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On Monday, Dana and I greeted the boys as they came in the door from the school bus. I asked them what was new and we got that annoying automatic teenage answer, 'nothing'. I didn't push it as they took off for their rooms.
At dinner later on, Dana couldn't stand it anymore and asked, "Are you sure you two didn't get anything today at school to bring home?"
Sean didn't look up and Jake gave him a nervous glance. I knew that there was collusion between the two of them and I decided to bring things to a head.
"I seem to remember hearing at Grade 9 parents' night that there was an interim report coming out today? Did you get yours, Jake?" I asked.
He looked at me, paused and finally shook his head yes.
"I'll go get it," he said as Sean glared at him.
Sean didn't say anything but got up with a mad face and followed him down the hall to the bedrooms. When they came back they put them on the table for us to look at. They were both very good reports overall and had a couple of things that needed improvement. This report card was in letter grades and Jake got a B- in Business and B+ in Math. His other two marks in Music and English were A's. Sean got three A's in Business, Music and Math but C- in English.
"Boys, what was the problem here. These reports are very good, but frankly, I'm disappointed in the deception. Sean, maybe you could go first and explain," I said.
He hesitated and wouldn't look at Dana or me and said, "I thought you'd be mad."
I paused and finally said, "I'm certainly not mad, but I'm concerned about the obvious attempt to conceal this from us. Even if they were bad reports, which they're not, what did you think we'd do?"
Neither of them said anything and I was gathering from Jake's reaction that it wasn't his idea, but Sean had a sheepish look on his face. Over the course of the ensuing conversation it came out that Sean had asked Jake not to hand over his report and to be quiet about it hoping we would forget, because he was embarrassed about his English mark. Jake agreed, but didn't like doing it.
"We want the best for the two of you and as your parents we're here to help you. You should know by now that we're not going to be unreasonable," I said.
"A family is built on love and trust. We have to be able to trust you boys, but you also have to trust us as well," Dana said.
"I know you're disappointed with the C- in English, Sean, but that'll come. But the other marks on your report card are outstanding. I know Mr. Robertson doesn't give out many A's," I said as I leaned forward, smiled and tousled his hair.
It was clear that we still had some hurdles to clear with Sean and that we would have to keep boosting up his confidence. Both Dana and I gave them praise for the good marks and finally Sean smiled. Even though his English mark wasn't that great, I was a little more concerned about the B- in Business that Jake got.
"Ms. Rayner didn't give any of the boys in the class more than a B," he said with that look of injustice on his face.
I could tell that he was on one of his crusades, as he told us that he had made an effort to find out from all the guys in his class what their marks were. He felt his mark was too low, as all his assignments and tests had been in the 80's. Since this was an interim report, I wasn't going to intervene, but wait until I had more solid proof of discrimination. These marks were just indicators of achievement and not necessarily based on hard data. In Trudy's case, I knew she was lazy and likely didn't do any mark calculations but guessed at what she thought they were worth, which for the boys in her class was much less than the girls.
"I don't want to discourage you from standing up for yourself, but I think we should wait until the midterm report to see what happens. Just keep all your tests and assignments, Son, in case we need to take action," I said to him.
The next day both boys had some news they wanted to tell us. We could tell when they came in the door, but they had to eat first and they stormed into the kitchen like a pack of hungry wolves.
"Didn't you boys eat your lunches?" Dana said as she had to go back to the fridge and get some more cut-up fruit and vegetables, as well as more milk. She was getting used to their appetites and made sure she had more on hand than she thought she would need.
"Yeah, but that was two hours ago," Sean said.
"Don't talk with your mouth full, young man," she said as she scolded him.
Finally they had their hollow legs filled and they told us their news.
"My English teacher, Ms. Ellis, wants me to enter the public speaking contest in December," Jake said with a big smile on his face.
We could tell he was excited as he spent the next few minutes telling us all about the competition and what he would have to do to prepare. By now Sean was rolling his eyes at having to wait for his brother to finish. Finally he got his chance to speak.
"Mr. Robertson wants me to write the Pascal Math contest in January," he said.
He didn't take as long as Jake did to tell us his news, as he was a little more succinct in his explanations. Dana and I told them how proud we were and gave them big hugs. It didn't last too long as they took off downstairs to the studio to get set up as Stéphane and Charles were coming over. When the other two boys came in the door I decided to ask them about their Interim reports. Stéphane's was all A's as I expected and Charles was mostly B+'s, except for Business which was a C-.
"She doesn't like me," Charles said.
I told him liking a student should have nothing to do with the marks and I asked him what he thought his mark should've been.
"I thought I was gonna get an A, cuz all my stuff I got back was in the 80's."
This confirmed Jake's suspicions and I knew the problem well, as this was an all too familiar an event with Ms. Rayner. Numerous times I had to handle the exact same problem when I was her department head. I gave him the same advice I gave Jake.
The next morning I had to drive the boys to school early, as there was a Student Council meeting. This was a convenient way to meet, as many of the students in the school were transported by school bus and couldn't stay at the end of the day. When they came home after school we were curious at how the meeting went.
"It was good. We're going to have a dance-a-thon to raise funds for the food drive," Sean said.
"We get to stay up all night," Jake said as the two of them had big smiles on their faces.
"Do they need any chaperones?" Dana asked, which met with some very concerned looks from the two of them.
"No.... it's Ok. There's lots of teachers and chaperones," Sean quickly replied.
I could tell by the body language and looks we were getting that our services weren't wanted. However, they did ask if we would sponsor them. They also told us Stéphane had been elected the Grade 9 representative on the Student Council executive.
As the wedding day got closer, there were a lot of things that had to be done. I picked the boys up on the Wednesday after school and went over to Lou's Clothing store to look at tuxedos. Lou had a franchise arrangement with a national tuxedo rental business that he ran out of his store. I thought we had agreed that we were going to wear our Italian suits we got in Italy for the wedding, but Sean talked his brother into helping him gang up on me to convince me we needed tuxes for the ceremony and reception later. We were going to wear our Italian suits for the family dinner afterwards.
Dana had a magazine specifically devoted to weddings and Sean left it out one morning on the breakfast counter, open at a page with various styles of tuxedos. He kept dropping big hints about how good the guys looked and that maybe we should rethink the suits. He had Jake back him up, but I could see that Jake was happy with the Italian suit, as he wasn't a fashion plate like his brother. If it had been up to him, we would have probably been wearing soccer shirts and shorts!
"You might as well choose which one we should wear, Sean. You're the one orchestrating this," I said as Lou got out the book with the different styles.
Rick had joined us as he was also in the wedding party as my best man. It was clear after a few minutes that Sean had given this some thought and he knew exactly what he was looking for.
"This is a neat style," he said as we looked at the book.
He certainly had good taste as he had picked out a classic Alfred Sung one button notch lapel, with white pleated wing collar shirt and bow tie as well as black patent-leather oxford shoes. We all thought that was a good choice and Lou got us measured up and placed our order.
"You certainly do have good taste in clothes, young man. If you have a special someone joining you at the wedding, they won't be able to take their eyes off of you," Lou said to Sean with a big smile. Sean started to blush a little with his shy smile on his face.
"E avete una persona speciale, Giacomo?" (and do you have someone special, Giacomo)
"Forse," Jake replied with a coy smile. (Maybe)
The rehearsal and party the night before the wedding went well. Randy led us through the ceremony and afterwards we went to a local restaurant in their back room and had some hors d'oeuvres and drinks and chatted. We had picked up Dana's father as he came in on the train from London Ontario, which was about two hours away, where he lived in a retirement home. He was pretty spry for an 82 year old man, but he didn't drive long distances anymore. He was thrilled that Dana and I were getting married and the boys and he took to each other immediately.
"Life is never boring. I didn't think I'd ever have a grandson and now I've got two," he said with a big smile as he put his arm around the two of them. They reciprocated with big smiles of their own.
The boys, Rick and I went to Mark's townhouse the next morning to get dressed and ready for the ceremony at 2:00 pm at the church. The girls and Dana were using our house and we weren't allowed to see them until the ceremony. Apparently this was a wedding tradition that I had forgotten about, but was informed of the week before, by our four daughters. Mark offered the townhouse after he heard of our dilemma.
We had a bite to eat and then got into the tuxedos. I got the boys a set of gold cufflinks with their initials on it as my gift to them for being ushers. I got Rick a bottle of Glenfiddich 15 year old Scotch, which was his favourite, as well as a Waterford crystal glass tumbler. I noticed that both boys were a little nervous and I chalked it up to a new experience.
"I'm not sure why you two are wound up so tight. I'm the one getting married," I said as I smiled and helped Sean put on his cufflinks.
Both Charles and Mark enjoyed the male bonding of the day. Charles was very proud of how he looked in his new suit that he got from Lou's store and was strutting in front of the mirror, as were Sean and Jake. Mark and he had gone shopping as Charles didn't have any formal wear.
"This is the first new suit he's had since he was eight years old. Marjorie wouldn't let me spend the money to get one for him," Mark said.
About an hour and a half before we had to go to the church, Lorraine's brother, David Sloan, came over to take some pictures. He was an excellent amateur photographer and had taken many pictures at family gatherings over the years when Lorraine was alive. He had agreed to take pictures throughout the day as neither Dana nor I thought it was necessary to hire a professional photographer and have a glitzy album produced. He took some pictures with Rick and me and then included the boys in the rest of the pictures. I was so pleased with how handsome the two of them looked in their tuxedos and I was glad that Sean had talked me into the more formal wear.
"I'm sure it'll take me a lot longer over at your house with the female part of the wedding party," David said when he was packing up to go. We all chuckled as we knew exactly what he meant.
When we were ready I had a stretch limo coming to pick us up and take us to the church. Charles and Mark were going over in their own car. After the ceremony everyone except Dana and I would be using it to go to the golf club for the reception. We were being transported in the Rolls Royce limo that I had rented, which was picking up the girls to take them to the church. Dana was not one to be late and the girls rolled up in the Rolls Royce five minutes early. Her father greeted them in the foyer and we were cued to come out of the transept to the front of the church.
Dana had chosen Pachelbel's Canon in D major as the processional music and the organist started as the girls came down the aisle. My two great-nephews, Derek and John, were the ring bearers and were at the front of the procession. Next came Dana's two daughters who were her bridesmaids and then her maid of honour, Jane, who was her former sister-in-law, followed by Dana and her father. Dana looked absolutely stunning in her cream coloured three-quarter length silk Gucci dress that she had bought in Italy.
"We said you'd really like the dress," Sean said with a big smile as he leaned over and whispered to me.
Dana came up the aisle on her father's arm and was as radiant as any bride I had ever seen. When she took her place beside me, after her father had given her away, we looked at each other with big smiles on our faces.
The ceremony was pretty traditional and we hadn't written any personal vows. Neither of us wanted to get into that and we used the vows that Randy gave us to say. When it was time for the rings, the boys had that task rather than Rick or Jane. They were beaming as they took the rings from my great-nephews and gave them to Randy.
After Randy pronounced us husband and wife we gave each other what we thought was a reasonably passionate kiss, given the circumstances. However, Sean and Jake weren't satisfied.
"Aren't you going to have a real kiss?" Jake said as Sean and he were looking at us with frowns on their faces.
We accommodated their request and had a more passionate embrace, which met with clapping from the pews. We were now both embarrassed but very happy. We made our way outside the church and had some pictures taken there before we made our way to the golf club for the reception.
It was a beautiful sunny autumn day and the temperature was almost 20° C. We had pictures taken out on the patio at the golf club and we had to endure some of my golf partners' comments and teasing as they were coming in off the 18th hole. The club had cordoned off part of the patio for us, but the rest of the patio was still in use.
As we came into the private dining room that was set up for the reception, the Jazz ensemble was just getting ready. It was a three piece group of piano player, guitarist and drummer. The guests would be arriving in a few minutes so the group started to play. They were friends of Dana's daughter and played some traditional jazz pieces that would be good background music as we mingled with our guests.
As people started to come in, the waiters started to serve the hors d'oeuvres. The bar was open and was serving wine and beer, as well as soft drinks. The boys were in their glory as Melissa and Rachel gravitated to them as soon as they got into the room. Melissa was certainly maturing and this time the black dress that she wore was hers, not her mother's. She was turning out to be a beautiful looking young woman and when I looked at her and Sean standing together, they looked so grown up... too grown up for my liking.
"We're thinking the same thing, Al. Those two don't look like awkward young teenagers anymore," Dana said as we watched them walk outside to the balcony holding each other's hands.
I was glad the Morgans were able to come but, Anne, wasn't able to make it. I wasn't sure if it was because of our past romance or if she really was busy.
Everyone seemed to be having a good time and congratulated us as we made our rounds. The kids stuck together and were having a great chat. Rachel and Jake really were well suited to each other and looked great as a couple as well. Even though Stéphane and Charles didn't have any female companions with them, the other four made them feel very comfortable as they hung around each other in a group.
After about an hour we had made our way around to see everyone and it was time for some toasts. We didn't want the traditional round of speeches so we agreed to keep things to a minimum and besides, we hadn't set up tables for people to sit on. Rick started things off with a short speech about our relationship and friendship over the years. We had a podium set up and Rick had a set of notes that he was following. He went on to say how wonderful it was to see us together and how happy we seemed with each other.
I was next and had a few things written down, as I knew I would be a little nervous. My memory wasn't as good as it was and I didn't want to forget what I wanted to say. I started off by thanking everyone for joining us in our celebration and for respecting our wishes of not giving a gift. Then I got into the hard part of my speech.
"After Lorraine died, I never thought that I would have a relationship with another woman. Even though my girls encouraged me to start dating again, I wasn't interested. I wasn't really living, as I was just going through the motions without passion or meaning. I didn't think I had any love left in me for anyone else again. However, I was wrong. I started into a relationship with a wonderful woman who was willing to put up with me, but more importantly love me. Dana must be a saint, for not only is she willing to put up with my many idiosyncrasies, but she's bravely joining me, as we embark on a new round of child-rearing with our new sons. And to my sons, Sean and Jake. I thank you for awakening in me again the passion and will to live life to its fullest. You've given my life purpose once again and opened up my heart to be able to accept the love from you two and my new wife, your new mother, Dana."
I must have done a good job, as everyone clapped for what seemed a very long time. When the applause died down, I proposed a toast to Dana. After the toast was finished everyone started clinking their wine glasses for Dana and me to kiss and of course we obliged them with a more passionate effort than what we did in the church.
I thought that I was going to be the last speaker but our kids had other ideas. All six of them came up to the podium with big smiles on their faces. Dana's girls were first to speak and told everyone some anecdotes of life with their mother. They finished by saying how glad they were that I was coming into their mom's life and welcomed me into their family.
Katie and Carol were next. Both Girls took turns telling stories of their lives with me and Lorraine which brought both laughter and some very sombre faces. And last were Sean and Jake. The two of them were a little nervous but they were determined to speak. They started off telling a bit about how much their lives had changed over the past few months and how grateful they were at how things had turned out for them.
"Neither one of us really had a dad before. We want to thank our new Dad for believing in us and giving us a chance to grow up like other kids," Jake said.
"And we're also thankful that we'll be a real family now that Dad and Dana... ah... Mom are married," Sean said as he smiled. "My brother and I know that they really love each other and that they're real happy... and so are we."
Susan, Dana's daughter, then directed our attention to a screen, laptop and projector which I hadn't noticed being set up.
"My sister and I have put together a pictorial salute to the newlyweds that we'd like to play for you now," Susan said as her sister started the multimedia presentation.
I wasn't sure how they got some of the pictures to scan, but there were baby pictures of both Dana and me. They went through our various stages in life and thankfully didn't include too many of Lorraine or Dana's first husband. It ended with some new pictures of recent family gatherings and was extremely well done. Then all six of our kids came to the podium and Marty and Kyle brought in an easel and what looked like a framed picture all wrapped up with a large bow on it.
"There's a wall in the newlywed's living room that needs some decorating, so we took care of that with this gift," Katie said as Sean and Jake moved us over to the easel.
When we opened it both Dana and I were speechless. It was a framed 3ft. by 2ft. picture of all six of our kids taken in front of the big maple tree in Katie's front yard in Toronto. My brother-in-law David had taken it and blown it up, then had it framed. The picture was very colourful, as it was taken within the last two weeks, as there were leaves on the ground and the rest of the leaves on the tree had turned to crimson red. Our girls were standing, leaning against the trunk, while the boys were seated in front on the ground. All the two of us could do was hug them and say thank you. It was a very thoughtful gift, which we would cherish for a very long time. All six of them had big smiles on their faces as they knew we really appreciated the sentiment and the effort that went into it.
After we had composed ourselves, I was expecting the jazz ensemble to start playing. I thought that we had decided that after the speeches they would play some more as people mingled before they went on their way. However, Rick took Dana and me aside and said that our kids thought that we should have a first dance together. What I didn't realize was that Rick was diverting our attention. When we finally came back into the room there were two amplifiers, and the boys' guitars added to the piano as well as some more microphones. Sean and Jake were getting set up to play as was Katie at the piano and Carol with her flute.
Rick stepped up to one of the microphones and said, "Could everyone please give the newlyweds some room on the dance floor for their first dance."
He then motioned us to the floor. Carol then stepped forward to the microphone.
"Many of you know that dad's a big Beatles fan, as he grew up in the 60's. We found out that Dana is a big fan too and that one of their favourite songs is 'In My Life'. Katie and I haven't performed for years, but when we saw how much our two new brothers are into music, we knew we couldn't let this opportunity pass. Please be tolerant, as we've only had a couple of practices together," she said as she stepped back from the microphone to get ready.
Katie and Sean played the intro together and then Jake started singing. Sean sang harmony, while Carol played a background fill on her flute. Carol then played part of the solo in the middle of the song and Katie played the rest of it on the piano. They had come up with their own arrangement of the song which was more expressive than the original recording by the Beatles.
Dana and I were both pretty emotional as we made our way around the dance floor. I hadn't heard either of the girls play for years, as they had let their considerable musical talents go to waste. They never really had much interest in playing after they had graduated from university, despite my encouragement for them to play at family functions. Listening to them play with their new brothers was a dream come true.
They were absolutely great and when the song finished everyone gave them a rousing round of applause. All four of them were beaming with big smiles on their faces. I was finding it hard to hold my emotions in check and Dana had tears rolling down her cheeks. We went over to them and we all hugged together. We finally pulled ourselves together and the jazz group took over and started to play.
"Now you know why we wouldn't let you hear us practice this week. Colin helped us," Sean said.
"And that's why we took our stuff to Toronto last weekend," Jake said as the two of them had big smiles on their faces.
"I'm so proud of the four of you. I don't know whose idea that was, but you've made both of us very happy," I said.
"Both Katie and I talked about this a month ago. We just had to put it together," Carol said with a big smile.
The girls left the golf club in the Rolls Royce and the boys and I took the other limo to the house to change into our suits. We took the LX back to meet the rest of the family at the local Keg restaurant and steakhouse. Since Rachel was going to be there with her family I invited the Morgans and Melissa back as well as Charles and Mark.
We had a private room in the back and had a great meal. Most people ordered their famous steaks and we capped everything off with their decadent Billy Miner pie, named after a notorious bank robber. As we were having coffee and tea, Dana reached under the table and brought out a very nicely wrapped gift.
"I know we said we wouldn't exchange presents, but I couldn't resist," she said as she handed me the present.
Despite my protestations, I opened the gift and was very touched at the beautiful Royal Doulton figurine.
"I knew you love Royal Doultons and this is one of their new ones," she said.
It was called 'Wedding Vows' and was a very simple but elegantly understated figurine that I hadn't seen before. She was correct that I loved Doultons, as I had my mother's collection and had purchased a couple of more over the years. This would bring my collection to thirty. I was very touched at her thoughtfulness and we had a very passionate embrace. My girls, her daughters and the boys smiled as they knew that there was something waiting for Dana when we got home.
Charles, Mark, Rick and his boys left, but most of the family as well as the Morgans lingered for a little while afterwards. Jake, Sean, Melissa and Rachel left us to go for a walk and 'get some fresh air outside', as Sean put it. We joined up with them later in the parking lot making sure that we made enough noise that they knew we were there and then were on our way home. We arrived in the driveway and I stopped the LX behind another vehicle that was parked in the middle of the driveway.
"Why don't you take these keys and take a look," I said to Dana as I handed her the keychain.
She was speechless and had her mouth open as she had a wide-eyed look on her face. Finally she got out and the boys and I followed her to the brand new Acura RDX crossover that I had delivered after the girls left for the church.
"I hope you like the colour. It's Grigio Metallic. You said you didn't want anything too big and the boys and I thought this was the perfect size," I said as she finally opened the door and got in the driver's seat. She was stunned and still hadn't said anything. Finally she composed herself and got out of the vehicle and gave me a very passionate embrace and kiss.
"I thought we said we wouldn't give each other gifts," she said.
"Well neither one of us paid attention to that, did we," I said as I gave her a big smile.
"And you two are monkeys for keeping this secret from me," she said as she grabbed Sean and Jake and gave them a big hug.
We got the boys suitcases that they had packed the night before, as they were staying with Mark and Charles for the two days that we were going to be away on our honeymoon. We took the RDX and Dana drove as we dropped them off and then parked it in the third garage when we got back to the house. We packed up the BMW as that was what we were taking to the Prince of Wales Hotel in Niagara on the Lake and went on our way for what was sure to be two very romantic days.
Public Speaking Contest
In My Life, Canadian singer Allison Crowe's version
In My Life, Beatle's version
Royal Doulton Wedding Vows figurine
The Keg Steakhouse
The Acura RDX
The Prince of Wales Hotel in historic Niagara on the Lake, Ontario, Canada