She looked at me very intently. I smiled at her.
"Tony, I had a long conversation with my parish priest in Florida. He told me our new Pope has different ideas than his predecessors about homosexuality. He doesn't condemn it as strenuously. Father Tom suggested I make my own decision about you and Marcus. He even thought I should attend the wedding if I wanted. I can't say I agree with what's going on. I won't tell you I approve. But I intend to get to know the two of you better. I still think it's a mistake, but I'm going to try to understand.
"You are a thoughtful and well-spoken young man. Marcus could do much worse. I'll say it again; Marcus could have an incredible future with the right woman. I really just want the best for him."
"I understand, Mrs. Taylor. I assure you, I will spend every moment trying to make Marcus's life incredible. He already makes mine that way."
"That's all well and good, Tony. But a gay marriage will certainly limit opportunities for him. Up to now no one really needed to know about Marcus's predilection. A marriage makes this so public."
"Mrs. Taylor, are you concerned about people's reaction to your son or to you. I think you can rest assured Marcus is not ashamed of his sexuality. His sense of self is so strong he helped me become comfortable in my own skin while we were friends. I think back to the first night, he was amazing. His concern and selflessness helped me get to such a better place. In the span of thirty six hours, I went from denying my sexuality to being fairly comfortable about being gay. I really don't think Marcus cares what narrow minded people think about him."
"Don't you think he should? It's how life works."
"Parts of life, maybe, but, overall, I think today more people are concerned with the kind of person you are, and not who you love. I remember my first day at one of the elementary schools I teach in. A teacher started talking about me before we had even met. One of the words she used to describe me was gay… The rest of the teachers in the room never even reacted, no one else cared. I talked to Marcus afterwards and he helped me to see what a non-issue it was. I'm not a Pollyanna; I know there are still lots of haters in the world. I just choose not to let them affect me. And neither does Marcus."
"Well that's easy for you. But a marriage basically flaunts it to the world. Wouldn't it be better if you just kept this private?"
"I'm beginning to wonder if you are more worried about people's reactions to you and not about Marcus and his future. Why would we want to keep things private? I'm the luckiest person alive. I want the whole world to know how much I love your son. Really, is this all about what people will think about you? Are you concerned about the reaction to the wedding as it relates to you and not your son?" I looked at her intently. She looked a little guilty, but then narrowed her eyes.
"I'm a little disappointed. I honestly thought you were anxious about what you saw for Marcus's future, but it's really about what people will think about you. Well I guess we are through, I can't help you with your own insecurities."
She began to stammer. "You have it all wrong. That's not what this is about."
"Actually, I don't think I do. I honestly had hoped if you saw how happy the two of us are, it would help you come around and embrace us. But, I don't think that matters to you. You are so afraid to have people look down on you; you don't care how happy your son is. I'm afraid I can't help you with that…"
I got up from the love seat and started to walk away.
"How dare you say I don't care about my son's happiness… " She snapped at me.
Calmly, I replied. "That's not what I said." The entire family was staring at the two of us by this point. "I said you seem to be more concerned about what people will think about you than how happy your son may be. I tried so hard to show you how much I love your son and how happy we are, but it will never be enough. I was afraid I was coming between you and Marcus; I actually lost sleep over it. I won't continue to make that mistake. For a moment, I actually thought you were coming around to embrace us. I guess I was mistaken.
"Mrs. Taylor, I don't for a minute doubt you love your children. I'm very sure Marcus's being gay is difficult for you to accept because of your beliefs. But, mostly I think you are afraid of what people will think of you. You worry about what your friends will think because your gay son is getting married to another man. Frankly, I wouldn't want those friends, and I'm so fortunate to not have anyone in my life who thinks that way.
"Marcus and I would love to have you attend our ceremony and celebration. It would mean the world to him if you could see your way clear to join us. But, I won't beg you. You will need to decide for yourself.
"Excuse me I need a drink of water."
I walked to the kitchen. I pulled a glass from the cupboard and filled it from the dispenser on the refrigerator. As I lifted the glass to my lips, my hand was shaking. I felt a headache start. I took a deep breath, some medicine and returned to the living room. The only noise was coming from the television. Marjorie glared at me for a moment and then excused herself. She slammed the bedroom door.
Marcus walked over to me and threw his arms around me.
"Babe, you are unfucking believable. Where did that come from?" He whispered in my ear.
"I'm sorry. I couldn't help it. She was hurting you and I needed to make her see that. You should go talk to her. I didn't really mean to ruin Taylor family dinner. I'm so sorry."
"Don't apologize. God, you amaze me. How in hell did you stay so calm?"
"You didn't see my hand shaking when I got the water. Please go check on your mother. I'm afraid I crossed a line. I am very sorry. I so did not want this to happen. "
"No, you called her out on her attitude. I think she got upset because you made her face the truth. I will go talk to her, but there is NO reason for you to apologize. I love you so much." He kissed me and held tight. "Are you okay? Seriously, you are amazing."
When he let go, Marcus went to his mother's room to talk to her. I needed something to distract me.
"Sarah, do us kids have time to play a quick game of Clue before dinner?"
She cleared her throat. "The food is all in crock pots today. Everyone can eat whenever they are hungry."
"Excellent, do you boys want to play or eat?"
"Let's play, Uncle T."
And so we did. Slowly the adults started chatting again. No one brought up Marjorie or our conversation.
The boys and I continued to play our game. During the entire time I stewed about the fact I may have crossed the line with Marcus's mother. Over an hour later, Marcus and Marjorie returned to the living room. Marjorie had obviously been crying. I felt so guilty. I wasn't exactly sure what I should say to her.
The rest of the family started filling their plates for dinner. I helped Stephen get some chili and macaroni and cheese, along with a couple deviled eggs. Josh was being helped by his father. Once we got the boys and Mallory settled at the table, the adults followed suit.
Everyone was quiet. I still wasn't sure what I should say to Marjorie. Finally, I couldn't take the silence any longer.
"Mrs. Taylor, I apologize for upsetting you. That was not my intention."
She glared at me for a moment and then nodded her head. "Thank you, Anthony."
That was it. She didn't say another word to me the rest of the evening. Finally, Marcus and I called it a night. We arranged it so Marcus would pick up the boys after school and Jamie and Sarah would join us for dinner. When Marcus and I got to his car, I gave him a pleading look. He got in the car and started it. Without a word, he began to drive home.
"Babe, I see the look. You need to stop. I know you feel guilty about my mother, but you need to stop."
"How can I stop? Every time I have even the smallest conversation with her I end up spouting off. She must hate me. I'm sorry this is not the way I wanted things to go. Why can I just leave well enough alone? I just wanted her to see how happy we are. I just wanted her to be happy for us. I'm so sorry. Why does this happen every time."
"Because you are you… You saw her attitude and called her on it. You are incredible. No one stands up to Marjorie Taylor, ever. "
"But I didn't want this to happen. She pushes my buttons. She hurts you… I don't know."
He grabbed my hand and held tight. I was fighting back tears. I was so mad at myself.
"I need to look at you when we talk about this. Please calm down. Everything is fine. You are going to work yourself into another headache. Take deep breaths. I promise things are fine."
We finally arrived at the condo. He put his arm around me as we walked up the stairs. At the door, he kissed me and wiped a tear from my cheek.
"Babe, stop beating yourself up right now. You are incredible. I can't say it enough. You never once raised your voice to her. You cut through her nonsense and laid it all out there. Let's get inside. We can talk when we go to bed. Right now you need to promise me you will stop stewing. I mean it."
"Alright, l will tell you this before we go in. My mother and I talked for the better part of an hour. Well I should say I talked and she listened mostly. You shook her up, no doubt about it. She actually made me reassure her that I know she loves me and cares about my happiness. She wouldn't admit you were right but didn't even try to convince me you were wrong. I can honestly say I don't know where she stands. If anything, you have made her stop and think again. So, please stop feeling guilty."
I sighed. He gave me a kiss. I decided to let it go. If Marcus was okay with things, I was going to try not to dwell on it. The key word of course was try.
We walked into the condo just as Marcus's phone rang. He looked at the caller ID and answered it.
"Bro, we just left there. What's up? Okay, we will meet you at the hospital. Relax, we will be right there."
"Sarah has gone into labor and it's going fast… we need to get to the hospital. They are freaked because it's three weeks early."
We dashed into the living room. My parents were sitting on the couch; Mom was doing a crossword and Dad reading.
"Mom and Dad we need to dash to the hospital. Sarah went into labor and it's progressing rapidly. Jamie just called. She must have been in labor when we left."
"We will come with you. I'm sure the twins will need occupying. How early is she?" Mom asked.
"It's about three weeks early. My brother is freaked out. He forgets the boys were early too. You don't need to go though, I'm sure my mother is there and Nick and Jess are on the way."
"Of course we need to go… Your family is our family. You need all hands on deck." Dad countered.
"Thanks…You guys are awesome. I'll grab a couple of games while you get your winter gear on. From the sounds of it, there will be two more Taylors any minute."
We got to the fourth floor waiting room to find it overflowing; apparently it was a crazy night for babies. The Taylor clan was doing a good job of filling up the room by themselves though. The twins dashed over to us as soon as we got off the elevator.
"Uncle M, Uncle T, we is going to be big brothers soon. Daddy says the babies are on the way."
"Grandma and Grandpa Wallace did yous guys come to see our new brothers?"
"We sure did. I bet you will be the best big brothers ever." Mom smiled.
I caught a sour look out of the corner of my eye from Marjorie, but I was too concerned about Sarah to think about it. Marcus started talking to his father and brother Nick while I grabbed all the coats.
Mom hugged Josh and Stephen and then immediately walked over to Marjorie. Mom pulled her into an unreciprocated hug and smiled, "Congratulations, Marjorie. You must be thrilled to be here for the birth of two more grandchildren. I'm so excited for you."
"Thank you, Betty. I'm very excited. I'm just a little worried the babies are coming so early."
"Well, Marcus said Sarah was a little early with the last delivery, too. I'm sure things will be fine. Would you like a cup of coffee or tea? Tony… "
"Why don't you go to the cafeteria with your father and grab some coffees for everyone. Take the twins and get them juice or something. Who knows how long this could last."
"Good idea. Let me just tell Marcus the plan and see what he wants."
The boys, Grandpa Taylor, and I returned to the waiting room a few minutes later with coffees, juice, water, and some chocolate chip cookies the boys convinced my father they couldn't live without. There was no word yet so we all settled in. Forty-five minutes later, Mallory was sleeping in her mother's arms, while the twins, Dad, and I played the games Marcus brought. Suddenly, a gowned and masked up Jamie dashed into the room.
"Sarah is doing great and the boys are perfect."
We all jumped up and tried to give Jamie a hug. The room was abuzz with everyone saying congratulations.
"The boys should be cleaned up soon. Until then I need to get back to Sarah."
"Well what are you going to name my two new grandsons?" George asked.
"We decided to name them Thomas, after her late father, and Benjamin, after Grandpa Taylor."
George gave his middle son a huge hug and simply nodded.
"I will be back as soon as I can. Thanks for being here… As soon as she feels up to it I'm sure Sarah will be happy to see you all. Boys, why don't you come with me, and see your Mom?"
"Oh boy… Can we see our brothers, too?"
"I expect very soon."
"Wow, cool." "Way cool."
The rest of the family waited around, at just about eleven the new twins were placed in the nursery viewing room. Mom and Dad and I held back in the waiting room. I was sitting thinking when Marcus came back.
"Babe, I told Jamie we would take the boys home. He wants to stay a little while longer. Let's go in and say goodnight to Sarah. I'll bring Mom and the boys home with Jamie's van. You run your parents home and meet me at Jamie's. I'll park his van back in the garage. He wants us to come back up to the hospital tomorrow night after supper. Right now I think we need to call it a night. The boys are dead on their feet."
"Marcus, invite your mother to join us for dinner tomorrow. I'm sure Jamie will want to spend the day at the hospital. Any idea when they are going to let the babies go home?" Mom asked.
"The babies will be in the hospital for the week. They are doing really well. Depending on how quickly they start to gain weight, they might be able to go home by next Monday. They are both just shy of five pounds and their lungs are fully developed. The doctor wants to see them put on a few ounces just to be sure they will thrive. Babe, help me get the boys down to the van."
We got everyone settled and finally crashed about one.
Tuesday was a quick day at school. I spent time with one of my elementary students. At this point, I really enjoyed working with Brett. He began the year with a serious stutter. At first, he resisted all my efforts. He hated practicing simple sentences. He absolutely refused to speak in front of others.
We tried various techniques, but were completely unsuccessful. He was frustrated by his stuttering, and our time together was a chore for him. Some days he got so frustrated he cried and just shut down.
Eventually, I discovered he was a huge Harry Potter fan. So I tried another idea. Instead of using the usual textbook sentences and quotations, I had him read various passages from the books out loud. We also turned down the sound on the films and spoke the characters lines ourselves. Frankly, it was the most unorthodox way I had ever tried to reach a student. It was also incredibly successful.
He looked forward to spending time with me and his fluency had improved greatly. It was wonderful to see him come out of his shell. We had a long way to go, but his improvement was increasing exponentially. I was thrilled.
On the way home, I gave Marcus a call to see if I needed to stop at the store.
"We are all set here. My mother is talking to your parents and the twins are waiting for Uncle T to get home. They are excited about going up to see the babies again."
"Okay, I'll be home in about ten minutes. Love you… "
"Love you more."
As I walked into the condo, Josh and Stephen jumped into my arms.
"Uncle T, we is going up to see Tommy and Ben after we eat. Are you coming too?" Josh asked.
"Of course buddy, I can't wait to see Tommy and Ben again."
"Okay, then let's eat so we can go." Stephen yelled.
"Let Uncle T get his coat off and change clothes boys. He just got home from teaching."
"But Uncle M, Daddy said we could hold our brothers tonight."
"I know Stephen, but give Uncle T a chance to get in the door."
"Stephen Taylor, mind your manners. You come over here and sit at the table; you too, Joshua. Give your uncles a chance to get settled."
"Okay, Grandma Taylor."
Mom spoke up, "Marcus, you and Tony get changed. I'll put dinner on the table and then you can head up to the hospital. Sam and I are going to sit this one out. We will be able to head home in the morning so I think we are going to make it an early night."
"Sounds like a plan, thanks."
Marcus and I went into the bedroom. He closed the door behind us and pulled me into a hug.
"Babe, I'm actually sad your parents are going back tomorrow. It's been great having them here."
"I know. It really has. Maybe I should just hang back with the 'rents tonight."
"You could, but Jamie asked me to make sure you came up to the hospital tonight. He was insistent. Besides, I was thinking we could go out to New Hampshire in February for a few days during break if things fall into place for me. Or we could ask them to come back. We still have cake tasting and guest list to finalize."
"I'd love to have them help with the cakes, but I wish they didn't have to drive out here. Oh well, I suppose there really is no other way. Anyway, let's get going before the boys have a heart attack."
We quickly ate and drove up to the hospital. I sat in the back seat with the boys in their booster seats. It was much easier than Marjorie trying to get back there. She still hadn't really said anything to me. Marcus texted Jamie when we got to the hospital garage. The boys were so excited they were pulling us towards the elevator.
"Joshua and Stephen, you need to settle down right now if you expect to hold the babies. You need to be gentlemen right this minute."
"Sorry Grandma Taylor, but we are so excited to hold our brothers." Stephen explained.
"That's fine, but the nurses will never hand a little baby over to a hooligan. Mind your manners."
We arrived at Sarah's room and I held back. Marcus gave me a questioning look.
"Go ahead. I'll wait a few minutes after you've had time. They won't let us all in the room yet."
"Babe, Nick and Jess aren't coming up tonight and Dad won't be here until later. It's fine."
After a few minutes the boys finally settled down and were rewarded with a twin each to hold. I was taking hundreds of picture with my phone. The whole scene was so cute. Even Marjorie was snapping shots of the four boys. Eventually, Stephen and Josh started to fidget, and when Tommy started to leak out of his diaper on Josh they were done.
I was holding both twins after they got new diapers. I was talking to the new arrivals, when Sarah cleared her throat.
"Jamie now would be a good time to ask…"
"I can see that." He chuckled slightly. "Tony, we have a question for you. Sarah and I want to make the same arrangement with these twins as we did for Stephen and Josh. I'm not sure you know this but Marcus and Nick are godfathers for Stephen and Josh. We made them both godfathers for both boys. We want to do the same for Tommy and Ben.
"Tony, would you consider being godfather with Sarah's brother Jake? We would love it if you would say yes."
"Oh my God, are you serious?"
Sarah spoke up. "Tony, we've watched you with the boys. I suppose we are going to find some kind of code for each set of twins, I can't just say the boys or the twins anymore." She chuckled, "but, we have watched you with Stephen and Josh. You are so good with them. We can't think of anyone better."
"This is incredible. I would be extremely honored. I can't believe it."
I looked down at the tiny babies in my arms. I was overwhelmed with emotion.
"What do you say little fellas? Do you think I can do this? Are you okay with the idea?"
Neither of the boys moved. They were fed, warm, dry, and sleeping soundly.
"I take your silence as agreement with the idea."I chuckled a little. "I promise to be the best godfather I can be."
After what seemed like five seconds, but was probably closer to half an hour I handed the babies over to Marjorie for her second go. The older boys were getting stir crazy with nothing to do, so I suggested getting a cookie in the cafeteria. When we returned to the fourth floor, I told the boys to get a game set up in the waiting room. I was just going to let Uncle M know we were back. I happened to catch the end of what seemed like an argument between Sarah and Marjorie.
"All I'm saying is what if Anthony and Marcus split up? Do you really want an outsider to be godfather? Have you thought this through?"
"Yes, Mother Taylor, we have. Tony is amazing with the twins and will totally dote on Tommie and Ben. Marcus and Tony are so good together, but even in the unlikely event they do split… Tony is still the perfect choice." Sarah explained. "He is a wonderful person… loving, caring, generous, and intelligent. Besides they are perfect together. Nothing is ever going to split them up."
At that moment I poked my head into the room. Marcus was feeding one baby and Jamie the other.
"The boys and I are back. We are going to play a game in the waiting room so take your time."
Marjorie fired another look at me and sat back down in a chair. I turned and went back to the boys. After an hour, Marcus and Marjorie came out and joined us.
"Okay, you guys, time to get packed up. It's a school day tomorrow and you need to get home and to bed. Babe, why don't you say goodnight to Sarah and Jamie and the babies? Meet us at the car."
"See you in a couple." I replied as I kissed him.
I walked into the room. The babies were sleeping in the crib together. Sarah motioned me over to her.
"I know you heard the end of the argument. I want you to know, nothing will change our minds about you being godfather. I also know nothing will come between you and Marcus.
"One of these days, you and I need to sit down and talk about our mother-in-law. She means well, I think. I didn't get as much of a hard time as you are, but trust me she was difficult for me to deal with when I first joined the family, too. Don't let her get to you."
"Thanks, it means a lot to me. I'm so honored you want me to be godfather.
"But, you need to give me your secret as to how you got her to finally accept you. I swear that woman gets under my skin and makes me a little crazy. I suppose I make it worse by spouting off to her every time we talk."
"Actually, Tony, I wish I'd had the courage to do the same thing. But as a twenty-one year old college senior, I was very intimidated by her. I think when I gave her grand kids; she finally stopped pushing so hard. I wish I could have spoken my mind as well as you do. You need to keep doing it. I found the only way to get through to her is by standing your ground.
"But Marcus said your parents are leaving tomorrow, so you need to go home and spend a little time with them. Plus, I'm sure you have school work to do. Good night and we are so happy you agreed. You will be an awesome godfather."
"Thanks, I'll see you guys soon."
I walked over to the crib to look at the new twins. They were so beautiful and so small. I remember thinking at that moment I would do everything I could to be the best godfather ever. I bent down and kissed each boy on the forehead.
"Welcome to the world Tommy and Ben. You hit the jackpot with this family. I promise you I will always be there when you need me. I love you."
Thanks to the special people in my life:
My hubby, Ray
My editor, David