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I had driven Sean to school on Wednesday morning and returned home in time to greet Dana. We were very happy to see each other, as it had been almost 2 weeks.
"I'm so glad you two are home now," she said as we gave each other a big hug and kiss on the cheek.
"What did you bring in the cooler?" I asked.
"Just some things for a special meal for my boys tonight," she said as she gave me a big smile.
"I'm glad you're staying for dinner and to baby sit tonight, as Sean really missed you and wants to thank you for his room. I wish you hadn't brought the food, as I was going to go out later and get something special. I guess you beat me to it," I said as I gave her a big smile.
"Well I'm counting on you for part of the preparation. I brought three Angus beef strip loin steaks and you get to do the barbequing in the cold. I have the fixings for some more of Sean's favourites; garlic mashed potatoes, broccoli with a stilton cheese sauce and some crème brulée for dessert."
"Sean's favourites, eh? I guess I know where I rate," I said as I laughed.
We managed to stay out of each other's way all morning as I was working on an agenda for a Foundation meeting that was taking place in the afternoon. I was making sure we had a quorum, and touching base with Carol, who was coming in from Toronto.
While we were eating lunch together I had a chance to tell her more about our holiday. She was very interested in the activities we did, and the interaction amongst the six of us. She also told me again how much she was looking forward to seeing Sean again and baby sitting him tonight. I didn't want to take him to hockey as he would likely have homework and we would come home too late.
"This parent thing is really agreeing with you, Al," she said as she smiled.
I had to leave, and arrived at the Foundation's office, which was in the middle of the city, in the upstairs of a building that I owned. I chose the core of the city, as a lot of our work dealt with youth in this area, and I felt that I was being a good corporate citizen locating there. This was close to the neighbourhood where Sean and Jake were from.
There was an outer office for the part-time office manager who took care of the administrative tasks and a small office for Carol and me. As well, there was a board room that was big enough to accommodate the Board of Director's meetings.
There were 5 people on the Board including myself as Chairman of the Board and Carol as the CEO. The other 3 were prominent business and community leaders, and philanthropists like me.
Carol arrived in her rented Mercedes about a half hour early to go over the agenda. We went over the details, and then I got caught up on her week. I decided to ask her how Kyle was, to find out if they were still an item.
"He's fine, Dad, and yes, we are still going out together," she said as she smiled.
"I can't put anything past you, can I."
Shortly before the other Directors arrived, Katharine showed up. Carol and I had talked about having a liaison person from CAS at our meetings, as much of what we did directly or indirectly involved them.
"I'd love to hear about your trip if we have time after the meeting," she said as she smiled at us.
The others arrived, and we had a full quorum. We accepted the minutes of the past meeting, and approved the current agenda. I introduced Katharine, and she said a few words about her role, and how happy she was to be asked.
Carol and I then presented the 2 new items to be considered for funding. The first one was a Junior Literacy Camp, which was to be run out of school board facilities in the morning, in the poverty neighbourhoods of the city. In the afternoons it would be at a school board nature discovery centre that was not used in the summer. Carol led the group through the print materials and PowerPoint that we had prepared.
"As you can see, the funding for this is somewhat open-ended, as it depends on the number of campers signing up. We would hope to serve the neediest of kids, which would be on recommendation by school board staff, or from CAS," Carol said.
This was to be open to students from grades 4-6, for a two week period. The curriculum for the camp had been developed and used in the past. It was a mix of engaging activities, novel studies, creative writing and drama. They would then be bussed to the afternoon facility, where they would be involved in outdoor or indoor activities, such as canoeing, badminton, swimming, ping pong and a whole host of other things. The emphasis would be on developing team building and leadership skills .... and having fun.
We were adamant, that along with qualified teaching staff, there would be a social worker as well as activity director and activity staff. The other hidden part of this, would be to work on the family and social problems that existed with many of these kids. We also made it clear that everyone was to be accepted, including behaviourial and special needs kids.
"As you can see, this would be a very comprehensive program, which would bring great benefit to a very important target group," Carol said as she wrapped up her presentation.
After a few questions, the Board passed the motion I proposed and the planning for the program would begin as soon as possible.
The other funding request was again from Carol and I, but this time I made the presentation. It involved providing funds for the Knox City Ministries' Youth Drop-in program, which was for hard-to-serve youth from 13-18. It had lost it's government funding, and was in danger of closing the next month. It helped a whole bunch of kids straighten themselves out, and gave them a place to hang out, and clean up on the weekends.
"I'm proposing that we not only provide the funds for them to continue to the end of the year and beyond, but I'd like to add additional funds to buy some extra equipment I think they need, such as TVs, computers, pool table, fooseball and personal hygiene supplies. As well, Katharine has costed out what an additional social worker would cost in addition to the part-time help," I said.
After some discussion, where some members were concerned that the government should be re-funding the program, the motion passed.
Katharine added, "I can't emphasize enough how needed this program is in our city. You people are to be commended for having the foresight to keep it going."
"Thank you folks, I think we have put in motion some great programs that will benefit a whole lot of youth who need an extra helping hand. I have one more small request," I said.
I asked permission to flow-through some of my personal funds through the foundation, which were to go to Pietro for his upgrading of his qualifications. I didn't mention his name, but simply referred to him as the head of a needy family I was helping. I had a feeling if he thought that the money was a grant from an organization that I was able to secure for him, he would be more amenable to agreeing to my plan. I also explained that it would be done in such a way, as it would not compromise the not-for-profit status of the organization. They all agreed without any discussion.
After the meeting Carol had to leave, as she was meeting Kyle for dinner in Toronto. Katharine and I stayed a few minutes after and I brought her up-to-date on our trip and Sean.
"I was very pleased to see Dr. Barnet's independent report on Sean for the hearing next Friday. He is very well respected, and has had great success with Judge Steenhof in the past." She continued, "I also have deemed you to have passed the prospective Foster Parent training that each adoptive parent must take. I have the power to do that, and I didn't think you needed to take it," she said as she gave me a big smile.
When we were finally finished, I had just enough time to pick Sean up after school to take him to Scott's for his 3:15 appointment. We needed to get lab work done beforehand.
I saw Sean come out the front door of the school and walk towards the Lexus. He passed 2 of the girls from the other day, and I could see that they spoke to him and were laughing as he passed them. It was obvious that he was trying to ignore them. When he got in the front seat I asked him if they were bugging him again, and he said yes. It was obvious that he was really bothered by it.
"What did they say?" I asked.
"I can't tell you, cause I don't want to say those kind of words in front of you," he said with a very annoyed look on his face.
"Why were they swearing at you?"
"It wasn't like swearing at me," he said, as I could see he wanted to drop the whole discussion.
"I don't understand," I said with a more serious look on my face.
He paused for a few moments as he thought about what he was going to say.
"They wanted me to go to this party on Friday at one of their houses."
"And?" I said, not willing to leave the conversation hanging.
Again, after a long pause he said, "And they wanted to, you know, do stuff, cause the parents aren't going to be there"
"You mean like sexual stuff or drugs or drinking?" I asked very concerned.
He didn't speak, but gave me a look that answered for him.
I was starting to get a sense of what was going on with those girls, and it just wasn't normal boy/girl teasing. I had seen a few incidents of this kind of aggressive female behaviour in my last few years of teaching and I was quite concerned. The sexual part was one thing, but the substance abuse was another dimension. I knew that even in Middle school, drugs and drinking were a problem. I made a note to gather my thoughts and have a talk with him soon about substance abuse, and my expectations.
"What are their names?" I asked.
He was very reluctant to give them to me, so I didn't push him. I talked to him about a few strategies to deal with the problem on the way over to Scott's. I decided I would let him try to solve the problem, before I got involved.
We finished the lab work and got to Scott's office in time for Sean's appointment. I had emailed Scott about Sean's progress, including his budding romance and his voice change. Scott came into the waiting room to get him.
"Well these are new," he said as he smiled and pulled at a couple of strands of Sean's blond highlights. "You're getting to be quite a cool dude".
Sean gave him a big smile, as Scott put his arm around his back and started talking to him as they disappeared into the examining room.
Scott called me in after a half hour. I figured they were probably having a great conversation about Sean's trip and not involved in the exam the whole time.
He started by telling us about a doctor in town who did laser treatments on scars with great success. He explained the process and told us it was much less painful and the results were just as good as Dermabrasion. He said he would set up a referral to the doctor after the appointment.
He turned to me and said, "By the way, what are you feeding this kid? He's now 97 lbs, which is a gain of 12 lbs since I've been seeing him. He's also gained an inch and a half. He's going to start to eat you out of house and home, as he's hitting a growth spurt," he said as he laughed.
"Starting?" I said.
He continued, "So Sean and I had a talk about sex, since he's now got a woman. We talked about birth control, and I gave him a sample pack of condoms and showed him how to use them, just in case," he said as he smiled at Sean.
I could see Sean blush as he was quite embarrassed, but I was glad Scott talked to him about birth control. I suspect that he covered some of the same things I had with Sean, but I was quite sure he went over a lot more that I hadn't.
I was a little taken aback at the condom demonstration, as I guess I still saw Sean as a young boy. I was hoping it would be at least a few years before he would need to use them, but that was likely wishful thinking.
When we left Scott's office, Sean quickly stuffed the condoms into his coat before anyone in the waiting room saw them.
"Dr. Scott doesn't pull punches, eh?"
He gave me a weak smile, as I could tell he was still quite embarrassed and didn't want to talk any more about it.
When we got into the hall of the townhouse after coming in from the garage through the laundry room, Dana met us and gave Sean a big hug and kiss. He was very happy to see her, and wasn't even blushing at the show of affection.
"My goodness, you look different with those highlights in your hair," she said as she brushed his hair with her hand.
They went up to his room, as Dana wanted to point out a couple of features. I could see that Dana was quite proud of her work. Sean also wanted to give her his gift that he got in the Emporium. When they came down the stairs 20 minutes later, both of them were beaming. Dana loved the Disney bracelet, and I could see that Sean was proud that he had made a good choice.
Dinner was as usual great and I got ready for hockey shortly after. Sean had some reading to do as he had an assignment in class the next day on the story. As well, he had a math test to prepare for.
When I got home after hockey, Sean was asleep. Dana said that he was a little anxious about the reading assignment, and she helped him understand the story he had read.
Dana left and I headed off to bed.
The next morning, Sean was going to take the school bus for the first time. He was a little nervous, but I assured him that Stéphane was going to save a seat for him.
"I'll walk you to the main road, as that's where you'll pick up the school bus," I said, as Sean was getting his coat on in the hallway.
He was fine when the bus pulled up and he saw Stéphane wave from his seat for Sean to join him.
The rest of the day was uneventful, as thank goodness there were no calls from the school. He seemed to be settling in fairly well, and had made some nice friends .... with the exception of the 3 aggressive girls.
After dinner we were sitting on the couch drinking our tea while we watched the news. A clip on Lindsay Lohan came on about her latest drug rehab and I decided I would have my talk about substance abuse with him.
After the clip was finished, I said, "I'd like to talk to you, Sean about substance abuse. Do you know what I mean by that?"
"Dr. Scott talked a little bit about that yesterday."
He explained what Scott had said, and that he wouldn't get involved with taking drugs or binge drinking. I could also tell that there was more he wanted to tell me but he was holding back.
"Is there something else you wanted to say?" I asked as I turned on the couch to face him.
He looked down, paused and finally looked at me and said, "I've already done drugs. My mom and Maury made me smoke marijuana a couple of times."
I was shocked, and I guess it showed on my face. He became very defensive and started to back away from me on the couch. I leaned forward and put my arms around him and brought him into a hug.
"Sean, that wasn't your fault. I'm not mad at you, but I'm very angry at your mother and that creep. What they made you do was inexcusable."
After some moments he broke the hug and said, "I didn't like the way I felt after. It was weird and I don't want to feel like that again," he said with a sincere look on his face.
"I'm glad you say you want to stay away from them, and I hope you do, but unfortunately life isn't always that simple. There will be many times where you will have peer pressure, that will be hard to resist."
I went on to outline some of the stories from my observations during my career, and how damaging excessive drinking and drug use was to some of my students' lives.
"My real motive in talking to you about this now, is to let you know what my views on substance abuse are. That would violate both of my rules," I said with a very serious expression.
I told him that I hoped he would be sensible about drinking before he was of legal age, which was 19 years old, and that I would be very disappointed if he was to indulge in drugs again, of any kind.
"It's better to be embarrassed and ridiculed for saying no, then saying yes and potentially ruining your health and your life."
He didn't say anything for a few moments, and finally said, "Did you ever drink underage or take drugs?" he asked.
I had anticipated this question, and had asked Phil how to respond to it in one of my emails. He told me not to lie, but that I shouldn't volunteer any more than what was necessary to satisfy Sean.
"I did try marijuana once when I was 18, but I didn't like it, and that's the one and only time I tried it. As to the underage drinking, yes I did."
I explained that when I was growing up, the drinking age was 21, and many of us thought that was too old to wait. As well, drinking was an accepted practice at University when I was there.
"Does that mean you got drunk a lot?" he asked with a smile.
"I wouldn't say a lot, but yes I did. I'm not proud of that, and I'm telling you this so you don't make the same mistakes I did," I answered as I put my arm around his back and pulled him into my side.
"I also have to tell you, that I will likely have a few drinks on Saturday night after my championship game, as we will be going out to celebrate afterwards. You can come to the pub with me as Stéphane will be going as well, but Ricky is going to take you home before me. I will, however, be taking a cab home and at 60 years old, I'm legally allowed to drink," I said as I smiled at him.
He seemed satisfied with our talk and didn't pursue any more details of my past. I knew that over the next few years, there would likely be anecdotes shared in conversations with old friends about our escapades when we were younger, and I didn't want Sean to be surprised about my past and think I was a hypocrite.
I could see that there was something else on his mind, and I was guessing what it was.
"Yes, you may ask Jake to join us on Saturday and stay overnight, if his uncle says it's Ok," I said as I gave him a big smile.
"How did you know what I was going to ask you?"
"I can read your mind, young man," I said with an ominous tone to my voice. "I have to call Pietro as I want to invite him to come up for dinner on Sunday as well."
It didn't appear from Sean's reaction that he suspected anything about what Pietro and I had talked about, so I didn't say any more.
Except for the incident on the first day of school, things went fairly smoothly for him the rest of the week. He took the school bus to and from school, and didn't appear to have any other problems with those girls. He also seemed to be establishing some good relationships with the friends of Stéphane, and some other kids in his classes.
He came home on the school bus Friday and came in through the front door. He dumped his school bag and coat on the floor, and I sent him back out to the hall to hang up his coat and take his bag upstairs before I'd let him have his snack.
"Tidiness is next to Godliness, young man," I said as I laughed.
He didn't appear to be in terribly good humour, and I was anxious to find out why.
"What was new at school today?" I asked.
I got the standard teenage answer, "Nothing."
Then I remembered that he probably got his math test back and the mark on his Literacy assignment.
"Did you get any test or assignments back today?"
He shook his head yes as he stuffed his mouth full of food.
"And how did you do?" I asked, not letting him off the hook.
"I got 94% on my Math test," he said as he stuffed his mouth full again.
"Well, I'm waiting," I said after he had emptied his mouth.
"I got a pukey 68% on my reading assignment," he said with disgust.
I asked him what was wrong with that, and reminded him about the glass being half full.
"I didn't do good and you're probably not going to let me go out with Stéphane tonight to a movie."
I cringed and said, "What kind of grammar was that?"
He corrected himself, and I told him that I wasn't going to do anything of the sort. I asked him if he had done his best, and he said yes.
"That's all I ask. You have a lot of catch-up to do with your literacy, and it doesn't come as easily to you as Math and Science. You'll have to work hard to improve, but you've come a long way in a short time."
I stepped over to him and put my arm around him and hugged him and said, "I'm pleased with your progress so far, and you should be too. It's going to take time for you to improve your Literacy marks, but I'm confident it will happen. Be patient."
We had dinner, and I drove Stéphane and him to the movie theatre to meet up with a couple of other boys. When I got back to the townhouse, I decided to phone Pietro to invite him up for Sunday and see if he had made a decision.
I didn't expect the reaction I got from him.
"It's better if the boys don't see each other again," he said as he hung up.