Substitute Dad

© 2006 - 2010 By Scribe1971 (

Chapter 31

An Arrow No More

I awoke early the next morning. It was still a little dark and pretty much everyone else was still sawing logs. When I opened my eyes, I found a pair of big brown eyes staring back at me. Richard was awake too.

“Morning Uncle Tommy,” he whispered.

“Good morning munchkin,” I said and reached out to gently tweak his nose.

Richard giggled sweetly and pulled the comforter over his head.

I glanced over to my right and saw that Matthew was still sleeping quite soundly, cuddled up against my side. My right arm was wrapped around his shoulders and his little hands were gently gripping my forearm.

Richard peeked out from under the comforter and reached up to tweak my nose as I had done to him. As soon as he did it, his hand shot back under the covers once again.

I reached under the comforter and began to tickle his ribs which elicited more giggles and started him squirming around. With the commotion, it wasn’t long before Matthew began to stir and join in on the fun.

“Good morning Uncle Tommy,” he said sleepily.

“Good morning little buddy,” I replied and gave him a gentle squeeze.

It didn’t take long for him to figure out what mischief his brother was up to and he too started trying to tickle my side and grab my nose. I soon found myself stuck in an easy chair with two giggling, squirming twins!

“I have to go pee,” Matthew announced a few minutes later.

“Me too,” Richard agreed.

“Can we have a bubble bath this morning Uncle Tommy?” Matthew asked.

“Sure kiddo, as long as we have some bubble bath stuff,” I replied.

The twins bounded off me and ran into the bathroom to relieve themselves, while I began to extricate myself from the chair. Easy chairs weren’t really made for sleeping in but this one wasn’t that bad. I glanced around and surveyed the room. Josh was lying flat on his back snoring softly. Bryan was in pretty much the same position and, as usual, Mark was sprawled all over the place. I could never figure out how he found it comfortable to sleep like that but it seemed to suit him.
I’d barely made it out of the chair when Richard came bounding out clutching a hotel sized bottle of bubble bath soap. “We found some bubble bath stuff,” he announced happily.

I picked the little guy up and carried him back into the bathroom. After setting him down on his feet, I started the taps to fill the bathtub and poured in the bubble bath mixture. The twins squawked delightedly as the bubbles began to form.

I reached my hand into the water to ensure that it wasn’t too hot and then turned off the taps. “Ok guys, go ahead and hop in. Try not to make a big mess,” I said and then watched in amazement as both of them shucked their pajamas and then leapt into the tub in the blink of an eye.

“Thanks Uncle Tommy,” they said in unison.

“Your welcome little buddies,” I replied and went back out into the main part of the room to leave them to their fun.

I went over to the bed and climbed up next to Josh. I sat with my back against the headboard and just barely managed to get settled in when Josh rolled over, wrapped his arms around my torso and snuggled in. The remarkable thing is that he seemed to still be asleep when he did it.

I gently ruffled his hair as I listened to the sound of his regular breathing, the snoring coming from the next bed and the sounds of the twins having a ball in their bubble bath. I couldn’t help but smile.

Not surprisingly, Mark, who was also a morning person, was the next one to wake up.

“Good morning Tommy,” he said with a yawn as he climbed out of bed. “Where are the twins?” he asked.

“Morning Mark. The little guys are in the bath. They wanted a bubble bath.”

Mark smiled. “They sure are a pair of happy little boys,” he said thoughtfully. “Do you think they’d mind if I went in and took a piss?” he asked, clutching the front of his briefs and doing a little dance on the floor.

“I don’t think they’d mind at all,” I replied.

With a relieved look on his face, Mark went to the bathroom, knocked gently on the door and then went in. A moment later, I heard some muffled chatter, some giggling followed by the sound of a toilet being flushed.

When Mark emerged from the bathroom, he had a bit of a red face. “They said I have a big ‘peepee’,” Mark chuckled.

I couldn’t help but laugh which made Mark turn redder. “Well, I’ve seen you undressed and you certainly have nothing to be ashamed of,” I replied with a smile. “Anyway, pretty much everyone has a big one to a pair of six year olds.”

“They thought it was pretty neat that I have hair like their dad,” he said sheepishly.

I chuckled to myself. Mark had really come out of his shell, but he was still more reserved than Josh. Had the twins made some comment like that to Josh, he would have thought it was hilarious. Mark was a little embarrassed, but he took it with good humour. He wasn’t at all shy, just less outgoing unless he really knew you well. “I’ll bet you thought it was pretty neat too when yours started growing,” I replied.

“Damn right,” he said with a grin and then leaned down to give me a good morning hug before getting down to the business of getting dressed for the day.

About ten minutes later, Josh got the rudest awakening that any male can endure. The door to the bathroom flew open and Richard, naked as the day he was born and covered head-to-toe in soap bubbles, came bounding out. He jumped up on the bed and landed squarely on Josh. Worst of all, his knee seemed to have a homing device and it zeroed in on Josh’s crotch.

Josh was wide awake in an instant. “OUCH!” he squeaked as he sat bolt upright.

“We can’t reach the towels,” Richard announced, completely oblivious to Josh’s discomfort.

If not for concern over Josh, I would have found the whole situation quite funny. “Careful Richard, you hurt Josh,” I said and lifted him off a grateful Josh who breathlessly began to examine his injured genitals. His voice, which had been deepening a little bit lately, seemed to have gone up a few octaves.

Richard looked crestfallen. “I’m sorry Josh,” he said softly.

I had to hand it to Josh. He took it really well. Despite his discomfort, he managed to roll over and plant a kiss on Richard’s cheek. “Its ok bud,” he said reassuringly.

“Come on kiddo, I’ll help you with the towels,” Mark said as he led the little boy back to the bathroom.

“You ok Josh?” I asked.

“I’m ok, but I’m not so sure about little Josh,” he moaned.

I couldn’t help myself and grinned warmly at him. “I’m sure he’s fine and I’m sure you’ll still be able to have children.”

That little crack earned me Josh’s well known faux angry face and a light punch on the shoulder. “You’re lucky that I love you,” he said.

“I know I am. I love you too son,” I replied and pulled him into a hug.

Around that time Mark emerged from the bathroom leading the newly washed and dried twins. “You don’t want to go in there,” he said with a laugh.

Josh and I looked at each other and then went to survey the damage while the twins went about digging their clothes out of their overnight bag and dressed themselves.

We peeked gingerly inside the bathroom and both of our mouths dropped open. Those two little boys, who looked like angels but were, at least on this occasion really little devils, had decorated the bathroom in bubbles. There were soap bubbles everywhere. There were two empty bottles of bubble bath on the floor. Evidently they had found the remaining bottles and decided they needed more bubbles in their bath.

Josh and I began laughing our heads off. Soon we were joined by Mark and then even Bryan managed to wake up and came to find out what was going on.

“Good lord, did you two do that?” he asked Mark and Josh.

“No, actually it was our nephews,” I replied.

“Those two little angels?” Bryan asked incredulously pointing at the pair of grinning little boys.

“Yep, they’re the ones,” I replied.

The twins giggled sweetly and tried to look innocent.

“I hope you realize that this means that I owe you a tickle torture,” I said to the boys.

They giggled again and broke into huge grins. That was when Josh and I made our move. I reached for Matthew and Josh went for Richard. The little boys shrieked laughter and tried to dodge away from us. With an assist from Mark, I managed to scoop up Matthew, toss him onto the bed and begin tickling his ribs while Mark went for his feet. Matthew laughed and giggled and squirmed to try to get away.

At the same time, Richard ran behind Bryan to get away from Josh. Bryan scooped the little guy up.

“Help me Uncle Bryan,” Richard laughed.

“Help you? What would Josh want to do to you that’s so bad?” He asked and began to tickle Richard’s back.

Richard began laughing and kicking his feet while Josh joined the fun.

For a few minutes the bunch of us let ourselves be six years old and engaged in a massive tickle torture, pillow fight and wrestling match.

Finally, after we all developed sore ribs from laughing so much, I decided that I needed a shower. I was still wearing my clothes from the night before. Josh followed me into the bathroom and the two of us managed to use hair dryers to slay the bubble monster turned loose by the twins.

With the bubble monster taken care of, I jumped into the shower while Josh perched himself on the lid of the toilet to wait his turn. Knowing that Bryan and I had four hungry boys on our hands, I washed as quickly as I could. When I was done, I didn’t even bother turning off the taps; Josh just climbed straight in. When he was finished, we both took a moment to brush our teeth, shave, and get ready for the day.

“The twins are real characters aren’t they?” Josh remarked.

“That they are son. They’re about the most adorable little guys I’ve ever known.”

“They sure love you,” Josh said with a grin. “Not that I blame them.”

“They adore you too. Mark and Bryan as well.”

“Richard called Bryan ‘Uncle Bryan’,” Josh said and smiled.

“And so he is!” I said with a wink and a smile. Then I asked with some concern, “How are you doing below the equator? Everything ok now?”

Josh looked strangely at me for a moment and then chuckled when he realized what I was referring to. “Yeah, I’m fine. Nothing appears bent, broken or squashed. Plus everything worked fine a moment ago while I was in the shower,” he said slyly.

“Glad to hear that everything still works,” I snickered. “Richard really got you good.”

“Did he ever. I had some major morning wood going there too! That went away pretty quick when his knee hit me!” Josh laughed.

We finished up and went back out into the room to discover that Mark had already taken the twins downstairs in search of food. Only Bryan was left.

“You guys go ahead and join the rest of the gang,” Bryan said. “I’ll take a quick shower and meet you down there.”

“Ok ‘Uncle Bryan’” I said with a laugh.

“You heard eh?” Bryan chuckled. “They’re such adorable kids.”

“They’re little monkeys!” Josh replied.

“I’ll say. I’ve never seen so many bubble bath bubbles in one place before,” I said.

“They’re really sweet kids,” Bryan said seriously, as he gave me a good morning kiss and hug. Actually, Josh got the hug; I got the kiss.

“They really are. James and Anne have done a great job of raising them. They live in a really solid, loving environment and it shows. They’re very intuitive for such little guys and they are a pretty good judge of character.”

They really were. They seemed to quickly decide whether or not they could trust someone and once they decided that they could trust you, you were another member of the family as far as they were concerned. Once you earned their friendship, you had it for life. Aside from their mom and their dad whom they adored, it was no secret that I was their favorite person in the whole world.

They were typical rough and tumble boys who loved to wrestle and do all the typical things that boys do, but they were also very sensitive little fellows. Like Josh, they lived for physical contact and they got lots of it. You could put them on a big couch with someone they loved and no matter how much room there was, they’d be cuddled right up to that person in no time at all.

Josh and I headed down to the restaurant while Bryan hopped into the shower. We met Anne and James on the way down.

“So you guys survived the wrath of the twins, eh?” James asked.

“They were great,” I replied.

Josh proceeded to tell them about how we all took turns reading to them and how they fell asleep with me on the easy chair. “I even got a picture of them for the album,” Josh said happily.

“They must have had a ball,” Anne said.

“You won’t believe what they got up to this morning,” I said.

“Uh oh,” James replied.

By the time I finished telling them about the bubble bath and the bubble monster, all four of us were just about in tears because we were laughing so hard. “You should have seen their faces. They both looked like butter wouldn’t even melt in their mouths!”

“We know that look very well!” Anne said between giggles.

When we entered the restaurant, the twins saw us right away. “MOMMY and DADDY are here!” Matthew shouted and the two of them ran up and jumped into their parents arms.

“Where’s Bryan this morning?” James asked.

“He drew the short straw and ended up last in the shower line today. He’ll be right down,” I replied.

Mark and Josh were both gazing longingly at the breakfast buffet. Matthew and Richard probably would have been doing the same thing if they weren’t so glad to see their parents. We decided that Bryan wouldn’t mind if we took pity on them and let them commence their assault.

Shortly after we began eating, Richard stood up on his chair, raised a sausage impaled on a fork and shouted “We’re over here Uncle Bryan!”

Anne looked as if she wanted to scold him for poor table manners but in the end, she just laughed along with the rest of us.

Bryan was grinning broadly as he sat down between the twins in the seat that they’d held especially for him. “Did you boys save me some food?” He asked.

“There’s lots over there,” Matthew replied helpfully and pointed to the buffet table.

I was sitting on the other side of the large round table between Josh and Mark while Anne and James sat on the other side of Josh.

“I heard that you guys had a nice bubble bath this morning,” Anne said barely avoiding bursting out laughing again.

“YEAH! It was great. When we woke up, we wrestled with Uncle Tommy and then he let us have a bubble bath,” Richard said enthusiastically. “Mark woke up while we were in there and he had to go pee so we let him come in.”

I saw what was coming about one microsecond before it arrived. Thankfully, I managed to swallow my orange juice in time.

“Mark has a big peepee,” Matthew said.

“Yeah bigger than ours are, but not as big as Daddy’s,” Richard added.

“He has hair down there like Daddy as well,” Matthew continued.

At that moment, several things happened. Mark and James both turned about 15 shades of red and tried to melt into the floor. Josh burst out laughing and managed to blow orange juice out of his nose. Anne nearly choked on a mouthful of scrambled eggs and Bryan just barely avoided spraying a mouthful of coffee all over his plate.

In an instant, we were all laughing uncontrollably. Even James and Mark managed to overcome their initial embarrassment and were laughing just as hard as the rest of us. The twins, who didn’t understand what was so funny, were laughing heartily. The rest of the diners must have thought we were insane, but we didn’t care one little bit. I took a bit of pity on Mark and put an arm around his shoulders and gave him a brief squeeze. “You don’t have to be embarrassed Marky; we’re all family.”

Mark smiled at me and squeezed my knee under the table and then resumed laughing. The fact that he could laugh at himself showed just how far he had come. His self-esteem had improved so much that he could see the humour in the situation and I was glad. He was such a sweet boy and it was nice to see him so relaxed and comfortable.

Poor Josh was still coughing and trying to clear his sinuses. “You ok bud?” I asked.

“I think so. That really stings. I couldn’t help it. The twins caught me totally off guard.”

“What was so funny?” Matthew asked; causing us all to burst out laughing all over again and leaving the twins looking very confused.

Bryan decided to save the day. I saw him lean down and whisper something to each of the boys and the look of comprehension on their cute little faces was immediate.

After we’d eaten our fill and before anyone asked us to leave, we paid our bill and left the restaurant. All four of the boys were totally wound up and excited. Our next stops were to be two of the highlights of the Ottawa trip – the National Aviation Museum, and the Canada Science and Technology Museum – the home of the Apollo 7 space capsule.

The drive to the museum was only about ten minutes. James and Anne ended up driving our rental car because the twins insisted on riding with Josh, Bryan, Mark and I. They knew that they’d be going home that night and they wanted to spend as much time as possible with us. Bryan drove the mini van, I rode shotgun while Mark and Josh entertained the twins in the back seats.

After we managed to score parking spots relatively close to the front entrance, we all assembled in the parking lots. Mark and Josh were each carrying a twin on their shoulders. The little boys were wearing identical grins.

The museum, which we discovered had recently been renamed the Canadian Aviation Museum, is a large and modern facility that includes both indoor and outdoor displays. The impressive collection of aircraft spans from the dawn of the air age to the present day and includes both military and civilian aircraft.

After we paid our admission fees and made our way inside, one of the first things we saw was a Lockheed CF-104 Starfighter. The Starfighter looks more like a missile than an aircraft; a very needle-like aircraft with short stubby wings. This particular example had been in service with the Canadian Forces up until the early 80s when the CF-104 was replaced by the CF-18s, which remain in operation today.

“This thing looks fast,” Mark said as he gazed at the sleek aircraft.

“It says here that it could do better than Mach II,” Bryan said.

“That means twice the speed of sound,” Josh explained to the twins.

“It looks like a rocket,” James noted.

The twins, who were still perched on Josh and Mark’s shoulders, had an excellent view of the aircraft’s cockpit and they loved every moment of it. Airplanes, especially fighter planes, were another of those things that boys naturally gravitated to. I felt a little sorry for Anne being the only female in the group and not being all that impressed by fast moving, shiny, noisy things. She was, as she always seemed to be, a good sport about it and obviously enjoyed seeing her sons have such a good time.

We made our way through the exhibits and managed to get up close and personal with a CF-5A from an aggressor squadron and decorated in Warsaw Pact like markings.

“They used that one to simulate an enemy plane, right?” Mark asked. Mark, given his stated career choice, was taking a really keen interest in the various displays in the museum.

“Exactly right Mark. In fact, they used to use them at Cold Lake Alberta to train CF-18 pilots in dog fighting as part of the annual Maple Flag exercise.”

“What’s Maple Flag?” He asked

“It’s a really big annual NATO military exercise which involves most, if not all, NATO air forces. They go in head-to-head competition and perform various cooperating exercises.”

Some of the other highlights of the tour included Korean War era F-86 and MiG-15 jet fighters, WWII fighters including a Supermarine Spitfire in RCAF markings, a Hawker Hurricane in RAF markings, a P51 in USAF markings and German Luftwaffe aircraft including and ME-109, a Foch Wolf 190, and even an ME-163 Komet.

“That’s a weird one,” Josh said pointing to the Komet.

“That was one of Hitler’s wonder weapons. It was the first rocket powered airplane. It carried really corrosive fuel and only had enough to get a few minutes of powered flight. After the fuel was gone, it would glide back and land on a grass strip with skids rather than wheels.”

Towards the back of the main Museum building, we encountered one of the star attractions. The nose section of the legendary CF-105 Avro Arrow.

“What’s that one? I’ve never seen anything like that before,” Mark said.

“That’s the Avro Arrow. It was designed and built in Malton, Ontario in the 1950s to meet the requirements of the RCAF. In those days, most aircraft were barely supersonic but the Arrow was designed to fly at more than Mach II. When the air force released its requirements all the major aircraft manufacturers said they were nuts and that it was impossible to build such a plane, but the people at Avro did it.”

“What sort of requirements did the have?” Mark asked with keen interest.

“They needed a plane that could fly to an altitude of at least 50,000 feet, fly at a speed of at least mach two, be able to pull two Gs with no loss of speed or altitude and be able to operate completely independently of ground control. They exceeded all of those requirements. They had to invent new metals and new systems to make it work. The Arrow was the first plane in the world by more than a decade to have a fly-by-wire system. Most planes up there today can’t touch the performance of this one that was built 50 years ago.”

“What happened to it? Why isn’t it still around?” Josh asked.

“Politics,” James added.

“What do you mean?” Josh asked.

“The government of the day foolishly believed that it was too expensive and that missiles were the way of the future so they cancelled it. Even worse, they ordered all the plans, photographs and even the planes themselves destroyed.”

“That’s stupid,” Josh said.

“I’ll say. When they did it, they put 14,000 people out of work in one afternoon. Many of those guys went to the US and ended up working on the space program.”

“What did they replace it with?” Mark asked.

“Bomarc nuclear missiles and CF-101 Voodoos. The RCAF had looked at the Voodoos and decided that they were too slow, too lightly armed and didn’t come even remotely close to meeting their requirements. The Bomarcs didn’t turn out much better.”

“Sounds like it was a really stupid move,” Josh said.

“It was. They had plans for future versions of the Arrow that would have flown at three or four times the speed of sound. In those days, Canada was building the best fighter planes in the world.”

“Do we build them anymore?” Mark asked.

“Not fighter planes. We mostly buy American fighters now. We do build some of the best passenger planes in the world. Bombardier builds the CRJ which is one of the safest and most fuel efficient regional jetliners in the world.”

“We should start building our own fighters again,” Josh remarked.

A couple of hours later, we wrapped up out tour of the Aviation Museum. Amazingly, Josh and Mark had carried Matthew and Richard on their shoulders throughout most of the tour. Before heading off to the Science museum and all the cool space stuff that the boys were looking forward to, we stopped for lunch at the small cafeteria in the museum.

Josh, Mark, and I headed off to the bathroom while the rest of the gang, including the twins, joined the lineup to get our lunch.

“You two are amazing, you know that?” I said to Mark and Josh as I put an arm around each of them. “You guys are really making this a special trip for the twins.”

“We love the little guys,” Josh replied.

“Yeah, they’re like the little brothers I never had.” Mark added.

“I know, but you two are going above and beyond the call of duty and Bryan and I are very proud of both of you.”

After lunch, we headed off to the Canadian Science and Technology Museum. The museum is a very interactive place with all sorts of fun stuff for the boys to do. We watched several live shows including a demonstration of static electricity, during which the twins volunteered Anne to be a test subject for an experiment. The two little boys howled with laughter when Anne put her hand on a big metal ball, which caused static electricity to make all her hair stand on end. Josh managed to get the whole thing on video and we knew it would be some of our favorite footage.

We arranged our tour of the museum to save the best for last. We were all looking forward to their huge space exhibit. When we finally entered the space exhibit hall, we were all chomping at the bit. We weren’t the least bit disappointed.

The space exhibit includes, among other things, the actual space capsule from the Apollo 7 mission, a life sized mockup of the space shuttle cockpit, mid desk, cargo bay and robotic arm.

“This was really in space?” Richard asked as we all stood before the Apollo capsule?

“It sure was son,” James answered. “It says here that this was the first manned Apollo capsule to fly. Spaceships just like this one took people to the moon and back.”

“Why is it all burned?” Matthew asked.

“It gets that way when it comes back from space,” I replied. “It’s coated in a special material called a heatshield. The heatshield burns away and makes it look burned.”

“Why does it burn?” Josh asked.

“Friction. Rub your hands together,” I instructed the boys. “Notice how your hands get warm?”

“Yeah,” Matthew, Richard, Josh, and Mark replied at once.

“Well, when a spaceship comes back from space, it’s moving at thousands of miles per hour and when it hits the air in our atmosphere, the air rubs against it and makes it get super hot. It gets so hot that it would burn up completely if not for the heatshield protecting it.”

Josh and Mark set the boys down on their feet and the four of them climbed up on the scaffolding to look in the windows of the capsule and study the myriad of switches, dials and gauges inside. For display purposes, the museum had placed three space-suited dummies in the seats.

“That’s pretty cramped,” Josh said.

“How long did they spend in that thing?” Mark asked.

“Believe it or not, it was considered luxurious compared to the earlier spacecraft. Moon missions lasted about a week to ten days depending on how long they stayed on the surface. It takes about three days to get to the moon, then the astronauts would spend anywhere from one to three days on the surface and then they’d take three days to get back.

“I couldn’t imagine spending ten days in such a small space,” Bryan remarked. “Walking on the moon would be pretty neat.”

“I’d love to do that,” Mark said.

“You never know kiddo. One of these days’ people will go back to the moon and if you go into the military, you could get to go. Look at Chris Hadfield. He grew up in Milton, Ontario, joined the air force, became a fighter pilot, and was selected as an astronaut by the Canadian Space Agency. Marc Garneau, our first astronaut, was an officer in the Navy.”

“Cool,” Mark replied thoughtfully.

After we thoroughly filmed and photographed the Apollo capsule, we made out way to the space shuttle mockup. When we got there, Josh and Mark scrambled into the seats on the flight deck.

“Now this is more like it,” Josh said enthusiastically from the commander’s seat.

“Oh yeah,” Mark added from the pilot’s seat to Josh’s right.

“This I could handle,” Bryan said. “Lots more room.”

“Yeah, lots more room, but they cram as many as seven astronauts in here,” I chuckled.

Mark and Josh climbed out of the cockpit seats and hefted the twins in to take their places. Matthew and Richard were virtually on cloud nine as they sat in the seats and messed with the various switches and dials.

Bryan, Anne, James, and I exited the mockup and waited outside for the boys.

“Those two are so good with the boys,” Anne said sincerely.

“I can’t believe they carried both of them on their shoulders for so long,” James replied.

“Josh and Mark love the twins a whole lot,” I said.

“They see them almost as little brothers,” Bryan said with a smile.

“They’re a pair of exceptional boys,” Anne said. “You’ve been doing a great job of raising Mark, Bryan.”

“There’s nothing to it. He’s a wonderful kid. Until we all got together, we were all that each other had in the world. We’re very close.”

“He’s such a warm and loving kid,” Anne said thoughtfully. “I’m glad that he’s happy. Tom told us a bit about what you guys went through and I think it’s great that you’re together and have been so good for each other.”

“You’re both welcome additions to our humble family,” James said and squeezed Bryan’s shoulder.

Just then, the herd of boys stampeded their way out of the shuttle and joined us on the exhibit hall floor. With our eyes on our watches, we completed our tour of the museum and then headed out for dinner before heading to the airport.

We decided that since we were in the city that plays home to our democracy, we’d take a vote on where to eat dinner. The Mandarin carried the night with all four boys voting as a block.

With our time running short, we returned to our favorite restaurant and chowed down on some of the best Chinese food we’d ever eaten. Mark and Josh even talked the twins into trying lobster and patiently taught them how to crack them open and eat the tasty meat inside.

Bryan and I watched Josh and Mark with pride. They truly were amazing boys and watching them with the twins, we knew that they’d make exceptional dads one day. Both boys had taken more than their fair share of hits along the way, but both of them, due in no small part to our own efforts, had come through their tribulations with flying colours. Bryan and I both knew that neither of them would ever go without the material things they needed, and more importantly, they would always have someone to love them, to care for them, and to guide them.

We were all amazed to see that the twins actually managed to keep the pace with Josh and Mark through their first couple of trips to the buffet. They were growing boys and they certainly had the healthy appetites to prove it.

Eventually we had eaten our fill and it was time to get James, Anne, and the twins to the airport. Josh, Mark, Bryan, and I still had a few days left in Ottawa before we had to leave, but James had to be at work the next day.

The twins were unusually subdued as we entered the terminal and waited for James and Anne to get them all checked in. They were clingy and kept circulating between the four of us. Their usually smiling faces looked a little sad.

I knelt down and scooped the pair of them up in my arms. Immediately, they both snuggled in and leaned their heads on my shoulders. “Hey little buddies, are you guys ok? You look kind of sad.”

“We don’t want to go home. We want to stay with you,” Richard said.

“Yeah, we’re gonna miss you guys,” Matthew piped in.

“I know fellas. We’re all going to miss you too. Don’t worry though, it’s only going to be a few more weeks and then Josh and I will be home.”

“Can’t we go with you?” Richard asked.

“What about your mommy and daddy? They’d miss you guys. Grandma and Uncle Andy too,” I said softly.

“Can’t they go too?” Matthew asked.

The innocence of children never ceased to amaze me. “Your daddy has to work. I’ll tell you what. Josh and I are going to be back on Labour Day. The next weekend, we’ll take you guys wherever you want to go. Just the two of you, Josh, and me. We can do whatever you guys want.”

“Can we go fishing again?” Matthew asked enthusiastically.

“Yeah, I wanna go fishing again,” Richard agreed.

Sure. Fishing it is,” I replied and then kissed each of my nephews on the cheek.

“I love you Uncle Tommy,” Richard said then wrapped his small arms around my neck and kissed me on the cheek.

“Me too,” Matthew said and did the same thing.

I gently squeezed both of the boys and smiled. I felt like the luckiest person in the world.

“We had better get going boys,” James said. He and Anne had arrived with their boarding passes in hand.

“You boys be good for your mommy and daddy and remember what I said,” I told the boys before setting them down. As soon as they hit the ground, they made the rest of the rounds starting with Josh, then moving to Mark and finishing with Bryan. Bryan smiled broadly as he hugged and kissed the boys on their cheeks.

“Take care of my favorite little boys sis,” I said as I hugged and kissed Anne.

“You enjoy the rest of your trip and be careful,” Anne replied.

I hugged James while Anne turned her attention to Mark and Josh.

“Come here you two,” she said holding out her arms. “You boys were wonderful with the twins. They love you and so do we. You boys have fun on the rest of your trip.”

When she was done, James hugged both boys as well.

“Welcome to the family Uncle Bryan. You’ve made such a wonderful change in Tom,” Anne said with a smile as she hugged Bryan and kissed his cheek.

“Please don’t spoil the twins too much. We love them just the way they are,” Bryan replied with a smile, “besides, that job belongs to Tom and I.”

“Oh, we’re well aware of that,” James laughed as he waved goodbye.

With our emotional goodbyes taken care of, we watched as James, Anne, and the boys made their way through the departure gate. It had been quite a day and all of us were feeling pangs of separation as we watched the four of them head home. Once they were out of site, we left the terminal and returned to our hotel room. It was getting late in the evening, but we could sleep in the next day so we took some time to unwind.

Both Josh and Mark were a little stiff from having spent so much of their day carrying the twins, so Bryan and I had them get ready for bed, then lie face down on the beds so that we could massage their aching necks and shoulders. Before long they were both sound asleep.

“We really are blessed you know?” I whispered to Bryan.

“Don’t I know it. These two are the most amazing kids I’ve ever known and we’ve a very solid extended family to boot. It’s nice knowing that it isn’t just Mark and I against the world anymore.”

Before joining the boys in bed, Bryan and I embraced and exchanged passionate kisses.

“I can’t go to bed without telling you I love you.” Bryan whispered.

“I love you too,” I replied, “I’ve never been so happy, now that we’re a complete family.”

As usual, as soon as I climbed into the bed, Josh rolled over and snuggled up as closely as he could manage.

I wrapped my arms around him and drifted off to sleep marveling at just how complete my life had become and how lucky I was.

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