Buckets Of Blessings
your laws do not allow you to read this story, then don't. All the
rest of you people who read it, if you think it's true, boy, have I
investment opportunities for you!
Notes From Retta:
The feedback I'm receiving for the story is incredible. I really would like to Thank you. There are going to be heavy parts in this story, and there are going to be light and some parts will make you splatter your screen with laughter. Where I get some of this stuff, I don't know. I re-read it and it amazes me.
Some parts of this story are very personal. If you think parts are too graphic, then understand I took them from deeply personal issues. Each part is true in what Lance went through. I guess what I'm saying is there's stuff that if read would point to a mental state of an author if it wasn't and I'm just clarifying it's authentic and not made up.
Read and enjoy.
When we got to Joan and Mark's house, we were greeted at the door warmly. I wasn't sure what to expect, but the love of a real family was plainly evident. Hugs, kisses, and hand shakes were coming from everyone. It was clear how much a favorite of the family, Ty was.
Condolences were given about his mom, and before Gregg got there, Ty got everyone's attention and said, “Everyone, you know how Gregg's been to everyone. He's changed for the better now and all I'd like to do is make sure you give him a chance.
He'll probably make an apology, but as soon as he come in, greet him like he's been away because in a way, he has. I might have lost my mom, but I gained a brother.”
Everyone sort of looked at him like they were stunned. Joan broke the silence and said, “I'm waiting to see it myself, but from what I hear, that change has been due to Lance there. Gregg attempted to give him what he's been giving everyone else and I guess Lance cleaned his plow a good one and told Gregg how it was going to be in the future.
Gregg also has a real sweet girl who I think a lot of for a girlfriend now, and she'll keep him in line. So, I'll give him the chance.”
Conversation then began again and stories abounded about how Gregg had been to each of them. Mark came over to me and said, “Lance, don't be upset about what she said. We've all wanted to do it, but we didn't. I think you've got the envy of everyone of these people in here.”
I smiled and said, “Mark, you might not believe it, but the person before we had our problem and the person after is like two different people. I'm really looking forward to being in the family now.”
“We're really glad to have you. It clear Ty's happy and I can tell you're happy too. I'm really impressed with how you two are displaying your relationship. It's not out there but it's out there enough to see you love each other and are respectful enough of everyone to keep yourselves and us comfortable.”
“I wouldn't do it any other way.”
“I know, and what's going to be a telling part of this is when we're all at the funeral, they're going to see you in your professional capacity and it will blow them away.”
“I hope, a lot of gays who are in the business get spoken about really badly by everyone behind their backs.”
“That's a shame. I know it happens, but I think those who know you and love you will be there to defend you. One thing I'm going to want to do sometime is ask your permission to walk me through your presentation so I can see what you do.
As someone I admire, I've not done that yet, and you know a lot of people come to me and have no idea where they want to go when they set up their life trusts. It will help me so I can suggest you.”
“Great. Anytime you want, give me a call, or better yet, sit in with Mitch and Joan and hear what I do and see it done first hand.”
“Wendy's is about done, isn't it?”
“Yes, but you don't realize how little there is to do. You got a moment? I'll go get my laptop and show you the questions I ask. My presentation is done up so all I have to do is fill in the blanks to the questions I ask.”
“Yeah, I learned real fast to write them all down and make them so they flow smoothly. I put the questions most people have on their minds first, therefore it puts them at ease.
In fact, one of the last questions I ask is the permission form for embalming. It gets them into the frame of mind the person is dead and we're having a funeral.
If I put the business end of it first, it puts them off. It's like ordering a new car and the dealer asking you to sign the check first. You've not even talked with him about what options you want and he's wanting a check. So, what I do is wait. You'd be amazed at how it makes a person feel when I put their needs first.”
“Oh, I imagine and I know because they come away from working with you and they really find that you care.”
“I do. The day I stop is the day I really need to hang it up.”
He nodded and said, “Let me go tell Joan what we're doing and then, we'll go talk.”
Ty came over and said, “How's it going babe?”
“Great, your Uncle Mark and I are talking business because he wants to learn how I put on the presentation to families.”
“Oh, can I sit in?”
“Sure, it's going to be what I've already asked your family, but it will help you to understand things more when you come into the funeral home with me.”
“Mark came back along with Joan. She smiled and hugged me and said, “I'm sitting in too. If I can use some of this information at the hospital, it will help you.”
I excused myself to go out to the truck to get my laptop and then came into the solarium we were using. I plugged it in and as it booted up, I said, “As it's booting, I'm speaking with the family and getting to know them, their relationship to the deceased, and their feelings for the person. You'll be amazed at how it puts the family at ease.”
The laptop was booted, so I got into the program and said, “Here's my program, I'll run through it just like I would if it were real. I'll ask questions and you give me input.”
Joan smiled and said, “OK, let's do it as a pre-need funeral for myself. Hypothetically of course because I've got mine already done.”
As I asked the questions, I gathered input on the person, their life's accomplishments, their favorite color, what they wanted in a casket, and the options for a casket.
You'd be amazed at the options on a casket. Basically put, the interior, exterior, and all the handles are all optional. I flashed through the screens of the photos I had of the options and then, went into the photo shots of the flower arrangements from the most inexpensive to the grandest.
What was interesting was when I got to the question about the color scheme of the room. Joan looked at me and said, “Lance, forgive me, but I'm not expecting you paint the room to satisfy me.”
“No, you don't understand Joan, one thing I did when I designed the funeral home is I worked with an interior designer. It cost me some money, but with the flip of a switch, all the curtains which are at the front of the chapel can rotate around on a chain drive and change color. The rest of the chapel is painted off white with gold accents.
All the colors we chose go easily with white and gold. So, if you want a white, pink, beige, peach, or blue themed funeral, then I arrange it.
What I do is the florists ask me what color of funeral I need and the dyes on the flowers get used for that color.”
“How'd you ever come up with that!”
“I figured if they could do it for a wedding, they could do it for a funeral. It's as simple as asking.
One thing you'll see as I go along is I tell families if they're going to send flowers, to call my phone number and it will ring them through to the florist The reason I do that is it gets them a discount automatically.“
“Wow, I wasn't aware of that!”
“Yeah, I don't pull many punches when it comes to a florist They make a lot of money off the funeral industry and I figure if I'm giving them business, then they can cut their rates. They realize the increased number of orders gives them added revenue.
One other thing I won't do is take a delivery for flowers after visitation has started. They know they can get it to me before four pm, or they can explain it to the customer why I didn't accept delivery and they're refunding the money. They quickly made the changes.
The reason I did this was one florist here in town was delivering up until 8 pm. Those flowers were paid for to be seen by the family during the visitation and those hours are expensive I think, so, if they're shafting the customer by telling them they were there, then I'll shaft them back by not accepting delivery.”
Joan smiled and said, “I like your thinking. You don't know how many deliveries are brought to the hospital for patients in intensive care.
The patients can't have them. All it would take by a florist is a phone call. They don't bother.
I think I'll write a memo tomorrow telling some florists we've now changed our policy and since I'll be sending it to florists, I'll also send it to some other administrators with a cover letter explaining the change in policy.”
“Joan, while you're at it, you might want to get into a conversation as to what flowers give off a lot of pollen and which don't. The reason I say this is an area of the hospital which a lot of flowers are delivered is the floor where new mothers are. The pollen in the room with a new baby can make a lot of difference to a baby if it's asthmatic.”
“She gave me a look and said, “Oh my! I never thought of that! Man, I bet doctors don't think of that either. We're so careful about what we have in nurseries, but we're not about what we have in the mother's rooms. The babies spend time in those rooms with the mothers!”
“Yeah, my grandfather was a high asthmatic and pollen would really affect him. Then, when he got put into a nursing home, I found he was affected by others receiving flowers. A person in there would get flowers and we'd see a bill for grandpa going to the hospital.
When I got into the funeral business, the pollen was so thick in the viewing chapel, I noticed asthmatics were beginning to wheeze. When I designed mine, I put that chain system in and right above it, you'll see the intakes for the air handling system. The air is drawn through there and it's filtered numerous times electronically and by hepa before going back out. If I showed you the filters after one service, you'd shut down flowers to your hospital. It's that bad.”
“Little things we don't think about.” She exclaimed.
“Yeah, so if you come to a funeral visitation meaning to pay respects and later that night, you're in the hospital, you don't connect the two when it's probably directly related.”
She nodded and by this time, Mark and Ty's heads were going back and forth like a tennis match.
She turned to Mark, and said, “Hon, this guy's brilliant. He's got me changing policy at the hospital and he's got me telling doctors to ask questions about asthmatic who come into the hospital.
If we get people educated about what keeps them healthy, then they don't come in and their bills are less. In the end, the insurance you and I pay every day could be less.”
He smiled and said, “We start talking and suddenly it's a big picture thing. Amazing.”
“Yes, and it's because I care about my business reputation. If one person can say they can come to my funeral home and not feel lousy like they do when they go to another, then they tell others. Or, it crosses their minds to request me when they've got an option to suggest a funeral home to someone.”
He nodded and said, “Well, two things you've told me have really impressed me, I'd like to see your home on a working level. I know I'll see if for Wendy's funeral and visitation, but this is something which is gaining interest for me.”
“Great, what's nice is while I'm showing you, I'm showing Joan for a different reason and I'm showing Ty for another reason entirely.
If he's going to come into it with me, the'll need to know it, but what's good is he'd know it if I told him, but he wouldn't know how it fit into the scheme of things with you, or with Joan in her capacity.
You and Joan are sort of related in the aspect you're suggesting it to someone. You on a pre-need level, and with Joan, it's more on an immanent need level. If you both know what goes on when I handle them, then you can rest easier suggesting it to others.”
Mark nodded, “You see why I'm asking. Joan is asking because she's dealing with patients and their families when they're in crisis. No one expects to die and then when they're faced with it being thrust upon them in an emergency, they kind of go blank and reach out.”
Joan smiled and said, “As the administrator, I take pride in my hospital running at it's best. When someone dies, it tells me there might have been something we did differently, so I'm in there seeing for myself.
A lot of times, when I'm in a room, the family is either being given the news or they've just received it. I do what I can to speak with them and see they're comforted. Now, I can suggest your funeral home and know the family is going to be handled with care that I think is beyond excellent.”
“No, you're not understanding that what I've heard sitting here with you is something I'm kicking myself for not doing sooner.
I realize my job is to keep people well and to make them well again, but when that's not possible, I need to know how it's best to prepare the family for when it's out of my hands.
They didn't teach me that in school. What I got taught about the death of a patient amounted to an afternoon of how to tell a family member the patient died. That's it.”.
“Yeah, and now, the way I see it, if I can help ease that transition over to you, it helps the family. What do you suggest I do or change about that?”
“Without seeing it all happening for myself, I don't really know. The problem there is if you brought me in on one case, it might not be the same every time.
As a grief counselor, I've learned to handle it from the moment it hits my door. I agree the process needs to be changed, but how does that happen? I don't know.”
She smiled at me and said “Well, I'm going to ask you a question and then, you can answer it how you feel. I know you'll be professional and I know I'll get an honest answer.”
“Let's say I go to my board and ask to be allowed to hire a grief counselor, would you take the position?”
“Ooh, that's a loaded question.”
“Yeah, that's why I'm asking you.”
“Ethically, I could see other funeral homes really crying foul real fast. They'd see me in counseling people and it'd really get in their craw because I'd be starting the process and handing it over to them when it wasn't my funeral home they chose.
What I'd suggest is either hiring a grief counselor who was independent who worked with everyone, or calling the funeral home and having their people come in and help the family make that transition.
What it'd do is change the face of that line so it wasn't so clearly drawn and it'd be more hazy in the gray shades.” I clasped my fingers together symbolizing the two sides melding together.
She smiled and said, “Yes, but why I'm asking is we have community outreach programs which get out name out there and we do what we can to have a pleasant thought by the community regarding their stay. What really bugs me is the way I see it, that's not a line, hon, that's a cliff. We take that patient and their family to the brink and then say, there's your option, we can't do any more.”
I could see it really bugged her and I empathized with her situation. “What I see with having grief counselors is this...it's a sort of damned if you do, damned if you don't situation.
If you have them, the public will say, “You gave up on my brother and he died because you gave up on him and didn't throw everything at his case.” When you and I know it was inevitable. But, the transition would be a whole lot better if it were done a whole lot better.”
She shook her head and said, “You know, I like talking to you. You look at both sides and even thought you know what I'm wanting to hear, you don't tell me that. You tell me what both sides are thinking and saying.”
“Well, if I'm going to sit here and tell you everything you want to hear, and you go out and do that, and we're totally blindsided by a different viewpoint because I didn't keep my mind open to other possibilities, then I've not done you a service by giving you my answer.”
Mark smiled and said, “Ty, you'll never argue with him. If he approaches a relationship like he does life, I'll tell you now you can't find anyone better.
Joan's impressed with him enough she's wanting to hire him and he's told her he's not the best candidate not because he'd do good, but others might view him being hired as improper. It's amazing, because all the viewpoints he threw out, I can see and Joan can see and the more he's spoke, the more I'm impressed.”
Ty smiled and said, “That's why I'm falling for him so fast. He did it with Gregg and he's done it with dad, and you know what? He did it with me already and it blew me out of the water! What's impressed me so much more is after we left the house this morning, he was kicking himself for having to be the way he was with Gregg.”
Mark smiled and said, “Lance, they're not here yet, but I'm now expecting Gregg to be different even though I wasn't believing it. I now know how you think and what you did and I imagine it's blew the old Gregg totally off the planet. I imagine Mitch is proud as hell of you.”
Ty smiled and said, “Dad's really glad. We spoke this morning and he's just amazed at what Lance did. He says it's like watching an exorcism where the person didn't realize the demon was cast out.”
I looked over and put my hand on Ty's, “Gregg knows the demon's cast out and he also knows what will happen if he lets it back in. I assure you, he now knows there's something worse than what happened earlier.” I said chuckling.
Joan looked at me with concern and said, “What did you do?”
Ty spoke up and said, “Aunt Joan, let me answer because he'll tell you everything real nice and leave out the bad stuff. Gregg nearly ran him down with his truck coming in.
Then I guess Gregg got lippy with him and Lance gave him a warning. Then, on the way into the house, Gregg shoved him and Lance threw him onto the floor.
By the time dad and I got there, they'd gotten up and Lance made it like there wasn't anything wrong between them. Well, Gregg didn't get wise and take the hint and then, started to get lippy again calling Lance a fag.
Quick as a flash, Lance reached out and touched Gregg by his throat and wasn't really choking him, but Gregg knew he wasn't going to be healthy long.”
Joan smiled at me and said, “You know martial arts?”
She nodded and I said, “I occluded his jugular and had him blacking out. The way I had his neck, one wrong move and I would have snapped it.”
She smiled and said, “Mark was in the military. They taught him some moves like that. One night down at the city, we had a mugger that Mark did that to and the guy got the point real fast.”
Mark smiled shyly and I said, “Well, Gregg knew I wouldn't tolerate it and there wasn't anything he could do but come around to what I was telling him needed changing. He dropped the attitude real fast.”
Both of them said, “Good”
Mark said, “If that's what it took, I bet Mitch is pleased it didn't have to come to something more which we'd all feared. What we had discussed is someone possibly harming him to the point he'd either be dead or severely maimed, but no one could talk sense into him.”
Ty held my hand and said, “It took more than talk, but now Gregg's back and that's what matters.”
Joan said, “I wonder where they are?”
“I don't know, Mitch said they'd be here and they're late.”
Joan looked at me and said, “You don't suppose they went down the hill, do you?!”
“No, I don't think they would do that. If they did, they're going to be a mess. It's too early for that.”
I think we all thought the same thing at the same time and everyone was running for the door. As soon as we were out to the driveway, they pulled up.
Gregg was driving and he'd been crying. Mitch looked totally like he was a basket case. Heather was worried and said, “They couldn't leave it well enough alone. They had to go down there.”
I went over to Mitch's side of the car and opened the door, “She did it. She killed herself.”
“Mitch, talk to me.”
He looked at me and I said, “Mitch, what she did we can't blame. You know her condition when she left that night and it might have been anger, or it might have been pain.
We all know she was drunk and I'll tell you she was four times the legal limit. So, what happened wasn't anyone of you guy's faults.”
Mitch looked at me and said, “We went down the hill, why didn't you tell me?”
"Would it have helped you? No, it wouldn't. I would have told you more as time went and there would have been a lot left unsaid because I don't think you ever would have been ready. Now, you know and what I've got to ask is you not hold it against me or the boys.”
“Gregg didn't know, but Ty figured it out.”
“You told me that you suspected but the way you told me you threw it in with a bunch of other things.”
“Yes, I did and you know why? Because no one knows what happened except her.
Joan and Mark were here and they can't even tell you what happened. All we know is what it looks like and things point to, but we can't say for certain that's what happened. Things happened fast and let's say it might not have been suicide.”
“Bullshit! I saw those tire tracks, she had it floored!”
“OK, so you tell me that you are pissed and you are drunk and you think you've floored your car and your foot gets wedged between the accelerator, what are you going to do? Are you going to drive that car and hope for the best? Or are you going to give up?
I'm not saying that's what happened, but her foot was on the gas pedal at a weird angel. It might have finally came loose during the impact with the tree. All I can say is I wasn't there and I didn't want to tell you all this.”
He looked at me and he really busted out crying and hugged me. “Oh, I'm so so sorry. I thought you let me down!”
“I'm not going to do that to you ever.”
“I was so pissed. I was pissed at her. I was pissed at you and I was pissed at myself. I....I...I...I...”
“I know, you wanted to end it all yourself.”
“How'd you know?”
“Mitch, when someone dies in this manner, there's a lot of unanswered questions. An interesting thing is that once the suicide option is opened, other people look at it and think, “Man, that's a way out.”
It's not, and you're stronger than that. Work with me and continue to talk with me and I'll do what I can to get us through this.”
oan was standing next to us. She heard everything I said to him. She caressed his back and I said, “Mitch, you've been strong for so long in so many ways these kids don't even know."
I said, "You know and you've made it this far. Things are going to get easier and I'll prove that to you. You've got to trust me a little bit more. Look at how much has changed in just the short time you've known me.”
He sniffled and said, “I know, if Gregg hadn't been there, I'd still be there. That boy's really come back to me.”
“He's come back to him too. He's fought the battle too. What do you think would happen if he saw you use the suicide door after the battles he's fought?”
“Yeah, so get that thought out of your head and know I'll be there for you and you've got to be there for him as I will be.”
Joan smiled and said, “Mitchell, give me that hug so he can go get Gregg some help. You know you hug me before you hug anyone here!”
He smiled and said, “Sis, that boy has done so much for me.”
“He's done it for us all. We were just talking in the house there and you'd be amazed at how much he's got me thinking I need to change things at the hospital.”
“Yeah, did you know.....”
I walked away to get to Gregg. Heather was hugging him and when I walked up, she turned to me and said, “Men, what total toilet heads. So full of shit and in need of a good flush.”
“Sis, let me have him.”
“No, you gave him to me and I'm keeping him” She said really child like.
“You can have him back, I just got to borrow him for a moment.”
“Well, ok this time...”
Gregg turned to me and I said, “Put your head on this shoulder and I'm going to talk with you.”
“Do I gotta?”
“Yeah, you gotta.”
He put his head on my shoulder and I said, “Listen to me and you listen good. The next time your dad wants to pull that shit, you tell him not no, but fuck no. You're strong enough and now, I want to know what happened down there.”
“Dad said he needed to go down there to get some answers right in his head.”
“It was too soon and I'm not holding against you, but now you know.”
“Well, I didn't think it was a good idea.”
“It wasn't. Your dad is better now and he now knows more answers but it really put him on rocky ground. The good thing is I've put some thoughts into his head that still have him giving your mom some benefit of the doubt. Right now, we've got to have him holding onto that, o.k.?”
“She did it Lance.”
“Were you there?”
“Then how are you so sure?”
“Dad showed me the tire prints and I saw them with my own eyes.”
“Gregg, listen to me. Hold my hand and we're going to walk through the front yard here and I'm going to tell you some other possibilities.
She came up the drive and she parked. She was 4 sheets to the wind as she was 4 times over the limit. Her blood alcohol levels tell us that.
She was pissed and she was disappointed in life and friends. That could say she was at a crucial point. Let's say she got back in the car and wanted to peel out to make it a point that she was pissed. Let's say she tromped that pedal and the car was in forward instead of reverse.
First of all, the shock of not going backwards is disorienting enough, but she's drunk and her reactions are slower. Now, take a look at the yard, the tire tracks look like they did down there.
So, did she floor it on purpose? Or, was it an accident? All we know is she was drunk. She went out over that yard and she went off the cliff. Look, you can see for yourself.
Now, let's say she was relaxed enough that when that car landed, she was holding on for the ride and she was trying to steer but the front end of the car was fucked up. So, she's still trying to figure out how to get her foot out and she's still not figured the reason the car's going forward is her foot. She's attempting to steer and it's now going down an embankment.
All I know is it hit a fucking tree and she died. So, unless you can prove to me otherwise with a note, it's accidental and although it looks like suicide, it looks to me like an accident too.”
He hugged me again and began crying, “I want it to be how you said happened so bad, but I know her.”
“Gregg, I don't know you and I wouldn't hurt you for anything in the world. You're my new little brother and I'm going to love you no matter what.
Now, your mom in all the time you knew her was prone to anger and that's a given. You and everyone else has told me she was less than pleasant, but now, tell me any other time she ever said she would kill herself or attempted it?”
“And no one else has told me differently, so look at it and you tell me why she suddenly changed?”
“So, you think it was an accident?”
“I think there are things that can prove both. What I know is if it went to court, I could prove doubt either way, so I'm not going to tell you one thing above the other.
What I am going to say is you're strong and I love you. I'll be there for you and I'll listen to you. I'll even fight battles for you and if you stood up to your dad and told him no and said to him, “Let's go ask Lance.”, I'd've told you it wasn't time and spoken to you and him up here in the front yard like I just did you. I would NOT have taken you down the hill yet. It's too soon.”
“I'm sorry Lance.”
“No, you're not trained in it. I'm not blaming. Shit, if I was there, it would have been hard for me to say NO, but I would have and he would have had to trust me. Look at it this way, Heather was there and she didn't even know enough to say no.”
He smiled and said, “Lance, I'm falling for her.”
“Just as I am your brother. It's great, isn't it.”
“I know, now, what I need to do is we're going into the house and we're going to do this as a family. The reason I'm speaking with you is I'll tell you now, I'm going to back you on whatever you do in there, but I'm not going to back you on being mean to anyone. IF you've been mean to them in the past and you owe people apologies, then give it. If you don't think you owe them shit, then don't give it.
They're still not believing you've really changed and I know you have. I know Heather wouldn't put up with you backsliding, so what you need to know is I'm one person. I'll give you strength. Your immediate family gives you strength too, but there's a whole extended family in there that you might need someday and from what I've heard, you've really been a dick to them to the point they're not really thinking you can change.”
“I wasn't that bad!”
“I think you were. I think you hurt people's feelings that you have no clue as to all the damage it's stirred. So, either you can apologize and show them the new you by not being a dick to them, or you don't have to say shit and show them the new you. Both are going to be powerful because they're going to see the new you. My advice is to stand up in front of everyone and say you are sorry and you're changing. But, whatever you do, I won't tolerate you being mean to one single person in there. Got me?”
“Yeah, what if people come up seeking to start shit?”
“Didn't I say I'd fight battles for you? I can fuck someone up with words too you know.”
“I imagine you can. Heather says what you did to me was light compared to what you really could have did.”
“Killing you wouldn't have done a thing. Sometimes the best battles are the won where both get to walk away better.”
“Wow, I'll remember that.” He looked at me and said, “You really love me?”
“Yeah, why don't you believe me?”
“No, it just feels good.”
“It does. Before yesterday, I didn't know if I had a lover, much less a brother in law, and now, I've got both. And the icing on the cake is I got your dad in the bargain too.”
“He thinks you're awesome, but he was really upset with you down the hill.”
“He was in pain, but I just told him everything I told you. And, to tell you the truth, I'm glad he questioned his trust and had it reaffirmed, because now that trust is stronger. I love the old dude, and he should know now, I'd not do anything to hurt him.”
“He knows that, I think it's what he wasn't told.”
“He wasn't told because it wasn't time yet. What you don't know is he about put himself over the edge and thought suicide, and that's not an option.”
“Yeah, and you know what else? In situations like this, it's a real possibility. We're back on solid ground again and I think he's worried about you. He really loves you Gregg.”
“I know. We had a long talk this morning.”
“Good. I'd like for you and Ty to have one of those talks too.”
“Well, let's go in the house and get the strength from you family started. I think it's going to be great for you.”
“Me too in a way, but in other ways, it's going to be a bitch because I don't know how to relate to them.”
“Tell them that. Ask for their effort so they will reach out to you too.”
We went inside and Heather came up to me and said, “Can I have him back now?”
“Not yet, but stay close, this next part's going to be a turning point.”
“It's something he has to do, not you. So, stay back with me and be ready and follow my lead if he needs it.”
She gave me a look and when we entered the house, it was like everyone got silent. Gregg looked at me and I nodded. He looked around him and it was strange because I'd never been in an atmosphere which was so tense on both sides. Gregg said, “Can I have everyone's attention?”
He looked around and slowly said, “I owe everyone an apology for the way I've treated you.
What you don't know, is in a large way, I don't know how to relate to you. For so long, I've put up walls and I've really been an ass, so you'd stay away from me.
You knew my mom and she wasn't a nice person. What you didn't know was she was a really insecure person and if someone paid attention to me, she ridiculed it and I got made fun of and she told me I'd be weak in the business.
She never told me one kind word of reinforcement when it came to preparing me for business, she only told me where I wasn't good enough One thing she never did, was tell me how treating you all bad, was ruining me as a person.
Throughout my life, I've been treating people as I got treated by her. I did it with family, I did it with friends, I did it on dates, and I did it with anyone I went to school with. That was until I found out she was dead and came home.
When I got home, the first person I saw was Lance. I thought he worked for the funeral home and I immediately began treating him like shit. He was civil and he gave me a warning to shut my mouth, but I still picked and prodded for that weakness. When we went into the house, I shoved him and he put me on my ass. I still put it off as weakness on his part because he attempted to cover it up to my dad. I still told him what a faggot, I thought he was and that's when he grabbed me by my throat and made me realize he could kill me just as soon as look at me and not let up until he received an apology.
While I was blacking out, he told me my mom was dead and what he expected everyone to be treated like in order for him to let up. Now, some of you might think that's abuse, but to me, it was someone loving me enough to tell me it wasn't something he would tolerate from me and he expected more.
In some real fast moments, I made a decision to live life like I thought I should and not live it as I'd been trained by my mom. You see, there were times I thought I could be better and even knew I should do things differently, but until a person's made to change, they don't. I'm now going to do the right things and hope you'll forgive me and give me that chance.”
He looked out at everyone and then looked down, I saw his shoulder heave, and came up to give him a hug. As we hugged, I heard someone begin clapping and then everyone did it.
“That's the hardest thing I've ever done Lance.”
“And, that's the best thing you've done so far. They love you and they'll take you back. If they don't, fuck that person, but don't. Just let them be and concentrate on the ones that will be there.”
“Do you think there will be very many?”
“They're good people, they'll take you back.”
“No, the one's that hate me enough they won't.”
“Gregg, you've done things which people can hold grudges for, but when they see you've really changed, they'll come around.”
I let him go and Heather came up and hugged him, “Fuck you bro, I'm taking him back.” she whispered.
She hugged him, and as they hugged, Joan came up and hugged him. Mark was with her and she turned to everyone and said, “This is a family. He's given an apology and he's gave his reasons. I loved Wendy, but I knew her faults.
He's not lied. If anything, he's not told enough. What makes me feel bad is as cruel as he was, I knew in my heart of hearts he was crying out for attention.
I thought in loving her, I had to ignore that child. I won't do it again. You all are just as guilty as I at ignoring his pain and not calling for action. In this family, let's not see it happen again.”
Mitch came up and said, “You got my boy back.”
“Yeah, and now the major battle's over. It's just clean up.”
“Well, we're prepared for that.”
“Mitch, I'm sorry.”
“No, you didn't do anything wrong. Joanie talked with me and she told me how worried you were about me. She told me you'd talked with her and Mark and told them how you all were going to have to watch over me. It's tough, but I wasn't prepared to see the tire prints, and to see the tree.
It's funny, but I had a talk with the tree and told it that it was tougher than me as I was weak compared to her and it took her out. What's funny is the tree told me, my strength was in my mind and I could take it out if I wanted to. That's when I knew it was right.”
“True. All it had to do was be there. All you have to do for your boys and I is be there. All your family here has to do is be there. Where we fail in that strength is when we're alone and don't rely upon that strength.
If you think about it, think about the tree's family being all the other trees. You might cut that one down, and you might cut down a whole forest, but I bet you when you turn around, you'll still see another tree. Then, until the day you die, you'll see trees and will realize trees will be there forever and when you're in the ground, their strength is fed by your body.”
“Wow, how profound.”
“No, that's a family. If you look around you, you see family. One person might take you out, but they won't be able to take us all out and when they die, we're still going to be a family. So, when you need us, call upon your family.”
He didn't say anything, he stepped in and hugged me. “Boy, you have no idea how good you make me feel.”
“Yeah, I do. It's great when you realize you're loved. You're giving it back.”
“Yeah I am.”
He parted and said, “Lance, until just now, parts of me thought if I loved another man, I was gay. I realize I can love you and you accept me however I am. That's not being gay, that's being loved.”
“Good, you now realize the love you can have for everyone. It's not anything but love if you love someone. I think you've been taught things like she taught Gregg and Ty, and now you're strong enough to get beyond the anger.”
“Yeah, I loved her, but I realize if I'd stood up and spoke to her as you did Gregg, she would have seen she was loved and not did what she did. Maybe I reinforced her insecurities.”
“Maybe, but most people react instead of act. That's their nature. I'll give you a secret to turning the reaction into action.”
“Think of the other person and if they look like they need help, step in and do it. You'll be amazed at how fast you switch. The thing about it is all it takes to switch is doing it once, and then, you're doing it over and over and over again.”
“That's interesting. Is that what you do?”
“Yeah, and that's what Joan does. She thinks about other people and before she thinks “I should do something", she's doing something.”
“You hit the nail on the head. She's always been that way. I never realized until now it was that easy, I'll do that from now on.”
“I'll be there.”
“Good, from now on, I'll be there for you too.”
Ty came up and said, “Hon, you look rather at home being hugged by my dad, but people might talk.”
“Well, he gives good hugs, I guess I'll stop now so he can hug others if they're jealous.”
Mitch laughed and said, “I think the jealous one is him.”
“That's Ok. Now remember, we're going to go in after lunch and do some things with the funeral prep and I'm thinking that Joan and Mark are going to want to go to the funeral home later.
You don't have to go, and we're not going there to view your wife's body. We're going down so I can show them some things and they can learn some more things about how I do the pre-need funeral planning.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, you have a funeral plan.....oh, I guess you don't.
Well, here's what I mean. A person can do what we're doing here before they die so their family doesn't have to make the decisions. It's already decided and the way it goes, is you can either pay for it upfront, or you can pay monthly payments on a life insurance policy based upon the price at when the plan's made.
What I'll do with you, if you want, is I'll take what you want, and I'll throw that in. I don't charge immediate family, so you'll not be paying for a thing.”
pick everything out like we're doing for Wendy, but my decisions are
“Yes, unless either the boys or a future wife decided to pay for their own funeral, but you can put in a Will that if they choose to do that, they'll do so at their expense and will never receive a dime from the estate.”
He smiled and said, “Why didn't you just say, If your next wife is that big of a bitch, I'd prefer you to Will her out?”
“I can't say things like that directly when talking about business, but, on a personal note, I'll tell you personally that if you marry another one like this one, I'll stand up myself at your wedding and voice complaint.”
He laughed and said, “How about if I let you pick the next one out and then you can do as good of a job as you did with the boys.”
“No, there's a saying you can lead a horse to water and all that, but in this case, if you don't take the hint, I'll tell you I'm throwing the horse in the river.”
He laughed real hard and said, “You got any prospects?”
“Not a one. But, I'll keep my eyes open. I'll tell you now that as your friend and future son-in-law, I won't bring anyone to you until I think you're ready.”
“I like how you put that by putting friend first. It makes me proud to be your friend.”
“Me too. When do we get grub around here? I'm starving.”
“Here's the key to that. What everyone does, is they go to the kitchen and snack until they officially call lunch. If you want my opinion, I think they officially call lunch when there's more people in the kitchen than there is anywhere else in the house.” he chuckled.
“Well, here's a time to turn that reaction to action. Everyone's here right?”
“As far as I know.”
“LUNCH TIME EVERYBODY!”
He looked at me and said, “Man, if I'd known that, it would have happened years ago.”
Joan came over to me smiling, “You're hungry!”
“Yeah and from what I hear, this bunch starves until someone decides the kitchens fuller than the rest of the house.”
She laughed and said, “Mitch!”
“It's true sis!”
“Ok, we're having lunch, you, young man can say Grace! The reason we wait so long is it takes Mark that long to think of a nice prayer and can get the nerve to say it in front of everyone.”
Mitch giggled, “You mean all these years I've been waiting on Mark!”
“Yeah.” She laughed.
“That's it, from now on. I'm saying Grace.”
She laughed and said, “I swear you two are in cahoots. He just told me he was starving.”
While we ate, Heather and Gregg sat away from the group and made Google eyes at each other. They'd laugh and were totally in love. Others began to notice and made comments about how love could do miracles.
Mitch smiled knowingly and said, “It's amazing.”
[Author's note: Have you ever noticed before sex, it's Google eyes and after it's Yahoo!]
Joan began talking about what she'd learned from me in our conversation and told quite a number of people. As they listened, several commented about how they'd felt bad with a lot of flowers and cut flowers around and how it now made sense why they'd used rescue inhalers after going to a funeral home. Several noted how they'd been to my home and not had that problem.
Several of the teenage boys were eying Heather and I thought it was funny how she garnered attraction and affection.
Although Ty had shown me photos of Joan and Mark's children, none were in attendance. Joan did note once they'd be in for the funeral. I didn't ask where they were, but later learned they were in prestigious colleges in the northeast. Mark Jr was in Harvard going to law school. I did take note of his looks because he looked so much like Mark Sr it was uncanny.
After lunch, Heather and Gregg went outside and I hadn't paid much attention until someone came in yelling Heather and Gregg were in a fight.
I took out the nearest exit towards where I last seen then, and as I rounded the house, I saw Heather putting on a martial arts performance for numerous for a group of the guys including Gregg. I turned around and went back in the house. Everyone looked alarmed and I said, “I don't know whose child that is, but for his information, she's putting on a martial arts demonstration for a bunch of teenage guys out there. Nothing is amiss. She's showing him how bad it will be for him if he screws up. A bunch of people let out nervous laughter and tensions settled.
Mitch looked at me and said, “Your trust level is still skin deep there”
“Yeah, as it grows, it'll get thicker, but you don't know that she'd kill him.”
“No, she's in love with him.”
I did my Mr T imitation and said, “I pity the fool if he screws around on her!”
Joan came up and said, “Guys, let's go to the living room, The adult guys are heading out to watch her and I think she's going to show the women a thing or two about self defense techniques"
She gave me a wink and told Gregg to go do business and hurry back. "She knows she's a hit around here.”
“Yeah, she's coming into her own and that girl is radiating.”
Mark smiled and said, “Someone else got that glow when we got together. I wonder who it was?”
They kissed and then we told everyone we'd be back in a moment as were going to be doing some funeral preparations. We were easily excused.
We went into the solarium and what was funny was as we looked out the window, we saw Heather doing flips and cartwheels doing martial arts. Then, she'd get the guys to doing some with her.
If her dojo knew she was doing some of what she was doing, she'd be in deep worries. It was forbidden to show some of the things she was training.
Mitch, Gregg, and Ty sat on the floor in front of the computer while Joan and Mark sat behind them. As the photos of the floral arrangements were displayed, I made notes of which were of interest to them. One thing I noticed were the similarities of the arrangements and the main color being pink.
After they'd made selections, I said, “Guys, I've got an idea of what you want, how about if I order the one I think will be best. I'll get it looking good and that way the price won't be of a concern.
Mitch gave me a look like my mentioning price upset him, but Ty knew where I was going with it. I also made note to put in an order for two pole sconce arrangements for on each side of the casket.
We then went through the funeral cards and interestingly, everyone said no more after the one with a single white rose was pictured. We then made the selection of scriptures or quotes to go inside and they chose “The Rose” by Bette Midler as the poem.
Mark offered to ask a man he knew who did beautiful sermons and I knew the man, so I gave second to a beautiful eulogy. They chose no religious music, but did once again ask to have the Rose played.
I looked at them and said, “If you ask her, she'll sing it for you guys and she'll do a wonderful job. She doesn't sing for any funerals or anything, but she's got the voice for it to sing accapella.”
They looked at me and Gregg said, “If she'll do it and if she's going to be there.”
Joan looked at him and said, “Her boss says she'll get the day off. If anyone asks, I'll tell them her mother in law died. So, don't worry.”
Gregg looked at Joan and said, “You're her boss?”
“I didn't know! I was complaining to Ty about you never getting me a date and it turns out, she was right under your nose. My feelings are hurt.”
Joan looked at him and snorted and then started laughing. Ty said, “Gregg, you were so busy being an ass no one wanted to help you. Now, you don't need the help, so shut up.”
Gregg smiled and said, “Brother, you're right and hopefully she'll agree because I've already got the time I'm going to propose to her picked out.”
He blushed and that ceased all funeral talk because everyone wanted to know when. He smiled and said, “4th of July right when they're doing the finale, I'll be on bended knee...if she'll keep me that long.”
Joan smiled at Mark and I could see a tear in her eye. Mitch smiled and Ty looked at me and said, “He went from all attitude to mush....what are we going to do with him?”
Everyone chuckled and Gregg said, “Leave me be, that's what you'll do. If you make a move, she'll rip my heart out because it's already in her hands.”
Joan leaned over and kissed the top of Gregg's head and hugged him from behind. He looked up and I could tell he really enjoyed that hug.
Gregg looked over at me and said, “If you'll take the hint, at the same time I'm on my knee, you will be too. We can have a double wedding out front.”
Ty looked at me shocked and I said, “We can't get married in this state.”
Gregg looked down and Joan said, “Ask him you doof.” with a near growl in her voice."
“Ok, but it's hard for it to be a secret with him sitting here...sheesh...maybe I wanted it to be a secret.” I said whispering.
She laughed and said, “Oh.”
Ty said, “I hear nothing, I see nothing, I know nothing” and then held out his left hand pointing at his ring finger with the other hand. Everyone cracked up and I said, “Ty, let me figure out what size of rock will best fit that finger and then we'll get together and propose to each other.”
He smiled and I said, “Gregg, let's let you guys day be one you'll have together and then, Ty and I'll figure out when we'll have a ceremony.”
Gregg looked at me and said, “I want my brother to be my best man and you to be there standing as one of my groomsmen. What I think will be neat is we pause and then, we switch and Heather and I stand up with you guys. Dad can be up there to give us both away and he parents can give her away. It'll be unconventional, but I'd really like that.”
Ty smiled and said, “Gregg, you want it and you'll get it. I'll get him talked into it.”
I laughed and said, “If that was supposed to be a secret....you're supposed to whisper.”
He laughed and said, “Oh, now you tell me!”
We all stood up and I said to everyone, if you want to come down to the funeral home later, we'll go and then we can ride out to Rustic Oak. On the way, I'll stop on Route EE and show you a grave yard where a lot of dear people I know are buried. You might not want a grave yard burial, but the grave yard is dear to me.”
Ty looked at me and said, “Your favorite spot is a graveyard?”
“No, there's someone out there I want you to meet.” I paused and then whispered, “After that, I can pop the question.”
Joan said, “We'll be ready at four pm. By then, the rest of the family should be gone.”
She smiled and said, “After so long of having secrets in this family, I'm liking the way we keep them now!”
Mitch smiled and put his hand on my knee. “It's my hope you and I can have a talk before you ask my son's hand.”
“Oh yes sir, that was my next plan of action.” I said with my best Eddie Haskell imitation. Mark started laughing and he said, “You don't know who I was instantly reminded of with that imitation, but Wendy's brother comes to mind.”
Mitch smiled and said, “He was such an ass kisser and yet, he was always up to pulling a prank.”
They laughed and although I didn't know who the man was, I'm sure he was a good person.
Ty said, “Hon, can we stay in here for a moment after they leave so we can have a few moments”
Mark smiled and said, “It's funny because you two are going to be perfect together. The familiarity you two already show with each other is amazing.”
They all stood up and I shut down the laptop. Mitch gave me a hug and said, “I'll be waiting.”
He looked at me and said, “That's going to be cool coming from you.”
“Yeah, somehow, it feels right.”
They left and Ty came over and hugged me. “I'm sorry.”
“Don't be. You said what I feel, so that's great. Mark's right, we're together and we're a good fit. Your dad knows it and he sees it. If I waste time waiting for the perfect moment, then it'll be wasted time I'll regret.”
We hugged and I began humming the “Rose”, he began crying and said, “Lance, she would have loved you if she had allowed herself to get to know you, but I couldn't let her ruin what I already felt for you.”
“I know hon, we've each fought battles for love in this family and I think Gregg is being a fool for waiting, but I understand the romantic picture it will make. I'd love to be there to catch the moment of him on his knee.”
“Wow, that'd be a beautiful wedding gift. We could have it blown up so it could go on their fireplace.”
“Wow, let's do it.”
He smiled at me and said, “Who are you wanting to go see at the grave yard.”
“My first lover.”
“He committed suicide. His family were assholes and if you multiply how bad Gregg was by twelve, you'd have the whole mess of them. Nice to your face, but when they pack against someone, they take them down. He knew it was going to be a battle and when confronted with option A or B, he chose Option C which was suicide.”
“Oh man, I'm sorry.”
“Don't be. Just do me a favor at our wedding and let me have a song played for the whole family to dance to.”
“What is it?”
“The Power of Love” by Celine Dion. “If I didn't hear that song at the right moment, I probably would have ended it like he.”
“Are you sure you want to do this?”
“Babe, when it's right it can't be more right. When it's bad, I won't go near it. I've probably acted like a know it all throughout this thing with your mom, but I've been there. I know the affects it can do to a family.
You now know and before you ask one question about him, let me tell you now, I thought I loved him, but looking back on it, it's hard to love someone who won't love you back. He loved me, but we weren't in love. There's a huge difference.
I know our whole relationship was hidden by him due to fear of his family's reaction to finding out about us. When they found out, they turned on him and then, he turned on him. Before that moment, my major in college was to be an entertainment director on a cruise ship, afterwards, I switched it to Mortuary Science. I've not regretted it a moment.”
“He was an idiot. You're strong enough to bring our family together. I think you'd brought them together too.”
“I didn't know what I know now. But, I'll tell you now, when a case of suicide comes into the funeral home, I'll spend time with that family like I did this one.
You don't know how close I was to killing myself, but I'll tell you I was standing in the water in a lake with the pistol in my mouth when a dear friend came running down that hill and told me how much it would hurt her if I died.”
From behind me, I heard, “It would have killed me. You were in such pain and you shut me out. There wasn't a thing I could do.”
I turned my head and said, “You saved my life by telling me I was loved. That's what it took.”
Ty looked over my shoulder and said, “Thanks.”
“No problem, you've already shown him more love than Tony could have ever shown him. Tony was damaged goods and what Lance won't tell you is he fucked around on him like you wouldn't believe. Now, Lance, I'm going to leave you to your privacy, but I sincerely hope when we all leave this room, that conversation is dead. Leave him at that grave.”
“I'm going up there this afternoon so he can know I do have the capability of loving someone again after him and know he's the ultimate loser.”
“If it's closure for you, then do it. But, after that leave it be.”
“I will hon, it's just got to be in my mind.”
“I know. You loved him, but just know I'll be standing back thinking to myself that man's roasting in hell for what he put you through. He wasn't the prize you've got now. Don't fuck this one up.”
“I don't think you will. I think what's you're doing is smart by being forthright with Ty, but please don't bring him up anymore.”
“That's a deal.”
She left the room and Ty said, “She loves you.”
“I know, I love her in all the ways I possibly can. The one I can't, I'm glad Gregg can.”
“He will.” He paused and said, “You hold back negative shit on people. You do realize I would have always had questions in my mind if she hadn't been in here, don't you?”
“Yeah, and I'm sorry, but it's in my nature to not delve into everyone's negative parts. A big part of me knows if I do and dwell on it with myself, I'll go crazy asking myself questions of what I could have done better.”
“It doesn't sound like it was meant to be. When we first started this, you told me it was meant to be and I believe it. Look at it that Tony and my Mom were over there looking out for us and putting things into place making it possible.”
“That's a good thought.”
“Yes. I love you.”
“I love you too. Now, I've got to go to your dad. I think I hurt his feelings.”
“No, he's probably wanting to know if it's something you really want. Tell him what you just told me and to make sure you keep your word to Heather.
I'll go get him and tell him you'd like to speak to him in here. But, after you leave this room, do what Heather said and don't bring him up again.”
“I know, but I think you need to realize she loves you just as much and can't love you in the one way you need it. She's telling you she loves you again and doesn't want to see you messing us up. I'll love you in the other way.”
“OK, Dad will be in here in a moment.”
“LB? Loves Back”
“Keep doing that, it felt good.”
“Until the day we die babe.”
After he went out the door, I had a silent talk with Tony. “Tony, I love him. He loves me. Together, I feel complete in ways you couldn't give it to me. I loved you, but you know it wouldn't have been satisfying to either of us.”
What's strange is I heard a woman's voice come in to answer where I usually imagine I hear Tony's.
“I loved Mitch, and he loved me. I think I was beyond loving anyone any more than him until I had my kids.
You've given Ty everything a person can give and I know you'll give him what I couldn't anymore. Gregg's also got his completion and love him in the ways you've done and keep it strong.
Now, my biggest request is you be strong for the love of my life. He'll need you and when the time comes, he'll be given love stronger than mine.
The request he'll ask of you will be enough to bring you to your knees. Know he's doing it with love and know you're strong enough to fulfill his wishes.”
“What are you saying to me?”
From behind me, Mitch's voice said, “I've got a question.”
I stood up and said, “I'm sorry, I was in here having a conversation with a dead person.”
“The person in that grave yard?”
“Yes, but he didn't answer.”
“Oh, for a moment I thought I heard Wendy's voice.”
“You might've. I usually hear Tony's voice, but maybe it's the voice of who we once loved.”
“Yes, please sit down as I've got a story to tell you.”
He gave me a look and I said, “I just told Ty and when I leave this room, it's over. It won't be discussed again and I made a vow to Heather it won't be. Ty went to get you so I can keep my word to her. That's why you had to come to me. I'm sorry.”
“Don't be. When a person's word means that much to them, I'll honor it to the end.”
“Now tell me about Tony.”
“Tony and I met when I was thirteen. He was twenty seven. Before you judge that, know he fought it and I pursued him. He was so gorgeous to me, I had to have him.
He was a lifeguard at the swimming pool and looked like a Sun God to me sitting up on that stand. He fought his feelings in return and finally after a while, he decided to speak to me about it in person. That's when I told him everything I felt.
What you don't know is Tony was abused more by both this parents than Wendy did to Gregg. It was severe mental abuse and extreme physical abuse by his father from a very tiny age. He craved love and acceptance and I gave it.
By the end of the Summer, we were a couple each keeping the other a secret and becoming so entrenched in each other beings we did things to keep it going Romeo and Juliet wouldn't even imagine.
One thing I did learn was Tony was a promiscuous rounder. When it wasn't with me, he definitely wasn't alone. When he was caught by me, I had to make a decision of believing him when he said I had his heart and no one else did, or losing him completely. I chose the ground rules he made to keep him.
I realize it was stupid, but the love I needed he gave too. What he couldn't give was all of himself. I realize now it was because his parents own a very huge company and they were grooming him to take it over.
We're not talking millions of dollars a year, but billions. With that money comes clout and comes influence. There's also manipulation. They tailed him and tracked him and surveillance caught photos of him everywhere he did and everyone he did. When I went to college, it was originally to be a entertainment director of a cruise ship. Tony knew it would have me leaving him and came back to me with a change in the rules. He told me if he gave himself completely to me, he wanted me to choose a vocation that would have us together.
In return, he would come out to his parents and face the consequences. I agreed. Love versus an occupation there was no contest.
I didn't know what I was going to study, but I was in my first semester at college and as you probably know, the first year is covering pre-requisites so I wasn't going to lose anything.
He went home to his parents and came out to them. They promptly disowned him, disinherited him, and fired him. He was left penniless and with his word given to me he'd stay faithful, he couldn't even get a job as a gigolo.
He came back and gave me the news and then they told him to either dump me and get back in the fold and act like it was a big nightmare, or they'd see to it our lives were hell forever. I told him if he broke his word to me, I'd see his life was hell from my end. When faced with Option A or B, he chose C which was suicide. He's buried in that grave yard.”
I paused and then said, “Mitch, what I want to do today is go up there and introduce Ty to Tony and tell him I did find someone who loves me and I am capable of loving someone more than him. It may be symbolic, but I think it's meaning to me will ensure I give Ty my heart completely.
Heather knows my intentions and she's made me give my word to her it's over when we leave that grave yard. I've given it to her.”
He looked at me and said, “Man kid, you've been through hell.”
“Yeah, but if the truth be known and since I can't bring it up anymore after today, I'm going to tell you some other things, then you'll know everything.
When Tony's family got word of his death, they decided to keep theirs and attempted to make my life hell. I wasn't mentally prepared for the fight and every blow they did was another notch I got knocked down until I was at the bottom looking up.
The only way out I saw, was suicide. So, when I spoke to you earlier about the door being open and others taking it, I spoke from experience.
What I did was I went to a lake locally and gave her a message on her cell phone that it was my last call to her telling her I loved her and had to end it.
She fortunately remembered a conversation I had about what I'd do where and drove there. She saw me standing in the lake with the gun in my mouth. I was to the point I was saying the prayer of death asking the Lord to free my soul from purgatory and at the final Amen, I was pulling that trigger.
I was to the final Our father, when she screamed at me and told me how much she loved me and it'd hurt her if I did it. It was enough to bring me back.”
“Man son, you weren't saved by her, you were saved by an Angel.”
“Maybe, but it worked. And when I went back to school, I chose the funeral vocation to help others. In helping others, I knew I could help myself. I got the schooling done and that's why I jumped in with both feet when this call came. If you feel used Mitch, please don't. I do love him.”
“I don't one bit Lance. The love you've shown to all of us has me questioning my own beliefs sexually. That's how strong I've felt. When I asked you to speak with me today, I had to tell you that.”
I looked at him and said, “Mitch, what are you saying?”
“I'm saying I don't know what I am and what I want is to be loved. It doesn't matter who it is, as long as love can be in my life again. I've been lonely for longer than my wife being dead. Our sex life ended years ago. Since then, I've been celibate. What I want now is to ask you if you'll be my friend and accept me however things may be?”
“I'll be there for you Mitch, and you've got my word on that.”
“Good, for you wanting my son's hand in marriage, I give it unconditionally. He loves you and I can tell. I can also tell Gregg's just as much in love but I understand him wanting to be romantic and pick the place and time. It's symbolic because the fireworks is symbolic for our country fighting wars for freedom. He fought a war and he's finally free. Him giving his heart and asking for her hand will complete it to him”
“I have a feeling you've got another request here.”
“Yes, I do. In our new family, word's given and word's kept. I like that. The secrets are in the open and I like that too.
What I'm going to ask of you is going to be tough, but what I'm wanting to do is bring Gregg on into the distributorship so he can have a job and can support her the way he should be able to support a job.”
“What about school?”
“Lance, college is needed for some jobs, but for this one, he won't need it. I'll tell you now, the training he's going to be getting is on the job and in seminars MS has. It's taught me everything I need to know and to be quite honest, all distributing is, is basicly being a middleman between the company and the customer. They choose the product, the prices, and the advertising. All I do is go out and market it locally and sometimes cut stores breaks to get preferred space.”
“Have you asked Gregg yet?”
“No, the reason I haven't is I realize when I do, he'll say no and tell me he gave you his word. What I'm asking is for you, he, and I to change the agreement.”
“Mitch, I'll tell you what I don't like about that deal. If you bend on this, then are you going to bend if he starts being a dick to everyone and not sell it?”
He looked at me and I know he wanted to tell me no, by he knew the reality of the situation.
“Ok, your silence is scaring me here, so I'll tell you why I'm asking. By telling you the rest of the story. Lord knows I didn't want to, but I will because you need to know the severity of what will happen here.
When I came out of that lake, Heather came in on my side. She contacted that family and she told them she was now going to fight the battle and if any more shells were lobbed from their side, she'd be there to kill a member of their family until they stopped. She then told them that afternoon, she'd demonstrate the ease in which she could pick each of them off one by one until there were no more on their side to fight.
She personally drove to their corporate office and as the father was leaving a business meeting, she threw a Chinese star and cut his tie off him and had it embedded in the wall. She then stood up and said, “That's the warning shot you get. From now on, I promise it will be starting with you first, your wife second, your sons and then your daughter.
I'm saving your mom until last because I know who the real head of the snake is. Now tell her what was said here because if any of you don't believe me, I'll be back and they'll have a funeral to attend and for each time you trespass, there will be another.”
I then turned to him and said, “Mitch, as much as I love you and this family, I'll tell you now, that if Gregg breaks his word, and you don't sell that motherfucker, I'll kill him.
If you then don't sell, I'll be there to see Ty does when your funeral is over. I hope you understand that's how serious I am about keeping word and honor.
So, you want to test me, then I'll let you know now I'll not have Heather hurting more than the funeral of her husband.”
Mitch looked at me and said, “And, you expect me to now keep my word to you and give you Ty's hand?”
“Break that word to me now and he'll have two funerals and it'll be done with you looking like you had a heart attack motherfucker.”
I lashed out and hit him in his shoulder. His arm was immediately numbed and immobilized. “One inch lower and you'd be dead. One inch higher and you'd never use your arm again.
Your word is your contract with me and if you want to risk your kids being assholes, then fuck you. Gregg means more than your false modesty of hoping he supports a wife. He stays in school and he gets that education so if he doesn't need an income from that distributorship, he's got it.”
Mitch looked at me and said, “Lance, I'm sorry. I just want what's best for my kids.”
“Your wife did too and what a fucked up way you let that happen!”
I was pissed and he had to know it.
“I did all I could.”
“No, you're not and no you didn't. You know that as well as I.
A husband that let's his wife abuse a child is no father. You started acting the part when I gave him back to you.
Now, you want to let him go right back to what he was and you think I'll let Heather say yes to him. I'll marry her before I'll let that happen since you've decided to take Ty away and throw this family out the window.”
I stood up and said, “You sir, can come get your wife's body from my funeral home. You sir can go out there and explain to your two sons why I'm taking Heather out the door and leaving. You sir can rot in hell and I hope you have a fast trip there.
Try me anymore and I won't have it look like a heart attack, I'll beat you the slowest possible fucking way I can so you die an agonizing death.”
“Sit down Lance.”
“And what? Because I'm hearing shit flowing and you're not in the plumbing business anymore.”
“You're right. Gregg stays in school and everything you just said is right. I wasn't a father to Gregg. I did let her have her way and I'm a pathetic excuse of being a father. I see where you're coming from because Gregg needs time to be his own person. I'm not going to sacrifice his chance or Ty's happiness to do that. If that's what you feel, then I won't.”
“I didn't say that. I asked you if you'd sell it if he broke his bond and you never gave an answer. That to me is breaking your word. Now, tell me you will and I'll hold you to keeping it. If you don't, Gregg dies. It's that fucking simple.”
“Do you think he will?”
“Will what? Break his word? I think the chances of him doing that by being able to drop out of school and getting what he came for at the beginning is going to multiply that factor so fucking many different ways, you've got to be insane to consider it.
But, you do love him and you do hope he'll keep it. But, you don't see the risks you're shoving at him.”
I paused to take a breath and then it hit me. I sat back and smiled, “You've just brainfucked me and you know it!”
“Think about it Mitch. There's no fucking possible way you could even do it if you wanted.”
“What makes you think that?”
“Do it then! I dare your stupid ass.”
“What! What are you saying?”
“Give a kid under the legal age a liquor distributorship and I guarantee you MS will be in to shut you down and yank their license before the feds come in to arrest you both. What a treasure. You got that one off bud. Where's the camera because the jokes on me.”
“I wasn't joking, I never thought of that.”
“You mean to tell me you were serious?”
“I was, but I'm not now! Jeez, what a fool I've been.”
“Mitch, come here.”
He looked at me and leaned forward and began to cry. I can't blame him because I was too. We hugged each other and I said, “Hang on, this will hurt for about three seconds, and then your arm will be back.”
I hit his arm and then he shook his whole arm and said, “That shit's amazing!”
“Yeah, ancient Chinese secret.”
He laughed and said, “I love you, you know that. You were willing to take me on to protect my kids and you were willing to sacrifice yourself to save a friend. Man, you're awesome.”
“No, I'm an idiot hot head.”
“Shut up, you're good in my book.”
“Mitch, I'm sorry.”
“No, it's me that's sorry and you're awesome.”
“No, we're both awesome. End of argument.”
He laughed and said, “If you say so. Because I feel like shit.”
“No, I can see your point and I can see mine. I just hope you can see mine too.”
“I can. That's why I love you.”
“We've still got to work on you. You know that.”
“I know, just be patient and I'll get there. Now, I'll ask another question.”
“If I can't give him the job, what do I do?”
“Let him come to you or seek employment to support her. He loves her, he'll do it.”
“O.k., that's a plan. Do I give him money?”
“I don't know. I'd say no, but then again, they're going to need it. Let's figure out a game plan where it's not just giving it to him.”
“What if he came to work for you and I matched what he made there?”
“That'd be a plan, but.....Ok, if he agrees, what we'll do is I'll give him the job at the morgue in Quincy.”
“What morgue in Quincy?”
“The one I'm going to build.”
“What about this haven't I heard yet?”
“It's fairly recent. I've told Ty, and it involves federal contracts. For each body I can hold, they give me twenty five hundred a month. All it is basicly, is being a federal morgue and going to get bodies, storing them, and then taking them back to the plane or having me do the service for them.
He'd never see a body, or even touch one. Ty wanted the job, but then we realized it'd take too much time away from us for him to have it. We'd be in worse shape than we'd be if he kept the job at Chili's.”
“Why's he giving up the job at Chili's?”
“He only had it to stay away from your wife.”
“Oh, I understand.”
“Yeah, but if it hadn't been for that job, he and I would've never met. So, I'm thankful for it. Now, do I get his hand?”
“Yes, and never let me pull that shit again.”
“You've got that right Mitch. As pissed as I will be over it, I can't take it away from you.”
“I know, but it still wasn't right.”
“Mitch, let's let this argument and the hard feeling end when we go out that door too.”
“If you'll forget how stupid I was in here.”
“No, you did it out of love. Just as I did. You weren't the only one being dumb.”
“Let's go make him happy and keep the boat upright.” he chuckled standing up and giving me a hug.
I smiled and said, “I love ya Pop!”
ya too, son.”
“Man that felt good.”
“More where that one came from kiddo.”
“More than Tony's buried up there.”
“Yeah, my parents are buried up there.”
“How'd they die?”
“Plane crash, amazingly, a plane that passed all it's safety inspections and had just returned from a factory refurbishment exploded and killed them.”
“Was this when Tony's family was....?”
“Yeah. That's why I was feeling so overwhelmed.”
“And none of them died?”
“No, the old woman died of a heart attack shortly after I visited her and her butler died shortly thereafter.”
“Don't blame ya kid.”
“Don't know a thing you're saying.”
He smiled at me and said, “Promise me you'll fight anyone like that when you need to defend him.”
“By then, he'll know the stuff himself. We're going to be together a lot and we're going to be having a lot of slow times at the funeral home.”
“Can I schedule into those lessons?”
“Yeah, I'll schedule Gregg in too. That will give us some times during the week we can be a family together. Maybe we can meet at my house for breakfast and then go to the garage after that.”
“Sounds good. Your garage is big enough?”
“It's a 9 car garage. Right now, I've got two hearses, two limos, a flower van, and a pall bearer car in there. I'm hoping to get another Escalade for Ty and another pall bearer car. That's going to be expensive because it's a different sort of limo.”
“The pall bearer car?”
“Yeah, The family's limo is forward and rear facing seats with a side seat and an jump seat. The back of it sits eleven people if they're snug, but the pall bearer limo is done up like a normal car with several forward facing rear seats.”
“Like a checker limo. I think they called them hotel cars.”
“Yeah, the good thing about it is it isn't bullet proof, the family limo is.”
“Family and funerals don't always jive.”
“You take precautions, don't you?”
“You'd be amazed. That's why Joan and Mark want to see the funeral home. What you guys will see is going to blow your minds.”
“Yeah, sometimes it's needed and since I was building a funeral home, I figured it'd be easier to build in than add in later.”
“Wow, have you needed any of it?”
“Yeah, unfortunately, most everything's been used except for the bullet proof glass partition to protect the coffin.”
“Yeah, there's a panic alarm in the computer system that if a loud noise happens that breaks a certain decibel limit like a gun shot, then the partition comes down from the ceiling in less than a second. It's inch thick bulletproof glass and it weighs something unreal. I'll demonstrate it and then you'll be amazed. I have to test it once a month.”
“You do all this to protect the family and the body?”
“Yeah, there are some crazy people out there.”
“You telling me!”
We left the room and Ty came over and whispered, “I heard you yelling.”
“We had some words, it was over as soon as we came through that door.”
He nodded and Heather came over to me, “Green lights?”
“Yeah, Mitch and I have to speak with Gregg, but then it's all good to go.”
“Ok, anything for me to be concerned about?”
“No, I'm offering him a job.”
“Yeah, you two are getting married, and he's going to need to support you, so I'm going to build that morgue up in Quincy and he'll run it for me.”
“How about if I say NO!” She said glaring at me.
“We all have a deal here. Gregg gets an education and I go back to school. Did you just forget about me?”
“Yeah sis, we did.”
“Well asshole, while you've been in there making plans to fuck up my life, I've been out here speaking with Aunt Joan about sending me back to school. I'd hoped it'd be a surprise, but NO. Instead, I'm the one who's surprised.”
Mitch came over to us and said, “That's all you had to say hon. You said no and you two are going to school. We'll think of something else. It wasn't written in stone, so chill.”
She smiled at him and hugged him, “I can't stay mad at my father in law, can I?”
He hugged her and said, “I'm the one that thought he had to have a job to support you. Lance and I argued over me giving him the job at the distributorship, so that's what we came up with. Since it's a “No”, we'll pay your allowances and get you guys through school.”
“I'll help pop.”
He smiled and Ty grinned huge. “Pop!”
“Yeah, he's my pop and I'm his favorite son in law.”
“You're his only son in law!”
“Guess that makes me the favorite.” I said brushing my chest.
“Well, it could make you the worst son in law too!” Ty joked.
“No, that's that other guy.”
“What other guy!”
“I don't know, but it's not me, I'm the favorite!” I smiled.
He laughed and hugged me. Mitch said, “Well, she's my prettiest daughter in law, so she's got a title too.”
Heather smiled and said, “So what do I call you?”
“You can call me whatever you want, just don't call me late to dinner!” He chuckled.
She smiled and said, “I'll figure it out, but if Pop is his word for you, then mine will be better.”
I paused and said, “All aboard that's getting aboard, this trains leaving any minute now.”
She said, “You're excited! You get to show her off and you're more than excited about this.”
“Yeah, it's not often I get to show her off to my new in laws!”
“I understand. You've got reason to be excited.”
She came over to me and said, “It's all over now, isn't it?”
“Yes sis. It's over.”
“Good, I don't like it when you get to thinking about that clan. I know I've got a depression coming from you and they're bad.”
“No, this one's the final one. After this, Ty's there and I'll stay up.”
“Good. You know I love you.”
“Yup, and I love ya too.”
“Well, let's go show the old girl off.”
Mark came over and said, “How may cars we taking?”
“How about you and Joan riding with me and Ty and then Mitch and Heather ride with Gregg. When we get to the funeral home, I'll bring out the limo and then we can go to Rustic Oak.”
“Good, I've never been there. I've heard a lot of good things about it, but I've never been there.”
“It's quite nice and their Prime Rib is to die for awesome.”
“Good. Reasonably priced?”
“How's a dollar an ounce grab ya. I go for the sixteen ounce myself, but they've got a ten ounce that's real nice for lunch time.”
He smiled at me and said, “I know I'll go for the bigger one. They got good chicken? Joanie loves chicken.”
“The last Mother's Day I had my mom, I took her there for the buffet and they had shrimp, catfish, and chicken, and everyone liked everything.”
“You ever had deep fried pickles?”
“No! Sounds gross.”
“No, they're awesome. A bit of advice though. We'll be getting the appetizer platter and they give enough on it to fill you up.”
“Yeah the thing is like eighteen inches in diameter and piled up to here all for seven dollars.”
“Wow! Let's get a move on hon!”
He smiled at me and said, “She's going to yell at me in a moment and then I'll be in hot water.”
“Yeah, she's a perfectionist. The one thing she hates is to be rushed.” He smiled and said, “Joanie!”
“I heard you the first time!” She yelled from the living room. “The fire place had some ashes on the hearth. I was running the stone wax over it.”
He winked and she came in wearing an apron with enough cleaning things in a carrier, she looked like Mrs Cleaver.
“Gee Mrs Cleaver! Don't you look nice today!”
She smiled at me and said, “Eddie was a jerk. Beaver was the best kid ever.”
We laughed and then went out the door.
I folded up the rear seat in the Escalade and stowed my laptop in the pouch behind the driver's seat. Joan looked at the insides and said, “Man, this is beautiful.”
“Yeah, every hide matches and the burgundy was only made this one year. I got lucky, but the gray is beautiful too. That's what Ty's will be.”
“You're getting him one?”
“Yeah, he'll need it when he comes into the funeral home.”
We drove across town and when we got to the funeral home, I pulled up front and said, “Before we start the tour inside, I'll give you a tour of the outside. So you know it's special.”
“The exterior is Queen Anne, but don't let that fool you. She's a working girl. Those clap boards are concrete. The shutters are plate steel and the windows are bullet proof. Up there, there, there, and over there in that bush and over there in that sign are video surveillance. Every opportunity to see trouble coming and get a license number has been taken. The front door here looks like Oak, but if you run your hand along it, you'll see it's steel. Once again, to stop a bullet.”
“Why all the bullet proofing?”
“Crazy people out there.” I said waving my hand. “If I'm lax, they won't be.”
Mark looked at the door and said, “Who did this, this is good work?”
“Anderson made the door originally, but the company that did the bullet proofing took the pattern and used it so it'd match the ones throughout the interior.”
We stepped inside and I said, “Over there, Up there, in that vase, and over there in the lectern is video. This foyer here has an air screen that analyzes the air from the air curtain that just blew over us.
If any of your clothes had gun powder residue or a myriad of other explosives, the doors would shut automatically and would lock us in there. The system would call the police and the FBI crime lab with it's findings.
That area there is bomb proof. There's strapping there, there, there, and up over the top that if a bomb went off in there, the person would die, but anyone in here would only suffer from the concussion of the sound blast.”
Mark looked at me and said , “Why?”
“I've dealt with people who weren't so nice Mark and if they decide to come back, I'll be ready. They won't know what hit them.”
Heather looked at me and said, “Let it drop.”
“Will do hon, but you know it's in the tour.”
“Yeah, I just wish we had them forgotten.”
Mark looked at she and I and said, “You two together.”
“She took them on when they about killed me. My parent's weren't so lucky.”
Joan looked alarmed and said, “Lance! I never knew!”
“Don't worry, we made it.”
“These people. They're stopped and put away?”
“They're stopped, but they're not put away. Let's just say the rest of them together don't have enough brains to come back. The one that did all their thinking for them is deceased.” I said through clenched teeth.
Mitch nodded and Heather came over and put her arm around him, “You told him!”
“Yeah. We've got to trust them, hon.”
“Ok.” She looked over and said, “Joan, don't hold what you hear against me.”
Joan said, “Hon, if someone killed me and Mark, I'd hope my son went after them.”
Heather nodded and said, “Well, it's over, so let's let it drop.”
I went on with the tour. “If you'll pause to notice, in here you don't smell flowers. You smell a variety of scents, but none of them better be flowers.
As I explained earlier, the funerals are color coordinated, and the scents can be coordinated too.”
Joan smiled and said, “That's nice, this is peach correct?”
“Yes, I like peach but there's peppermint, honeysuckle, jasmine, and berry. It's in the air system and I buy the bottles by the gallon. It's way cheaper that way.”
We went in to the viewing chapel and I said, “What you don't see in here is the video cameras. They're all hidden. The primary one I focus on is the one directly over the casket. When I dress a body, I note what jewelry is placed upon the body. Y
ou'd be amazed at how many thefts happen from a casket. If one happens in here folks, it will be seen from about five different video cameras and each tape will be used to prosecute. If you remove anything from the body, and you're family, I better have been told.”
I stepped back and said, “Behind the door here is the control
panels for the room. The room is sound proofed every conceivable way I could think and then, the Bose Corporation came in and thought of some of their own.
A car backfiring isn't going to get that panel to drop and no other sound but a gunshot will make it happen, that's why I have to have a recorded gunshot to trigger it. Be prepared because I've got different sounds from machine gun, shot gun, pistol, and rifle in the system.
Each time it varies, so even I don't know which one is going to happen. What I do know is when I press the button, it'll sound through all the speakers and you'll be inclined to duck it's so realistic. Here it goes.”
I pressed the button and the speakers burped the sound of a rifle blast. Mark flinched and said, “That could give a Vietnam vet a flashback.” He smiled.
“I'm sorry, but what it does it that.”
I pointed at the panel and he said, “Sheesh! How much did that thing cost?”
“Eight hundred grand.”
From one end of the room to the other was one seamless piece of bullet proofed acrylic.
Mitch went up to it and said, “How thick is it?”
“Thick enough to stop any bullet and thin enough to see through. Let's just say it's flexible enough that a howitzer shell would rebound into the ceiling above us.”
Mark said, “Ok, so why all the security?”
“People get upset when they're not left in the Will. During viewings is when anything is most likely to happen, as long as you stay on that side of the line, you're protected, but if you're out here, then the doors shut and lock. Anyone out here is fair game until the police get here, but the house is now in lock down and only I can get us out. Well...Ty will be able to get you out, and Heather too, but no one knows the codes and each door has different codes.”
Heather smiled and said, “Lance, tell them. If I'm in having a baby and you or Ty is in here and one of you gets shot, then we need to have someone else able to get in here. This group right here should be the trusted bunch.”
“Ok, here's the way it goes. Front door is one, double doors is two, that door back there is three, my office door is four and the back door is five. I'll not tell you any others, because you don't need to know them. The keyboard back there is like a telephone keypad. If you know how to text, you can open the doors.”
Mitch said, “I've never texted.”
“Come here guys and I'll explain it. Youngsters to the rear.”
Ty chuckled and said, “So that makes you all oldsters, huh!”
Joan smiled and said, “Yeah, and oh so wiser.”
Mark and Mitch chuckled and I said, “Each of you can unlock one door. So, I'll teach you. Joan, you first. Heather, when she texts it in, would you check the doors?”
“It's real easy. For two, you just press 8-9-6. Then, those doors open. Give it a try. If you want to check them, the letters are under the numbers.”
She checked and said, “This is neat, Mark take note, this is way easier to remember than that code for our house.”
He laughed and said, “Well figure out a word for the numbers hon.”
“Ours don't have letters under the numbers.”
“I'll get you one hon.” He looked at me and I knew he was thinking I'd just cost him some money.
did it and the doors unlocked. I could hear the click, but they were
slight enough I doubt if anyone not purposefully listening would hear
“Now, Mark, come up and type in one. 6-6-3.” Mark looked and said, “That is easier. Joan, we'll get the house done up on this system. Our front door could be one and the solarium doors could be two and three the basement door could be four.”
He smiled and said, “Lance, thanks.”
“No prob, I had to have something easy enough I could remember it.”
Heather said, “You told me it was so I could remember it!”
Everyone laughed and I said, “Well hon, we're about the same wattage.”
Mark began to laugh and said, “The brightest bulb in the pack.”
Gregg started to laugh and said, “I'm not even going there!”
He went over and hugged her and then Ty came back and said, “The front door's open.”
Mitch, your turn, “That door's three.” Mitch looked at the numbers with the letters under them and said, “8-4-7-3-3?”
“Yeah, it's the longest number in the house.”
He pressed it and then Gregg took off and said, “It's behind the glass!”
“One second. Guys, there's a reason for that. With the house in lock down, three gets you direct access to the garage where the limo will be able to keep you protected to get you away from here. The keys stay in the limos and the door buttons are on the visors. Each one of the vehicles has the biggest and best motors in them so they can go like Greased Lightning. The limo has run flat tires, so don't worry about it.”
Mark said, “Ok, so what if we want to raise the panel?”
“Here's the code for the panel.”
As soon as I pushed it in, the panel raised. Mark said, “That went up a lot faster than I thought it would.”
“They had a system originally on it that took over a minute to raise it. I thought about the “One Shot” rule and thought, If someone was shot on the other side, then the paramedics wouldn't have to wait that long.
So, I told the Japanese designer of it to go back to the drawing board. What he came up with was something that is a screw and x style lift rather than a chain driven system. What's hard about the x brace is in order to lower it so fast, there's a series of catches which all have to unlock at once. It's awesome in complexity, but works really well.”
Ty said, “What's the panic code to lower it?”
“Hon, if you're up there, behind that curtain by the door is another panel. Push the 8 button and hold it. The gunshot will fire and you'll have that panel down. BUT, only do it in an emergency because that panel up there calls the police and this one doesn't and is the only one for test purposes. All the other panels in the house call the police when 9-1-1 are pushed.”
“Cool” Ty said. “I just hope never to have to use it.”
“Me neither, because if you really think about it, that panel there should never have to come down if the front air curtain did it's job. Only a professional will get past it and then, we're dealing with something that will be up in the air as far as whether we're protected.”
Joan smiled and said, “It may sound awful, but I like the system of lock down for the house because it assures the police of getting the person responsible.”
“Yeah, if you think about that air curtain principle, in the entry. If every school had one, there'd be no more attacks.”
Mark said, “How much did it cost?”
“The air curtain system was fifty grand. The bomb blast shell was a lot more.”
He nodded and said, “Fifty grand to protect our kids from being killed at school.”
“No, that's per door. It'd be a lot more for some schools.”
“Still, it'd be worth it.”
Mitch said, “Mark, the hotel?”
Mark and Joan both nodded and said, “That's what we're thinking.”
Mitch smiled and said, “It's a go from me.”
“Mark said, “I'll get a change order in.”
Joan said, “Show me the curtains.”
“I said, “OK, here's the thing on the curtains. See that red light switch there?”
“Yeah, it's a switch that turns on the motors, turn it and when the right color of curtains come around, then stop it. Go ahead.”
She flipped it and the curtains began to move. She let out a squeal of delight and said, “That's so neat!”
“Ty said, “Babe, that had to cost a lot.”
“Yeah, almost thirty grand, but it's worth it. No one else has it and that's what matters.”
Mark said, “So you color coordinate the funeral and say, pink for girls, blue for boys, and peach, white, and beige. Why the different colors?”
“Mark, I'm going to go there for a moment and I'll tell you. If someone dies of carbon monoxide, the body will be really pink. In the business, they call them “pink puffers” because if you've ever went to a car with a hose in the window, that person will be dead but pink like they're still alive. Now, if you have beige, or pink for curtains, there will be too much pink in the room along with the body, so will peach, but white and blue will tone it down. Also, watch this on the lighting.”
I flipped the switch off and flipped the other switch. “No real difference, huh. Well, one is bright white bulbs and the other is off white bulbs. Both are on dimmers, but here's another switch. Watch this.”
I flipped a switch and the room turned orange.
“What the....” exclaimed Mitch.
“Orange. Yeah. Here's why. If you have a patient with brain damage Joan, what color are they?”
“Grey, almost black sometimes.”
“Yeah, and now, here's a trick. If you put makeup on a body that is one of those patients like a normal funeral home does, you'll end up with a gray body with makeup on it. However, if you bathe it in orange lights up there, the body gains it's pinkish tone. Amazing huh.”
“So what background do you use?” Asked Joan, “Surely not the white, it looks almost orange too.”
“Turn it around and you'll see.”
She hit the switch and when the blue came around, she said, “WOW!”
“Yeah, disappeared, huh.”
“So, now you see how I do the magic of making the bodies look better in here.
As I told you, the air handling system in this room is all up there in the rails for the curtains. It sucks it up so the pollen from the flowers is drawn out.
When we have a visitation, this room is really brightly lit. The flowers have spots on them and the casket's got spots on it and the whole front has lights up there. Back here, it's well lit, but doesn't need to be. However, on funeral day, I go with off white light and tone it down. Everything is dimmed and the room takes on a Cathedral tone, watch this...”
I turned the switches and said, “There, now that's what it will look like funeral day.”
Joan said, “Mark, get our pre-need plan changed. This is where I want to be.”
Mark smiled at me with that smile that told me I'd just cost him more money. He then looked at me and said, “If someone is asking to see the funeral home when I give a promo package, will you show this room to them?”
“Sure, or if I'm not available, you know the codes to get in and where the switches are, you could do it if you'd like. I trust you.”
“No, you can answer questions I couldn't.”
“Mark, by the end of this tour, each of you could do what I do as far as the sales go.”
He nodded and I said, “Let's go into my office. Well, it'll be Ty's office too.”
We went to the back of the viewing chapel and then out the side door and across the hall.
As soon as everyone entered it, they were all ooh-ing and ahh-ing. Mitch said, “Man, this room is gorgeous!”
“Yeah, if I'd done the funeral prep work in here instead of your house, this is where it would have been. It's a showpiece and the technology in here is awesome too. What you see is classical beauty meets tech. Ty go around and sit at the desk. What do you see?”
“Wow, I see a computer screen.”
Mitch looked at the desk and said, “Where?”
He then went around and said, “Wow! Mark, come here!”
Mark went around the desk and said, “Joanie.”
She went around and said, “Oh...”
Mark said, “I've never asked for anything for Christmas yet, but oh man, I want one of those.”
Heather said, “Lance give them the bad news.”
“Guys, its a one of a kind.”
“Yeah, That desk there was a gift from the man who runs Sony in Japan. When I ordered the acrylic panel in there, he and I met. He liked me and he offered it to me. It's awesome, isn't it.”
“It's super!” said Ty.
“Everyone who sees it wants it. Now, you see what I see when I'm sitting across the desk from the person that is sitting in these chairs. I'm asking the questions and reading from the program in my laptop.
Up there....” I said, Pointing at the painting above the fireplace. “Is the screen I use to show the people the program for the photo slide show I showed you on the laptop.
Ty, click on that mouse there on the desktop and then start the slideshow.”
He did and the picture went from the Monet to being a LCD screen. Mark said, “You framed a LCD screen to look like a picture. That's neat.”
“Yeah, if I put an LCD in this room with all the cherry wood paneling and all the furniture, it'd look like it was awful. So, we did that and it looks right at home, doesn't it.”
“I thought it was a painting!” Joan said in wonder
“Yeah, now, here's what I have this all for guys.”
“A lot of people come in and they're really afraid of a funeral home. Now, if I took you to the casket display room, you'd have anxiety. Right?”
“In here, you feel comfortable, but I can show you the photos up there and you're more at ease, so I do it for the families.”
Ty said, “Do you have a casket display room?”
“Yeah, it's upstairs above the viewing chapel.”
“Yeah, I keep one of everything the company offers. Most will have one of each line, but I figure it's an abstract concept if a customer has to guess at what they're getting.
Just imagine if a car salesman said, “Here's our Chevy Malibu, but the Corvette isn't here today but it's lower and sleeker and looks nothing like that, but you'll like it folks!” SO, that's why if I'm going to sell someone something, I'm going to have it there. Nothing in the world is harder to sell than an abstract concept.”
Mark nodded and Joan said, “You have Wendy's casket up there?”
“Yeah, I'll show you if you guys would like, but if you're not ready, I won't.”
Mitch nodded but Gregg said, “Guys, I'll stay down here.”
I looked at Ty and Heather and said, “Does someone want to stay with him, or would you like to see it?”
Heather said, “I've seen it before, I'll stay with Gregg.”
Everyone went up the grand stairway and Joan said, “Why it's so grand?”
“Well, I put a lot of thought into this place. I could have chosen a lot of different styles of buildings, but I wanted something which looked like it had been around forever. This building doesn't look brand new in this neighborhood, but it's less than three years old. It's size outside doesn't look like it's that big and that's because I used a lot of architectural tricks.
There's a balcony back there to break up the length of the building and the oversized windows outside make it look small. The gables on the roof also help hide the size.
If you put this building out in the middle of a field by itself, you'd swear it was huge, but working in the neighborhood, with all the other buildings it looks in place. Inside, I knew I had to do something to diminish the size of that room in there. That thing is eighty feet wide and one twenty long. This whole building is a little over one twenty wide and one fifty long, then there's the garage..
With two floors plus a basement that's all heated, you can see it's a lot.”
Mitch said, “How do you heat?”
“It's a German jet boiler. My cousin is over the Maintenance staff out at the Bellagio and Venetian and the parent corporation is into commercial heating systems. The concept of jet propulsion is used in the boiler, however rather than having radiators to diffuse the heat, I've got the air handling system.
What's amazing is I could put my heating bill up against you two's heating bill for your house and you'd be wanting one. It's that efficient.”
Joan said, “You're going to shoot me, but I'm going to have the Maintenance people from the hospital here. The heating bill for it isn't much better than the old hospital and that's why we built a new one.”
“Ok, and I'll have the company contact you. It's a little over one forty for this one, but it saves me a grand at least a month.”
She smiled and said, “How much do you pay a month to heat.”
“Around two fifty.”
“Yeah, reasonable, huh.”
“Yeah, considering this building is bigger than about eight houses it is. The key is to keep the air moving and keep it being heated. What you don't realize is the volume of air that turns over in the handlers.
Each hour, the air turns over in this building around seventy times. An average building will turn over like nineteen. As it lays down, it loses btus and it takes longer to reheat that. If you keep it turning, it takes less to heat it.”
Joan smiled and said, “Wow, you describe it so simply and yet, I know it's complex.”
Yeah, now up here you'll see the grand stairway. Up at the top, you'll see what looks like stained glass. It's modeled from a mansion out in Rhode Island. Gorgeous, huh.”
Joan went over and touched it. “It feels like stained glass!”
“Plastic. Behind it is a grid system that makes it look like sunlight, but it's really LEDs. The whole panels grid here is twenty feet wide and fourteen high. The power to light it takes up less power than a light bulb. Realistic looking huh.”
Joan said, “That had to cost a lot.”
“No, the plastic grid is hand made. The lights back there if I took the stained glass panels out, you'd see a home made mess of wires and LEDs. Those, by the box on eBay were like twenty dollars.
The light source was a dimmer control panel which was about four dollars. Those plastic panels there being hand made were the most expensive and they're about eighty dollars.
The most of it is time put into it, and the thought. That's where it'd be expensive!”
“You're telling me you saved money all over the place by hand made items? What did you have here before the Grand Opening and not?”
“Joan, this place if you listened to the numbers downstairs didn't cost that much. It was almost three million point six, but it's also almost paid for.
It's a showpiece and that's why people came. If you look in the paper for where I had an open house, you won't find one because I didn't. The first customer brought in people and they each were blown away. They in turn told friends and family and that's how I've built up business.
A lot of people have no clue yet, but they will. As it happens, I know I'll get busier. The exciting part is I've got plans of everything on this wall being doubled to expanding. The building next door has been bought. That parking lot across the street will easily hold the cars for two funerals at once if we need to, but that gets confusing on the visitors, so what I've thought is a ten o'clock funeral and an eleven o'clock funeral.
In the afternoon, a one o'clock funeral and a two o'clock funeral. Ty could do one and I could do the other. Visitations could run side by side with ease.”
Joan said, “Why the upstairs?”
“Let's go on up and I'll show you.”
When we got to the top of the stairs, I said, “This is the lounge. Over there is the gallery. Both rooms function to be a 'down time' from what's down stairs.
Over there and here, you'll see soft drink fountains, coffee urns, and a refrigerated water dispenser. . As you can see, there's enough room up here for two hundred people. There's a fireplace there, that looks real but if you paid attention downstairs, you'd see there's no supports. It's electric and the flames look real. LED's once again.
Joan said, “This room is gorgeous!”
“Yeah, and yet, the furniture in here is hotel quality. I'm sure if you looked at your supply books, you'd see every piece. The materials are commercial grade and they've sat hundreds of people.
Once again, smell the air and you'll smell cinnamon because it's calming and relaxing. It's faint, but it works. Now, back here, is the upstairs restrooms. That door over there is the men's and this one's the women's.
Joan, go take a look and guys, go take a look. Attention to the details folks!”
I went in with Joan to the women's and said, “It's not marble, but it's Corian. The legs aren't marble either but wood painted to look like marble. Those divider panels are marble, and they came from an old hotel in St. Louis. I got them for twenty bucks each at an architectural salvage building. The gold of the faucets and the ceiling fans with the attention to the ceilings is what catches their attention, but take a look at the commodes because you won't see porcelain.”
I opened a door and said, “Gold plated Brass. They too came from a hotel supply. Low flow and yet, one to catch your memory.”
She turned to me and said, “This place is awesome. You've paid attention to the details everywhere.”
“I had one chance and took it. I knew I had to make it good.”
“Hon, you got an A+ on the grade here.”
I smiled and said, “Thanks. To be honest, since I've designed this one, four others have been built but none with the Queen Anne style, The people who have them were with me in my graduating class and we all studied together so they're dear to me. Let's go over because I bet the guys are standing there in shock.”
“What'd you do over there!”
“Let's go see.”
We went over there and as soon as she entered, she said, “Oh my!”
“Yeah. Awesome, huh!”
She began to laugh and said, “You'll never get them out of here!”
“Well, they do like to stay but look along the wall and you'll see it matches the womens except where the seats are, is those pool tables.”
The guys said, “Your bathroom here is better than the lodge's entire bar area!”
“Well, they could have done it this way and it would have been cheap. Instead, they probably didn't think about it.”
Mark laughed and said, “Lance, I've got to give people tours of this place. I've never seen anything like it!”
“Yeah, I'm proud of it. Heather makes fun of me, but she's proud of me too.”
Joan said, “I've never been in a men's bathroom where I wanted to stay! It looks like an old time saloon!”
“Yeah, but the bar over there has the sinks in it and once again, the stained glass is plastic. If you really want to know, take a look and you'll see I made those myself.”
“Take a close look and then think of the Shrinky dinks your kids used to have.”
She looked at them and said, “Man, yours look way better than the kids' ever did.”
I couldn't find anything that I wanted, so it was the only thing I could think of. So, I did a Wikipedia to see what company made them and then called. They got me commercial sheets of the stuff. Come on guys, we're up here to see the casket room, remember!”
Mark smiled and said, “Honey, if I tell you I've got to go to the bathroom and I'm gone for a few hours, call my cell phone because I'll be down here.”
She laughed and said, “The women's is just as nice.”
Mark said, “I'm going to go see! Come on Mitch!”
Ty followed and he gave me a huge kiss. Dad's in love with the place. He's already told Mark, he wishes the office out at the distributorship was as nice as this place.”
“Well hon, maybe we'll have to help him remodel. Gregg didn't know what he missed, but I understand.”
He nodded and said, “I'm going to the women's restroom!”
The guys came out of the restroom and Joan was over at the fireplace. She said, “You say this place cost three million and yet, most of the money's in security, how did you cut the corners?”
“Joan, what you see here is a Morton building done up glam style. I'll pull out the construction photos and you'll be blown away at how fast it went up.
On the outside, it looks like it's something, but the roof and all the structure is pre-fab. Don't tell the guys because they'll insist on seeing the roof where you can really tell.”
She smiled and said, “Lance, I'm proud of you. You took something everyone doesn't think and made it really beautiful. And, once again young man, I know you're understating the efforts that went into this place.”
“Well, it did take a lot of thinking down to the details and if you asked Heather, she'd tell you her parent's pole barn got cleaned out and we stored everything there and set up the rooms so each would be perfect. She helped a lot in her free time.”
Ty came out and said, “That's beautiful and those toilets are a lot warmer than a normal toilet."
“They're heated and the water is heated.”
Joan looked at me and I said, “The water makes them too cold to sit on, so I ran the hot water pipes to them and made them so they're ninety two degrees.”
She laughed and said, “Kid, the details! And Mark thinks I'm a perfectionist!”
Mark said, “Hon, he's got you beat by a mile!”
She walked across the carpet and said, “You sculpted the carpet.”
“Dog shears and a shop vac. Not many people notice.”
“It's beautiful, What's the pattern?”
“Take a Damask table cloth and blow up the pattern, Then take it to a friend who has a computer plotter printer and you get the pattern. Then, a set of water soluble pens and get to marking. After sculpting, come back in with a Rug Doctor and you've got it.”
“Hon, all that work for the effect?”
“It took it so that people would think it's awesome.”
“They do, I assure you.”
We went out into the hallway and I said, “This hallway is the hallway from hell. The leather looking wallpaper is many many brown paper bags from the store pasted up. My hands were green from the inks I used in the Elmer's glue for several weeks!”
She said, “It's beautiful.”
“Yes, and it's a shade of green I didn't count on. If you notice up at the top, it's dark and as it goes down, it's lighter and then at the bottom, it's medium. Then the paneling down there is Walnut. What happened was I started off at the top and then I did the bottom and the in between is the end. It's distinctive because the gold frames of the photos is what makes it really stand out.”
I stopped and said, “Well, we're here, so if you'd like to not go in, I'll understand.”
Joan said, “Where's it at?”
The door is hidden. My reasoning is a person's natural curiosity is they'll open a door. So, if there's no door, they don't go in.”
Mark smiled and said, “I see the outline of it, but how do you open it.”
“Here's the fun part. Push down on that rail there Mark.”
He did and the whole panel opened outward.
Ty said, “That's cool!
“Yeah, think of a barn door and it slides back on the track up there. It has to be big enough that we can bring them up on the elevator.”
We stepped in the showroom and Joan said, “This is beautiful. I've been in the showrooms at other places and they're really stark. This one here is nice. The vines and the way you did the individual nooks make it seem smaller.”
“Well, what I did here is a usual casket display room is like an appliance section at Discount City with refrigerators side by side all along. At first, I thought about having them like that, and then thought, OK, the woods belong together, the metals belong together and the paints belong together, When I did that, I thought of the little nooks. The reason is a person could come in here and get overwhelmed really easily. There's more than two hundred caskets in here.
What I've done is I've colored each nook so it accentuated the color of the casket. The bronze with the down spots and the brown wall behind make them really look bronze. The golds over there have the green. Over there, the oaks with the peach colored walls makes it look good. The whites are the only ones which I left the walls white.
Mitch, here is the one we'll have Wendy in. The liner pops out like this and that one over there will go in like this. Now, what I'll do is have a satin pillow and she'll look nice.”
He looked at me and said, “You've done really good.”
“I've tried. Somehow, I feel like it's not enough.”
He hugged me and Ty came over, “Dad, come here for a moment.”
Mitch went with him and Joan came over. “Are you going to mind if they change their mind?”
“No, the only time I'd mind is if we were up there in the viewing chapel ten minutes before the visitation and then it'd be a headache, but now is the time if they want to.”
She said, “Come here because as soon as Mitch sees this one, he's going to want it. Ty wants it and I think it'll be beautiful with her outfit.”
We walked over and went into the blacks. When we got to the “Tuxedo” model, Mitch stood there crying. “She'd love it.”
“Ok, so, we'll have this one.”
“No, I've got to go get Gregg up here for his approval too.”
Joan patted my arm and said, “I'll go get them. I know what to say to get him up here.”
She left and Mitch turned to me, “You're not going to mind?”
“No, Joan said it'd be perfect for the outfit you want her in, so I can work with this one. Do you still want the rose in the top liner?”
“Yes, if you don't mind.”
“Ok, let me get it changed before Gregg gets up here. People that don't like these rooms tend to have panic attacks in them.”
“He won't in here. It's nice in here.”
Mark patted my arm and said, “Lance, this place is awesome. A lot of people I know who are squeamish about death wouldn't think one bad thought about it here.”
“Well, you can see I've tried. I always feel like I should do more though.”
“That's the perfectionist in you. I think between you and Joan, she'll have a hard time topping this one. I can see the gears turning though and I have a feeling our bathroom is about to be remodeled. As soon as you said you heated the water, I knew Mitch would be changing some pipes.”
Mitch laughed and said, “I don't know how you keep the water hot in the bowl though.”
“You don't. The bowl's for looks. If you look close, the piping is for a fast flush and it's recirculating. The rim's heated from the infrared light in the ceiling.”
Mark groaned and Ty laughed. “Lance, you make it sound simple, but the more you speak, the more Uncle Mark's going to have to spend.”
Mark laughed and said, “Lance, I'm redesigning a hotel in so many ways you can't even imagine. We're about to start construction and when Joanie gives me that look, I know it's going to be a change order.”
“Well, you'd rather spend the money now than later, so that's good. Right?”
“Yeah, she says the same thing.”
Joan came in with Gregg and Heather in tow. Gregg's eyes were big and I went over to put a hand on him.
“Gregg, I'm here with you. If you need to, I'll have you out of here in about ten seconds. If you start to panic, you count out ten and by one, I'll have you in that hallway, Ok?”
“By throwing you up over my shoulder and carrying you out, that's how.”
He laughed and said, “You couldn't get it done, I weigh too much.”
“Wrong” said Heather, “I could carry you out. It's in the martial arts. How do you think Ninjas don't leave their dead behind. They carry them.”
“Yeah, it's easy to carry someone when you need to.”
“I never thought of it. A person weighs a lot, don't they?”
“Yeah, but it's not if you carry them right. Now, we're here to see this model.”
Gregg looked at it and said, “It's beautiful. You want mom in that one jacket and the ruffled shirt, right?”
Mitch smiled and said, “Yeah, she was a knockout in that outfit. It'd be perfect, don't you think?”
“Yeah, I think it'd be perfect and the rose up there is nice.”
He looked at me and said, “Ten!” Real high pitched.
I looked into his eyes and he wasn't kidding. Heather lunged about the same time I did and he was already going down Heather heaved and I ho'ed and she had him on her shoulders in a flash and ran out the room with him.
Mitch started crying and said, “My baby....”
He took off running and Joan said, “Lance, don't worry. It's sinking in for Mitch how much Gregg's needed him and how vulnerable he really is. One thing about it, they'll gather strength from this.”
Ty said, “Lance, some day, show me how you just did that so I can do it up here if I need to.”
“Ok babe, you saw how it's done with two people. If you ever do it in the dark, I'll show you how you find the body and how you find the person you want the person on their back. It's rather interesting because you don't look straight ahead, but out of the corners of your eyes. That's how you need to look if you're ever in a completely dark room. You'll be amazed at how much you'll see. Just put both hands in front of your face and then try looking around them.”
Mark smiled and said, “Lance, I like how you do things. You don't realize how comforting your voice is and how you calm some people with it.
I was starting to have a problem a minute ago and you started talking. It is overwhelming because this room is so big and everywhere you look, you see caskets.”
“Just imagine if you saw nothing but them. These nooks block out a bunch of them. Even I get a little dazed at the showroom at the factory.”
Ty said, “Where's that at?”
“When we go there, we'll spend the week at Branson, it's a couple hour drive from there in Arkansas. However, when we go to this one little town, you'll see a whole town that looks like it's restored to the 1920's, it's awesome. I'm thinking of the name now.”
Mark smiled and said, “ Evening Shade “
Joan nodded and said, “Lance, we honeymooned there. That's not restored. It's like time forgot that town. It's beautiful, isn't it.”
“Yes, where'd you stay there?”
Joan smiled and Mark nodded and said, “I'll tell you when Ty's not here so you can surprise him.”
Ty said, “Awww, guys!”
“Come on, let's go see if Gregg's o.k.. I'll take you down in the elevator and show you the garage and then we'll leave.”
Joan put her hand on my arm and said, “Lance, before we leave this room, I want to show you a model I want when you two do our pre-need plan. You'll remember it, won't you?”
“Sure, what headliner you want in it?”
Mark chuckled and said, “Kid, you're a salesman, that's for sure.”
Joan chuckled and said, “But, he's a good one because he made this fun.”
“Yes, he did that.”
We left and she took me to the dark cherry model with the antique brass ornate handles. She said, “This one with peach and the Lord knocking at the door as the head liner. It's gorgeous.”
“Ok, I've got it memorized. Peach satin?”
“Yes, I think the satin's a bit much, but I don't see anything more plain.”
“They don't have one yet, but I hear they're doing the microfiber material which will be nice.”
“That'd be beautiful.”
“Ok, I'll put that one in for order and tell them I want a display that way.”
She laughed and said, “I”m not planning on using it yet!”
“No, I think it'd go over nicely. The woods are the biggest sellers but a lot of people like the gunmetal gray.”
Mark nodded and said, “I'll tell you why. It goes well with most men's suits.”
“Well, you're probably right, but it's really hard to color coordinate.”
He laughed and Joan looked at me and chuckled. “You'll figure it out hon and when you do, I bet you knock their socks off with it.”
y laughed and said, “I've already got an idea, once he gets told, he'll be putting up some new curtains on that chain system.”
I looked at Ty and he said, “Babe, think for a minute what colors they use for interiors on gray cars. Either they go gray or they go....”
“No, that's Heather's funeral” Ty grinned.
Joan started laughing and said, “Mitch told us! At least she wore black!”
As soon as he said it, I was thinking it. “Oh man, I've got to order the curtains!”
Ty smiled and said, “See babe. Now your brain's going to be in overdrive.”
Joan smiled and said, “Ty, that's going to be beautiful.”
I hugged him and said, “Ty, thank you, I've had a hard time because nothing's looked good. Now, it'll be beautiful.”
We went out into the hallway and I saw Mitch.
“Where they at?”
He smiled and said, “My son found the bathroom. He's in love.”
Ty laughed and said, “Lance, Gregg would insist on a television and turn it into a sports bar, but he's at home.”
Mitch started laughing and said, “Don't give that kid any ideas. He'll have every guy in town telling their wives they're going to the bathroom at the funeral home.”
Mark started laughing and said, “It's almost enough to make them want to be in there now.”
I went into the bathroom and Gregg was standing and staring across the pool table towards the mirrors.
“This is beautiful Lance. Heather said it was awesome, but in my mind I couldn't see a bathroom being this nice. When daddy talked me into coming in here, I thought he was nuts. Now, I'm just blown away.”
“Yeah, it's nice hon, but you know what?”
“Ty and I are going to redecorate the offices out there and they're going to be awesome. I've already got some ideas flowing and they said you liked sports bars.”
“I do, but that'd make me drink, wouldn't it?”
“No, think about what you do at a sports bar. You are there for the social atmosphere and you're there for the different games on the tv's.
What I'm thinking is if we put up a bar like this and your desk chairs are up higher like barstools, and the top is marble and cut in a little so it's like a desk, and the mirrored back is your monitors and you've each got a different tv channel for a screen saver, then it's like a sports bar, but you get business done.”
“That'd be cool.”
“Yeah, now, we need to leave here and go get some supper.”
“Ok, you don't think I'm a baby do you.”
“Gregg turn around here.”
He turned to me and I hugged him with my butt up against the pool table. His arms went down around my waist. He looked into my eyes.
I said, “Gregg, I knew it would be overwhelming for you. It gets to me sometimes and I didn't just lose my parents. When I'm in there, I think about everything I can to not think about all the caskets around me. I think of the flowers and vines. I think about the colors in the backgrounds, and I think about how I'm going to arrange things so others don't panic when they go in there. Even then, I know it's intimidating. That's why I told you if you start to feel panicked, to tell me.”
“She did haul my ass out of there didn't she!”
“Yeah, and you want to know something cool?”
“She could carry you like that for a mile at that speed. It's something that isn't the weight, but the way it's distributed down your body.”
He smiled and said, “You going to let me go?”
“Not if you feel like you're still panicky.”
“Well, I'm starting to get wood here looking into your eyes. So unless this is a gay bar, we need to get the hell out of here.”
“Only you Lance...only you...”, he smiled.
I felt him wooding up and let him go.
“You might want to go take care of that in the toilet.”
“No, it'll go down here in a moment. It's just that your eyes are so fucking sexy.”
“Don't think those thoughts with me.”
“I'm not. It's just you. I can't explain it.”
“Ok, now that I know that, I'll not let it happen again.”
“Ok, but what's funny is me. I've never thought that about any guy before.”
“Don't do it again when you're with my little sis.”
“I won't. It's just different for me. I've been so homophobic and it feels neat for me to realize I'm not afraid of you being gay and by the way, I think my brother's incredibly lucky.”
“I think you're incredibly lucky. You've got her and you can keep her happy. I'd give anything to feel the feelings you feel with a girl to keep her happy, but I don't. You now know how I feel with a guy and those feelings are multiplied by a thousand with Ty.”
He smiled and then turned around, “See, it's gone.”
“If you say so, come on.” I said gruffly.
He nodded and said, “Lance, I'm sorry if I offended you.”
“No, what bothers me is I'm afraid of the doors it could open with you.
It's not a fun life Gregg. Don't think it is. We'd give anything to find someone and when we do, we're incredibly lucky because our partner could end up fucking around.” I paused and then said, “I'm sorry, I'm transferring pain over onto you. I've promised to stuff those feelings and they just came out. Let's go.”
He said, “I'm here if you need to talk about them.”
“No, it's for me to deal with.”
We left and Ty smiled, “You two were in there for a while.”
“I just got the idea for the office at the distributorship.”
Mitch smiled and said, “You'll remodel it?”
“Yeah, Gregg thinks it'll be cool.”
Gregg smiled and said, “Dad, he thinks of things and you'd be amazed at how he cross references things. I'm anxious to see how it looks when it's done because he says it's going to be done up so we're all concentrating on working and not on drinking.”
Mitch nodded and said “Yeah, from now on, it's not going to be a taste test center out there. If it is, you're going to find there's only soda and coffee being served.”
I patted Mitch on the back and said, “So, they drink out there?”
“Yeah, it's an office with a bunch of taps along the wall. Guys each have their own steins.”
“Man oh man, I never knew that.”
Mitch nodded and said, “Yeah, that's why it's got to change. Wendy went to work there and it was like her going to work in a bar.
She tried not to drink, but when that's all that's served there, it's hard not too. So, one drink led to another, and soon, she was coming home sloshed.
Then, the stress kicked in because she'd have a hard day and then she'd come home a mean drunk.”
I turned to Gregg and Ty and said, “Guys, I'm so sorry. I never knew it was that bad. Shit, she never had a chance. All the time you've been telling me, I was thinking it was an office. Now, I find out it's a friggin' bar.”
Ty nodded and said, “It's an office with a bar in it.”
“That's got to change guys. Do you realize if someone goes home from work and has a wreck on the way, how sued you'd be for providing it?”
Mitch nodded and said, “Wendy thought the same thing. But, she didn't change it. What I'd like to do is change it and give it a real professional atmosphere and tell the guys, “The drinks are no longer in the house, but I know they can go out back and see the warehouse.”
“Ok, what I think is we're looking at it wrong. What I think is we've got to get it away from there and to a stand alone office. Get the hogs away from the trough so to speak.”
Gregg smiled and said, “I support it and I know dad will. Ty, you in?”
Ty looked at him and said, “It's not mine. Do what you want.”
“No, that's where you're wrong Ty. Mom might have told you it wasn't yours, but you're in this family and it'll be half yours some day.”
Ty said, “I don't want it Gregg. It's cost me mom and I know that just as long as we're dancing with the devil, we're going to have to pay some more.”
Gregg looked at him and then turned to Mitch, “Dad, sell the fucking thing.”
Mitch looked startled and said, “Are you sure?”
“Dad, look at me. I love you and the whole time I'm thinking about working out there, I'm thinking it's going to be easy not to drink.
The only way for me to not drink is to stay out of a bar. If work is a bar, I can't do it. The only source of strength I've gained so far from not drinking is by having family not around me. So, then we go down the road ten years and you hand it over. I
've got Heather and I've got kids and one day, I decide I'm strong enough to stop at one. Then a month later, I'm strong enough to stop at two. Then, one day I come home sloshed and it costs me Heather and then what? I hit her like mom did you? NO fucking way.
Mom wasn't strong enough to stop at one and she wasn't strong enough to sell it. Well, I am and you are, so sell it now and I can see my kids grow up without running my car off a cliff and without making them decide if they're strong enough to sell it.
No. Sell it and Ill find another line of work.”
Mitch smiled and said, “Wanna be a plumber?”
Gregg smiled and said, “Dad, I'm not knocking what you did for us, but I'm sitting here thinking about having a family and trying not to think about the dirty diapers that I know are going to come with it and no thank you immediately comes to mind when you ask me if I want to do that.”
I laughed and said, “Guys,. Plumbing supply is where you need to be. Let other people do it and sell them the goods. You know enough about everything to do it, so that's what I'd do.”
Mitch looked at me and said, “Wow! What an awesome idea.”
Gregg smiled and said, “Dad, do that and I'll go in with you, but don't ask me to go into anything ankle deep.”
“Guys, come on, let's go downstairs so we can go eat.”
Ty came up to me and said, “Ok”
He took my hand and said, “Come on guys, the elevator's this way, it's cool.”
Mitch looked at me and said, “You've even did the elevator?”
“No, it was that way when I bought it. It came out of a hotel somewhere.”
We walked down the hall and I saw Heather sitting in the suite where I used to live. She smiled and said, “Gregg, you ok hon?”
“Yeah, I've got my bearings now. What are you doing in here? Wow, this is nice!”
“This used to be his apartment. He gave it up when he moved into his house.”
“No, It's still here in case I ever get too tired to drive home some night.”
Gregg walked around and then went into the bedroom. When he got to the bathroom, he said, “Lance, would you let us live here until we can get a house? I'm not freaked by the funeral home. It's just that I don't want to go back in that room over there.”
“How about if you guys sleep here tonight and see if you get any nightmares. Then make up your mind. If you're ok with it, then I don't mind. Heather knows where everything is.”
He looked at Mitch and said, “Dad, is it ok with you?”
Mitch smiled and I saw a glint of a tear in his eye. “Son, you're a man and you're going to be married soon. If you want this to be your first apartment with Heather, don't ask my permission. Lance gave you his and that's good enough.”
“Dad, I'm asking you because there's a respect thing here. Mom would have gotten all defensive and told me to get my shit out just for thinking I didn't need to live at you guys house anymore. I don't want to go that way. I want you to give me permission.”
Mitch smiled and said, “Gregg, Heather, whenever you want to do it, that's fine with me. Ty, whenever you want to live with Lance, that's fine with me. Now, what I'd like to get permission from you boys is to sell the business and sell the house and find a place that's smaller and get on with life.”
Gregg nodded and Ty said, “Dad, how long will it take for you to sell the house?”
“I don't know. I'll have to put it on the market and probably paint some of the rooms. You know it's going to be easy to sell it because a young family will want the bedrooms and the yard fenced like it is. It's about perfect for anyone who will want it.”
Joan was standing against the door frame and said, “Mitch, how about if Mark and I buy it and get it for one of the boys?”
Mitch turned around and said, “Sure sis, it doesn't matter to me.”.
She said, “IF you're worried about being alone, come on out to the house and stay until we get the hotel built. Then, you could have a suite there.”
“No sis, then I'd want to manage it.”
“Well, we are looking for a manager.” she smiled.
He looked at her and said, “I might think about that. It sounds like it'd be fun.”
“It will be.” said Ty, “But, when you meet someone who requires time dad, you'll find it's going to require you to put limits on that relationship.
Believe me, that's why I don't want to do it. Lance means enough to me, I'd rather be in something with him.”
“Well, there's no need to make a decision now. What I need to do is put feelers out for people to buy the business and get that sold. Until then, decisions have to be made out there and I don't like the guy that's your mom's assistant manager. He's been rude to me and I'd really like to see he's given his walking papers before I'm out the door myself.”
Gregg looked at Mitch and said, “He's been rude to you?”
“Yeah, there've been lots of times, but the icing on the cake as far as I'm concerned is when I called him to tell him we needed him to run it because your mom was dead, he answered the phone in a real mood and then, I was trying to not just spring it on him and he said, “You woke my ass up, get what you've got to say out your fucking head.” SO, I told him and the he said, “Thanks a fucking lot.”. Personally, I'd like to see him go.”
Gregg was pissed and said, “Dad, what's the guy's number?”
“Oh, I don't know. It's at home on the Rolo-dex.”
“Well, I'll go downstairs and get it from the phone book.”
“Gregg, there's one over there on that table. Next to the phone.”
Gregg walked over and said, “His name's Rich, right dad?”
“Yeah, it's the only one in there.”
Gregg got the number and dialed it. “Hello, Rich?”
“Yeah, this is Gregg. No, Rich, I didn't call just to piss you off, but I did call to tell you tomorrow you can go in and clean out your office because we don't need people like you working.
Yes, I'm aware you were my mom's assistant. Yes, I'm aware I don't run the company, but neither do you. Yes, I am....Yeah, he's standing right here. Dad, he thinks I don't have your permission to fire him.”
Mitch went over and said, “Rich, Gregg's got my permission. Yeah, I'm aware you think you're pretty good. Yeah, I'm aware you might think you've got the place under control, but you see we're weeding out bad attitudes.
Yes, she was the queen of bad attitudes and to be quite honest, we're burying that one and we're not putting up with one that I'm not married to.
Yes, you heard right. No, I do have a spine and no I didn't ever have sex with my mother..
Well, if you feel that way, you don't need to come into the office to get your things as you'll be considered trespassing. Yes, bring by the keys because if we don't receive them, they'll be considered theft and the cost of rekeying locks will come from your final paycheck. Good day Rich, no, I don't think you'll need a reference.”
Mitch got off the phone and smiled and said, “Man, that was fun. The man thought I was well enough endowed to have sex with myself.”
I started laughing and Ty went over to his dad and said, “Dad, it's just a phrase.”
Gregg laughed and said, “Ty, he knows that.”
“Well, have you ever tried it! It can't be done!”
I looked at Ty and Gregg said, “You tried it?”
Ty blushed and Joan said, “Ty, come on hon, let's go get some supper before you dig yourself in deeper.”
Ty came over and said, “That was a long time ago.”
“Yeah sure hon.”
He blushed and I said, “I love you.”
“I know and I love you"
We went out to the elevator and Gregg said, “See Dad, this is cool. This handle makes it go up and down. Pull up to go down and down to go up. That button is the bell.”
He took us down to the first floor and we went back in to my office. Heather and Mark were there and I said, “We're ready.”
Mark said, “I'm glad, I was getting hungry.”
Heather smiled and said, “There's Landshire sandwiches in his refrigerator. I stop by there when I get hungry.”
Mark said, “I can wait.”
“Well, it's going to be at least another half hour, so if you want to split one, I'll share.”
Mark smiled and said, “Anyone else want one?”
“Egg salad for me.”
“Man, you've got them all!”
“The microwave sees a lot of action here.”
Joan went over to the refrigerator and said, “Man! He wasn't kidding! It looks like the boy's college dorm refrigerator.”
She took a ham and cheese and said, “Mitch, he's got a Reuben, you want it?”
When we went out to the garage, I said, “Guys last stop on the tour. The garage. This here's the limo, that there's the old limo, over there's the flower van, and that there is the pall bearer car. All of them are detailed and ready to go anywhere.
All I ask if you want to use one is you ask first because I might have a funeral. Don't hotrod the limos because there's glass decanters in the back bar.
I didn't take them out even though I should because they've still got the seal on them..”
“Cool.” said Ty, “I'm sitting up front with you. Hop in guys”
They all got in and once everyone was seated, I shut the door. I got in and started it up and let it warm up for a moment before putting it into gear.
Ty was all eyes and said, “This is cool, but I think your Escalade is nicer.”
“Your Escalade will be nicer than mine hon. Yours will have the gray interior and the electronic dash.”
“You're not taking the new one?”
“No, I want you to have it once we get it ordered.”
“Ok, but I'd drive yours.”
“I know that, but it's like a glove for me. I know where all the switches are. The new one will be yours.”
He smiled and said, “I've never had a new car and that car I've got is so junky it's pitiful.”
“How can it be junky, it looks good.”
“It's a Flintstones car.”
“The floorboards are rusted through and you can see the ground moving under your feat. I put cardboard over it so it wouldn't splash up and get my pants wet.”
“Your dad knows this?”
“No, but mom did. She told me to save up my own money because that was the last car I was ever getting from them. She didn't even remember I bought it myself because they promised me a new one when I graduated high school.”
“Did they get it for you?”
“No, she threw a fit when I told her I wanted a Ford Escape.”
“Why would she throw a fit.”
“She was wanting a Mercedes, so she told me she wasn't going to get me one.”
So help me, I said a silent, “You were such a bitch.” under my breath.
Well, you're getting a Cadillac now babe, so just have patience. How about if you drive my Escalade until it arrives?”
“What are you going to drive?”
“I'll drive the flower van.”
“No, that won't be right.”
“Hon, what wasn't right is your mom breaking her word to you so she could have a Mercedes. What wasn't right was your dad letting her get that off.”
“He didn't know.”
“He should have.”
“She didn't let him know a lot of things.”
“Well, he doesn't know now because no one's told him. So, what we're going to do is let him not know and I'll drive the flower van. You can drive the Escalade.”
He turned to me and said, “You know you're nice.”
“No, I know I'm fair and your mom wasn't. Although I'm saddened by her death, I really would have had a hard time with her.”
“No, she would have accepted you once she got over it.”
“Hon, you say your brother was a dick, but I'll tell you now everything I'm learning about your mom has your brother looking like he wasn't a thing compared to her.”
“Well, she liked getting her way a lot.”
“That's an understatement. If you really wanted to be honest, you'd say she was a megalomaniacal control freak and you'd been more on the money.”
He laughed and said, “Well, you're right.”
“Hon, you say she'd like me, but you know what? She'd not liked me at all because I would have called her on it. The thing about your brother was I could lay my hands on him because he's a guy. Your mom, well.....”
“You'd called in Heather.”
“Oh man, Heather would have dealt with her alright. Let's switch subjects because it's really upsetting when I see how nice everyone is compared to what I know you went through.”
“We're in better territory now.”
“You bet. I still worry about your dad, but I think he's smart selling out.”
“It bugged me Gregg telling me it was half mine. I know where he was coming from and I know where I'm coming from, but hon, I couldn't have ever ran it. That's where I would have said, “Sell it.” because Gregg just scratched the top of the barrel out there with firing that guy. The whole bunch of them are dicks.”
“Sounds like your dad needs to clean house and go over to the bak......One moment.....”
I rolled down the divider window and said, “Mitch?”
He was sitting all the way to the rear and came forward.. Heather moved over so he could lean up against the partition and speak with me.
“Tomorrow, before we do anything out at the distributorship, when we're in Quincy, I'd like to take you by the bakery up there and see if we can get you a chance to speak with their people.”
“What I just heard from Ty is you only scratched to top of the barrel by firing that guy. He says there's more dicks out there than at a dildo factory.
What I'm thinking is you could be looking at a situation of rats on a sinking ship syndrome. They're going to take things on their way out the door because they'll think they're all leaving. So, put a sign on the door telling them they have the day off or days off in remembrance of your wife's passing and go out and hire a new crew. Then, you're not dealing with everyone knowing what it was like because the new guys won't know.”
“That's a thought.”
“Well, my cousin works at the bakery and has been a driver there for twenty eight years and he's not going to have a job come next month. They're letting everyone go.
SO, if you can hire drivers that know the routes in the area, and they know the store people, then you've got a good chance of making a clean start. Then, what I'd do is have them hired and tell the ones out there that want their last check to pick it up and then fire the whole bunch. Then, offer the ones that were there to be decent a job back. “
“You think it'd work?”
“Yeah, I think it'd work. The thing about it is you don't really know who's the bad apple and who isn't. So, getting rid of the whole barrel might be a way to start.”
“Well, we'd be getting rid of good with the old.”
“Call each one in and tell them there's a new Sheriff in town and this is what you're expecting. Then, tell them they've got one opportunity to mess up in the next 90 days and if they mess up, fire them. One thing I'd stress is zero tolerance and shut off the kegs. Anyone seen drinking on the job is out the door.”
“I think they'd act nice to my face just to stay in the door.”
“Then do what happened earlier. Have Gregg or Ty go in and see how they're treated. If they're treated bad by someone, they'll take their name down and out the door when all the heads roll.”
Ty smiled and said, “Gregg?”
Gregg came up and said, “Yeah Ty?”
“Are you hearing this conversation?”
“Do you want to do it?”
“Doesn't matter to me. I think firing the whole bunch and starting over is the best way to go, then there's no preconceived notions that business will be as usual.”
“So what's your vote?”
“Let's discuss it some more because any option in this means we're still keeping it and I'm not liking it at all.”
“Wouldn't you like working there more if we got rid of the drinking and there was a zero tolerance rule?”
“Yeah, but being the boss would mean they'd have to turn a blind eye to it.”
“No, we set up a hotline where one of the other family members is called anonymously if you're seen drinking. Then, we come down on your ass.”
“But someone who got fired could make that phone call. If we got rid of the whole bunch, it'd work.”
I asked, “Mitch, how many drivers do you have out there?”
“I don't know. The last I knew there was like twenty one routes.”
“Dad, I heard mom say not long ago she's had twenty seven routes.”
“Well, then they've probably added on.”
I asked, “How do you add on routes?”
Mitch said, “The way it's done is you have someone out there working and when his route gets big enough, it's split into two. He gets a percentage of the sales of that route because he built it up. If you have a good enough salesman, he's out there building up routes and then you're splitting them. By the time he's retired, he could have an excellent income in from not even working a route at all.”
“So your telling me the guy that's split routes is the good one and ones that aren't doing anything but squeezing the udder is the one that's milking it.”
“Then you know who to keep.”
“Those for sure.”
“Well, what I suggest is keeping those guys on and then hiring a new crew. The bakery has dock people, mechanics, and drivers. They even have dispatchers.”
“Why are they getting rid of everyone?"
“They're shutting the whole place because they were bought out by a big company and the big company has their own drivers. They were told they were going to be absorbed in, but that was six months ago. Just as soon as the sale went through, they got the axe and told they've got thirty days.”
“Man, that sucks.”
“No, that's business. Yes, it hurts them, but we're seeing it from the outside. What I suggest is talking to the guys and asking them individually, if you could hire a crew of say ten people who were your co-workers, who would it be? They'll hire the best ones. When the same names come up repeatedly, then you know you're getting the cream of the crop.
But, you could also have on the questionnaire a question that says, “If you'd get rid of anyone on the crew, who would it be? And why? I'll tell you now, I'd listen to those answers there because the ones who are alike are going to band together and when the names come up enough, you'll see those names together on the other lists.”
Mitch said, “That's pretty smart. We could do it with our own guys that way too. Then, we could just do a lay off and get rid of the ones that are the bad apples.”
“Now, think about this? On the questionnaire, you could have, “What do you like the most about your job? And, what do you like the least about your job? If the person brings up the drinking on the job as the best part, then you've got the person's preference there.
The one who hates it is going to embrace not drinking on the job. You might do that on the questionnaire to the bakery people and ask, “If you worked as a beer route driver, would you drink if it were a part of the job?” Because I'll tell you now, a professional driver who says he will, isn't a professional driver. That's an accident waiting to happen.”
Gregg said, “What happens if we have too many out the door we're not keeping and we don't have enough that we keep?”
I said, “Well, what we do then, is you work on a loading dock and I work on a loading dock as does Ty and Mitch. We're a family and we'll pull until we can get enough hired. Then, we'll phase ourselves out.”
Gregg smiled and said, “Heather, you gonna work on the docks?”
“No, I'll be in a truck. With Lance getting all sweaty, it's going to smell like a cologne factory and I'll be all bothered.”
He laughed real loud and said, “I never thought of that Lance. Your good smells is considered a job hazard.”
“From My Keyboard To Your Heart”,
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Disclaimer: All individuals depicted are fictional, and any resemblance to real persons, locations, or incidents is purely coincidental.