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Strangely enough, Sean was almost back to his old self the next morning at breakfast. I guess the thought of seeing Jake once again and the decision about his mother took a burden off his shoulders.
"Do I have another test today Pop?"
"Yep. Let's go over some strategies about staying calm and sharp during tests," I said as I put down a sheet with some strategies I found from my research and my talk with my colleague Antoinette. She was a Learning Resource teacher.
After we went over them and the test details he started his science test and I left the room to make a call to Katharine.
"Well what's the verdict Uncle Al?"
"It's Sean's decision to meet with her Katharine and he made this himself. I want you to know if it were up to me he wouldn't be going."
We set the meeting up for Tuesday afternoon. I wasn't happy about this and Katharine knew it.
"Why don't you just tell him you're not going to let him go?"
"I'm not about to do that Katharine. He put a lot of thought into this, and it's his call. I'm proud of him for having the guts to do this, but at the same time I'm scared silly that we're going to have a major setback."
She said she would get back to me with the time when she had things firmed up. I decided Phil needed to know about this and emailed him the details about the events of the past 2 days. I also decided that if Phil thought that this was not a good idea we were going to cancel. By now Sean was finished and I went back into the Den to mark his work.
"Why don't we mark this together and then go get a snack?" I said as I started to compare the answer key to his test.
"Why don't we just skip the marking and go get a snack?" he said as he giggled.
The results were much better and he said the strategies helped.
"Ninety-three percent buddy. Way to go!" I said as we high-fived. "Let's eat."
As we were finishing our snack I said, "We've got some stuff to do this morning, so we're going to skip your math lesson today. Besides, I'm running out of Grade 8 work to give you. You're too smart Einstein."
He didn't know who Einstein was so I had to explain.
"By stuff, do you mean getting ready for Jake coming?"
"Well not exactly. Let's go into the living room. This is going to take a while," I said with a big smile on my face.
He looked at me with a very puzzled look. When we sat down on the couch I opened both my hands flat and put them on either side of the top of his head.
"What are you doing?" he said as he ducked away.
"I'm just trying to see what Mickey Mouse ears are going to look like on your head," I said with a big smile.
I didn't say anything, but I had a big smile on my face and I raised my eyebrows.
"Are we going to Disney World?" he blurted out.
I nodded my head yes, and he lunged forward and hugged me. He broke the hug and started to babble and bounce up and down on the couch.
"I've got lots more to tell you Sean, so come on back down to earth," I said as I laughed.
I told him that we would be flying out next Thursday at 9 in the morning, and staying in the house in Naples on the golf course. On Friday and Saturday he would be enrolled in golf school all day and on Sunday we would have some time to play around on the short course and relax in the pool. On Monday we would be off to Disney World for three days and we would be coming home on Saturday night, arriving home about 8 at night.
"If you don't close your mouth you're going to start catching flies," I said to him as I laughed. "Have you ever played Golf before?" I asked.
"No ... ah yeah ... I mean well ... I can't think!"
"Well you have to learn how to play Golf if you want to see me in the spring, summer and fall," I said. "I know you play baseball, so you're going to like what we're doing on Thursday of the second week."
I paused and waited for his reaction. He looked at me for a few moments and he realized I wasn't saying anything.
"What? Are we playing Baseball or .... are we going to a preseason game?"
"Yep. Tampa Bay Devil Rays and the Blue Jays."
"Awesome!" he yelled.
By now he was so excited I was hoping he didn't pee his pants.
"So I guess you're excited, eh?" I said. "Oh yeah, one more little detail. Your sisters and Marty are coming to Disney World and the game. They're staying down the hall from us in the hotel."
He gave me a big hug, but it wasn't accompanied by sobbing. I knew we were making progress with his mental state, as last week he would have been in tears. Finally I was seeing the happy boy I knew was inside him. 'Phil's going to be happy about this; I'll email him again when we get back this afternoon'.
"We have to get ready to go shopping Sean, so go get changed."
"Didn't we get enough food yesterday for the weekend?"
"We're going to my tailor to get you a suit. You can't get into the dining room at the Golf Club in Florida without one," I said as I got up to get my coat.
Luigi Scardino, or Lou as everyone called him, was the owner of the high-end store for men, The Town and Country, where I bought my work suits and dress wear. I was hoping he could make something he had in stock fit Sean.
"Ah, is this your grandson Mr. Burger. He's quite the handsome young man," he said in his Italian accent.
"No Lou, this is my Foster son Sean."
He looked at me with a furrowed brow.
"Well I'm sorry Sean, I apologize." He smiled and added, "But you're still handsome."
We managed to find a blue Hugo Boss suit with a very thin pinstripe in it. Lou poked and prodded Sean as he marked where he was going to have to take in the suit to make it fit. He said he would leave enough material that he could let it out so he could get a few years wear out of it.
"You're going to be a big guy when you grow up young fellow. I can tell by your shoulders and your feet."
Sean gave a big smile at that comment.
We picked out a white dress shirt, which also had to be altered, a tie and some cufflinks, as the shirt had a French cuff. Since his feet were a mens size 8, we were able to get some Bass Weejuns Lou had in stock.
Our next stop was the pro shop at the Dundolk Golf and Country Club where I was a member. Even though it was the middle of winter, the head pro Tom Garbas kept the shop open as he ran an indoor golf school.
I knew he didn't have any kids clubs, and Sean wasn't big enough for a full length set. But, he had a used set of Ping G10's that he could cut the shafts down and they would do until Sean grew.
"I should have these ready Sunday for you. You should try them out in case we need to make any adjustments," Tom said
He had some boys clothing still in stock from last season and we got Sean a pair of plaid golf shorts that went down to his knee, and some shirts and a hat. At least he looked like a golfer.
We stopped off at Best Buy after the Golf Club, as Jake and he had decided to go to a show at the Multiplex theatres that night. I was going to drop them off and pick them up when they were finished. I told Sean the only way I would do that was if he had a cell phone to call me, and to have in case there were any emergencies.
By now it was time to go and pick up Jake. The area he lived in, which was also where Sean came from, was one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Canada. I had run one of our After School Clubs in this area in the past and I knew that the kids and parents were a challenge. I didn't know what to expect from Jake and his Uncle.
"Bulldog! Wow you look different man," Jake said as we walked into the house.
Apparently Bulldog was Sean's nickname, and according to Jake, had something to do with his competitive spirit and tenacity. This was something I had seen already when I was competing with him on the Playstation.
Jake was a little bigger than Sean even though they were the same age. He was about 5' 4", and 110 - 115 pounds. He was a good looking boy with medium length dark brown hair, green eyes and olive skin.
Jake and Sean took off to Jake's room to get his bag. Mr. Pandini asked if I'd like a drink of his homemade wine before we left, but I suggested a glass of water. I certainly didn't need to be picked up for a DUI. We chatted while the boys spent some time together in Jake's room.
"Jake is a good boy, but sometimes he forgets himself. If he gives you any trouble you call and I'll come and get him," he said.
"Mr. Pandini, I taught high school for 30 years. I'm sure we won't have any trouble."
We chatted for about 20 minutes about the situation with Sean, and how pleased he was that someone had 'rescued' him. We also talked a little about his situation.
He came to Canada from Italy about 11 years ago with Jake's mother and father because they thought the job opportunities would be better. Jake's mother was a nurse, and she was able to re-qualify and get a job in a hospital in the city. Jake's father never did adjust to life in Canada, and left to go back to Italy when Jake was 4. Mr. Pandini was not so fortunate with his qualifications as a medical imaging technologist. He encountered so many barriers that he gave up trying to get his qualifications accepted in Canada. The cab job gave him a decent living.
This was a situation that was all too common with immigrants, and I felt sorry for him. Here he was an educated man, but because of his language barrier and government red tape he was being denied a living in his chosen field.
The boys finally emerged from Jake's room. Mr. Pandini put out his arms for Jake to give him a hug before we left. Jake, however, was trying to sneak out the door.
"Giacomo, you come back and give your favourite uncle a hug before you go."
"You're my only uncle, uncle Pietro," he said with a bit of embarrassment.
I had a good feeling from the interaction between Jake and his uncle, that it was a loving and caring relationship that they had, and that Jake was the type of kid I wanted Sean to be associating with.
The ride from Jake's house was an interesting one. We were given a blow-by-blow account by Jake of what had happened in the neighbourhood and at school in the 2 weeks that Sean had been away. He was a well-mannered and polite boy, but was very, very chatty.
When we were getting out of the car at the restaurant, I leaned over and quietly asked Sean, "Does someone wind him up each morning?"
Sean chuckled and said, "He's a little quieter than usual"
We had a good meal at one of the restaurants nearby the theatres. Jake offered to pay for his, as his uncle had given him some money for the weekend. I told him he wasn't going to get a chance to use that this weekend, and to put it away.
"Ok boys, let's go over and see what's playing and we'll get your tickets."
They boiled it down to 3 movies: X-men origins: Wolverine, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, and Obsessed.
I exercised my veto power based on the ratings, and I bought 2 tickets for Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian.
"Sorry guys, but I don't want you watching blood and guts or sex, so you get good wholesome action instead," I said as I chuckled.
I gave Sean some money for popcorn and drinks for the 2 of them and left. On the way home, I reflected on the scene at the theatre, and how I had never been that anal with my girls. I couldn't put my finger on why I was more protective of Sean than I had been with my girls. Lord knows I wasn't a permissive parent. My girls had reminded me of that on many occasions growing up.
At 9 o'clock, I got a call from Sean's cell phone.
"The movie's finished, but Jake and I want to have a hot chocolate at Starbucks before you come and get us. Can you pick us up in a half an hour?"
"Did you find some girls already?"
"No Pop we didn't!" he said with disgust.
On the ride home from the theatre, Jake reviewed the whole plot of the movie in minute detail. When he was finished with that, I heard about all the kids that they saw, and an evaluation of their looks and clothes. I was hoping that Jake would eventually wind down before they went to bed.
"Go get ready for bed and come on down and I'll make some more hot chocolate for you two. And Jake, don't forget your tranquilizer," I said with a dead-panned face.
"What Mr. Burger?"
Sean laughed and grabbed his arm and said, "Come on, I'll explain it to you upstairs."
After they finished their hot chocolate I went upstairs with them to say goodnight. Sean and I had talked about the sleeping arrangements beforehand, and I was going to leave it up to him whether they both slept in Sean's king sized bed, or Jake slept in the third bedroom. They decided to sleep together.
"I know you guys have a lot to catch up on, but try to get some sleep, Ok. We have to be on the road tomorrow at 10."
"Where are we going?" Sean asked.
"Never you mind, I tell you tomorrow. You'll like what I've got planned, but I don't want two cranky kids, so get some sleep."
They nodded their heads and gave me their assurances that they would. I didn't want to embarrass Sean with our usual nightly routine, so I just tousled his hair and said goodnight to the two of them. Sean smiled and winked at me as I got up from the bed. I smiled to myself as I noticed as I walked to the door that Teddy was sitting in Sean's chair, and not with him.
"Goodnight you two."