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"No, the mail isn't here yet. Why?" I asked Katharine.
"We were informed by letter today, from Judge Steenhof's office that the hearing this Friday will only be to consider extending your foster placement another 3 months," she said.
I was shocked, and at a loss for words.
"What happened to the petition for adoption?" I asked as I finally recovered.
She explained that they were in touch with his office shortly after they received the letter that morning, and his administrative assistant explained that the judge felt that it was premature to consider adoption, given the pending trial of the Grandfather. As well, he was troubled by my age, my single parent status and the fact that there was not a more extensive search of Sean's relatives to see if someone else was available to raise him. He also felt that since Katharine and I were related that some rules had been bent, such as the waving of the Foster Parent classes.
"I wasn't very pleasant with the woman on the phone, and I wouldn't be surprised if there are repercussions about what I said about how I viewed the Judge's actions. I pointed out to her that there was an unsolicited independent assessment from Dr. Barnet, and that one of my staff made the recommendation for adoption, not me," she said with a note of anger in her voice.
"Tell me he's not considering taking Sean away from me on Friday or down the road?" I said really concerned.
She told me that she was pretty sure that wouldn't happen. Pretty sure wasn't a comforting statement to me and I started to get very anxious.
"I'm going to call Ray as soon as we hang up. I can't believe this is happening."
When we hung up my mind started to race ahead. 'What if we can't get the judge to change his mind about Friday'? 'What if he does take Sean from me'? The last question sent shivers up my spine. I couldn't imagine my life without him. The two of us would be crushed, and I didn't want to think what would happen to him.... or me.
Just then I heard the mailman drop the mail into my box. I got the letter, opened it and read it. When I was finished reading, I scrunched it up into a ball. I was now getting really angry, and I was considering calling the Judge's office and raising hell. I finally cooled down, and realized that that would not be a wise course of action.
I called Ray, and thank goodness he was home. I explained what had happened, and told him that I was really angry and stressed.
When I told him that I was very close to phoning the Judge's office he said, "Thank goodness you didn't do that. Leave this to me. That's why I get paid the big bucks. The last time I saw you this wound up was in 1966, when you thought the cop in Niagara Falls New York was going to put us in jail for drunk and disorderly conduct."
The drinking age in Ontario at the time was 21, and it was 18 in the States, so we frequently crossed the border to go to the bars when we were younger. We did some pretty wild things in those days, and this was one incident I had forgotten. I told him I was having a senior's moment, and I had no recollection of the incident.
"Remember, we were drunk and he caught us pissing on that car in the Holiday Inn parking lot. Thank goodness we had a designated driver," he said as he laughed. "Now calm down, Burgs."
He told me he would touch base with the Judge's administrative assistant that day, to get the lowdown first hand. He also wanted to plant the seed with her that he was representing us and that he was going to take action concerning the change in the hearing.
"This kid really means a lot to you, doesn't he?"
"He does Ray. I want to give this young man the life he deserves. I don't want him to have to wait any longer. He's waited 13 years too long already."
Ray assured me that things would be fine, and that he would get on it right away. We hung up and I slumped back into my chair and stared at the wall for about 2 minutes, as some very unpleasant thoughts rolled through my head. Finally I snapped back to my senses, as I realized that I had to be strong, and not let on to Sean that this storm was brewing.
I got to work on the plans for the party that we were having after the hearing on Friday, as I needed to confirm who was coming. I needed the diversion, to take my mind off of the problem. I was hoping that the party would be a joyous occasion, and not a sombre one. I was going to invite all the family and some friends which amounted to 30 people. There was a very special person I needed to make sure was coming and I placed the call.
"Hello Anne. I hope things with you are going well. I would like to invite you and your lovely granddaughter to a party this Friday night."
I went on to explain the details and why I was giving it. I told her that Sean knew nothing about the party, but I would tell him shortly. I asked that she tell Melissa not to say anything, as I wanted her presence to be a surprise.
"We would love to attend. Can I bring anything?" she asked.
"I'm having it catered, so no. Also, this is a best wishes only affair, so please don't bring a gift."
She was delighted, and said she would call Melissa's mom after we hung up. She was sure that Melissa wasn't busy with a hockey tournament, so she would be able to be there.
"Melissa won't be the only one who's missed someone," she said, as she chuckled.
After we hung up, I paused to reflect on where the relationship with Anne and me was going. I almost suggested that Anne and Melissa stay the night with us, but I decided not to at the last moment. It wasn't that I was uncomfortable with Sean and Melissa being together under my roof, but it was the thought of Anne and I being close that concerned me. I was having doubts that I wanted to establish a relationship with her that was any more than just good friends. Those feelings I had for Lorraine weren't there for Anne. However, I was having those feelings again.... just not for her.
I spent the better part of an hour making sure all the family was invited, and most were able to come. Lorraine's brother and Sister-in-law's youngest son was the only one that couldn't make it, as he was teaching in Japan.
After that I went to the jeweler in town to order something for Sean that would be given to him at the party on Friday night. I had to be back for late morning as Dana and the decorator Kendra, were coming up for a meeting. I had arranged with Bryce for another viewing of the new house, as I wanted an extensive renovation of the kitchen done. Even though the house was relatively new, the kitchen wasn't up to my standards. Kendra was a certified Kitchen/bathroom designer, and with Dana's catering experience, she would be a valuable resource. Besides, I always liked being in Dana's company.
I was reasonably sure what I wanted, so between the three of us I knew we would be able to come up with the design and functionality I was looking for. After that it would be a matter of hiring the contractors to carry out the design.
Bryce picked Kendra, Dana and me up and took us to the house. We went through all the rooms and made notes about decorating, changing the millwork and paint colours. We would also have to hire a painter and carpenter in addition to the kitchen contractor. As well I would have to have the audio/visual contractor that set up my media room in my townhouse, come in and do the same install again.
The house was a 3200 sq. ft. bungalow on a ravine lot, with a triple car garage and kidney shaped inground leisure pool (5 1/2' in the deep end). On the main floor there were 4 bedrooms, great room, kitchen, dining room, 2 pc. Powder room and Den. The basement had a walkout through a set of patio doors, to the backyard. It had one large bedroom with bathroom, and there was another large room that would become the media room. There was still a lot of unused space for storage and future rooms.
Of the four bedrooms on the main floor, the master was the largest with a walk-in closet, an ensuite bathroom with glassed shower, and Jacuzzi tub. Two of the other bedrooms also had walk-in closets, and they shared a large bathroom, also with a glassed-in shower.
"I take it the larger bedroom that's sharing the second full bathroom is Sean's," Kendra said. "I know what paint colour that one will be," she said as we all laughed.
We spent a fair bit of time in the kitchen discussing different layouts, materials and appliances. Kendra and Dana made some great suggestions, and Kendra said she had enough information to draw up some preliminary plans. Basically she was going to come up with two different looks with granite counter tops, restaurant quality appliances, including a six burner gas stove and double wall ovens. We decided on either a French country or a contemporary look.
"This is going to be a caterer's dream when it's finished," Dana said as she smiled.
"I'll have to make sure you get ample opportunity to use it," I said as I returned Dana's smile.
I don't know why, but the two of us paused as we caught each other's glance. We both looked away quickly as we realized we were staring at each other.
When Bryce dropped us off at home, I asked Dana if she could stay, as Sean wouldn't be home for about another hour. I told her I had some news I'd like to share with her. She could see that I was stressed, and she agreed to stay for a little while, as she had to get home shortly.
"Dana, I don't know what to do. I got this letter today that said the Judge is postponing the adoption hearing this Friday, and will only consider the extension of Sean's foster placement with me."
I handed her the scrunched up letter, and she read it. She had an incredulous look on her face when she was finished and said, "What's that knucklehead thinking. I hope your lawyer's on top of this?"
I assured her that Ray was, but given my skeptical nature, I expressed my doubts about this working out for Friday. I also confided in her my feelings about what this would do to Sean and me if the adoption were to fall apart.
"Al, you can't think like that. I just have a feeling that things are going to be just fine on Friday," she said as she put her arm around me.
I gave her a smile and said, "Thanks Dana."
"Aren't you the one that's been telling Sean about the glass being half full, not half empty?" she said.
"I guess I should listen to my own advice, eh," I said as I smiled.
As we were saying goodbye at the door, I gave her a kiss on the cheek, and said, "Thanks for being a good listener. You always know how to bring me back down to earth."
She smiled, hugged me and left.
That night when Sean and I were sitting on the couch watching TV, I told Sean about the party that I was planning on Friday night.
"I've invited the family and some friends to celebrate your adoption. I'm having it catered at the small banquet hall in the middle of town," I said as I drew him into a cuddle.
He was really excited and looked at me, smiled and said, "Is my Dad coming?"
I laughed and said, "He is, and my son is coming too."
I tickled his ribs, and he squirmed as he giggled and tried to get away from me. Finally I stopped and he came back and cuddled for a few more minutes as we watched TV. Neither one of us was paying attention, as we were thinking of other things. I was starting to feel a little better about Ray being able to successfully pull this off for Friday, and I was a little more relaxed.
Sean broke the silence when he asked, "Is Jake coming?"
I assured him he was, as well as Pietro. I knew what the next question was and I beat him to it.
"Yes, what?" he asked as he turned to look at me.
"Jake's staying over on Friday, and Saturday. Pietro has some weekend shifts, and he was glad I asked. I assume that was Ok?" I said as I smiled at him.
He smiled back, and cuddled up again. We sat like that for another two minutes, and I was waiting for the next question, that I was sure was coming.
"Do you think we could ask if Melissa could come?" he said without looking at me. Before I could answer he looked at me and quickly said, "Her Grandma could come too."
I chuckled to myself as I told him that I had called to invite them, but Anne said that Melissa was in a hockey tournament out of town this weekend and they wouldn't be able to make it.
He looked so disappointed, and I gave him a smile and a squeeze and said, "I know you're disappointed, but we'll have Melissa up another time soon."
"How about the next weekend? She told me she has a hockey tournament close to here. We could go to her games.... and she could come back here with her parents.... maybe?" he asked.
"Let me talk to Melissa's Grandmother. Maybe we can arrange something," I said as I smiled at him.
I figured it would be better to wait until Friday night, so we could talk it out with Anne and Melissa to see if it was feasible. He seemed Ok with my suggestion and we dropped the subject.
Wednesday after school Sean had his first track practice. He was going to call me when he was finished and I would go get him. Dana was making us dinner, as she had been there most of the day to clean. We had some time to talk about the kitchen design, and the hearing on Friday before I had to go.
"Kendra called me today with some questions and we got some things straightened out. She said the preliminary drawings and plans should be ready by Monday for us to take a look at," Dana said.
She noticed that I was mildly enthusiastic about what she was telling me, and asked what was wrong.
"I guess I'm just a little preoccupied with thinking about the hearing on Friday. I haven't heard back from Ray, and I'm almost afraid to call him for fear of hearing some bad news."
"Al, I haven't seen you this bad since Lorraine went through her ordeal. I told you I have a good feeling that this is going to work out well. You know my intuition has been pretty good in the past," she said as she came over to me and put her arm around my shoulder and smiled at me.
I looked at her and smiled back as she said, "How about you go pick up our boy at school."
We broke the hug and she scolded me and said, "And lose that long face. We don't need Sean to pick up on anything. The last thing we need is another male moping around here. One's bad enough."
She was of course right, and I needed her gentle kick in the pants to bring me back to reality. I really needed to keep it together for Sean's sake. He was a very intuitive young man and was very good at reading my body language already.
I parked the Lexus in the parking lot and went into the school, as I was a little early. I hoped to see a little of what Steve O'Toole was doing with the kids, and how Sean was making out.
I went into the gym, and they were doing wind sprints across the width of the gym. There were about fifteen kids; seven girls and eight boys. Sean was doing well and was neck-and-neck with two of the other boys and one girl. Steve barked out 'one more' and they really picked up the pace.
When they finished, Sean ended up in third place, beaten by one of the boys and the girl. Steve called them together when all of the runners had finished and had a short talk with them, and then sent them on their way.
"That was pretty good running, sport," I said as I patted him on the back.
He was still out of breath and gave me a big smile as he gulped some water from his water bottle. He decided he would shower at home, and went into the dressing room to get changed.
That gave me a chance to talk to Steve about his progress.
"He's got a lot of natural ability. I think he's better suited to the longer distances, but he certainly can sprint as well," Steve said as we walked to the gym doors.
I asked Steve who the girl was, and he smiled and proudly said, "That's number two daughter."
As we were on the way out of the Gym, Steve's daughter Carly said, "Nice running McDonagh. You're going to have to train harder to beat me though," she said as she laughed.
Sean also laughed as the four of us made our way to the front door together. Carly and Sean had a short chat as we walked, and I could see that they were getting along very well.
"Is Carly a nice girl?" I asked as we started out of the parking lot in the Lexus.
"Yeah, she's Ok," he said as he smiled.
"Did you know that's Mr. O'Toole's daughter?" I asked.
His face dropped, as he didn't know. When he got over his surprise, he laughed and said," I guess I shouldn't try to beat her then. I don't want to fail Phys ed."
As we were driving home he asked if we could go to the big box sports store near Walmart after supper. He wanted to get another pair of track shoes, and some underclothes made out of wicking material, so he could run outside in the mornings. I expressed my concern about his safety running on the dark streets in the early morning, with the early commuters buzzing by in their cars.
"Couldn't you just train on a treadmill until the nice weather comes along in a few weeks?" I asked.
I suggested we get a good treadmill for downstairs, instead of the clothes. He thought that would work, but he still wanted the new underclothes and shoes. I agreed, and we decided I would pick him up after school tomorrow and go get them then.
We had a great dinner with Dana, as she was staying to baby sit Sean as I had my last Wednesday night hockey game for the season. She had brought her recipe book and she wanted to have Sean pick out the hors d'oeuvres and dishes he wanted for his party. Most of the preparation would be done by Dana the day before, but her daughter and some of her friends were going to do the actual catering on the Friday night, as Dana was a guest.
When I went out the door with my equipment, Sean and Dana were sitting at the Breakfast counter making up the menu for the party. Sean was looking through Dana's recipe book and Dana was making notes as Sean picked the dishes.
I wasn't too sparkling at hockey, as I was a little distracted by the problem with the hearing on Friday. The game managed to be close, and as usual Rick and I were exhausted at the end, as the young guys put us through our paces once again.
"So is Sean getting excited about the hearing on Friday?" Rick asked as we sat down in the bar.
I filled him in on the problem we were encountering with the Judge, and he was very sympathetic.
"What's Ray say about all this?" he asked.
"I haven't heard back from him since I told him about the problem on Monday. He said he was going to make contact with the Judge's office and let them know we were objecting to the change in plans."
"I'm sure Ray's got things under control, Al. You need to relax. You're wound up tighter than a drum," he said as he poured me a big glass of Stella from the pitcher he ordered.
I had another Stella and then said goodbye to the guys until next season. Rick and I took a taxi home as we didn't want to risk a DUI charge.
When I got in to the townhouse, Dana told me Ray had phoned. She said that he wanted to speak to me and to call tomorrow morning. I asked if he had given any details to her and she said no.
"You know, Al, you're going to have to tell Sean about the problem before he finds out the wrong way. You'll need some time to calm him down before Friday.
"I guess you're right. I was trying to stall as long as possible, hoping Ray could have it resolved before I had to tell him," I said as I sighed.
We decided that if Ray hadn't been successful in changing the Judge's mind, then I would tell him tomorrow night after dinner about the problem with the hearing. That would give me a few hours to talk to him and calm him down.
Dana left and I went upstairs to go to bed. I paused to look into Sean's room to see if he was asleep.
"Hi, Pop," he said in a soft voice.
I went in and sat on the side of the bed.
"Am I going to be adopted on Friday?" he asked with a lot of concern in his voice.
"Why would you say that?" I asked as I ran my hands through his hair.
"I heard Dana talking on the phone and she was saying something about Friday's hearing," he said.
It was obvious that I wasn't going to be able to stall any longer, so I told him about the problem. He became very anxious and I quickly reassured him that everything was going to be alright.
"We have one of the best lawyers in Toronto representing us, and he's confident things will work out," I said as I smiled at him.
He relaxed a little as he gave me a weak smile.
"If it doesn't happen Friday it will happen soon. I made you a promise and you know I've kept all of them so far," I said as I leaned down and kissed his forehead.
He smiled as he shifted Teddy to his other arm and rolled over.
"Now get some sleep. You've got a couple of big days ahead of you," I said as I tucked him in.
I paused in the doorway on the way out and looked back at him lying peacefully in his bed. I decided that tonight would be a good time to start praying once again.