Substitute Dad

© 2006 - 2010 By Scribe1971 (scribe1971@hotmail.com)

Chapter 1

Reunited

They say that just about any male past puberty can become a father, but it takes a real man to be a dad. To me, that used to be simply a cliché, nothing more than empty words. I never stopped to consider that there is a very significant difference between a father and a dad. That is, until my life was forever changed by a lonely boy who stole my heart and adopted me as his substitute dad.

I was a 19 year old college student looking for a place to live. Classes were due to start in only 5 days and I still hadn’t found a suitable place to hang my hat within reasonable distance of campus for a price that I could afford. I had only 1 appointment that morning and it was to look at a basement apartment in a suburban house about 30 minutes from campus. It was a little farther from school than I had hoped and the rent was a little higher than I had wanted to pay, but meals were included. Not being much of a gourmet cook, the more I thought about that added benefit, the more this place sounded like a good idea. As I approached the front door and rang the bell, I had no idea that my life was about to take a radical change.

The door was opened by a friendly looking, slightly heavy woman who looked to be in her early 40s. “Hi, I’m Tom Davis, we spoke earlier this morning about the basement apartment that you have for rent," I said as I extended my hand.

"Pleased to meet you Tom, I’m Susan Chambers," she said as she accepted my offered hand and gave it a surprisingly solid shake. As she released my hand she stepped aside and beckoned me into the front door. "Come on it and I’ll give you the dime tour."

For some reason she struck me as familiar, but I couldn’t quite place it. As I started towards the door I caught sight of a young boy who had just entered the hallway and caught sight of me. I had just barely taken my first step into the doorway when I heard his delighted shout.

"TOMMY!" he shouted as he threw himself at me.

Before I knew it, he slammed squarely into my chest and sent us both cart wheeling out the door and, thankfully, onto the lawn rather than the cement steps. We went down hard in a heap. I was winded and I had what I figured was about 100 pounds of very happy boy piled on top of me.

"TOMMY! It’s really you! I missed you so much!" said the excited boy as he wrapped his arms around my torso and hugged me tight.

At this point, I was not only struggling to regain my breath, but I was also totally confused. Obviously this kid knew me, but I had no idea as to who he was. He was lying on top of me with his face buried in my chest. All I could see was the top of his head and his sandy brown hair worn in the short, spiky style common pre-teen and early teenage boys. Based on his size and weight, I guessed he was about 12 years old.

"JOSHUA CHAMBERS! What has gotten into you?" shouted Susan in a half amused, half-surprised voice as she hurried out to see if we were ok.

At that same moment, the boy, who was still clinging to me like a drowning man clinging to a life preserver, looked up at me. One look at his striking gray eyes which seemed to twinkle with good natured mischief and I instantly knew who this boy was. I didn’t even need to hear his mother shout his name; I would have recognized those eyes, that compact button nose decorated with a smattering of light freckles and those dimples framing his wide and friendly grin anywhere. It had been more than a year since last time I saw him, but there was no mistaking Josh. He was the type of person who left a lasting impression on everyone he came into contact with.

"Josh! Holy cow buddy, nice body check! I’m really glad to see you too." I chuckled as I recovered my breath and returned his warm and friendly hug. He flashed that familiar old grin up at me and his eyes seemed to light up. "How about letting me up?" I asked.

"Sorry," he said as he blushed and climbed off me.

Susan stood there looking totally confused, her mouth frozen in an "O" of surprise. "You two know each other," she asked?

"MOM," Josh exclaimed, "Of course we know each other, this is Tommy Davis from camp Tonawonka. He was my counselor last year!"

"Well I’ll be damned! I thought I recognized your name when we spoke, but it just didn’t click," Susan said as she smiled and reached out to brush the grass cuttings off my jacket.

"Same here. I didn’t make the connection until he tackled me," I chuckled as Josh grabbed my hand and literally dragged me into the house.

"Are you really going to live here?" asked Josh in an excited voice.

"He hasn’t even seen the place yet," said Susan before I could reply.

"That’s entirely possible, little buddy," I said as I reached down to ruffle his hair. Susan led me down stairs to the small basement apartment which she was offering for rent. The fully furnished apartment was small but adequate. It featured a small living room, a galley kitchen, a cramped bathroom with shower stall and a cozy bedroom with a Queen sized bed. The furniture was older but in good condition and looked comfortable. Despite the compact size of the space, I knew it would provide me with the sanctuary from the world that I knew I would need.

"This would suit me just fine Ms. Chambers," I said.

"Call me Susan; Ms. Chambers makes me feel old," Susan remarked. "Josh, why don’t you go upstairs for a minute so Tom and I can talk?"

Josh looked crestfallen, "Alright mom," he said as he dropped his chin to his chest and trudged slowly up the stairs.

"Why don’t we sit down, Tom," Susan said, indicating the small table and chairs in the corner of the room.

"To be completely honest, I was really planning on renting to a female student," Susan said as she studied my face before continuing. "It’s just Josh and I here and I felt that I would feel more comfortable with a female living here."

"I can understand your concern, but I can assure you-"

"You don’t need to assure me of anything, Tom," she said, cutting me off. "I almost feel as if I know you. Josh worships you. Every second word out of his mouth last year was ‘Tommy’. He was heartbroken when he found out that you weren’t working at the camp this year."

"Josh is a special kid, I enjoying having him as a camper as much as he evidently enjoyed having me as a counselor," I said with a smile. "Unfortunately, camp counselor pay wasn’t going to be enough to pay the bills this year so I had to take a higher paying summer job. I spent my summer days churning out code for a downtown software company. My heart was still at camp, though," I said with regret.

"I couldn’t believe how much Josh changed that summer. You made such an impression on him that he came home from camp like a new boy."

"I’m glad that I was able to make a difference," I replied. I’d heard similar tales from other camp staff. Josh had been a regular at camp Tonawonka for several summers before I arrived on the scene. Returning counselors had snickered when it was revealed that the group of eight 10 and 11 year old boys who made up my group of campers included Josh. He had gained a reputation as a hellion over the past few summers. Nobody had been able to control him; he had evidently taken great delight in trying to aggravate the camp staff and was a master of practical jokes.

I never bought into the concept that he was a hellion. To look at him, you could swear that he was a little angel. At first, he tried his usual stunts with me, but I managed to head him off at the pass with a firm, but friendly attitude. He quickly realized that he didn’t know any tricks that I hadn’t pulled when I was his age. I let him know that he wasn’t going to get my goat and he began to settle down.

As I got to know him, I realized that he was just a smart and sensitive little boy who was starved for affection. His acting out was simply an effort to get the attention that he craved. I offered him both my attention and my genuine affection and he responded in kind. The change in him was so remarkable that other counselors began to ask me only half jokingly what I had done with Josh and who I replaced him with.

By the end of the summer, Josh and I had become good friends. He was my shadow at camp. As much as I tried to avoid showing favoritism among the campers, Josh was my favorite. He was eager to please and lapped up the praise and affection that I would show him. On the last day of camp, as we said our goodbyes, Josh gave me a firm and tearful hug. My eyes were more than a little moist as I hugged him back and told him that I hoped to see him next year. Sadly for both of us, that was not to be, at least until this chance meeting.

"Josh needs a strong male influence in his life. He rarely sees his father and quite frankly, he doesn’t really want to see him," Susan remarked.

"I’m sorry to hear that," I replied, shaking my head.

"Don’t be. It’s probably for the better. George is a drunk. He was neglectful and abusive before we divorced and he’s been in and out of jail for years now. Josh is getting to that age where he needs and craves a positive male role model and his father isn’t providing it."

"I’d be happy to help out as much as I can, he’d be like a little brother to me."

"I don’t expect you to be a babysitter, Tom, but I know Josh would love to spend some time with you."

"I’d like that too. I’m also prepared to rent the apartment and give you first and last right away."

"The place is yours," Susan replied with a warm smile, "Josh would never forgive me if I didn’t rent it to you."

"Well that settles it, when can I move in?" I asked as I stood up and offered my hand.

"Whenever you like, I’ll go and get you a key and you can haul your belongings over and move in today if you want."

Susan went up the stairs to fetch a key and fill Josh in on the news as I sat down and wrote out a cheque in the amount of $800 to cover first and last months rent. I had just barely put my chequebook down when I heard a loud "YES!" from upstairs followed by what sounded like a herd of elephants charging down the basement steps.

I barely had time to turn around and I was, for the second time that day, struck by a guided "boy missile" as Josh threw himself at me and wrapped his arms around me. This time I managed to keep my balance and avoided falling on and probably collapsing the kitchen table.

"This is going to be so cool," he exclaimed as he hugged me tightly.

I smiled and returned his embrace, "It sure is buddy," I said warmly as I looked down at him and smiled.

That same day, with Josh’s help, I moved in. The arrangement turned out to be ideal. Despite having a 30 minute drive to class, the house was comfortable and located in a nice neighborhood. I took most of my meals upstairs with Josh and Susan but spent most of the rest of my time at home down in my apartment. Josh was a frequent and welcome visitor. He would come down every day for help with homework or just to chat and hang out. I didn’t mind at all. Josh really was like a little brother to me and often followed me around like a puppy. Being the youngest in my family, having a younger brother was a new experience. I tried to model the behavior of my two older brothers who I adored and it seemed to work well with Josh.

I made a concentrated effort to spend time with Josh. Despite the seven year age gap, we truly enjoyed each other’s company. Whether we were hanging out in my apartment and chilling together, or doing something exciting like visiting Wonderland or a water park, we had fun. Before long, we had grown just as close as any two brothers out there. I made every effort to provide a strong and positive male role model for him and he responded well to it. He quickly began to open up to me about his life before I met him and about his dad.

"I’m really glad you came to live here," he said to me one day while we were hanging around my apartment watching videos and eating pizza.

"I am too, buddy," I said with a smile and ruffled his hair.

"Before you moved in, I was pretty lonely. I have friends my own age, but I still felt lonely," he mumbled as he looked down at his sneakers.

"That’s perfectly natural, Josh, boys your age need an older guy to spend time with them. Unfortunately your dad couldn’t do that for you," I said choosing my words carefully, not wanting to bad-mouth his father in front of him.

"Oh he could have if he had wanted to," Josh said almost angrily. "He just thought his next drink was more important than me." He said with a slight sniffle.

I slid over next to him on the couch and put my arm around his slender shoulders, "Its ok to be upset about it, Josh," I said comfortingly. "Your dad has an addiction and he can’t help it."

"He could get help if he wanted to!" Josh said hotly, "I just wasn’t important enough to him," he said as he buried his head in my chest and started to cry.

I pulled him close into a warm embrace and gently rocked him. "It’s not about you, buddy, it’s a sickness," I said soothingly, trying to reassure him. Secretly, I hated his father for causing such a wonderful child such pain, but I didn’t want Josh to know that. I hoped that one day his father would get some help and would become a part of his life again and I didn’t want to plant a seed which would work against that possibility.

"Josh," I said as I gently raised his head to look me in the eyes, "Don’t ever try to take any responsibility for the way your father treats you. It isn’t your fault. It isn’t anything that you did or didn’t do that made him put booze ahead of you."

Josh hugged me tighter and said "I wish you had been my dad."

"I do too," I said with a smile and reached down to wipe away his tears, "Feeling better?"

"Yeah, you always make me feel better. I love you, Tom." He said with a hopeful glint in his eyes.

I hugged him tighter still, "I love you too kiddo, I really do," I said as I gave him another squeeze and released him. We smiled warmly at each other and then renewed our assault on the pizza. I really had grown to love him. When I first moved in, we were simply friends, now we were more like family. We truly had become like a pair of very close brothers. He filled a hole in my life that I didn’t know even existed and I know that I filled a similar hole in his life.

Things continued on like that for some time until one day I returned from class and knew immediately that something was wrong. For starters, Susan’s car was in the driveway when I pulled in at 4:30 and she normally didn’t return home until well after 6:00 PM. When I let myself into the house, I wasn’t immediately set upon by an excited Josh. I walked into the main floor kitchen and found an ashen faced Susan sitting at the table.

"Hi Susan, is everything ok?" I asked with concern.

She looked up at me and said, "I got a call at my office today from the police up in Bracebridge, Josh’s father was in another drunk driving accident today."

"Oh shit, I guess its back to the clink for him," I said angrily contemplating how this latest development would impact Josh.

"I’m afraid it’s worse than that," Susan said sadly, "George must have passed out behind the wheel. He swerved into oncoming traffic and slammed head on into a mini van carrying a woman and 3 kids."

"Oh no…." I said in shock.

"The woman and 2 of the kids were killed on impact and the third is in critical condition. George was also killed on impact."

"Oh my God! He’s dead?" I asked as my brain went numb.

"Yeah, they said he broke his neck and died almost instantly. I don’t give a damn about George, but I just wish that he hadn’t taken those others with him."

"Does Josh know?" I asked, already knowing the answer.

"Yeah, I came right home and pulled him out of school. When I told him, he went pale and then he quietly stood up and headed off to his room without saying a word."

I looked down at my feet and let the news sink in. "You know, I think deep down he loved his father, even if he tried to tell himself differently. I don’t think it’s entirely possible for a child to stop loving a parent no matter what they do."

"I think so too," Susan replied sadly. "I went up to check on him about half an hour ago and he was just laying there staring at the ceiling. He wouldn’t talk to me or even acknowledge me."

"Would you like me to try to talk to him?" I asked.

"I suppose it couldn’t hurt. I know how much he loves you and maybe he’ll be more comfortable talking to another guy."

I stood up and then walked up the stairs to Josh’s room. I knocked on the closed door. Hearing no answer from within, I quietly opened the door and walked in. Josh was still laying flat on his bed staring at the wall. I saw his eyes shift over to me for a second and then snap back to their former vacant stare.

"Hey bud," I said as I sat down on the edge of his bed and gave his arm a loving squeeze. "I just heard the news from your mom, I’m really sorry about what happened"

He didn’t reply. I sensed that he wanted to speak to me, but was holding back. I continued, "Josh, I know this is a terrible loss. Despite the rocky relationship that you had with your father, he was still your father. It’s alright to grieve for him. It’s alright to be upset and it’s ok to cry."

I could see that he was listening and absorbing what I was saying, but he still wasn’t ready to talk. "Josh, you don’t have to talk to me, but I want you to know that I am here for you. If you decide you want to talk, come down and see me. Know that I love you and your mother loves you and we are both here for you." With that I leaned down and placed a gentle kiss on his forehead. I caught the faintest glimmer of a grateful smile on his lips and in his eyes before he resumed the thousand yard stare that he had been wearing when I entered the room. I gently brushed my hand over his brow and ruffled his hair before quietly leaving the room and heading back downstairs.

"How is he?" asked Susan as I encountered her in the kitchen.

"He’s pretty upset and he didn’t say anything to me. I told him that I was here for him and that he could come to me when he was ready to talk."

"Thanks Tom," Susan said and gave me a quick embrace.

I went down to my apartment and tried to get started on my homework. After struggling for 30 minutes or so, I decided that it was pointless because I couldn’t concentrate. It wasn’t that I had any feelings for George Chambers; rather it was because I could feel Josh’s pain. Someone who I loved deeply was hurting badly and there was nothing that I could do to take the pain away. I felt helpless.

At around 7:00, I went upstairs and, along with Susan, picked silently at my dinner. Josh didn’t join us. After supper, I retired back to my apartment and flipped through the TV stations and found only banal sitcoms and lousy movies. I finally decided to pack it in for the night at around 9:30.

I awoke with a start after what seemed like only a few minutes of sleep. A quick glance at my digital alarm clock told me otherwise. It was just after 11:00PM. I was just starting to gain my composure when I felt a small hand come to rest on my shoulder.

"Tommy, are you awake?" Josh said softly and yet urgently.

I was wide awake in a flash, "I’m awake, Josh, are you ok?" I asked as I rolled over to look at him.

He stood there dressed only in his briefs, hopping from one foot to the other, shivering in the cool basement apartment air. "I couldn’t sleep," he said softly. "I need to be with someone. Can I sleep with you tonight?" he asked.

"Of course, bud," I said as I sat up and turned on the bedside lamp. "Why don’t you climb into bed and I’ll go make you a cup of warm milk to help you sleep?"

"That sounds good," he whispered and smiled wanly.

I climbed out of bed, also clad in just my briefs and held back the covers so that he could climb in. "I’ll be right back with your milk; you crawl into bed, ok?"

"Thanks Tommy," he said as he hugged me and then climbed into my warm bed and wrapped the covers around himself.

I went to my small kitchen and poured a quantity of milk into a large mug and the nuked it in the microwave for 2 minutes. When it came out steaming hot, I added a bit of sugar and some cold milk to take the edge off. I sampled it to satisfy myself as to both the temperature and the taste of the warm, sweet concoction and then I headed back into my bedroom.

"Here, drink this," I whispered to Josh as I sat down on the bed and wrapped my arm around his shoulders pulling him close to me and handed him the mug.

He sat up and made short work of the warm milk. "Thanks. That was nice and made me feel better," he said as he handed me the empty mug and wiped the milk moustache from his upper lip.

I set the mug down on my night table reached over and turned off the lamp and then crawled back into bed along with Josh. It was a big queen sized bed with lots of room and I figured that we could spread out comfortably. I was pleasantly surprised when Josh scooted over and snuggled right up to me. I was lying on my back and he moved up against my left side. He lay on his belly, partially on the mattress and partially on my chest. He placed his head on my shoulder and draped his left arm across me. One of his legs crossed my left leg. I reached my left arm up and lay it over his back and I took his left arm in my right hand.

"Comfortable?" I asked him quietly.

"Yeah, you don’t mind this do you?" he asked me with a look of uncertainty.

"Not at all," I said. I was actually enjoying the feeling of his warm little body draped over mine. Basement apartments can be pretty cool in the winter and this one was no exception. The added warmth was welcome.

"I want to feel sad about my father, but I can’t. All I feel is angry," he said with a shudder and a sniffle against my chest.

"That’s ok, Josh. It’s natural to feel that way in these circumstances."

"But he was my father – I should be upset. I’m sad, but I feel more sad about the people he killed than I am about him. Is that wrong?" he sobbed as I felt his tears land on my chest.

"No, it’s not wrong, Josh. I’d feel that same way. Your father did a terrible thing. He did a lot of terrible things. It’s natural to be angry with him over that and it’s also natural to feel sad that he’s dead. Just because you aren’t upset and crying over him doesn’t make you a bad person."

I felt him hug me tight and then he said in a weak voice, "What if I turn out like him?" he mumbled and then his tears began to come hard and fast.

"Josh, you won’t. I don’t know much about your father, but from what I do know, you are nothing like him. You are a smart, kind and loving boy. You are probably the best thing that your father ever did. Just because he was an alcoholic and a neglectful parent doesn’t mean that you will be too." I felt my own tears start as I tried to reassure him.

"We are all our own people, Josh. We all make our own choices for good or bad. Your father made some bad choices and those choices hurt you, they hurt your mom and they hurt a lot of other people. I don’t see that same weakness in you. I look at you and I see a strong, level headed boy who will go far in life." I hugged him harder as I said that.

"Josh, you are surrounded by people who love you and who care deeply about you. You caught a shitty break from your father, but you have people who will make that up to you. I’ll make that up to you."

"You will?" Josh sniffed and looked up at me expectantly.

"Yes, Josh, I will. I promise you that I will. Did you ever hear the expression that ‘Any man can be a father, but it takes a real man to be a dad’?" I asked him.

"No, what does that mean?"

"Truthfully, before tonight, I wasn’t sure, but I know now. A father is a biological parent and that’s it. Fortunately, most fathers are also dads. A dad is someone who loves you and who would die to protect you. A real dad does everything he can to help you grow into a man. A dad is man who spends time with you, who will never leave you, who will never hurt you. Most of all, a dad loves you unconditionally."

"What do you mean ‘unconditionally’?" Josh asked.

"Unconditional love is the most powerful and valuable love there is. It has to be given freely and with no strings attached. You cannot earn it, you cannot do anything to deserve it and you cannot demand it. It can only be given freely as a gift from one person to another. Once that gift is given it can almost never be taken back."

"I think I understand. I love my mom that way," he said thoughtfully.

"I know you do and I promise you that she loves you that way too."

He seemed lost in thought for a moment and then said "I love you that way too, Tommy."

"I know, Josh, I love you unconditionally and I always will." I said giving him a firm and loving squeeze.

Josh looked up into my eyes and considered that for a moment before saying "My father was just a father, wasn’t he? He wasn’t my dad, I didn’t really have a dad," Josh sobbed softly.

"Yeah, Josh, that’s what he was. His addiction deprived you of the dad that you needed and wanted," I said sadly.

"I think I have a dad now, though," he said as his gray eyes probed into the depths of my soul. "You’re my dad now, Tommy."

I had a lump in my throat the size of Mount Everest. I looked down at the boy as he lay there in my arms, looking hopefully into my eyes. "Thank-you, Josh that means so much to me. I would be honored to be a dad to you. I’m proud of you and I love you as if you were my son." My own tears were now flowing freely as Josh hugged me tight and buried his head deep in my chest and let his emotions flow out of him. After a few minutes his tears stopped and his body began to relax in my arms.

I held him tight and said, "Goodnight son"

"Goodnight dad," was his firm reply.

He remained there snuggled up tightly against my left side as he slowly drifted off to sleep. After a few moments, I felt his breathing become slow and regular and he began to snore softly. Before long, I joined him in slumber, still holding him closely.

A couple of hours later, I once again felt myself rising from the depths of sleep. I opened my eyes and looked down at Josh who was still cuddled up to me in the same position that he had fallen asleep in. He was still asleep, but I could tell that something was wrong. He was gripping me tightly and his body was covered in a glaze of cold sweat. He was trembling slightly and was making small whimpering noises in his sleep. I could feel his madly pounding heart against my side. I knew at once that he was clearly in the grip of a nightmare.

I wrapped my right arm around his shoulders and gently pulled him closer into me. I began to softly rub his back up and down with my left hand and whispered comforting sounds into his ear. I hoped that I was transmitting my love to his subconscious mind and that it would relieve him of his nightmare in short order.

Within seconds I felt him begin to relax his vice like grip on me and he stopped trembling. The cold sweat which covered his body began to evaporate in the cool air, his whimpering tapered off and I felt his heartbeat slow to a more normal rhythm. As I continued to stroke his back, he sighed contentedly and nuzzled his face into the base of my neck. I could feel his warm breath on my upper chest as he once again began to snore softly. I leaned my face down and cuddled my cheek against the top of his head and continued to softly massage his back until sleep once again claimed me.

I awoke the next morning and wondered if the night before had been some sort of dream. That notion was quickly dispelled with the realization that Josh was still sound asleep snuggled tightly up to my side. I didn’t want to disturb him so despite my full and aching bladder, I lay there and thought over the events of the night before.

There was a light knock on my bedroom door. "Come in," I whispered.

Susan, clad in a house coat, walked quietly into my room. She smiled as she looked at Josh cuddled up beside me sleeping peacefully. "I woke up and went to check on him. When he wasn’t in his room, I figured he was down here," she said in a relieved tone. "I hope he didn’t disturb you."

I shook my head and quietly filled her in on the details of what went on the night before. I told her all about my conversation with Josh and about his nightmare.

"Thank-you Tom. Thank-you for being there for him. He really does love you. He worships you. In his mind, you hung the moon and the stars in the sky and you cause the sun to rise in the morning. You’ve been a dad to him for a while without either of you even really knowing it." She walked over and kissed both of us on the forehead and then walked out of the room with glistening eyes.

Josh began to stir and I lay there lost in my thoughts.

"Good morning dad," Josh said groggily as he looked up at me through half-open eyes.

"Good morning son." I said as I smiled at him, "Sleep well?"

"Sorta," he replied, "I had a nightmare. I dreamed that I was in the car with my father when he had the accident. Everything was going in slow motion. I was trying to get him to stop and pull over, but he just ignored me," Josh whispered.

"It must have been terrifying," I said with concern.

"It was, but something happened. Somehow someone pulled me from the car at the last minute and saved my life," Josh studied my face and continued, "I couldn’t see the person’s face, but I knew it was you. I could feel it. I felt safe and comforted."

I hugged Josh and told him all about what happened when I woke up and found him having a nightmare. He listened intently and looked at me with a look of absolute love and trust.

"Thanks," he said, "thanks for loving me enough and caring enough to do that."

"You’re welcome, little man. Now, if you love me, you’ll let me up so that I can take a piss," I said with a grin.

Josh laughed, and clung to me even tighter with a mischievous grin on his face. He finally released me after a few seconds and I just made it to my small bathroom in the nick of time. Josh wasn’t far behind me. As we stood unselfconsciously together before the porcelain God and relieved our bladders, I once again lost myself in thought. I knew that this was just the beginning of what would be a very special life-long relationship for both of us. This diminutive 12 year old boy and I had now bonded in such a way as to permanently cement our lives together. We both knew in our hearts that nothing would ever come between us. No matter what challenges would come our way, we would meet them together. Neither of us would ever be alone in the world so long as the other lived. Josh was now my son and I was now his dad just as surely as if we were blood related.


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