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After The Game

© 2011 Felix_P

Chapter Seventy-six

Glen and Garth were a little happier, given John and Susan's news of their impending marriage. Dana was also much happier, as now she got to help plan another wedding. Over the course of the next few weeks, John and Susan spent more time with Garth and Glen as they transitioned into becoming a family. Both boys got along with Susan very well and Dana and I were confident when the time came for them to live together as a family that things would go smoothly. Even though Susan had not been married before, she was in her early thirties and was going to be a great mother to both boys.

Plans were made to have the wedding in September and only family would be invited. They had been in touch with Reverend McLaughlin and he had agreed to marry them. They were having a small wedding party, consisting of Susan's sister (Dana's other daughter) and Garth and Glen. Dana was giving away Susan, at Susan's request, as it was no longer a hard and fast custom of the Father giving away the bride. Dana's former husband was invited, only out of obligation, but he declined, which no one was surprised at. He had not been involved with his daughters' lives very much as they were growing up.

The summer was going by quickly and the beginning of August was upon us. Preparations for the Old Firehall opening were moving ahead, as well as the loft. John and Susan dropped over to pick up Dana one day, as they were all meeting the contractor to go over progress to date.

"Take a look at this, Dear," Dana said, as she showed me the alterations that the interior designer had done to Glen's plans, which was going to be a surprise for him.

"That looks perfect. I don't know how you're going to keep it a secret from him," I said.

"Glen's surprise for Garth isn't going to be easy to keep under wraps either," John said. Things were shaping up to be quite the luxurious and unique home.

Between Baseball, T-ball, Soccer and Golf, there was rarely a moment of downtime in our household. Since contemporary services at church didn't start up again until September, Sunday morning was a rare time for quiet reflection for me. One Sunday I was reading my financial sources that I relied upon to keep me up-to-date on the stock market and the financial world. Jake joined me in the living room as he usually did and was reading his Italian newspaper that we had delivered every weekend for him to read. I was surprised when Sean came in and plopped himself down on the couch right beside me, with his body resting against me. That was his cue that he wanted to talk to me about something.

"So what do I owe the honour of having your warm clammy body pressed against my side, making it almost impossible for me to read my newspaper?" I asked, as I put it down.

He looked at me with a smile and asked, "Can you teach me about the stock market?"

We had been at David Stratton's office, our personal wealth management representative, that week. As was my custom, I brought Sean and Jake along, as we were going over the progress of their portfolios. Sean had always been keen to ask questions during these meetings, unlike Jake who was always satisfied with just hearing about the bottom line results.

"You want me to give you a lesson in a half hour? You have to get ready to go to your coaching clinic soon," I said, as I gave him a big smile.

Needless to say, that was the end of my quiet reading, which I really didn't mind. He was keen to learn about financial things, which was pretty evident from his love of his business course during the school year. I was hoping at some point Jake would take more interest in finances, but for now he was into politics and world affairs.

Sean had a pretty good understanding of the mechanics of the stock market and he wanted to know more about the kinds of investments available and why David and I had picked some of the things for the boys' portfolios.

"Mr. Stratton and I are on the same page when it comes to risk management, so what we have in your portfolios is good quality equity investments coupled with a fixed income portion. That's where the money comes from to pay for all your downloads from the Apple store and iTunes that you put on your credit card," I said, as I tickled him, which resulted in him squirming and retaliating.

"My goodness, I thought it was Garth in here causing all the commotion. I didn't realize it was the 'big' kids," Dana scolded, as she entered the room.

The time had gone quickly and she was there to remind us that the boys had to get ready to go. Before we knew it Rickie was at the door to pick up Sean, Jake and Glen to take them with him to the coaching certification clinic that was mandatory before they could coach Garth's hockey team the next season. It was given over two days and was 8 hours in total.

"Well men. Ready to learn how to turn those eight year old ankle biters into hockey superstars?" he asked.

By now Garth had joined everyone in the hall and Rickie grabbed him in a head lock and messed his hair up, which drew a loud protest followed by giggles when he let go.

"That's not fair. You're bigger than I am," he said to Rickie, as he manoeuvred around to give him a swat on the rear end.

Rickie was able to grab his arm before he could make contact and said with a big smile, "You're going to have to get faster than that, Webster."

While Sean, Jake and Glen were at the coaching clinic with Rickie, my great nephew, Derek, arrived to spend the afternoon with Garth. Dana and I spent a couple of hours by the pool, playing with them for the first half hour and watching for the rest of the time.

They occupied themselves for a long time playing Pirate, which they learned from the older boys. We insisted they stay in the shallow end, even though the pool was only five and a half feet in the deep end. They had a great time paddling around on air mattresses, bopping each other with their foam pool noodles.

Since his father and Susan's marriage was a big deal to Garth he had to tell Derek and they got into an 'enlightened' eight year old discussion of love and marriage, in between trying to knock each other off the air mattresses. They entertained us as we overheard much of what they were saying. We had to be careful not to burst into laughter though, which at times was very difficult.

"You don't really decide who you're gonna get married to. God decides it all way before and you get to find out later who it is. That's probably why Susan's going to be my real mom, cuz God probably figured out my birth mom wasn't gonna be any good and got my Dad a better wife," Garth said.

I wasn't sure what was funnier; Garth's statement or Derek's serious pondering of what he had said. We finally got them out of the pool to get out of the sun and have something to drink. They decided that they would take a break and go play one of the Xbox Kinect games in the Media room.

"You know the other day I was talking to someone at the grocery store about a teacher that was transferred into Garth's school. She didn't know too much other than the word going around is this was a disciplinary transfer. I sure hope it's not Garth's teacher next year," Dana said, after the boys had gone inside.

"I'll do some digging and see what I can find out. It's a little tough in the middle of the summer to get information, as the principal usually isn't in very much."

We didn't get to pursue the conversation further as the noise coming from the Media room distracted us. When we got to the patio door, we looked in to see the boys dancing away... at least we were guessing that's what they were doing. They had the Dance Paradise game loaded in multiplayer mode and they were gyrating away to MC Hammer's 'Can't Touch This'. We laughed away as the two of them bounced around in front of the screen, singing at the top of their lungs.

"I'm not sure I recognize that dance," Dana said.

"I think that's what my daughters used to call interpretive dancing. This is an eight year old male version of it," I said, as we both chuckled.

The three older boys were excited when they got home after the coaching clinic. They were looking forward to coaching Garth's hockey team and that age group, as they got lots of ideas and information they were dying to try out.

They were also looking forward to the tryouts for the rep hockey team that all three had been invited to. The two tryout sessions had been scheduled for during the evening that next week and there were thirty boys in total invited. Some were from the last year's rep team and the others came from the house league. Garth, John and I went to watch and they were very high tempo sessions. It made quite a difference that all the boys were at a fairly high skill level and the coaches worked them pretty hard.

"Thank you, Al, for arranging to have Glen included. It means a lot for his self esteem," John said.

"I didn't do anything, John. He earned the invitation on his own, from his play last year. His former coach called the rep coaches and put in a good word when he heard he was moving and wouldn't be back to their league."

I was glad to see that there were a few boys from my last year's team invited as well, such as Charles, Ray Stringer and Pieter DeBoer. They certainly didn't look out of place. I also had a chance to catch up on things with Charles' father, Mark Depew. He was certainly working out well as the Executive Director of our foundation, as the feedback from Carol was nothing but positive. We also had a chance to bring each other up-to-date on our personal lives.

"Sandy and I are thinking of living together, but we haven't quite made that step. Charles and Sandy get along really well and she's also quite accepting of Charles and Ronald's relationship. Thank goodness, because Ronald hangs around our house more than his," he said, laughing.

We also talked about Mark helping me coach again and he was quite willing.

"All the boys from last year look quite good out there. In a way I'm hoping they don't make it, because I want to coach all of them again, but I don't want to stand in the way of them chasing their dreams," I said, with a sigh.

It really hadn't hit me until then, but if both Sean and Jake made the team and chose to play, there would be no reason for me to coach. That was a sobering thought, as I was looking forward to that whole experience again.

I also noticed and was surprised that Carson was not there for the tryouts. He certainly had the skill and except for his past unsavoury attitude, he would easily have made the team. I made a note to call Doreen to try and find out what happened and what progress was being made in her divorce proceedings.

The three boys were very tired at the end of each session, but they were nonetheless satisfied at the experience. The call came in a couple of days later that both Sean and Jake had made the rep team. After the coach talked to the two of them on the phone, he wanted to talk to me.

"I'm sorry that we can't include Glen, but he needs a little more skill development before he's ready for this level. Sean and Jake are certainly there now and I hope they accept our offer of joining the team. I can't promise ice time, but I'm sure they'll work themselves into an important role quickly," he said.

I was impressed with the coach's integrity and how up front he was with the players. My sources told me that he was an excellent coach, which was what I had observed when he had called Jake and Sean up last year. I wasn't surprised at the news but I needed to prepare the boys to make the decision, as I wasn't sure they really understood what would be involved. I was also curious whether some of the other boys from our team had made it.

I went into Glen's room to tell him in private that he was unsuccessful. He wasn't too upset and his only concern was whether Jake and Sean had made it.

"They deserve it. They were as good as any of the guys coming back from last year," he said.

He told me that he knew he wasn't good enough after the first ten minutes on the ice.

"You haven't had quite the amount of playing time that Sean and Jake got in last year. I'm expecting that you'll spend more time on the ice this year, though," I said, as I gave him a big smile.

He got my drift that I was referring to his turbulent season, where he spent many minutes in the penalty box or suspended. He gave me a big smile in return. He also asked if he could phone the coach and thank him for the opportunity, which I was very happy about. It was so nice to see the change in his attitude from the early days when he started to live with us.

"I think that's an excellent idea, young man. They'll need players to fill in during the season and they always consider the attitude as well as the skill level of the player when they make a call-up."

The only other thing left to do was sit down with Sean and Jake and lay out their options. Dana and I called them into the Living room to talk to them about the news. They were pleased but not as excited as I thought. I then pointed out some things to them before they made their final decision.

"We're Ok with either one or both of you deciding to join the team. It's up to you and whatever you decide, we'll make it work."

I also pointed out to them the time commitment involved which would be two practices plus sometimes two games a week. A lot of the games involved driving for hours and back, to the rural communities of Ontario, sometimes on a school night. I also outlined some of the things that they would have to give up if they played.

"You wouldn't have time for the school Jazz band and you couldn't coach Garth's team."

"And, above all, we expect that you keep your marks up at school," Dana added.

"The coach said that you can let him know in a couple of days, so take your time with your decisions, as you've got a lot to think about," I said, as I started to get up.

The two of them didn't move and looked at each other. Finally Sean spoke up.

"We're not going to play for the rep team. We already thought about everything you said and it's too much to give up."

"We talked to Stéphane about it and we made up our minds that we wanted to do all those other things more than just playing hockey all the time. Stéphane's also quitting the rep team this year and he's joining the house league for exactly those reasons," Jake said.

Dana and I were surprised at their quick reaction and we praised them for such a mature and well thought out decision.

"It's nice to see the men inside the boys coming out," I said, with a big smile, after they had left the room.

"I think you're also happy that you get to coach the two of them again this year," she said, as she chuckled.

That night they were in touch with the other boys to see how they had made out. Charles and Pieter didn't make it, but Ray Stringer did and he had accepted the offer. I was hoping in the draft that we could get Stéphane to replace him, which would make the boys and me very happy. I also had a chance to call Doreen to see what was going on with Carson.

"He's talking about not even playing house league next year. There's no doubt he's depressed and I've got an appointment with the best child psychiatrist in the city for mid September. I had to pull a few strings and that was the earliest I could get him in," she said, as I could tell this was wearing on her from the strain in her voice.

She also told me that she and Suzie were going to mediation the next week to try and settle some of the issues with her husband over the property settlement related to the divorce. He had not responded to Suzie's request for a full accounting of his earnings and she was laying the groundwork to force him to comply.

"We haven't even gotten into the custody part, which I'm not looking forward to," she said.

She also told me that she was very reluctant to leave Carson home by himself these days and had an older university student staying with him when she wasn't there. He was very unhappy with the arrangement and had given both Doreen and the student a hard time.

"Why doesn't he come over here when you go to court next week. Dana, the boys and I can see what we can do to help him along," I said.

She was very happy and was going to make sure he accepted the invitation. I was also thinking about the team next year and we were going to have to draft a few more players as some of the other boys had made the rep team as well. I was going to talk over with Glen, Sean and Jake how they would feel if I was able to draft Carson to our team.

When the boys and I talked about that possibility, they agreed, even though there was some reluctance. I called Stéphane's father, who was once again going to be the convenor, to explore that possibility.

"I didn't realize he wanted to play. We haven't received his registration as of yet," he said.

He also told me that the executive had allowed Stéphane to join our team without going through the draft, as they considered that an appropriate replacement for Ray moving up.

"That's one of the benefits of being convenor. I wanted him with you," he said. I was flattered and thanked him for his trust.

The only objection came from Randy Biggar, Carson's coach from last year, but it was dismissed quickly. The executive pointed out to Randy that his continuation in the coaching ranks of the league was not guaranteed, given his shenanigans during last season. They were looking for another person to replace him.

"I doubt anyone would really want to take Carson, as he has quite a reputation. Do you really want that grief?" he asked.

"Now that the father's out of the way, he should be easier to handle."

I filled him in on some of what was happening with the family and he was a little more sympathetic. I also told him that I felt that deep down Carson was basically a good kid.

"I hope you're right. He certainly has the talent, but he needs a major attitude adjustment."

When Doreen dropped Carson off at the house the next week, he was somewhat lethargic and sombre. The boys took him to the pool to swim and after about an hour he started to brighten up. I could see why Doreen was worried about him, as he was showing the classic signs of teenage depression that were all too familiar to me from my days in the classroom. He certainly had been through a lot in the last few months, as his world had been turned upside down. It appeared that he wasn't very well equipped to deal with the problems.

Except for a small incident, where Carson dove into the pool, he was fairly well behaved. Since it didn't have a deep end, we forbad anyone diving into the pool, for fear of injury. Carson was aware of this but he chose to ignore it and we had to speak to him about it. He was fine after that, however, his reaction was a bit disturbing.

"We don't let anyone dive, Carson, because we don't want anyone hurting themselves. You wouldn't want to be in a wheelchair for the rest of your life would you?"

He shrugged his shoulders and said, "It doesn't matter."

Later in the afternoon we were all sitting around the table by the pool having a drink and some munchies. We managed to lift his spirits when I asked him if he would like to play on our team the next season. He was very surprised and we could tell that he was happy that he was wanted.

When I had a chance to talk to Doreen while Carson was getting changed to go home, I told her that I had drafted him to our hockey team and she was quite happy. I also told her of his reaction over the diving incident.

"That's one of the main reasons I've tried to fast-track him to see the psychiatrist. I've picked up on other comments like that over the last little while," she said.

The boys and I had just got home from the golf course one afternoon, when we heard the doorbell. I was the last one into the foyer and I could hear a bunch of laughing and giggling as I walked down the hall. When I got there, four very happy boys were gushing over a little white fluffy dog that was making the rounds jumping up and licking the boys' faces.

"You must be Al. I'm Dana's friend and I was talking to her about taking Barney if he doesn't work out."

She told us that she had just bought the dog from another owner, who had to sell him because they were moving into an apartment. He was a two year old Maltese terrier and that she had talked to Dana, unbeknownst to me, about us buying him from her if he couldn't get along with her cat.

He certainly was a lively little fellow, as he tried to go exploring through the house. I also had to admit that the boys weren't the only ones captivated by him. After she left there were four sets of puppy dog eyes looking at me.

"Now boys, don't get your hopes up. She said that IF he can't get along with her cat."

"But what if he can't?" Sean asked, before the other boys could pipe in.

"We'll have to talk about this and come to a family decision if that opportunity comes up," I said.

When Dana got home later, I related the event to her.

"I didn't tell you, because I didn't think she was serious. I haven't even seen the dog," she said.

I told her what had happened and that her friend said we could take him if things didn't work out.

"What's the dog like?" she asked.

I told her the whole story and how the boys were very taken with him.

"From the way you're describing the event, I don't think it was just the boys who were taken with the little guy," she said, with a big smile.

Over the next few days the dog was forgotten as we were busy making preparations for our travel. We had to get Jake ready to send off to Italy to visit his Aunt and Uncle and then get the rest of us ready for the trip to France and Spain. Jake was joining us in Paris after his visit, which was the week before we were to fly over. We knew he was excited because he was chattier than usual.

"Geez! Take a chill pill, man," Sean said with a big smile, as we were having breakfast before we took Jake to Pearson Airport in Toronto for his flight.

Sean was really going to miss him, as this would be the first time they had been apart for any length of time since we had adopted them. They locked thumbs and gave each other a quick hug before Jake took off through security for his flight. Sean didn't mope too much during the week that they were separated, as the chats with Melissa on Skype became a little longer. The week went by quickly and before we knew it we were on our way to France.

We arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport in the early morning Paris time, which was the middle of the night Canadian time. Since we were travelling first class, we each had our own pod to sleep in. The boys were excited but finally did get some sleep after they had watched a couple of movies. Garth didn't make it to a second movie, as he conked out early.

He was very tired with all the entertaining of the flight attendants that he had done. They heard many jokes from his extensive repertoire, but they doted on him nonetheless and he loved the attention. One of the flight attendants was a very attractive younger lady, who Sean and Glen found very easy on the eyes. They ordered numerous snacks and drinks from her, before they finally succumbed to a short sleep.

After we had cleared customs, we had breakfast in one of the little cafés in the airport and then made our way over to the gate where Jake's flight was arriving. He had a big grin on his face as he made his way through the crowd to us. It was obvious he had a great visit and that he had been to a soccer game, as he had a World Cup shirt on.

Sean and he were very glad to see each other and once again locked thumbs and gave each other a quick hug. He was typical Jake and had to tell us in detail about his week. We were making our way out to the limousine that we had arranged to take us to the hotel, when I realized we had forgotten something.

"Maybe we should make our way over the luggage carousel to pick up your checked baggage, young man," I said. He was so excited that he had distracted all of us.

The first couple of days in Paris were sightseeing days and we managed to take in the Louvre and other sites, such as Napolean's tomb and the Place de Concorde. We ended up taking a tour through the Louvre, as it was just too big to see everything. We were trying to make sure the boys didn't get bored, especially Garth, but the guides were great and were able to make things interesting for the boys as they gave the history behind the art works.

I was curious as to how they would view the Mona Lisa, as quite frankly I was disappointed the first time I saw it. As we walked into the large room where it was displayed we could see it was packed.

"Is that it on the wall over there?" Jake asked, with a frown.

"That's it. When I was here in the 70's it wasn't covered with bullet proof glass, but it was on a wall with a couple of stanchions and velvet rope in front of it to keep people from touching it," I said.

"She looks kind of lame. I thought it would be bigger. It's really small," Sean said.

"Boys, this is one of the most famous paintings in the world. Let's get closer," Dana said, as we made our way to the front of the crowd.

Glen hadn't said a word, as he was mesmerized by it. He got as close as he could and just stared at it. Dana made her way beside him and the two of them had a conversation by themselves that lasted for a few minutes. We made our way to see the rest of the art in the room and waited for them by the exit. Then we made our way to the room where the Venus de Milo was and Garth wasn't impressed.

"She doesn't have any arms and she doesn't have all her clothes on," he said, with a frown.

"This statue is thousands of years old and it's priceless," Dana said.

"Gee, you mean it's older than Dad," Sean said, as he stepped behind Jake to make sure I couldn't get him. Everyone had a laugh at my expense.

Garth's opinion still hadn't changed and even Dana and Glen's additional explanation of why it was a masterpiece didn't persuade him. We made our way to the main floor and were standing in the foyer with the inverted glass pyramid above us.

"Isn't this the place where the Holy Grail was supposed to be buried in the book 'The DaVinci Code'?" Jake asked.

He had read the book and he gave Glen his cell phone and asked him to take a picture of him standing on the spot. I remembered the discussion that Rachel and he had one day when the girls were over at the house for a pool party. They both were reading the book at the same time.

"Rachel's going to think this is so cool," he said, as he emailed the picture to her.

The next day we took a limousine service that provided a guide as well. We saw the Eiffel tower, Arc de Triomphe and then ended off in the Montmarte district of Paris. Glen and Dana were particularly looking forward to that part of the trip, as that was where many famous artists from the past had their studios or worked, such as Salvador Dali, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso and Vincent van Gogh. Glen was very excited to think that he was walking on the same streets as them.

"This isn't anything like the way I pictured this area. It's really neat," he said, as he looked around at the architecture and took many pictures with his camera.

All of us were awed at the magnificent view of Paris from the steps of the famous Basilica of the Sacré Coeur. This was the highest part of the city and was a popular tourist spot. Once again Glen took pictures, as we all did, but he seemed to have a flare that we didn't. I was really looking forward to printing off some of his shots when we got back.

We decided to eat there and we found a small restaurant that our guide had recommended, called Au Petit Creux. All the older boys were pretty good with understanding and speaking French and they were able to order for themselves. Dana and I had to help Garth with his limited French and picky appetite choose something that he would eat.

"A Croque Monsieur is just like a ham and cheese sandwich. You'll like it," Dana said, as we ordered it for him.

He was a little quiet when we were served and he hadn't had taken any bites after a few moments.

"Ok, what's the problem, young man," I said.

"Are there weird things in the sandwich?" he asked.

We weren't quite sure what he was getting at and finally he said, "Derek told me they eat snails in France and they sometimes put them in the food and you don't know they're there."

We all had a chuckle at his expense, which hurt his feelings. After we apologized to him and he calmed down he tried the sandwich.

"Well, I guess it didn't taste weird after all," I said, after he had devoured it in record time.

After dinner we spent some time in the Place du Terre and had sketches done of Sean and Jake as well as Garth and Glen, by one of the street artists. Naturally, Dana and Glen were very interested in the technique and the artist spent some time talking to them. Between their French and his English they were able to converse. He found out Glen was a good artist and he had him do a quick sketch of the building at the end of the street and he was quite impressed.

"C'est trés bien, jeune homme. Vous avez un réel talent," (That's very good, young man. You have real talent.) he said, after he showed him some tricks of the trade. Glen was beaming.

The next day we spent some time around the Champs-Élysées, where the boys and Dana went shopping in the Louis Vuitton store for gifts. We were staying at the Four Seasons George V hotel nearby, so it was within walking distance.

"I'm sure the girls will love those wallets, but we could've got them cheaper off that street vendor yesterday," I said, as I chuckled. They weren't impressed with my comment.

Dana bought a great dress from the Lanvin boutique on the Rue Faubourg, where all the famous fashions designers were and we finished off our last night in Paris at the famous Fouquet restaurant, on the Champs-Élysées.

Susan and John joined us in Barcelona and we had two suites in the Casa Fuster Hotel. Garth and Glen stayed with them while Jake and Sean were with us.

We were walking down the Ramblas in the evening and it was alive with people and activity. We had warned the boys about the pickpockets and all of us had secured our cash in safe places on our bodies. We made sure that Garth didn't wander away from us as one of us was holding his hand at all times. All four boys were up ahead of us at one point and they had stopped to look at one of the street mimes. When we caught up with them, they were laughing away and Garth was frantic.

"He thought that was a real statue," Jake said.

"When it moved and growled at him he jumped a mile," Sean added.

Dana and I were also intrigued that he immediately gravitated to Susan to comfort him. She managed to calm him down and he spent the rest of the walk with Susan and John. What we had observed with the dynamic between John, Susan, Glen and Garth over the couple of days, made me sure that things would work out for them as a family.

"It's going to be kind of odd not having Garth around the house all the time in the future," Dana said, as she sighed.

"I'm sure we'll get to see lots of Glen and Garth, even though they won't be living with us," I said, as I gave her a squeeze.

We had tapas as our last meal in Spain, which surprisingly Garth enjoyed and then saw a flamenco show afterwards. Sean, Jake and Glen were in the front row and the rest of us were in the second row behind them. The stage was very close as the room wasn't very big. The dancers and music were outstanding and one of the young female dancers took a shine to the boys and was flirting with them as she was dancing. She was a very good looking woman, who had a great pair of legs.

"Did you enjoy the dancing, boys?" Dana asked afterwards.

The three of them looked at each other with big smiles on their faces, and shook their heads yes.

"I think I know which one was your favourite dancer," I said, as the adults chuckled.

I had time to reflect on the plane ride home and I was very satisfied at the trip and how everyone enjoyed themselves and got along. I was also very contented with how my life was unfolding and I was looking forward to smooth and peaceful times for all of my family as we moved forward with our lives together.

Hockey Coaching Certification

Pool Noodles

MC Hammer, 'Can't Touch This'

The Louvre

Maltese Terrier

The Four Season George V

Street Performers on the Ramblas

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