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We had breakfast and tidied up the house as my sister was coming in on the Monday to spend a week. The limo was coming to pick us up at 11am. to take us to the private terminal at the airport.
"Make sure you check the drawers, boys"
We had already gone through the house and made sure we had everything we needed to take back. Thank goodness we didn't have the restrictive baggage limits commercial flights had, as we would have had trouble with all the stuff we purchased over the week.
Jake came out of his room and had a big bag that he put down in front of me.
"Where do you want me to put this stuff, Pop?" he asked.
I looked in the bag, and it was much of the stuff I had purchased for him over the week, such as the ball glove, Blue Jay jersey, Mickey Mouse ears and other souvenirs.
"Jake, these are yours."
He paused as he looked in the bag, and I could see he was getting a little emotional, so I put my arm around his back and pulled him into a hug.
"You didn't have to buy me this stuff, Pop," he said as his voice was a little shaky.
"Now stop it, young man. You're going to get me going," I said as I smiled at him.
I gave him a squeeze and said, "You need to get this stuff packed. I hope you have some room somewhere."
"I do," he said as he took the bag, wiped his eyes with his sleeve and went off to his room.
The limo arrived about 15 minutes early and we got it all packed up and ready to go. It got us to the airport about 1/2 hour earlier than we anticipated, so we had a fair bit of time to have a bite to eat before we went through security.
After we ate we went off to the departure lounge and found it was empty. The attendant told us that we were the only ones on the flight. We had to wait about 15 minutes before he said the plane was ready for boarding. When we finally boarded the plane we were met by Robert, the same flight attendant that Jake had had on the way down.
"Well how's my shy and retiring Jake," Robert said as he smiled and put his arm around Jake's shoulders as he led him onto the plane.
Sean and I followed them onto the plane, which was basically the same Lear jet that we had had on the flight down.
"So how was your time in Florida?" Robert asked as Jake sat down in his seat.
Jake gave him a big smile and unfortunately for Robert, proceeded to tell him in detail how his week was. I had to rescue the poor guy so he could do his work to get us ready for take-off. I just smiled at Jake when Robert went to work.
"What?" he said as he looked at the two of us.
"Geez, Jake, we weren't going to get going for about an hour if Pop hadn't have said something," Sean said a little annoyed.
"Sooorree," Jake said, sticking out his tongue at Sean.
"Ok, guys. Timeout," I said not wanting to have anything get out of hand.
They both settled down and we had a smooth lift-off. When we were at cruising altitude, Robert came back and asked if the boys wanted to come up to the cockpit to see the pilot.
"Wow is that ever cool," Sean said as the boys were looking at the instrument panel.
Captain Moffatt had it on autopilot, and took the time to show the boys what the various instruments were for, and how the plane was able to fly. Both of them were really interested, and asked him many good questions, which he willingly answered. You could tell he liked kids, and it turned out he had 2 boys and a girl at home.
The boys came back into the cabin after about a 1/2 hour, as Robert announced that it was time for a snack.
The rest of the flight was uneventful, and we made a very gentle landing at Pearson International Airport in Toronto. After we cleared customs with no problems, we packed up the limo that was there to take us back to the townhouse. It was quite a shock when we got outside, as it was -3°C. That was a big change from the 20 - 25°C weather that we left in Florida. It was obvious that we had had snow during the week when we were away, as the snow banks along the roads were higher than when we left.
As I paid the limo driver at the townhouse, I started to smile, as I knew Sean was in for a big surprise when he got to his room.
We entered into the front hallway, and both boys carried their bags up the stairs. I followed behind so as not to miss Sean's reaction when he entered his room. As he went through the door he abruptly stopped and a moment later dropped his bags to the floor. As I came up beside him I saw his eyes were wide open as was his mouth, but nothing was coming out.
"Looks a little different, eh?"
The room looked great. It was done in Toronto Maple Leaf blue, with bright white woodwork and crown moulding. There were two very big framed posters on the wall. One was a Toronto Maple Leaf poster and the other one was the Blue Jays. There was a new desk complete with a new laptop, dresser and chest of drawers. On the dresser was the framed picture of Sean in his Marineland t-shirt and another framed picture of the entire family taken at the get-together before we left for Florida. The bed was the same queen sized bed, but the bed spread was a duvet with a cover that had the Toronto Maple Leaf logo in the middle.
He sat down on the bed, still with his mouth open, and looked around the room.
"Do you like it?"
"Yeeaah," he finally said, with a big smile on his face.
"This is so cool," Jake said as he laughed.
I sat down on the bed beside Sean, and put my arm around his shoulder.
"Dana had a lot to do with this. I guess she knows her boy pretty well," I said as I gave him a squeeze.
He finally recovered and got up and looked at everything that was new. I decided I would talk about the limits on his laptop use later.
I left Sean and Jake and put my bags in my room, to be unpacked later. I decided to leave the boys as they marveled at Sean's new surroundings.
Later, I went out and got some things for dinner and the next few days, and I left the boys alone. Sean was unpacking, and Jake was down in the media room watching European soccer. Jake was really into Soccer, and played all summer in a league in the city. From some of the conversations over the week and my observations, it was evident that Jake was a good athlete, as was Sean.
When I came back, Sean called down from his room to me as I entered into the hall with the groceries.
"Some guy called for you. I wrote his number down on the pad by the phone."
When I looked at who it was that had called, I smiled and quickly called him back. I made arrangements with him for early in the week, as this was going to be part of my plan that I wanted to talk to Pietro about tomorrow.
We finished dinner, cleaned up and packed the dishwasher.
"This beats washing everything by hand," Sean said as he smiled.
"If you two hadn't decided to do your Sumo wrestler impressions, you wouldn't have had to," I said as I laughed.
We were having our tea in the living room and I knew that Sean was a little tense. I had a feeling I knew what it was about.
"Are you a little nervous about going to school Monday?" I asked.
He didn't answer, but he shrugged his shoulders and hung his head down. Jake and I reassured him that things were going to be fine.
"Stphane is going to meet us in the office after we get your timetable and locker information and take you to your home room," I said as I pulled him into my side.
Jake and I continued talking to him about his strengths, and how he was going to fit in well. The conversation revealed to me more about the two boys' strengths. I knew that Sean was extremely good in Math and Science, and that he struggled with literacy. I didn't know that Jake was exceptionally good in literacy and average in Math and Science.
"Sometimes we traded each other's homework," Jake said.
"Boys, that's the last thing a teacher wants to hear. You don't learn anything having someone else do your work, to say nothing about the fact that what you were doing was plagiarism," I said with a serious look on my face. "I have two rules that I told Sean about shortly after he came here. Always do your best, and always try to be the best person you can."
I explained that what they were doing violated both those rules. Both boys seemed to understand and agreed that they wouldn't do that again.
"Both of you are smart enough that you don't need to do that," I said as I smiled at them.
The Leafs were playing on Hockey Night in Canada which was about to start, and we went down to watch the game together. Jake liked the Leafs, but his team was the Buffalo Sabres. While we were away, the Leafs hadn't won a game, and were now near last place in the division. It didn't matter, as Sean and I wanted to watch them anyway. We were both true-blue fans, unfortunately.
"I can't believe our goalie couldn't stop that long shot. He cost us the game," Sean said with a note of disgust in his voice.
"Maybe if the defence had been better, and that forward had cleared the puck, he wouldn't have had anything to stop," Jake said. Jake was forever the diplomat.
After the post game show, I told the boys that they should get ready for bed, as I didn't want them to watch the second game of the doubleheader, because it would be too late for them.
They looked at each other before they got up, and I knew that there was something on their minds.
"As long as you go right to sleep boys," I said.
"How did you know what we were going to ask you?" Sean asked.
"It's a Pop thing," I said as I smiled.
I came in to say goodnight when they were ready and in bed. As usual, Teddy was in Sean's chair.
I sat down on Sean's side of the bed.
"I guess you guys can go back with me next time. You didn't give me too much trouble," I said as I smiled at the two of them. "Did you have fun?"
Both of them were enthusiastic as they said yes.
I tousled Sean's hair and kissed his forehead. I went over to Jake's side and tousled his hair.
"Can you kiss me goodnight too, Pop? My uncle always does."
"Of course I can, young man," I said as I leaned down and kissed his forehead as well.
"Thanks, Pop .... for everything."
"My pleasure," I said as I tousled his hair again. "Both of us have enjoyed having you with us this week. Goodnight, Jake," I said as I smiled at him as well as Sean.
I could tell that Pietro and Jake's mother had done a great job with him, and that it was a loving and caring household that he came from. It always amazed me at how some kids never showed the effects of being raised in a very tough neighbourhood, as I had seen this many times in my career. It always boiled down to how committed the family was to ensuring the child was brought up with a sense of ethics and empathy. Even though Jake's family was not large and without a lot of extra money, it was obvious that there was a strong sense of family in his household.
I really didn't pay too much attention to the second game, as there were a lot of things on my mind. I was thinking of the adoption hearing, the relationship the two boys had, the plan I wanted to run by Pietro, and Sean's first week back at school. But most of all, I was reflecting on how much my life had changed for the better in a very short period of time. I finally gave up on the game and went to bed.
The next morning after breakfast, I called Leo to see if I could get the two boys in for haircuts as Pietro wasn't coming to lunch until 1 pm. Sean was due, and Jake was looking a little shaggy.
"Time to go to the beauty parlour, boys," I said as I smiled.
Jake had a horrified look on his face, as Sean and I laughed.
"Pop's teasing," Sean said as Jake's face relaxed.
On the way over I asked if the two of them wanted blond highlights in their hair. They both smiled, as they had seen many guys down at Disney with them, and said yes.
"Well two hotties," Sherry said as the boys walked over to the barber chairs.
Both boys smiled and I detected a slight blush as they sat down.
Sean got Leo, and Jake got Sherry. I helped Jake decide on the style he wanted, as Sherry showed him the same magazine that Sean had used when he decided on his style.
Since Jake's hair was longer than Sean's, there was hair flying all over the place as Sherry went to work with the clippers. When the two stylists were finished, they got out the colour charts to choose the dye they were going to use on the boys. Neither boy had had this done before, nor did they realize that they would have a plastic bonnet on their heads for 20 minutes. They weren't too impressed as they looked at themselves in the mirror as they waited for the dye to set.
"We look like girls with these things on," Sean said as he made a face.
Leo, Sherry and I just laughed.
When the cap came off, they both looked great. The highlights in Sean's hair were very light as they stood out in his sandy blond hair. Jake's highlights weren't as light, as he had the darker hair, but did stand out nonetheless.
"Wait'll Melissa sees this," I said as we went to the Lexus.
Needless to say, I got one of those looks.
"Your uncle won't recognize you, Jake."
"This looks awesome. Thanks, Pop," he said with a big smile.
Both boys look very handsome, and I could see they were very pleased with the new look, as they strutted across the parking lot. We picked up some food for lunch and made our way back to the townhouse. Pietro arrived about 12:55. When he came into the hall Jake greeted him and Pietro grabbed him in a big hug.
"Giacomo, what happened to your hair?" he said as he pushed Jake back so he could look at him.
Jake just smiled at him. We went to the living room after I got Pietro and me a beer. The boys sat down with us, and we told Pietro all about our time over the last few days. I could tell Pietro was a little envious but he was very gracious, as he appreciated how good it was for Jake.
We talked for an hour, and we sat down for lunch about 2 pm. We had a great lunch and finished about 2:30. I told the boys they could leave the table and go to the media room to play with the Playstation, as I wanted to talk to Pietro alone.
"What would it take for you to have your qualifications recognized in Canada?" I asked him.
He told me that his English wasn't good enough to go back to College to take the qualifying courses to get his certification. He also told me he couldn't afford the money or time it would take to do that. As well, he needed contacts to get into the field if he did get his certification.
"Pietro, I want to make a proposal to you. You don't have to tell me your answer today, but I want you to think about it seriously in the next few days," I said.
I told him I was willing to lend him the money to take the courses for him to get his TOEFL (Test Of English as a Foreign Language) certificate which would allow him entrance into the College upgrading program to get his certification. I told him he could arrange his timetable so that he could still drive his cab part time. This was through the Continuing Education Department of the Board of Education that I was affiliated with, so I could set things up for him. I was also willing to make sure Jake was looked after when he wasn't around.
"That would be a lot of traveling for you to come down and get Jake when I was working," he said, with a lot of concern.
"That's something else I wanted to talk to you about," I said.
I outlined the second part of my plan which had Jake and him moving into my townhouse, as I was going to buy a single home with a pool before the end of the school year. I wanted to have some property and a pool for Sean, as I could see from the time in Florida, that Sean, and Jake, loved swimming, so this would be a good move for all of us.
I told him I had some viewings set up for the coming week, and that I didn't want to sell the townhouse in this market, as I wouldn't get its full value. I told him he could live there rent free, while he was going to school, and that we could talk about rent payments when he started working.
He didn't say anything for quite a few moments.
Finally he said, "I don't know if I'm too old and I need to think hard about this. It's been a dream of mine for a long time to be able to work in my field and what you've presented is so tempting,"
I told him that we would talk more about details, but my contacts in the education field would make it easier for him to get to his goals. I told him that with his qualifications he would have no difficulty getting work in his field, which would provide him with a very comfortable living. I had had a conversation with Scott before we left for Florida about Pietro's situation so I knew that my information was current. I could see that he was seriously thinking about the offer and that he was definitely interested. We agreed that we wouldn't say anything to the boys until decisions had been made.
By now it was late in the afternoon, and he wanted to get Jake home and ready for school tomorrow. Jake got his luggage and souvenirs down into the hall so Pietro could pack them into the car. Before they left, Jake gave Pietro the watch he got in the Emporium.
"I hope you like this, Uncle," Jake said as he handed him the box.
Pietro opened it, and was silent for a few moments. He finally grabbed Jake in a very firm hug.
"It's wonderful, Giacomo. You shouldn't have done this," he said with a lot of emotion in his voice.
He tunred to us to say goodbye and he hugged Sean and then turned and shook my hand.
"I don't know how to thank you, Mr. Burger," he said as he pulled me towards him in a hug as well.
"Letting me spend time with Jake is all the thanks I need, Pietro," I said as we broke the hug.
Jake hugged Sean and the two of them broke the embrace and clasped their right hands in an athlete's handshake.
"Email me after school tomorrow, man," Jake said to Sean as they both smiled at each other.
I could tell Sean was getting a little emotional, as all he could do to answer was smile and nod his head yes.
Jake then turned and gave me a big hug.
"Thanks for everything, Pop ..... " and he tailed off as he was unable to say anymore.
"We'll be seeing more of each other, young man. You're not getting away from us that easy," I said trying to lighten up the situation.
Both Sean and I were a little subdued as we saw them take off in Pietro's cab. We knew that Jake wasn't walking out of our lives, but the closeness we had experienced over the last week with him would not be there. At least I could cling to the fact that I was doing all I could to have him become an integral part of our lives, but unfortunately Sean didn't have that comfort.
We had a later dinner, and afterwards, Sean went up to his room to, as he said, 'get ready for tomorrow'. I went down to the media room and was watching TV and after about 45 minutes I decided to see what was taking him so long to join me.
"Do you think I should wear these jeans, with my blue hoodie?" he asked as he held up the hoodie.
He had most of his winter clothing on the bed and couldn't decide what to wear. I could see that he was really nervous about his first day of school, and that was the main reason for his indecision.
"The blue hoodie, white long sleeve t-shirt and those jeans are my choice. The girls won't be able to resist you," I said as I laughed.
He was so distracted he didn't even react at my teasing.
"How about you put your stuff away and join me downstairs. Your favourite program, Two and a Half Men, is coming on."
He finally joined me after about another 20 minutes. We watched TV until 9:30 and he stayed close to my side the whole time. I could tell he really wasn't paying too much attention, as he didn't react a couple of times to some of the funny punch lines in the program.
He went up to get ready for bed, and called me to his room about 10 pm.
"Try to get some sleep tonight. You don't want to be a zombie your first day," I said as I sat on the side of the bed.
"I'll try," he said as he had Teddy under his arm.
"I'll bet Teddy's told you things are going to be Ok tomorrow, hasn't he?"
He gave me a very weak smile, which wasn't too convincing.
"I'm sure if Melissa was here, she'd tell you to relax."
"She did when I emailed her earlier tonight," he said as he sighed.
I leaned down and kissed his forehead.
"Goodnight, young man," I said as I patted his shoulder.