Chapter One:

I hung up on my Grandmother, apparently, she'd heard through the grapevine about Aaron and I splitting up. She'd called and before I knew it, I was committed to driving back home to spend a week with her. As she put it, "You know you need to get back this way more often. There's plenty of fish in the sea... One day, you'll find another, but don't let this one occupy so much of your time you forget about those who love you."

The week went fast. Before I knew it, I was packing on Thursday night so I didn't have to wait to hit the road.

After work, I began the drive home...seven hours of solitude and driving with occasional breaks for gas and restroom.

My first break came outside Gary. I pulled into a gas station and grabbed a bag of chips, a soda, and got everything I needed done. After that, the second came outside of Springfield, Illinois. Once again, I grabbed a drink, got the car fueled, and drove on to Hannibal.

When I got to Hannibal, I drove right to Grandma's. She was waiting up. I parked, and went in to be greeted with a big hug.

"How was your drive?"

"Long."

"You ought to move back here."

"The real estate market sucks now. What I bought for $82 grand isn't worth $20."

She frowned, "Are you stuck paying payments?"

"NO, it's paid for, but the bad part is that if I chose to rent it out, $200 a month of the payments would be to pay the property taxes."

"THAT MUCH!"

"Yeah, they're higher than hell."

"Jesus!"

I gave a nod, "Let's not discuss that. I'll just say that I've thought about moving back, but jobs would be where I'd have to make serious concessions. I'm making quite a bit more than they're willing to pay here."

"Really?"

I nodded, "They started me at $130 there. I'm now up to $175 and that's just after 4 years. Accepting just a third of that here would have me priced out of their price range."

"What about St. Louis?"

I scrunched my nose, "Sorry, but the thought of me moving or working in the murder capital of Missouri wouldn't be what I'd want to consider. I'd rather drive the 7 hours to get here!"

"What about flying?"

"The commuter airline doesn't fly out of Chicago. I'd have to drive three hours to Chicago and then fly to St. Louis. IF I don't get killed there, drive two hours up. By the time I'm done waiting, I'd have that same 7 hours completed and would be here driving."

"Oh!"

"I've even looked into flying from Grand Rapids... It's the same, I'd have to fly to Chicago and then fly to St. Louis."

She shook her head, "Are you happy there?"

"I'm existing. I can't say I'm happy and I can't say I'm sad. I'm relieved to get the house and I'm glad I'm no longer putting my paycheck into his pursuit of his dreams. If I didn't have my other ways of making money, I'd be broke."

She asked, "Want some coffee?"

"No. If I drink coffee, I'll be up all night."

"I drink it instead of warm milk. The warmth gets me drowsy and I find I sleep better... I've got decaf if you want?"

"No thanks. You have one and I'll be company until you go to bed."

She gave me a warm smile, "Tomorrow we're having breakfast at 3 & C."

"Huh?"

"It's a new cafe which has been open for a few months. I hate to say it, but I'm a regular customer there."

"Why?"

"Well... I'm not a morning person, but I love eating breakfast. Rather than getting up and obligating myself to making a mess just for me, I treat myself to going out to eat and enjoying time with others who are up at that time."

"Ok."

"What time?"

"6:30. I'm still used to my time at the factory."

I nodded, "I understand. I find myself getting up early on the weekends even though I don't need to."

She sat down, and I could tell she was meaning business. Her entire posture and body language said she had something on her mind. "What happened between you and him?"

"That night, or where I think it went bad?"

"That night… We'll get into the rest at another time."

"He came home. As usual, he said he was going to the garage to work on his race car. I asked him when he wanted dinner and he shrugged and said 'whenever', so he went out and I did things until I made dinner.

When it was completed, I made a plate for him and a plate for me and took them to the garage. I heard a muffled grunt and thought maybe the car had fallen on him or something. Rather than yelling out, I hurried in and put the dishes on the work bench and turned around to see him with a guy giving him uh...oral sex. I yelled, "What the fuck dude!" and he hurried to cover up and the guy dove to the side.

That's when the argument happened, and he started accusing me of not paying attention to his needs. Of course, if he'd not spent every waking hour in the garage, maybe I'd have him to do something with."

She shook her head, "It's not your fault. People who are caught blame. If it were your weakness, it'd be you who was doing the screwing around, not him."

"Have you ever had anyone do that to you?"

"No hon, I've had the opposite... I had a man who ignored me and wouldn't have sex, but wanted to stay under my feet just to make sure I knew where he was."

I chuckled, "Did you kick him to the curb?"

"I should have, but I didn't. Instead, I waited for him to die and that took too long!"

I laughed, "Oh Jesus!"

She gave a smirk, "After that, I met your Grandfather, and we had a lot of good years and then he passed... Lord, I loved that man!"

"I know you did. Everyone was sure happy when you two got together."

She gave me a look, "Why?"

"We were worried about him. After Grandma died, he seemed lost. Yeah, he'd go through the motions, but it was like the life left him... And then, he met you and I knew he was happy again."

She smiled, "When we met, he made a comment about my outfit. I'll admit I was in my worst clothes possible, but I was doing yard work and just went out to get a bite to eat so I didn't have to heat up the house."

She gave a smile and said, "Of course, he said something about my clothes and I said something totally out of character for me... I said, "I have better clothes to wear, but maybe you're wanting to see me out of them!"

I busted out laughing. The thought of her saying something like that was shocking to hear!

She laughed, "The look on his face was priceless. He looked shocked and then, he said, "OF course, it'd be after a better dinner than this!" and I said, "Yeah, and after a helluva lot more wine!"

We both laughed and she giggled, "He asked me out and as they say, the rest is history." She sobered up and spoke slower, "I'm leaving you everything in my Will."

"Why?"

"No one else wants anything. Your parents, rest their souls, were the only people who paid any mind to us. When they died, it was like no one else wanted to bother.

Part of me thinks that's why you don't want to come home. I think you don't want to be around the memories and pain, but hon, it's time for you to come back home. I'm not getting any younger and you're not doing yourself any good being up there away from everyone down here who loves you."

"You're the only one, Grandma. No one else pays any mind or rings my phone. I've tried, but it's not been the same since Mom and Dad died."

"I know Kenny tried." (Kenny was my Uncle...Mom's brother.)

"Yeah, and then, he died, so that's that."

She nodded, "We're in the same boat. You're young enough to find someone again, so don't be afraid to spend some of that money you inherited."

"I do."

"I think you did on him, but consider that money a poor investment."

"No, he wanted me to use it on things he wanted, but I told him it was going into a retirement account. Instead, I used my income to support the house and the bills. Whatever was leftover got used on things which made life ok for us, but I wish I'd used it for legal work to protect me."

"What happened?"

"Ok, all this blew up six weeks ago. He left and then, he came back and said he wasn't going to leave, that I'd have to be the one who left... and that he'd spoken to a lawyer and said he was entitled to half of everything.

Well, I refused to leave and told him he could live in the garage. He refused and that's when I called the police. They came and the officer wasn't real cracked up about helping a couple of gay guys, but he gave me some advice. He said, "If you've got receipts showing you paid, use them. IF he does, he'll be able to demonstrate it's his. If not, you will."

Well, I went to a lawyer and filed a lawsuit. They got us into court real fast and he screwed up and told the truth on the stand that his income went on that race car and he didn't pay a thing for the house, bills, food, or anything else.

That's when the judge looked at him and said, "Son, it's time for you to grow up. You're wanting this man to pay for everything and you to play with toys. People in life don't play with toys, they pay bills, face responsibility, and don't try taking things from others who have paid and been responsible. I'm ruling for him, get your things and get off his property.". And then, the Judge looked at me and said, "He's got until midnight tonight to be off your property. At 12:01, I'm going to have a Deputy there and if he thinks he's got until 12:02, I'll have him going to jail at 12:03."."

She said, "Good!"

"It's taken me to do some arbitrating. My truck is what we pulled that race trailer with, so he didn't have a way to get it off the property. He thought he was going to get that too, so you know he had some serious problems."

She asked, "Where's he living?"

"A friend of his' place... I know the guy told him there'd be no sex for him at his place, and that he was only allowed to live there until he got enough saved for rent elsewhere.

In regards to everything, he DID sign his name off my Deed. And I did sign my name off everything he took, but I'll never do that again!"

She shook her head no, "Hon, don't drag that experience with you. If the next one means enough to you, don't think twice, you just love him enough you build stability by putting his name on things."

I shook my head, "It'll take a helluva long time for that to happen. I spent way too much money and feel foolish."

"At least you had something to fall back upon if the judge had made the decision against you."

"Yeah, but it sure as hell wouldn't have been up there!"

"What about him buying that place?"

"Grandma, he's going to have to realize money doesn't grow on trees and shoot itself into a race car. All his money, time, and attention goes into that car."

"Does he do very good with his racing?"

"No. He's too bullheaded to do it right. We talked about what it would take and he chose to go the cheaper way rather than taking time to invest in what he needed to make it pay off."

"I'm not up on all that, but maybe you can tell me."

"Ok, here's the deal. Back years ago, if you wanted to race a sprint car, you built the frame or you had it built for you. Then, you put in a iron block engine and you raced like hell.

Nowadays, you buy a super lightweight frame and you get a professional lightweight engine block and then, you put as much horsepower into the thing as you can. After that, it's all lightweight parts...and I'm even talking about nitrogen in the tires instead of air."

"OH!"

"I knew he was an idiot when he went out and got the type of carburetor he said wasn't going to go as fast. After that, he went cheap instead of spending money where he needed to spend it. So, needless to say, it was an expensive hobby and nothing more."

"I knew it occupied your time."

"It does that, but I'll tell you I learned a helluva lot also. I learned to work on engines and I learned enough that I've been seriously tempted to build a car the right way and go out there to beat him weekly."

She chuckled, "Don't! Let him have his thing and move forward."

"Yeah, but it'd be a helluva lot better for me to know I'm showing everyone else that I knew more than they gave me credit."

I closed my eyes and said, "Gram, where I think things went bad was when we put a refrigerator out in the garage. As soon as that happened, he put the beer in it and everyone started coming around. Of course, with more people drinking it, he had to buy more, and more people came around because there was more to replace it.

Where I fell out of his graces, was I told him to put a coffee can in the frig' and tell them it takes money to keep the suds flowing. Well, that pissed him off because he couldn't have that! SO, I told him, "Listen, it seems to me that things are lopsided around here in regards to the bills and everything, so here's how I'm handling it.

If those people want to pay the cable bill, they can sit in my house and man the remote. Until then, keep them out of here because I'm not providing food, or drinks. You do that if you want, but our life is in here and your's is out there."

She nodded, "I would've also."

"Everyone I've spoken to has said they thought the whole mess was screwed up. They said it had become like me having a home and a bar and paying to keep both going and didn't know how it was getting done!"

"You're absolutely sure you didn't put any of your inheritance in it?"

"No Grandma, not a drop of that money has been coming out of that account! In fact, I've got the bank book in the safety deposit box down here. I knew if whatever I wanted to put money in was enough for me to drive this way, it'd give me more time to think seriously about whether I wanted to use it for that purpose."

"Good."

"Now, I'm not saying I didn't use all my paycheck for everything. Even then, I still built up my retirement account and invested in my Roth.

If I wanted to, I could use that, but I'm not. It's just a thought. Other than that, I've got my old money and all that."

"I need to sit down with you and tell you how everything is going to be for when my time comes."

The look on her face was telling me, "I'm telling you this for a reason."

"What aren't you telling me?"

I know I gave her a look and she waved her hand. That immediately had me worried because she didn't say there wasn't anything wrong. "Don't worry about that."

"Grandma, what's wrong?"

She shook her head, "Let's not talk about it now. There is something wrong, but I want us to talk about how it will go when my time comes." She gave me a look, "That'll be sooner than later, I'm afraid."

"So you're not going to tell me and I'm supposed to hear it from doctors?"

"I'll tell you before this week is out. Let's just say there's nothing they can do that I'm willing to subject myself to doing. I've lived long enough to realize that if I went down the path they want me to go, all it's going to do is make me their vegetable while I pay for it."

"So you're saying it's cancer."

She gave me a look and sighed, "It's pancreatic cancer. I've got about 4 months and that's it."