well bred, these kids,” Jake said as we were finishing. “Must be their mother’s genes.” I flipped my napkin at him, hoping it had a big glob of sauce where the napkin came in contact with him, but it didn’t. He just tossed it back to me.

Celly and Alec told us to sit tight while they quickly cleaned up the dinner dishes. I could see Alec and Celly in the corner of my eye, fussing with something across the campsite, looking over at us from time to time. I didn’t know what they were up to, but I felt we were soon going to know the reason why they had asked us to go camping with them and to do so in such luxury.

In a few minutes, they walked across the camp and took the seats opposite us at the table. The last of the light highlighted the dark hair, dark eyes and fine facial angles of these two siblings. I had never really realized how much they looked alike until then. Their faces were solemn, but there was something in their eyes that stopped me from making my normal smart-ass remark.

They lit a number of candles, which, with the light wind of the cooling evening, gave off warmth as they flickered in the near-still evening air. The atmosphere was gorgeous. The candles glowed, the mountain glowed differently in the setting sun, and the lake reflected the mountain. I took Jake’s hand and felt its warmth.

Alec took a deep breath, then spoke: “We’ve planned this out special. Celly will go first. Then I will go, and then we’re both going to make speeches, the most important ones of our lives, and then we’ll have, er, a ceremony.” I looked at Jake again to see if that announcement gave him any clue what was going on. He looked at me with the same bewildered expression as I had.

Celly was sitting directly across the table from Jake. She cleared her throat “Jake Cantwell,” Celly said, “I want to say at the outset that I love you.” Celly smiled and beamed at Jake. “I’ve loved you ever since you came into our lives two years ago. Early on it was just a crush: I was in awe of the cool, cute hunk my dad had as a roommate.” Jake blushed. I was trying to figure out where all this was going. “In fact,” she continued, “I came over to the condo often just so I could see you alongside my dad. I thought I was in heaven to be in the same room with you. But Dad had claimed you.” Celly stuck her tongue out at me. I grinned.

She grew serious. “Enough of gushing. There are some important events I want to talk about.” She paused and grew visibly more solemn. “Things started to happen in the school year after you moved in with my dad. Some older kids made comments and said words that I didn’t understand. I asked Mom what the comments meant, what ‘gay’ meant, what ‘faggot’ meant and she answered me, openly and matter of factly. I have to admit I became grossed out by your relationship with my father. But Mom also said that I needed to keep an open mind and that if my father truly loved you and was finally happy in life, I would have to accept that fact, like it or not. I didn’t like it at the time, and I didn’t come over as often for a few weeks. You might have noticed.” Jake nodded his head. “And you too, Dad. I was really embarrassed.

“School was awful. For a while, I was afraid to show my face. I became a quiet person—if that’s possible. I decided to sit back and just observe things for a while, sending my friends away, not wanting them or me or their friends to get hurt by associating with me. I talked a lot with Mom about my feelings.

“Then, things changed for me at school—or maybe I noticed things I hadn’t noticed before. Maybe it was because I was growing up. Maybe I was making things change. I became sensitive to kids at school who were being teased because they didn’t wear the right clothes or because they weren’t cool or because of the color of their skin or slant of their eyes. Some of these kids happened to be my acquaintances. Some weren’t but soon were. I couldn’t see any reason for the taunting, except prejudice. I began to realize what bias and hate were all about and that they were wrong and mostly unfounded. I should have known that before, but it didn’t really register until creeps started to hurt my friends.” Tears started to form in her eyes, and Jake put his free hand on top of hers.

“And I began to put two and two together. I realized that the same types of people—even the same people sometimes—were trying to tear you two down in their wish to deride everybody different.” Celly paused for a moment. “The very same people! Slowly I realized that I was allowing those creeps to determine how I was relating to you. I thought if you and Dad loved each other, then I should accept what and who you are. So I began to look more seriously at you two and saw how much you meant to each other. I saw how much you loved and respected each other. So I have grown to approve your relationship.” She paused. “I just wanted to get this off my chest.”

“Thanks,” we both said warmly in unison. And our eyes were blinking back tears—in unison.

“And , I know Mom would kill me if I said this, but you’re still a hunk, Jake” Celly said to change the mood. “I suppose my dad’s a hunk, too, but parental beings can’t be hunks and parents at the same time.” We all laughed, which halted the tears that had been forming. Celly came over between Jake and me and we gave her a hug. She started to sit between us, then apparently remembered what she and Alec were doing and hastily jumped up and returned to the other side of the table.

It was Alec’s turn. “You guys know pretty much how I feel since we’ve been living in the same house for two-plus years now. But I do want to say one thing that I’ve been thinking about for some time now. And I’ve discussed it with Celly and Mom. And it’s one reason we’re here today.” Alec swept his arm to indicate the campsite and the surroundings.

“You know you guys have this blind spot in your relationship to each other,” he continued.

“Blind spot?” I asked.

“Yes, you need each other like atoms need protons and ions, and I don’t think you realize it—except intuitively, maybe. I mean it. Dad, you have always needed somebody to depend on you, to be emotionally sustained by you, but not to cling to you. At the same time you want that person to be independent.

“Jake, you’re the perfect person for my dad,” Alec continued. “You thrive on spontaneity. He thrives on schedules and lists. You are the perennial adolescent free spirit; it brings out the full charm of your wonderful personality and your wildness. But you need Dad as anchor, to be your adult reality check.” Alec had just hit a home run in parsing out our relationship. But he wasn’t finished.

“I want to say something about the early days when Jake first came.” he continued. “You know I wasn’t warm to you shortly after you first arrived. That all changed, of course, when I knew what you had gone through and how it had affected your life, but I’m sorry I wasn’t more open to you before then. I suppose I was unconsciously jealous of your taking part of Dad’s heart. And, I wasn’t sure what to think about a gay relationship.”

“You couldn’t have done anything until I got myself straightened around.”

“After the hike I had no problem, particularly after you gave me Dad’s story to read.”

“You did what?” I asked, looking at Jake.

I saw Alec mouthing an “Oh! Oh!” then explained: “Dad, I learned more about you from that story than I did all my life to that time—and I learned about Jake. So don’t blame Jake.” He looked at me until I turned my eyes away, accepting his explanation.

“What you don’t know about is how much sheer bigotry I encountered at school that fall, particularly when you two started to appear together at our events.” This was something that Anne and I had talked about, but I had said nothing to Jake, leaving it to Alec to broach the subject.

“Kids would make comments in the hall about my ‘faggot’ father. I stood up to them and said that I was proud of my father and of Jake and their relationship and that I didn’t give a shit what they thought. That was hard to do when I didn’t think I even liked Jake. I even reiterated that pride in class once in a discussion on what they called ‘alternate lifestyles.’ However, some teachers and the principal and my coach made comments, but Mom took care of that. The incidents passed and things returned to almost normal. I didn’t even get into one fight, even with that jerk David Bailey.” Alec always used David Bailey as the epitome of stupidity, boorishness and prejudice.

“What came out of that experience, though, was a whole host of new friends who rose to support me. And, there was a split with some people I thought were friends. Besides, I would never have met Kate without having my life messed up and put back together.” Kate was Alec’s long-time girlfriend. She was black. “I learned a lot about love and life through the relationship of you two,” Alec continued. “Thank you.” He stood up, came around the table and gave us both a hug and a kiss on our cheeks.

“Enough of this mush from us,” Alec said finally. “Time to get down to the real business.” He looked at Celly. Celly took me by the hand and led me to a large flat stump where she sat me down. Alec did the same for Jake. I took Jake’s hand as we were sitting side by side on the stump.

Celly and Alec came up and stood before us. Celly took a step forward and began: “You two have lived together now for over two years, and your relationship goes back much further. I think you have amply demonstrated your love for each other.”

Alec then said: “I know how busy you’ve both been, and I knew Dad would never get around to doing this, especially if he didn’t have our approval, and he hasn’t asked us for that. So, to show our approval of your relationship and our dismay at Dad’s procrastination,” he grinned at me, ”we have decided it is now time for you two to take the Big Step.”

Before we could say anything, Celly said: “As your children, Dad, and soon to be Jake’s children, we are asking you this evening to make a permanent commitment to each other.”

“We know how much these mountains mean to you, Dad, and we couldn’t think of a more fitting temple for, well, a wedding—and that’s what we want it to be,” Alec said.

The reason for all the attention and this weekend fell into place. The trip had taken a totally unexpected turn. With Jake’s schedule and, I suppose, my hesitancy, we had not taken the time to decide what to do about our future. It looked like there was no escape now. I looked around at the last light on Mount Adams.

Alec then continued: “Marriage is the closest bond possible between two people. It is the greatest commitment to another person that anyone will have to make. We recognize that a traditional marriage is not possible yet for you two, so this is our substitute.” Alec paused. He turned to me. “Dad, will you make this permanent commitment to Jake?” I looked at both of my children, tears welling in my eyes, then let my eyes rest on Jake’s face for what must have been half a minute. Then, I nodded my head.

“Come on Dad, say it out loud.”

“I will,” I said in a breaking voice.

Celly picked up the thread: “Jake, will you make that commitment to my Dad—and to us as his children?” I held my breath, as if it was I that was asking him to marry me. I was pretty sure what the answer would be, but I wasn’t 100 percent sure. Was Jake ready to make such a formal commitment?

Of course, Jake would quote Shakespeare to answer the question: “Ay, with a heart as willing/As bondage e'er of freedom: here's my hand.” Jake took my other hand in his. He looked at Alec and Celly, then at me, an enormous radiant smile on his face. His eyes were shining. “In other words, with all my being,” he said.

Alec then fished in his knapsack and pulled out a small box about 4 inches square, which he placed on the table. He slid it over to Celly, who opened it. In the box were two rings in various colors of gold—decorated on their faces with a Navajo Indian pattern. I didn’t know at the time, but Alec had found the same artist that had done Tran’s and now his bracelet. Celly took one ring and put it into Jake’s hand. “Will you take Robert Steven Ellis—my Dad—to be your lawful wedded husband, to have and to hold, for richer or for poorer till death do you part?” she asked. She sounded so serious for a 13-year old.

“I will,” he answered.

Alec put a ring in my hand. “Will you take John Edward Cantwell, III—Jake—to be your lawful wedded husband, to have and to hold, for richer or for poorer, till death do you part?” he asked.

“I will,” I answered.

“You can exchange rings now.” I took the ring and placed it on Jake’s left ring finger. He did the same to me. They fit well, so I figured the kids somehow had gotten our ring sizes.

“We now pronounce you, well, groom and groom,” they said in unison. “You may kiss the bri…, er,” they both started to grin at their little joke, “each other.” Jake leaned over to me, I to him and we kissed sweetly and warmly and softly and quickly.

“You can do better than that, Dad,” Alec said.

“I never get any respect.” And then I really kissed Jake, passionately and long, until we heard an ‘ahem’ from Celly.

“We didn’t mean for you to go to the other extreme.” Jake and I both laughed as we broke apart and gathered “our” children to us in a monumental hug.

“Well, love, I guess this means we’re tied,” I said, and I marked both sides of the air ledger. Groans from Jake and my children. I smiled impishly at my pun.

We sat quietly watching the flicker of the candle and the fading light in the sky. “Jake and I should say a few things, too.” I looked at him with a slight question mark on my face to make sure he was okay with this. He nodded his okay. “First, this has got to be the most wonderful ceremony in the world. It was weird, but it was wonderful, and we love you for it.” Both kids beamed.

“Second, I am deeply grateful that you kids made me this offer I couldn’t refuse—to make me marry the man I started loving in 1969. My love has grown so much since Jake came to Seattle, and particularly this last year. I probably would have made a commitment eventually but, knowing me, not for a while, so thanks for doing this now.” I kissed both my kids on the cheek and then kissed Jake on the lips again.

Jake responded: “I want you to know, Rob, that I would have said yes to a commitment yesterday, a year ago, two years ago, and tomorrow or next month. Eventually, I suppose, knowing you, I probably would have had to pop the question myself, but that deed has blessedly been done by these two beautiful children. Thanks, Celly. Thanks, Alec.” He kissed Alec on the cheek and turned to Celly.

“You can kiss me on the lips,” Celly said, which caused Alec and me to applaud when Jake pressed his lips to hers long enough to start to be titillating. Celly beamed again.

“We need something to celebrate this with,” Alec said.

Alec fished around in a box and pulled out four small packages enclosed in bubble wrap. He opened the first one and handed me the contents—a crystal champagne glass. He unwrapped a second glass and handed it to Jake. He and Celly took the other two glasses. Then he reached into a cooler and pulled out a bottle of, well, Pol Roger, Sir Winston Churchill Cuvee. What else? I thought that we must have single-handedly kept the champagne house in business that month.

“The champagne is a present from Mom,” he said, as he expertly opened the bottle and poured some into our glasses. He then poured some for Celly and some for himself. At that moment I couldn’t think of these two fine young people as being too young to drink the finest champagne in the world. I clinked my glass against Jake’s, then we both clinked ours against ‘our’ children’s and took a sip. I’m not sure how much Celly appreciated the champagne, but Alec was growing to appreciate good wine.

“Hey, that’s pretty good. Can we have that every day?” Alec asked jokingly. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that we probably could afford it now.

“By the way, if you think this is not really going to be a ‘legal’ wedding because Celly and I are minors and not ministers or justices of the peace,” Alec said, “I have some news for you.” Alec fished into his knapsack once again and pulled out a folder of papers. “These are the papers that make it all legal, and you can’t get out of this commitment once they are signed. But you will need to sign in front of witnesses and a notary. Mom drew these up, by the way—and she said they include what Jake was having her do for him. I’ll give them to you later.” Alec put them back in his knapsack.

I turned to Jake and clinked my glass against his again. “Okay, Jake, tell me, did you know about this ‘stunt’ that these kids were going to pull?”

“No, honestly, I had no clue whatsoever. This was a complete surprise.”

Alec and Celly beamed again, their coup success totally unexpected. I poured Celly and Alec some more Champagne until they got giggly. Jake and I kept glancing at each other as we talked to them, smiles as wide as the Mississippi on our faces. I don’t think we let go of each other’s hands for the rest of the evening except to toast each other and sip some more Champagne.

Eventually, the Champagne bottle was empty, the night had fallen with the air getting chilly, and we were starting to yawn. Alec and Celly said good night and went off to their tent, with Jake and me following in a few minutes to ours.

“Okay, you get five points if you admit that you arranged this, and that will give you the lead and put me in a real underdog status,” I said, as I crawled into the two sleeping bags that the kids had zipped together.

“It would be tempting to cheat, but I cannot tell a lie, even for five points,” Jake said as he removed his shirts and pants. “Now, for 10 points I might consider lying. I truly didn’t know anything about this.”

He crawled in with me. Jake and I just held and softly kissed and stroked each other that night—our orgasms a small part of a much larger whole. Curious, that on our “wedding night,” so to speak, the thing we most wanted was primarily the warmth of each other’s bodies, the kisses and the caresses and the quiet breathing of sleep in each other’s arms. The trip to France would now be a honeymoon.

* * *

The next morning, habit took over. I crawled out of the tent, grabbed my parka and my novel as usual just as the first glimmer of the sun was showing on the upper ridges of the mountain. I could see my breath in the cold September air. I quietly got water and turned on the stove to make coffee, brewed it, poured myself a cup and put the remainder into a thermos. I enjoy this hour of quiet in the morning to gather my thoughts, think about what’s coming up and to get a little farther into what I was reading—all in the light and sounds of the morning mountains. But this morning I was really keyed up with my reflections on the previous evening. I might as well not even have brought out the novel.

As I was ruminating over the events of the evening before and drinking my coffee of the morning, I noticed the legal papers in the knapsack Alec had brought out last night, so I took them out to look them over. They words seemed cold for something so warm and personal in our lives. They were fairly routine, competently covering all the legal bases necessary for two men committing themselves to each other when there was no legal ability to marry—a health-care proxy, a cohabitation agreement, durable power of attorney and a draft will. And, as I had suspected from Alec’s comment the night before, Jake had asked Anne to draw up papers that turned his stock fortune into community property for the both of us.

What surprised me most, though, happened when I turned to the last page. Tears came to my eyes as I read it. At the bottom were signature blanks for me and Jake—and for Anne, but it was already signed by her and notarized. The document made Jake legal guardian for our children in the event of death or incapacitation of both of us. In addition, the final paragraph gave Jake equal parental rights as me in the event of my death or incapacitation.

With that, the import of these papers and the last night’s “ceremony” sank in. I had just committed to permanency with Jake—to the greatest change in my life since my marriage to Anne and the births of our children. I was thinking that all these papers were only cold routine—and they probably truly were. But the true import of them was much larger than I could absorb in so short a time.

These were papers underlying a far larger personal and emotional commitment that I had just made to Jake—and Alec and Celly—the night before. Though there had been a commitment of sorts before last night, it was unstated, not formal, and ultimately an informal commitment might have been a phantom that could disappear at any time. I realized the new relationship could end, like my marriage did, but the ties were made much stronger by the extraordinary ceremony orchestrated by the two people I loved most, apart from Jake. At that moment, with the morning light rising in the mountains, I felt suddenly overwhelmed by the events of the last few hours and began to weep—but in joy for what had happened.

I looked down at the ring on my left hand—a copy of which was on Jake’s left hand—and I thought about Alec and Celly and how they pulled off this coup together and I knew that the commitment between Jake and me was forever. We were two yesterday afternoon, but we were one now. So I folded up the papers, stuffed them back in the knapsack and realized I would sign them without reservation.