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After The Game

© 2010 Felix_P

Chapter Sixty-five: The Anniversary

"Mr. Burger, I'm sorry to call at this hour of the morning, but Mr. Webster has come out of his coma and is demanding to see his boys. He's very agitated and we don't want to have to sedate him. Could you possibly bring them down to see him as soon as possible?" the ICU nurse asked.

She told me that this was highly unusual to have to do this, but the doctor in the ICU thought this would be the best solution to calm him down. I told them we would be there as soon as possible. Dana said that she would stay with Jake and Sean and that I should take Glen and Garth to see him. When I got out of bed I heard a knock at our bedroom door.

"Was that about my dad?" Glen asked, with a frightened look on his face, as I opened the door.

"It is. Your dad's regained consciousness and wants to see you and Garth," I said, as I put my arm around his shoulder and gave him a squeeze. The frightened look was replaced with a weak smile.

Dana now had her dressing gown on and came to the door and said, "Let's go get your little brother up and ready to go."

Jake and Sean were also awake and were in the hall. We told them the news and that I was taking Glen and Garth to see their father. Both of them wanted to go, but we insisted that they stay, as they really weren't going to be of any help.

"Dana's staying here and you two need to get your rest for school tomorrow. I know you want to help, but there's really nothing you can do."

Garth certainly was a very sound sleeper, as Dana had to gently shake him to wake him up, despite the fact that we had turned on the bedroom light. He was still half asleep as we got him out of his pyjamas and dressed. He was draped over me as I carried him to the LX and got his seatbelt on. The cold air started to wake him up and before we got to the end of the driveway he started to get excited that he would be able to talk to his 'daddy'.

"Is he going to know me?" he asked. I'm not sure where he was getting that from, but I was guessing that it might have come from Glen. I was trying to be cautious and I said that he would, but that he still wasn't all better.

The nurse that had called ushered us into the ICU when we arrived. The boys immediately went to the bedside and leaned over the railing to see their dad. He still had the oxygen mask on, but he was wide awake and when he realized they were there he was overcome with emotion. After the nurse took the mask off his face he held out his hand to the boys.

"Are you two behaving yourselves?" he said in a very frail voice.

Glen had now locked thumbs with his Dad, but Garth couldn't reach, so I picked him up. Glen moved over and his father clutched Garth's little hand in his. It was obvious that there was a lot of love between the three of them.

"I want to thank you for taking my boys in with your family," he said, as I moved closer to the bedside to hear him.

I told him not to worry that we would keep them as long as was needed.

"Your main job now, Mr. Webster, is to get better. I need to tell you that you have legal representation and that you're not to talk to anyone about the incident unless your lawyer gives the go ahead."

I told him when he was up to it that Ray would be in to see him. I was glad to see that there appeared to be no memory loss, as he was fully aware of what had happened to him. By now the nurse had a stool for Garth to stand on so he could see his father. I left the two boys and John alone for a few minutes and the nurse finally said that they should leave, as he was getting tired. Glen leaned over and John gave him a squeeze with his arm. I came over and picked Garth off the stool so he could be hugged as well.

The boys were a little subdued on the way home, but they seemed to be a little more settled than they had been. I was encouraged by what I saw and tried to get them to verbalize their feelings. Garth was much more positive about his Dad's situation, but Glen was still a little guarded. It appeared that he had a lot of trouble showing his emotions, but I was getting a little better at understanding his body language and he appeared to be in a better frame of mind.

We got home in time to see Jake and Sean off to school. Both Garth and Glen were tired and wanted to go to bed rather than eat breakfast. I also went back to sleep and woke up about 10 am. The phone rang shortly after and it was Ray on the phone.

"It appears the police force wants to settle the matter really quickly. I had a call from their insurance company's legal counsel, who happened to be one of my old partners and he started to throw figures around that I was surprised at," he said.

He told me the money they were suggesting would be an interim settlement with the final amount to be based on John's recovery prospects. I told him of my news and he was encouraged by his progress.

"They want to keep this out of the newspapers as much as possible. I think Mr. Webster is not going to have to worry about finances much longer. I'll call and see if he's up to me interviewing him," he said.

I told him I had an appointment for the boys with Phil that day and he would be able to give an assessment of their mental states. I hadn't told the boys, as I wanted to broach the subject with them after they ate breakfast.

"Why do we have to go to a shrink?" Glen asked with a bit of a sour look on his face, after we had finished eating.

I told him it was something that needed to be done for the pending lawsuit and that Phil was a very nice man. I also told him that he was a psychologist and not a psychiatrist, which really didn't mean too much to him. As far as he was concerned he wasn't crazy, so he didn't see why he had to go.

"We're all a little crazy, Glen," I said, as I chuckled. He lightened up a little and gave me a faint, but fleeting smile.

The boys occupied themselves for some of the day by watching TV, playing with the Playstation and using the computer. I had a chance to talk to Garth's teacher after she had her lunch and I got a clearer picture of his academic and social performance in her class.

"He's pretty good at Math, but like a lot of boys in my class he doesn't like to read," she said.

I thought I would see what I could do to help and encourage him. I had some of my great nephews' books in the house, as I always kept that sort of thing handy to occupy them when they were over for family functions. Some of the books they loved were the 'Diary of a Wimpy Kid' series, by Jeff Kinney. It was something boys his age loved to read, as it included a generous dose of toilet humour that they found funny.

Glen went with Dana downstairs and they were going to do some drawing in his sketchpad. She was going to show him some sketching techniques, as well as introduce him to some watercolour painting with the new easel and he was actually quite interested. This was the first time I saw some enthusiasm about something from him and I was hoping that this was a way to get him open up and relax with us.

I took Garth into the Living room and sat on the couch with him. I told him I had been talking to his teacher about his reading and that I wanted to help him. He wasn't too keen about the idea, but I told him that he needed to be a good reader when he got to high school. Then I made a comment about some of my best students were excellent readers.

"You were a teacher?" he asked, with a look of surprise.

"I taught high school, but I know a little bit about Grade 3 stuff," I said as I gave him a big smile.

I knew giving him a book and letting him read it on his own wasn't going to work, so we started off by me reading a page and then he read a page to me. He had a pretty good vocabulary and didn't get stuck on any of the words. After the first few pages he got hooked on it and he wanted to read it by himself. I let him finish the first chapter and I used some literacy strategies that I knew were successful from our After School Clubs that I ran.

"How about you tell me some things about what you read," I said, as he put down the book.

I asked him to tell me who the main characters were, the setting and what problems were in the chapter. He was able to give me pretty clear answers and I could see that he had some smarts. He was also pretty good verbally, even though his language was typical of a grade 3 boy. The last thing I asked was for him to tell me what his favourite part was. As I figured, his recounting of the details had a liberal dose of the toilet humour from the chapter.

"That kid's funny," he said as he giggled.

"So do you want to read some more?" I asked, as I smiled.

I really didn't need to ask, as he had already opened the book back up and was getting comfortable on the couch. I told him I'd come back in twenty minutes and we could talk about the book some more.

I decided to go downstairs to see how Glen and Dana made out. They were sitting on the couch and both of them had a sketchbook and drawing pencil. Dana was showing him how do draw freehand circles and ovals.

"Let's see what you've got there, young man," I said as I sat down on the other side of him.

It was obvious he had some talent and that he enjoyed drawing. Dana had worked on technique with him and even though much of what he had in the book wasn't actually pictures or drawings he was picking up what she was showing him very quickly. I could also see that there was a bond forming between them as they were talking very easily with each other.

"Show Pop what you drew for Garth," Dana said.

He went over and opened up the bigger sketchbook that was on the easel and showed me a picture of Spider-Man that he had drawn on his own. It was very well done and I told him he had done a great job.

"We're going to use that to create a watercolour painting, after I show him some basic techniques," Dana said, as the two of them gave each other big smiles.

When Sean and Jake came home from school I told them I was running Glen and Garth over to see Phil. I also told them that Glen wasn't too crazy about the idea and asked if they could calm him down a little bit. They went to the Kitchen to join Glen and Garth in having a snack that Dana had made for them. Both Sean and Jake started to tell the boys about Dr. Phil and how he had helped them.

"He's probably going to make me tell secrets," Glen said.

"Dr. Phil's a great guy. You'll like him. He's not going to make you say anything you don't want to," Sean said, with a reassuring tone.

"Both Sean and I have seen him and he's neat to talk to," Jake said, reaffirming what Sean had just said.

Glen paused for a few moments and then reluctantly said Ok. Garth wasn't really sure what the problem was, as Dana had explained it to him in language she thought he would understand. He seemed fine with the whole concept, but now his brother's reluctance was raising doubt.

"He's not going to give me a needle, or anything. Is he?" he said with trepidation.

Dana chuckled and put her arm around him and said, "Of course not, Garth. I'll go with you, if that'll make you feel better."

He gave her a big smile and shook his head yes. Sean and Jake said they would make dinner, as Dana had most of the prep work done. We got ready and left the boys in charge.

When we came into Phil's office, Mrs. Gallagher was her cheerful grandmotherly self. She fussed over the boys, particularly Garth. I was beginning to see that Garth was an engaging little boy and that women found him charming. I also knew that it was Garth's natural charisma and that it wasn't anything he was consciously doing. He certainly had wormed his way into Dana's heart and he was doing the same with Mrs. Gallagher.

"Well, I'm so glad your daddy's doing much better and that sounds like quite a comfortable new bed you've got with the fancy duvet and cover," she said, as she gave him a big smile. He had spent the last few minutes bringing her up-to-date on the important happenings in his life.

She offered both boys a sugarless candy, as we had to wait for Phil to come and get us.

"Well I see we have two more additions to the Burger household. What's this?" he said as he leaned down to look at Garth's Toronto Maple Leaf hoodie. "Don't tell me you've brainwashed this little guy already, Al. Dana, couldn't you stop him?"

We all had a good chuckle and Phil instantly put both boys at ease with his easygoing manner. Phil had sized up Glen pretty quickly and wasn't too touchy feely with him, but Garth was another matter. He had his arm around him chatting away, as the three of them went into his office. Glen followed along and didn't seem too nervous.

Dana and I went to do some shopping while the boys had their session. When we got back we had to wait about ten minutes for the session to finish. They seemed none the worse for wear as they came out of Phil's office. It looked like Phil had made headway with Glen, as he had his hand on his back and his other around Garth as they made their way back to the waiting room.

"I need to talk to your foster parents for a few minutes. Don't worry, I won't give away any of your secrets, Glen," Phil said as he gave him a smile. They had established a rapport, as Glen gave him a smile in return.

Dana and I followed him back into his office as the boys sat down in the waiting room. I could see Mrs. Gallagher's eyes light up as Garth came back in and I was sure they would be having a good chat while they were waiting.

"I have enough information to make a report for Ray on how the boys are handling the incident. Garth wasn't difficult to make headway with, as he opened up pretty quickly," he said with a smile. "Glen was another story, but I eventually got his trust. Both boys are pretty shaken up and despite the fact that their father is out of the coma, they're still scared and uncertain about their futures," he said.

He told us to be patient with the boys and especially Glen, as they needed as much stability in their lives as possible.

"I don't know why I told you that, as I know you two veterans had figured that out pretty quickly."

He also told us that both boys said they felt safe and secure living with us.

"Glen has some issues with females that it appears stems from the relationship with his mother. He feels pretty bitter towards her because she abandoned them."

"We know. Initially he wasn't too nice to Dana, but he's coming around. I don't know how anyone could not like her," I said as I turned and gave her big smile.

I told him what I had found out from Glen's school about his trouble with some of his female teachers and that Dana and Glen had found art as a common interest.

"He also has a problem with anger management that I'd really like to explore with him, but I know that CAS doesn't have the budget for more sessions."

"That's not a problem, Phil. We have the budget for that," I said as Dana and I smiled.

"That's just what I wanted to hear. I don't need to give you two advice on what you need to do," he said as he got up to accompany us back to his waiting room. "I wish there were more people like you, that are willing to help out kids like Glen and Garth."

When we got back into the waiting room, Garth and Mrs. Gallagher were having a great discussion about the book he had read. He was giggling away, as was Mrs. Gallagher, so I knew that he was telling her about some of the toilet humour. The boys were Phil's last appointment and there wasn't anyone else in the waiting room, so she came out from behind the counter and was sitting on the chair beside Garth. Glen was also talking to her, which made both Dana and I happy.

When we got home, Sean and Jake had dinner ready for us and when we all got washed up we sat down to eat. Sean and Jake were pretending to be the waiters and plated the meal and served it to us. Everyone dug in except Garth and after about a minute we noticed that the only thing he had started to eat was the chicken. The carrots and sweet potato fries apparently weren't high on his list of delicacies.

"Garth, remember that you have to try a bite of everything, before you say you don't like it," Dana said.

He didn't say anything and didn't look up from his plate.

"You must have had carrots before. Don't you like them?" I asked.


"He doesn't like it when everything on his plate is touching," Glen said.

The chicken was the only thing not touching the other food on his plate and that's why he was eating it. Jake, Sean, Dana and I were trying not to chuckle as we knew we had to be serious and we didn't want to look at each other for fear we would break out. Jake solved the problem, as he had the same phobia when he was a little boy.

"I'll take the stuff that was touching onto my plate," he said as he reached over and got Garth's plate.

Dana and I glanced at each other and quietly snickered. He was certainly adding a new dimension to mealtime. Garth was Ok with the solution and ate most of his meal. Neither Glen nor Garth had eaten sweet potato fries before but they really like them.

"Those are gooder than real fries," Garth said.

After I corrected his grammar I said, "And they'll make big muscles." I grabbed his bicep and he giggled.

After dinner I told Glen that Phil wanted to talk to him again and that I had booked some more sessions with him. I thought I would get grief but surprisingly he nodded his head yes. Either Phil had made quite an impression on him, or he realized that he needed his help. I wasn't sure what the reason was and I wasn't going to ask. I was happy that he agreed and that we would move forward with getting him on track to adulthood.

The next day the boys went back to their schools. I drove them down in the morning and I was going to pick them up afterwards. I wasn't crazy about being the chauffeur, but I decided I would do this for a few days and then arrange taxi transportation. Later that morning Ray called to update me on his progress with the case.

"I had a chance to talk to John and I'm quite concerned, as his speech is still slurred. I've interviewed a lot of accident victims over my career and the head trauma he's suffered could have caused some permanent damage."

He told me that he had a chance to talk to the doctor and that there was some suspicion that John had suffered a stroke in the meantime. They were running tests to confirm it.

"He won't be out of there for a while, I'm afraid. When he does get out, he'll need some physiotherapy and should likely be in respite care of some kind."

In the meantime he said that the insurance company was pushing for the settlement, which he made clear would only happen when everything was clarified.

"I've managed to secure some funds from them to keep up the maintenance of his house and to cover some of your out-of-pocket expenses related to the kids that CAS won't cover."

He also told me that what John related to him about the incident was quite disturbing. His memory was very clear when it came to those facts.

"This was the work of a bad cop, who felt he had a grudge to settle with him," he said.

I picked up the two boys after school to take them home. Garth got out before Glen and he came out of the front door of the school walking with a little girl.

"You didn't tell me you have a girlfriend, little man," I said, as I chuckled.

He had a puzzled look, then figured out what I meant and said, "She's not my girlfriend! That's Mandy. She sits behind me."

He ended up giggling after I teased him a little more, and then he remembered he had something important to tell me.

"My friend Ramsay told me I had a hockey game tonight a 6 o'clock," he said.

We had not even discussed the boys' activities and they hadn't even mentioned anything to us. I guess we assumed that they would've told us about any activities we needed to take them to during the week.

"I didn't know you played hockey, Garth."

He proceeded to tell me a story about a tire store registering him and Glen in the hockey leagues at the rink near their home, which made no sense to me. This was going to present a problem as his equipment was in his house. I made a quick call to Dean Balderson and he told me he would meet me there after I picked up Glen.

"Does Glen have a game, as well?"

He told me that he couldn't play for a while as he was 'suspensed'.

"Do you mean suspended?" I asked.

"Yeah. He got mad at this guy and hit him with his stick," he said.

This was going to be something Glen and I would be having a discussion about, as this was consistent with what Phil said about his anger management problem. We drove over to the high school to pick him up. He was walking with a group of boys that didn't look like the type of crowd I wanted any of my kids to be hanging around with.

"That boy in the black coat isn't nice to me," Garth said as he slumped down in the seat when he saw who was walking with Glen.

Now I really wasn't impressed. I noticed that none of the other boys had backpacks, which meant they weren't taking home any homework. Two of them had stringy shoulder length hair with baggy skater pants on that no doubt hung low on their hips. I couldn't see that part as they had long bomber jackets on. The boys took off when they saw me get out of the LX to greet Glen. I was going to find out names, but they must have realized I wasn't the type of person they wanted to talk to.

"We're going over to your house to pick up Garth's hockey equipment. He tells me you won't need yours for a while, but we'll pick it up anyway."

He looked a little sheepish and didn't say anything, as he was smart enough to pick up from the tone of my voice that I wasn't too happy. He also didn't like my enquiries as to his peer group. He was evasive in his answers to my questions about names and details about his friends.

Dean met us on the sidewalk outside the house as the investigation still wasn't finished. Glen and Garth weren't really anxious to go back in though, as they knew it would upset them. Dean had both boys' hockey bags and sticks as well as some more clothing that he thought they might need.

"Boys, take a look inside the bags just to make sure you have everything," I said as I went over to talk to Dean.

"The SIU will be finished tomorrow and the house will be cleaned up," he said, before he left.

The boys had taken their bags over to the LX and were waiting for me to open the hatch. When I got within a few feet, the smell was pretty ripe.

"Don't you boys air out your equipment when you're finished?"

Both of them shrugged their shoulders and smiled. I wasn't about to take the stuff into the house when we got home. I also had enough foresight, after taking a look at the tattered bags, to look inside at their equipment. As I guessed, it was a bunch of hand-me-down stuff that wasn't very good.

"I think we're going to make a stop at the sports store."

About an hour and a few hundred dollars later, we were on our way home. Glen explained Garth's story about the tire store as I said I couldn't quite understand what he had told me.

He was a little embarrassed and said, "It was money from the Canadian Tire Jumpstart program."

Now the story made sense. Canadian Tire was a major chain of home improvement stores in Canada and they ran a program that funded registrations for underprivileged kids, so they could play sports. The equipment had come from the league, as they had an equipment swap every fall before hockey season and any leftover stuff went to the needy kids.

We had just enough time to eat and get back down to the rink for Garth's game. Sean, Jake and Dana wanted to go, as they were looking forward to seeing the little guy play. We didn't have enough time for me to explore Glen's suspension so I decided to leave it until we had enough time to sit down and talk.

"Are you going to come into the dressing room and help me get dressed," Garth asked me as we arrived at the rink.

Sean and Jake were getting a real kick out of the whole thing and they said that they would help him. I was Ok with it, but Garth wasn't. He looked disappointed so I said I'd join in as well. Glen also went in with us, as he was still very protective of his little brother and he usually helped Garth get ready. Dana was going to save us seats in the stands.

Even though I had replaced quite a few pieces of equipment, such as his helmet, gloves, pants and mouthguard, he still needed some other things, notably skates. They were a little tight and quite worn. Between the three of us we managed to get everything on and left him as the coach was going to speak to the team. Sean, Jake and Glen had done most of the work so I had a chance to talk to his coach before he was ready.

"I'm glad you were able to bring him, Mr. Burger. I was afraid he wouldn't be able to play anymore this season, which would have been a shame. He really enjoys hockey," he said.

It was a typical Novice division house league game. The teams were comprised of seven and eight year olds and the emphasis was on skill development. Most of the kids could skate but the concept of positional hockey hadn't quite sunk in.

"The only time the kids are in position is before the faceoff," Sean said.

"They just sort of follow the puck all over the ice," Jake said, as we all laughed.

After the first period, Glen's coach came over to say hello to Glen and tell him how sorry he was about his dad. His son was on Garth's team and he and his wife were there to watch the game. He also told him that he would be able to play in the next week's game as his suspension was finished. Dana took the boys to get some drinks at the snack bar after the first period so I had a chance to talk to him.

"Glen's a good player, but he certainly would be a lot better if he had some parental support. The father tries, but he isn't always able to make his games. That's when Glen goes off the rails sometimes," he said.

I was going to relate this information to Phil even though I was sure he would eventually find all this out as he explored his anger management problem.

"Whew, someone's going in the shower when we get home," Dana said to Garth, as we got in the LX after the game.

"Then we'll make some hot chocolate for you and it'll be time for bed," I said, as I ruffled his hair.

Both Sean and Jake found Garth's game really interesting and told me that they would like to coach little kids hockey the next year if that was possible.

"I'm sure Mr. Bateaux could arrange something. You'll have to take coaching courses to qualify, though," I said. I was very pleased at their request, as that would be good leadership training for the two of them.

Glen had a lot of artistic talent and he was truly appreciating the help Dana was giving him. He had gained a new measure of respect for her because of it. She was also relishing the bond that was now forming between them, as she had someone to share her passion for art with. The two of them went to their first class together at the local art school the next evening. St├ęphane and Charles had come over to practice down in the studio with Sean and Jake and Garth was in his room reading... or so I thought.

The boys had left the door to the studio open a bit and I could hear the music upstairs while I was watching the evening news and the volume was bothering me. I got up and when I was half way down the stairs I stopped. Garth was in the middle of the Media room playing air guitar and mouthing the words to the song, while the boys played in the studio. He was bouncing around the room as he was really getting into it. I quietly went back upstairs and got my video camera, as this was too priceless not to record. I knew Dana would get a big kick out of it when she came home. After about a minute he looked up and saw me on the stairs and stopped.

"Bryan Adams doesn't stop in the middle of a song," I said as I laughed.

He was embarrassed and went over to the couch and sat down. I came down the stairs and sat down beside him.

"Have you ever played a real guitar before?" I asked.

He told me that he hadn't and that he always wanted to try it. By now the boys were finished and came out of the studio. I was going to show them the video, but I could see that Garth was really embarrassed so I didn't.

"Garth was enjoying the music," I said, as I turned and gave him a big smile.

I asked Sean and Jake if they could give Garth a quick lesson on one of their acoustics after St├ęphane and Charles went home.

"I think we could show our little buddy how to carve out a tune," Sean said as all four boys chuckled.

The boys had been downstairs for about 20 minutes with Garth and I could hear something that resembled music coming from the room. I decided to go back down and see how things were progressing. Garth's face was priceless as he was intently concentrating on getting his little fingers into the correct position to strum the strings. I watched for a couple of minutes and he was having a great time, as were Sean and Jake.

"He's pretty good, eh, Dad," Jake said, as he gave Garth a big smile.

Garth's big grin led to my next question.

"Do you think your guitar teacher has another spot open tomorrow, boys?" I asked Sean and Jake.

"I think so," Sean said. "Is Garth going to play your Gibson?" They laughed at the look on my face.

I mentally added guitar shopping and booking the extra lesson to my list of things I had to do the next day.

Things were settling down somewhat over the next week, as John Webster started to pick up. It was confirmed that he did have a stroke, but the damage was limited by quick intervention by the very competent medical staff. We were able to get the boys to see him frequently and they were starting to settle into a routine with us.

Glen and his peer group were causing me a great deal of concern though, but I was reluctant to pull him out of the school and enroll him in town. However, it wasn't going to take much for me to make that decision, despite his strong willed personality. Glen was becoming more comfortable with us and was happy at re-establishing the bond with Sean and Jake.

Garth was loving the attention he was getting from not only me and Dana, but Sean and Jake. He was as much a little brother to them as he was to Glen. We were getting used to Garth's pickiness, as he was trying to meet us half way by trying new things to eat. His innocence and bubbly personality provided many moments of laughter and enjoyment.
Both Dana and I were having a real problem though, with the mop of hair Glen and Garth had. They both were wearing it long, but it had been a while since they had seen a barber to do any sort of trimming.

"Boys, I'm taking you along with Sean, Jake and myself tomorrow morning to get haircuts," I said.

Garth didn't object, however, Glen was adamant he wasn't going.

"I like my hair long. I don't want it all cut off," he said as he had his scowling face on.

"Leo's cool. He'll do whatever you want," Sean said.

"Sherry's pretty cool too," Jake said, as he and Sean exchanged big smiles. It was obvious that they weren't just referring to Sherry's haircutting ability.

The next day, when we got there, Sean went to Leo first and Jake went to Sherry. After they were finished, Garth bounced over to Sherry and she put a booster chair in the seat and helped him up.

"Well, aren't you a handsome little fellow. I'll bet you have lots of girlfriends," she said.

He was once again using his charm and had Sherry fussing over him before she even got the sheet around him to keep the hair off his clothes. Jake and Sean were with him and I went over with Glen to Leo. While Leo was getting Glen ready I overheard Garth tell Sherry that he wanted his hair just like Sean and Jake's. I was a little surprised, as that would mean a great deal of hair was going to be cut off. I decided not to intervene, as the boys had things under control. They enjoyed being near Sherry, as they liked her perfume, according to Sean. I suspected the real reason was that Sherry was a very good looking female.

"I think Glen would like to leave his hair long, but he needs some trimming, Leo. Do you have some pictures to show him of different styles?" I asked as Leo put the sheet around Glen's neck.

Leo got out the style magazine and they decided on something that Glen deemed acceptable. I could see from the look on his face that he was a little unsure if it was going to work out, as Leo started to use the scissors. By the time he was finished, it was still long, but he had layered it so it looked really good.

"Now you have three hotties, Mr. Burger," Sherry said as she stopped to look at Glen.

Sherry saw the look on Garth's face and quickly added, "I should say four hotties."

We were coming up on a very important milestone in Sean's life and I thought that I would plan something special with him. I wasn't sure if he realized that the one year anniversary of my finding him at the rink was the next day.

"How about you and I go out and have dinner together tomorrow night?" I asked.

He was puzzled by my suggestion and just looked at me for a few moments. Then slowly his face turned to a big smile.

"Sounds good to me. How about Kelsey's?"

Nothing more was said, as I was sure he realized the significance of the date. I picked him up after my hockey game finished at 6 pm. and we both had cracked peppercorn burgers with fries and a chocolate brownie for dessert. It wasn't the most nutritious meal, certainly not with the two onion rings that were included on top of the pattie, but this was a guys' outing so we splurged on the calories. I didn't bring up the subject of why we were going out together, but we did have a good father-son talk.

"How are things with you and Mel?"

He told me that they were getting along well and that they were planning to get together in the next couple of weekends in Toronto, as Josh's friend Mark was coming in from Calgary to visit. He told me that Jake and he were arranging with either Carol or Katie to stay overnight. I asked him if he thought of including Glen and he said that he and Jake would talk about it with him. Even though Sean and Jake would be with Melissa and Rachel, Josh and Mark wouldn't have partners, so he wouldn't feel out of place.

"How is Mel's parents feeling about you two these days?" I asked, as I was curious if there was any fallout from their petting session after the hockey tournament.

He told me that Mel's father had a talk with her about cooling her passions, but apparently it wasn't just a one sided conversation. Mel was a very strong-willed young woman and she told him that she would be careful but wasn't going to stop 'things happening' as she put it.

"I told her that you said that we couldn't do that stuff for a long time," he said between bites of his burg.

I was concerned with his statement as that was not what I meant. I guess because of my uncertainty with guiding my young son through the minefield of teenage sexuality, I had not made myself clear as to what message I was trying to get across.

"Sean, you're not the only one struggling with this. What I meant was that before you get into sexual activity, you should make sure the relationship includes respect, comfort and trust, including trusting yourself. That's what I meant when I said not to rush. You two will know when you're there."

I told him that whatever sexual activity they got into, that the two of them should be sure that both of them were committed to it.

"Don't do it to impress your friends or because you want to see how far you can go. This isn't about a conquest; it's about sharing something very special with a very special person."

He gave me a big smile and I had a feeling that he now knew what I meant. That made two of us, as I really was wrestling with this part of my new parenting role and had finally clarified for myself my thoughts.
There were snow flurries as we made our way to the LX. We had a fair bit of snow on the ground and the snow banks in the parking lots were about as high as the year before at this time.

"Can we drop around to the rink?" he asked as he gave me a smile.

"I guess you remembered what day it is," I said as I put my arm around him and gave him a squeeze.

When we got to the parking lot at the rink, we got out and stood together quietly. Finally he put his arm around my back and I put mine around his. I was reflecting on how much things had changed because of that night and how blessed I was to have him in my life.

"Thanks, Dad," he said, as he looked up at me with a smile on his face.

"Thank you, Son. I can't imagine my life without you."

The Wimpy Kid Series

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