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As I expected, the boys slept in the next day, as they were exhausted after their week. It also didn't help that they were at the overnight campout in the woods the night before we picked them up.
I did two big loads of their washing as everything was a tad dirty. I smiled to myself when I looked at Sean's basket as there were five rather soiled t-shirts and athletic shorts stuffed in it. For a boy who was going to wear his preppy clothing all week, he certainly gave his 'casual' clothing a workout. The only items he didn't wear were the polo shirt and golf shorts that he insisted on taking over Dana's objections.
When the boys got up and had their showers they joined Dana and me in the Kitchen. We had just finished our morning lattes and were waiting for them to get up before we started breakfast. As we guessed, they were ravenous and we made the two of them a hungry man's breakfast of bacon and eggs, homefries and toast. They wolfed it down, putting it into their hollow legs.
"Didn't they feed you last week?" Dana said as the two of us chuckled.
"We were just saving up our appetite for when we got home," Jake said as the two of them laughed.
I was noticing that they were in need of haircuts, as we hadn't been for a while and their hair was growing very quickly in the summer heat.
"You two are looking a bit shaggy. How about I see if Leo and Sherry can take you today?"
When I went into the Den to make the call I remembered that I had told Mark about Leo and I wondered if he and Charles wanted to come along.
I gave Mark a call and he said, "That'd be a great idea. Both Charles and I need one. Besides, Charles has missed the boys this week and it'll give them a chance to catch up on things."
We met Charles and Mark over at the barber shop and Charles and Jake went first. I booked Charles in with Leo as Mark told me he would prefer to have a male cutting his hair and Jake had Sherry once again. Leo didn't ask this time about what style Charles wanted and he brought out the hairstyle book to show him. Mark came over and helped him pick out a style as well as Sherry, who decided to help as she had done with the other two the first time.
"I'm glad you don't want highlights. We wouldn't want to cover up any of that wonderful red hair of yours," she said as she ran her fingers through his shaggy mop.
"He must like Sherry as he was smiling when she touched his hair. He hated going to his mother's hair dresser. All the ladies used to fuss over him and none of the stylists had a clue about how to cut guys' hair," Mark said after we sat back down.
When we were finished we all looked great. Sherry couldn't resist making a comment as the three boys were making their way to the door.
"Leo, call the security guards. The girls are going to mob these boys when they get to the parking lot," she said as everyone but the boys laughed.
They really did look great, as they had a similar hairstyle. The sides were shorter and the hair on top was a medium length with no part, in the popular 'bed head' style with forming cream holding everything in place.
As we were walking across the parking lot, I asked Mark if he and Charles would like to join us for lunch and swimming afterwards. Unbeknownst to us, the boys had already made a similar plan that included a 'jam' session rather than swimming. Apparently they didn't want to mess up their hair.
After we got home, Jake and Sean asked if Stéphane could come over and I said yes. After lunch the boys helped Charles get his electronic drums out of Mark's van and set up in the Media room. By the time they were finished, Stéphane had arrived.
We could hear the boys 'jamming' on the patio as Mark, Dana and I sat by the pool under the patio umbrella. They actually sounded like a real band at times and we were quite entertained.
"The main thing is they're having fun and doing something constructive," I said as they started into a bit of a disjointed rendition of 'Get Back' by the Beatles.
Their skills had deteriorated a bit over the week as their version of the song was better before they left for camp. After they had finished they went upstairs and got changed to go in the pool.
"I thought you didn't want to get your hair messed up," I said as they paraded by the table.
"We're not going under water," Sean said as they eased into the pool.
"I thought girls were the vain ones," Dana said as we laughed.
I don't know how they managed it but they didn't get their hair wet and after an hour they retreated to the boys' room to change. Charles, Mark and Stéphane left shortly after and we had a BBQ dinner on the patio by the pool.
That evening after supper I was in the media room watching TV by myself. Sean came down in his swimsuit and was going to have a night swim, but Jake wasn't with him.
"Where's Jake and Dana?"
"They're in Jake's room going over his speech for the family party Tuesday," he said as he went through the patio door to the pool.
I decided to join Sean and got changed and went into the pool. We tossed the Frisbee around for about a half hour and then got out, changed and the two of us watched 'Two and a Half Men'. Jake and Dana joined us near the end of the program.
"I hope you're not feeling a whole lot of pressure about saying something on Tuesday, Jake. You don't have to speak," I said.
"I'm not nervous and I want to say something," he said with that serious look of his.
"Now, Al, when have you known Jake to pass on an opportunity to speak?" Dana said as she laughed.
Jake was a little anxious the next day. He was a little more transparent than Sean and I didn't have to rely as much on body language to figure out when something was bothering him. I knew it wasn't about speaking at the party, as he made it clear the night before that he was looking forward to that. He joined me in the living room in his pyjamas early in the morning before Dana and Sean had got up. He picked up the Italian paper from Saturday's delivery in the magazine holder and started to finish what he hadn't read.
"I guess wearing pyjamas is cramping your style a little, eh."
He gave me a big smile and put down his paper. I could see that was his cue to tell me what was on his mind.
His expression then turned very serious and he said, "What if the judge won't let you adopt me?"
I was a little surprised and I shifted over on my chair and motioned for him to join me. He snuggled in beside me and I put my arm around him.
"That's not going to happen, Jake, but if he didn't I would appeal in another court. Ray and I would find some way of making it happen."
He seemed a little more relieved, but there was something else.
After some probing he asked, "What if my father wanted me back and, you know, he like made a stink?"
"Jake, your father signed a paper many years ago that said he gave up his rights to you."
He paused for a moment and then asked, "Would you be mad if I asked if we could try to visit him when we're in Italy?"
I gave him a big smile, squeezed him and said, "Of course not. Let me see what I can do."
I didn't want to tell him but I had already tried to get in touch and I was waiting for a call back from his father to see if I could arrange a reunion. I did have news though, that was confirmed some days before.
"I was going to wait, but I might as well tell you now. I've already arranged for us to spend an afternoon with your aunt when we're over there."
He gave me a big smile and hug. He hadn't seen his aunt very much as he was growing up, but when she was over for Pietro's funeral, they re-connected and got along quite well.
After breakfast, the boys and Dana went over to the mall to get some things for the trip the next week. I had arranged this with Dana to get the boys out of the house, as I had some renovations being done while we were away that would be a surprise for the boys. The contractor was coming over to do the preliminary measurements and layout and another expert who was advising the contractor on one of the parts of the project was also joining us. While we were on our trip, the work would be done and hopefully finished before we got back. This was going to be part of their birthday presents in September.
Later in the afternoon, I received a call from Italy. It was Jake's father's friend, as he was going to translate our conversation. Jake's father's English wasn't very good and he wasn't confident enough to talk to me himself.
He lived in a fishing village called Pescara, which was on the Adriatic coast of Italy about 200 kilometres from Venice. He owned his own fishing boat and was still single and living alone.
He was very reluctant to meet with us and see Jake again, but finally between his friend and me we were able to book a time on our third day there for us to visit him. I decided not to tell Jake, as I didn't want his father to back out and disappoint him once again. I would touch base with him when we arrived in Italy and I would confirm the plans then.
The next day, Dana, Sean, Jake and I made our way to the court house in the early afternoon for the hearing in Judge Steenhof's chambers. We were meeting with Ray beforehand to go over any last minute details that we needed to know.
After we went over the details, I asked Ray to step out into the hallway to see what he was able to find out about Jake's status in Italy with his father. I didn't want Jake to hear the conversation.
"Your son's future mother-in-law, Suzie Morgan, was very helpful."
I cringed at his statement and he laughed.
"I didn't know the connection until I called her for a consult, as she's an expert on this type of thing. She recognized Jake's name and told me her daughter and your son are an item," he said with a big grin.
"Let's just say they're fond of each other," I said as I smiled.
"As far as she's concerned, Italian authorities recognize the termination status and there shouldn't be a problem. You need to take the documentation with you for proof though," he said.
I was relieved to hear that, even though the conversation the day before with Jake's father didn't reveal any desire to try and reclaim Jake. Just then the bailiff came to get us as Judge Steenhof was ready for the hearing. We got Jake and proceeded to his chambers.
"Well, is it Jake or Giacomo?" Helmut asked as he gave Jake a big smile.
"I prefer Jake, your honour," he said with his serious look.
The judge smiled as he was amused by Jake's formality.
"So please tell me what your thoughts are as to the application Mr. Burger has made to adopt you."
Jake didn't hesitate and spent the next two minutes telling him why he wanted to be my son. Ray and Helmut were a little surprised at his verbal abilities and command of the language and when he finished the two of them were silent for a couple of moments.
"My goodness, young man, you certainly are very well spoken," Helmut said as he smiled at Jake.
"Could be a future lawyer," Ray said as he chuckled.
By now Jake had abandoned his serious look and gave us a big smile.
"If you two will leave us for a few minutes, I'm required to talk to Jake alone before I make my ruling," he said with a smile on his face.
We went into the courtroom to wait. The bailiff came back out to get us after about 15 minutes.
"I'm sorry we took so long, but we had quite a discussion about the state of politics in Italy. It was nice to get a perspective from someone who reads the Italian newspapers so avidly," he said with a big smile on his face as he looked at Jake as we sat down.
Helmut was certainly more relaxed than I had ever seen him and it was refreshing to see that he was human after all.
"Now, as to the matter of the application for adoption. Jake and I think that it should be approved. So, Mr. Burger, you've got yourself another son."
I looked at Jake and he had a big smile on his face. I got up and put out my arms for him to join me in a hug.
"Welcome to the family, Son," I said as we broke the hug and looked at each other.
"Thanks, Dad," he said with a big smile.
"Well, I guess that's that. Congratulations Giacomo. And, congratulations Mr. Burger. You've now got another wonderful son in your family," Helmut said as he held out his hand and shook mine and Jake's.
Ray shook both our hands and congratulated us as we left chambers.
"Now you and your brother take it easy on your Dad. Remember he's an old guy," Ray said to Jake as he laughed.
I thanked Ray for all his help and he left us as he had to make his way back up to his chalet near Collingwood. He wanted to miss all the rush hour traffic around Toronto.
When we came out into the court house hallway, Dana and Sean quickly got up and made their way over to us. Jake had a big smile on his face and Sean grabbed his hand and they locked thumbs together in a brothers' handshake. Then they gave each other a quick hug.
"Congratulazioni, Giacomo," Dana said as she gave him a big hug.
On the way to the Lexus Jake pulled me aside and asked if we could stop by the cemetery where his uncle and mother were buried.
"I just want to spend a few minutes there," he said.
"Of course, Son," I said as I patted him on the back and smiled at him. "How about we stop at a florist on the way and you can get some flowers."
When we arrived at the grave site, I asked him if he wanted us to go with him and he said he wanted to be alone. He got out of the Lexus with the flowers and disappeared amongst the headstones on his way to their grave.
"Do you think he'll be fine?" Dana asked.
"He'll be fine. He just wants to tell them everything's worked out Ok," Sean said from the back seat.
Dana and I smiled at him and we were pleased that Jake had confided in Sean. After about ten minutes, he made his way back to the Lexus. He got in and was a little sombre, but it didn't appear that he had been crying.
"Are you alright, Son?"
"I'm fine. Thanks, Dad," he said as he sighed.
As we took off, I could see the brotherly smile that Sean and Jake exchanged in the back seat, as I looked in the rear view mirror.
Just as I had done for Sean, I hired a limo to take us to the banquet hall. It picked us up shortly before 5 p.m. at the house. When we walked into the hall we were greeted by another big banner which said 'Welcome to the Family, Jake' that the girls and their significant others had arranged.
"Here's our new brother," Katie said as she and Carol greeted him with a hug and kiss.
Marty and Kyle shook his hand and he was beaming from ear-to-ear. Just then we saw my niece, Janet and her family coming into the hall. They came over and Janet gave Jake a big hug and kiss. Rachel stood next to him and the two of them awkwardly said hello and finally Rachel gave him a quick hug, which we could see embarrassed the two of them. They certainly were different from Sean and Melissa, but they were taken with each other nonetheless.
Shortly before we were to sit down for dinner, I noticed Sean, Jake and the girls talking. It looked like something was up and I came over after the boys had left the conversation.
"Is there something I should know about?" I asked the girls.
"Don't be so nosy, Dad," Carol said as the two of them gave me big grins.
We had a seven course Italian meal with Veal Parmigiana as the main course and Tiramisu as the dessert. They were some of Jake's favourites. After the dishes were cleared it was time for the speeches.
My sister once again was first to speak and welcomed Jake into family as she had done with Sean. She also gave him a gold chain as well.
Rachel was next and gave him a card from my niece's family and a rather heavy gift. He opened the card and thanked them and then opened the gift. He had a big smile on his face when he got the wrapping paper off and stood up and gave Rachel a hug. It was the complete hard bound set of the 'Lord of the Rings' books which Jake had been dying to read. Rachel had her own set and had told him how much he would enjoy them. The girls were next and got up and had Jake stand between them with their arms around his shoulders.
"We thought we were lucky getting a brother some months ago when we welcomed Sean into the family. But now we're doubly lucky as we have another person to call brother," Katie said
"We had a chance to spend some time with him in Disney as well and just like Sean he's a cool kid," Carol said.
"However, we're going to have to straighten him out just like his brother. We're going to have to teach him that he has to wear some clothing when his big sisters are around," Katie said as we all laughed and Jake blushed.
He opened the gift bag first and it was a Buffalo Sabres jersey with his last name and the number 30 on the back, which was the goalie Ryan Miller's number. That was his favourite player. He then opened the card and it was tickets to Marty's company's corporate box at the Air Canada Centre for a game in November between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Buffalo Sabres. He was thrilled and gave both of them a big hug and went over and gave Marty and Kyle a big hug as well.
It was now my turn. I put my arm around him as I had done some months ago when I welcomed Sean into the family.
"I knew the first time I met Jake that he was a special young man like Sean. It was hard for me to believe that he had gone through so much in his short life and remain such a happy boy. I feel blessed once again that I have the honour of raising another wonderful young man."
I opened the ring box and showed him the ring. He was very humbled as I slipped it on his pinky finger.
"As you know, Jake has decided to keep his last name to maintain his proud Italian heritage, so the initials on the ring are GPD." I turned to him and said, "As I told you a week ago, it doesn't matter to me what your last name is; you're my son. Welcome, Giacomo," I said as I gave him a big hug.
Everyone clapped and he was very touched. I wasn't sure if he was going to be able to speak, but he pulled himself together and started. He began by telling about his early life and his disappointment at his father taking off and leaving him. He then told us of how much it hurt when his mother and then his uncle died.
"I didn't know if I wanted to live or not, but Dad, Dana and Sean gave me a reason to keep going. I feel so thankful for being accepted into the family," he said with a great deal of poise.
Everyone joined in clapping after he was finished. Even though he appeared to be calm and poised, I knew it was all he could do to keep his emotions in check. After we had toasted him, people started to leave.
Both boys seemed to be contented on the ride home and they settled into bed pretty easily as they were both tired. Dana and I said goodnight to them and tucked them in. Jake was very appreciative of the party and all that had happened during the day.
"I'm sure your mother and uncle were looking down tonight and were very proud of you," I said as I put my hand on his shoulder.
"They weren't the only ones who were proud of you," Dana said as she rubbed his cheek with her hand and leaned down and gave him a kiss.
He gave us a big smile, but couldn't say anything as he was fighting back his emotions.
The next day we had an appointment with David Stratton to finalize the boys' trust funds. They had no idea how much they were going be worth, but I knew they would be shocked when we started talking about the numbers. David started off by telling us my lawyer, Norm Danson, had done the legal work necessary to set up the trust funds and that the money had been transferred from my funds to the boys.
With Jake's fund, we had set up a trust bank account which was the same as Sean's as well as a visa card with a $3000 limit. He had a $5000 current portion to the account and the rest of the $500,000 was in the investment portion of the account. The funds for this came from his inheritance, topped up by his insurance settlement. The rest of the money, topped up by some from me, went into the trust fund which was $2 million, making a total of 2.5 million dollars. Sean's trust fund and trust account added up to the same total. By the time all was said and done, I had transferred over $3 million to their trust fund accounts from my portfolio.
"Your father and sisters are the plan trustees and any spending or investment decisions are at their discretion until you're finished your schooling or the age of 25, whichever comes first," David said as he went over the legal documents with them.
The two of them were stunned and didn't take in much of what he was saying. They were both overwhelmed and very quiet as we left the bank. We went to Horton's for lunch as Dana was out and I didn't feel like making something at home.
"As I said to Sean some months ago, Jake, be discreet about talking about your wealth with people. And above all, I expect and know you won't be frivolous with your money."
The two of them were still a little subdued, but finally as we were leaving, Sean spoke up.
"That's a lot of money. Why did you do that for us?"
I put my arms around the two of them, smiled and said, "Because you're my sons and I love the two of you very much. If anything happens to me, I want to be content in the knowledge that you'll be well looked after."
The rest of the week went pretty quickly and we were focused on getting things ready and packing for the trip.
"Boys, let's not take every piece of clothing you two own. Leave some space as we're going to buy some things there," I said as Dana and I laughed as we looked at their two bulging suitcases.
The boys loved the flight over on Alitalia airlines, as I had booked business class. We each had our own cubicle which made into a bed, with our own TV screen with movies. They also enjoyed the VIP food and beverage service that went along with it. We landed in the Venice airport early in the morning Italian time and didn't have too much trouble with customs. They questioned Jake's passport and documentation, but since Dana and he were able to speak and understand Italian, they were able to handle the custom guards' concerns.
We picked up the rental vehicle which was a Land Rover LR4 and took off for the motel I had booked which was outside of the city on dry land. I didn't want to get into parking the rental vehicle in a parking lot and worrying about it and besides the accommodations were better than what I could arrange in the centre of the city.
I decided we would land in Venice and spend the day and overnight before we took off for the villa which was outside of Florence, as I had something I needed to do there.
We got settled into the motel and took a water taxi which dropped us off near Piazza San Marco (Saint Mark's square) about five hundred metres from the Bridge of Sighs. I suggested that we take a gondola ride first before things got too busy later in the day. The boys and Dana wanted to see San Marco, but I was insistent, so they gave in. They were a little puzzled at my forcefulness, but I had a reason.
I hired two gondolas, one for Dana and me and the other for the boys. I also hired a guitarist and singer for ours, who would serenade the two gondolas as we rode down the canals. The boys and Dana were surprised we weren't going in the same gondola, as they were large enough to accommodate six people.
"Al, the boys could ride with us."
"I thought it might be more romantic this way," I said as I took her hand.
The boys smiled at us and then climbed in the second gondola. After about fifteen minutes, I cued the guitarist and singer and they started to play 'O Sole Mio'. I took Dana's hand and turned to faced her. The singer and guitarist started in a lower volume than the other songs, so they didn't drown me out as I talked.
"Dana, I know we're living together as if we were a married couple, but I want more. You know I love you very much and I'm sure you love me. Call me old fashioned, but I have a very important question I'd like to ask you."
I reached in my pocket and pulled out a ring box and opened it.
"Will you marry me?"
Her mouth opened and she was stunned. She looked at the ring and then me and was speechless.
After a few moments she recovered and said, "Al, I don't know what to say."
I gazed into her eyes and said, "Please say yes."
The tears started to roll down her cheeks and she leaned over and gave me a big hug as she whispered in my ear, "Yes."
The guitarist and singer were smiling as they stepped up the volume as we sailed down the rest of the canals. I don't remember much after that, as Dana and I really didn't say too much, but clung to each other very tightly the rest of the way. I do remember placing the ring on her finger though. It was a simple gold band with a one carat diamond setting that looked fabulous on her finger. When we got off the gondola, the boys were right behind us. They got out of their gondola and ran over to us.
"What was going on with you two?" Sean said with a puzzled expression.
"Yeah. You guys were mega mushy," Jake said with a somewhat disgusted look on his face.
I told Dana to show them the ring and I said, "I'm going to need a couple of ushers for our wedding. Do you know anyone who might be interested?"
The two of them quickly understood what had happened and huge smiles were plastered over their faces. They gave both of us big hugs and congratulations. The guitarist and singer stood by us and played another song as the four of us stood there with our arms around each other. By now we had attracted a crowd, as word got around of what was happening and they clapped as the song finished and we broke our embrace. I was at peace as it now felt like a real family.