This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
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I was up about 8 a.m. the next morning, which was early for me on a Saturday. I just couldn't sleep any longer, as my mind was too active thinking about all the things I had to do now that there was no doubt about Sean's future with me. Even though I was wrapped up with the tasks that needed to be done, I had a sense of contentment I hadn't had for many years. The doubt I initially had about my ability to raise Sean had all but disappeared, and I was much more confident that I would be able to provide him with the upbringing he deserved. I was so happy Sean and I would be able to share our lives together.
I was finishing my Latte and reading the Saturday paper, and as usual lamenting the poor performance by my Leafs, when I heard someone coming downstairs. When I turned around, it was Jake in his pyjamas, rubbing off the sleep from his eyes.
"Hey sleepyhead, you're up early," I said as I put my paper down.
He slumped down in the chair beside mine and said, "I couldn't sleep anymore."
I told him to help himself to some juice as I would make breakfast later when Sean got up. He asked if he could have a Cappuccino as well, so I showed him how to use my machine and he made himself one after he drank his juice. He told me that he and Pietro made one every Saturday that they were home together. We settled back down, and I could see that he wanted to talk.
"What's on your mind, young man," I said as I smiled at him.
He paused and finally said, "Are we really going to get to live here?"
I sensed that this was the opening gambit that was going to lead to a lot more conversation.
"Yes you are, Jake. I'm going to be talking to your uncle and you this weekend about details with your move, and getting the townhouse ready for you. I'm also going to be talking to you about your options for next year at the high school in town. I have your option sheet, as well as Sean's."
He didn't respond, and I knew from his body language there was something really bothering him.
"So are you going to tell me what's really bothering you, or do I have to guess what it is?" I said as I smiled at him.
He finally opened up, and said he was afraid of how he would fit in at the "rich kid's school' as he put it. He also expressed doubt about keeping up to all those 'smart kids'. I got up and motioned to him to join me on the couch, and I put my arm around his shoulder.
"I know a few teachers up at the school that are going to be very happy to have someone as smart as you in their class," I said as I gave him a squeeze and a big smile.
"I'm not smart," he said as he turned to look at me.
"According to your OSR (Ontario School Record) you are," I said as I smiled at him.
"Did you see my record?" he asked.
"I did, and I also saw that you have Mr. Johnson for literacy. I know him, and he's a tough marker. Getting 93% in his class is quite an achievement," I said as I gave him a big smile.
I had picked up his OSR at his old school and brought it to the high school to make sure it arrived safely. When I viewed its contents, I was not happy that Jake had not been deemed gifted some years ago in Literacy, and put on a special program. Unfortunately he had fallen through the cracks, and because his mother and Pietro didn't have the knowledge and background to push the school, it hadn't happened. As well, there weren't a lot of gifted kids in his school, and the programming for them wasn't in place like it would have been in a more economically privileged area.
I knew Jack Johnson would have been giving Jake some gifted work, and I wasn't going to make a stink so late in the school year. I also reminded myself that Jake was not my child. I didn't want to encroach on Pietro's territory any more than I had already.
"You know Stéphane and his friends. Are they snobby rich kids?" I asked.
He shook his head no. I reassured him that it wasn't a 'rich kid's school', and it didn't have a reputation for having a bunch of snobby kids.
I felt him relax as he smiled at me and it appeared that he was starting to feel better about the change. Despite his easy-going nature, he was like any kid his age, with insecurities and self doubt. I made a note to myself to keep constantly talking to both boys about the process with their entrance into high school. It was daunting enough for kids making the transition to high school under normal circumstances, but under the additional pressures both Sean and Jake were experiencing, I needed to give them as much moral support as I could.
I asked him if he wanted to go downstairs to watch TV or play with the PlayStation, but he asked if he could read the part of the newspaper that I was finished with. I was pleasantly surprised, as most kids his age never read the paper.
"We get two newspapers at home," he said.
He told me they got the local paper on Saturday, but every day his Uncle got an Italian paper. He usually read the entire local paper before the weekend was finished, and sometimes he would read his Uncle's Italian paper. I was glad Pietro was encouraging Jake to keep up his Italian language.
"It's really hard to read, but my Uncle helps me with stuff I don't understand."
We sat together in the chairs in front of the bay window overlooking the ravine for about another 30 minutes, reading together. We heard Sean making his way down the stairs into the living about 9 a.m. He also arrived in his pyjamas, and was still half asleep.
"Hi, Dad," he said with disheveled hair and a big sleepy smile. I could tell that he was delighting in being able to say that.
"Good morning, Son. Why did you come downstairs? You're still half asleep," I said as I laughed.
"I had to pee, and I saw you guys weren't in your rooms."
He came over and slid into my chair beside me and snuggled up. Thank goodness the chair was an oversized one.
"It's kind of hard to read with someone glued to my side," I said as I smiled at him. I knew exactly what he wanted and I said, "So, is my son hungry?"
"Yup. What's for breakfast?" he said as he looked at me with a big smile.
I put down the paper, gave him a squeeze, and went into the kitchen. I told the boys they had to help me, and we whipped up a great breakfast of Canadian Bacon, Eggs, Fruit, Whole Grain toast, and yogurt. They were full by the time we were finished.
We cleaned up and went into the living room, as I told them I had something I needed to talk to them about.
"I have both of your option sheets for next year from your new school and they have to be filled out for this week."
I explained what options they could choose from and what the compulsory courses that they had to take were.
"Both of you will be at the Academic level, so your Math, English, French and Science courses are the ones with the D at the end of the course code," I said as I pointed out on the sheet which ones I was referring to.
Both of them thought since they weren't strong in certain subjects that they should choose the lower level of difficulty in those, which was the Applied level.
"You both need to stop this feeling of inferiority. Each of you has certain strengths, but by and large you two are smart kids, and are functioning at a high level of intelligence. You need to choose the most appropriate level of difficulty with your subjects, as you need that level to get into University when you graduate."
They both made a comment about University, and I could see that neither one of them had even considered that path before. It might not happen, but I wanted to make sure that they at least gave themselves the chance, by taking the appropriate subjects as they started high school.
"You can choose two options from the list," I said as I pointed out the optional subject list on the sheet.
When they looked at the choices they had quite a few questions. I was able to explain all the ins and outs of the various courses and they pretty well decided on the selections that I would have chosen for them anyway. I did have a minor tussle with Sean as he had been misinformed about one of the courses in the Tech department.
"The man that talked to our class last week said that the grade 9 Tech Computer course was real neat. They get to make animations and stuff," he said.
I explained to him that all the things in that course were things he already had the basics for, from what I was able to observe of his computer skills.
"I have all those programs here, and you've used some of them already. A boy that can do his own website from scratch, can certainly teach himself everything that is taught in that course."
I went on to explain that the course he should be taking was offered in Grade 10, and that he could take that the next year. He wasn't too happy with me, until I showed him the curriculum of the two courses. I had the resources at hand, as I had written the Grade 10 course for the Ministry of Education, and I had all the computer curriculum binders.
"I don't think you'd find that Tech course much of a challenge, and you'd get bored pretty quickly."
Once he understood the difference, he was Ok with waiting until Grade 10 to take the computer course I suggested.
They both ended up taking Music and Introduction to Business. When I explained that a lot of girls took Music, Sean was sold. Jake took it because he had taken piano lessons some years ago, when his mother was alive, and he enjoyed it. The fact that there were band trips in grade 11 and 12, if they stuck with it, helped sway their decision.
I had a different agenda, as I knew that the type of student that took music was a good peer group for them to be exposed to. Even though I knew they would be involved in athletics at some time during their high school career, that didn't preclude pursuing music. Many of the school's best athletes were also in the various bands.
We had just finished with the option sheets, and the doorbell rang. It was the treadmill being delivered to the Townhouse.
"This'll give you a good workout, Sir," the delivery man said to me as he came into the hall with the box.
"It's not for me, it's for my Son," I said as I smiled at Sean, who had now joined me in the hall. I was really enjoying using the term Son as much as Sean was enjoying using the term Dad.
The delivery man took the box downstairs as it was pretty heavy. After he left, it took the three of us about a half hour to put together the unit in the basement, with some difficulty. As much as the boys tried to help, their mechanical skills were quite lacking.
"Sean, this isn't a bolt, it's a screw," I said as Jake burst out laughing. "And that's a screwdriver, Jake. The wrench that I asked you for is that thing over there," I said as I chuckled at the two of them.
After we read the instruction manual, and got it working, I left the two boys downstairs, still in their pyjamas, trying out the unit. I went upstairs to give Anne a call to set up the next weekend with Melissa's hockey tournament.
"I'm sorry, Al, I can't make next weekend," Anne said.
She was having some renovation done to her house in Naples, and she wanted to be there to make sure things went according to plans. She was going to give her son and daughter-in-law a heads-up that I was going to call them.
"Maybe we can get together when I get back," she said.
I agreed, and we hung up. I was hoping that I could cool the relationship gracefully, without hurting her feelings, because I really just wanted her as a friend, and nothing more.
Her son Gary answered the phone when I called. We talked about Melissa's schedule and which arenas her games were played in. It was a two day tournament, with a game Friday night, and at least one on Saturday. Two if they made the finals. The late Friday night and early Saturday morning games were a problem, as the trip back to Toronto on Friday night would give little time for sleep before they had to return the next morning.
"I have two extra bedrooms, if you're Ok with staying overnight," I said.
He was a little reluctant to take my offer, as we had only met once before at Anne's house in Naples. I was also guessing that he may have been a little uncomfortable with Sean and Melissa being together under the same roof. He finally agreed after he talked it over with his wife.
When I hung up, I heard the boys stampeding upstairs from the basement.
"Guys, where are your slippers?" I asked, as they rushed to the kitchen to get some juice.
They gave me a lame look, as they ran back downstairs to fetch them and returned upstairs to the kitchen for their drinks. They had been working out hard on the treadmill, and they were in desperate need of a shower.
"Whew, you guys stink. When you're finished, up to the shower."
They gulped down their drinks and took off upstairs.
"And bring your pyjamas to the laundry room so I can wash them," I yelled as they disappeared down the hall at the top of the stairs.
While they were showering, Stéphane called, and I told him Sean would call back when he was finished. He was glad to hear that Jake was up for the weekend as well.
"That's better. You two were really ripe," I said as I smiled at the two of them when they joined me in the living room.
I told Sean about the arrangements for next weekend, and he had a big smile on his face after I was finished.
"Are they going to have lunch with us on Saturday?" he asked.
I told him they would, as Melissa's final game would be at 4 p.m. if her team made it.
"What are we going to have," he said with a concerned look on his face.
I was amused at his reaction, as I could see he wanted to make a good impression on Melissa and her parents. I told him we had lots of time to think about that.
"Dana could help us plan the meal," he said. "Maybe Dana could join us since Melissa's Grandma isn't coming, eh Dad," he said as he gave me a big grin.
I guess I was a little more transparent tham I thought, as he had picked up on my interest in Dana. I decided to quickly change the subject as I didn't want to go down that road with him quite yet.
I told Sean that Stéphane called and Jake and he went to the Den to use the phone. They came back into the living room after Sean hung up and asked me if they could join Stéphane and his friends in a game of road hockey in the parking lot of the Teen Centre in the afternoon.
"I guess we need to get you two hockey sticks," I said as I smiled at them.
I also noticed that he was still wearing his pinky ring on his finger. I told him that the ring should only be worn on special occasions, for fear of losing or damaging it. He ran upstairs and put it in the ring box on his dresser and came back down.
We made a quick trip to the big box sports store, and picked them up hockey sticks and gloves. When we got back to the townhouse, they changed and I dropped them off at the Teen Centre.
"I brought some extra sticks. I didn't know you guys had some," Stéphane said as Sean and Jake got their stuff out of the back of the Lexus.
I told Sean I would pick them up in about two hours and if they finished early he was to give me a call on his cell. I didn't think I'd get an early call, as I remember those days playing in parking lots for hours on end.
When I got back to the townhouse, I decided it was time to call Dana about next weekend. I wasn't quite sure how I would phrase the invitation, but I was hoping the words would come to me once I started talking.
"So how's Father and Son doing today?" she asked in a cheery voice.
I told her we were just fine and that the boys were playing road hockey with Stéphane at the teen centre.
"You boys and your hockey. If you're not watching it, you're playing it," she said as she laughed.
She asked me if I was going to sign Sean up for Ice hockey next year, and I said that I was going to do that this week, if he wanted to. Registration for the kids' leagues always took place in the spring of the year for the next fall/winter season.
"Since he hasn't played for a few years, I'll sign him up for house league."
Then I told her about the arrangements for Melissa's hockey tournament the next weekend, and asked if she would like to join us at one of the games and for lunch on Saturday.
"You don't need a fifth wheel," she said as she hesitated.
"Dana, you will never be a fifth wheel to me," I said
I told her Anne wasn't coming, and that there wasn't anything between us but friendship.
"You're going to be part of this whether you want to or not. Sean wants you to help him plan the luncheon menu this Wednesday when you stay for dinner," I said as I chuckled.
"I didn't know I was staying for dinner," she said very coyly.
I couldn't tell if it was the thought of spending more time with Sean or me that swayed her, but she finally agreed. She was also going to join us at the games.
"The last time I was in a hockey rink it was to watch my daughter's boyfriend's championship game 10 years ago," she said as she chuckled.
We talked for another half hour, and she had to go. I thought I would go over early to pick up the boys and to see how things were going. When I arrived, they were having a very lively game involving 10 boys between the two teams. Sean and Jake were on opposite teams, and both were playing the forward position. They were having a great time, and both seemed to have a fair bit of skill, despite the fact they hadn't played hockey for a few years.
While I was watching, Jake passed to one of the other boys and he scored. Jake threw his arms in the air and yelled out the famous Hockey Night in Canada words, "He shoots! He scores!"
His teamates high-fived him as well as the boy that scored. It looked like he was fitting in with the 'rich kids' very well.
"You two were regular Sidney Crosbys," I said as I gave them a big smile as we packed their equipment into the Lexus.
The whole way home in the car, Sean and Jake gave a blow-by-blow account of the game. They really had a great time and enjoyed the boys they were playing with.
We had dinner and were sitting down in the living room afterwards having tea. I decided to broach the subject of signing them up for hockey for next year.
"Would you boys like to play hockey in the house league next year?" I asked.
They were a little reluctant, as it seemed they weren't too confident since they hadn't played in a few years. I reassured them that they would be fine, that in the house league the skill level was not as great as the Rep teams. They also felt a lot better when I told them I was going to sign them up for hockey school in the summer. They finally agreed.
I had already talked to Pietro about hockey school, and he was Ok with it. I told him I had arranged for the fee and that it wouldn't cost him anything, if Jake wanted to go. I also told him I had a line on some used equipment that I could get on loan for Jake, which wasn't exactly true. I didn't want Jake to do without, and I knew Sean would feel a lot better having Jake with him.
We finished our tea and went downstairs to watch Hockey Night in Canada. It was one of the last Leaf home games of the season on TV, as once again they missed the playoffs. They were playing the Buffalo Sabres, and Jake was ecstatic that he was going to get to watch his team.
"So, I've talked to Kendra the decorator about doing Sean's room in Buffalo Sabres colours for when you move in," I said as I smiled at Jake.
"That's going to be so cool," Jake said as he had a big smile on his face.
"I hope your room colours are better luck for your team than they've been for mine," Sean said with disgust as the Sabres scored on the Leafs in overtime to end the game.
The next day, Sunday, was uneventful. We went to church, and then to the gym. Jake and I worked out while Sean had one of his last sessions with Jody. She did more cardio work with him when she heard that he was on the school track team.
"Sean's going to really do well on the school track team. I know Steve, as he comes in here to work out, and he is a great coach," she said to me as the boys had taken off for the showers.
She told me that with Sean's lung capacity and thin legs that he was better suited to the longer distances.
When we got home Stéphane had called again, as they were having another road hockey game that afternoon. I drove the boys over and left to catch up on some work I needed to do.
Later that afternoon, Pietro came up, as he was going to have dinner before he and Jake left for home.
"I'm going to sign Sean up for house league hockey next year, and I was wondering if you mind if I signed up Jake as well?"
I explained that the time commitment wasn't as onerous as the Rep team and that the fee wasn't that much. He had some reservations, cost being one of them, but I was able to allay his fears and he agreed.
We then got on the topic of moving, and we went through the Townhouse, and I pointed out to him the furniture I was leaving, and the redecorating I was going to do before he moved in. He was very appreciative of what I was leaving.
"Most of this furniture won't go with the new house, so I'm quite happy to leave it for you and Jake," I said as I gave him a big smile.
We went to pick up the boys, and we were able to watch the last 10 minutes of their game before it broke up. We both were quite happy at how Sean and Jake were getting along with all the other boys and how well they were playing.
"You two guys are ringers. I'm picking both of you first next time," one of boys said to Sean and Jake as they made their way to the Lexus.
When we got back to the townhouse, we all prepared dinner together. Pietro was a pretty good cook, and prepared a great eggplant parmesan casserole. After dinner, the boys went downstairs to play on the PlayStation as Pietro and I had our tea in the living room.
"I'm so glad to see Jake getting along with the other boys so well. He's been so anxious about fitting in here," Pietro said.
"We had a big talk about that this morning, and he seemed to be more relaxed about it after we finished."
I also told him about Jake's concerns about not being able to keep up with the 'smart kids', and what I told him.
"Jake is a very intelligent boy. He just needs lots of positive reinforcement, as he has typical teenage insecurities," I said.
He told me he knew that, but he would try harder at giving him as many positive strokes as possible.
"I guess I haven't spent enough time with him over the last year, as I've taken on extra shifts to make more money to give us some extras," he said with a sombre look on his face.
"Pietro, I didn't say these things to make you feel bad. You have been a wonderful parent to Jake. I can tell from years of experience that you're doing the right things. All parents, me included, sometimes need to pause and reflect on how we are raising our kids."
He felt better, and smiled. After they left Sean went up to his room to do his homework for the next day. When I went up about 10 to see if he was ready, he was texting Melissa on his phone. He had finished his homework and was lying on his bed with the pillows propped up.
"Isn't it easier to email Melissa?" I asked.
"Sometimes we use MSN, but we aren't like tied to the computer when we text," he said as he smiled. "We're going to set up Skype next week on our computers and use our built-in webcams."
"Just make sure you two behave appropriately," I said with a serious look on my face. I had heard about the problems associated with webcams and teenagers, and I didn't want any of that happening.
He gave me an indignant look and slid under the covers with Teddy in his arm.
I sat down on the side of his bed, and said, "So I guess Melissa is excited about coming to stay next weekend."
He smiled and shook his head yes.
"Dana is going to be joining us to watch her games. She's also staying for dinner on Wednesday, and the two of you can plan the menu for Saturday's lunch," I said as I tousled his hair.
"Dad, is Dana your special person?"
He caught me off guard, and there was a long pause as I thought about how I would answer him.
"You ask tough questions, Son," I said as I smiled at him.
"Maybe. Is Melissa yours?"
"You asked me that before," he said as he clammed up.
"And you didn't answer before," I said as I grinned at him.
He paused and said, "Maybe," as he gave me a coy smile and rolled onto his side.
There are some terms in this chapter that I'm explaining in the glossary.