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After we broke the hug, everyone came over to congratulate us. The girls gave us both a big hug and kiss. Peter left, as he had a case to attend to, and Phil stayed for a few minutes talking to Sean with the girls.
Ray and I had a chance to talk, after I thanked him.
"What was going on in there, Ray."
"I guess I scared the bajeebers out of you, when I got old Helmut going."
He explained that he was a little outspoken with Judge Steenhof in his chambers, and outlined the strength of the reports and evidence supporting the adoption. He also had Peter come in and tell the judge that the case against the grandfather was so strong that there was no way he would get off. Ray also forcefully took him to task about his attitude towards my age and single parent status.
"I told him that if he wasn't careful, I would make an example of him in the legal community over his 1960's view of adoption. I reminded him about current guidelines for adoption and that he was way out in left field."
"What was Phil called in for?" I asked.
He explained that Steenhof had some questions about his report, especially about me and my suitability as a parent.
"I wasn't the only outspoken one. Phil was really angry, and he told him in no uncertain terms that he was appalled that he would have any doubt about you, given what he wrote in his report."
I was getting the sense that it was a tag team effort, and that Ray, Peter and Phil ganged up on him.
"So that explains most of the stuff, but why did he call in Sean after Peter and Phil came back?"
"You've got quite a brave kid there," he said as he smiled.
He explained that even after Peter had told him about the strength of the case against the grandfather, Steenhof still was a little reluctant. Ray asked for Sean to be called in and he told him about the abuse he endured from the Grandfather as a child, and that he would testify against him if he had to.
"How did you know about that?" I asked with a puzzled look on my face.
He explained that he discovered that detail in the little conference he had with Sean before they went into the courtroom. That's when he asked Sean if he had to, would he testify against the Grandfather. I didn't think that Sean would disclose the abuse to anyone else but Phil and me, but I was wrong.
"He didn't hesitate for a second. I've gotta tell you, Burgs, your son's got balls to agree to that," he said.
"So why was Steenhof talking to Sean alone," I asked.
"When they have an adoption hearing, most Judges like to talk to the adoptee alone, to make sure there isn't any undue influence put upon the child. I'm guessing your son didn't leave any doubt in Helmut's mind," he said as he smiled.
"One more thing, Ray. What was the ace in the hole?"
"In my research for the case, I noticed that Helmut has had a few rulings overturned on appeal in the last year, in cases with similar circumstances. I was going to remind him of that point if he persisted. I also know that the Attorney General's department is putting him under review," he said as he grinned at me.
"You haven't changed in 48 years. You always were thorough..... and you always drove me crazy with your secrecy," I said as we both laughed.
Unfortunately he couldn't join us at the party and he packed up his things and got ready to leave. I told him to send the bill to the house as soon as he had figured out how much I owed him.
"There's no bill, Al. You invite me to the club this summer for a game, and we'll call it square. You've got quite a young man for a son. Take care of him," he said as he smiled and shook my hand.
When I joined the others after Ray had left, Phil had his one arm around Sean's shoulder and was talking to him. Sean was beaming from ear-to-ear.
"I don't think you're the only 'happiest person in the whole wide world' today, young man. It looks like your Dad's going to have a big smile on his face for quite a while too," Phil said as he gave him an extra squeeze.
Phil couldn't make the party, as he had another commitment, so he said goodbye and reminded us that Sean had another appointment at the end of next week.
We left the courthouse and made our way back to the townhouse. Katie and Carol had driven in from Toronto together, and they were going to make their way over to the townhouse as well, to freshen up before the banquet hall. Marty and Kyle were going to join us after they fought the traffic coming in from Toronto after work.
We all arrived at the townhouse at the same time, just as Pietro and Jake were pulling up. I had asked Pietro to drop Jake's things off at the townhouse and join us for a drink before we went over to the banquet hall. Jake came bounding out of Pietro's cab when it came to a stop and ran over to Sean.
"Are you adopted?" he said as he had a wide-eyed expression on his face.
When Sean told him he was, Jake high-fived him then pulled him towards him in a hug. He then broke the hug and put his arms around me.
"My goodness, Jake, I think you're more excited than Sean and Me," I said as we all laughed as Jake and I broke the hug.
We all made our way into the townhouse and I opened up a nice bottle of Grey label Wolf Blass Shiraz from my collection. I got some Perrier for the boys, some Stella for Pietro and Me, and we all sat down to chat and rest before we made our way over.
Jake and Sean went upstairs to put Jake's things in his room, and change into his suit. They came back down about 10 minutes later.
"You two are handsome young hunks," Carol said as she looked at Sean and Jake.
We all laughed, as both Sean and Jake blushed... and reeked of Axe cologne.
After about 5 minutes Dana arrived to join us. She was going to go over with us in the stretch limousine I rented for the occasion. We hugged and exchanged kisses on the cheek.
"Well everyone's smiling, so I guess things went smoothly today?" she said as I took her coat.
"Well, not exactly, but come on in and we'll tell you all about it."
After I poured her a red wine, Sean, the girls and I filled Dana and the others in on what had happened at the courthouse.
"Wow, you got to talk to the Judge, Sean?" Jake said.
"Yeah," he said as he looked a little embarrassed. He didn't volunteer any information, as I guessed he wasn't comfortable sharing his conversation with everyone.
We finished up at the townhouse and made our way over to the banquet hall in the stretch limo about 5 pm. The rest of the guests were arriving about 5:30. Dana's daughter and her friends were setting up the hors d'oeuvres on the platters on the buffet tables, and setting out the place settings for the sit-down meal.
As we were walking into the banquet hall, we saw a very large banner hanging from the ceiling. It said, 'Welcome to the Family, Sean Aiden Burger'. The girls had it professionally made, and had put it up before they had arrived at the courthouse, that afternoon. Sean stopped in the doorway as he looked up at the banner.
"Well, what do you think, little brother? Pretty neat banner, eh?" Katie said.
"Yeah, it's cool," he said as he gave a big smile. He paused for a few moments as he stared at it. We all smiled as we looked at him and then each other.
He seemed to be holding up well, and it didn't look like there would be any tears from him.... at least not yet. I suspected as events unfolded during the evening that he might have trouble holding it together. I was also suspecting that he wouldn't be the only one having trouble with his emotions before things were done.
As the guests arrived they congratulated Sean and me before they went to the buffet table and over to the bar to get drinks. I could also see that some of them had brought cards and gifts, even though I said it was a best wishes only affair.
I went over to Scott and Rick, who were having a beer as they were talking.
"I think your son is growing before our eyes, Al," Scott said.
"Tell me about it. We're going to have to get Lou to let out his suit, and it's not even a month old. Thank goodness Lou made it so it could be altered as he grew," I said.
"He's one handsome little devil. The girls are going to be after him. It's a good thing I had that talk with him last appointment," Scott said as he chuckled.
"How did things go today?" Rick asked.
"A little rocky, but I was glad Ray was handling our case. I think this would have been a different party if he hadn't worked his magic. He's good, alright," I said as I smiled.
I filled them in on some of the details and they just shook their heads. By now most people were coming in. I left the two guys and went over by the door and motioned Sean to join me, as we greeted the remaining guests.
When my niece Janet and her family arrived, their 13 year old daughter Rachel gave Sean a hug. Sean was Ok with the hug, but Jake blushed when she hugged him as well. It was obvious that Rachel was instantly taken with him. She stayed close to Jake and was talking to him at every opportunity, before we sat down for dinner. Jake however, was showing signs of the awkwardness he displayed down in Florida when he and Mara had interacted.
It was almost time for us to sit down and eat, and Melissa and Anne hadn't arrived yet. Kyle and Marty made it and said that traffic wasn't too bad, so I was getting a little worried that something may have happened. I had my Blackberry turned on, just in case.
Dana's daughter was just about to announce that dinner was to be served and to take our places, when I looked up and they came in the door. Melissa looked very sophisticated, as she was dressed in a black cocktail dress with a gold necklace and pendant around her neck. Her shoulder length blond hair accentuated her fine facial features, and she looked stunning. It was hard to imagine that she was just going on 14 years old.
"Someone else is here to see you, Sean," I said as he turned around.
His eyes almost popped out of his head. Melissa quickly made her way over to him and she stopped just in front of him. The two of them awkwardly greeted each other as they said hi.
"Don't be embarrassed you two. I'm sure nobody's going to say anything if you give each other a big hug," I said as I gently nudged Sean towards Melissa.
That was all the encouragement he needed, and he gave Melissa a warm hug, and she reciprocated. They stayed like that for a few moments and finally came up for air. I told Sean that Anne and Melissa were sitting with us, and they took each other's hand as they made their way to the table. They looked like a cute couple, as Melissa was about 2-3 inches taller than Sean, even though her shoes had low heels.
As Anne and I were walking to the table she said, "I thought I was bad getting ready. Melissa took forever tonight, as she must have tried on every dress she had in her closet.... twice. Then she decided she would wear one of her mother's dresses instead. She also had me do her hair 3 different ways, before she was finally satisfied." We both laughed as we sat down.
I felt a little awkward at dinner, as Anne was on one side of me and Dana was on the other. I didn't want to show favourtism, but it was difficult as Anne was trying to demand more of my attention than I was comfortable with. I was relieved when we finished dessert and it was time to give Sean his gifts and say a few words.
While the dishes were being cleared, the bartender came around to the tables and filled the champagne glasses with real champagne or non-alcoholic sparkling wine for the kids. This was for toasting.
Sean started by opening a few of the smaller gifts that my nieces and their families had given him. My sister, Maryanne, wanted to say a few words before she gave him her gift.
"As the eldest member of the family, I would like to give a warm welcome to Sean on behalf of all of us. We are delighted to have you as a son, brother, cousin and nephew," she said as she gave him a big smile.
We raised our glasses and toasted Sean. Maryanne then reached down into her purse, and pulled out a jewelry box.
"Come over here so I can put on my gift," She said as she took out a thin gold box chain.
He came over beside her and she undid the clasp and put it around his neck, and slipped it under his shirt. She then hugged him and gave him a big kiss on the cheek. He gave her a big smile in return.
Melissa asked that she go next, as she had brought a gift as well as a card from her and Anne. Sean smiled and said thank you to Anne and Melissa after he opened and read their card. He then proceeded to open the gift. He was a little emotional after he had unwrapped it. It was a framed portrait of Melissa that had been taken by a professional photographer. He hugged her and quietly said thanks. I knew it meant a lot to him, and I was guessing that it would be prominently displayed on his dresser when we got home.
Then Katie and Carol got up and came over beside Sean, as Marty reached under the table and picked up a gift bag and brought it over to the girls. Carol was the first to speak.
"We had a chance to spend some time down in Florida with our new brother, and we think he's a pretty cool kid," she said as she smiled at him.
"We couldn't have chosen a better little brother if we had tried," Katie said as she put her arm around his shoulder.
"But, like any guy, he's a little rough around the edges," Carol said as she put her arm around his other shoulder.
"We're looking forward to seeing lots of him, so we can train him the right way," Katie said.
"We're going to make sure he knows the important things in life, such as ironing isn't just a girl thing, and shopping is an Olympic sport for females," Carol said as everyone laughed, including Sean.
"Open the card first," Katie said as they handed the gift bag and card to him.
His face lit up when he saw what was inside the card. It was tickets to the June 10th Blue Jay game in the corporate box of Marty's company. It held 10 people, so we could go as a family as well as some others that Sean could invite. I didn't need to guess that Melissa and Jake would be two of the 'others'.
He then opened the gift bag and pulled out a Blue Jay jersey with the name 'Bulldog' stitched on the back. Now he was really excited, and he gave me his suit jacket as he put on the jersey. We all clapped as he turned to let us see the front and back.
Now it was my turn. I came over and put my arm around his shoulder before I started to speak.
"It seems like a long time ago that I met Sean under some very trying circumstances. I didn't realize it until some time later, that my subconscious had made up it's mind that night that I needed this young man in my life as much as he needed me," I said as I paused because my emotions were getting the better of me.
I gathered myself together, and continued, "Even though we're a generation apart, I'm going to try to be as good a father to Sean as my father was to me. Sean, I have something to remind you of your new name, and your new life."
I reached into my pocket and pulled out a ring box, and opened it to show him. It was a gold pinky ring with the intials 'SAB' engraved on it. He looked at it and I took it out and put it on his pinky finger.
"This ring has a great deal of significance to it. There is a small diamond in the top corner. That diamond is from my wife Lorraine's engagement ring," I said as I had to stop as I was getting choked up.
Sean was humbled as he looked at the ring on his finger. Carol and Katie got up and came over to us. Katie put her arm around Sean's shoulder, and Carol put her arm around mine. Carol continued where I left off.
"Katie and I both have diamond pendants made out of that same ring. We didn't know Dad was doing this, but we can't think of a better gift for his new son. Mom would approve," she said as both Katie and Carol smiled at the two of us.
Everyone was silent, as they were touched at the scene that was taking place. Finally someone started to clap and everyone joined in.
I had now recovered and I said, "I'd like everyone to join me in a toast to the newest member of the Burger clan, Sean Aiden Burger."
Everyone clinked their glasses as they toasted Sean. We had just sat down, when Sean asked me if he could say something. I was surprised, but I told everyone that Sean wanted to speak.
He stood up and looked around at me and the girls for a moment, and finally said, "When I was like 5 years old, I knew all I really ever wanted was a Dad, cause I didn't have one. Today I finally got my wish. But I got more. I got a family too. I'm the happiest person in the....."
He couldn't finish as the tears finally came. The girls and I got up and hugged him. Katie pulled out a Kleenex for him, and he finally settled down after a few moments. I asked him if he just wanted to sit down, and he said yes. Everyone decided to clap and stood up, as they realized that he wasn't going to be able to continue. I was very proud of him.
When that had subsided, I told everyone that they were welcome to stay, as there were some sweets being put out on the buffet table, and coffee and tea was being served.
After dinner Sean and Melissa were staying pretty close to each other and they held hands when people weren't coming up to Sean and congratulating him. I felt a little sorry for the two of them, as I could see that they really wanted to be alone for a little while. I got distracted for a few minutes talking to Katharine's husband Joe, and when I looked around Melissa and Sean were nowhere to be seen. I was guessing that they were 'getting caught up on things' somewhere quiet. I had almost thought of telling them to go to the limo, but I thought of how I would feel if Melissa had been my daughter and her boyfriend's father had suggested that. However, I wasn't going to go looking for them.
Katharine came over and joined us as Joe and I were still talking.
"That was one of the most interesting court cases I've been involved in. I'm so glad Ray was there to pull it off. He sure is a good lawyer," she said with a big smile.
"I'm glad he was successful too, although I had my doubts for a while."
She went on to say that since Steenhof had waved the waiting period for Sean's name change, that the adoption was now final. She also told me that she made the application for his amended birth certificate when she got back to the office, and that should come through in about a month. I needed that to set up the trust fund for him. She told me she would be in touch next week to go over the final paperwork for the adoption. She then left with her family, as her kids were getting a little restless.
People seemed to be having a good time mingling and catching up on family news. At one point, I looked around the room to try and find Jake, as I was a little concerned he might have felt left out. When I found him, he was with Rachel, and the two of them were having a great conversation.
It looked like Jake had shed his initial shyness, as he seemed very comfortable with her. Rachel was not as warm and easy-going as Melissa, as she was a little more studious. When I overheard some of the conversation, they were engaged in an intellectual discussion about the latest Harry Potter novel 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows'. I wasn't surprised at Rachel, but I was very surprised at Jake. He continued to amaze me.
"Hi, Pop. We were just talking about a book we both read," he said with a big smile on his face.
"I know. I'm glad to see you both like to read," I said, as the two of them shyly smiled at each other.
He went on to tell me that he had read all 7 of the books, as well as Tolkien's Lord Of The Rings series, as he was an avid reader. Maybe that was why he did so well in his literacy classes.
As I was talking to them, my sister Maryanne came over as she was leaving.
"Where is Sean, I wanted to say goodbye to him?" she asked.
I just smiled and said he was getting some fresh air with Melissa.
"He's a keeper. I can't believe how much this is like Dad and you. You'll be every bit as good a father as he was," she said as she gave me a hug and a kiss on my cheek.
I had a lot to live up to being as good as my Dad. We had a great relationship and I only hoped that Sean and I would have something as good.
Pietro came over after Maryanne left and told me he had an early shift and needed to get to bed.
"I got some information in the mail today about my TOEFL classes," He said.
His classes started in July and ran until February of next year. After that he would be in a position to apply to the Community College for entrance into the upgrading program to get his certification.
"Things should be ready at the new house by July 1st, so the townhouse should be ready for you shortly after that," I said.
I told him if he needed help selling his house and getting the moving organized, that I would be glad to help. I also told him I took the liberty to get Jake registered at the high school in town, and that I would go over the option sheet with him this weekend, as I had Sean's as well.
"You've been so good to Jake and me. We can't thank you enough," he said as he shook my hand.
I felt so good that everything was working out for Pietro, as he deserved a break in his life. He was a good man, and I knew he would be successful getting his certification.
The girls were getting ready to leave, and they came over after Pietro left, with Marty and Kyle.
"I'm sorry we didn't get a chance to chat tonight guys," I said to the two boys as I smiled.
Just then Sean and Melissa appeared and came over to us hand-in-hand.
"Where were you two," Marty said with a serious look on his face.
"I think they were just getting re-acquainted," I said as I smiled at Sean and Melissa as they were blushing.
The girls left from the banquet hall with Marty and Kyle, as they had everything with them.
As Anne and Melissa were leaving, Anne gave me a big hug and a kiss on the cheek. It was a little embarrassing as Dana was standing there. I told her I would call her tomorrow about making arrangements for Melissa's hockey tournament next weekend. Melissa and Sean gave each other a big hug, and then Anne and Melissa left.
It was only Dana, Sean, Jake and me in the limo on the way back. The four of us were a little tired, and there wasn't much conversation. I wasn't sure if Dana was quiet because of the display of affection Anne had shown to me, or if she was just genuinely tired.
When we got to the townhouse, Dana came in for a few minutes. Sean and Jake said goodbye to her and headed upstairs to get ready for bed.
"I want to thank you for all you did today, to make Sean's party a great success," I said as I took her hands in mine.
"The pleasure was all mine, Al," she said as she gave me a big smile.
"You know, things aren't always the way they seem," I said as I gazed into her eyes.
She smiled and we hugged and kissed each other on the cheek. Both of us knew it just wasn't the right time for anything more than that. However, I think both of us realized that there would be a right time.... maybe soon.
I walked her out to her car and said goodnight.
When I got back inside, I went into Jake's room first to say goodnight to him. He was under the covers, and was looking very sleepy. He gave me a big smile when he realized I was in the room.
"You and Rachel seemed to have a good time together."
"She's really neat. We like a lot of the same stuff," he said as he gave me a big smile.
I was looking forward to learning more about Jake, as I was getting the impression that he was a lot more complex than his external persona projected. I said goodnight and went into Sean's room.
He was pretty tired as well, and was under the covers with Teddy beside him. His eyes were very heavy, so I knew we wouldn't have a lot of discussion tonight. I glanced up at his dresser, and there was Melissa's picture front and centre.
"So is Teddy my son as well?" I asked as I smiled at him.
"I guess so, Dad," he said as he sighed and put Teddy under his arm.
"I know you're sleepy, but could you tell me what you said to the Judge in his chambers? I'm curious."
He paused, looked at me and said, "I told him he was being mean trying to take me away from my Dad."
I gave him a big smile, tousled his hair and kissed him on his forehead.
"Goodnight, Son. I love you."
"I love you too, Dad."