After the Game Revised

Chapter Ninety~Nine

Things at our Horton's location got much better, now that Jerry was out of the picture. The food costs now were in line with our other locations and the profits that were now being donated to Jake and Sean's place had been put to good use. Shortly after the incident with Jerry, the partners had a meeting and we all agreed to Sean and Jake's suggestion of donating 10% of the extra profits and Sean was going to figure out each month how much that was.

"Your son certainly knows a lot about accounting. We sent Cameron for management training at Horton's head office on the new accounting system, but he learned more from Sean than he did from them," John said, at the end of the meeting.

Despite the fact that the boys were very busy with work at Horton's, school work, and their activities, they were a big help moving Tatania and Fin into town, two streets over from us. Sean was very happy to have his grandparents nearby and Dana and I were too. We had established a very good friendship with them and having them close by was good for all of us. Since they both had retired, they had more time on their hands. Fin was doing the occasional stint in a couple of local pharmacies, because he knew the owners from Pharmacy College.

Fin and Tatania frequently came over to our house for coffee late in the afternoon, expressly to be there when the boys came home. It wasn't just seeing Sean that motivated them, but they enjoyed interacting with Jake, Glen, Garth and the occasional appearances by Derek.

Once a week we drove Garth and Derek to their dance class after school, because their parents weren't able to get them there. One dance class day, they were regaling us with a wealth of jokes that they had picked up during the summer from the actor who played Perchik in 'Fiddler On the Roof' in Stratford. Lately, they were into book puns. Fin and Tatania were there, which gave the boys a much bigger and more appreciative audience, since they tended to groan at the jokes less than the rest of us.

"'Walking To School The First Day Back' by Misty Bus," Derek said, as he snickered.

Before the laughter died down Garth followed with, "What I Dislike About Returning To School' by Mona Lott." He dramatically emphasized the author's name, followed by some spirited giggling from both boys.

"I thought Perchik said to hold the giggles," Jake said.

"That's only before you tell the punch line," Garth added, with his serious look.

Derek continued, "'What I Love About Returning To School by'...."

He paused and after a few seconds Sean said, "Did you forget the punch line?"

Garth decided to clarify things and said, "Nooo! You have to guess it." Derek couldn't contain himself and he was snickering and shaking his head yes.

"By the time we guess it, Dana's nice warm banana bread is going to be cold," Fin added, with a big smile.

That sped things up and Derek finally said, "By I.M. Kidding."

It was the delivery the two of them used that made us laugh and definitely not the puns. Tatania particularly loved their antics and she always heartily laughed and praised them in Russian, which made Garth and Derek laugh even harder.

The book puns reminded Garth about the new volume of the novel series that he picked up at the library that day. He was into a series of novels called Conspiracy 365, by Gabriel Lord from Australia.

"Let's see this wonderful novel," Fin said.

Garth got the book from his backpack in the laundry room and returned.

"It's about this guy called Cal. He's a 'teenager' and he's being chased by these guys that want to kill him," Garth said, emphasizing the word teenager. Garth had been reminding everyone in the family that next year he would be a teenager too, like his brother and the other boys.

Derek was also reading the series and he decided to add some details that he thought were particularly important, since he had already read the book.

"His full name is Callum and there are a bunch of other books and I've read a lot of them. It's a series," he said, proudly.

"Hmm. This looks like there's a lot of violence in this book," Fin said, as he was thumbing through it.

"I'm sure you two boys know the difference between real life and fiction," Tatania added. "At least you two are reading."

"I like reading because it makes a TV in your head," Garth said, with a smile.

"I'm sure the picture in your head is in high definition," Glen said, as Sean and he grabbed Garth and tickled him.

Garth wasn't always in an upbeat mood when he got off the school bus, though. He flew into the kitchen the next day after school and surprised us because we didn't get a text from him during his ride home, which was his usual pattern these days.

"I lost my phone," he said, in a panic.

He was very distraught as he didn't even notice Dana's famous chocolate chip cookies, which were his favourite after-school snack.

"Settle down and think hard about where you last remember having it," Dana said, as she pushed the plate of cookies over to him.

He was frantic and started to babble on about many minute details of his day at school, but nothing of the disappearance of the phone was coming to him.

"You texted me at 10 o'clock this morning, so you had it then," Glen said.

He paused and was deep in thought and then said, "Mandy, Derek and me were talking about the 'bilejee' project we're doing when I texted."

"Do you mean Biology?" I asked.

He shook his head yes, but my correction wasn't important to him, as he started in on more irrelevant details of events after the text to Glen. While he was rambling on, Dana dialed the number of the school and got the office secretary on the phone to see if someone had found it and turned it in. Unfortunately, nothing had come into the office lost and found that day. Just then, we heard the laundry room door open as Susan came in to get Glen and Garth to take them to their after-school activities.

"I think you got a text on your phone, Garth," she said, as she entered the kitchen.

"What!" he said.

"How do you know that?" Glen asked.

She was puzzled at the question and said, "Because I heard that famous Winnie the Pooh ringtone Garth has on his phone when a text comes in, as I passed his backpack on the floor."

We all hiked ourselves off to the laundry room and Garth started to pull everything out of his backpack. Jake, Glen and Sean sent him text messages and we could hear the ringtone going off. He still couldn't find it until he got to the bottom and he pulled out his binder and the phone fell onto the floor.

"Oh, now I remember. Mandy was telling me this joke about the guy that invented the door knocker. He got a no bell prize," he said, with a very relieved look, followed by his ever-present giggle.

"I guess someone is feeling better," Dana said.

"How does that explain how the phone ended up in your binder?" Susan asked, while we were all groaning.

His detailed explanation really boiled down to the fact that he wasn't paying attention, which wasn't surprising. Both he and Derek were little bubbleheads, who most of the time had the attention span of a gnat.

The boys helped him put his things back in his backpack and finally, everything was secure and in place. It was a good exercise, though, because he found a couple of things that had gone missing.

"Is this the Student Agenda book that you lost a month ago?" Susan asked, a little annoyed.

Garth looked at her with his puzzled look.

"You know. The one you looked for in the lost and found box after we took you back to school."

"Yeah! It's open at the note I made about my math homework," he said, astonished at his newfound item.

"Ah, you mean the math homework you forgot to do and caused your teacher to call me after school about your forgetfulness," Susan replied.

"I passed my next math test," he said, a fact he thought made up for his forgetfulness.

"I think it's time to go. And please, don't text me while I'm driving, Garth," Susan said, with one of Dana's looks, as they left.

Despite the fact that none of the boys were playing organized hockey this year, things were still very busy. They were playing shinny hockey once a week with a bunch of boys, including Stéphane, Charles and Glen. They were also still working at Horton's and were being good about sticking to the ten hours a week, despite the fact that John and Cameron would've loved to have them for more time. They continued with the youth orchestra, but Melissa had dropped out this year. She had joined one in Toronto, because she found the back and forth for rehearsals and performances the last year, when she was with Rachel and the boys, to be too much. Melissa did join them, however, for two wedding 'gigs' that the ensemble did in the early fall.

Glen was still teaching the young class at the art school and developing his painting technique. He had contributed a few works to the fall art show that they had each year and had sold a few of his paintings. His work was becoming much more sophisticated, according to Dana who knew more about this than I did. He was also in demand for his work with the contractor. As well, the architect that worked with the contractor had taken Glen under his wing and was giving him guidance on possible future career plans.

Garth and Derek were busy with their dance and voice lessons and they had auditioned for Bengt Jorgen's Ballet troupe, which was putting on the Nutcracker in December. They both made it and they were alternating performances as the little boy in the production.

The boys' busy schedules weren't the only thing that had remained the same. Although Barney had settled down over the last year, he still had a strong mischievous streak.

"Where's my lunch," Jake said one morning as the boys were getting ready to leave for school.

Jake had been distracted, which wasn't unusual for him, because he had a debate that day at school. Jake was on the debating team and this was a big debate with a school from the city.

"Here it is," Sean yelled from the laundry room.

When we got there the paper bag that Jake used was on the floor and Barney was curled up in his bed that was in the corner, licking his lips. The bag was empty, except for some celery sticks, which Barney wasn't keen on and a container with a lid on it that contained Jake's salad.

"What else did you have in there," I asked. The boys made their own lunches, so we didn't know what had been in the bag.

"A great chicken sandwich on a ciabatta bun with sriracha mayonnaise, thinly cut carrot and green pepper sticks and two of mom's chocolate chip cookies," he said, with his usual precision.

"How did he get the bag?" Dana asked.

"I guess I forgot and left it on a kitchen chair," he said, as he sighed.

"You boys need to get going or you're going to be late. I'll make up something and drop it off in the office for you at school," Dana said, as she glared at Barney.

The menacing glare didn't register with Barney, because he was having trouble keeping his eyes open as he just wanted to sleep after such a heavy meal.

"We'll have to keep a watch on him, since he's had some chocolate," I said.

"I'm sure a little chocolate isn't going to hurt him. This little mutt has a stomach of steel," Dana said, as she shook her head in disgust.

A very important time in the boys' lives was approaching, as they had to decide before school ended for the Christmas holidays what they would apply for at university the next year. Except for Sean's quandary of whether he would apply for Business or Computer Science, or surprisingly, Math, which ultimately ended up as Business at Laurier, Jake and the rest of the boys' friends and girlfriends were mostly predictable in their choices.

"I didn't want to become a geek," Sean said, as he chuckled when Dana asked why he ultimately decided on Business.

"Are Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg geeks?" I asked.

"Or Einstein?" Dana added.

"I like studying about money better than computer code or math equations," he said, as he chuckled with that impish smile he had when he was teasing us.

Jake had been a little unsure about what he was going to decide to take. He was really enjoying his Political Science class and had considered making that his major, but he finally decided on English at Waterloo. We also had a suspicion that since Rachel had applied for English there, this had something to do with his decision.

"I can take Poli Sci as my elective," he said.

He relished having political discussions, or 'debates' as Dana called them, at the dinner table with us. Sean had no interest in this sort of thing, so he was content to stuff his face and roll his eyes when Jake got going, unless he started talking about economic issues.

"Debt and deficit aren't the same thing. A deficit causes the debt which our generation's going to have to pay off," Sean pointed out, after Jake was going on at the dinner table one night about the current government's economic policy.

It wasn't that Jake couldn't understand financial matters; it was because he wasn't really interested in that sort of thing.

"You know what I meant," Jake said, dismissively.

Jake was mostly centre-left on the political spectrum, but he also had some interesting ideas, which Dana sometimes called 'wacky', but not to his face.

"The country would be a lot better off if we didn't have political parties," he said, after he had wolfed down three pieces of Dana's famous turkey meatloaf along with two helpings of vegetables.

He went on at great lengths about why he thought this would be such a good idea. The next debate at school was about this subject.

"Municipal governments don't have party affiliations and things work pretty well," he said.

He went on to tell us that only about 5% of Canadians hold a membership in a political party and that most voters say, in polls that have been taken, that the antics and nonsense in politics that happens because of party loyalty, turns them off.

"You know, democracy is all about finding ways to work together," he said.

This was one of the least 'wacky' ideas he had had over the semester. Dana and I weighed in with some perspectives he hadn't thought of, which slowed him down a bit as he pondered our remarks. It didn't make much difference, though, because he had made up his mind. Dana had had enough so she diverted his attention.

"Can you take a break long enough for some tiramisu, dear?" she asked, as she smiled at Jake.

Food (especially dessert) and 'extra-curricular' activities with Rachel, were about the only thing that silenced him for any length of time.

Glen was a bit of a surprise as he ended up applying to the School of Architecture at Waterloo. It took most of the last school year for Susan, John, Dana and me to convince him that he should go to University. He didn't think he would have the marks but some targeted conversations with me and his high school Art teacher, as well as the architect, finally convinced him to buckle down to get better marks. He was a smart young man and all of us knew he had the ability to do well in his school work. We all thought he would end up in Fine Arts, as his girlfriend Sinead had chosen, but the trip in the spring to Waterloo, when the boys were accompanying Stéphane for his audition, had changed his mind. The architect had arranged a tour of Waterloo's School of Architecture for him with one of his former professors that he was still in contact with and what Glen saw there had impressed him.

One of the other sticking points in his decision between Fine Arts and The School of Architecture was financing, because Architecture was a specialty course which was not regulated by the province as to the fees the university could charge. An architecture degree was an expensive proposition and even if he managed a scholarship, it would stretch Susan, Glen and John's finances. That's where Dana and I stepped in with the Burger Bank lending program.

"I'm sure we can come up with manageable repayment terms," I said, as I smiled at Glen one Sunday, a week before the applications were due, when Susan, John and the boys were over for dinner.

I knew they were worried about this and Dana and I had talked about making the financing offer to them. Needless to say they were very relieved and thankful. We had no worries about Glen, as he had shown us that he was very dependable and we all had the feeling that he had clarified his career goals. He was very determined and when he wanted something he made sure he did what he needed to do to get it. We also had added some incentive around marks, to turn a lot of the loan into a grant.

We weren't quite sure what Melissa had decided and we were a little apprehensive about bringing up the subject, as we sensed that this was a touchy subject with Sean. However, Dana used her motherly questioning skills and found out that she had applied to Engineering at the University of Toronto and also Waterloo, when she was in for the youth orchestra's Christmas concert. She was one of the guest musicians.

"That would be nice if you ended up at Waterloo with all of the other kids," Dana said.

"My dad's kind of hoping I go to the U of T where he graduated from," she said.

It was clear from her body language that she wasn't 100% committed to that decision. Sean was trying to be cool, but we could see that the possibility of them being separated for four years wasn't comforting to him.

Once the big decision about their university programs had been made, the boys had a relaxing time over the Christmas holidays. Christmas day, we had the entire family over, as well as Fin and Tatania for Christmas dinner.

In the afternoon, at the usual Christmas dinner event at Jake and Sean's Place, the boys, Fin and Tatania as well as Charles, Sandy and Stéphane played Christmas carols for the kids having dinner. We also had a musical extravaganza before our dinner at home, as we had a family concert where the musically talented members performed. This was Tatania's idea and it turned out to be a lot of fun.

Sean, Jake, Tatania and Fin had put together a couple of numbers with Carol on the Clarinet and Katie on the piano. Since my piano lessons had given me more confidence, I also decided to perform and I did a couple of Christmas songs that my teacher had arranged. The first one was 'Christmas Time is Here', by Vince Guaraldi.

"Isn't that from Charlie Brown?" Garth asked after I finished.

"Now how do you know about Charlie Brown?" I asked.

"I saw his Christmas show on TV last week," he replied.

The last piece of the concert was 'The Christmas Song' by Mel Torme. Fin, Tatania, Sean, Jake and I had put together our rendition of this classic song. Garth was the singer and the two rehearsals we had were also a lot of fun. Garth had Tatania laughing most of the time with his antics, but we managed to get it put together.

"Oh wait," Garth said, as we were almost ready to start. "I remembered this Christmas joke."

He didn't give us a chance to interrupt and he started into his delivery.

"This retired guy goes to the doctor for his checkup and tells the doc that he walks 10 miles a day in the forest and along a lake and sometimes climbs up hills, three times a week. The doctor says 'You must really like the outdoors'."

"Is this a long Joke?" Sean asked, trying to speed him up to get going with the song.

"OK, OK! The guy says, 'No. I'm just a really bad golfer'," he said, as he looked at me after he started his giggles.

"What does that have to do with Christmas?" I asked, as everyone had joined in the laughing.

"Nothing, but I thought it was a really good joke," he said, still chuckling.

"Apparently everyone else did, except one person. I think I owe you some tickles after the song," I said, as I teased him.

We managed to get the song finished and it really did sound very good. I was pleased that I hadn't fluffed any notes and the boys gave me knuckle bumps after we had finished.

The best present of the day, however, came after dinner when Katie and Marty announced that Katie was pregnant and was due in July. This was going to be our first grandchild from my two daughters.

"That's cool. We're going to be uncles," Jake said, with a big smile.

"We can teach him or her lots of things," Sean added, with a devilish smile.

After the Christmas holidays were over, things got back to our normal routines. We had noticed, though, over the last few weeks of January that the contact between Melissa and Sean had diminished somewhat and they weren't Skypeing as often as they used to. The red flag that something was up was when Rachel and Jake were out on a date and Sean joined them with a girl from one of his classes.

"Did you notice that Melissa's picture wasn't on Sean's dresser anymore?" Dana asked, one morning after the boys had left for school.

"I guess it's time to have a heart-to-heart talk with him," I said.

After dinner that evening I went to his room and he confirmed that Melissa and he had decided to cool things for a while.

"Melissa thought that since we might not be at the same university for the next four years that we should see other people."

He was trying to be cool about it, but I could tell from his body language that he wasn't terribly happy with the arrangement.

"Are you OK with this?" I asked.

"We're still going to be friends and go out occasionally, but it's going to be hard to keep up a relationship if I'm up in Waterloo and she's in Toronto."

I gave him a hug and said, "If you need to talk about things I'm here to listen."

He gave me a smile and I felt that he was going to be able to handle the situation reasonably well. I certainly realized how far he had come emotionally since he had been with me, because he would not have been able to handle this sort of event in the past.

This new found freedom of Sean's, however, turned out to be very trying. It was as if he had become the most eligible bachelor in grade 12, as he had quite a few dates with a bunch of girls from the school. Most of the girls were good choices, but not all of them were. He had become 'chummy' with a girl by the name of Giselle from school, who I knew from my time teaching there, wasn't exactly what I would call an exemplary student. He had reluctantly brought her to the house one evening before they went to the show, as Dana insisted on meeting her. It was very telling that Jake and Rachel were not double-dating with them.

"Your son's eyes never got above that girl's shoulders," Dana said to me after they had left.

It was always interesting to me that the boys were always my sons when they did something that Dana didn't approve of.

"I must admit, she has quite a shelf," I said. "She's also not going to be singing in the church choir, soon."

Both of us were being very restrained over the next month, as Sean and Giselle dated, because neither of us approved of her. She had many 'rough edges' as Dana said, trying to give Giselle the benefit of the doubt. However, we knew from experience with our other children, that if we were too forceful in expressing our opinion, it could have disastrous consequences. Dana was finding the restraint more difficult than I was, as she was never one to keep important opinions to herself.

Sean and she got into a tussle one Saturday morning when he discovered that Dana had not passed on a phone message from Giselle about plans for the night before. He had received a nasty text from her, chewing him out for not calling her back. Sean's battery on his phone had run down and she couldn't get through to him, so that's why she had called the house.

"Why didn't you tell me Giselle called?" he said to Dana, with an edge that I knew would get a swift reaction.

"Non prendo i messaggi da un giovane maleducato sgualdrina," she said. (I don't take messages from a rude young floosie.)

Jake almost choked on his latte he was drinking and I was sure what Dana had said wasn't too flattering.

"She wanted me to come over and help her babysit her younger brother last night," he said, with a fair bit of anger in his voice.

He immediately realized that this was not the smartest statement to make to us.

"I'm going to my room," he said, as he left in a huff.

"Babysitting? I think they were going to be practicing making babies," Dana said.

"Oh, oh. I think it's time for me to go to my room, too," Jake said, as he didn't want to listen to the discussion we were going to have.

Thankfully, Giselle wasn't in the picture for too long, but Sean still continued playing the field. I had another long talk with him one evening about being sexually responsible and I was confident that he wasn't going to do anything risky.

"I don't want to be a father just yet," he said, after our talk.

"Good, because I think one grandchild on the way is enough for mom and me at the moment," I said, as we exchanged smiles.

At the end of March, the boys' RDX needed to have the snow tires removed at the Acura dealer, so I drove them to school after it was dropped off in the morning and then I was going to pick them at the end of the day. I had just entered the parking lot to pick them up after school and I was waiting outside the front door for them to come out, but they weren't there. Neither were any of their friends. I got out of my vehicle and then I spotted Jake running towards me.

"Dad, Sean's birth mother broke out of jail and she's over there behind the far corner of the building," he said.

"Where's Sean?" I asked.

"He's there with her. Stéphane, Glen and Charles are there too." he said.

I didn't waste any time and I turned off the LX and locked it up. When Jake and I finally got there, I was taken aback at how she looked. Her stay in jail had not been kind to her and she was very thin and haggard. I could see that she was having a spirited conversation with Sean, but it didn't appear that he was replying. I wasn't sure if she had a weapon or not and it appeared that the boys had the same caution, as they were keeping their distance, but had her hemmed in as they formed a circle around her, with Sean on the outside of it.

"You wretched woman! You never learn. Sean doesn't want you in his life. How did you get out," I said, as she turned and looked at me.

"She was in a minimum security jail in Muskoka and she snuck out of her cell block when the guards weren't looking," Stéphane said.

"She also stole a jail van and that's how she drove here," Charles said. "It's down the road, because she ran out of gas."

She apparently wanted Sean to go with her, but she was more interested in his wealth than his affection. I got closer than she wanted and she warned me.

"I've become pretty good at making knives when the guards aren't looking. And I'm real good at using them, too," she said, as she put her hand in her pocket.

Glen had had enough and he decided to address this latest development with some of his very 'colourful' and threatening language, which she didn't appreciate.

"Bring it on," Glen said, as she started to make her way over to him, but stopped when she saw the menacing look he gave her.

She realized that she wasn't going to be successful at whatever she thought was her plan and she got mad and started to belittle Sean. She called him ungrateful and a spoiled rich kid.

"You weren't such a good boy when you stole food from the grocery store", she said, as she sneered.

I knew by Sean's body language and his silence that he was having a great deal of trouble with the situation, so I moved closer to him and put my arm around him. Just then Fin and Tatania arrived with Dana. I guessed that Dana had called them after I had phoned her and told her what was going on.

"You are a despicable woman and the only thing you've done in your life that was decent, was give birth to our grandson," Tatania said, with anger that I hadn't seen before from her.

"I wouldn't be in this mess if your loser of a son hadn't taken off on me," she said, as she sneered at Fin and Tatania.

"The only loser in that relationship was you," Fin said.

She kept up her vitriolic barrage despite the fact that the boys were drowning her out. She was ignoring the rest of us and was trying to tell Sean how awful it was in jail for her. She was really playing on his emotions, looking for pity and before I could say anything, he had reached into his pocket and pulled out his cell phone.

"I'm not listening to any more of your bullshit. I'm calling 911 and the police will be here real quick to get you," he said.

"You can put your phone away, son. I already called them before I locked up the LX," I said, as I gave him a big hug.

Just then two squad cars came to a screeching halt in the parking lot and four officers were running over to us. They pulled their guns and had her on the ground very quickly where they handcuffed her. The supervising officer took the boys and me over to the car, but left Sean in Dana, Fin and Tatania's arms. They had him firmly wrapped in a hug and were consoling him.

"I think we'll have enough information from you folks. Your son has more important things to do now," the officer said to me, as he looked at the scene with Sean.

After we had finished giving statements to the police, the boys had moved in to talk to Sean after Fin, Tatania and Dana gave him some space. This helped a great deal, because they were able to finally get a smile from him. Sean seemed to be in reasonably good spirits when we got home and having so much support helped keep him from having a meltdown.

Things were low-key at home the rest of the night and while Sean did talk about what happened, I knew he was holding back a little. This had been quite a winter and spring for him, as his relationship had changed with Melissa and now this, so Dana and I were very concerned for his mental health.

"Maybe we should go and have a quiet talk with our son before he goes to bed," Dana suggested, after the boys had gone to their rooms.

"You read my mind," I said, as I gave her a big smile.

We came into his room after he had gotten ready to go to sleep. We sat down on the side of the bed and I couldn't figure out what was so lumpy under the covers.

"It's Teddy," he said, as he gave me a big smile.

"I haven't seen him for a long time."

He opened up about how he was feeling and it was clear, that although he was disturbed by the events, he was doing alright.

"I only stole the stuff, because she said we weren't going to eat unless I did. I just wanted her to love me, but it didn't make a difference to her."

"I told you early on that I didn't care what happened in the past and that I wouldn't ask you. I've known you for four years now and you have as strong a moral compass as any young man I know," I said.

I took him into a hug and gave him a kiss on his forehead, which is something I hadn't done for a long time.

"You and Teddy have a lot of catching up to do. Don't stay up too late," Dana said, as we gave him big smiles, which he returned.

Sean finally got some good news a couple of weeks later. He was accepted into the business program at Laurier and Jake also got his first choice of English at the University of Waterloo. Rachel was also accepted at Waterloo in English and Jake and she were thrilled they would still be together.

"It's going to be just like high school. Most of our friends are either at Laurier or Waterloo. And Rachel and I will be in lots of the same classes," he said, with a big smile.

"And I know that you both will be concentrating on your school work and keeping the extra-curricular activities under control," Dana added, as she gave him a big smile and kiss to congratulate him.

"Of course," he added, with a big smile.

The University of Waterloo and Laurier University were within a couple of kilometres of each other, so the boys would still be close by, as well. Charles and Stéphane were also going to Laurier in Business, but Stéphane was taking a double major with Music as the second one.

Charles was Sean's residence roommate, which was something that took some work to put together. Charles had pressured Sandy and Mark to let him move in with Ronald who was now in his second year at Waterloo and was in a house with a couple of other guys.

Melissa was accepted into Engineering at the University of Toronto. Sean was happy for her, but we could see that he was disappointed that she didn't choose Waterloo.

"We can still Skype and she's going to visit Rachel a few times. We'll still see each other."

A couple of days later, after Sean and Jake got their acceptances, there was a knock on our door after dinner.

"I guess you want to see the boys?" I said to Carson.

"Well sort of, but It's you I really wanted to see," he said, as he handed me a large envelope.

I looked at the return address on it and I instantly knew what it was.

"Let's go to the kitchen," I said.

By now the boys had joined Dana, Carson and me, as I pulled out the papers from the envelope. Carson had a big smile on his face and I could see from the return address that it was the US university that was his first choice for a hockey scholarship.

"The chief scout for Bowling Green dropped by today and offered me a full scholarship for four years," he said, as he flashed a huge smile. "I said I'd sign it after you had a chance to look at it."

Carson had been offered scholarships from two other universities but this was his first choice. The Bowling Green University Falcons played in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association and it was about an hour and a half south of Detroit. It was close enough that Doreen could drive down to some of the games.

"I'm sure we'll be down to see some games, too," Dana said, with a big smile.

Carson laughed and then told us that the scout had jokingly mentioned that he needed to calm his mother down when she came to watch.

"Mom and I couldn't figure out what he was talking about until we realized he was talking about you, Mrs. Burger," he said.

The last game we had been at, the scout was in attendance and Dana had been her vociferous self, particularly when one of the opposition players slashed Carson and the referee missed it. The scout mistook Dana for Doreen. We all laughed as Dana had a sheepish look on her face.

"I really want to thank you, Mr. Burger, for all you've done for me," he said, as he put out his hand.

I shook his hand, but pulled him into a hug, which he didn't resist. He had earned the scholarship with his excellent play, as he was one of the dominant players in the hockey league. A growth spurt and the program the Kitchener Rangers had him on also helped, as well as the improvement in his marks at school.

As much as we were happy for Sean and Jake, Dana and I realized that our lives were about to undergo a great change. Much of a parent's identity is derived from being a caregiver and this had certainly defined our lives over the last few years. Both of us knew this would be a difficult adjustment when the boys went off to university and then into the workforce, as we had both been through this before.

"What happened to the two young boys we adopted?" I said to Dana, that evening after the boys had gone to their rooms to do their homework.

"They grew up," she said.

"I don't like this part," I said, as I let out a big sigh.

"Neither do I. It's never easy letting go," she said, as she gave me a kiss.

Winnie the Pooh song

Christmas Time Is Here

Christmas Song

Bowling Green University Falcons