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Marty arrived an hour later and asked if he could talk to me in the Den. I was intrigued at the secrecy, as it was clear he wanted this to be a private conversation without Dana.
"Katie and I have been together for four years now and we love each other very much. I'd like to ask your permission to marry your daughter," he said.
I was caught off guard, but my reaction was quick, so he knew it was genuine.
"Marty, you most certainly have my permission," I said, as I shook his hand.
He told me that he had ordered a ring and he would likely be picking it up in the next few days, at which time he would let Katie tell us.
"Let's go tell Dana your news," I said.
Needless to say, she was thrilled and gave him a great big hug.
"I'm so happy for the two of you. We won't tell the boys until it's official," she said, as she was beaming.
He told us they had talked about a destination wedding over the years as they had been to quite a few of them.
"Of course I'll do whatever Katie wants... if she says yes," he said, with a big smile.
Good parents always want the best for their children and hope that they make good choices as they grow up. Lorraine and I had always tried to talk to Katie and Carol about issues we knew they would encounter as they went through the teen years, such as drugs, alcohol and sex. However, they were like most teenagers and thought their parents were doddering old fools, totally out of touch with the real world. According to them, we were nags and they felt they were invincible and that nothing bad would happen to them, regardless of what they did. Fortunately, both girls managed to survive the teen years, as did Lorraine and I, and except for a few minor scrapes they turned out to be very responsible adults.
Dana and I were on the same page when it came to guiding the boys. We tried not to be preachy, but we couldn't let opportunities pass to point out dangers they could possibly encounter. The choking game incident with Darren was a perfect example. We didn't want to minimize the danger by not having a family discussion about it and we also wanted to give them our perspective. From that discussion the subject of drugs and alcohol abuse had come up and I had made a mental note to continue this at a more opportune time.
I didn't have to wait too long as the next week the issue came up. We ate dinner together most nights and we had a rule that each of us would share something from our day and when it was Jake's turn he brought up the topic. Jake was always the chatty one, followed by Garth. Sean and Glen were more reserved and sometimes took some prompting to get them to share.
"We had this assembly today, where this guy talked about staying away from drugs," Jake said, as we were eating.
He went on to tell us that the man was a recovering drug addict and that he told the kids about all the problems drugs caused in his life. I had been in too many of these types of assemblies over my career and I found them to be of little benefit as they rarely achieved their objectives. What was worse, many times they caused more harm than good, because they created a curiosity in many kids, which ended up in experimentation that would never have happened.
"Boys, there are too many people that have ruined their lives by using drugs and overindulging in alcohol. Both can be very addictive to some people," I said.
"The other thing you need to keep in mind is that alcohol is illegal until you're nineteen and using drugs is a criminal offence, no matter how old you are," Dana said.
The boys were very quiet as we explained our view of the issue. We told them that we didn't condone experimenting with drugs of any kind and that we hoped that they would be responsible when it came to alcohol when they were of legal age. From my research and experience, most kids took seriously a message like we were delivering, when it was from someone they trusted and respected like a parent or older sibling. I noticed Garth was looking at Glen as Dana and I talked and both Glen and Sean looked a little uncomfortable.
Jake had a puzzled look on his face after we were finished and he finally asked, "Does that mean we can't have a glass of wine with dinner anymore?"
On special dinner occasions, we would let Glen, Sean and Jake have a small glass of wine with their meal. Jake's cultural past was the reason we did this, as he had been used to having a glass from time-to-time with his uncle, when he was alive. It had been part of his growing up, which was not unusual in European households.
"We're comfortable with continuing that practice on special occasions, Jake. We're able to monitor the portions and it's done in the privacy of our home," Dana said.
The boys seemed satisfied with the discussion when we finished, as were Dana and I. It was then Garth's turn to share and he showed us his science test which he had got back that day. Thankfully he wasn't sharing one of his numerous jokes that we were treated to many nights.
"I got a really good mark. I almost beat Weimin. He's the smartest kid in the class," he said, as we passed it around.
Everyone praised him and when Dana got it she started to chuckle.
"Garth, what kind of answer is this about cloud formation?" She said, as she passed it to me.
His answer was 'I am not sure how clouds get formed. But the clouds know how to do it, and that is the important thing'. He looked at us with a sheepish smile and shrugged his shoulders. The boys looked at it again and started to chuckle.
"Good answer, dude," Sean said as he smiled and gave him a thumbs up.
After dinner I went into Glen's room as he was doing his homework at his desk. Garth had finished his and was down in the Studio practicing his guitar.
"I noticed you were a little quiet as we had our little talk about substance abuse at dinner," I said as I sat down beside him.
He hesitated for a few moments and finally said, "I got caught smoking grass last year with a friend."
I wasn't surprised at his response and I once again impressed upon him my expectations, which he seemed receptive to.
"I thought you'd be mad," he said, as he looked at me.
"I'm not mad, Glen. That was in the past. However, now that you know where Dana and I stand, we would be very disappointed if it happened in the future," I said as I gave him a reassuring pat on the back.
I stayed for another 20 minutes as I took the opportunity to spend some time talking with him. Sometimes Dana and I felt that Glen got a little bit neglected, as he was a very quiet and somewhat introverted kid. I noticed that he had some drawings on his desk that looked like house plans.
"I'm just doodling and thinking about what our apartment should look like," he said.
"That looks like a little more than just doodling," I said as I looked at them.
He had done a pretty good job of making an architectural layout of the loft and he explained some of what he was thinking the space should look like. He surprised me with his analysis and vision. I was beginning to see that even though his marks at school had improved drastically, he was still underachieving, as he was a smart kid. With the exception of his art class, he was capable of much more.
"I have a computer program called Autocad and another one called 3DS Max that you may be interested in learning how to use. They're CAD (Computer Aided Design) and rendering software that are designed to handle those types of tasks," I said.
I told him that I would install them on his computer the next day and that I would help him with them that evening after he had finished his homework. He thought he would like to explore them on his own and call me in if he got stuck. I smiled as that's how many of my best computer students had learned. I was happy that I'd taken the time to talk to him and I could see that he appreciated the attention. I was also noticing a real shift in attitude over the time that he had been living with us. I attributed a lot of it to Phil's work with him getting to the root of his anger, but some of it was from the security he felt living in a stable home situation. He was turning out to be a wonderful young man.
I left Glen to finish his homework and as I was making my way down the hall past Sean's room, he called me in to help him with his Science homework. I thought it was a little unusual as he did very well in science and hadn't needed my help to date. He wanted me to look over his write-up of the results of an experiment they had to do in class. I sat down beside him and looked over his work. From a science point of view it was very well done and I corrected a couple of spelling and grammar mistakes.
"Having me look over your science homework isn't why you asked me to come in, is it, son?" I asked.
He didn't look at me and was silent. I could see he wanted to tell me something and he was either working up his nerve or trying to think of the right words. I was also guessing that it had something to do with the talk at dinner time.
"Remember, Sean, I'm not going to ask you about things that happened before I found you. If you want to tell me something, don't be afraid," I said, as I put my arm around him.
He hesitated and finally said, "I've used drugs before. My mom made me try marijuana."
He went on to tell me that his mother insisted he try the stuff and he did a couple of times. I wasn't going to ask if she gave him harder drugs, such as cocaine, but apparently she didn't.
"Maury wanted me to sniff some stuff when Mom and he were snorting up. I didn't like the way they acted when they did that and I told him I didn't want to," he said.
I told him that was in the past and that it didn't make any difference to how I felt about him. It was still very painful to him talking about that part of his life.
I brought him into a hug and said, "Your mother should never have put you in that situation. I still think you're a pretty special kid."
We needed to get the four boys outfitted for their summer activities that I had signed them up for. Garth was playing T-ball, Sean Little League and Glen and Jake were playing Soccer. Little League was not as big as it was in the United States as there was another association that made up the bulk of the leagues in Ontario, called the OBA (Ontario Baseball Association). The town had decided many years ago to affiliate with Little League for reasons I was never able to find out.
I took them to Sportchek, the big box sports store near us, to get them outfitted. When we got there, I went with Garth and Sean while Jake took Glen off to the soccer department. Jake knew what he was doing and I wasn't going to be much help to them, as I knew very little about soccer. However, I did know something about baseball gloves and equipment from my years coaching my girls in softball.
"Let's get you guys gloves first," I said as we made our way over to the displays.
We got a young salesperson to help us and he was quite knowledgeable. He played on an OBA elite team and had played baseball for 10 years. Garth was all over the map as he was like a kid in a candy store. His main criteria was the colour followed by how cool the glove looked.
"Garth, that's an adult glove," I said, as he had pulled one from the display.
"It's really neat, though. Blue's my favourite colour," he said, as he could hardly hold his hand up because the glove was too heavy.
We managed to get him a Mizuno youth glove which met with his criteria. Sean was easier and the salesperson recommended getting him a Rawlings 11.5" glove, as we weren't sure where he would play. This would be a good all purpose glove, even if he played in the outfield.
The shoes were another adventure. Garth wanted a pair of cleats just like Sean got, but we had to tell him that they weren't allowed in T-ball. We ended up getting him a good pair of running shoes and even though he was very happy at how they looked he was still a little disappointed, as he wanted to be just like Sean.
"I could run really fast if I had shoes like Sean's," he said, as we walked up to the cash.
"You'll be the fastest and coolest looking player on the field with those shoes," Sean said, as he high fived him.
That was all the validation he needed and he went on at length, telling Jake and Glen about his glove and shoes when they joined us. Glen and Jake had done some good shopping and ended up with a excellent quality soccer shoe that was on sale.
"These are what David Beckham wears," Jake said, as he and Glen smiled.
When we got home, Dana was treated to a fashion show as Garth put on his shoes and glove, as well as the batting gloves that I got him, which were just like Sean's even though he didn't need them. He alternated between his batting poses with the batting gloves and his catching poses with his ball glove.
"I think we need a photographer, Glen. Where's your camera?" Dana said, with a big smile.
On Saturday, all four boys had practices in the morning. Dana took Glen and Jake to their soccer practice and I took Sean and Garth to their practices, which were at the same complex that had 4 fields. Garth's starting time was a half hour after Sean's, as his practice wasn't as long. He sat with me in the stands and watched Sean, before we went over to his practice.
"They really throw hard," he said as he watched the boys warm up.
We sat with Mark Depew, as Charles was on the same team as Sean. Like Sean, he hadn't played baseball for many years. We hadn't seen each other for a while and we got caught up on things.
"Charles is really looking forward to this. He's loved watching baseball on TV for a number of years, but his mother wouldn't let him play."
He also told me that he wasn't getting any personal satisfaction out of his job with the city and was going to start to look around for something more challenging and meaningful.
"There's not much room for advancement, even though I have a MSW (Masters of Social Work). My work also isn't making a difference breaking the massive cycle of poverty that exists in the city," he said, as he let out a big sigh.
I asked him how his romance with Sandy was going and he smiled and said, "We enjoy each other's company.... very much."
I was very glad that things were finally going in a positive direction for Mark and he told me that Ronald and Charles were still very much together as a couple.
"Ronald and Charles are taking things slowly. Charles is opening up about his relationship, which has led to some very good father son talks. In some ways he's more responsible at his age than I was," he said, as he smiled.
After about 15 minutes Garth and I made our way over to the other field for his practice. The coach hadn't arrived yet and a lot of the other kids and their parents were milling around waiting. Some of the parents were throwing to their sons on the field.
"Let's go out and play catch until your coach arrives," I said.
It was obvious after the first few throws and catches that I was going to have to do some work with him. Out of ten throws, he managed to catch two. He was afraid of the ball and kept backing out of the way when the ball got near him. His throwing wasn't much better.
"Garth, can you look at me when you throw? That way they won't sail over my head."
Finally the coach arrived with the equipment and took care of the preliminaries. His name was Gary Robillard and he was in early thirties. He got the practice underway after about ten minutes. I went back up into the stands and noticed one of the mothers was someone I had coached on Katie's team years ago, so I sat down beside her. Anita Jackson was still playing fastball on a women's team in the area. She was one of the fastest pitchers I had ever seen and a very smart ball player. She was also coaching her daughter's team that season as well. After we had got caught up on things we started to pay more attention to the practice.
"Mr. Robillard doesn't seem to know too much about running a practice," she said.
He had the boys in their fielding positions and one batter trying to hit the ball off the tee. That was the extent of the practice and there were no drills concentrating on skills. He also didn't have anyone helping him.
"I think your son Jamie and my foster son Garth touched the ball maybe three times in the last hour," I said as the practice wrapped up.
"That was dreadful. I run my practices like you did with lots of activity stations stressing skills. My girls are tired by the time we're finished," Anita said.
We went down from the stands to field level as the boys were making their way over to us. We managed to get a chance to speak to Gary, as both of us were very disappointed in what had transpired. Gary was a very nice man, but admitted to us that he had had no coaching experience and was a little lost. I hadn't intended to get back into the coaching ranks but before I knew it, Anita and I had volunteered to help him.
"How about Al and I run the next practice to give you some ideas," Anita said.
He was grateful and so were we. The boys had now joined us and the two of them had struck up a friendship during the practice, as they had lots of time to talk during the long periods of inactivity.
"Looks like you've found a new friend, Garth," I said as the two of them had big smiles on their faces.
"I was pretty good, wasn't I? Did you see me hit that ball to second base?" he asked, with a big smile on his face as we made our way over to Sean's practice.
I was glad he enjoyed himself and I wasn't going to burst his balloon about his perception of his expertise... or lack of it.
"You worked really hard, young man. I'm sure Dana will have something to top up your energy level when we get home," I said, as I ruffled his hair.
We managed to watch the last half hour and Sean's coach was exactly the opposite of Gary, as he knew what he was doing. He had two other fathers helping him and between the three of them they put the boys through their paces. Sean and Charles didn't do too badly, but they were two of the weaker players, as the other boys had played many summers of baseball before. Mark and I weren't concerned, as they were very good athletes and would quickly catch up.
"You guys were really good," Garth said to Charles and Sean, as we were walking to the parking lot.
Sean gave him a feeble smile and I could tell by his body language that he wasn't happy with his performance. When we got home, Garth took off like a rocket into the house to tell Dana, Jake and Glen about his practice. Sean and I walked into the house together.
"Try and remember that the glass is half full, son," I said, as I put my arm around him.
He looked at me with a puzzled look for a few moments and then realized what I was talking about.
"The other boys have played many years of ball and you haven't played for at least 5 or 6 years. You're an excellent athlete and you'll catch up."
"I hope so. I sucked out there today." Finally he smiled and said, "Maybe we could throw the ball around after lunch."
When we got into the Kitchen, Garth was regaling Dana, Jake and Glen about his practice. He was also joining the other two boys in wolfing down the snack that Dana had made for them.
"And then I smashed the ball all the way to second base," he said, as the three of them were smiling. I was sure he hadn't told them the part about how many swings it had taken him to make contact, though.
As we ate lunch we heard about Jake and Glen's soccer practice. It was an elite team of 14 and 15 year olds and Glen and Jake were two of the younger ones on the team. Dana said that both boys were very good and that the team looked like it was going to do well. I'm not sure how she came to that conclusion, as she knew less about soccer than I did. During the course of the story I noticed that both boys rolled their eyes a couple of times at some of Dana's perception of the events.
"So were you giving the boys lots of encouragement from the sidelines, dear?" I asked.
"Yes!" Jake blurted out.
"Loudly!" Glen added.
We all laughed and Dana was a little embarrassed. Finally she joined us and chuckled.
"I guess I got a little carried away."
"No kidding," Jake said, which started another round of laughter.
After the boys had vacated the table, Dana and I had a chance to talk. I told her about my volunteering to help with Garth's team and how disappointed Sean was with his performance.
"Why am I not surprised that you volunteered to help with one of the boys' teams," she said, as she gave me a big smile.
"Actually, I got volunteered by one of my former players," I said, with a big smile.
She went on to tell me that Glen and Jake were two of the younger ones on the soccer team, but they were by no means out of place in terms of skill.
"Glen held his own, but Jake was by far the best player on the field," she said.
Things were very busy between the boys' activities and getting the Old Fire Hall Gourmet Shop and Catering up and running. Dana and Susan spent many hours going over design and marketing plans for the new venture. However, despite the hours Dana put in, the boys always came first.
Glen had spent a lot of time working on the computer doing some plans for the loft and hadn't needed much help from me learning the programs. Dana and I had to make sure he wasn't neglecting his other homework, as he was consumed learning how the programs worked and making his vision come out the way he wanted. He had gone over to the firehall a couple of times with Dana and Susan when they were checking on the progress. He took his laptop with him and spent his time in the loft making adjustments to his work. At one point, he took one of my measuring tapes to get accurate dimensions of the space.
The workmen in the downstairs part were intrigued with what he was doing and a few times they had given him suggestions from their vast knowledge of construction. They had developed a relationship to the point that Glen had asked them technical questions about things such as the electrical and the HVAC system.
Dana was talking one day about the visit that the interior designer and architect were going to be making on the weekend to discuss the design of the loft space.
"How about you and Garth come with us, Glen, so you two can have some input. Your father's going to be there as well," she said.
He gave her a big smile and was very enthusiastic about the opportunity to be included, as was Garth.
"Do I get to pick out where my room goes?" Garth asked.
"We're not at that stage yet, Garth," she said, as she gave him a big smile.
Glen hadn't really let us see what he had done on the computer, but I got short glimpses of his work when he needed to ask me about things about the software. What I did see was looking pretty good, even from my untrained eye for design and construction. On the Friday night after school before the consult at the Firehall the next day, Glen came in the door with a large cardboard tube.
"It's something my Art teacher, Ms. Bell helped me with," he said.
He didn't offer to show us so we knew we would have to wait, as it appeared we were on a need-to-know basis. I picked up John Webster the next morning and met Dana, Susan, Garth and Glen in the Firehall. Sean and Jake were with Carol at the foundation office in the city helping with the plans for the Youth Shelter that we were renovating. I was very happy that Carol had suggested that they give their input and they were very pleased to be involved.
John was making progress on his recovery and he was able to spend time working on the various catering menus and food offerings for the shop. He also was looking forward to the conversion of the upstairs into the loft for the two boys and him. Glen had brought along his laptop as well as the cardboard tube and John and I arrived at the same time as the architect and interior designer. They had the rough drawings that Dana had produced some months ago for the space and they started to lay them out on a table that was there. They talked about what they thought would be good for the space before they produced a set of architectural drawings that the contractor would follow. They gave us their perspective in broad terms and Dana, John and I were pleased. However, Glen was quiet and I could tell he wasn't as enthusiastic as we were.
"Did you want to show us what you came up with, Glen?" Dana asked.
He opened up the cardboard tube and pulled out a very large detailed set of architectural drawings done on the computer and printed on a plotter. The designer and architect's mouths dropped when they looked at them.
"How did you produce this set of plans, Glen?" I asked as the others were still looking them over.
"Ms. Bell took me down to the design and technology room where they have a large scale plotter," he said with a big smile.
Everyone was impressed with this work and except for some of the mechanical parts of the renovation, such as the HVAC, electrical and plumbing systems, they were quite well done. He had all the rooms laid out to scale and included an entrance to the roof where he had laid out a patio.
"I have junior apprentices that couldn't do what you've done, young man," the architect said, as he gave Glen a big smile.
Glen then fired up his laptop and showed us the virtual tour of the space he had done using the rendering software.
"This is your room, Garth," Glen said.
Garth was ecstatic as Glen had managed to draw the room with a big poster of Mickey Mouse and Pooh bear on the walls.
"And I get a really big bed," Garth said, with a big smile.
John was so proud of Glen that he couldn't resist and gave him a big hug. Glen was a little embarrassed but relished the affection from his father.
"Looks like most of our work is already done," the designer said, as she gave Glen a pat on the back.
The architect took the plans and the designer made arrangements for Glen to transfer the files to her computer before they left. They gave Glen a lot of praise and he was very appreciative of their comments and attention, as he was beaming from ear-to-ear.
The boys, Dana and I spent some more time going over the virtual tour on Glen's laptop and talking about furniture and finishes. We also gave Susan and John some time alone downstairs to go over details about food selections.... and other things. There was a very strong attraction developing between the two of them, as they got along very well. We were also glad that both boys were very happy at what was unfolding.
"My daddy likes your daughter," Garth said to Dana, as he giggled.
The next day, Katie and Marty were coming in for dinner, as well as Carol and Kyle. Nothing was said on the phone but we were assuming that Katie would have a ring on her finger.
When they arrived I asked Katie, after I gave her a hug, "So what's new, daughter?"
She had a big smile on her face as she held out her hand and showed us the ring.
"Congratulations, dear," Dana said as she gave her a big hug.
The boys were very surprised but happy for both of them. We sat down and I opened up a bottle of champagne for toasts. We gave Glen, Sean and Jake a little glass and Garth got apple juice.
"We're thinking of a destination wedding in the Bahamas," Katie said.
They explained what a destination wedding was to the boys as they hadn't a clue what they meant.
"Do Glen and I get to go?" Garth said, with a serious look on his face.
Katie gave him a big smile and a hug and said, "Of course you do. We're going to need a ring bearer."
After we explained what that meant he was very happy.
"I'm going to need a few ushers, guys," Marty said as he looked at Sean, Glen and Jake.
"Does that mean we get to plan a stag," Sean said, with a wry grin, as the boys looked at me.
Women's Softball Association
Little League Canada
Ontario Baseball Association