I was lightly dozing in the warmth of the glassed-in patio at the Shady Rest nursing home when I felt the light touch of my favorite female attendant and smelled her exotic perfume. My eyes and ears don’t work as well used to, but my nose is still pretty good for an octogenarian. She knows me well so in a rather loud voice she said “Panty, your grandson is here for a visit.”
OK, short pause to explain why a 19 year-old, cute little female is addressing me as “Panty.” I’m a former Navy fighter pilot, Korean War vintage. All Navy pilots have a radio moniker to prevent actual names to be heard on the air, possibly by the enemy. Since my last name is Shields, it was inevitable my personal call sign would be Panty. I first took up residence in this rather comfortable place to die shortly after my wife, Gail, died of cancer about two years ago. They keep the air-conditioning too cold for me, so I wear my leather flight jacket with the name tag in place. The staff thinks it is hilarious, and truth be known, I kinda like it. It served a purpose as a conversation starter and allows me to keep a little bit of my former identity.
My grandson, Brian, visits me frequently and knows his way around the home. Today he thoughtfully brought me a hot cup of coffee. I always enjoyed Brian’s visits, but I often wondered why his wife rarely came with him. I understand that my two grandkids didn’t have much interest in visiting me. Our relationship was much better when I was younger, so were they. As teenagers, there are too many things they would rather do than sit and talk to a really, really old man.
Brian pulled up a chair and sat down. He looked like hell, eyes red, uncombed hair, he must have slept in the clothes he was wearing, more than two nights.
“Jesus Christ Brian, what the hell happened to you? You look like the dogs drug you in here.”
“Gramps, I really need somebody to talk to. I don’t know anybody else who has the wisdom and experience that I would trust to steer me right.”
“Well, Bub, you’re putting a lot of pressure on me here. Why don’t you go get yourself a cup of the same coffee I have and tell me what’s on your mind. Start at the beginning and don’t leave anything out.
Brian took my cup to top off and went back in to get his coffee. I was very curious to learn what troubles would put my favorite grandson in such a state. It was either money or sex I’ll bet. I was hoping for money because I know how much Brian loved his bride of almost three years. Grace was a smart, beautiful woman who was as much in love with Brian as he was with her. I thought back briefly to the day he married Grace. Gail was too sick to attend, but I did and described the ceremony to her as best I could, not knowing too much about the fashions the attendees wore. I had a strong flash of sadness when I realized the wedding was just a few weeks before Gail lost her struggle against the cancer that was eating away at her. She was only 72 when she died.
“Thanks for the warmup Brian. What is this problem you think I can help you with?”
“Grace cheated on me Gramps. She fucked another man.” He slumped in the chair and covered his face with his hands. I wanted to pick him up, put him on my lap like I had done countless times when skinned he his knee, or some other childhood calamity that needed a grownup to fix.
“Alright, start at the beginning. When did this happen, I need some details.”
Brian sort of shook himself and straightened up in his chair, “I guess I first suspected there was something wrong about six weeks ago. Grace’s demeanor changed. She was normally a happy person with a bubbly, effervescent personality. Overnight she became moody and seemed to want to avoid being around me. Several times I’ve tried talking to her. I asked her what was wrong. She just got mad and yelled at me. She is just getting hard to live with.”
“Finally, about four days ago, I had enough. Yeah, last Friday I came home from work and told her we were going out to dinner, have some drinks and come home and make wild monkey sex. She shut me down and grabbed her purse and left the house. I opened a beer and tried to watch TV. I was at my wits end. What was wrong, what happened to my perfect wife?
The phone rang and I ran to it thinking it was Grace. It was Vicky, Grace’s best friend. In a low voice like a whisper she asked me to come to her house and get Grace. She said “Brian, you know Grace loves you more than any other man on earth. She really needs your understanding right now. I’ve convinced her that she must come clean with you, that the only way she can get past this is explain everything and if you really loved her she would get your forgiveness.”
“Gramps, you don’t have any idea what was going on in my head. What was so important to change my wife completely that I have to forgive her.?”
I had a fairly good idea, but it was too early for my input to Brian’s narrative.
Brian was determined to give me the whole story as he continued, “When I got to Vicky’s house they were waiting for me on the front porch. Vicky had her arm around my wife’s shoulders in a protective way. I parked in the driveway and the women walked toward the car. I opened the passenger door and barely heard Vicky whisper “You’ve got to tell him everything and trust in his love.”
When we got in the car, Grace said she didn’t want to go home. That surprised me and ticked me off a bit. “Where the Hell do you want to go!”
She shrunk as far away from me as she could get and I saw a tear slide down her cheek.
“Aw honey, I’m really sorry, I’m just really on edge. I don’t know what is going on, but I have a nasty feeling I’m not going to like what you are going to tell me.”
“It’s OK, It’s all my fault, you’ve done nothing wrong” she murmured. “ Let’s go to the park. I think I will do better if we are outside.”
We found an empty picnic bench in a leafy alcove that would give us the needed privacy.
It was evident that Grace was trying to control herself and gather the courage to tell me what may change our lives forever. The five minutes we sat there in silence seemed much longer.
“I didn’t plan what happened. I would give anything if I had just stayed at home, but it did happen and now I’m going to tell you the full truth and beg you to understand and forgive me. You know my good friend Chloe who got married a few weeks ago?”
I nodded in the affirmative, not knowing what to say.
“Well, Vicky and I were invited to her bachelorette party. It was a lot more risqué than the few others I’ve attended. I swear that what happened was not what I wanted to happen. I was drinking a lot more than I’m used to. Everything got fuzzy and I can’t really tell you exactly what happened but when I came out of the fog Vicky told me I was on the stage sucking the dick of the biggest and blackest dancer.”
That hit me like a sledge hammer. My Grace on her knees sucking a dick in front of an audience!! NO. I had nothing to say, I just looked at her. This was a hell of a lot to forgive.
“Brian, Vicky told me latter that somehow my drink was doctored and I must have been given a roofie, a drug that lowers inhibitions. There are a number of “date rape” drugs that I could have ingested. I googled “date rape drugs” and found that it is real. The drug Rohypnol produces the same effects that I suffered.
I shouted “Grace, why didn’t you come to me and tell me all this. You did nothing wrong except show poor judgement in not leaving when things got out of hand.”
Now she really started sobbing and crying uncontrollably. “I know, I know, but I have to tell you everything, even though it will end our marriage.”
“Grace, I know you must tell me everything so get on with it.”
She took a long time but finally calmed down so she could talk coherently.
“Brian, what I am going to tell you now is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life.
You must believe me that I love you more than life itself. A few days after the party, I received a large envelope in the mail. I’ve destroyed it because you can never see the photographs that were in the envelope. It was from one of the dancers and their was a note with the photographs. The sender said that if I didn’t come to a certain motel room at a specific time you would get copies of the photos. I’m not going to draw this out. I did go to the motel and did things that I cannot describe ever. It was over in about two hours and I went home. I have to tell you all of this because Vicky has convinced me I must or I will never get free of these monsters. They have made more demands that I will not do. Help me Brian, I am so sorry.
“Gramps, I’m not proud of it now, but at the time I was so shocked and angry that I just took Grace home and left to come here without saying a word to her”