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The next week was a busy one, as getting ready to move into the new house occupied most of our time. I had the movers booked for the Wednesday before the long weekend, for both moves. The boys and I weren't taking much furniture, as I left most of it in the Townhouse for Dana. I bought a lot of furniture for the new house, which Dana and Kendra Belanger had chosen, to fit in with the interior design. The boys were getting new bedroom suites, complete with queen sized beds. I was getting a new suite as well, complete with a king sized bed, as I was hoping that I would need the extra room sometime soon.
The renovations and decorating were just about completed and on the Sunday of the weekend before we moved, we decided to go to the Contemporary service at church and go see the new house afterwards. Dana was joining us, as she wanted to see that everything that Kendra and she had in the interior design plan had been done properly.
"I'm glad Jake wants to go to church," I said to Dana as we waited in the Living room for the boys to get ready to go.
"Why wouldn't he?" she asked.
I told her about his anger at God after Pietro's death.
"Randy helped him a great deal coming to grips with his faith. I can appreciate what he went through as I've had first hand experience," I said.
"I'm so glad you called Reverend McLaughlin when you did. At least you had a reference base as an adult, but kids don't have that same perspective."
This was the first time Dana had joined us for a contemporary service. The church that she attended didn't have this type of service, so she was looking forward to it. When we sat down in the Sanctuary, Stéphane and his family sat behind us and I introduced Dana to them before the service started.
The service was very upbeat and I could see that Dana really enjoyed it. The boys were singing up a storm and Randy's sermon was interesting and thought provoking as usual. His theme was 'Living a Purposeful Life', which seemed to strike a chord with all of us in our own way. After the service the boys walked on ahead of us with Stéphane, as we were leaving the Sanctuary.
"I didn't know the boys liked to sing. They have great voices," Dana said as we made our way to the foyer to shake hands with Randy.
I told her that the Junior Choir director had recruited them and that they were going to join next fall.
"They're both taking Music as one of their options in school next year, as well."
"Did their new father have anything to do with that?" she asked with a big grin on her face.
"I just told them that there were lots of girls in the music classes and they would get to go on some neat trips with the school bands if they stuck with it," I said as I chuckled.
"Have you played for them?" she asked.
"Are you kidding? I don't want to scare them," I said as I laughed.
She had heard me play my guitars and piano numerous times in our youth. I was in what is now called a Garage Band in the 60's that played local dances in the area. When I got into University and made the Varsity hockey team, I had to give up my band days. However, I did manage to play coffee houses with my acoustic guitar in and around the University, on an infrequent basis. Unfortunately, I hadn't played in quite some time as the childrearing years with the girls got in the way... at least that was the excuse I used. I lived my musical career through my girls, as both of them had managed to pass their Grade 8 piano exams and were in the school bands, which had made me very proud.
I told her Sean had asked some months ago who played the electronic piano downstairs in the Media room, and I had told him the girls did, but didn't tell him I had. He hadn't seen my guitars, as I had them and my amplifier tucked away.
"Shame on you, Al. You were a talented musician way back when. You're wasting your gift," she said as she scolded me.
I told her that sometime over the years I had developed performance anxiety and had a lot of trouble even performing in front of family. By now we had caught up with the boys and we lined up to shake hands with Randy before we left.
"Well, this is looking more like a traditional family everyday," Randy said as he gave us a big smile.
I introduced him to Dana and they had a good chat. He also spent a few moments with the boys which they both appreciated. I was very pleased at the ease with which they were able to talk to him.
"If either of you two wants to talk, just call over to my office. I'm in most days, but I would certainly come to the house if I'm available."
As we were walking out Sean said, "Jake and I want to help out at the Foodshare drive with Stéphane next week, Dad."
Randy had mentioned the drive from the pulpit, which would benefit the Food Bank in the city. They were running low and there were some critical shortages. The churches in town usually organized the drive along with some influential socially conscious citizens. I always donated $500 in groceries and cash, which I was going to do again, but I had never actually volunteered. I was very proud of the boys and told them I thought that was a great idea.
"Can we go to the grocery store tomorrow? I want to get some food to donate," Sean asked.
I questioned him as to what he meant and it turned out he wanted to buy the food and pay for it himself. I was very proud of his intentions, but I couldn't quite figure out where this was all coming from.
"My mom and I had to go there a few times when we didn't have enough to eat," he said as he hung his head.
Dana and I put our arms around him as we walked to the Lexus.
"That's nothing to be ashamed of. I'll buy the food for the donation," I said.
"No, Dad. I want to," he said with determination in his voice.
"We'll both go shopping tomorrow," I said as I gave him a big smile and an extra squeeze.
After we left Church, we made our way over to the new house. When we walked in we could smell the new paint. We were all very impressed at the interior design and décor that Dana and Kendra had come up with particularly the boys with their bedrooms. Jake was a little overwhelmed when he saw his mother's antique chair in the corner by his bed.
"Does this make it feel a little more like your home now?" I asked as I put my arm around his shoulder.
He just nodded his head yes, as he ran his hand over the chair's arms.
Sean was now in the bathroom that the two of them would be sharing, and was like a kid in a candy store looking at the glass shower with multiple heads, and big Jacuzzi tub.
"Is this ever neat," he said as he looked at the tub.
We then went downstairs to the walkout basement and had a look at the Media room. The company I hired had done an amazing job and it looked like a theatre with its seating, huge screen and projector. The sound system was something to behold, and I was glad the neighbours weren't too close. We then went out to look at the pool and hot tub, and needless to say the boys were itching to get into both.
"Soon, boys. You don't have your bathing suits with you today," I said.
Jake was just about to say something but he stopped when he remembered Dana was with us.
"I know the neighbours can't see in the backyard, but Dana can. The middle of the day isn't a good time to be skinny dipping, Jake," I said as we all laughed.
The last room we looked at was the Kitchen, which had been extensively renovated. A new layout, granite countertops, new cabinets and appliances all made it a gourmet cook's dream. Dana and I were awestruck at the way it had turned out.
"I can't believe how wonderful this looks. It's even better than Kendra and I had imagined," She said with a big smile on her face.
"This is big enough to accommodate at least two cooks," I said as I put my arm around her and gave her a big smile and a kiss. "I appreciate all your hard work."
The next day we had to take a break from packing as I ran the boys over to the school to volunteer at the Foodshare drive. Dana wasn't over as she was taking care of last minute details for her move as well. We went shopping first and both Sean and I bought $200 of canned and packaged food. Each of us were going to donate another $300 by cheque, so the foodbank could purchase supplies themselves. Jake wanted to do the same, but I didn't have his account set up for him, and I told him he could for the next drive.
"I'm so proud of you two," I said with a big smile, as we packed the food into the back of the Lexus.
When we got to the school, Stéphane greeted us and took the boys to show them what to do. Stéphane was one of the student coordinators, and the boys were going to work on his team. I was so happy the boys got along with Stéphane so well, as he was a terrific influence on both of them.
It certainly was a busy day, as I also had appointments for both boys with Scott and I picked them up after their volunteer shift was over. We got the blood work done in the lab beforehand and then went to Scott's office. Sean was first and was in the examining room for about 20 minutes. When he came out he didn't seem too upbeat. He didn't say too much when he sat down next to me about the appointment, but I could tell something happened that he wasn't too happy about. When Scott came into the waiting room to get Jake he gave me a quick update on Sean.
"Five foot five and a hundred and ten pounds of steel. He's ready for the hockey wars," he said as he chuckled.
Scott and I were very happy at his progress, as he had grown four inches and put on over 25 pounds since I had found him at the rink that cold night in February.
"Come on, young man. Let's get all your parts checked out too," he said as he put his hand on Jake's back and led him to the examining room.
When Jake came out I could see that Scott had 'the talk' with him and that he had been given a box of condoms as well. He didn't look too happy as he tried to conceal them as best he could from everyone in the waiting room.
"All the parts are in great working order. He's ready for the rink and other things too," he said as he smiled at Jake.
Most of the blood work results came in while we were there and Scott quickly looked at them and said everything looked fine. He quietly told me the Aids test on Sean would take a couple of days, and he would email me the results. We said goodbye and left the office.
"So what was that you put in your pocket," Sean said to Jake with a devilish grin on his face as we were walking out.
"I guess you got the talk, eh?" Sean said.
"Someone told Dr. Scott that I had a girlfriend," he said as he blushed and looked at me with one of Sean's looks.
It was all I could do not to laugh, as the box of condoms was creating a bulge in his shorts that was a little obvious. At least when Sean got his, it was a little cooler and he had his jacket to stuff them into.
"Did you get the finger jammed into your ball sack?" Jake asked Sean.
"Yeah, that was real embarrassing!" he said with a disgusted look on his face.
I laughed at the two of them as I put my arms around their shoulders. I also found this amusing when I thought back at what it was like with the girls at their doctors' appointments. The boys' feedback was a little more graphic and descriptive in nature.
"Dr. Scott's just making sure you two don't have hernias. If you think that's bad, you have a real treat in store for you when you hit forty-five or so," I said as I laughed.
When I explained what a DRE (Digital Rectal Exam) was, they both cringed.
"So when you hear females complaining about all the embarrassing things they have to go through in a physical, you can tell them they aren't the only ones."
That night after Sean had been on Skype with Melissa, he came down to the Media room where I was watching the news with Jake. He sat down and didn't say anything. After a few minutes I asked him if anything was the matter and he just shrugged his shoulders.
I waited and finally he said with a disgusted tone to his voice, "Girls are really goofy sometimes."
I was wondering when we would have some conflict between the two of them as things had gone very smoothly up to this point in their relationship. I asked him what he meant.
"Everything I said was wrong. Then she got mad and logged off. It's like she just came from outer space!"
"Were you patient with her?" I asked.
He said he was for the most part, but he was glad she logged off, as he was getting mad and was going to start arguing back.
"I think she's got PMS," I said as I chuckled.
"Is she sick?" he asked with a very concerned look on his face.
I laughed and explained to both the boys what was going on. I told them they had to be patient, and that it wasn't a fun time for the girl when she was having that 'time of the month'.
"That's the time you'll learn what real diplomacy is all about," I said as I laughed.
Everything went smoothly the day of the move. Our moving out and Dana moving in coordinated well. There were last minute deliveries of furniture at the new house, and everything went according to plan. Dana was very pleased with the way the few pieces of furniture she brought fit into the Townhouse's décor.
"There's so much room here, I just can't believe it. I'm going to get lost in this place," she said.
"If you get lonely, I know a place you can go to," I said with a grin on my face.
When I was clearing out the closet of the fourth bedroom, the boys saw me bring down two guitar cases followed by one of the movers bringing my guitar amp.
"Whose are those, Dad?" Sean asked.
I told him they were mine and he wanted to know when I had played them.
"Many years ago," I said as I smiled.
He then told me he played guitar, as his mother's former boyfriend, who had taken an interest in him, also played in a country and western band and had shown him how to play. By now Jake had joined us and told me he also knew how to play. He had taken guitar lessons at school a couple of years ago.
"I used to play when I was in high school and university, but I haven't performed in over 35 years," I said.
I told them I would show them the guitars later after we had everything moved in. About four o'clock the movers left and the boys and I unwrapped things and put away our clothes. Both their bedrooms had small walk-in closets and when I looked at their clothes after they were finished hanging everything up, I knew that I would have to take the two of them on a major shopping excursion. Both of them were growing out of their things very quickly.
At the end of the day we ordered in pizza and salad and Dana joined us for dinner. Afterwards, we retired to the Media room to watch a movie the boys had picked for us all to watch, from the movie channel. We were finishing our tea and we had about a half hour before it started.
"Can you show us your guitars, Dad?" Sean asked as he looked at the two cases that were propped up by the Yamaha Clavinova in the corner of the room.
I went over and got them and opened them up.
"Whoa, a Fender and a Gibson. How old are these?" Jake asked.
I told them that the Fender was a Telecaster, and the Gibson acoustic was a J50, both bought in 1966.
"Are they expensive?" Sean asked.
"They're worth a few dollars," I said as I smiled.
I told them the last information I had was that together they were worth between fifteen and twenty thousand dollars or more. My nephew Bart (Lorraine's brother David's son) was in the music business and had given me that evaluation a few years ago.
"Do you want to try the Gibson?" I asked as I handed it to Sean.
He gingerly put it on his lap and played the first verse to a country song I recognized, but couldn't name since I wasn't a country music fan. He wasn't too bad, and played the basic chords fairly well. He had long thin piano fingers and had some musical ability. He handed it to Jake, and he also played fairly well, but not as good as Sean. He didn't know as many chords, but like Sean he had musical ability.
"Would you guys like to take lessons?" I asked.
They said yes, and I decided that I would put that on my list of things to do next week. I knew a young guitar and piano player that gave private lessons out of his home. We would have to go guitar shopping, as I certainly wasn't going to let them play either of mine.
"Can you play something?" Jake asked.
I told them that it was almost time for the movie and that I hadn't performed for years and couldn't remember anything to play.
"How about 'Softly'," Dana said.
I tried to make excuses and said I didn't know that song.
"I seem to remember hearing you play that in 1969 in the Rathskeller coffee house."
The boys were insistent, so I played the first verse and put it down. They were impressed at the finger picking but Dana wasn't satisfied.
"I also seem to remember hearing you sing the song. We've got lots of time before the movie starts," she said.
I really hadn't counted on this, and I was starting to get nervous. This was something that had plagued me the last 20 years, and was one of the main reasons I gave up playing both the piano and the guitars. The boys weren't going to let me out of this so I took a deep breath and started again, but this time I sang the song as I played. It started out pretty rocky, but as I got to the second verse I relaxed and my old confidence came back. When I finished they were silent. Finally Dana started to clap and they joined in.
"Who did that Song?" Jake asked.
"That was written and recorded by a very famous Canadian folk singer in 1968 by the name of Gordon Lightfoot," I said.
I told them that he was a cultural icon in Canada and that he was still doing concerts. Every fall he played in Massey Hall in Toronto, which is where I had seen him live many times in the 60'sand 70's. He played frequently around the Toronto area, where he still lived.
"You need to start playing again. You haven't lost your touch," Dana said as she smiled at me.
"Yeah, you're really good, Dad. Why can't you teach us?" Sean asked.
As much as I was tempted to say yes I thought better of it. I explained that I was self-taught on the guitar, and that it would be better if they took formal lessons so they learned the proper techniques. I was however, looking forward to being able to 'Jam' with the boys down the road.
The next day I got in touch with Katharine about the process to adopt Jake, and she assured me it was much simpler since I had been granted guardianship by Pietro through his will.
"Ray should be able to fill out the paperwork and get the ball rolling. It likely won't involve a court appearance, so you don't have to worry about that," she said.
She told me that she would do the homestudy which would make the process much easier. After we hung up I called Ray and told him that I wanted to adopt Jake, and asked him if he could fill out the necessary papers.
"I had this strong feeling that this would happen. What's another teenage boy to raise, eh," he said as he laughed.
I asked what was happening with the insurance settlement as I had passed on some papers and communications I had received.
"They've made an initial offer of $500,000, but that's a load of nonsense. I told them we're going to sue for $2 million," he said.
I was concerned at the turn of events, as I wanted to wrap this up as soon as possible so we could move forward. The amount of the settlement wasn't a concern to me as I was going to top it up to the same amount as I was going to set up for Sean.
"Be patient, Al. Initiating the law suit will speed things up, and I'm confident of a seven figure settlement,"
I authorized him to proceed and he told me he would keep me up-to-date.
Dana came over mid morning and we were having a Latte on the main floor deck off the Kitchen, which overlooked the backyard and the pool. It was a warm and bright morning and the boys were down below in the pool playing and having a great time. They had an air mattress and they were seeing who could stay on it the longest while the other one tried to tip it over.
"That's one of the best sounds I've heard for quite a while," I said as I looked at the pool and smiled.
"Are you talking about the birds?" Dana asked.
"I'm talking about the boys' laughter. When was the last time you heard that from the two of them?"
"They've both come through an awful lot even in the short time we've known them. You've done a remarkable job helping those two," she said.
"I've had some very supportive friends and family... especially you. I wouldn't have been able to manage otherwise," I said as I put my hand on hers and gazed into her eyes.
I leaned forward and gave her a kiss, which lasted long enough for the boys to notice from the pool. We came up for air when we heard the giggling from below.
The days over the long weekend were relaxing ones. We all picked away at getting things set up in the new houses, and spent lots of time in the pool and hot tub. Dana and I spent some time playing volleyball in the pool with the boys as well as just relaxing in the hot tub with glasses of wine. Jake was almost back to his old self and was much more upbeat and carefree than I had seen him for some weeks.
The boys had Stéphane and his friends over a couple of times and had eaten me out of house and home. I was still getting used to raising boys, as the girls were very different, especially in the amount of food they consumed.
I also got to know some of their friends a little better and like Stéphane, they were all pretty good kids. Monitoring the boys' peer group was something I was going to be very vigilant about, as I knew from experience that this was a critical determinant in their maturation process. All of the boys were pretty confident and at ease speaking with adults, except for one and his name was Charles Depew.
Charles (not Charlie) was on the small size for his age and timid. He was very different when he was playing with the boys and no adults were around, as I had observed the interaction amongst the boys from the main floor balcony a few times.
"His mom is kinda bossy," Sean said.
"Yeah, she doesn't speak to him very nicely," Jake said.
Apparently they had observed his mother interact with him a couple of times when she picked him up from playing road hockey some months ago. Both boys didn't paint a very glowing picture of their relationship. I decided I would be careful not to tease him like I did the other boys when they were over swimming.
The last day of the long weekend Sean wasn't himself. He was a little apprehensive about the Laser treatment for his back that was scheduled for the next day. We all reassured him that everything would be Ok, but he was nervous nonetheless. That night after dinner the phone rang and when I picked it up it was Melissa for Sean. They hadn't spoken since their little 'tif' earlier in the week. I had suggested to Sean about mid week that maybe he should've swallowed his pride and called her, but he didn't take my advice. Unfortunately, he was now probably going to have to pay the price.
"Remember, be diplomatic," I said as I handed him the phone.
"This should be interesting," Dana said after he had left.
He was on the phone a short time and he hung up and went upstairs to his computer to go on Skype. After about 45 minutes, he came into the Media room and sat down with a mellow expression on his face.
"Is everything Ok?" Dana asked.
"It's all good," he said as he gave a thumbs up and a smile.
Dana asked him some questions to find out what had happened, and he initially indicated that Melissa had been conciliatory. Dana was skeptical, and finally he admitted he had been the conciliatory one.
"You're learning, young man. The woman is always right," I said as I smiled.
"That's because the man is always wrong," Dana said with a sly grin.
The boys decided to go into the pool for an evening swim and passed us in the media room with their robes on carrying their towels. After about a half hour I went to the patio door to call them in, as we had to be up early to take Sean for his treatment. When I looked out I thought it was odd that they hadn't turned on the floodlights, but when I looked over at the hot tub I saw Sean's white bubble butt in the moonlight as he got out to grab his towel to dry off.
"Make sure you put your bathing suits in the dryer," I said to them as they walked past us upstairs.
"They're already dry," Sean said as they giggled and took off.
"What are they giggling about?" Dana asked.
"Their suits were already hanging up in the Laundry room from this afternoon."
She just shook her head as she smiled. We came upstairs later when they were ready for bed. The two of them decided to sleep together as Sean wanted company to help him settle down. Dana and I came in to say goodnight.
"This isn't a nudist camp, you two," Dana said as she sat on Sean's side of the bed.
The two of them started to snicker.
"Don't stay up talking too long tonight, boys, because we're getting up early," I said.
"And try not to worry too much, honey. I have a feeling things will work out fine tomorrow," Dana said to Sean as she kissed his forehead.
We both said goodnight to the two of them and went downstairs. After about an hour, Dana got ready to go back to the Townhouse as she was coming with us tomorrow for Sean's treatment. She wanted to go for moral support, as she knew he was very nervous about the procedure.
"Are you sure you're alright to walk home," I said.
"It's a five minute walk around the corner. This is a safe neighbourhood, isn't it?" she said with a smile on her face.
We embraced and when we came up for air I said, "You could stay overnight. I have room in my new bed."
"Remember, we said we'd talk to some important people in our lives before we did that. I'll see you early tomorrow," she said as she leaned forward and kissed me goodnight and left.
Gordon Lightfoot's website: www.lightfoot.ca/
Gordon Lightfoot performs Softly on Youtube.