This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
This story is protected by copyright. It may not be downloaded or copied for other than your private enjoyment and may not be changed in any way without the expressed written consent of the author. This story may not be put on any other site without the author's express written consent.
"Sean, stop rubbing your ear, or you'll make it worse," Dana said.
"Dr. Scott can see us in an hour," I said, as I got off the phone.
His ear had become infected and the cream we had wasn't working.
"I don't know why you boys had to have your ears pierced. You shouldn't be in this mess," Dana added, as she cleaned the gunk away from his ear lobe with a cotton ball as he winced in pain.
Sean wasn't happy, not only for the discomfort the infection was causing, but also for Dana's reminder of her dislike of the jewelry.
When we got to Scott's office, we didn't have to wait long to get in to see him. He was glad to see Sean, since Scott didn't get around to the house too often anymore, now that I had a family and Scott was seeing someone regularly.
"I see your Dad is feeding you well. I think you're almost taller than he is, buddy."
Despite the discomfort Sean was in with his ear, he gave Scott a big smile. Scott took a look at the ear and prescribed a stronger antibiotic ointment.
"Don't take out that cool earring or you'll never get it back in. How does your woman like the new jewelry?"
Sean chuckled at Scott's use of the term 'your woman' and said, "She likes it, but mom doesn't."
When Sean got home, Dana apologized for her lack of empathy towards his discomfort. Jake had gently taken her to task about her dislike of the earrings and explained that she was clinging to an old fashioned notion. Jake was becoming very good at presenting an argument and none of us were a match for him when he was passionate about something, as he was with the ear adornments. Dana was now in a more accommodating mood and she had baked cookies as a peace offering.
"Your brother made a very persuasive argument that my view of the jewelry was 'so yesterday' and I wasn't being very fair to you two," she said. "I hope these will make your ear feel better."
I wasn't sure if it was the hug Dana gave him, the ointment or the cookies, but his ear was much better an hour later.
The last week before school started John, Susan, Garth and Glen were over one afternoon and we were sitting down at the patio table enjoying a BBQ in between swimming. The teacher in me was coming out and I couldn't resist asking the boys what they remembered or learned during the summer. Sean and Glen thought it was a bit dumb, but Jake decided to embrace the idea and go first. Jake never turned down an opportunity to talk and voice his opinion and his rather extensive preamble finally gave way to the crux of what he wanted to say.
"I learned that you have to be passionate about what you want to do," he said. "I told dad that I liked singing opera and I really learned a lot, but it's not what I want to do for a career."
Despite Jake's rather verbose tendencies, he was becoming a very expressive and insightful young man.
"Does that mean you don't want to go to the movie theatre with me tomorrow to see the Met Live broadcast of 'Tosca'?" Dana asked, with a smile.
We were going to the show the next day and Sean and I were going to see 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy", which had been shown at the Cannes Film Festival, while Dana and Jake were going to see a re-broadcast from the Metropolitan Opera House in New York city, which was shown in the movie theatre in town.
Sean took the opportunity of Dana's interjection in Jake's discourse to join into the discussion; otherwise, Jake was going to go on forever.
"I learned that talent isn't the only thing that makes a good golfer."
Sean thought that he would breeze through the junior club championship at the golf club, because of his work at the RCGA golf academy. I decided to offer my services as his caddie and my motivation was to have some quality bonding time together with him over the three day event. He was concerned that I wouldn't be able to play in the senior men's championship, but I assured him that my game wasn't up to snuff at the moment and this was more appealing to me. Both boys were starting to get it, that it gave me great satisfaction spending time with them and he accepted my offer. As it was, my role took on a more important function.
"It was a good thing Dad was with me, or I would've really embarrassed myself," he said.
He had been leading the field by two strokes going into the last round and there was only one other boy that was close to him, that was capable of beating him. He and the other boy had been competing in a few junior tournaments during the summer in the area and both of them had flashes of success. Most of the time, both of them ended up in the top ten golfers and twice, Sean had finished second, as had the other boy.
"You just needed a little pep talk, that's all," I said.
He started out the last round by four putting the first green for a double bogey, followed by his tee shot on the second hole that went into the pond. I hadn't said too much at that point, but when he slammed his driver into the ground on the third hole because he had hit his ball into the woods, we had a heart-to-heart talk as we walked to his ball.
"That wasn't exactly a pep talk," he said, with a big smile.
"Well, it worked, because 'Bulldog' showed up and the alien that had invaded your body finally disappeared."
He managed to get control of himself and ended up just missing a 15 foot putt on the last green, which would've tied the other boy for the lead. He had clawed his way back into contention with some fine golf, but his start left too big a gap between the two boys for him to close. As much as he was disappointed in losing, he was happy that he was able to mount a comeback after his rocky start. He also learned some valuable lessons.
"Losing my temper is a quick way to lose a golf game and the glass is always half full, not half empty," he said, as he gave me a smile.
I thought we were finished with Sean, but Dana piped in.
"You and Melissa also learned some important relationships lessons this summer, didn't you," she said.
He gave a weak smile and it was clear that he didn't want to elaborate on that subject. They had definitely patched things up after the tiff at Anne's wedding, as we observed when we found them on the patio, but he wasn't going to enlighten us on the discussion the two of them had that led to the amnesty.
Garth decided that he would like to go next, which was fine with Glen, because he wasn't too thrilled with the exercise we were putting the boys through.
"I learned lots of new jokes, like this one," Garth said, with a giggle. "Did you hear about the cross-eyed teacher? She couldn't control her pupils."
Before we could finish laughing and groaning, Garth had another one for us.
"What time is it when an elephant sits on the fence?" he said, as his giggling was now wound up.
"We're waiting," Susan said, as she grabbed and tickled him.
Finally, after Susan let go and he calmed down, he said, "Time to fix the fence."
"Ok, Mr. Comedian. Maybe you could come back down to earth and tell us what you really learned this summer," John said.
Garth put on his serious face as he dispensed his ten year old wisdom.
"I learned how to hit a baseball and that Sean's a good coach," he said.
That brought a big smile to Sean's face, as he had spent a fair bit of time with both Derek and Garth teaching them how to hit a pitched baseball.
"And, I also learned how to do real dancing," he said, as he broke into a smile.
He was going to show us the newest dance he and Derek had put together, but Dana suggested he could show us later, because it was Glen's turn. Glen, with his usual reticence, didn't know what to say.
"Maybe you could tell everyone how you tamed Wai, that young Chinese boy in your art class," Dana prompted.
He broke into a big smile and said, "That was easy. I've had lots of practice with my little brother."
Garth protested and pretended to be mortally offended, which got all of us laughing.
"You certainly are a good little actor, son," John said, as Garth broke into a hearty laugh.
Glen had done really well with the young kids, who ranged in age from six to eight years old in his class at the art school, despite the fact that there were a couple of rambunctious boys who posed a real challenge keeping them focussed. The Chinese boy, Wai, was the most difficult. Dana and I were sure that he was ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and bounced around the studio for the first few days. We had given Glen some strategies to use with him and he did a great job putting them into practice.
"I just had to find what Wai liked to draw," he said.
Glen had started with Mickey Mouse, then moved on to fire trucks and hockey players. He was underestimating the work he had done with the boy, which was Glen's natural reaction to a lot of things.
"Mrs. Lee thought you were a special teacher and so did Wai," Dana said, as she smiled.
Dana did some volunteer work at the school and was able to see firsthand how well Glen was doing with the young kids. The administrator at the school was also thrilled and had invited him to take another young class in the fall on Monday nights after school. We offered to drive him there, as Susan and John were still tied up at the store and catering business at that time of day. Most of the kids that were in his class had signed up again for the fall session and the parents were very happy at the experience their children had had and the word spread, as his class was full.
He also had managed to have a showing of all the kids' best work in the art school's front hall on the last day of the class and all the kids got to invite family members to the showing. The kids were thrilled, as were the family members that attended.
"I had a couple of grandmothers give me a hug," he said, as he chuckled.
"All the little girls in your class were also enamoured with you," Dana said, as Glen laughed.
I was pleased at the sharing the boys were able to do and before we went in to get dessert, Sean turned the tables on Dana and me.
"So, what did you guys remember or learn about the summer," he said, as the boys were now smiling.
We looked at each other and finally Dana answered, "We learned that you boys are growing up too fast and that all too soon, we're going to have an empty house."
Sean and Jake didn't get what we meant until we went inside to get dessert. The two of them came over and gave us a hug.
The next day we were all very pleased at the opera and movie. Sean wasn't wild about seeing the opera on a movie screen, because the best part for him was seeing the live orchestra and hearing the music. He wasn't too sure about the film I chose either, but I told him to trust me that it was a good spy thriller, which is something we both liked. I had seen the original movie before and I told Sean he needed to pay attention to the first 10 minutes. He thought it was a great thriller and the ending caught him by surprise. He had lots of questions as we left the theatre to find Jake and Dana.
"I still don't know what happened at the end," he said, "but it was a neat movie."
When we found Jake and Dana, they were also very happy at their production. The opera had some top-notch talent and both of them were raving about the soprano who played Tosca.
"I think we're going to have to make a trip to New York City soon to see the real thing live, don't you, Jake?" Dana asked.
"That would be really cool," Jake said, as Sean agreed.
The next day, we went to the mall to get the boys some back-to-school clothes and supplies for the next school year. Sean loved the clothes shopping part, but wasn't crazy about the school supplies, because that reminded him that school was starting soon.
"Maybe someday they'll come up with a smartness injection so kids don't have to go to school," he said, as Jake and he laughed.
"But just think of all the good times you'd be missing out on, like math contests, band performances and girl watching," I said, with a big smile.
"I hope you boys aren't doing too much girl watching. Your girlfriends wouldn't be too happy," Dana added, with a sly smile.
When we got home Jake was first through the laundry room door and we knew something was wrong immediately.
"Oh, Oh. How did Barney get upstairs," he said.
Sean was next to enter the house, followed by Dana and me. Barney was on his side in the laundry room and was fast asleep.
"Barney, wake up," Sean said, as he leaned down to shake him.
He was a little lethargic, but he finally got on his feet.
"Omigosh," Jake said, as we joined him in the hall. "He tipped over the plant."
The potted plant we had in the hall was on its side and the dirt was all over the floor, as it looked like he had been digging in it. He had never done that before and we were quite surprised, as we were when we investigated further and found another plant overturned in the living room.
"I thought you put him downstairs in his 'condo'," Dana said to me, with a not too flattering look.
We called the back part of the basement his 'condo', because that's where his cage and litter box were. We never left him upstairs when we were out, because of our fear of what he would get into and the 'condo' had a door on it to keep him confined.
"I guess I didn't shut the door completely," I said, sheepishly.
By now we had gone into the kitchen and the source of his lethargy became apparent. The muffin tin that Dana and the boys had left on the breakfast bar counter was on the floor and it was empty. The dozen muffins were nowhere to be found!
"Oh my. Surely that little mutt didn't eat all twelve," Dana said, in disbelief.
"Not quite," Sean called from the hall.
When we got back to the front hall, the boys were looking at the mess.
"He stored an extra one for later in the dirt in the planter," Jake said, as he bent down and pulled out a muffin from what was left of the dirt in the pot.
When we examined the other planter in the living room, there were two more buried in the dirt that was left. By now Barney had joined us and looked on with indifference as we pulled the muffins from the dirt. He was so full that he had no interest in the extra muffins.
"There's never a dull moment with Barney around," I said.
"Barney's behaviour is certainly not dull," Dana said, as she glared at him.
The school year started with not too much fuss and all the boys were reasonably happy, with their teachers and subjects. Preparations had started for the production of 'Oliver' later in the fall, which was going to be a big time commitment for them. Susan, John, Dana and I had impressed upon the boys that they needed to budget their time well and above all make sure their school work came first.
All four boys were still involved in hockey, art and music lessons, but Jake, Sean and Glen wisely backed away from coaching Garth's team, because of the extra time it would take. Ricky was still the head coach, but two of the fathers took over as assistants.
Garth had made his assessment of the two fathers' abilities and said, "Those two dads don't know how to coach; not like Sean, Glen and Jake. Ricky has to show them how to do everything."
Things were moving along with the preparations for 'Oliver' and the vocal practices were to start in a couple of weeks, but the boys got their scripts at the end of the first week of school and started memorizing their lines.
Garth was keen to learn his part and he had Glen, Susan and John help him. However, after a couple of days Glen took Sean and Jake aside one night after school and asked if they could 'help' Garth with the script, to which they agreed. Glen was becoming exasperated with Garth's constant critique of his delivery of the lines in the script.
"I told him I'm not an actor and neither are mom and dad," Glen said to the boys, as he rolled his eyes.
When Susan and John came to pick up Glen and Garth that night, they were thrilled at Glen's news that they didn't have any more 'script duties'.
"I'm glad that Sean and Jake have agreed to rehearse their lines with Garth. We were told we weren't doing a very good job," John said.
"According to Garth, none of us were dramatic enough," Susan said, as she chuckled, along with Glen and John.
Garth flew in the door the next night after school and wanted to get to work right away on his lines with Sean and Jake.
"Sorry, Garthy. Food first," Sean said, as he dug into a bowl of fruit salad that Dana had for their snack.
Garth was a little disappointed, until Dana brought out his favourite chocolate chip muffins.
"Well, that slowed you down, didn't it little man," I said, as I tousled his hair.
He was so engrossed in the muffin that he didn't object to my 'little man' reference. The only thing that got his attention was Barney hanging around him. He loved Barney and Barney loved him, because Garth fed him from the table.
"Garth, remember we don't feed Barney from the table. But, just in case something falls on the floor, remember chocolate's not good for dogs. It's poison to them," Dana said, trying to be pre-emptive.
"But fruit is ok," he said, as he giggled and 'accidently' dropped a raspberry on the floor, which Barney devoured. "Oops."
This was working out a lot better having Sean, Jake and Garth rehearse their lines together. All three of them were really getting into the spirit of the preparation for the musical and the boys were very patient with Garth.
While that was happening, Dana helped Glen with some of the set design he was working on. She hadn't done any of that sort of thing since her high school days, but she was enjoying helping Glen get his ideas together.
The three boys were in a good mood when they came upstairs from their first practice together.
"Please, mum. Can I have some more?" Garth said to Dana in his 'Oliver' accent, as he held out his bowl for more fruit salad.
"More? You want more?" Dana said, with a similar accent.
Garth and the boys were amused and we all laughed at Dana using a version of the famous line from the play.
"Maybe someone else should've tried out for a part," Jake said.
"It looks like things went well," I said to the boys.
"Except for the music stands falling over, everything was great," Sean said, as he and Jake looked at Garth, who now had a sheepish look on his face.
Jake explained that Garth decided to spice up the reading by adding some of his famous choreography to add authenticity and had knocked over some music stands in the studio in the process.
"You gotta keep things exciting," Garth said, as he giggled.
Sean, Jake and Glen just shook their heads.
This September was an important milestone for both of the boys, as they turned sixteen years old. Dana had made the cake for them and had written in blue icing 'Sweet Sixteen', which both of them found a little mushy.
"Just because you're two strapping young men doesn't mean I can't call you sweet," she said, as she gave the two of them a big hug.
They had been reminding us that they were now legal driving age and that they would like to learn how to drive. They were very happy at their birthday party we had for them when they got driving lessons from us as one of their presents.
"How come you're not going to teach us?" Sean asked me.
"I have enough grey hair as it is," I said, with a chuckle.
We had signed them up with Young Drivers of Canada, which was an excellent driving school. More importantly, their insurance rates would be better having taken lessons and the Young Drivers course.
"Do we get to learn in the Beemer?" Sean asked, as Jake and he had big smiles.
"Oh!" Jake said, as they looked at my horrified expression. "I guess that's no."
Melissa and Rachel were also taking lessons and I wasn't sure if I was looking forward to this new phase of the kids' lives. I could see some trips down the major highway to and from Toronto happening in the future as Sean and Melissa became more mobile. The only good thing was they would not be able to drive alone on that highway until they got their permanent licences, which would be off in the future.
We got the boys their learner permits and I took them out on a quiet parking lot a couple of times before their lessons started. After their first two official lessons they needed some practice and our first trip on real streets with the boys driving was a harrowing one. Dana was in the back with Sean and I was in the front with Jake driving Dana's RDX. We were going to church and Jake was driving there and Sean was going to drive back home.
"Jake, I think you need to concentrate a little more on what you're doing. We really don't need to hear about everything your instructor told you in your last lesson," I said, as we came to a rather abrupt stop, twenty feet from the stop sign.
When we finally got the RDX parked in the church parking lot, Dana and I were a little frazzled. Dana said 'thank you' in a very emphatic voice.
"You're welcome," Jake said, as he gave Dana a big smile.
The boys walked ahead and I was curious as to Dana's comment and I asked her what that was all about.
"I wasn't talking to Jake. I was talking to God," she said, as she looked up.
Finally the cast rehearsals started and the first sessions were with the musical director, a teacher from the high school who had been doing this job for years. Ralph Hagen was a very big man, who had played competitive basketball in his youth. He was of German extraction and sometimes came across as being very brusque, but he was an excellent vocal and choral director. However, after the first group rehearsal, Garth wasn't so sure. I picked up Sean, Jake and Garth, as well as Glen who was working on the sets. Sean was driving home, as Jake had driven over.
Sean was the opposite of Jake, as he was a very cautious and focussed driver. It wasn't as much of a white knuckle ride when he was behind the wheel, as it was with Jake. I had been concentrating on what Sean was doing behind the wheel and it wasn't until we got closer to Glen and Garth's loft that I noticed Garth wasn't his bubbly self.
"Is there something wrong, Garth?" I asked.
He gave a feeble answer and I knew that I needed to find out what was bothering him.
"Mr. Hagen didn't like the way we were saying the words to some of the songs," Jake said.
Ralph apparently wasn't happy with the way the words were sounding when the chorus sang together, especially some of the endings such as 'list', which was coming out 'liss'. He had all of the singers speak the words to the music, which he called 'tuning the vowels'. He was especially picky with Garth's accent and told him to ditch it until he could enunciate properly. He was a little short with him and Garth took great exception. Garth didn't want to talk about it and I could see we had a major problem on our hands.
"You did ok, Garth. Mr. Hagen was hard on all of us," Sean said, trying to lift his spirits.
Finally Garth mumbled goodbye and got out of the RDX. Glen said goodbye and caught up to him and put his arm around him as they went in the front door.
When we got home, Dana greeted us at the door and said, "Susan wants you to phone her. Garth is in quite a state."
Susan told me that he was talking about quitting and she was really concerned at the way he was treated. Susan had become very protective of both Garth and Glen and treated them as if she were their birth mother. I had her talk to Sean and Jake and after they assured her that Mr. Hagen wasn't really picking on him, she settled down.
"Glen was able to calm him down and he's going to give it another shot, but I hope things change next rehearsal."
I called Ralph Hagen the next day and had a talk with him about his handling of Garth. He was apologetic, as he really didn't think he had come across so strongly.
"Thanks for the heads-up. He's a talented little guy and we sure don't want to see him quit. I'll straighten things out today," he said.
Ralph called the house after school and had a good chat with Garth. Things were much better after the phone call and the smile was back on Garth's face. We knew he was feeling better when he had to tell us a joke.
"Did you hear about the cross-eyed teacher? She couldn't control her pupils," he said, as he started into to his famous giggle.
"You already told that one a couple of weeks ago," Dana said.
"I know, but I like it," he said, as he continued his giggling.
The next rehearsal went much better and Ralph worked with the lead singers, while Erin took the chorus. Except for Garth making up the words a couple of times to one of the songs, because he forgot what the real ones were, things went smoothly. Ralph was careful the way he treated Garth and wasn't as forthright and he kept things light and got the best out of him. It had been a while since he had dealt with younger cast members and because he was a good teacher, he was able to adjust his approach.
When I picked them up after rehearsal, Garth was his old self again. Ralph had made a special point of boosting Garth's spirits and it appeared that Garth had found a fellow jokester.
"Mr. Hagen like jokes, too," he said, with a big smile.
"Mr. Hagen's jokes are as bad as Garth's," Sean said, as the boys rolled their eyes.
I was glad Garth was much better and that I didn't have to worry about him on the trip back home, because I had to concentrate, as it was Jake's turn to drive. I made sure that I was holding onto the door rest to brace myself, as Jake's braking technique was a work in progress.
When we got home after we dropped off Glen and Garth, Sean and Jake wanted to talk about something they had been pondering for a while.
"They need some volunteers backstage and on the lights," Jake told Dana and me.
"We thought that maybe some of the kids down at Sean and Jake's place could help out," Sean added.
They had put together a plan that four of the kids, who really needed some positive intervention in their lives and were interested, could get involved. These were kids that they had observed when they had been volunteering some Saturdays at the shelter.
"They really need a break and the foundation could pay for transportation to get them up here for rehearsals and the play," Sean said, enthusiastically.
"They'd have to make sure they have their homework done, though," Jake added.
"We talked to Ms. Brady and she thought that was a great idea," Sean said.
Both Dana and I were very pleased at the plan and with them for putting it together. Both of them were great advocates for the kids at the shelter and they understood what the Foundation's role was in the funding decisions. The next day I got in touch with our Executive Director, Mark Depew, Charles' father and he loved the idea and said he would put it on the agenda for the next board meeting that week. He suggested the boys come to the meeting and present it themselves, which they heartily agreed to.
"Well, the plan will get my vote," I said.
The Thanksgiving long weekend in October was getting closer and Sean was particularly excited, because his grandparents, Fin and Tatania were joining us in Naples. We had rented another house nearby, for them and also Katie, Marty, Carol and Kyle. It was going to be a real family event.
Sean and Jake came in the door after school two days before we were to leave and we could tell immediately that they weren't happy.
"Our accounting teacher, Mr. Patel, got a promotion and is leaving after Thanksgiving," Sean said, with a very unhappy expression.
"Ms. Rayner is taking over," Jake said, with disgust. "We're just going to stay out of her way."
"Charles isn't happy either, but he said he's not going to take any of her sh.... ah.. crap," Sean said, as he caught himself before he used a word we wouldn't have been pleased with.
This was not good news and Dana was quick to react.
"Isn't there any other teacher of that course?" she asked, clearly concerned about the ramifications of the change.
"No, but it's alright, mom. We'll deal with it," Sean said, trying to reassure her that they would survive.
I was also concerned, as I knew that she wasn't a very good accounting teacher and Sean in particular, was looking forward to learning the subject, as he had a real interest in business and finance. Jake had taken the course because Sean had, but also because he thought he needed to learn more about finances and business. Even though the boys were more mature and were better able to handle themselves with adults, Trudy would add a new dimension to the class that I hoped would not turn them off the subject.
"We have to learn to get along with people who are... difficult," Jake said, as he was trying to search for a word that was more acceptable than the one he would have liked to use.
Both Dana and I were struck with the insight of his comment, but it still didn't relieve our anxiety of what was to come in the months ahead.
The Met Live in HD
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy