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The next week turned out to be a busy one for both of us. I had forgotten how hectic life was bringing up young teenagers. Between Sean's activities, appointments and my work we were always on the go.
Sean was up early every morning and running for 30 minutes on the treadmill before breakfast. He was really getting into the running and was training hard. Steve had provided the spark that got him going, and he was really providing good coaching and motivation to him. It still wasn't warm or light enough in the mornings to run outside, as it was early April. In Southern Ontario it was still fairly cold and there was that danger of snow even at that time of the year.
Monday after school, Sean came in and asked me if he could go to a friend's house the next day after school to play pool with a couple of other boys. I asked him if there would be a parent home, and he said yes. Then I reminded him that he had a commitment with the After School Club, and that Subash, Pardeep and Paresh were relying on him. He wanted me to call Diego and make an excuse for him why he couldn't make it.
"If it was a track meet, or something you had to go to after school then that's different," I said with a serious look on my face. "Here's Diego's number. You can tell him, not me," I said as I wrote down his number on a piece of paper and handed it to him.
I walked out of the Den and went into the Kitchen. I wasn't very happy, but I wasn't going to make all his decisions for him. I didn't feel this was a situation I needed to take a stand on, but I was hoping he would make the right choice.
After a couple of minutes he came into the kitchen and gave me back the paper.
"Here," he said curtly as he turned and stomped upstairs.
I was guessing that he hadn't called, but I would find out when we had to leave.
"I'm getting ready to go to the After School Club. Am I dropping you off at your friend's place, or are you coming with me?" I called upstairs to him.
He came down the stairs with a mad face, and said, "I'm coming with you."
The ride over was a frosty one. Sean slumped in his seat with his arms across his chest. I tried to make conversation, but I got one word replies, so I gave up. When we walked into the centre, Diego greeted us with his usual cheery demeanour. He could see that Sean was out-of-sorts and didn't push it.
When the boys came in, they rushed over to Sean and asked him if he was adopted. He lightened up a little and talked to them as they went over to the table. He had his hands in his pockets, so the boys couldn't hold them. I left to go to the other sites, and I was hoping things would work out alright.
When I returned, I saw Sean and the boys smiling and it appeared that things had worked out well. I didn't go over to him, as I waited for the session to end and the boys to leave. They got up from the table, and Pardeep and Subash held his hands as he walked them over to their mother, who had arrived.
When we were making our way out of the centre, he gave me a sheepish look as he said, "I was being stupid, Dad. I'm sorry."
I smiled and put my arm around him as we walked and said, "I'm glad you made the right decision."
The ride home was a much better one than the ride over. We talked about the situation, now that he was willing to listen to reason, and I was careful not to sound like I was preaching. I wanted him to understand why he made the right decision given the circumstances. Like many teenagers his age, he was in the process of transitioning from the selfish phase to a point where he was thinking a little more about others. It would take time, but as he matured I was hoping we would have less of this type of incident.
"They really needed my help tonight, cuz they had tests tomorrow, and they didn't have a clue what they were doing."
He also told me they wanted to hear all about the adoption hearing and the party afterwards.
"Those boys really rely on you. If that boy with the pool table is a good friend, he'll understand why you couldn't come over to his house tonight and he'll ask you over again," I said as we entered the Townhouse.
On Wednesday, Kendra arrived and joined Dana and I to go over and finalize the plans for the renovations and decorating of the new house. I was very happy with what Dana and Kendra came up with, and it was now a matter of hiring the contractors to carry out the plans, once I took possession.
"This is a great design. I'll go to work on ordering the appliances from the same store I used here. I've also lined up the Audio/Video contractor that did the media room downstairs, to come in and do the same at the new house," I said.
I also told Kendra that she would have to line up the painter to redecorate the townhouse before Jake and Pietro moved in.
"The Maple Leafs room is now going to be the Buffalo Sabres room when Jake moves in," I said as I laughed.
Kendra wasn't a hockey fan, and I had to provide her a picture of their traditional uniforms for her to come up with the colours.
"This is turning out to be quite an education for me," she said as the three of us laughed as she left.
When Sean came in the door after school, he made his way to the kitchen after he dumped his backpack in the hall. I wasn't sure what was going to be first; greeting Dana or getting something to eat to fill that empty tummy of his.
"I guess I'm in second place when Dana's around," I chuckled as he immediately went over to her and gave her a big hug.
Dana had brought over a couple of cookbooks that had some good recipes for lunches and after she gave him a snack they sat down at the breakfast counter to look them over. She talked to Sean about the situation with Melissa finishing her game, and the fact that she might have to play later in the day after lunch.
"You should make sure the lunch is substantial enough, because she's going to be really hungry. But, it can't be too heavy because she may have to play later on in the day. You don't want to load her up so she can't skate," she said as she laughed.
I liked the way Dana was approaching this. She wasn't telling Sean what he should do; she was letting him think about what the meal should be given the situation. She would have made a great teacher.
They decided on a mushroom quiche, made with lighter ingredients and a spinach salad with a poppy seed dressing. For dessert, they went with some fruit over Sorbet.
"So let's make up a shopping list, and you and your Dad can take care of that. We can make the quiche the night before and wash the greens. The rest of the preparation can be done fairly quickly after the morning game on Saturday," she said as she was writing out the shopping list.
They then talked about the table setting, and what they could serve for drinks beforehand. Watching the two of them interact made me a little sombre, as I kept thinking how Lorraine would have loved to have been doing what Dana was doing, with a son like Sean. However, I was glad Dana was there to lend the female touch. I was also thinking how important it would be to have Dana continue that type of interaction with Sean in the coming years.
That night Sean was upstairs doing homework, and I was in the Den doing some work. I decided to check the activity log on the file server I had that was running our home computers. I noticed an email with a fairly large attachment had come through to Sean. I decided to view it and was shocked by what I saw. I was also shocked by the language and the gist of the email. Basically the girl wanted Sean to send her a webcam picture of himself in the nude and she said she would reciprocate. The webcam file she had already sent was a teaser.
I called upstairs to him to come down to the den.
"Who is firstname.lastname@example.org?" I asked with a very stern look.
He said he didn't know who it was, as he hadn't checked his email yet. I was very skeptical and he picked up on it. I decided to play the first part of the webcam file, and stopped it before the young lady removed her top, to see what his reaction was.
"Do you want to tell me what's going on," I said in a very direct manner.
It was obvious from the expression on his face that he was telling the truth.
He looked at me with fire in his eyes and said, "That's one of the girls that are bugging me at school. I haven't seen this, and I haven't done nuthin wrong. Why are you being mean? I thought you were my Dad?"
He stomped out of the Den and went upstairs to his room and slammed the door. I instantly regretted my action of jumping the gun and doubting him. I guess I was clinging to this notion that because of his past questionable behaviour and lack of parental scrutiny, that he would from time-to-time revert back to old habits. I made a prejudicial assumption that I hoped I wouldn't do again. He was now my Son, and I needed to trust him, not accuse him.
I went upstairs and knocked on his door. There was no answer, and I figured that he was mad and hurt. I gingerly opened the door and looked in. He was on the bed laying against his propped up pillows with his arms crossed and didn't look very happy. I walked in and sat on the side of the bed and he wouldn't look at me.
"I owe you a big apology, Son. Parents make mistakes, and I just made a huge one."
He just turned away and looked out the window without saying anything. I reached out to bring him into a hug and he pushed my arm away.
"Sean, I'm sorry. I know you're mad and hurt that I didn't trust you, but we need to talk about this."
I could see that I wasn't going to get anywhere, so I decided to give him some space and told him I would be down in the Den when he wanted to talk. After about 10 minutes I heard him coming downstairs and he came into the Den. He still didn't have a very happy look on his face. He stood in the door with his arms crossed and looked at me. I motioned for him to come over and sit on my lap. He did and I put my arms around him in a big hug.
"I promise I won't do that again. I know I hurt your feelings and I'm sorry. Am I forgiven?"
He slowly nodded his head yes. I tickled his ribs and he giggled and squirmed to get away from me.
"I like your face with a big smile on it much better than the mad face."
We talked things out and both of us were feeling much better afterwards. I asked him who the girl was and he told me her name. I told him I would email her back and tell her that I intercepted the email before he could view it. I was also going to tell her that I monitored every email coming into the house, and if she sent any other inappropriate emails I would contact her parents. I deleted the email from the server to remove any temptation from him to view it, as I discovered that he hadn't downloaded it as he said, when I searched through his mailbox on the server.
The next day I picked Sean up from school and took him to his appointment with Phil. Mrs. Gallagher once again fussed over him, and wanted to hear about the adoption party we had after the hearing. Sean wasn't shy, and had a good chat with her.
After about 10 minutes, Phil's patient before us left his office, and he came to get Sean.
"Well how are Father and Son doing?" he said as he put his arms around both of our shoulders.
We both gave him a big smile and he took Sean off to his office. He was chatting to him as they walked and they disappeared as Phil closed the door behind them. When their session was over they came back out into the waiting room.
"Well I don't think there's any worry about you taking off on us, so I won't chain you to the chair," Phil said as we all laughed. "I'll just be a few minutes with your Dad."
I was guessing that things went well, as Phil had a cheery look on his face.
"Sean is much more relaxed and settled now that the worry of being adopted is over."
He then went on and told me what he had said to Steenhof and also what Sean said he told the judge.
"I was really pissed off with the old goat, and told him he was jeopardizing Sean's mental state if he delayed the adoption."
He told me that he was thankful that Ray stepped in and smoothed the waters, as he stepped over the line as he ripped a strip off of Steenhof about his questioning my suitability.
"Sean told me that he wasn't very nice to Helmut either. Apparently he told Sean that he could see about getting a good family for him, and Sean told him he had a better family than he could ever find. He then went on to tell him he was being mean for trying to take him away from his Dad."
"Sean already told me about that," I said.
"There's more. Helmut continued to try to point out your shortcomings and Sean finally got up and told him he wasn't going to listen to any more of 'his crap' and started to walk out. Helmut was shocked and asked him to come back as I guess he realized he was wrong. They made their peace and the rest is history."
I admired Sean's feistiness and determination and gave Phil a big smile.
Phil continued as he said, "He told me about the blow-up last night, Al. He was really hurt that you didn't trust him. You need to be careful, as he's still a little fragile."
I explained why I doubted him, and that I was very angry at myself for my actions.
"I felt horrible when he stomped out of the Den. I can't believe how stupid I was," I said.
"There's no damage done. He knows your apology was genuine, and he feels good about how things resolved themselves. You need to monitor that situation with those girls though, as I'm a little concerned about that."
He told me that he was seeing more of this girl harassing boy situation than he did years ago.
"Sean is a perfect target. He's cute and shy," he said. "You were right to shield him from the embarrassment of them thinking that he told you, by replying directly back to the girl. And I agree, next time involve the girl's parents."
"He's not that shy, Phil," I said as I related the story of how he had handled the last harassing incident when I was picking him up from school.
He then told me about how excited Sean was about seeing Melissa's games, and the whole weekend's activities.
"They have a lot in common, and it seems that they are comfortable in each other's company. I broached the subject of sex, and he seems really shy about talking about it," he said.
He explained that Sean didn't see Melissa as 'one of those girls that did stuff', and he hadn't thought about doing anything other than 'making out'.
"That's not to say he hasn't fantasized about what he'd like to do with her, but he has her up on a pedestal at this point and isn't thinking about actually doing any more than that. I'm sure that will change if they keep seeing more of each other," he said as he laughed.
Phil also told me that Sean was a little anxious about starting high school next year.
"I'm not surprised, Phil. Most kids are. I'm going to have to continually talk to Sean over the next few months to calm his fears."
Phil also told me that Sean felt a little pressure about my desire for him to go to University.
"We both know he has the ability. I explained to him that it wasn't unreasonable for parents to have expectations about their children's future. I know you won't put undue pressure on him, as some parents do."
Phil told me that he didn't need to see Sean again, unless there was an issue that needed his attention.
"You and your Son will make out just fine without me getting in the way. I'll see the two of you at the golf club this summer. I don't need to tell you to take care of that young fellow, because I know you will," he said as he gave me a big smile and put his arm around my shoulder as we walked out into the waiting room.
On Friday, Dana arrived at the townhouse before Sean got home from School. We had a good chat, while Dana had a glass of wine and I had a Perrier, as I would be driving. When he came in they did the food prep and we went out for dinner, then made our way over to the rink to watch Melissa's game.
We arrived at the rink at the same time as Melissa and her parents drove into the parking lot. We waited inside until they came through the door. Melissa was carrying her equipment bag and sticks, and had on her team jacket. She didn't look like the girl that was in the black cocktail dress a week ago, as her shoulder length blond hair was tied up in a ponytail.
"So this is the famous Sean," Melissa's father Gary said as he smiled and shook Sean's hand.
"I can see why my daughter is taken with you, young man," Melissa's mother Suzie said as she gave him a hug.
Sean smiled as he blushed at Suzie's comment.
"What number are you?" Sean asked Melissa.
"Fourteen. You can't miss me. I'm the only one with a blond ponytail hanging out of my helmet," she said as she laughed.
Sean walked Melissa to her dressing room, carrying her sticks. Melissa had her own dressing room, as she was the only girl on the team, and would come into the boys' dressing room right before game time for the chalk talk. I wasn't sure if Melissa was good enough to be playing on the boys team, or whether she was the politically correct token girl.
Dana and I sat down in the stands and had a chance to talk to the Morgans. They were very happy to finally meet Sean in person, as Melissa talked about him constantly.
"I must tell you, I was very concerned when I heard about Sean's background, but Mom gave him a glowing endorsement after the week down in Naples," Gary said.
"Melissa's such a tomboy, that she's never shown any interest in the boys at her school. Sean must be a very special boy," Suzie said.
"He sure is," Dana said as she smiled and looked at them.
Melissa was an only child. Gary was an Engineer like his father, and Suzie was a Family Law lawyer with a large Toronto firm. We got on the topic of the adoption and the hearing and when Suzie heard Ray's name mentioned she was quite impressed.
"I know of Mr. Mueller by his reputation. I didn't know he practiced Family Law," she said.
"He doesn't, he's an old childhood friend of mine, and he did it as a favour. Thank goodness we had him, as Judge Steenhof was making things difficult," I said.
Suzie knew of Steenhof and his reputation through the grapevine, and told us of the review he was under by the Attorney General's office that Ray told me about.
"I'm glad Mr. Mueller was able to take him to task, as he has caused a lot of heartache over the years with his old fashioned view of the world," Suzie said with a very serious look on her face.
Sean finally joined us and 25 minutes later Melissa's team came out of the dressing rooms for the warm-up. Except for the ponytail, Melissa didn't look any different than her teammates. She was a highly skilled player, which was obvious from the first few minutes of the warm-up. She was a great skater, and had a good shot.
The game was a good one, and Melissa certainly didn't look out of place. She didn't appear to be as strong as most of the boys, but she was smart and fast. She managed to get an assist on one of the goals, as she made a beautiful pass to her line mate who shot it in the top corner over the goalie's catching glove. The game finished at 9:30 and her team won the game 3-2.
After the game, we waited for Melissa to come out of the dressing room. She had showered, and her hair was still wet. She didn't seem bothered by how it looked, as it appeared she wasn't terribly vain, as some girls her age were.
"You were awesome," Sean said as he took her sticks from her. They walked together to the van and were having a great conversation.
Melissa and her parents followed us to the townhouse, and parked in a visitor spot near the unit. Sean and I took Melissa downstairs with her equipment to hang it out to dry for the morning, while Dana took her parents with the overnight bags up to their bedrooms.
"I didn't know you played hockey too, Mr. Burger," she said as she saw my goalie equipment.
"Dad's really good. His team won the championship this year, and he got a shutout," Sean said with a big smile on his face.
"Sean's going to play as well, as we signed him up for next year," I said as I smiled.
She thought that was great and she said she was hoping to get to see some of his games. Sean was a little bashful and mumbled something about him 'sucking at Hockey'.
"I'm sure you'll be good when you get some practice. You're a good athlete," she said as she gave Sean a big smile.
I was amused at the 'mutual admiration society' that was going on between them.
We joined Dana and Melissa's parents upstairs, as they were getting a tour of the townhouse. When Melissa saw Sean's room she was in awe. Her parents gave each other a big smile as they noticed Melissa's picture prominently displayed on the dresser.
"Wow, this is way better than you described it. This is awesome," she said as she had a big smile on her face.
I was so glad we had another Leaf fan in the house.
The next morning Melissa's game was at 9:30 and everyone was up early to get ready. The Morgans and Melissa were using the main bathroom. Sean was so funny as he rushed in to my room to shower in the ensuite. He had his floor length bathrobe on over his pyjamas, and didn't want Melissa to see him until he was dressed.
"Melissa's seen you in your bathing suit. What's the difference with seeing you in pyjamas? Besides, you're all covered up. I'm sure she's not going to mind seeing your bed hair," I said as I laughed.
He gave me a scowl and disappeared into the shower.
We had breakfast, which I took care of, and got her to the rink for 8:45. It was a well played game, and again her team won. They had made the final and would play at 4:00 p.m. that day. We all got back to the Townhouse shortly before noon. After we got Melissa's equipment hung up downstairs to dry, we sat down to lunch. Dana and Sean got things ready and served. Dana made a point of telling the Morgan's how Sean had prepared a lot of the meal and set the table with her guidance.
"My goodness, another man that cooks," Suzie said as she gave Gary a look.
We all laughed, including Gary.
We had a chance to talk after lunch as we had some time before Melissa had to be at the rink. Sean and Melissa went downstairs to play on the PlayStation and watch TV. I was also guessing that there would be a little more than that happening.
Gary and I had a chance to talk in the kitchen at some point in the afternoon, as he was helping me get some drinks for all of us. I was asking him how his Mother was and he hesitantly told me she was seeing another man. He told me that she could see that Dana and I were an 'item' as he put it.
"Dana and I are good friends, Gary. It's nothing more than that," I said.
He just smiled at me, and I got the distinct impression he wasn't buying my assessment. We joined the girls in the living room, and after a while I said I was going to go downstairs to see what the kids were doing.
"Maybe we should just leave them be," Suzie said as she and Dana smiled.
I could tell that Gary wasn't happy with her suggestion, but backed off when he saw Suzie glare at him.
It was finally time to go, and I went to the top of the stairs to the basement and called down, "Do you two need any help getting Melissa's equipment packed?"
There was a long pause and finally Sean called up, "We're Ok, Dad. We'll be up in a few minutes."
Melissa's championship game was a good one. They were playing the team from our town, and the home fans were very vocal. In the end Melissa's team prevailed by a score of 4-3. She got another assist, and certainly didn't look out of place at anytime.
"That's a cool trophy," Sean said as Melissa met us in the lobby of the arena after she had showered.
"Why don't you and Sean take your equipment to the van. We'll be along in a few minutes. We're just going to say goodbye to Al and Dana," Suzie said with a smile on her face.
It was still dark enough at this time of the year, that they would have some privacy as they said their goodbyes.
Sean was quiet on the ride back to the Townhouse, but he had a very satisfied glow about him. Dana and I chuckled as we look at him in the back seat. He was miles away and didn't notice us glancing at him.
Dana stayed and had a cup of tea when we got back. Sean went downstairs to the media room to watch the first playoff game on Hockey Night in Canada. We had a very relaxed conversation about the weekend's events before Dana had to go. I called Sean up to the hall to say goodbye to Dana.
"Did you two get caught up on everything?" Dana asked Sean, as she gave him a coy smile after she had hugged him.
He didn't get the full meaning of her question right away, but when he did he gave her a big smile as he shook his head yes. He went back downstairs, as he got my cue that I wanted to be alone with Dana to say goodbye.
"Thank you for all your help this weekend. Sean and I really appreciate it," I said as I took both her hands in mine.
Before I knew it we were locked in a passionate kiss.
"Goodnight, Al. I really had a good time," Dana said as we finally broke the embrace. We both paused and gazed into each other's eyes, as we knew there would be more of this in the future.