Substitute Dad

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

Chapter 30

What about Bob?

After we left Rideau Hall, we headed straight to the Parliament buildings. It was only about five minutes away and we wanted to take the grand tour before heading back to the hotel to change into street clothes. The reception following the medal ceremony had been well catered so none of us was really hungry. We only had about five hours before Susan had to be at the airport, so we wanted to make the most of the time.

"Why were all those reporters so interested in what I said to the Prime Minister?" Josh asked from the back seat.

"I guess it isn't an every day thing to see anyone, let alone a boy, give the Prime Minister a piece of his mind in front of the media," I answered still smiling for how proud I was of his modesty and innocent courage.

"I didn't really say anything that the media shouldn't already know about," Josh replied.

"No doubt Josh. I guess what made it important was the fact that you were so articulate and passionate about what you were saying. It's amazing for someone your age to be that 'on the ball'," Bryan said.

"Josh, it was pretty cool," Mark chuckled. "He looked well... really surprised to say the least." Mark started to laugh. "Actually I think you tied his tongue in a knot."

Once we all of us quit laughing after that remark, I said thoughtfully, "We'll all be on TV tonight because of the medals and I think Josh will get some additional coverage because of his conversation with the PM."

"That's an understatement. Those reporters looked like they had struck gold," Bryan laughed.

We pulled to a stop in a parking space near the corner of Metcalfe Street and Wellington Street. It was a good location which left us with a very short walk to the Parliament Buildings, the Royal Canadian Mint and the Canadian War Museum. Our first stop was a tour of parliament.

We all gathered on the sidewalk as Bryan and James fed the parking meters.

"I was really impressed, actually quite proud with what you said to the Prime Minister Josh," Susan said to Josh as she placed her hand on his shoulder. "You were very mature and respectful."

"I meant all of it. It's amazing how much I'm learning on this trip." Josh beamed at the praise from his Mom.

"It sounds like it's being a real eye opener for you," Susan replied.

"Josh, I think that conversation is going to earn you your 15 minutes of fame," Andy chuckled.

"I just hope he listened to what I said," Josh lamented.

The eleven of us walked up Metcalfe, crossed Wellington Street and entered the grounds of Parliament hill. Parliament hill is divided into three blocks. The Centre Block is the main structure housing the House of Commons, the Senate, the Peace Tower and the parliamentary Library. The East and West blocks, which flank the Centre Block, contain MPs and Senator's offices.

To our left, beyond the West Block, we could see the majestic Supreme Court building, to our right, past the East Block; we could see the Royal Canadian Mint, the War Museum and the National War Memorial. Directly ahead of us was the Eternal Flame.

The Eternal Flame is set in the midst of a granite fountain and it is adorned with the coats of arms of each of the ten provinces and three territories of Canada. The border of the fountain is inscribed with the name of each province and territory along with the year in which they joined Confederation. The fountain is filled with coins that tourists throw in every day. By an act of parliament, the coins are collected and donated to a charity in support of Canadians with disabilities. The combined fountain and flame is symbolic of the unity of Canada.

"This is beautiful," Anne remarked.

"Can we throw some money in?" Richard asked.

"Sure," James replied and fished out a couple of loonies for the twins to chuck into the water.

By then, Josh had fired up the video camera and was busy filming the proceedings. Susan and I exchanged brief smiles as we watched Josh approach complete strangers with the video camera and talk to them about their impressions of the place.

After a few minutes, we moved on and walked towards the Centre Block and soon found ourselves standing at the base of the Peace Tower. The Centre block was built in 1916 to replace the original that was destroyed by fire. The only part of the original building which still stands is the Parliamentary Library. When the fire was discovered, a quick thinking staffer had closed the heavy doors leading to the Library and had saved both the structure and the precious documents contained within it.

We stared up at the Peace Tower just as the bells tolled 1:00 PM. The bells in the peace tower were gifted to Canada by the people of the Netherlands in recognition of Canadian efforts to liberate that country during the Second World War. The Peace Tower also contains the Memorial Chamber which is dedicated to the men and women who gave their lives in service of Canada during wartime. It was also one of the main places that we wanted to see in the parliament buildings.

"I get a feeling here," Josh said as he looked up the steps towards the front entrance. "I can't describe it but it's almost like I can feel the history here."

"I know what you mean son," I replied. Josh was right. The importance, the majesty, the traditions of the place were palatable in the air that afternoon.

We climbed the stairs and then, as a group, turned around and looked back towards Wellington Street and the Eternal flame. The view from the hill was amazing. The historic Chateau Laurier hotel stood proudly before us and the modern skyline of Ottawa rose beyond. We turned and entered the building.

Inside the main entrance, we had to file through a security station. One-by-one, as if going through an airport security check, we placed our metal objects into a tray and walked through a metal detector. I was about to unpin my medal when the commissionaire who was manning the metal detectors stopped me.

"You can leave that on son," he said firmly and waved me through. The detector went off because of the medal so he wanded me and then waved me into the seat of the nation's power. Josh and Mark received the same treatment and pretty soon we were all standing in the marble floored main foyer.

To say that the place was magnificent was an understatement. The polished marble floors, engraved with the coats of arms of Canada and the provinces were just the beginning. The main foyer is surrounded by marble pillars and the walls were hung with historic paintings including portraits of all 19 past Prime Ministers of Canada.

Before long, we were joined by another family and a tour guide and we began our tour of the Centre Block. Being a summer weekend, Parliament was not in session and there weren't any politicians to be seen, but the sights of that historic building were breathtaking. As we were led through the halls of the building, Josh ran the video camera almost non-stop and I was madly snapping digital photos. There were several highlights including the entrance to the Prime Minister's office, the red adorned Senate Chamber and the Green adorned House of Commons.

I didn't know it at the time, but one of the photos that I took in the House of Commons that day would one day be significant.

The House of Commons is divided into two halves with a centre aisle. The speaker's chair is set at one end of the aisle with the government side of the house to the right and the opposition side to the left. The Prime Minister and his cabinet ministers sit on the front rows of the government side, about 10 or 11 rows from the speaker's chair. The leader of the opposition and the opposition shadow cabinet sit directly across from the Prime Minister and the cabinet.

While the tour guide was pointing out the features of the Speaker's chair, I heard a familiar conspirational whisper from Josh.

"Hey Dad!"

I turned towards the sound of his voice and my mouth dropped open. Josh had handed the video camera to Mark and then, unnoticed by the tour guide, climbed under the velvet rope which had been placed before the rows of parliamentary seats and sat down in the 11th seat on the front row of the government side of the house. He sat there, in the Prime Minister's seat, grinning like the Cheshire cat.

I quickly snapped off a couple of digital photos and then admonished him to get down before he was spotted and got into trouble. As he did so, I turned around and nearly laughed aloud when I saw Susan. She had evidently heard and recognized his whisper and turned to see what he was up to. She rolled her eyes and shook her head. Josh just smiled back at both of us. Meanwhile, Bryan, trying with difficulty to be serious, started wagging his finger at a grinning Mark. We walked away; our shaking heads looking at the floor, trying to suppress our laughter from the joy the boys were always giving us.

After leaving the House of Commons, we stopped and viewed the ceremonial mace which is placed in the House of Commons when it's in session, and then we headed to the Peace Tower to visit the Memorial Chamber.

If the rest of Parliament Hill seemed to give off a sense of history, the Memorial Chamber virtually vibrated with waves of somber patriotism. The chamber is very heavy on symbolism. The floor is made with stones taken from World War I battlefields where Canadian soldiers fought. Its walls and columns are made of stone taken from France and Belgium where Canadians saw the most combat in the First World War. In the centre of the chamber stands the main altar which is carved from a solid block of Hopton Wood which is the same stone used for tombstones in Commonwealth Military Cemeteries. The central altar, as well as several other altars throughout the chamber, contain the Books of Remembrance.

The Books of Remembrance contain the names of all of the Canadians who died in battle in the service of Canada and the cause of freedom. The books contain more than 100,000 names from the War of 1812 all the way to present day UN deployments.

We didn't talk very much inside that chamber. It had the solemn feeling of a church; its hallowed ground dedicated to the men and women who fought and died to give us the freedoms that we enjoyed.

I walked up behind Josh who was standing at the altar and gazing at the current Book of Remembrance. The book was sealed in a glass case so he couldn't turn the pages, but he could read the names and the dates on the page before him. He was clearly lost in thought.

"You ok son?" I asked.

"Yeah, I'm fine. I was just thinking that there are so many names in these books; so many young people who gave their lives for all of us. They gave us medals and called us heroes, but these people whose names are written in these books are the real heroes."

"Yes they are Josh. We have a duty to remember them and to honour their memory by celebrating and protecting the freedoms that they died to give us. It means more than just thinking about them every November 11th. It means remembering them every time we vote, every time we read a newspaper written by the free press in this country. It means remembering them when we travel this country and can move freely wherever we want. It means thanking them every time we consider the fact that we can live in a safe, peaceful and free country."

"I hope there aren't any more wars," Josh said thoughtfully.

"I do too Josh, but sometimes that can't be helped. Sometimes not fighting is far worse than going to war. Canada has never started a war and I hope never will, but can you imagine if the countries of the world decided not to fight Hitler?"

"I see what you mean," Josh replied.

Our visit to the Memorial Chamber set the tone for our next stop. Before leaving Parliament Hill and heading to the Royal Canadian Mint, we stopped at the Police Officers Memorial.

Of all the places that we'd visit on the trip, that was the most emotional for me, for my brothers and my mom. The Police Officer's Memorial consists of a wall adorned with granite tablets inscribed with the names of all of the Canadian Police Officers who fell in the line of duty since Confederation.

It only took us a couple of moments to locate my Dad's name on the wall. My mom, Andy, James and I went to the wall and stood before the second to last tablet. I reached out and ran my finger over the engraved name "Sergeant Richard M. Davis 1951 - 1992"

My mom put her hand on my shoulder. "He would have been proud of you today," she said softly. "He was proud of all of you boys and he loved you all very much."

"I know. I could feel him there today," I replied.

"I still miss him," James said with a sniffle.

Anne came up behind him and wrapped her arms around him. Sensing that their dad was upset, the twins each went for a leg. "Is that Grandpa's name?" Matthew asked.

"Yes it is son," James replied.

"He had the same name as me," Richard said.

"Yes he did. He had the same name as you too Matthew," Andy said. "His middle name was Matthew."

"Sometimes I can't picture his face," Andy said before breaking down. My mom pulled him into a hug.

I remained where I was, kneeling before the wall staring intently at the monument. I felt close to breaking down when I felt a hand come to rest on my shoulder. It was Bryan. Before I knew it, Josh was kneeling down with me and hugging me fiercely and Mark was beside Bryan placing a hand on my other shoulder.

"Are you ok Tom?" Bryan asked gently.

"I am now," I replied as I reached up and squeezed his hand.

"Your dad was a hero too," Josh said. "Just like the men and women on those Books of Remembrance."

"Yes he was Josh. He really was. You know, it doesn't make it any easier. I feel like I got cheated."

"You did," Mark said softly. "Just like Bryan and I got cheated when our mom died."

"Just remember Tom. Somewhere out there, there is a young woman who is alive because of your Dad. She'll probably have kids and they will have kids. There are going to be generations because of your Dad," Bryan said and squeezed my shoulder. I had told him a little about my Dad and I was pleased that he had remembered.

With the help of Josh, Mark and Bryan, I got to my feet. Josh reached out with a hanky and dried my eyes for me.

"Are you ok Tom?" Susan asked with concern in her voice. She looked a little lost not being directly related to my Dad.

"Yeah, I'm ok," I replied as we reached to each other and hugged.

After the eleven of us stood silently for a moment and contemplated the memorial, we turned and headed off Parliament Hill. Our next stop was the Royal Canadian Mint. The Mint tour was amazing. The looks on the boy's faces when they saw those machines churning out all those bills and coins were priceless. Richard's eyes were about the size of saucers as he watched the machines stamp out thousands of shiny new loonies.

"Look at all that money," an awestruck Richard said.

"Yeah, that's even more than daddy has," Matthew agreed.

I smiled when Josh picked up Matthew and Mark picked up Richard and hoisted them onto their shoulders and carried them through the rest of the tour. The little guys thought it was just the greatest and I think they actually enjoyed it even more than seeing the money being made.

"The boys really love Josh," Anne observed as we followed the others through the hallways. "They've really taken to Mark too."

"I guess they're good judges of character," I replied.

"Yes they are. That's why they love their uncle Tommy so much," she smiled, then looked up at me out of the corner of her eye with a grin, and said quietly, "and I think its safe to add 'Uncle Bryan' to that statement."

Needless to say, I was a bit overwhelmed. "Thank you Anne. Its something Brian and I really want to happen."

As we caught up to the others, she laughed quietly, winked, and said with a smile, "Good choice! James thinks so too!" Of all the people in my family, Anne was the one I was most concerned about regarding Bryan's and my relationship. I think relief and happiness does a lot to warm the heart, and I think Anne knew it.

With the twins getting a little restless, we left the mint and went next door to the Canadian War Museum. All four boys took one look at the tanks parked out front and they were off in a flash.

Josh and Mark ran to the nearest Sherman tank with the twins in hot pursuit. Like the pair of monkeys they are, and despite the fact that they were both still dressed in their suits, Josh and Mark scrambled up the sides of the big tank and perched themselves on the turret.

"LIFT ME UP THERE!" Richard shouted.

"ME TOO," chimed in Matthew.

James picked up Richard and lifted him onto the hull of the tank while I did the same with Matthew. Bryan started up the video camera and filmed the four boys having a great time playing on the tank as if it was a set of monkey bars rather than a weapon of war.

Listening to the four of them laugh and giggle was a real treat for all of us. It was a nice relief from the heavy emotional time that we'd experienced earlier. I watched as Josh perched himself on the main gun.

"Hey bud, you know that gun gets really hot when they fire it don't you?" I snickered.

"It does? How hot?" Josh asked.

"I don't know, but if you want to have kids one day, you might want to get down before the twins figure out how to fire it," I joked.

Josh processed what I said for a second and then his face lit up when he realized what I meant. "Yikes," he chirped and quickly jumped off.

I caught him neatly and set him down on his feet. "At least you didn't get hung up by your trousers this time," I laughed.

Josh blushed and then had a good laugh at his own expense. He then took the video camera from Bryan and queued up the segment of video showing his little misadventure in the Badlands. He had everyone, especially Susan, roaring with laughter.

"You're lucky you didn't crack your head!" Susan laughed.

"Maybe I did, that's why I hanging around with all of you," Josh retorted.

After the boys had had as much fun as they possibly could on the parked armoured vehicles without wrecking their suits, we headed into the museum.

Like the RCMP museum in Regina, the War Museum is a treasure trove of history and memorabilia. They have everything from displays of weapons and vehicles to uniforms and decorations. Some of the more unique displays include the tunic that General Isaac Brock was wearing when he was killed in battle (the hole from the bullet that killed him was plainly visible) and a convertible car once owned by none other than Adolph Hitler! It had evidently been captured late in the war and brought home as a trophy.

Of course, the boys enjoyed the weapons displays the best. Boys always seem to have a fascination with guns and grenades and bombs; Josh, Mark, and the twins were no different.

"Boys and their toys," my mom said with a shake of her head as she, Susan, and Anne watched me enthrall the other males in our group with all sorts of information about the various rifles, sub machine guns, and pistols arrayed in the case before us.

"Why does that one look so familiar?" Mark asked, pointing to a Sterling 9mm sub machine gun.

"Yeah, that kinda does look like something I've seen before," Josh added.

"That's the Stormtrooper gun," I said with a laugh.

"Like Darth Vader's men?" Richard asked with wide eyes.

"Darth Vader isn't real!" Matthew said.

"No, he isn't real but they did use modified Sterling sub machine guns for Stormtrooper rifles in the movies. Good eye Mark."

"Does it really shoot lasers?" Matthew asked.

"Sorry kiddo, it shoots plain old 9mm bullets!"

"It's still pretty cool though," Josh said. "Did you ever fire one?"

"No, they were retired from service by the time I joined up. The new C7s, C8s and C9s replaced the FNs and the SMGs."

"We fired an FN!" Josh said proudly.

"I hear you're a pretty good shot too," Bryan said patting Josh on the back.

"That seems to be something that runs in our family," James said.

"Yeah, Dad was a hell of a shot," Andy replied.

"We'd better get a move on if we want to see the War Memorial and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier before I have to leave," Susan said.

It was closing in on 4:00 PM and Susan had to be at the airport by around 6:00 for her 7:00 PM flight. Andy was also flying back that night so that he could get back to Tonawonka by Sunday afternoon. My mom was flying back with him on the 9:30 flight. James, Anne, and the twins were staying until the following day and would go with us to the National Aviation Museum.

We exited the War Museum, crossed Wellington Street, and walked a short ways down to the National War Memorial. The National War Memorial stands in Confederation Square, not far from the Parliament buildings. It stands 21 meters (68 feet) tall from its base. The memorial consists of an arch of granite surmounted by emblematic bronze figures of Peace and Freedom. Shown advancing through the archway are 22 bronze figures symbolic of the hundreds of thousands of Canadians who answered the call to serve.

Each of the figures, which are approximately 30% larger than real life sized, represents a different branch of the military. The infantrymen are at the front leading the way flanked by machine gunners, artillerymen, and grenadiers. Sailors and pilots take up the rear and there is a reproduction of a field artillery piece. Atop the archway are figures representing peace and freedom.

At the south side of the memorial lies the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Only three months earlier, the remains of an unidentified Canadian soldier were exhumed from a Commonwealth War Cemetery in France near Vimy Ridge. The remains of the soldier were escorted back to Canada by an honour guard representing all branches of the armed forces plus the RCMP. After lying is state in the Hall of Honour in the Centre Block of Parliament, he was reburied in the granite and bronze sarcophagus at the foot of the towering war memorial.

The tomb consists of an engraved granite top that resembles the top of a casket with a solid bronze overlay which includes a WWI type of infantry helmet. The only engraving on the tomb reads 'The Unknown Soldier'.

"I watched the dedication ceremony on TV but being here is so much more meaningful," Susan said.

"It's a pretty powerful experience," Anne said.

I noticed that Josh looked troubled. "You ok bud?" I asked.

"Yeah, it's just that I was wondering. How come you joined the army knowing that you could have to go to war and that you could have ended up like this guy?"

"Well Josh, it's like I said in the Memorial Chamber. Sometimes not fighting is worse than fighting. Sometimes you have to look past yourself and decide that some things are more important to you than your own personal safety. If you were in danger, I wouldn't hesitate, not even for a second, to help you even if it meant that I'd be in grave danger because of it. Some people join the army for the pay or for the experience. Some people join for adventure. I joined because I wanted to take personal responsibility for the safety of the country."

"It's kind of like what you once told me about being selfless rather than selfish, right?"

"That's right Josh. Freedom isn't free. Men like the one buried right over there paid for our freedom. We don't have any wars to fight, but we all have a duty to do our part to safeguard that freedom and to stand up for people in other parts of the world who don't have freedom or who cannot fight for themselves."

"Should I join the army one day?" Josh asked.

"Josh, you should do whatever you feel is right. You don't have to join the army to serve. There are lots of ways to make a difference that don't necessarily involve being in the military. That's the way that I wanted to make a difference, but it didn't work out. Now I'm making a difference by being a Dad to someone that I love very much and whom I believe will be a mover and a shaker one day."

"You've certainly made a difference to me. I want to make a difference too. I want to do what Terry Fox did and change the world. I don't really think the army is for me, but I might join Air Cadets like Mark."

"That's a great idea Josh. I might even look at becoming an instructor. They could probably use all the flying instructors that they can get. As far as you changing the world, I have a strong feeling that you're going to do just that one day."

After about twenty minutes, we walked back up Wellington Street and returned to our vehicles. We were going to swing by the hotel so that Susan, Andy, and my mom could retrieve their bags and we could all get changed into some more comfortable clothes. Before we left the hotel that morning, Susan had transferred her belongings into our room and checked out of the hotel. My mom and Andy had done the same thing and deposited their stuff with James and Anne.

When we arrived, Susan went right up and retrieved her bags and then headed down to the lobby to give us a chance to get changed. I was the first to get out of my suit and took the opportunity to have a quick shower to freshen up for dinner.

Josh hopped into the shower as soon as I climbed out while I dressed and headed down to the lobby to keep Susan company. When I stepped out of the elevator, I saw her sitting in one of the same chairs that Mark and I had used a day earlier.

"Hi Tom," Susan said with a smile as I sat down next to her.

"That was quite a day, eh? Too bad Bob couldn't make it."

"To be honest, I'm not sure how unfortunate that really is," Susan replied flatly.

I didn't know quite what to say. "Josh wasn't too enthused when he heard that Bob was supposed to be coming. I talked to him about it and I tried to get him to give the guy a chance. For some reason, Josh has taken a bit of a disliking to him. I've never seen him do that before. I don't mean to pry, but Bob seemed like a nice enough guy to me."

"Well Tom, I think Josh has good instincts. Bob isn't into kids; not that Josh is a kid anymore... he's a young, yet mature teenager. Bob's never really tried to get along with Josh. It's as if he sees Josh as baggage. I thought things were pretty serious between us, but the more I see of him, the less sure I am."

The idea that anyone could see an intelligent, loving, and caring boy like Josh as baggage sickened me. I barely knew Bob, having only met him a couple of times, but I was starting to share Josh's dislike of him.

"That's too bad. How anyone could see Josh as baggage is beyond me."

"I know what you mean. He actually tried to talk me out of coming here. He wanted me to go to his cottage for the weekend instead," Susan said bitterly. "My son was getting a medal for bravery, and there's no way in hell I was going to miss that. We had a big fight over it. I don't think I'll be seeing much of Bob anymore."

"What does he do for a living anyway?" I asked.

"He drives a truck. A big rig," Susan replied with a chuckle. "Imagine that, a professional woman with a truck driver!"

"He seems to do awfully well for a truck driver," I replied. For some reason that I couldn't quite place, some ominous suspicions were forming in the back of my mind. "Doesn't he drive a BMW?"

"Yeah, he said he invested some money wisely," Susan sounded skeptical herself.

"Susan, I can't put my finger on it, but please be careful. Bob may be a man who has overextended his ego. I guess what I'm trying to say is that you should be careful of his temper. Josh and I love you too much to have anything stupid happen." It was something I said without thinking; the words just poured out of my subconscious without any control.

Susan smiled. "I love both of you too. Tom... Josh and I had a long talk last night. I know how much you care about him and Mark. He also said that you and Bryan are.... well... pretty tight?"

I nodded with a smile, just at a bit of a loss for words. "Yeah, we are.... very much...."

"It's ok Tom, I've known Bryan for a long time and I couldn't be happier for both of you. You're both young in age, but very wise for your years."

"Susan, Bryan and I both agree that as much as we love each other, Josh and Mark will always come before our relationship. We've told the boys the same thing." I said with all honesty.

"I've known that for a long time Tom." Susan said quietly as she put her hand on mine. "I wouldn't trust my son to anyone else. Josh also told me about your thoughts to move to Calgary when he turns sixteen. That seems like a long time to be without your partner."

"We're talking about having Bryan and Mark for a visit to Ontario next spring break. Then there's our summer vacation again. It won't be that bad, so long as Josh needs me to be his dad and I need him to be my son. Besides, at this point in his life, he really needs his Mom too." I smiled.

"Tom, I doubt that will ever change, and for that I'm thankful. Other things may change and things for you and Bryan could get better. Don't read anything into this, but I've a lot of thinking to do before you and Josh get back from your trip. You guys seem to be doing really well. Josh is somehow... different. I can't quite place it but he seems more grown up. He's learning an awful lot on this trip," Susan remarked thoughtfully.

"You should see him talking to people and interviewing them for our project."

"I'd believe anything after I saw the way he handled himself with that blowhard of a PM!" Susan laughed.

"Tell me about it! I was floored. I'll tell you... he's discovered his hero on this trip."

"He discovered that a long time ago," Susan said and tapped me on the hand.

I smiled at her and then continued. "He has really latched onto Terry Fox and the things that he was able to accomplish. We saw the Terry Fox monument near Thunder Bay and it had quite an effect on him."

"I'll bet it did. I can't explain it, but somehow I know that he's destined for greatness."

"I get the same feeling. I feel as if I'm part of something, but I don't know quite what it is. He said he wants to change the world and I believe he WILL do that."

"I believe it too!" Susan laughed.

"A truck driving investor. Strange combination," I laughed as we were set upon by the twins who came charging out of the elevator. They were two little bundles of energy and, like Josh; they tended to move quite a bit faster than the world around them.

"UNCLE TOMMY!" Matthew hollered as both boys launched themselves into my lap.

"Hey little buddies," I said. "You guys ready to eat?"

"Yeah, we're hungry," Richard said.

"Will you read us our bedtime story tonight Uncle Tommy?" Matthew asked.

"I'd love to," I replied and gave both boys a firm squeeze before setting them down.

"Tom, I'd hate to impose, but could you do Anne and I a favour tonight?" James asked.

I smiled at him and replied, "If it involves keeping an eye on my favorite nephews, I'll gladly do it."

"You read my mind. Yeah, Anne and I wanted to go out and catch a movie tonight."

"Sure thing. Have a good time."

Bryan, Josh, and Mark emerged from the next elevator to arrive in the lobby.

"Quick! We have to get some food into these ravenous eating machines," Bryan joked.

"Yeah, we're fading away here," Mark said.

"I'm starving. The plastic fruit in that bowl over there is starting to look pretty good," Josh said pointing to a display of wax fruit on a nearby table.

"If you eat one of those, I'll give you $50 bucks," Andy said as he and my mom arrived and joined out little group.

"Really?" Josh asked.

"I don't think that's a very good idea," Susan chuckled.

"Spoil sport," Josh with a mock angry look on his face.

"I suppose it's only wax with some paint. As long as the paint isn't toxic, it probably wouldn't harm you. I doubt that it would taste very good though," Bryan chuckled.

Amidst a flurry of good natured ribbing and friendly banter, the eleven of us headed to the local Swiss Chalet for our final full family meal of the Ottawa excursion. As with all our family meals, a good time was had by all. I was truly amazed at the ease with which the eleven of us had come together as one family. The experiences of that day in particular had done a lot to bond the group of us together. We may have come from three separate families, but as we began to part company that night, we were well and truly a close and united family.

Susan and my mom had become good friends. Bryan and been accepted immediately by my mom, my brothers, my sister-in-law and my nephews. The twins absolutely adored both Josh and Mark and to my mom, Josh truly was her grandson. It was an awesome experience to watch an instant family form before my very eyes. I began to think back on the shooting and look at it in a new light. Perhaps this was the purpose that lay behind that terrible event.

After the meal, Josh and I took Susan, Andy, and my mom to the airport in the rental car. Andy had contacted the airline during dinner and had managed to switch him and my mom to the same flight that Susan was taking so that they could travel together. Bryan and Mark went back to the hotel with James, Anne, and the twins.

We arrived at the departures gate just about one hour before the flight time and we had a few minutes to say our goodbyes.

"I'm really proud of you son," my mom said as we embraced and quietly whispered in my ear, "Bryan is a wonderful man and I need another son and grandson."

"Thanks mom." I whispered back. "It means a lot to hear you say that. I'm glad that you could make it."

"I wouldn't have missed it."

"Take care bro," Andy said. "Don't worry about the lawsuit stuff. It's all under control. Enjoy the rest of your trip and we'll see you on Labour Day." As we hugged each other firmly, he said quietly, "You and Bryan make a great team. After the Struthers, then the way you handled Mr. Calahan, and then this lawsuit thing, I couldn't be happier for the both of you."

"Thanks bro, that means so much," I replied and hugged my brother with an extra squeeze.

Josh got hugs from both Andy and my mom and then went to his mother.

"See ya Mom," Josh said.

"Take care son. Have a good time on the rest of your trip and be careful. I love you," Susan said.

"I know. I love you too," Josh replied.

"Have a safe flight Susan," I said. Josh hugged his mom firmly for a couple of moments. I could tell that he was sorry to see her go.

"Thanks Tom. You guys have a great time," Susan said and hugged me.

With that, the three travelers departed from our group and made their way through the security gate. Josh and I turned to look at one another.

"Well bud, lets get back to the hotel before the twins run Bryan and Mark ragged," I said with a grin.

"I'm sure they can handle them ok," Josh remarked. "Today was amazing. I...." Josh trailed off as he looked up at the television set hanging from the wall behind me.

I turned and followed his gaze. I wasn't exactly surprised when I saw that the 6:00 PM news was on and one of the lead stories for that quiet Saturday night was the medal ceremony and Josh's encounter with the prime minister.

The two of us watched intently as they showed the governor general pinning medals on each of us and then cut to Josh's conversation with the PM. Amazingly, they played the entire clip. Even more amazingly, they had political commentators on following the clip to analyze it and discuss it. It was hard to believe that they had some of the top political fixers in the country debating and discussing the remarks of a 13 year old boy! It was clear that Josh's encounter was beginning to take on a life of its own.

By the time the clip was over, people in the terminal were beginning to recognize Josh. Some even came up to him and asked to shake his hand. When we arrived back at the hotel, the doorman recognized Josh and congratulated him.

Josh took it all with a grain of salt. He still didn't think he'd done anything special or unusual and he didn't understand what all the fuss was about.

When we arrived back in our room, I was on cloud nine from the day's excitement, as Mark met us at the door talking at about a mile a minute; telling us all about the news report.

"They showed the whole thing!" Mark said excitedly.

"We know; we saw it at the airport!" Josh replied.

"The three of you looked amazing up there," Bryan remarked.

"Boys, look the other way," I said smiling as I reached Bryan, pulling him out of the chair and into a serious hug. "My whole family loves you," I said quietly into his ear.

"No reservations?" Bryan asked as he held onto my shoulders and looked me square in the eye.

"They adore you, each and every one of them, and my mom has blessed us!" I said with a wide grin.

"Well we have too!" Josh yelled as both he and Mark scrambled over to us, each giving us another hug.

"She said that she wants another son and grandson too!" I said looking at the boys. The four of us laughed, as we broke apart.

We flipped over to CTV Newsnet, the 24 hour news channel, and sure enough, we saw the same report repeated over and over again. Each time we watched it, it seemed to get more and more surreal.

We finally turned off the news channel when Anne knocked on the door about an hour later and delivered the twins. The two little boys looked adorable in their brightly coloured Power Ranger pajamas. Richard was carrying the latest "Harry Potter" book with him.

Starting with Bryan, the four of us took turns sitting in the easy chair and reading chapters of the Harry Potter book to the twins. The boys just loved it and they climbed up in the chair and snuggled up to whoever was reading to them. We each did our best to be as entertaining as possible, using a variety of accents, voices and inflections in our voices as we read. The twins just ate it up. After Bryan read a chapter, Josh took a turn. Mark went next and I went last.

By the time I was done, the twins were drifting off and so was I. I don't remember when it happened, but at some point I fell asleep reclined back in the easy chair with Matthew curled up against one side and Richard on the other.

I didn't know it at the time, but before going to bed, Josh took the comforter from the bed and placed it over the three of us, snapped a photo for the album, then gently kissed each of us on the forehead.


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