(NOTE TO MY READERS....As most of you know, since late last year, I have been fighting now only prostate cancer but also kidney cancer, having my left kidney totally removed. As of May 6,2013, there is no longer any trace of the kidney cancer. I will be observed for the rest of my life because kidney cancer has been known to return years later. As for the prostate cancer, I should finish my radiation treatments and be free of prostate cancer. By the end of July, I should be cancer free. I want to thank all of you from the bottom of my heart for your prayers and good wishes. I love you all.)
After my high school graduation, the last thing I wanted to do was start college, returning to classrooms and studying the same thing I had been for four years. I wanted a new challenge.
Living near the Camp Lejeune Marine Base, I was intrigued by all the marines in town and decided to join. I was sent to California and after a barrage of test I began my training in administration. After completion of my training my unit was sent to the middle east for a fourteen month deployment.
However, ten months into my tour, I got word that my dad was in critical condition in the hospital. I was granted emergency leave and returned home. A week later my father passed away and my brother, Mike, and I had the unpleasant duty of arranging his funeral and settling his estate.
As Mike and I sat in our family home in Jacksonville, North Carolina, we talked.
"Mark, I'm so glad you were able to make it home and see dad before he passed," Mike said softly.
"So am I, but I was shocked that I was granted leave."
"Well, bro, I called in some favors."
"You met Greg. Well, he is a staff sergeant at the marine base and works for the assistant to the commander. Greg talked to Major Davis who in turn talked to General Barker. Who he talked to I have no idea but within two days I was told that you were on your way home."
"Man, I really appreciate it. I really hate to have to leave."
We buried dad and the next night Mike's friends insisted on taking us out. Greg was the leader and Brad and Tim joined in and took us to dinner and a quiet bar for a few drinks. They were really caring and considerate and I really liked them.
We quickly settled dad's estate. The two hardware stores he owned as well as the house and all finances were left to Mike and I in equal shares. We agreed that Mike would run the family business until I finished my tour with the Marines. I would soon be twenty and had two years left to serve.
I returned to duty and was temporally assigned to Camp Pendleton in California. I was there six months when I was notified that I was being transferred again.
I got my assignment and was thrilled at my destination. I immediately called Mike and told him I was coming home.
"I know you are," he said. "I pulled some more strings."
"What? Man, do I ever owe you big time. How did you do it?" I said.
"I'll tell you some time", he laughed.
"I have to report on the first so I'll have a few days to help you with the business."
"No way! You're going to relax at home. "Let me know when you will arrive and I'll meet you."
I agreed and prepared to head home. I arrived and as we drove home Mike insisted I live at home with him instead of on base. I soon found that I was assigned to work with Greg in Major Davis' office.
Things were great and we agreed that we would each live our own lives instead of always being together. Occasionally, I would go out with Mike, Greg, Brad, and Tim.
I noticed that very often when Mike was out without me he seldom came home before mid morning the following day. I never questioned him as I didn't figure it was any of my business.
Before long, my twenty-first birthday approached. I was informed that plans had already been made and that I had no vote.
My birthday was on a Friday and after arriving home I showered and dressed and waited while Mike did the same. Soon the guys arrived and he headed out for dinner. After a long and filling dinner, we headed for a quiet neighborhood bar for drinks. After numerous drinks, we headed home.
Once inside, the guys made themselves at home as Mike said he needed to see me alone and led me to his bedroom.
He opened a locked box and extracted a sealed envelope. He had me sit on his bed and as he handed me the envelope he began.
"Dad wanted me to give you this just in case he wasn't here to give it to you himself."
"What is it?"
"Read it, and when you're through come on back to the den."
With that, he got up and left the room.
I carefully opened the envelope and extracted the single sheet of paper and began reading.
'My dearest Mark,
If you are reading this it means that I didn't
make it to your twenty-first birthday. I hope
you have a great one.
Now the reason for my letter. For five
generations, the fathers in this family have
introduced their sons to additional pleasures
of life. Since I'm not around to introduce
you as I did Mike, I'm passing the job on to
him to introduce you. You might not be very
receptive to the tradition but I hope you will
give it a try. Mike has agreed to pass it on to
his sons and I pray that you will do the same.
Give it a chance and enjoy it. Mike wasn't
sure at first but quickly engulfed the pleasure
and now totally enjoys it. Give it a chance.
Mike is waiting. Keep an open mind. I love
I refolded the letter and slipped it back into the envelope and quietly and nervously returned to the den.
Mike was on the sofa and the others were in chairs, all calmly talking until I made my way into the room.
"Here," Mike said, "sit next to me."
I did and he turned his head and asked, "You ready?"
Not quite sure of what to expect, I nodded my head yes.
He glanced over at Greg, the marine staff sergeant, and nodded. Greg got up and walked over and knelt on the floor between Mike's legs.
I looked at both questioningly.
TO BE CONTINUED..................