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All the kids were having a good first year and had settled into university life very well. The boys were reasonably good at keeping us up-to-date on their lives, but it just wasn't the same for Dana. She was missing that daily interaction with them, despite the two calls a week. She was also constantly digging for information about Sean's love life when he called or came home on the weekends.
"I'm sure there's still a spark between Melissa and Sean. I know they've seen each other, because Janet told me they double-dated two weeks ago when Melissa came up to stay with Rachel," Dana said.
"Well, I guess we're on a need-to-know basis, dear," I said, as I smiled.
"I'm sure a few other girls have noticed him, too. Jake told me that he and Rachel, as well as Glen and Sinead, had triple-dated with Sean and different dates a few times," she said.
Sean had lost that baby-faced look and was developing striking male features, the least of which were his blue eyes. And now that he was shaving regularly, he was able to wear a fashionable few day's growth of beard on his face and his hair had turned a fairly dark blonde.
"I can't get much information out of Jake either. He didn't tell me anything about the girls, because I think Sean has sworn him to secrecy," she said, very disgruntled.
"At least we know who Jake's going out with," I said.
Jake and Rachel were still an item. His features were also changing and he had grown taller and was now over six feet tall. Tatania kept calling him Hugh Jackman, partly because that was her favourite actor, but also because he was starting to look a lot like Jackman with his olive skin and dark hair. Jake also usually sported a few days stubble.
Things were different around the house without the boys, but at least Garth and sometimes Derek, kept things lively. Garth and Derek bounded in from the school bus one day and were in particularly good moods. This was good to see, because since the beginning of the school year, both of them had been very subdued because they were missing their siblings.
"Let me guess. Glen's coming home this weekend," I said, to Garth.
"How did you know?" he asked.
"Because he and Rachel are getting a ride with Sean and Jake who are coming home, as well," Dana said, as she put out the chocolate chip cookies for them.
Both Glen and Rachel had made an effort to come home as much as possible, partly to see the rest of the family but mainly to be with their siblings. Garth finished his cookie first and started into the jokes.
"What do you call a grizzly bear with no teeth?" he asked.
Both Derek and he started to chuckle.
"I gather you both know what the punch line is," I said.
Finally Garth said, "A gummy bear."
Before Dana and I could groan, he launched into another one.
"What did the horse say when he fell?"
"You know we never can guess your punch lines, dear. Why don't you just tell us," Dana said, as she put down a few more cookies on the plate for them.
"Help, I've fallen and I can't giddyup!" Garth said, as both Derek and he made like they were galloping on a horse.
When their laughing subsided, which was long after ours did, Derek had a joke to tell. Derek was developing a very dry sense of humour and the type of joke that he loved to tell was quite different from Garth's.
"Did you hear about the Blind man that went Bunjee jumping?"
He hesitated, but kept going, unlike Garth who was famous for his dramatic pauses.
"Scared the heck out of the dog," he said, with a deadpanned look.
We had to think about that one, but eventually Dana got it.
"Well, not every blind person has a service dog with them," Dana said, as Derek gave her a big smile in acknowledgement.
Dana and I politely laughed and then smiled each at other, because there had been a few days when the two of them had been so glum that they didn't have any jokes to tell. This was good to see.
Time was moving fairly quickly and after a great Christmas season the boys made their way back to University to finish their year. There were some key decisions that they needed to make and one of those things, that first year university students needed to do early in February, was line up accommodations for the next school year. The universities only guaranteed residence for first year students and beyond that, space was limited. Most students secured off-campus housing for the rest of their time at University.
The boys, Glen, Charles and Ronald had decided to rent a house together, which would be between the two universities. They had done some research into what was available and they needed me to help them with their decision. Because there were two universities and lots of students in the area, rental space was at a premium. They had found a four bedroom house for rent, which was in an area near to both universities.
"Could you come to the meeting with the landlord, Dad?" Jake asked, on a weekend when the boys came home.
I agreed, but I was puzzled as to the sleeping arrangements.
"If there's only four bedrooms and there are five boys, how does that work?" I asked.
Dana smiled and didn't say anything as she had figured out what the sleeping arrangements were going to be. Both Charles and Ronald's parents had agreed that they could live as a couple, even though they had some reservations. They didn't really have any choice, since the boys were determined.
The two landlords, or owners of the house, were an accountant and a lawyer from Waterloo. The lawyer met us at the house later that next week and we took a tour with him, which was a little awkward, since the group of students that had rented it that year were still living there. There were some things that weren't to my liking and I wasn't the only one that had noticed them. I could see Jake was not impressed and neither was Sean. However, the house did have most things that they needed and was in reasonable condition.
We followed the landlord back to his law office and started into negotiations with him. I felt like a bystander, as the boys took control of the meeting. However, it was evident after a few minutes that things were not going well. It didn't seem that the landlord was as ethical as he needed to be, despite the fact that he was a well known lawyer in Waterloo.
"Why do we have to sign a group lease?" Sean asked.
It was obvious by the landlord's reply that he was irritated at being questioned.
"And, why are you asking us to sign a lease when it's already rented. That's illegal," Jake added.
I could see that Jake was becoming agitated as was the landlord, who had bristled at Jake's comment about the illegality. I thought before Jake blew his top that I would try to diffuse things.
"Perhaps we should wait until you have the lease prepared before we make a final decision. Will you have it ready next weekend?" I asked.
The landlord was reluctant, but he agreed and we left, then went to talk about it at a nearby coffee shop.
"You can't have a basement bedroom without a window for egress," Glen said, after we sat down.
"And there were no smoke detectors on the main floor, or the basement," Sean added.
"Plus, he's asking for a cheque for first and last month's rent while it's still rented," Ronald added.
"And, it's overpriced," Charles said.
Jake then added more clarity, which I was sure he would do. He quoted from the relevant sections of the Ontario Residential Tenancy Act, which he had read in the university's library that week.
"And on top of all that, the dwelling isn't registered for rental purposes. But, there's such a demand for rental properties here in Waterloo that nobody checks that...except me," he said, with a smile.
Despite all this, they were still willing to consider the house, because some of these things could be worked around and they were hopeful that they could negotiate with the landlord about some of the other things. I wasn't too sure about that, given the rancorous meeting we had just had with him, but the boys were determined so I kept my doubts to myself. They also knew that if they didn't take it, someone else would.
The boys had come home for the weekend and arrived on the Friday as they didn't have classes that day. They also needed their laundry done, which Dana had offered to do and they also wanted a home cooked meal.
"We miss Mom's great cooking," Jake said, buttering up Dana.
They hadn't heard from the landlord about meeting to go over the lease, but they were expecting a call soon. Right before dinner time we heard the phone ring and Jake got to it in the den before anyone else. It sounded as if someone was having an argument with him, as he wasn't being too pleasant. I looked at the call display on the phone in the other room and it showed an unlisted number and I thought perhaps it was a telemarketer. However, I overheard Jake's last statement, which clarified who he was talking to.
"Oh, and by the way, you might get a call from the Municipal bylaw officer. I told them about some of the 'problems' with the house. You're lucky I didn't get a chance to call the Ministry of Housing and Municipal Affairs, about you breaking the law. You're a poor excuse for lawyer if that's the way you treat university students trying to make ends meet," Jake said.
There was a lull in the conversation on our end, but I could hear some louder talking from the caller. By now Sean and Dana had joined me in the den.
"I think this conversation is over. You're nothing but a bully and I don't need to listen to your bad language," he said, as he hung up.
"Well, I gather the trip to Waterloo to finalize the lease is cancelled," I said.
"University students trying to make ends meet?" Dana said, as we chuckled.
"That was really laying it on pretty thick, wasn't it," Sean added.
"I didn't even get a chance to tell him I contacted Student Services at both universities and they've taken the house off their available rental lists," he said, with a devilish smile.
"So what's plan B?" I asked.
"We were going to talk to you and mom tonight about buying a house with some of our trust fund money," Sean said.
They already had done some research and had two houses in mind.
"Are Ronald and Charles going to rent from you?" Dana asked.
"Maybe," Jake said. "They're going to talk to their parents this weekend about a condo they saw."
"What are Glen's plans?" I asked.
"If we get a house, he's still going to move in with us," Sean said.
Both Dana and I thought this was a good idea and after we had a good talk with them, we could see that the boys had done some careful thinking about what they would buy. The boys were looking at it as an investment, which could be rented out when they graduated, or sold, if that's what they wanted to do with it.
Dana and I went up to Waterloo the next weekend to help them look at some houses they had found. Sean had done a lot of research about real estate pricing in the area, as well as desirable locations and neighbourhoods in Waterloo close to the two universities and Jake was developing his negotiation skills. Between the two of them they made a formidable pair.
They were interested in one house in particular and when we went through the open house with them, Dana gave them advice on design considerations and I was able to give them guidance about some of the construction issues with it, which were minor. They made up their minds that this was the one they wanted and they made an offer that was accepted. I was starting to feel a little irrelevant, as they were becoming very good at business dealings and didn't really need my help with the transaction.
"How did you get your pricing information on the comparables in the area," I asked Sean, when they had made the deal
"I looked at the listings that sold in the last five months in the area, on MLS (Multiple Listing Service)," he said.
"I thought real estate agents were the only ones who could use MLS," Dana said.
"The regulations changed last year and anyone can get access, for a fee," Sean said.
"And how did you know that you weren't scaring the seller away by that low-ball offer," I asked Jake, who did a lot of the negotiation on the deal.
"What low-ball offer?" he replied, with a devilish smile. "It's all part of the process. We had two other properties in our back pocket that we would've look at if they had brushed us off."
"You know, don't have all your eggs in one basket like mom always tells us," Sean said, with a smile.
At least I was able to feel useful when the topic of renovations came up. The boys wanted to update the home, since they were looking at it as an asset. Neither of them were satisfied with the 70s décor and ugly bathrooms and kitchen.
"I think Glen could work some magic with a set of plans and then I can get one of my hockey buddies, who's a contractor, to get things going," I said.
"I'll call Kendra Boulanger tomorrow and the two of us can come up with an interior design that you boys will like," Dana said.
The boys were very happy with Dana's suggestion, as they liked Kendra and Dana's design of our house and their bedrooms.
The summer went by very quickly and the boys came back home to live while their house was being renovated in Waterloo. When it was finished, they were very pleased at not only the renovations, but the furniture and decorating that Dana and Kendra had done. We got them moved in a settled the last week of August.
Charles and Ronald ended up buying a condo apartment between the two universities, or I should say the parents bought it. They were one street over from the boys' house. We thought that Stéphane was going to take the fourth bedroom, but he was sharing another house with two other girls and another guy from the music program.
We decided to take a side trip to pay a visit to the boys one day in October and take them out for lunch, since the university was on our way to Stratford. We were going to see an evening production at the Stratford Festival.
"We really should've called them to make sure they're up and about," Dana said, as we were driving into Waterloo.
"It'll be almost noon when we arrive and they should be up," I said. "If they're not awake you can do your sergeant major routine like you did every morning with them, dear."
That did not endear me to her and I got one of the famous Dana looks. We pulled into the driveway and there was an older BMW beside the RDX and we guessed that the boys had a party the night before and a guest or two that wasn't able to drive had stayed the night. We got out and knocked on the door and heard sounds of someone approaching to open it.
"Melissa!" I said, as I looked at her in her floor-length dressing gown. It was now clear who the owner of the BMW was.
"And Rachel," Dana added, as Rachel came in behind her, also in her dressing gown.
"Hello, Mr. and Mrs. Burger. Come in," Melissa said.
"We didn't know you were coming," Rachel added, as the two of them had sheepish looks on their faces.
Just then, Sinead appeared, also in her dressing gown, with very bright teal blue hair.
"Hello Mr. and Mrs. Burger. This is a surprise," she said.
"Well, we're also a little surprised to see you girls here," Dana said, with a disapproving frown.
"We live here," Melissa said, matter-of-factly, as was her usual method of communication.
"But there are only four bedrooms in the house. Who gets the couches," I said, jokingly.
I didn't really pick up on what the implications of Melissa's statement 'We live here' meant, but Dana did.
"It would've been nice if we had been told you six were living together," she said.
"Oh," I said, as I now realized what the living arrangements were.
"I didn't have a place to stay, and Sean and I had been talking about getting back together so.....," Melissa said, as she smiled.
"You're going to school here?" I asked.
"I decided to transfer to Waterloo the second week in July," she added.
The boys finally made an appearance and were startled to see us.
"And what happened to the rooms you girls were renting?" I asked Rachel and Sinead.
They told us that both Sinead and Rachel had sublet their rooms to other students so that problem had been taken care of. It was becoming clear that the kids had grown up and were making their own decisions, whether we liked them or not.
"We were going to tell Rachel's mom and dad this weekend," Jake said, unconvincingly.
"Was she going to tell them you were living together?" Dana asked. "I would hate for them to get the news like we did."
"I seem to remember some years ago, two boys who gave your mother and me a lot of grief about not being married and living together," I said.
"That was different. We don't have kids," Sean said.
"At least not yet," Jake added, with a big smile.
"I also know your mother and father don't know, Glen," Dana said.
"I didn't think it was a big deal, so I didn't mention it yet," he said.
Although Glen had changed a great deal from the time he had come to live with us, he was still never concerned about other's opinions when he had made a decision.
"And what are all these empty pizza and Swiss Chalet take-out containers all about? You three are good cooks," Dana said, to Jake, Glen and Sean as she surveyed the kitchen.
"I also see we've developed a love of beer," I said, as I looked at the two empty cases of 24 beside the fridge. "And wine."
The boys were now nineteen and were legally able to buy alcohol, a right they seemed to be taking full advantage of.
Once the initial shock had worn off, we had a nice visit with the kids. Although we weren't happy about the way we found out about the arrangements, we were happy that Sean and Melissa were back together. We knew there was a strong commitment between the two of them, as there was with the other two couples. Melissa had given up a lot to make the transfer, as she had been on the University of Toronto women's hockey team as well as a member of a youth orchestra there.
"Well, finally those two came to their senses," Dana said, as we were driving to Stratford to see the production.
"I had a feeling they'd be back together at some point. I just didn't think it would be so soon," I said, as we exchanged smiles.
Sean and Jake were turning twenty-five in September of the next year and they were establishing their careers in Toronto, where they now lived. Jake was a junior litigation lawyer and Sean was a CPA (Chartered Professional Accountant).
Jake was with Ray's old firm and Ray had helped him get the articling position with them after he had finished Law school. He had graduated from Waterloo with a pass BA after his third year, as he was accepted into law school in Toronto. They were very pleased with his work and had no trouble making the decision to hire him. Ray told me that his former partners thought that it was better to have Jake on their side rather than against them in court. They had figured that out pretty quickly when he was articling with them as he was turning out to be a very persuasive litigator. Dana and I were quite well aware of this, as we had a hard time remembering the last time when we actually won an discussion, or 'debate' as Dana called them, with Jake.
After Sean graduated from Laurier with his BBA, he was accepted into the CPA program. He had a real affinity for accounting and had no problem getting acceptance, based on his marks. Sean was with the accounting firm that he had done his practical experience component with. He was one of their junior auditors and had been given a lot of responsibility. At the moment he was in charge of the auditing team that was looking at the books of a smaller municipality around Toronto. There had been some questionable spending by the former mayor and his accounting firm was hired to do the audit.
The boys and their partners had come in from Toronto on Christmas Eve to stay with us and the rest of the family was going to join us for Christmas day festivities. They boys were also staying for the next few days, as they were coaching a boys' Pee Wee hockey team from Toronto in a hockey tournament that was being hosted in town. They were both Big Brothers to a pair of twin twelve year old boys, Gordie and Jack, who were on the team. They were also having a reunion with a lot of their friends from high school
"We've got the side room at the Swiss Chalet reserved for Monday night. Charles and Ronald are flying in from Calgary on Sunday," Jake said.
Charles and Ronald got married two years after Charles had graduated from Laurier. He got CFP (Certified Financial Planner) and CFA (Certified Financial Analyst) certifications after graduating with his BBA (Bachelor of Business Administration) degree from Laurier. He was working in a brokerage business as a mergers and acquisitions specialist. Ronald had graduated from medical school and was in a hospital doing his specialist training as a pediatric resident in Calgary, which was why they were living there. They were hoping to move back to Ontario when Ronald completed his training as a pediatrician.
"Then we're going back to Toronto on the Tuesday to see Carson play against the Leafs," Jake told us.
"There's ten of us and Carson was able to get us in the Canuck's box at the ACC. He asked if you and Mom could come along with his mother," Sean said.
Carson was playing with the NHL Vancouver Canucks in his second full season. He was an excellent puck moving defenceman and had finally made the roster after two seasons with their farm team, the Utica Comets, in the AHL (American Hockey League). He had been undrafted by an NHL team when he turned 18, but had a great university career at Bowling Green and was offered a contract by Vancouver when he graduated.
"We'd love to. Is there room for Fin and Tatania?" I asked.
"I think so," Sean said. "I can call tomorrow and make sure."
"We'll stay overnight at the condo afterwards and then drop by the next morning to see the grandkids," Dana added.
We had bought a three bedroom penthouse condo in Toronto, which we jokingly called the cottage, since we were spending a lot of time there visiting the boys and babysitting for Katie and Carol and their families. It was more convenient than constantly driving back and forth from the house to Toronto, especially at night. We weren't sure when we bought it that it would be used all that much, but it was turning out to be a well used purchase.
"Do you have all the dates for your orchestra's upcoming performances?" Dana asked, as she remembered we didn't have that information, yet.
The boys and their mates were playing with a community orchestra in Toronto and they were putting on their winter concert series in January.
"How did you manage to get Stéphane to play for one of the concerts?" I asked them.
"There were a few people in the orchestra that knew him personally and asked him to play," Sean said, as he smiled.
Stéphane was carving out a career as a concert pianist. He had steady work in ensembles and some studio work as well as concerts with a few smaller orchestras across Canada. He was making the right contacts to move his career forward and he had played with the TSO in Roy Thomson hall in their concert series that highlighted new performers.
He was still working on his MBA, as he hadn't given up on a Business career. He was keeping his options open and if he couldn't make a living as a performer he was going to get into the management side of the music business.
"He's playing Schumann's piano concerto in A minor," Melissa added.
"Hopefully our orchestra plays the same concerto," Rachel said, as the kids broke into a hearty laugh. "We haven't had much time to rehearse."
Stéphane was living with his girlfriend in Toronto, who was an oboist in the Canadian Opera Company orchestra. He wasn't starving, and in addition to his income from performing, he had some piano students he was teaching, as well as running a blog on classical music that had a fairly substantial following. He had a couple of advertisers on his site that paid well. He was also the youth representative on a provincial arts advisory committee, which was a paid position. Although his father, Dénis, was not comfortable with his career decision he accepted what his son was doing, knowing full well that Stéphane would be fine in whatever he decided to do.
"Are you staying here overnight on Monday?" Dana asked the girls.
"No. Rachel and I have to work on Tuesday," Melissa added.
"Our bosses won't give us the time off," Rachel said, as the girls chuckled.
Rachel was a family law Lawyer and was working in Melissa's mother's firm. She articled with this firm and after she passed her Bar exams, they hired her. Melissa was a mechanical engineer and was working with her father. Gary was looking for her to take over the company when he retired. The boys also remembered to tell me about another friend from the past that had been on their hockey team and that I had taught.
"Do you remember Brandon?" Jake asked. "He's a pharmacist working in the drug store in our neighbourhood."
"He said to say hello to you," Sean added.
Christmas day was going to be very busy, as the entire family would be over for dinner. The entire family now included two youngsters, Katie and Marty's seven year old daughter Victoria and Carol and Kyle's three year old son, Bradley. My niece, Katharine and her family dropped over to the house in the afternoon for a drink on their way to another gathering. Katharine was now at the provincial office of CAS as their managing director. She was reminiscing about that night when I took Sean in and called her for help. She also remarked at how the boys had grown into amazing young men.
"Sean and Jake have come a very long way from where they were when you took them in twelve years ago," Katharine said, as she was leaving. "You and Dana have done a marvelous job raising them."
"Thanks, but our job wasn't too difficult. We had some great raw materials to work with," I said, as I gave her a big smile and hug.
Dana and I were very happy at how the boys had turned out and also with the news they gave us two months ago, that the two couples were finally going to get married. It was going to be a double wedding at a resort in Mexico in the new year, which was to be followed by a reception in Toronto a month later. Our real joy was not just because of the wedding, but we knew this also signalled some more impending grandchildren as it had with Carol and Kyle's decision to get married.
"Hopefully Melissa doesn't deliver before the reception," Dana said, when we were alone in the kitchen, before the rest of the horde arrived.
"I don't know what you mean? Did they say something to you?" I asked.
"No," she replied.
"Then what makes you think she's pregnant?"
"Mothers just know," She said, with a very big smile.
Both couples had done some babysitting for their aunts' children, since they all lived in Toronto. They were good with the children and were very patient with them, even young Bradley, who was a bit of a handful.
Glen, Sinead, Susan and John arrived first, followed by Derek's family. Glen was working as an architect in a small firm in Toronto. They did a lot of work with a couple of developers that were renovating old buildings into lofts and Glen did most of the design work on those accounts. He lived in one of the lofts that had been renovated in the Distillery district with Sinead. She was a freelance graphic artist who did a lot of work with some fashion designers, as well as some online fashion magazines. They both still painted, but Sinead was also doing a lot of sculpture. They had a relationship with a nearby gallery, where they showed a lot of their work. The loft had nice window space and they had set up a large part of it as a studio, where they worked.
Garth and Derek walked in shortly afterwards and they were dressed up in shirts that were out of the 70s and they had bell bottom pants on.
"Does your wardrobe have anything to do with your upcoming parts in Toronto?" Dana asked them.
"No, we always dress like this," Garth said, with a chuckle.
Garth and Derek both had major parts in the Toronto revival of the musical 'Godspell' and they were in rehearsals to get ready for the opening in January. Despite the fact that they were only nineteen years old, they were becoming well known in acting circles in Canada and both had been doing commercials on Canadian TV while they were going to the University of Windsor in the Musical Theatre program. They also had some guest appearances on Canadian TV programs such as 'The Murdoch Mysteries'. In the summer they both did improv at Second City in Toronto. They had to take a leave from the university after completing their first year, when they got the parts in 'Godspell'.
Garth was dating Mandy and she was with the National Ballet Company in Toronto as a corps de ballet dancer and we just found out that Derek was dating one of the chorus girls in 'Godspell'.
"Is that your new girlfriend in the latest Facebook picture that you posted?" Dana asked Derek.
"It is," he said.
"Well, she's a lovely looking young woman. When will we get to meet her?" Dana asked, with a big smile.
Sean and Jake weren't the only ones that were subjected to Dana's inquisitions.
"I think the family get-together next week would be a good time, don't you, Derek?" his mother said.
Janet was doing a great job of learning Dana's technique. Derek realized he needed to quickly change the subject.
"Gran, we have a couple of new jokes," Derek said, to Dana.
Even though Dana was really his great aunt, since Garth called her Gran, so did Derek. The boys gave me the name 'Gramps', which was not the most endearing name, but was used by them as a term of affection. Victoria and Bradley called us grandpa and grandma.
"Are these like those off-colour jokes you tell in the comedy club?" Dana asked.
"We never tell off-colour jokes to you," Garth added, with a naughty chuckle which Derek joined.
"Yes, you do," Glen said, as we all laughed. The two boys delighted in winding Dana up, because she was so animated when she was scolding them.
"What's the difference between beer nuts and deer nuts?" Derek said.
"Give up?" Garth asked us.
"Wait! You guys didn't give us any time," Sean said.
"Beer nuts are $2.99 and deer nuts are under a buck," Derek said, with a straight face.
"Derek!" Dana said, in disgust as we all laughed.
"Oh, it's a good thing the other grandchildren haven't arrived yet," Melissa said.
The two of them were very funny, and this was one of their tamer jokes. They liberally used words that Dana and I didn't approve of when they were in the comedy club, but they steered clear of that type of language with us at home. We had gone to see them at one of their performances at Second City in Toronto and it was hard to believe that these were the same boys that came home to our house after school when they were younger.
"Did you hear about the new condoms in the drug store?" Garth said as the jokes continued.
"What happened to the nice jokes you and Derek used to tell when you were young boys?" Dana said, as she gave him one of her looks.
"We're not young boys anymore," Derek added, as we all laughed.
"There's Nike condoms. The slogan is 'Just do it'," Garth said, ignoring Dana's disapproval.
"How about Burger King Condoms. They're the home of the whopper," Derek said.
We were all laughing and even Dana was fighting to keep from smiling.
Just then, we heard Katie, Marty and Victoria coming in the front door. Barney was greeting them and we could hear Victoria's giggles and we knew that Barney was standing on his back legs with his front paws on her legs, which he always did when she came in the door.
"I hope we're finished with the jokes," Dana said, giving Garth and Derek one of her looks.
"I don't think Katie and Marty want to have to explain your jokes to Victoria, because you know she'll ask," Rachel said.
We had a good family get together and everyone got caught up with the events in everyone's lives. Fin and Tatania were over as well, as they were included in all our family gatherings. We had become good friends and we had more in common than just Sean.
The day after Christmas, I went over with the boys to the rink early, as they wanted me to help them get the kids ready for the first tournament game.
"We don't do the pre-game talk like you and Rickie used to," Jake said, with a big smile
"We need you to get them pumped up," Sean added, as the two of them chuckled.
Dana was picking up Fin and Tatania and coming over closer to game time. As we walked into the lobby of the arena, we met Rickie coming from the dressing room area with his five year old son. Grandpa Rick was also with them.
"Hey, Burger one and Burger two. How are you guys doing?" Rickie said to the boys.
"Is this another Rick?" Jake asked, as he smiled at Rickie's son.
Rick laughed and said, "No, this is my grandson, Jeremy."
Rick was helping Rickie coach his son's group of five year old boys, who were in hockey skill development sessions once a week. As we were standing there, Dr. Phil and Dr. Scott came into the lobby.
"Is this a hockey convention?" Scott asked, as we all laughed.
"Oh my goodness. Does your father still have you brainwashed?" Phil asked Sean, as he saw the Toronto Maple Leaf crest on his hat.
Sean noticed that his grandson and Scott's son, who were standing beside them, had Maple Leaf hockey sweaters on. Scott was coaching the team and Phil had come to watch his grandson play. They were playing on one of the other rinks in the quad pad complex.
"We were the last ones to pick our team sweaters and, unfortunately, this was all that was left," Scott said, as we all laughed.
"I'm glad to see you boys survived your evil father's upbringing," Phil said to Jake and Sean, with a big smile.
"When are you two going to get busy and make some more grandchildren for your mom and pop?" Scott asked. "I'm sure you've been practising."
Things had changed, as the boys didn't turn beet red at Scott's direct questioning anymore and they just laughed.
Sean and Jake did a great job coaching the team and though they lost the game the kids had played hard. The twins were happy as we were coming out of the rink.
"Who was that lady in the stands that was yelling at the referee?" Gordie asked.
"That was our mom," Jake said, with a big smile as he looked at Dana.
"I'm glad to see you're not out of practice, Mom," Sean said, to Dana who had a sheepish look on her face.
"Those snow banks are really high," Jack said, as we walked towards the vehicles.
"I remember being on top of one of those, one night a long time ago," Sean said, as he looked at me and smiled.
We put our arms around each other as we continued to walk. I remembered that night too and the young, vulnerable, abused boy I found was gone forever and in his place a delightfully mature young man had emerged.
Dana and I were enjoying our family as it grew and we were happy with our lives as we aged together. Even though I was in my early 70s I was still active and in good health and I didn't consider myself old. Sean and Jake understood that, when I said every older person had a younger one inside them.
I was happy that I was able to enrich Sean and Jake's lives and I was content with how my life had been changed by that fateful night.
Articling program in Ontario
Second City in Toronto
The Utica Comets, AHL team
The Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada
Big Brothers Canada
The Vancouver Canucks
The Murdoch Mysteries
The Toronto Distillery District
Schumann's Piano Concerto in A minor, played by Jan Lisiecki
Dear readers, I hope you've enjoyed this rather large tale I've woven. I never intended for it to be this big a story, but it just kept growing.
It was a story about hope, ethics, morality as well as compassion and humanity. It shows what chance events can do and how they can change the paths of human lives. There is an element of truth in the story, as some events are based on my real life occurrences. Some of the characters are also based on real people and others are composites of the many individuals who I've known over the years.
I owe a big thanks to Ted Louis, who took a chance on me and started posting the story, even though he knew I was a novice fictional writer. His help, encouragement and feedback have been most appreciative over the years. Garth and I also thank Bob for his help with the many jokes in the story. And finally I'd like to thank Alan, one of my faithful readers, for his help, friendship and generosity at imparting his vast knowledge of classical music & history to me. Alan and Bob weren't the only faithful readers who stuck with the story, despite the longer gaps between postings as the story wore on. The wealth of feedback from many of you was my payment and for that I thank you.