Daniel, Daniel, Daniel...not here, but always remembered and loved so much.
The family dinner, with a short break to go home, sleep, get up, go to Mass or our services in Manhattan and back again for lunch made it one long day!The Delveccios were good cooks, but also good eaters.It was a wonder no one was fat!We had a great time.Kathy insisted we were taken to the airport by her that Monday morning.Compared to what distance we traveled, the few hours to Charleston was just short.
We walked into our home in Charleston after a month away.It was the middle of the afternoon, so we weren’t surprised to find it empty.My cousin David was probably at school, as was Alik.Sasha was somewhere…he was out.I sighed looking around the condo with a renewed appreciation of the place.
“I had a good time, Tony,” I him into a kiss, “but I’m glad we’re home.”
Tony hugged me.“I know the feeling.”He looked around the condo.“It’s in better shape that Mama’s and Papa’s when we found it.”
I smiled with a shrug.“Sure.Sasha lives here.”I said as that explained it all.
Going to our room we saw it was neat and had been left alone.It didn’t take long for us to unpack the bags we brought with us.The things we bought at various places in and around Australia hadn’t arrived yet.
The first back was Sasha.He opened the door and looked at us in delighted surprise.“We were expecting you until tomorrow!”He said almost rushing toward us and we did the hug and greet.“Welcome back!”
We sat with him catching up on things a bit then Alik came home and again eyes widened and he smiled.“Дядя Митч, дядя Тони!”He said saying our names loud rushing to us.“Ты дома!!”
I chuckled hugging him.“I’m sorry, who are you?You must be a neighbor’s boy.You can’t be Alik.You grew!”
Sasha laughed.“English, Alik?”He reminded.
Tony nodded.“Yes, we’re home.”
I looked at Sasha.“Don’t let him forget who he is, Sasha.He is Russian.”I took Tony’s hand.“We were going from English to Italian in New York.”I shrugged.“We can do that here in Russian and English.It will be natural.”
Sasha nodded.“Sure, but he needs to use English as much as possible to learn it.”
Tony grinned at Alik.“We were asked to give you this.”He went to the counter and handed Alik the large brown envelope.
Alik took it opening it and smiled at the various photos of Ivan, Ivan and Katya, Ivan, Katya with Tony and me and the large folded poster of Ivan as the Raging Bull sighed by Ivan.There was even a handwritten letter addressed to Alik by Ivan.“Wow.”Alik said ogling the pictures.
“And this was given to us to give you.”I produced the box Ivan gave us.
Alik opened to box and inhaled slowly.“Ой!Вау, вау!!”He said with reverence in Russian, touching almost reverently as he held the mask.
“Yes.Wow.”I chuckled.“He is wow.”I agreed.
It was nearly dinner time when David finally showed up.Again… “Mitch!Tony!You were to be here tomorrow!”David said happily and we did the hug and greet.We were creatures of habit.Sasha was, as you know, an excellent cook.He made something unexpected.Hamburgers!Complete with French Fries!Maybe not very Russian…I think, but they had McDonald’s in Russia and other places now.It was good!Very juicy.
“So, now you two are even more married than before.”David chuckled.
I frowned, but my eyes held humor.“How can someone be too married?”
“By having to divorce if you split up.”David pointed out and hurried on.“Not that you two would!I was there.Vows, until the end of time.You would never do that.”
“It’s just…easier.”Tony shrugged.“You know they would tax the hell out of Mitch or me if we weren’t.”
David nodded quietly asked the question.“Do I ask yet?”
I glanced at Alik who was marveling over what he got from the Raging Bull...the mask right there.I didn’t want to alarm or worry him.“There isn’t much to tell yet.”I sighed.
“We’ll know more after Thanksgiving.”Tony said calmly.“I see the doctor after that.”
Sasha scowled and David sat back a little but hearing the word doctor that really answered the question.
“It is possibly serious?”David asked.
“We don’t know.”I shrugged and said calmly.“If was too serious, we wouldn’t have been able to go.”I didn’t want to say what we feared it was.
Tony nodded and tapped his upper chest.“I have something here.We don’t know what exactly, but…we sort of do,” he smiled at them.“Mitch and I mulled this over the past month.If it is…what it might be…you two are the closest family and friends we have.We’ll keep you informed.”
I was relieved that Alik was still mesmerized by what he got from Ivan to really pay attention to what we had said.
“We are family.”David said nodding.“Of course, we’ll be here.”
It did sort of put a dampener on the evening, but not enough to spoil it.
By Wednesday, we got ready to go to the McKenzie’s Homeplace.I even booked another couple of rooms and the Ellerbe Springs Bed and Breakfast for Sasha, David and Alik.Booking wasn’t too difficult there.Since all five of us were going to the same place, we all rode in Tony’s bigger Mercedes.Since Tony and Sasha were the bigger of the four adults, they sat up front.Alik between me and David in the backseat.Of course, Tony thought we should take both vehicles for the luggage, but I told him he could only bring one, there would be room.Naturally, he chose the largest suitcase to be his one.
The woman at the Ellerbe Springs Bed and Breakfast, actually looked happy when we all checked in when Tony and I entered holding hands.She was an older lady in her mid-forties.It was obvious.Tony and I had a history here now.David and Sasha checked in to the same room that had a king-sized bed and Alik was thrilled he got one for himself but next to his father’s and David’s room.David and I looked like brothers and we were all family.The McKenzies were known here.I don’t know if she was pleased because she accepted that we were in relationships and didn’t care and was happy anyway, or…and let’s face it.Gay men do set trends sometimes.The idea that the Ellerbe Springs Bed and Breakfast was going to be a gay-friendly Bed and Breakfast may have gotten her excited at potential rewards financially.Now, there were two gay couples!!
This was a rural area and there were many things on display, artfully arranged to add a certain charm.Alik was curious and asked about some of those things to Sasha, “Что это?” what is that in Russian, but Sasha didn’t know some of the names.
I looked and laughed.“Я довольно свободно владею русским языком, но я не знаю всех названий сельскохозяйственного оборудования.”I said saying I knew Russian, but not all names of farm equipment.
Sasha chuckled.“Я тоже нет.Я городской мальчик.”He said he was a city boy.He wouldn’t know either.
I pointed to one that looked like what we envisioned the grim reaper carried with the long blade.“Это, я знаю, называется…a sythe.”And explained what they did.I glanced over as the woman’s eyes grew.Not only were they becoming a gay-friendly Bed and Breakfast, but an international Bed and Breakfast?I grinned at her.
“Do you remember the movie in the 60’s with Carl Reiner, The Russians are Coming?”I chuckled at her as she nodded.I pointed at Sasha and Alik.“Here we are.”
“But you’re not Russian, you’re a McKenzie!”She said and pointed at David.“So is he!You speak Russian?”
“I’m not Italian either.”I shrugged.“But I can speak Italian.”
“Sì, lo sei!”Tony said instantly with a smile saying I was.“You’re a Delveccio.”
I grinned at Tony as he walked to me after signing the registration and took my hand.“Grazie, cuore mio.”We watched her eyes widened more.“It’s a beautiful world out there.”
We checked in our rooms and then drove over to the McKenzie Homeplace which hadn’t changed much in almost a hundred years.You don’t realize it…until it’s gone, but here you didn’t hear that drone of constant noise in the background like the sound of cars, planes and other things in urban areas was not here.The only sound now was the sound of wind moving through those tall pine trees…so quiet you could hear the voices from inside as the few here were to preparing for tomorrow, going about various tasks with the sound of crockery and pots being moved… they were just visiting as they worked.It was cool out, but not cold and it just felt reassuringly familiar to me.We pull up to park in the large area under the pine trees as Chuck had arrived only minutes before.He and his wife Pam was getting out of the car.Nathaniel, their son…no longer a baby at all, was unfastened himself from his car seat.They were staying at the McKenzie homeplace.Chuck grinned at me waving as he walked over.
“Hi, Cousins!”He said happily and again with the hug and greet thing.
I looked over at his son and…I hated when they said it to me, but… “My god, he’s gotten so big!”I never understood why people said that, but now I did.
Chuck smiled as Nathaniel raced over next to his father.“Yes, if you keep feeding them, they do that.”
Sasha and David walked over toward us, Alik coming quickly to join us.
“I know.”Sasha said looking at Alik.“They do.”
“How old is he now?”I asked.
“He’ll be seven in a few months.Second grade next year!Can you believe it?”Chuck said smiling as he ran his hand through his son’s blonde hair.I noticed Pam was wearing a loose top to cover another pregnancy.
“And you’re having another one!”I grinned as Pam walked over.I greeted my other cousin.“You didn’t tell me in a message or anything!”
“You were off spanning the globe!”Chuck shot back as he rolled his eyes.“You’re out gallivanting all around the world…”
“I said we’d have another after Nate started school.”Pam said happily as she rubbed her slight swelling stomach. “And this time, it’s a girl!”
“Oh, breakout the shotgun.”David laughed as Sasha’ arm naturally went around him.
“You know it.”Chuck nodded and looked at us.“Still not going to stay here?There are bedrooms.”He waved at the…I’ll say again…odd shaped home built by necessity.
Tony shook his head.“I don’t think they could handle it if we stayed.There would be gay overload.”
“When we started speaking Russian in front of the lady at Ellerbe Springs Bed and Breakfast, we almost blew her mind.”David said.
“Almost?”Sasha laughed.“I’d say it was blown.”
Entering the house, we were greeted and hugged by those there who didn’t see what we were as odd.There were always the very few that didn’t greet us with more than a nod or air-kiss.These were the McKenzies that lived in the area and were helping to get things started.Others were coming the next day.Uncle Bernie and Aunt Judy, David’s mother and father, were coming the next day.Nathaniel and Alik now were playing together.There was just too many to tell about as they arrived.They came.
Rhonda, Mary and Sherry were there and we visited in that converted living room we took over years ago.Sasha and David were again just…absorbed as a couple and the good natures and conversations just went on as if they never stopped.Years had passed, we had moved on and gotten older, but we were family.
The evening came and it got late, so Sasha, David, Alik, Tony and I went back to the B&B.I had warned Sasha about the breakfast bell that would ring in the morning.No one could really prepare for that.
The next day we went back to the McKenzie Homeplace as…it was harder to find a place now under the pine trees to park.The noise was now much greater as all the voices were heard, children laughed and squealed as they played and many having to speak louder to be heard at all!It was warm enough to set the tables outside as there was no way we could set up inside!Now most of the aunts and uncles were here, with their children and their spouses and their children.
Alik frowned as he saw everyone.“And they are all related to you?”He asked David.
David nodded.“All because of Mitch’s and my grandparents…they are.”
Tony chuckled touching Alik on the shoulder.“Just accept it, Alik.Trying to remember who is related and how they are related will give you a headache.”
Michael, David’s twin, was there again without a wife.We would find out later there was a divorce that had begun.I hated that for him. I don’t care if he was gay or straight or if he, like David, didn’t want a label, but no one should lose someone they loved.I believe he did, but having never met her, I couldn’t say she did.Again, the bonds of twins were strong and David and Michael were together again, but not really.Sasha was part of David now.Sasha understood the bond and let the brothers talk together in private.
What we, the McKenzies were, were people.I saw a similarity now I hadn’t noticed before between the McKenzies and the Delveccios.Meals pretty lasted for hours!!Conversations merged and got noisy and there was the familiar chaos.No Italian, but it felt the same to me.Mom, Dad and Grandma showed up.I was not alarmed, but aware of time that was passing.Grandma used a cane now, but Tony and I were greeted warmly with the hugs and questions about our trip.Then Gary, David’s and Michael’s older brother…the one from the barn with me when kids…arrived and…he was not a new man, but back to the guy before he had the bad reaction to what had happened and hugged David, Michael, Sasha, Tony and me!Wounds were healing.And, once again the uncles were divided.Uncle Bernie, Uncle Charles, my father and their wives were on one side.Uncle Earl, Uncle Tom and Uncle Buddy were on the other.Why?Because of me, Tony, David and Sasha?Yes.We were the problem as far as they were concerned.Uncle JC and a few others were on the fence about it.Remember?Uncle JC was the one that said Tony should stay that first time.He didn’t understand how we were but accepted what he saw.The three uncles that just didn’t approve at all about us and wanted us gone for corrupting the family were standing, conspiring on what needed to be done quietly, the looks of distain clear.Most others just didn’t care anymore.Tony and I were.Sasha and David were.There was little to say about it.Who were they to judge?The fact that Gary was now friendly with us, was a little upsetting to them. Another family member converted to our side? We were laughing and talking with lunch/dinner was set out.
Gary looked over as the three uncle that didn’t approve were almost whispering again together.He smiled, sighed sadly and turning and said loudly.“Oh, give it up!This is stupid!”He threw his hands out to make them see the futility of what they were doing.“What do you think will happen?”He waved toward Tony and me.“You aren’t going to change anything.Tony and Mitch are together!”He waved at David and Sasha.“So is my brother and Sasha!Your continued talk and disapproval aren’t going to break them up.Keeping this up is exhausting!!These two got married.”He said pointing again to me and Tony.“I missed their wedding!I won’t miss David’s and Sasha’s!”
“And now Tony and I are legally married.”I added causing my mother and father to smile at us.
Tony put his arms around me from behind.“We stopped off in Boston before we came here.”Tony said to them.“We were married there.”
Gary nodded.“Good!!”He said to us and looked at Uncles Tom, Buddy and Earl.“See?They are married!”He looked at David.“I hope you and Sasha do the same.”
David grinned taking Sasha’s hand.“We plan to.”
Gary nodded.“Wonderful!”He looked at the three.“You can’t stop them.Why would you?Mitch and Tony didn’t give a shit if you approved or not!Give it up!”
My father walked up next to Gary.“If you find what they do odd, that’s fine.Accept that it is and move on.”He looked at Tony.“My son married a wonderful person and good soul and I am proud he became a part of this family.”He looked at his brothers.“And Tony is a part of this family.”He looked at David and Sasha.“As will Sasha be and really, already is.”He looked again at his brothers.“Whether it’s right or wrong, it is!You need to stop this.Now.”
I walked up to my father.“Thanks, Dad.”I said hugging him.
Tony walked up and did the same with Dad.“Thanks, Dad!”
Uncle JC nodded and clasped his brother, my father’s, shoulder.“Richard’s right.”He looked at the three.“If it makes you uncomfortable for you, there’s only one thing to do.Don’t come.They will.Otherwise, this stops.”He was the eldest brother and the patriarch.It would be obeyed.
I took Tony’s hand.“You said I was Italian.I am a Delveccio.”He leaned in kissing me, no longer embarrassed or hesitant to do so in front of everyone.“Now, you’re a McKenzie!”
Tony nodded smiling.“I am!And a Southerner!Who knew?”He raised a finger.“But I won’t say ya’ll.”He said firmly.
“Not one of us…” I objected shaking my head.“Have you heard one of my family say ya’ll!?”
Tony did a shrug and in an exaggerated New York Italian accent said.“I’m just sayin’!”