It was almost the end of the school year and things were getting very busy for all of us. There also weren't many days left for Garth to entertain us after school.
"Garth's coming down the driveway from the school bus," Glen said, as he was looking at his phone.
"How do you know that?" Dana asked, as we were sitting in the kitchen as the boys had their after school snack.
"He just sent me a text, which is the tenth one today," he said, as he rolled his eyes.
Susan and John had just got him a new Smartphone with limited functions, however texting was not restricted. We were in the kitchen and we heard the door open to the laundry room from the garage and instead of his usual routine of flying into the kitchen, after he plunked down his backpack in the laundry room, there was a long silence. Finally, we heard some giggles and then the sound of a text arriving on Glen's phone, followed by the 'thunk' of the backpack.
"He's here," Glen said, as he showed the text to us, as he shook his head and let out a big sigh.
Garth came in and sat down on one of the stools at the breakfast bar and helped himself to a muffin. After a couple of bites, he had what he called a 'quick joke' to tell us, since his father was coming to pick him and Glen up soon.
"A man goes into a drugstore and asks the drugstore guy to give him something to stop his hiccups. The drugstore guy then slaps the man's face," he said, as he swiped his hand through the air, dramatically acting out the scene.
"The drugstore guy is called a pharmacist, just like Sean's grandfather," I said.
"Oh, yeah, now I remember. So the man says 'What did you do that for?' Then the pharmacist says 'Well, you don't have the hiccups anymore, do you?'" he said, as he paused to chuckle.
He continued and said, "The man says 'No, but my wife out in the car still does!'"
We all groaned, which caused his chuckling to get louder.
"Did you just hear this joke today?" I asked.
He told us that Mandy told him this one at recess.
"When did you have the time to listen between all the texts that you sent me?" Glen asked.
Garth laughed and then took another bite of his muffin, ignoring Glen's comment.
"Chocolate chunk is my favourite," he said to Dana.
"Garth Webster! How many times have I told you not to talk with your mouth full," Dana said, which escalated his giggling.
I wasn't sure if he had done that just to wind up Dana, but thankfully John arrived to pick up Garth and Glen to take them to dinner, then five-pin bowling. This was something that John did with the two boys as frequently as he could, as a guys' bonding night out.
"Did you get my texts today, Dad," Garth said, with a big smile.
"I did. All five of them. I think we have to make some rules about texting, son," he said.
"Did anyone call today?" Garth asked, anxiously.
Both Garth and Derek had tried out for the parts of Benesh and Isaak in 'Fiddler on the Roof', which was playing during the summer and fall at the Stratford Festival. This was the festival's major production this year and the role was a very minor one. They were the boyfriends of Tevyev's youngest daughters in the production.
This wasn't the first round of auditions, as they already had four boys for the parts, but the director felt they needed two more boys to make three sets that would alternate over the run of the production. It wasn't too much of a problem during the summer months, but when the boys went back to school it made things a little more difficult for them, especially since they had to have two sets on hand at each performance, in case there was a problem and someone couldn't perform.
Gary Scott got wind of this and called us to tell us about the opportunity. Garth, of course, was very interested and he talked Derek into going along to audition as well. Derek was still a little timid and didn't think he had the right stuff, but we all encouraged him. The director was looking for two boys that were about the same age as Derek and Garth and they had to be able to sing and dance.
"There were no calls today, son," John said. "Remember, they said that you would know by this coming Monday one way or the other."
Garth was really hoping that he and Derek would be successful. It was going to be a long weekend for John, Glen and Susan as Garth impatiently waited for the news.
"Maybe you should send the director a text," Glen said, facetiously.
Garth's face lit up until John said, "Don't even think about it! Besides, you don't have his cell phone number, thank goodness."
Garth went to the laundry room and picked up his backpack and came back into the foyer to leave with his dad and Glen.
"Why is your backpack so full?" John asked, when he looked and saw that it was double the usual size.
"Our class had to go to the lost and found today, since it's near the end of school," he said.
"And?" I asked.
"I found my gym shorts... and my winter gloves... and my toque... and my boots that I thought were stolen," he said, as he giggled.
John and Glen rolled their eyes as they made their way out the door.
Susan told us Garth hadn't been too impatient over the weekend when we were having brunch at our house after church that Sunday. My niece, her husband, Bob, Derek and Rachel, joined us as well as Susan, John, Glen and Garth.
We had just sat down at the table and Garth had a joke he thought would fit in with the occasion. It was about the young kids in a church's congregation that were getting ready to go to the 'Junior Congregation'. The Minister had them at the front of the church to speak to them, before they went off with the Sunday school teacher, while the minister gave his sermon to the adults.
"This minister was asking the kids if they knew the meaning of the Resurrection at Easter time. This one little boy says 'I know that if you have a resurrection that lasts more than four hours you're supposed to call the doctor'"
John almost choked on his sandwich and Sean, Jake and Glen started to snicker very loudly.
"What?" Garth asked, bewildered at everyone's reaction.
"Let me guess. Ronan told you this joke," Susan said.
"I know what the resurrection is," he said, very defensively.
Glen quickly leaned over and whispered into his ear.
"What commercial are you talking about?" Garth asked, out loud.
Glen leaned over again and whispered, then glanced down at Garth's crotch. It usually took a lot to silence Garth, but he turned red and clammed up immediately.
"When the moment is right, will you be ready?" Sean said, as Jake and he smiled as they looked at me.
The boys knew I used Cialis, which is where that slogan came from, because I had mild erectile dysfunction which was one of the side effects of my prostate cancer treatment. The topic had come up when they had snickered at the Cialis commercials on the golf broadcasts. The concept of erectile dysfunction was foreign to them and they were still amused at the thought of having to use some 'assistance' for something they took for granted.
Dana gave them one of her looks as she said, "Perhaps we could change the subject to something less titillating."
Just then the phone rang, which was a relief and it was Gary Scott.
"I'm looking to get a hold of Garth and Derek's parents, but I don't have their contact information," Gary said.
"Well, you're in luck because everyone's over here for lunch," I said.
"I just heard via the grapevine that Garth and Derek will be getting calls tomorrow afternoon about their Stratford audition," he said, the tone of his voice leaving no doubt that it was going to be a positive call.
After I got off the phone, I relayed the message about the call, but didn't pass on the possibility of them being successful, according to Gary's wishes. Derek and Garth got very excited and I knew we would be hearing about the details from Garth tomorrow, once the message was delivered.
While we were focused on this, we hadn't noticed Barney coming into the dining room and laying down on the floor with what looked like a half-eaten granola bar with part of the wrapper still on it.
"What's Barney got?" Dana asked.
"Oh no! That's from my purse," Rachel said.
"And it looks like it's got lots of chocolate chips in it," I said.
Chocolate was something that made dogs sick and Barney was certainly no exception. It is also universally known that dogs, or animals in general, don't take kindly to someone trying to take away their food. Our voice commands to drop the bar were falling on deaf ears and Sean's attempt to approach him and take it away met with a very menacing growl and him baring his teeth. Finally, Jake ran into the kitchen and got two pairs of oven mitts and Sean put on one pair and yanked the bar from his mouth, while Jake held on to him with the other set. Without the oven mitts they would've been bitten.
"I know dear. You want to take him to the SPCA tomorrow," I said to Dana before she could speak.
We couldn't make out what she was mumbling, but it was clear she was not happy and neither was Rachel, since Barney chewed through the zipper on her purse to get the bar.
"I guess Barney has a keen sense of smell," I said, trying to lighten up things.
"We'll replace the purse, dear," Dana said to Rachel. "We'll have some extra money after we give the little mutt away tomorrow."
As angry as Dana was at Barney, we knew that it would only take a few dog kisses in the morning from him, after he jumped up on her lap at breakfast time, to make things good again. This was usually followed by the words 'It's a good thing you're cute'.
When Garth arrived at our house after school the next day, he raced into the kitchen with his shoes still on. Dana ignored his indiscretion as she realized why he was so excited.
"I'm surprised you didn't call your mom or dad already, on your phone," I said.
"They told me not to until after school. Besides, I forgot to charge my phone last night," he said.
"You must've run down the battery with all that texting," Jake said, as the boys laughed.
"Well, here you go," Dana said, as she passed him our phone.
We knew that Gary was correct as Garth's face lit up when Susan told him that he had been chosen for the part. The call took a couple of minutes as Susan was telling him some of the details.
"We got the parts," he said, with a big smile after he hung up.
"We?" Dana asked.
"Me and Derek," he said.
I was going to correct his grammar, but I thought that this wasn't the time. He told us they would be billeted with a family during the weeks they were performing and also going to a theatre school in Stratford in the summer, which was run by the Festival. The boys would get the benefit of top-flight instruction from some of the professional actors who were performing in the various Festival productions.
"Mom says we'll be starting in mid-July. We have to learn the part first," he said, as if none of us had thought of that problem.
"Seriously?" Sean asked, jokingly.
"Oh Yeah," Garth replied, with his serious look.
When he realized Sean was teasing, he gave him a scowl, which got Sean, Jake and Glen laughing.
Not only were we at the end of the school year, but the youth orchestra's season was finishing and the kids were getting ready to give their last concert of the year. Sean and Jake picked up Melissa and Rachel and they all drove to the last rehearsal together. They were going to go out afterwards for a bite to eat and likely some extra-curricular activities, which we thought was the reason why they were very late coming home.
"You boys are way past your curfew. I hope there's a good explanation," I said, as the two of them came into the living room when they heard us speak.
They hadn't expected us to be up, but we had been watching a late movie and became concerned when they hadn't shown up on time, so we waited up.
"I didn't hear the garage door opener. Where is the RDX, boys?" Dana asked.
"It's parked," Jake said rather abruptly, with a bit of a sour look.
"Where? In the driveway?" I asked.
"No. We had it towed to the Acura dealer's lot in the city," Sean said, with a very annoyed tone to his voice.
"What! Why didn't you call the CAA (Canadian Automobile Club)?" Dana asked, thinking that they had run out of gas, but puzzled why it was on the dealer's lot.
"We did," Jake said.
"It's not going anywhere for a while," Sean said, with a disgusted look, directed at Jake.
"There was an incident," Jake added.
"Yeah, like someone wasn't paying attention while they were driving," Sean said, with steam coming out of his ears.
Before we had world war III break out, Dana and I got them calmed down and found out what had happened. The boys and the girls were getting ready to pull out of the parking spot in the parking lot after the youth orchestra practice and Jake was driving, with Rachel in the front seat with him. Jake's driving had improved a great deal over the last year, but his penchant for getting engrossed in deep discussion at the wrong times had not. Rachel and he were talking about the last part of the finale to the string sextet they were playing for the end-of-year performance and he forgot that Sean had backed into the parking spot when they arrived. He put the RDX into reverse and backed over the concrete abutment behind the vehicle, causing a flat tire and 'a big friggin crunch', as Sean put it.
Sean was not very happy at his brother and he said, "The tow truck driver said it would probably take a couple of days before it was back on the road, when he took a look underneath."
Two long days and $1,800 later, the RDX was roadworthy again. Jake wanted to pay for it and both Dana and I were in complete agreement not to interfere, since the insurance rates would go up substantially if we had made a claim. He rarely spent any of the income from his trust fund, so he could afford it and this would hopefully teach him a lesson to pay more attention when he was driving.
Sean insisted on driving to the concert that weekend and Jake knew enough not to argue. Along with their participation in the full orchestra, they were also doing Handel's 'Concerto Grosso', OP. 6 #7 for strings and piano. It was a sextet, with Charles on viola, Sean and Rachel on violin, Melissa on cello, Jake on bass and Stéphane on the piano. They did a great job and we gave them lots of praise after the performance.
"Make sure you avoid any concrete abutments," I said to the kids, when they were getting ready to go out afterwards.
"It's Ok. I'm driving," Sean said, as he looked at Jake.
The rest of the kids chuckled, as Jake had a sheepish look on his face.
The youth orchestra performance wasn't the only event that was happening before the end of June. The OHL (Ontario Hockey League) draft was taking place on the Saturday before the end of the month and we had committed to joining Carson and his mother in the stands as they waited to hear if he was drafted.
Earlier in the week, Jake was on the phone with someone, getting information and Sean was beside him.
After Jake hung up, Sean asked me, "If we pay for it, could you rent a school bus for this Saturday? A bunch of people want to go to the draft."
Somehow, Jake and Sean had become the organizers, which was something they were becoming very good at. They never hesitated to volunteer when there was a good cause or party involved.
I was surprised by the request and Jake hastily added, "Everyone's going to chip in."
They told me that there were at least 30 people, including us, Doreen and many of Carson's teammates who wanted to go. Stéphane had asked his father if the league could provide a bus, but that wasn't something the league was prepared to pay for.
"Well, I can certainly rent the school bus, but I'll pay for it," I said.
When the day arrived, everyone met at the rink to load into the school bus. When the final count was taken there were 35 people, including adults. Dénis had also joined us, in a somewhat official capacity, as convenor of the hockey association.
"This is a big deal for town hockey. The last time anyone was drafted by a major junior A hockey team from here, was in 2007. I hope both boys make it today," he said, as we sat together on the bus.
Along with Carson, one of his teammates from the travelling team was also very hopeful of being drafted by one of the OHL teams. Of the two, Carson had the better chance, but one never knew what the teams were thinking or looking for, so all we could do was hope.
When we got onto the bus, a couple of the boys from Carson's team had had a professional banner made up with both boy's names on it and the logo of the town hockey organization. One of the boy's fathers owned a printing company and he provided it free of charge.
"I've talked to both boys about being careful with whatever decision they make. They know that if they're drafted by one of the OHL teams and play one game they basically have eliminated themselves from getting an American University scholarship. The NCAA considers the OHL professional hockey," Dénis said.
"Carson's agent has explained this to him and he won't be signing a contract unless he's sure he's on the team," I said.
The draft was held in the London arena and it was a very long day but everyone was very upbeat and having a good time waiting for the two boy's names to be called. After the third round had been completed, which took two hours, we could see the disappointment on Carson's face. The boys were trying to keep him in a positive frame of mind, but their encouragement was wearing a little thin.
"I think it's time we change the troops," I said, to Doreen and Dana, as I got up to go over to where Carson was sitting.
Jake, Sean, Charles and Stéphane knew what I was doing and they said they were going to get a drink at the snack bar and bring one back for Carson. I sat down beside him after the boys left.
"I used to tell Sean, when he first started living with me, to try and look at the glass as being half full, not half empty," I said.
At first he didn't know what I was talking about, but finally it dawned on him.
"If this doesn't work out for you today, that doesn't mean your dream is gone. There have been lots of very good professional hockey players that didn't get drafted, who had great careers."
"I know. I just feel bad that maybe everyone will have wasted their time coming today if I don't get drafted," he said.
"Never mind about us. You have some great friends that have enjoyed spending the day with you. No one's time has been wasted."
The boys arrived back from the snack bar and I left to rejoin Doreen and Dana.
"How is he doing?" Doreen asked.
"He's better. I had the same talk with him that I had with Sean years ago about a glass," I said, as I smiled.
Before Dana and I could explain what I meant, the next round started and our focus was drawn to the front of the arena. The next team's representatives came up to the stage.
"The Kitchener Rangers are pleased to choose Carson Spencer as their next pick," the GM of the Rangers announced over the PA system.
Carson's face lit up like a Christmas tree and the boys gave him high fives. All of the kids with us let out a big cheer that could be heard all over the rink. He then made a beeline for us and gave Doreen a big hug. When he was finished with her, I was next followed by Dana.
"I think they're waiting for you on the stage, young man," I said, as he gave me a big smile and took off.
It was a happy ride home on the bus, as the other boy was drafted in the fifth round by the Guelph Storm. The Rangers had told Carson that they were not offering him a contract unless he made the team and training camp was in the last week of August. In the meantime, they gave him a workout program to follow during the summer that they would monitor. He was to make weekly visits to the team gym in Kitchener, where their personal trainers would work with him and talk to him about nutrition. His strength and weight was going to be something he would have to work on to compete at the next level.
"I wonder if Carson's going to sleep in the team jersey he got today," I said to Doreen and Dana, as I laughed.
It was a little bittersweet for Doreen, as she realized that this may mean he would be in Kitchener next year and not at home.
"He's still a boy," she said, as we walked to the bus.
Dana put her arm around her and said, "He'll be fine. You've done a great job raising him. Kitchener's only forty minutes away, if he makes the team."
"In a way I hope he doesn't make the team and plays around here, but I know it's his dream and he has to pursue it," she said, as she was getting emotional.
It would be a big change for him, as well as Doreen, but he would be billeted with a family that would act as his parents. He would also be enrolled in a local high school to complete his last year, along with many of his teammates. Both Dana and I had some concerns with how he would be able to handle the separation, but he had come a long way since his father had left and we were confident that he would adjust.
Finally, the last week of school arrived and things were quickly coming to a close. Ronald was graduating and the ceremony was during the evening of the last day of school. Sean, Jake and Stéphane had decided to arrange a private prom dance a couple of nights before that, for Charles and Ronald, since they hadn't 'come out' as being a gay couple. They would wait until the next year when Charles graduated and attend his prom dance together.
"Can you sign this contract with the banquet centre, because they won't accept our signatures, since we're not old enough?" Sean asked.
When I looked at the contract and the price, I had a few questions.
"Are you sure this is the total cost of the hall?"
The price was considerably less than what it should've been and there wasn't any mention of food anywhere in the contract.
"Yeah. They started out at way more than that, and wanted to include food, but we got the price down," Jake said.
The two boys, with Stéphane, were turning out to be good businessmen and between the three of them they did a great job negotiating with the manager of the banquet hall.
"John and mom are providing the food, of course, for a price," Sean added, with a smile.
They had invited about 20 people that could be trusted to be discreet and that knew of Ronald and Charles' relationship and the price they charged was less than what the official prom was going to be. Of course, I didn't need to ask who their dates were. Glen, or Don Juan, as Dana referred to him sometimes, would be accompanied by his current girlfriend. It was hard to keep up with who he was going out with at any one time as Glen didn't want to get 'tied down', as he put it, when Dana asked why he had so many girlfriends.
The morning after the prom, the boys slept in until late morning, as they had arrived home late. This was something that had been negotiated with us beforehand. We didn't get too many details, but they said that everyone had a great time and Charles and Ronald were very grateful for them organizing the event on their behalf.
"We would've been later, but Ronald and Charles wanted to be alone, so we left," Sean said.
They told us that the two boys had rented a room in the hotel attached to the banquet centre and they were staying overnight. Mark and Sandy and Ronald's parents gave their approval and paid for it. Neither Dana nor I said anything, but I could see from the look on her face that we had the same concerns.
"Do you get the impression that a hotel room is going to be an expectation for our boys next year at their prom?" Dana asked.
"I don't think there's any question about that. I'm not sure I'm ready for that part of their graduation, though," I said, as I sighed.
The next evening was the graduation ceremony and even though I was only on the teaching staff as an occasional teacher, I was attending, because I wanted to present the grade 12 Accounting award to Sean and Charles. When I figured out the final marks, Sean had beaten Charles by one mark and I asked Sean if he was Ok with me boosting Charles' mark to make them co-winners and he was in total agreement. As well as Sean and Charles, Ronald received the grade 12 award for Biology, which was the major he had chosen at the University of Waterloo.
This summer would be a little different for the boys, since they were going to Summer School to take grade 12 English, which was at my suggestion. Sean was concerned that if he took English during day school the next year that his mark would pull down his graduating average and he would not get into the University of his choice. I shared his concern, since I knew the teacher of the course was a very demanding marker.
"Ronald said that if God was in her class, he would only get 80%," Sean said, when we were having a discussion about the problem at the dinner table one evening.
The teacher was excellent as far as her instructional abilities and enthusiasm for her subject were concerned, but there were many kids, such as Ronald, that took the summer school route to avoid her, because it was a little easier to get good marks that way.
"You realize that you have to go each day for the month of July in the morning," I pointed out to him.
He wasn't too wild about that, but he was willing to make the sacrifice to get to where he wanted to go.
"I'm going to go too," Jake said.
"I'm a little surprised, dear. You won the grade 11 English award again this year," Dana said.
"I know, but I'm not God and I need more than 80% in grade 12 English," he said, as he looked at Sean and smiled.
Besides Summer School, Sean was going to be playing golf most afternoons and Jake was involved in soccer again. Jake was also going to Italy to be with his aunt and uncle in August and Sean was going out to Nova Scotia to be with Fin and Tatania. Apart from the time he would spend with his grandmother and grandfather, he was also looking forward to going to Prince Edward Island with Fin and playing the Crowbush golf course, which was the home course of the famous Canadian lady golfer, Lori Kane.
"You seem deep in thought these days," Dana said, one day at breakfast near the end of the summer.
"The boys will be in their last year in high school next year and then comes University after that. I guess it's the realization that we won't be as involved with their lives as much as we are now, that's starting to hit home," I said.
Dana came over and gave me a smile and reassuring hug, which made me fell better.
"That's just the medicine I needed."