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As well as the having the excitement of an impending wedding in the family, we also had the ongoing work of getting Dana's business venture off the ground, the Webster's loft apartment finished and a major event with my charitable foundation. Things were very busy in the Burger household.
Carol had been working hard to get the renovation of the youth shelter in the city completed, as we had a grand opening scheduled for the next week. This was the shelter that Jake had been sent to when his uncle, Pietro, had been in the car accident. It had taken longer than we had anticipated after the board had passed the proposal to do the project, which was shortly after Jake had stayed in it many months ago. One of the reasons it took so long was that we decided to buy an old derelict building in the core of the city and renovate it from the ground up. The city had become a partner in the venture and had waived the back taxes on the building as well as helped with some zoning issues. They were happy as they would now be getting tax revenue from it, as well as having a facility that would help regenerate the neighbourhood surrounding it.
We had planned to have a lot of dignitaries from the city and province attend, to bring some media attention for donation purposes to the foundation. I had been involved by lining up some VIPs from my contacts, as Carol was also doing from her extensive business network. Carol was turning out to be a master at this, as she had secured some very large corporate donors in the last year which had allowed us to expand our operations.
The boys were also making plans for the evening after the ceremonies were finished. They wanted to have a dinner party and invite some of their friends who were also invited to the opening of the centre. Needless to say it was to be a mixed party.
"It's too bad Josh's girlfriend, Shelly, can't come, but she's not coming for a visit for a couple of months," Jake said.
"They really miss being together," Sean added, with a look of regret.
We had a board meeting the week before the grand opening. The board members were very happy to hear Carol's report on the progress of the youth shelter and the publicity that she had lined up and they all confirmed that they were going to be there. Carol then went over some of the new donations that had been made to the foundation and the latest financial statements. I was a little shocked at how much the assets had grown, as I had not been involved as much with the day-to-day operations. She also announced that a major donation of $5 million was to be made by a local philanthropist and his wife, who were interested in joining the board. The board members voted unanimously to approve the addition of the couple to the board, as they realized the benefits of having such well known philanthropists as part of the foundation.
"We're going to announce the donation at the youth shelter opening. It will be great publicity to attract more funds," she said.
She then went over some proposed projects that we could now undertake, given the increased income from the growth in the assets. One of those projects was providing the base funding of the food bank run by the Knox City Ministry. Brother Langley from Knox was there to go over the details of the food bank and thank us for our generosity.
"As you are likely aware, the food bank serves a lot of very poor families in the poverty neighbourhoods of this city, 10,367 to be exact. We struggle at various times of the year to meet the need, particularly in these tough economic times we're going through. I would like to thank you on behalf of all those families that your generosity will help," he said.
I always enjoyed these meetings for a couple of reasons, least of which was the satisfaction of seeing needy people benefit from my windfall. The other reason was to observe my 'baby' girl in action. She had turned into a very astute business woman, who was as passionate about giving back to society as I was. After the meeting I could see that Carol had something that she wanted to talk to me about that was weighing on her mind.
"Dad, the foundation is getting to be a big business and needs someone to make a full time commitment to running it. Unfortunately, I'm not that person."
I was a little shocked, but not surprised given what I had heard in her reports about the size of the assets. She told me that it was interfering with her consulting business and personal life.
"It's time to hire someone full time, preferably someone with a social work background," she said.
I smiled and said, "I think I have just the person."
We talked and decided that we would have to have a search process and recommend the candidate after we had interviewed the various choices from a short list.
"Do you want me to contact Mark Depew for an interview time, or do you want to do it?" Carol said, with a big smile.
The foundation wasn't the only thing that was working out well. Anita and I were able to put together some good practice plans with Garth's t-ball team and they were making good progress. We had them doing lots of skill building drills but we also made things fun. There were a couple of boys and their parents who questioned whether having a women help coach a boys team was a good idea, but that was laid to rest after the first five minutes of the first practice. When the boys watched Anita demonstrate to them throwing and batting techniques, they were impressed, as were the questioning parents.
I had spent some time with Garth at home, helping him catch up his skills to the other boys and we were making progress. I got a tennis ball and practiced throwing it to him to help him get over his fear of catching fly balls. We still had a ways to go, but I was pleased that his skill level was improving. He was a pretty good athlete so I was confident that he would be Ok.
"It's much easier to catch a fly ball when you have your eyes open, Garth," I said, as I chuckled.
I also spent some time with Sean and he was also coming along. He had quite a ways to go to catch up to the other boys, as most of them were pretty good ball players. His hitting and knowledge of the game were his weak points.
Garth was a little subdued after the last preseason practice and I noticed as we left the field that he wasn't himself. He hadn't responded very well to my attempts to make conversation with him. However, as we were driving home, Sean was pleased with how his last session had gone.
"That was quite a nice catch you made at second base on that line drive," I said, as Garth and I had watched the last part of his practice.
"Coach is going to have me start there in the opener," he said, with a smile.
I was very happy that he had a more positive attitude and that the extra practice was giving him confidence.
Sean then turned to Garth in the back seat and said, "Dad said you made some good catches today, too."
"I guess," he said, with little conviction in his voice.
Sean and I were puzzled at his comment and we just looked at each other.
Finally I said, "I thought you did very well today, Garth."
He didn't answer, but we were arriving in the driveway, so I let it drop. I would let him have something to eat and then I would try to find out what was wrong. It was unlike him to be so restrained, as he was a very upbeat kid. The two boys went to their rooms to change before they came into the kitchen to have their snack.
As I was putting out some muffins and fruit, Sean came into the kitchen and said, "Dad, Garth's crying in his room."
When we went to see what was wrong, he had his head buried in his pillow and we could see that he was sobbing. We both sat down on the bed and I asked him what was wrong.
"I'm no good at T-ball," he said, before he continued his crying.
After a couple of minutes of Sean and I talking to him and trying to convince him that wasn't true, he finally stopped. I asked him what happened and he told me that one of the other boys had told him he stunk. As much as he was a pretty resilient kid, he was pretty sensitive to what other people thought of him.
"I told Ronan when I got back into line after catching one of those fly balls in the drill, that it was a really hard catch," he said, as he sniffed.
Ronan was a very good ball player, but he was also very blunt and had no tact. He told Garth that it wasn't a hard catch for everyone else, but because he stunk it was for him.
"That's not true, Garth. You're a good athlete and you're picking up the game very quickly," I said.
"Dad's right. I've watched you and you don't stink. I'll bet you're going to be as good as he is at the end of the season."
After a few more minutes of us boosting up his self esteem he was better. We went into the kitchen and joined Dana, Glen and Jake, who had just come in from their Soccer practice. Dana noticed that Garth had been crying, but I caught her eye and signalled her not to say anything. I didn't want to take a chance on setting him off again.
"It's a case of a bruised 8 year old ego. One of the boys told Garth he stunk," I said to Dana, after the boys had finished their snack and went to the media room downstairs.
"I'll give him a pep talk when I get him alone. Maybe I should make his favourite cookies for him," she said, with a concerned motherly look on her face.
When I went downstairs to call the boys for lunch, I could hear that they were very animated. I stopped on the landing to listen as Jake was talking.
"That's not going to solve anything, Glen. How's threatening an 8 year old kid going to help Garth handle the problem?"
"The kid wasn't trying to be mean, that's just the way he is. Besides, that's really going to boost team spirit, isn't it," Sean said.
"I don't want you to do anything, Glen. I'm going to show him. I'm going to get really good," Garth said. I was pleased to hear the old Garth back again.
Glen was still being very protective of his little brother and I was glad that he was sticking up for him, but Sean and Jake were right that Garth needed to solve this problem on his own. I was also very impressed with the maturity my two sons were showing, as they tried to reason with Glen about the inappropriateness of his intended course of action. We knew that Garth had bounced back when he had finished his cookie after his lunch and he had a joke he wanted to tell us.
"Jamie told me this joke at practice today," he said.
Normally the five of us would have groaned, but given the emotional roller coaster Garth had been on earlier we were polite.
"What's orange and goes 'click, click'?" he asked.
Of course none of us had the answer and after he stopped giggling he said, "A ball point carrot."
We couldn't help it as we let out a collective groan, which set Garth off giggling again.
That night Dana and I were on our way to say goodnight to the boys and we met Glen in the hall as he was coming out of the bathroom. As we usually did, we said goodnight to Glen outside the room so as not to wake Garth, who had had a difficult time that evening getting to sleep. The next morning was Sean and Garth's first games. He had made a couple of trips to the kitchen to get a drink and then the bathroom, before he settled down. When Glen opened the door to go to his bed we noticed that Garth was clutching Pooh in his right arm and his baseball glove was on his left hand.
"I guess he wants to make sure the glove is well broken in for tomorrow," Dana said, as the three of us smiled.
The next morning we had breakfast and I was off with Sean and Garth and Dana was off with Glen and Jake to soccer. Garth was particularly animated as he was very excited about his first game.
"What do I do if the last batter hits the ball to me?" he asked.
"The same thing we go over every practice, Garth. Throw it to the catcher so he can put his hand up," I said, as I pulled the peak of his baseball cap down over his eyes.
Garth and I watched the first ten minutes of Sean's game and then we had to leave to get ready for Garth's game. Gary and Anita were arriving at the same time as we did and Anita's son and Garth took off to the field to warm up.
"Someone's raring to go," the head coach, Gary said, as he nodded towards Garth.
"You don't know the half of it. He was a little chatter box this morning and last night he slept with his glove on," I said, as we laughed.
After we went over some reminders to the boys in the dugout, the game started. It was a typical T-ball game, which had more excitement for the parents and the coaches than the players.
"Just when you thought all the boys understand what they have to do, something happens to bring you back down to earth," Anita said, with a big smile.
Jamie, another boy who hadn't played T-ball before, had got the ball in the outfield that was hit to him. Instead of throwing it into the infield to stop the play, he held the ball in the air. All the boys were yelling at him to throw it to one of the infielders and when he finally figured out what they were yelling about, the batter had just crossed home plate. Garth, who was the fielder beside him, then went over after the play to talk to him. As was Garth's nature, I could see that he was probably explaining why everyone was yelling and reminding him that the infielders were the only ones who could stop the play by holding up the ball. Garth was going to be a good coach in the future, as he had a very positive disposition and always wanted to help people when he could.
When they got to the dugout I overheard Ronan tell Jamie in very blunt terms what he thought of the play as he said, "That was a pretty dumb play."
Jamie wasn't too pleased and sat down on the bench away from Ronan.
Anita was beside me and I called Ronan over and said, "We're the coaches, Ronan. Next time let us take care of telling a player when they made a mistake," I said.
Anita also chided him and said, "That wasn't a very nice thing to say to one of your team mates."
"I wasn't being mean," he said, with a look of astonishment.
We were glad that his bluntness wasn't intentional and we had a brief talk with him about being more encouraging and tolerant of the other boys who weren't as good as he was.
"It's amazing how well someone can play when people encourage them. Remember, we all make mistakes" I said, as I smiled at him.
Anita and I knew we had our work cut out for us with him. After the game was over, all the boys had an after game snack of freezies and the coaches packed things up. Garth was a happy boy as he had got a hit, caught a grounder when he was playing the infield and a fly ball in the outfield. It didn't matter that we lost by five runs as he felt good about the game.
"I played pretty good today, didn't I?" he said, with a big smile.
"You did, Garthy," I said, as I used Glen's nickname for him which brought out the giggles.
After Garth's game, we made our way over to see the end of Sean's game. He was playing second base and we arrived just in time to see him start a beautiful double play by catching a very hard grounder and tossing it to the shortstop, who stepped on second base and threw to first to get the runner out.
"Sean's really good," Garth said, after he had finished cheering very loudly and sat back down. Sean couldn't help but notice and waved to Garth in the stands with a big smile on his face.
I noticed Brandon's mother a couple of rows in front of us in the stands, as he was on the other team. When she saw me she came over to talk to me.
"That was a very nice play Sean just made. He's done very well this game," she said.
"He's coming along. This is his first year of ball," I said.
I told her that I regretted not being able to see more of Sean's game and that I was helping to coach Garth's team. She didn't know Garth's story and I briefly brought her up-to-date.
"You're a lucky young man to have such a wonderful foster family taking care of you," she said.
She then thanked me for taking such an interest in Brandon during the first semester and getting him the help from the resource teachers.
"We've had him tested and he's been diagnosed with a mild case of 'slow processing'," she said.
She explained that he was now being given more time to complete some tests in the resource room with the help of the resource teacher, when needed. I didn't know there was an actual term 'slow processing', as I had many students whose IEPs (Individual Education Plan) mentioned processing problems with no specific label. This was a big step forward for Brandon as he now knew what his specific problem was and how to deal with it. As well, his self esteem was boosted with the fact that he now felt he wasn't really different from the other kids.
"We always knew Brandon was bright, but now we know why he was underachieving. I'm sure you've observed the long pauses and blank stares you sometimes get from him when you give him instructions," she said, as she smiled.
After the game, Garth and I made our way down to the dugout area to meet Sean. While he was getting his things together I overheard the other coach talking to Sean's coach about Carson Spencer, who was on the other team and how unreliable he had been this season.
"He's missed all but one practice and now the first game. When I phone the house I usually get him and he gives me excuses. That kid's a piece of work. I didn't want him in the first place, but the convenor made me take him," he said.
I thought that I'd stick up for him as my opinion of him had changed somewhat, given the events of the last few months. I realized that his behaviour was a direct result of the turmoil caused by his father and that he was capable of being a decent kid with some better guidance. I was confident that his mother was providing a better moral framework for him, but I knew she would have her hands full changing his behaviour. I was also quite sure she wasn't aware of what was going on with his commitment to the baseball team.
"Excuse me, but I overheard you talking about Carson Spencer. I know he can be a difficult kid sometimes, as I've had experience with him in house league hockey. But, his home situation with his father hasn't been ideal. I hope you haven't written him off, because underneath that abrasive exterior of his, I know there's a pretty good kid. Try and be patient. He and his mother are working through a tough situation," I said.
His coach thanked me for the background and promised that he would try to see what he could do. I had seen many kids like Carson over my teaching career that were acting out because of a very difficult home life. As teachers and coaches we sometimes dealt with the surface behaviour without realizing the root causes and trying to help to solve those issues.
As we were walking to the LX in the parking lot, I asked Sean, "Isn't that Carson over there behind the clubhouse with those two boys?"
"Dad, we have to go over there," Sean said, with a concerned look on his face.
He hesitated and said, "If we don't, he's going to get hurt."
I didn't catch on at first, but after a few moments I finally got his drift.
"This has to do with what we were talking about at dinner a while ago, doesn't it?" I asked.
He didn't say anything, but just shook his head yes. I knew that he didn't want to rat on him but I was pretty sure this was all about a drug deal. When we approached the three of them, one of the boys had a hold of Carson's jacket sleeve and was making menacing gestures towards him. When they saw us approach he let go of him and started to back away.
"Hello, Carson. Is there a problem here?" I asked, as I made eye contact with the aggressor.
"We're just leaving," the boy said, as he gave me an eerie smile.
"Don't forget, Spencer," the other one said, as he glared at Carson, as they took off.
I told Carson that we would give him a ride to his house and he was very reluctant to go with us. I wasn't sure if he was afraid of me or if he wanted to take off and go somewhere else. Regardless, I thought it was time that I had another heart-to-heart with him and I insisted he come along. On the way to his house I decided to broach the subject of why he missed his game.
"I had other stuff to do," he said, with an edge to his voice.
"According to your coach, you've had a lot to do over the last few weeks. He says you've only been to one practice. Did your mom know you had a game today?"
He didn't say anything, which was the answer I was expecting. I knew that she would have done everything possible to be there and support him. I asked him if his mom was home and he said she was working and wouldn't be back for a few hours. He noticed a few moments later that I had changed my route.
"You passed my street."
"We're going to have lunch and I'm sure you're hungry as well," I said, as I gave him a smile in the rear view mirror.
"We've got some neat cookies for dessert," Garth said, as he tried to lighten up the conversation.
I didn't need to see his expression to know he wasn't very happy. Sean tried to make some small talk with him during the rest of the trip, with little success. When we got into the house Dana and the boys hadn't got home yet. I asked Sean and Garth to start preparations for lunch and I took Carson into the Den to talk to him alone.
"So tell me why those two boys were trying to rough you up?"
He told me some cock and bull story which I suspected he would. He was very practiced at spinning the truth, which is something he no doubt learned from his father.
"That's a load of nonsense, Carson and we both know it. Those two boys are dealing drugs and you owe them money, which you can't pay."
His jaw dropped as he had a look of surprise. He now started to shuffle back and forth and wouldn't look at me. Then he started to deny it.
"I was a high school teacher for thirty years, Carson. I know exactly what's going on, because I've seen this happen too many times."
I told him that he was in over his head and that he was on a very dangerous path in his life that wasn't going to be very good for his future.
"You're not going to tell my mom, are you?" he said.
"No, you are," I said, as he had a horrified look on his face.
I told him he needed to tell his mother what was going on and who the boys were that were trying to beat him up.
"I can't rat on them. They'll get me," he said, with fear in his eyes.
"Your mother and I can do something about this if you're honest with her. Otherwise they'll torment you as long as they know you'll keep quiet."
He knew that he would have some explaining to do when I dropped him off at home and that I would be going in with him to talk to his mother. I promised I wouldn't bring up the subject, but I also told him I wasn't going to shy away from it if it came up.
"Carson, you better start coming clean with me right now," his mother said, shortly after we came into the house and she questioned why I was bringing him home.
He told her the whole story that he owed these boys $135 for marijuana that he had bought and that they were going to beat him up unless he paid. He told us their names and that they were from the school. Doreen told him that he was grounded and that she was calling the principal on Monday to make an appointment to see him and relay the information.
"I'll make a call to my contacts at the police department and talk to Gord Caudle, the principal, as well. It may be time to bring the drug sniffing dogs into the school after hours," I said.
I knew that it was not going to be easy to solve this problem, but I was confident that things were going in the right direction as I left their house.
The morning of the youth shelter opening, we had a major crisis and Sean was beside himself.
"Calm down. I'll get my makeup and we'll cover up those zits," Dana said.
"Why does this have to happen today," he said, with a pained expression on his face.
After Dana got him fixed up, he settled down. We had already gone through this with Jake, but not with as much turmoil as Sean created. Jake had a mild case of acne that we were controlling with over-the-counter products. Jake wasn't as bothered by it as Sean and he took it in his stride.
"Melissa isn't going to run away, Sean. She probably won't even notice now that mom's worked her magic," I said as I put my arm around him, as he gave me a weak smile.
Dana also had to be a fashion consultant to Garth, as he was having a little trouble with his wardrobe.
"Garth, honey, I know your camouflage pants are your favourite, but they really don't go with your blazer," she said, as she handed him his grey dress pants.
The smell of Axe cologne was heavy as we ate breakfast. Sean, Jake and Glen had used liberal doses of the stuff and they had also put some on Garth. He had bugged them, as he wanted to be grown-up just like them.
"You know Mandy's going to want to hold your hand, now that you smell so irresistible," I said, as we all laughed. Garth wasn't amused and he had a horrified look on his face.
After we had breakfast we all got into the LX and made our way down into the city to the Shelter. Carol met us at the door and she took us on a tour. Sean and Jake, as well as Glen had seen the place in its almost completed form, as all three of them had been very involved in the final part of the renovation. Sean and Jake had donated a considerable sum of money towards the recreational facilities and Glen had done the layout of the basketball court, road hockey area as well as the grassed area with picnic tables and chairs on the outside. He also did the architectural drawings for the games/hanging out room on the inside. All three boys, as well as Melissa and Rachel had input into that part of the shelter and had made it a great space for boys and girls to use.
"This is so impressive," Carol said, as she gave the boys a big smile.
The great room had a foosball and pool table, as well as an area for reading, talking and playing board or video games. It also had an area for watching one of the two big screen TVs or using one of the ten computer stations that had filtered access to the Internet.
"This is neat," Garth said, as he ran over to the foosball table.
After we pried him away, Carol showed us around the rest of the building and we were overwhelmed by how well things had turned out. It was state-of-the-art and had an inviting homey atmosphere, not the usual institutional feel of this type of facility. When we had finished it was time to greet the guests and dignitaries that had been invited. We were fortunate that the local TV station had chosen to cover the event, as no doubt the new benefactors who were donating the five million dollars had used their contacts to get them there. When Sean and Jake saw them setting up the camera they were a little unnerved. They were both speaking and hadn't counted on being on the news broadcast that evening.
"They may not be taping your part, boys. But, if they do, just ignore the cameras and just say what you prepared," Dana said, as she put her arms around the two of them.
Dana had catered the food with John and Susan's help and everyone was enjoying the feast that they had prepared. Susan had brought John and after he had been shown around by Garth and Glen he was beaming at the contribution Glen was able to make.
"You get your talent from your grandfather. He was an architectural draftsman," John said, as he gave Glen a squeeze.
John's father had died when Glen was fairly young and he hadn't got to know him, so it was nice to see John sharing family history with Glen. It was also heart warming to see John with his two boys and how well he was getting along. I knew that they were all looking forward to the day when they could all live together as a family again.
The ceremonies were predictable as the couple gave their cheque to Carol and posed for the photo op while the TV camera was rolling. Carol was gracious as she thanked them and I said a few words as the chair of the board. Carol then took the podium again and gave some of the history and mandate of the foundation. She talked about the various parts of the shelter and acknowledged the contribution that Glen had made towards the shelter.
"My foster brother, Glen Webster, has lent his considerable computer and artistic talents to producing the plans and layout of the outdoor recreation sites and the layout of this wonderful great room we are in," Carol said as she called him up to the podium.
She presented him with a plaque and an honorarium for his efforts. Glen was surprised at the presentation and he was a little shy when he was called from the audience. He was very appreciative and had a big smile as he came back to his seat from the podium. I wasn't sure if the big smile was for the recognition and cheque, or for the fact that he wasn't asked to say something. Carol then finished by announcing the new executive director.
"After careful consideration of the excellent candidates that applied for the position, I'm pleased to announce on behalf of the board that Mr. Mark Depew is the new Executive Director."
Mark was as happy as I had ever seen him and he was well spoken as he outlined how pleased he was to be able to lead the foundation through the next phase of its development and that he was looking forward to the challenge.
"I feel I have a wonderful opportunity to make a difference in the lives of the disadvantaged in our city. I'm looking forward to bringing hope to some needy youth and their families to help break the cycle of poverty."
After Mark was finished, it was Sean and Jake's turn to speak. They insisted on it and we were proud of them. Neither one of them had asked for our help as they were drafting what they were going to say over the last few days. Both of them got up together and Jake was the first to speak.
"My brother and I are two very lucky guys. Not only has our new father given us an opportunity for a bright future, but we now have a loving and caring family. One of the scariest times in my life happened when my uncle was hurt in a car accident and I was sent to the old shelter because he couldn't take care of me. The people that ran it tried real hard to make the kids feel better, but they could only do so much with what they had. I'm glad that my brothers and I could help create a neat place for kids who have to go to a shelter to live."
He went on for about five minutes talking about his experience and what he felt needed to be done to create a better space and program for the disadvantaged youth that had to use the shelter's services. He was becoming quite the public speaker as he had his notes with him, but he didn't need to look at them once while he spoke. Then it was Sean's turn.
"I know what it's like not to be wanted and have to fend for myself with no one to help me. Like my brother said, we're lucky that Dad was there for us. I'm glad that we were able to contribute to making the shelter somewhere where kids can feel safe and happy."
He went on for a couple of minutes about what it was like living in a household where poverty was the norm and how difficult it was to live a normal life. He then talked about all the wonderful people in the social services network that had helped over the years and how important it was to give them the tools to do their jobs.
Dana and I were very proud of our two handsome well spoken teenagers, who were growing up in front of our eyes. The two of them got a very hearty round of applause and they were beaming as they sat down. The last part of the ceremony was the unveiling of the sign that would be mounted over the front door, which was to be the name of the shelter. That had been a closely guarded secret between Carol, the board and me.
"There were a few suggestions as to the name of the shelter, but one stood out as a logical choice," she said. "Jake and Sean can you join me."
She lifted the cloth that was draped over it and the boys were very surprised.
"The board felt that it was only fitting that we call this 'Jake and Sean's Place'," Carol said, as everyone clapped.
The boys were quite touched at the turn of events. They were humbled to think that the centre was being named after them and that they were creating a legacy that would exist as long as the centre was in existence.
After the photographer had taken all the official pictures and the presentations and speeches were over, most people milled around or went on a tour of the facility for another half hour and then cleared out. The boys were with their friends and the conversation was not something Dana and I wanted to be a part of.
Melissa and Rachel had given Sean and Jake big hugs when they were finished and the four of them were sticking pretty close together and were holding hands. Glen and Mara were also staying pretty close to each other, but they weren't into any overt displays of affection. It was obvious that Mara was smitten with Glen and I was sure that the attraction was mutual, but Glen just wasn't prone to giving away his emotions in public.
Josh Chambers had also come in from Toronto to support the boys and I had sent a limo to bring him in along with Mara and Melissa.
"You guys were great up there. I'm impressed with all the work you guys have put into this," he said, as he locked thumbs in a handshake with each of them, as well as Glen.
The girls were staying overnight with Rachel and Josh was staying with us. Of all the people on Sean, Jake and Glen's guest list for their dinner party that evening, only Josh was without a date. Even Garth had a partner, as his friend from school, Mandy, was joining the party. Originally we were going to have him eat with the adults in the kitchen, but he insisted he wanted to be with the big kids and he asked Mandy. We had to make the arrangements with her parents but we managed to work things out. Ronald was coming with Charles and we also had a big surprise for Josh that would make him very happy.
They were using the dining room and the adults were in the kitchen. Carol and Kyle, Susan and John, as well as Mark Depew and Sandy, his girlfriend, were eating with us. It was going to be a little crowded, but we had things all worked out to make it work. After the ceremony the boys were going to the Firehall kitchen to help John, Susan and Dana prepare the food for the meal.
Josh stayed with Rachel, Melissa and Mara at Rachel's house for the afternoon while the boys got things ready for the party. We got the food transported over to the house and put the ovens on to keep things warm before the guests arrived. Mandy's parents dropped her off and Garth was cute as he was so formal. He introduced everyone to her and her parents, before they left.
He wanted to take her downstairs to show her his baseball uniform and glove and I said, "Maybe Mandy's not interested in Baseball, Garth."
"I play T-ball, too," she said, with a big smile as they took off to the basement.
The girls and Josh arrived, followed by Charles and Ronald. We were just missing one more guest who arrived shortly after.
"I think our last guest is here. Maybe Josh could come with you boys to the door to greet her," Dana said, with a big smile.
Josh was a little confused. When the door opened his mouth almost dropped to the floor.
"Shelly," he said, as he rushed forward and gave her a big hug, which ended up in a kiss.
Everyone had now made their way into the foyer and were smiling at the reunion of Josh and his girlfriend, Shelly. We had managed to arrange with her parents for her to be flown in from BC on a private jet we had chartered and brought her to the house by limo from the airport. She was staying with the girls over the weekend and we were flying her back on Sunday night.
"Mr. and Mrs. Burger, thank you very much. I don't know what to say. We haven't been together for a few months and I'm so happy to see Shelly again," Josh said, as he held her hand.
"This is fabulous to be together again after such a long time. I'm looking forward to spending some time with Joshy and his friends. Thank you," Shelly said, as she came over and gave Dana and me a hug and then returned to Josh's side.
The dinner went very well and everyone was impressed at the food the boys had prepared. It was a very grown-up affair, and except for real wine, it was like anything that Dana and I would have put on with friends. It was also heart warming to see Josh and Shelly together, as they were certainly made for each other. After dinner we all went down to the Media room to listen to a short concert from the boys. This was because of a request from Melissa and Rachel.
"We don't get to hear them play very often," Melissa said, with a big smile.
They decided that they would play a couple of songs by Neil Young, who was a Canadian cultural icon. Colin, their guitar teacher had given them a song earlier in the winter by him and they liked it so much they had gone through my music collection and discovered a few others that they liked. When they saw his performance at the Winter Olympics in February they were so impressed that they learned a few more by themselves and with the 'band'.
Charles was going to join them for the first number as they had made up a 'band' arrangement for the first song, 'Long May You Run'. They asked me if I'd play the piano part that Stéphane had written, since he wasn't there, which substituted for the harmonica in Neil's original version. Of course I declined because of my performance anxiety problem.
"If it's not too hard, I'll play it," Carol said, as she sat down at the piano.
I hadn't heard Carol play the piano for years, as she stopped playing soon after she passed her Grade 8 piano exam. I was also surprised when Garth joined them with his guitar. The boys had taught him a few of the chords that were in the song that he could handle and he was Ok playing, as he was in a group. He had been so cute most of the evening with Mandy present, as he tried to act so grown up and he wanted to impress her by performing.
They did a great job of the song and Garth was able to keep up with most of the chords. Sean and Jake took turns singing and Carol was great playing the piano. Needless to say we gave them a big round of applause.
"You need to start playing the piano again, daughter," I said to Carol as she came and sat down.
"Maybe I will, when someone else I know with talent does the same," she said, as she gave me a big smile.
The last song was 'Harvest Moon' and Jake and Sean were going to play it by themselves.
"This is dedicated to everyone's special friends that are with them tonight, cause it's like a love song, sort of and.... anyway," Sean said, as he was a little embarrassed.
The two of them played their acoustics and took turns with the verses. Everyone was so impressed when they finished and once again we gave them lots of applause.
"That was fantastic, you guys. That sure set the mood... not that I needed the song to do that," Josh said, as he looked at Shelly and gave her a big smile.
Rachel and Melissa also gave them hugs and kisses on their cheeks, which was the grown-up's cue to go back upstairs. Sean and Jake had given us big hints that they wanted some privacy for a while.
"We'll dim the potlights, but they have to stay on," Dana said, as we took Garth and Mandy with us.
It was getting late and after about a half hour Mandy's parents came to get her and Garth said goodnight at the door. We were pretty sure that Garth wouldn't give her a kiss as they said goodbye, but he did give her a hug and then he went to bed shortly afterwards.
We had the kids wrap things up as the girls had to go home. Josh and Shelly had an emotional goodbye, as they gave each other a big hug and kiss.
"You're going to see each other tomorrow," I said.
"I know, but we needed that to tide us over," Josh said, with a big smile.
We got the boys settled and in bed and said goodnight. Josh was sleeping in Jake's room this time and Sean was by himself.
When we went in to Sean's room to say goodnight he was almost asleep. It had been a big day and fatigue was finally catching up with him.
"We were very proud of you and Jake today and so was Melissa," I said.
"That was also so thoughtful of you boys to include Garth in the concert," Dana said, as she gave him a big smile.
"I notice Teddy doesn't sleep with you anymore," I said, as I looked over at his chair.
"We still talk. He's real proud of me too," he said, as he gave Dana and me a big smile as he rolled over to go to sleep.
Slow Processing resources
Long May You Run