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The characters from the story Substitute Dad featured in this chapter appear with the permission of Scribe1971. Substitute Dad is hosted on Ted Louis' site as well as the Storylover's site at http://storylover.us/Main_Site.php.
"That little dog is going to drive me crazy with his barking," Dana said, as she chased Barney from the foyer.
He was turning out to be very 'yappy' and loved to park himself in the foyer and look out the sidelights beside the front door, to see what activity there was outside the house. Anything that moved triggered his shrill bark, which was his way of protecting his 'pack'.
"He's just warning us of all that danger that lurks on the street, dear," I said with a big smile, trying to lighten up her mood.
It was a real fight to make sure Barney wasn't the 'leader of the pack', as he realized we weren't very adept at dog training. Most of the time we were able to establish who was in charge and Sean was first in line, followed by Jake. He was a cute and loveable little fellow, so needless to say he got away with a lot.
Despite Dana's protestations, she was as much taken with him as the rest of us. She was usually up first in the morning and when she had poured her coffee and was in the arm chair by the Living room picture window, Barney jumped up into her lap and settled in. He had been a welcome comfort to all of us, as he was always able to 'lick' any of our human problems that we encountered over the short time he had been with us.
While Barney's behaviour was becoming a problem, the issue with Garth and school had settled down, now that Diego had taken over the class. He was enjoying Diego's teaching style and his positive treatment of all the students in his class. He even had Garth interested in reading.
"Mr. Mendez took us to the school library today and he said I'd really like this book," he said, as he showed it to us.
It was one of a series called 'The 39 Clues', which he told us featured a brother and sister that were searching for a secret that would make them the most powerful people in the world.
"This guy and his sister," he said, as he made a painful face, "go all over the world to get these clues. There's a lot of reading, cuz there's nine more books."
"And just what was that face for when you said the word 'sister'?" Dana asked, with a voice and look that meant he was in trouble.
"Well you know... she's a girl," he said, without thinking.
"Oh oh, Garthy," Glen said, as the older boys started to chuckle.
Luckily for Garth, Barney had located some imminent danger on the sidewalk outside the house and started into a full scale barking fest in the foyer, diverting Dana's attention.
Things had also resolved themselves nicely with Tom Davis and Josh Chambers. Tom had been found alive and except for his left bicep (which had a big gash in it), a broken arm and a bruised buttock, he was alright. In his ensuing flight away from the collapsing building, he came upon a young woman in distress, who he managed to rescue, thus saving her life. It turned out that she was the daughter of a very wealthy businessman who was generous in his gratitude.
"Well, Tom, ten million dollars is quite a thank you, but I know it won't change you or your family's integrity," I said, as we had a phone conversation the week after he had come home.
"Thanks, Al, I appreciate your kind words. And thank you for taking the time to give me the benefit of your financial expertise."
I had given him some advice on choosing an appropriate financial advisor and recommended our advisor, David Stratton. I told him he needed to take his time and get some different opinions and that David would be a good starting point.
"I also want to thank your boys for being such good friends and giving Josh a lot of moral support throughout this ordeal. We have some plans in the works that will involve them and I know they'll have lots of fun."
Tom also told me that not only did his benefactor give him the large sum of money but that he was also bankrolling his new software venture, which was why he went to New York City in the first place.
"We'll be setting up the company in Calgary, and I've bought a plane. Even though Josh, Sean and Jake are going to be separated by a large distance, we'll only be a plane ride away."
Sean and Jake were a little sad that Josh wouldn't be in Toronto, but they were excited to be able to visit him in Calgary.
"Josh said the whole family would be part of the new company," Sean said.
"Yeah, and he wants us to visit as soon as they get settled," Jake added, with a big smile.
Dana and I reminded the boys that school came first and that the visits would have to be on weekends or holidays.
It was nice to see Josh and Tom moving forward with their lives and that their dreams would come true quicker than what they had imagined. They were about to be swept up in a whirlwind as they planned and executed the move west to Calgary.
Things certainly weren't slowing down in our household either, as the boys' activities were consuming a great deal of our time, which we didn't mind in the slightest. As one sports season was starting, another was finishing. Sean, Glen and Jake's championship games were played the same Saturday near the end of September and provided a lot of excitement. In the morning, we watched baseball and in the afternoon soccer. The girls were also in attendance, as Melissa and Mara came in and stayed with Rachel over the weekend.
Sean's championship game was difficult to predict, because the teams were very evenly matched. It was a very close game and the other team emerged with a victory due to a late run in the last inning. Sean was satisfied with the game and his effort, as he had one thundering home run that cleared the outfield fence by a wide margin and two other key hits.
"It must be true love to be ignoring that dirty, smelly uniform," Dana said, as we watched Melissa give Sean a big hug after the game.
The afternoon soccer game was more predictable, as Glen and Jake's team had dominated the league most of the season, mainly because of Jake's play. He was a very dominant force on the field, despite the fact that he was one of the youngest. The other team was able to keep pace for the first half of the game, but Jake 'kicked' his level of play into high gear during the second half, scoring two goals and setting up Glen for another, to win by three goals.
"Giacomo was the MVP (most valuable player) of the whole season, not just the game today," Lou, their coach said, as he put his arm around Jake and gave him a squeeze. "Complimenti, giovanotto. Tu sei una stella. (Congratulations, young man. You're a star)
Jake had been presented with the MVP of the game award, as well has his championship trophy. His other 'award' came from Rachel, who was usually a little more reserved than Melissa, but she got caught up in the moment and gave Jake a big hug. He wasn't expecting it and apart from the fact that he was a little embarrassed, he clearly enjoyed the overt show of affection.
Glen wasn't left out as Mara gave Glen a hug and kiss on his cheek when the trophy presentations were finished.
"Ooh, gross," Garth said, as he was behind the two of them when they were embracing.
Glen and Mara weren't the least bit embarrassed and were very 'comfortable' with each other... sometimes too comfortable. Glen was very self assured around females and John and Susan were going to have their work cut out for them keeping him in check.
"Make sure you two don't get hurt playing that other sport this winter," Lou said. "We'll need our two stars next year," as he gave Glen and Jake a big smile and pat on their backs as we were leaving.
John and Susan were very happy with Glen's performance on the field and gave him lots of praise and hugs as they walked with Garth, Mara and him to their car.
We took everyone out for dinner at the local Milestones restaurant and brought them back to the house afterwards. We had a beautiful cake that John had baked and iced that was a big hit.
"I figured everyone would like Carrot cake with cream cheese icing. I didn't realize how much," John said, as the boys were on their second pieces, which were very generous in size.
After dinner the boys and girls, minus Garth and Barney, retired to the Media room for a while, until the girls had to leave. Barney was very vocal at being excluded and barked his disapproval at the top of the stairs. Things were very quiet from downstairs, but we trusted that they were behaving.
"That must have been quite an interesting movie you were watching. We didn't hear a peep from you folks," I said, as I gave all of them a big smile when it was time for the girls to leave and they came upstairs.
"It was very... interesting," Melissa said, as she grinned at Sean.
"Yeah, we were speechless," he replied, returning the grin.
The boys' interests weren't just girls and sports, however. Sean and Jake were continuing their vocal pursuits once again, which was to start very soon.
Even though the boys had been with me for almost two years, I was still finding out surprising things about them and their past. I had just got off the phone with Erin Brady, the junior choir leader at the church and she was giving me the fall schedule for Sean, Jake and Garth.
Garth was still going to be in the Junior Choir at Church, but Sean and Jake were going to be in the city Youth Choir, that had some of the finest fourteen to eighteen year old voices from the city and surrounding areas. Jake and Sean, as well as Charles, didn't need to audition, as Erin was the choral director and she was well aware of what they could do. She had encouraged them to join and Dana and I were very happy when they agreed to take Erin up on her offer.
"Is that music from an opera, Jake," I said, as I came into his room to tell him the news of his schedule.
He had his iPod docked in his player and was reading a book before he went to bed.
"It's Plácido Domingo singing 'Nessun dorma', from the opera 'Turandot'," he replied, matter-of-factly.
"My goodness, I didn't realize you were a Mozart fan."
"Puccini was the composer, Dad. Giacomo Puccini," he said, as he emphasized the first name and gave me a big smile.
He told me he had quite a collection of arias and overtures from famous operas on his iPod and that he liked to listen to them every once in a while and Domingo was one of his favourite tenors. I really wasn't an opera fan, simply because I had never been to one; however I did like classical music and was familiar with some of Puccini's work.
"You certainly have quite a diverse taste in music, Jake. One minute you're listening to Bryan Adams and the next minute, Plácido Domingo."
"Uncle took me a few times to see some operas in the city. He had a big collection on CDs and used to listen to them most Sundays."
The surprises continued, as I was treated to Vivaldi's 'Four Seasons' when I went into Sean's room.
"That's one of my favourite pieces of symphonic music, Son. That and 'Stairway to Heaven', by Led Zeppelin," I said, with a straight face.
It took him a few moments and finally he caught on to my teasing and laughed.
"We're learning about all the instruments in an orchestra in music class," he said. "Mr. Brawn's been playing some classical music for us and it's kinda cool."
He had been through my CD collection and downloaded some classical pieces to his iPod. However he really didn't know what he was looking for so I gave him some recommendations.
"I have a CD with some Rossini overtures that you might like and of course you can't go wrong with Mozart."
"Isn't that the guy they made a movie about?"
I just smiled at his comment and said, "Yes, that's the guy."
He was also looking forward, as was Jake, to the new choir adventure. Erin would have more time to do a lot more vocal training with them and they were eager to learn as much as they could, as they both liked singing. When I told Dana what I had observed with the boys' musical tastes, she was as surprised as I was.
"I grew up with opera, as my parents were big fans. I'm going to have to have a talk with that boy tomorrow morning to make sure he knows who the world's best tenor was."
Dana's favourite was the Swedish tenor, Jussi Björling, which wasn't surprising, since her maiden name was Janzen and both her parents were Swedish.
"My heritage has nothing to do with it. He was simply the best operatic tenor of the modern era. They called him the 'Swedish Caruso'."
She told me that when she was a little girl, the family took a trip to New York City and that was her first exposure to opera. They got tickets to The Met and Björling was the tenor singing the part of Radames in 'Aida'.
"He was truly magnificent and I've been hooked ever since. I'd love to go to the opera again, but I didn't think it was something you'd be interested in, so I never mentioned it."
"I love classical music, but I've never been to an opera, partly because my parents weren't fans and partly because Lorraine really wasn't into that type of music either. Because of her Irish roots, she loved Celtic music."
"Well I guess Giacomo and I will have to teach you and Sean something about culture," She said, as she gave me a big smile, followed by a kiss.
The Old Firehall Gourmet Shop and Catering finally opened the week before John and Susan's wedding. It was a very busy time for everyone but the launch went very well.
The shop, which was run by Susan in the front of the building, had a deli counter where meat, salad and cooked delicacies were available. The meat was free range from the local farms in the area and was of a much higher quality than that available in the local grocery stores. Dana and John's catering business was in the back of the building and it featured a very well equipped professional kitchen with a large preparation and storage area. Dana and John provided much of the prepared items that were available in the deli counter.
One of John's specialities was a large array of handmade chicken and pork sausages. Apricot and leek, sundried tomato, chipotle, maple chili and honey Dijon were some of the delicious varieties he had made for opening day. They were such a hit, that they had sold out of the 300 available by the time they closed up. The stuffed chicken breasts, as well as the peppercorn strip loins and bacon wrapped filet mignons were also a hit.
Besides the deli counter, there was a gift section as well as pre-packaged sauces, spreads and other treats. In addition, part of the business plan was to use the catering business to produce ready to eat meals, which were available in the extensive frozen food section or as a daily freshly prepared option. Where possible, ingredients used in the preparation of the meals were from local farms and John and Dana had been busy getting this stocked.
"John is a very talented chef, but he's still not fully recovered. He sometimes get frustrated that he can't do things as fast as he used to," Dana said, when we had one of the few breaks in customer traffic.
John had come a long way with his recovery, but he still wasn't back to normal and likely would never be the same. He had been assured that his stamina would come back, but the full range of motion in his left arm would be limited to about sixty percent of what it was. Fortunately for him he was right-handed.
"I think you're going to have to think about expanding the staff if this level of business keeps up," I said. "The two of you will be burned out very quickly if you don't."
The boys helped on opening day passing out the free food samples and helping at the checkout. John and Dana had made a number of tasty appetizers to garner interest in the catering business. Smoked salmon crepe roll with cream cheese and asparagus, wild mushroom bruschetta with brie, spinach and feta phyllo triangles and roasted red pepper on crostini were some of the offerings. It was successful, as they managed to book a number of appointments with clients to put together catering menus for their functions.
Garth was in his element, as he floated throughout the shoppers with the trays of samples. He also took every opportunity to tell them that it was his 'Daddy' that had made some of the food, as well as entertain them.
"What do you call a sheep with no legs?" he asked a very well dressed middle age woman, as he offered her some feta triangles.
"I'm not sure," she said, as she was caught off guard, "but no doubt you're going to tell me."
"I think that giggle of yours is funnier than your joke," she said, with a big smile.
Over the last two weeks it had been quite a struggle to keep Glen out of the Loft, as he was not allowed to see the progress of the renovation as it neared completion. This was of course because of the alteration of his original plan, which was going to be a surprise for him. After he had completed the mural for Garth in his room that was the last time he had been upstairs.
"The contractor doesn't want anyone up there at the moment, Glen," John replied, as Glen asked to go upstairs during one of his breaks. "He said there is a liability issue,"
Glen didn't believe him and asked, "Then how come you're allowed up there?"
Dana came over as she realized what was going on and asked him to help Sean and Jake carry some parcels for one of the customers to her car. Glen knew something was up, but he knew he wasn't getting anywhere with his father, so he dropped it.
On top of the store opening, John and Susan had to prepare for their impending nuptials. The night before John and Susan's wedding they had the rehearsal in the church. Reverend McLaughlin and everyone in the wedding party went over how the ceremony was to take place. Garth was very excited and John and Susan carefully explained, with Reverend McLaughlin's input, how he was supposed to carry out his duty as ring bearer.
He was to be first down the aisle and on the first run-through with the organist, he started on his way to the front of the church holding the satin pillow in front of him. However, after he had taken five steps, he turned to the empty pews on his left and growled. He then took another 5 steps and turned to his right and growled once more.
"Garth!" Dana called, from the front of the church. "What are you doing?"
We were all very confused and couldn't figure out what was going on. He ran up to the front of the church to explain his actions to Dana.
"I'm being the ring 'bear'," he said, as he growled once more and broke into his famous giggle.
It took everyone a few moments to stop laughing and John put his arm around him and led him to the back to start again.
"No more impressions of Pooh bear, Son," he said, with a big smile.
Garth didn't repeat his performance at the real ceremony; however, he was beaming, as he walked with a bounce in his step, down the aisle leading the bridal procession to the front.
The reception afterwards was in the old town hall, which was built in the 1800s. We had contracted another catering company that was owned by one of Dana's friends, to provide the food for the reception. Like our wedding, it was a stand-up buffet style with a minimum of speeches. Glen, as John's best man, said a few words about his father and how happy he and Garth were to have Susan as their mother. He wasn't as comfortable as Jake or even Sean speaking to an audience, but nonetheless, he did a very good job.
"You were very well spoken, Son," John said, as he gave Glen a squeeze. "I know public speaking is not your thing and your mother and I thank you."
Glen's face lit up when he heard John use the term 'your mother'. Both Garth and he got along with Susan and she had been treating them as if they were her children for some time.
Our present to the newlyweds was their honeymoon, which started with a week at the Grand Excellence, Punta Cana, in the Dominican Republic and a week on a Caribbean cruise with the Royal Caribbean cruise line. They had made arrangements for people to cover in the business until they got back.
This day was bittersweet for Dana and me, as we were happy to see John and Susan married, but we knew that Garth and Glen would be leaving us to move into their new home when they got back.
"Think of it this way, dear. We've just become instant grandparents," I said as I gave her a consoling hug.
We were still going to see Garth and Glen every day during the school year, as they would be coming back to the house after classes because John and Susan would be tied up with the business until later on in the afternoon.
Things had settled down somewhat after the two events now that we weren't rushing around trying to tie up loose ends. However, things changed very quickly. We got a call from the school that Sean, Jake and Glen weren't in their last period class. The office had recently installed a computer program that took the teachers' class attendance information, which was provided each period, and made a call home when there was an unexplained absence.
"I'm not very pleased at this turn of events," I said to Dana, after I got off the phone.
"Now, Al, I'm sure there's a good explanation. Those boys know we'd find out. Remember last year when Sean skipped his English class."
Just then a call came into my cell phone and it was from Sean.
"Dad, can you come and get us," he said. "We're over in the woods near the school."
"That could be anywhere, Son. Can you be more specific?"
"By the hiker's cliff above the ravine."
I could tell from his voice that he was upset about something, so I didn't start to chew him out. Dana wanted to go with me, but she didn't want Garth to arrive home with no-one to meet him so she stayed in the house.
It took a few minutes for me to get there and as I walked up to the spot were Sean told me to meet them, I could see there were more boys than just the three of them. Charles was there, as well as Carson. Carson was sitting precariously on the rock ledge and Sean and Charles were sitting on either side of him. Jake and Glen were kneeling behind them. I didn't need an explanation as to what was going on.
As I got closer I was about to speak, but Jake and Glen turned to me and shook their heads and put their hands up for me to stop. I could see that Sean and Charles were talking to Carson and finally, after a few moments, the three of them got up off the rock ledge and all the boys walked towards me.
"Are you alright, Carson?" I asked.
"He's good, Dad," Sean said, as he and Charles had their hands on Carson's shoulders.
"We were just talking about not worrying about things you can't do much about," Charles added, as he gave Carson a smile.
I was feeling relieved now that they were away from the edge of the cliff, as the drop to the ravine was a considerable distance. I wasn't quite sure what was going to happen next, but I knew we had to get Carson away from there and call Doreen. Before I could do anything, the boys took control.
"I'm Ok, now, guys. I just need to be alone for a while,"
"We're not leaving without you, Carson," Jake said.
"Friends look out for each other," Glen added, as he put his hand up for Carson to lock thumbs with him.
Carson pondered what he was going to do for a few moments and then finally agreed to join us. The boys kept the conversation as light as possible on the way home and Carson seemed to be a little better as he joined in.
I called Doreen at her work when I was out of earshot, before we got in the LX and told her some of the details, as much as I could. It was about a half hour later, when she arrived at the house.
"Carson, honey," Doreen said, as she took Carson into a big hug in the foyer. "I guess you're not having a good day."
After they broke their embrace, Doreen told him to get his backpack so they could get going.
"Can't I stay a little longer here? We were just in the middle of playing NHL2K11 on the Xbox."
"We're not going home, Carson. They're waiting for us at the hospital."
He was overcome with emotion at the realization of the seriousness of the situation. He was trying to be brave and not break down and the boys came to his rescue.
"Everything's cool, guy. The hospital's about as good a place as any to go when you need to get better," Charles said.
"Maybe you'll get a good looking nurse," Glen chuckled, as he tried to lighten up Carson's mood.
The boys insisted on accompanying Carson to the hospital for moral support and I drove all of them in the LX. Dana and Garth went with Doreen. She looked cool and calm on the outside, as her Nurse's training had taken over, but we knew that it wouldn't take much for her to lose control of her emotions. When we got to the Child and Youth Mental Health clinic, a nurse met us and ushered Carson into an examining room.
Dana stayed with Doreen until they had Carson settled and then Dana drove Doreen back to our place to get her car. She came in for a while, partly because we wanted to make sure she was alright and partly because she wanted to talk.
"I'm very grateful for what the boys did today. I don't know what would have happened if they hadn't gone looking for him."
We still weren't sure about all the details of what happened but we were very proud of the level of maturity that the boys had displayed. Doreen told us that the attending psychiatrist, who was the one that she had booked the appointment with some months ago, was going to have a session with him the next day to determine how serious the attempt was.
"I guess that's one way of getting him in early," she said, with a feeble smile.
The fact that she still had her sense of humour was a good sign. She finished her tea and told us she would keep us up-to-date on his progress.
"Please don't hesitate to call us if there's anything you need," Dana said, as she gave her a hug.
By now it was after seven and we hadn't eaten, so we ordered a pizza, which was quite agreeable to the boys. While we were eating, we asked them to fill us in on the details.
"We all walk together after lunch because we have our classes in the same hall," Sean said, as he took a break between his third and fourth slice. "We couldn't find him in the caf when it was time to go to class, so we took off without him."
"Carson and I have the same class and when I looked in the room he wasn't there," Glen added.
"Charles had been talking to him at lunch and he said he seemed really weird," Jake said, as he reached for his fourth slice.
Carson had told Charles that he could jump off a cliff and nobody would miss him or care. The boys started to get an uneasy feeling that maybe he was giving them a clue.
"Just then his loser friend from his hockey team last year was passing us and said not to wait for Carson, as he saw him take off into the woods," Glen said.
They didn't hesitate and went to the only cliff that was in that part of the forest. By now Garth was just finishing his last piece of pizza and he was a little confused about what was really going on. We decided not to sanitize this and we explained that Carson was planning on taking his own life and the term for that was suicide.
"You mean he wanted to die? Why?" he said, with a look of horror.
There was a bit of a pause as we weren't sure how to explain this part to him. Dana and I looked at each other, then the boys and finally Dana spoke.
"Our thoughts and feelings come from our brain, Garth and sometimes a person's brain can get very sick and make a person feel really badly. And when that happens they start to have bad thoughts."
I continued and said, "Some people can't think of any other way to stop the hurting, because they don't think anyone can help them."
Garth now understood why we were all concerned and he was a little sombre.
"If it wasn't for your brother, Sean and Jake, it could've been much worse," I said, as I looked at the boys with a big smile. "As far as Mrs. Spencer is concerned, they're heroes."
"He'll get good care in the hospital, Garth. It's just like when you break your arm and they fix it for you. They'll try to fix those bad thoughts," Dana said, as she gave him a hug.
Garth wasn't the only one who was having trouble with the events. Sean had also become a little withdrawn and wasn't himself the rest of the evening. I knew that he was thinking about the implications of Carson's actions and I decided to make a call to someone that I knew could help all the boys.
Dana and I made a point of going into the boys' rooms to say goodnight to them. We had dropped that ritual with the boys as they got older and usually just popped our heads in their rooms and said goodnight.
Jake, Garth and Glen seemed to be coping with the event fairly well, but we knew that we would have to take a little more time with Sean.
"You seemed a little quiet this evening," I said as we sat down on the side of his bed.
"Is there anything you want to talk about?" Dana asked.
There was a pause as he formulated what he wanted to say.
"I don't understand how someone could feel so badly that they wanted to kill themselves."
"You have a strong will to live, Son. If anyone had a good reason to commit suicide, you did when you were going through all that trouble with your mother and her boyfriend," I said, as I patted his shoulder for reassurance.
"Even though that thing on the top of your shoulders doesn't always make the best decisions, it didn't let you give up on life," Dana said, as she ruffled his hair and gave him a big smile.
"Carson, unfortunately, has been depressed over the situation with his Father and mother for some months and he just didn't see any other way to handle the hurt he was feeling," I said.
We spent another few minutes talking to him and answered some of the questions he had that were bothering him. Barney sensed something was wrong with him and he had clung pretty closely to him most of the night. He jumped up on the bed and was now resting beside him.
"I took the liberty of having Rev. McLaughlin come to the house tomorrow morning to talk to the four of you, since it's Saturday. I hope that was OK."
He just smiled and shook his head yes.
I put my hand on his arm and said, "Hopelessness is a very powerful and destructive emotion."
"But a positive attitude is just as powerful, Son," Dana added, with a smile.
The 39 Clues
Plácido Domingo - 'Nessun dorma'
Grand Excellence - Punta Cana
Royal Carribean Cruise Line