Cover image courtesy of a good friend and host of this story: “ACFan”
LINCOLN, THE FAMILY I NEVER EXPECTED
Copyright ©2017-2019 Lindon Weztser & CSU Productions. All Rights Reserved.
Full disclaimer may be viewed at http://cornercafe.us
Part – 1
Wednesday, March 2nd, 2016. 5:27 amI woke to those awful, deafening screams of Lincoln that I have become accustomed to during the morning hours. I shot out of bed and sprinted to his room. When I entered, I saw him sitting beside his bed with his knees to his chest and head resting on his arms.“Lincoln?” I said as I walked over and sat down on the bed.
“Garret, I… I can’t do it anymore.”
“I’m sorry,” I replied as I moved to sit down on the floor with him.
“Why are you sorry? I’m the one who can’t go two days without crying or seeing a flashback.” Lincoln stated as he looked up at me with tears running down his face.
“Come here bud,” I said and patted my lap. I didn’t need to make the motion twice, as he scooted onto my thighs. “Now you don’t ever apologize to me about these flashbacks. We’ve been over this before, I love you bud, and these flashbacks don’t define who you are. You know… did I tell you how proud I was of you?”
“For what?” Lincoln said as he rested his head on my shoulder.
“For being an amazing person and a terrific member of this family. You were such a champ, and you really helped Christian the other night. I’m proud of you,” I replied trying to get his mind off the flashback.
“Well…. it wasn’t that big of a deal.”
“It meant so much more than you know, you won’t ever realize how much of a difference you made that night.”
“What do you mean?”
“You know exactly what I mean. You were there for our family, and by your own doing. You weren’t going to let me leave without you in that car because you cared about Christian and his well being. It means you are developing into a wonderful person, and I am so proud and honored to be on this journey with you.”
“You don’t mean that,” Lincoln blushed.
“Yeah I do! We may have a few hiccups like these PTSD attacks, but I am so grateful for you coming into my life.”
“Garret?” I heard Clayton say as he was in the doorway rubbing his eyes, “what was that noise?”
“Yeah,” Ryker said as he now stood behind his brother.
“Just a bad dream boys, nothing to worry about.”
“Sorry,” Lincoln stated as he dropped his head.
“It’s okay bud,” I said and kissed his cheek.
“Garret, can I come lay in your bed?” Asked Ryker.
“Yeah, can we?” Questioned Lincoln.
“Alright, come on… everyone to my room. Let’s try to get some more sleep,” I commanded to which I heard no complaints. The 3 boys and I entered my room and crawled into bed. I took the middle and Ryker laid down to my left on his side with his head on my chest. Clayton claimed my right as his head rested on my arm and Lincoln scooted in behind Clayton. We had a king size bed to spread out and share…. but no, everyone wanted to be cuddled together. Although, I didn’t mind…. not one bit.
It didn’t take long for the boys to fall asleep as I was scratching Ryker’s back, and rubbing Lincoln’s head. Within minutes they were out, and I followed soon.
We made it to 7:00 without any incident and I untangled myself from the boys. I hopped in the shower, and 15 minutes later I was downstairs helping Rita with breakfast.
“What time are your parents coming in?” Rita asked.
“Around 6, but don’t mention anything to the boys, it’s a surprise.”
“I’ll have dinner ready for 6:30 then.”
“What about Lincoln’s therapy?”
“What about it?” I asked
“Isn’t it on Wednesday’s?”
“Oh shoot I totally forgot,” I said as I shook my head. “Wait a second, I think Ruth said see you on Thursday.”
“That wouldn’t make sense, you always have it on Wednesday.”
“Now I’m all mixed up. I’ll call her on the way back from dropping the boys off.”
“Good idea,” Rita stated. For breakfast, she was making omelets with cheese, bacon, sausage, and peppers. To say we are spoiled, would be an understatement. Surprisingly all 4 boys came down at once. However, Jacob looked to be the only one fully awake as the other three looked like walking zombies. As they sat down, I brought over glasses for juice or milk. I kissed each boy on the top of their head, and Rita brought the food to the table.
After about 15-20 minutes the boys were finished and upstairs getting ready for school. At 8:35 we were out the door. We reached their building, and I dropped them off. On my way home I called Ruth, and she did mistakenly say Thursday. However, I agreed that Thursday would probably be better for this week only. Ruth was on board and moved the appointment to 4 pm.
I returned home and went to my office to check my email. I had one email from Mrs. Wilson, Lincoln’s teacher. She went on to say,
“First thank you for coming in to talk to our excellent students about your job. Career day is an important day for us because we challenge the students to think about what they want to do in the future. It also allows our 5th graders a much-needed break from their stressful school work. So thank you for taking time out of your busy work week. Now I would like to give you an idea of how this day will happen. Our first presenter will be taking the stage at 11:00, then we will have six or seven more people present before lunchtime. Lunch for our class is at 1:15, and lunch is a highlight for most of our students as they get to eat with their parent. You can either bring your lunch or pay for cafeteria food. ( I would suggest packing your own lunch.) After lunch, the students get 15 minutes of free time. That puts us back on schedule to start presenting at 2, where we will finish our remaining careers. It’s a long day, but it means so much to our kids, so thank you for signing up, and we can not wait to have you in.
“Oh boy,” I thought. “This is gonna be one long day for sure.” I went on checking my email and saw another one from Keith with the general layout of our new building. The building was shaped like an L, and we planned to have all office space towards the front of the building. However, we wanted a big open entrance, so it was going to be an intricate design. For the career day, I planned to have the students customize the community room, which is basically a living room but much bigger with more amenities. I printed out the layout and went downstairs to workout.
It was around 11:20 and I just hopped out of the shower as I slipped on clothes when my cell phone rang. It was Kelly, “Garret?” Kelly said in a worrisome tone.
“Kelly? What’s wrong?”
“Can you go pick up Christian from school. Apparently, he is being picked on and had a panic attack or something” Kelly stated. “Tom is at work, and I can’t be there for another hour and a half. Christian just needs out of there… The principal says he hasn’t stopped crying.”
“Of course, I’ll leave immediately.”
“Thank you, Garret,” Kelly cried.
“Why didn’t this happen yesterday?”
“We didn’t let him go to school.”
“You didn’t let him? Geez Kelly… probably would have been a smart idea to send him to school yesterday.”
“Well it’s too late now, look I’ll be at your house around 5ish.”
“Mom and dad are coming in, might as well let him stay for dinner and hang out with his cousins.”
“Forgot they were coming, but sounds like a plan.”
“Thanks again bro, I… I really appreciate the help and support right now.”
“Anytime… but I gotta run.”
“Bye,” Kelly said as she hung up.
On my way out the door, I informed Rita of the situation, and she agreed to go pick up Clayton. I think she had to go to the grocery store afterward, but I know Clayton would enjoy the time with Rita. I also knew it would be impossible without her support, as she’s been our rock. I hopped in the Ferrari and was on my way to get Christian.
I may have been slightly speeding, but I thought it was for the right reasons. I made it to his school in 35 minutes and parked in the roundabout in front of the school.
I entered the building, then the front office, to my surprise, Christian was waiting in the corner with his jacket crumbled into a ball on his lap.
“Christian,” I said as I walked up to him.
He wasn’t crying until he saw me and the floodgates open again, “Uncle G, please just take me away from this school.”
“I am… you’re coming back to my house to hang out.”
“I’m… I’m sorry,” he stated and gave me a hug.
“You don’t have to be sorry about anything,” I replied.
“Yeah I do.. you had to drive out here.”
“I’m… I’m sorry.”
“Look,” I said, “it’s okay, I don’t mind helping. Especially for you.”
“O… o… okay, I just wanna leave.”
“Alright give me your backpack, and I’ll sign you out,” I said as I released his hug and grabbed his backpack. I walked over to the secretary’s desk and signed him out to leave. As we were walking out, a group of 10-15 kids were standing around the Ferrari taking photos. They must have been walking back to the school from an outdoor gym class, but it was comical seeing all of them swarming around the car.
However, it didn’t last long, as they noticed Christian, and began making comments.
“It’s the fag boy,” a heavier set boy said.
“Hey, queer boy, where you going?” Asked another.
“About to take it up the ass huh, faggot?”
“Nah, he’s probably doing both,” giggled another boy.
“Yo faggot, I’m yelling at you. Where you going?”
“None of your business,” I said to them.
“Who the hell are you? His boyfriend?” Question the larger set kid.
“Nah, but I’ll make you mine if you don’t shut your mouth.”
“What… what did… did you say?” He stuttered.
“You… you… you heard me, now step away from my car.” I mocked him
“Wh… wha… whatever. Enjoy sucking a dick,” commented the heavier set boy. We just reached the Ferrari, and I was about to speak up again, but Christian stopped me.
“Uncle G, please let’s just go.”
“Fine,” I replied and jumped into the car. As we pulled out of the school that’s when the real waterworks hit. “What happened today?”
“What didn’t happen is a better question. It’s… it’s… it’s been the worst day of my life.”
“I’m sorry bud.”
“I… I can’t ever go back.”
“In the morning, it wasn’t going bad besides a few comments which I expected, but in 2nd period I… I had a few kids push me around, but what’s worse was my friend I sit with… sat in another seat. He didn’t even say hi to me, he… he just ignored me.”
“He’s not a true friend then,” I said.
“And… the worst part was gym class in the 3rd period. We… we have to change our clothes in the locker room and… and everyone was calling me a faggot and queer. Then-then a kid pulled my underwear down while I was turned around. Everyone saw my bare ass, and everyone started laughing.”
“Where was the gym teacher?”
“He wasn’t in the locker room.”
“Aww buddy, I’m so sorry.”
“It’s… it’s not over,” Christian cried. “A kid drew dicks on my locker and my desk.”
“I’m sorry bud.”
“I hate that I’m gay, I wish I liked girls instead,” Christian yelled.
“There is nothing wrong with being gay.”
“Then why does it seem like the world hates me.”
“Well I don’t hate you, and the world may seem to hate you, but it doesn’t. A lot of people care about you, but it’s just so unfortunate that your ‘coming out of the closet’, had to happen this way. It shouldn’t be like this.”
“I… I just don’t wanna talk about it.”
“I understand, but it’s also important to talk. So I’m gonna let it go for now, and we will address it later.”
“O…. okay,” Christian said as he wiped his eyes.
“Love you, buddy,” I stated and patted his thigh.
“Thanks for picking me up.”
“Don’t mention it,” I said.
“When does Lincoln get home from school?”
“Around 4, but Clay should be home now. He gets let out early.”
“Clayton always cheers me up,” Christian giggled.
“Oh all the time for me too.”
“He is just so darn cute.”
“That he is,” I chuckled.
“So are Jacob and Ryker, I think of them as my little brothers.”
“That’s awesome, I know they always look forward to seeing you.”
“Yeah,” Christian replied. The drive home went by quick, and before we knew it, I was pulling the Ferrari into the garage. As soon as we entered the house, Clayton came running over.
“Hey Clay,” Christian responded as he gave Clayton a hug.
“This is the bestest surprise,” giggled Clayton. “You wanna go watch some cartoons?”
“What am I chopped liver over here?” I joked
“Noooo,” giggled Clayton as he released his grip on Christian and gave me a hug. I picked him up and gave him a kiss on his cheek.
“Love you kiddo, take Christian into the living room. I gotta go make a phone call.”
“Okay,” Clayton said as I dropped him to his feet. “Come on Christian!”
“Okay,” Christian responded, and they went to the family room. I headed to my office to check emails and missed calls. I had a voicemail from an unknown number, and I assumed it was Thomas. I was nervous to listen to it, but somewhat excited because I hoped his dumbass just left me a recording about the bribe, however it wasn’t. The message went as followed,
“Garret, this is Thomas Giradi. Look I wanna make this easy, so this Friday I will drive up to your area and pick up Jacob. I’ll also bring him back on Sunday night, so it saves you the hassle. I also wanted to talk to you in person again to maybe try and solve this issue of guardianship. Look we just want what’s best for everyone. Give me a callback, let’s not make this a scene like you did at McDonald’s.”
I didn’t know what to think, but I immediately contacted my legal team and presented the voicemail to them. I was told to avoid contact and do not under any circumstances meet with Thomas without someone from my legal team being present. They advised me to not let Thomas pick Jacob up but instead to have a mutual meeting spot. They also told me they’ve been in contact with Laura, and that the plan is still happening on Friday, which did not put me to ease. Anyhow, after I got off the phone, I replied to a few emails then went to the kitchen and grabbed a glass of water.
After, I went into the family room to check on Christian. I entered to see Clayton and Christian laying down together sharing a blanket with Clayton asleep. Clayton had his head resting on Christian’s arm, and his body cuddled up next to Christian’s. It was so adorable that I snapped a quick picture.
“How long has he been sleeping?” I whispered to Christian.
“I don’t know, like 10 minutes.”
“You want me to move him?”
Christian looked down at the sleeping 5-year-old before he spoke, “no, never. he is fine!”
“Let me know if you need anything.”
“I think I’m gonna try and take a nap too.”
“You sure you don’t want me to move him, Clayton can squirm around when he sleeps.”
“No, please don’t. This is perfect,” Christian replied as he kissed the top of Clayton’s head.
“Alright buddy, holler if you need me,” I stated as I tousled his hair.
“Thanks Uncle G, love ya!”
“Love you too bud,” I responded and then left for the kitchen where Rita was.
“How’s he doing?” She asked.
“Not good, he had a rough day. You know, kids can be such assholes.”
“It’s not surprising,” Rita said. “Christian is a good looking boy, and when a small detail of his personal life was leaked, people jumped at his throat cause they’re jealous. It’s just kids are so mean to each other already, then being gay is just another target for them to hit.”
“It’s unbelievable, Kelly needs to have that principle fired or something. No way this bullying should be allowed.”
“It’s not, but you can’t stop kids from bullying.”
“Yeah I know,” I responded. “So how was Clayton?”
“Oh, an angel like always. Let me tell you, he can spark a conversation with anyone, we were in line waiting to check out, and he starts talking to the lady behind us about her day. She was cracking up.”
“He’s a special one,” I chuckled.
“Oh, I forgot. Clayton’s teacher, Mrs… ya I don’t know how to pronounce her name, wants to schedule a meeting to discuss Clayton entering the gifted program.”
“Thank you and also thank you for picking Clayton up.”
“You’re welcome, so will Christian be staying for dinner?”
“Yes, will there be enough food?”
“Haha, you make me laugh sugar. You’ve seen me cook, of course there will be enough food.”
“Thank you again,” I chuckled before I went back and sat down on the couch. I sat down at the feet of Christian as he had yet to fall asleep.
“Uncle G? Can you scratch my legs? I don’t wanna move and wake Clayton.”
“Yeah sure, lift your legs,” I commanded and slid my lap underneath his legs. Clayton’s feet, were now just touching my outside thigh, which was funny to see the height difference between the two of them. “Scratch on the skin or over the pant leg?”
“Skin please,” he requested, and I rolled up each leg of his sweatpants to above his kneecap.
“So bud, you wanna tell me more about the day?” I asked as I started scratching his legs.
“Not really. I was sort of forgetting about it for the moment.”
“Well, I’m ready to talk when you are, just remember that.”
“Yeah I know,” he yawned. Christian didn’t last long as he dozed off about 5 minutes after I started scratching his legs. I rolled each pant leg back down and reached for the TV remote to switch to ESPN.
I let the two boys nap together for an hour before I had to get them up. Clayton still had homework to do, and I wanted that complete before my parents arrived. So after a quick snack prepared by Rita, Clayton began his homework, and Christian was watching cartoons.
Before long, it was time to go pick up the remaining crew and Christian wanted to come with me. He and I jumped into the SUV, and 15 minutes later we were at the school.
We arrived right on time as the boys came walking out of the school and towards the Mercedes. You could see Lincoln’s face go through all sorts of emotion when he spotted Christian. He was surprised, then confused, then happy. You could see him shove his brothers to notify them that Christian was with me in the car. It seemed to put a smile on Christian’s face as he watched the three brothers walk to the car.
The first one to climb in was Ryker, “Hey Christian! What are you doing here?”
“Hey Christian!” Said Jacob, as he entered next.
“Whys Christian here?” Excitedly asked Lincoln.
“Well Christian got out of school early, and he wanted to hang out with us for the day.”
“Cool,” Ryker said, “when we get home you wanna play Xbox?”
“Oh Christian, we gotta show you our wetsuits we just got for the boat,” spoke Jacob.
“Okay,” Christian replied, “and yeah I’ll play Xbox later.”
“Boys before any activities start, you guys need to finish your homework,” I injected.
“Do we have to? Like can’t we wait until after dinner?” Asked Jacob
“Hmm let me think,” I said as I took a dramatic pause. “How about NO.”
“No buts Jacob. It’s homework, then playtime.”
“Alright, so how was your guys day?”
“Ryker and Hannah hung out at lunch and recess,” teased Lincoln.
“No, I didn’t.” Ryker shot back.
“Who’s Hannah?” Inquired Christian.
“Ryker’s girlfriend!” Lincoln laughed. “They spent all of lunch and recess talking.”
“How do you know this Lincoln?” I asked.
“Third, fourth, and fifth graders each lunch at the same time,” giggled Lincoln. “I think I even saw them kiss.”
“Shut up Lincoln, no I didn’t. She’s not even my girlfriend.”
“Hey hey hey, it’s okay if she is. There’s nothing wrong with it.”
“She’s not, we are just friends. And I didn’t kiss her, tell the truth Lincoln.”
“Fine…. they French kissed,” giggled Lincoln, which sent everyone in the car laughing besides Ryker.
“Nut uh,” Ryker said as he was visibly getting upset.
“Alright stop teasing him,” I injected.
“Is this what it’s always like?” Asked Christian.
“Yeah, I’d say so,” I responded. The rest of the car ride home was filled with laughter, which was great for Christian. I saw him smiling and laughing again, and I think we took his mind off of school and bullying.
We arrived home, and the boys quickly did their homework. After that, the boys went upstairs to go show Christian their wetsuits. Clayton let it slip that he didn’t wear anything underneath and made Christian feel slightly uncomfortable, but after a quick reassuring talk, he seemed less tense. After the wetsuits, the boys stayed upstairs and played some Xbox game.
Around 5:30 they all came back downstairs, which I think was due to hunger. After Rita confirmed dinner would be another hour, we all went to the family room and watched some TV. Ryker claimed my lap and cuddled against my chest, and Lincoln was in his usual spot with his butt against my thigh, and his legs over the lap of Ryker and mine. Christian had a cuddle buddy with Clayton as those two shared a blanket on the other couch. Jacob took a spot on the end recliner section of the sofa. Once again, I was loving life. My parents were due to arrive soon, and I had beautiful boys surrounding me. I kissed Ryker on the cheek and rubbed his chest as we watched TV.
Part – 2
Like always, my parents arrived on the dot. They reached my house at 6, and we heard the doorbell ring.
“Hey Ryker, can you go check who that is?”
“Yeah,” he responded as he moved his brother’s legs from his lap and jumped down, he sprinted for the front door, and we all heard him say, “Grandma? Grandpa? What are you guys doing here?”
“Did he say, grandma and grandpa?” Lincoln asked as he sat up.
“Surprise!” I chuckled. I never saw four boys move so quick to greet someone as they all went running for the front door screaming for their grandparents, “Hi guys!” I heard my mother state, “Grandma needs some hugs!”
“I give lots of hugs,” Clayton cheered. I was finally able to walk around the corner to greet my parents. There was a line to hug my mother, and part of that was because Jacob was hogging my dad. These two hadn’t lost one bit of connection since the last time my parents were here.
“Hey mom and dad,” I said.
“Garret, no cuttin’” giggled Lincoln.
“Oh… sorry,” I sarcastically spoke. After everyone got their hugs and said hello, I was finally able to give my mom a hug.
“How was the drive?” I asked.
“Oh not too bad, the usual,” She chuckled.
“Hey Dad,” I commented.
“Hey son, how have you been?”
“Good, but busy, these four have me on my toes,” I joked.
“That’s why we love you,” Clayton cheekily said.
“Aww isn’t he just so adorable,” spoke my mother as she watched Clayton walk over to me for a hug.
“Yes, he is,” I said and picked him up in my arms.
“Are we not adorable?” Asked Ryker.
“Of course you are all!” Spoke my mother.
“I would say more handsome than adorable,” stated my father. “Guess what we have?”
“Gifts?” Inquired all the boys.
“Yup! If you guys come out to the car, we can get them handed out. I wasn’t expecting you here Christian, but I do have something for you.”
“It’s okay,” Christian replied. The 5 boys with my father went outside to his vehicle, as my mom and I walked into the kitchen.
“So what’s the latest? And why is Christian here?” She asked.
“Why Christian’s story isn’t my story to tell, but he got picked up from school early today. We will know more about Jacob’s situation Friday, but Thomas, his grandfather, left me a voicemail stating he wants to meet. Lincoln is still having PTSD attacks left and right, but the other two are doing good. All the boys start soccer in a few weeks, and all of them are doing well in skating lessons. I think Clayton wants to try out for the local peewee team. What about you guys?”
“Oh same old same old honey, but it’s a good thing. We are so excited to be back here, especially your father. He couldn’t wait to come back up…. oh hi Rita, how have you been?”
“I’ve been wonderful my dear,” Rita returned. “Just keeping these boys fed and the house clean.”
“I can tell, I think all those boys grew an inch.”
“You think?” I asked.
“Oh don’t say that they are perfect the way they are,” I chuckled.
We were interrupted by Clayton screaming of joy, my parents had gotten all the boys a mini hockey set (knee hockey) for the basement. They received multiple sticks, soft pucks/balls, two mini nets, and a scoreboard to keep track.
“Thank you, grandma, I’m gonna go set it up now,” Clayton said as he gave her a one-handed hug. He trotted downstairs with the hockey sticks and was followed by the other 3 carrying the rest of the equipment. Lincoln had been so kind to take grandpa and grandma’s suitcase upstairs and came back down to the kitchen.
“Hey grandma,” he said. “Thanks for the hockey stuff.”
“You’re welcome honey,” my mother stated as she gave him a hug.
“Garret you wanna come downstairs and help set stuff up?” Lincoln asked.
“I’m good buddy, thank you for asking.” I said as it was my turn for a hug, “but I’m gonna stay up here and chat. You go have fun though.”
“Okay love you!”
“Love you too,” I replied and kissed him on the top of his head. I gave him a pat on the bum to get moving downstairs, and he took off to help.
“You know, they sort of look like you,” commented my mother.
“I agree,” Rita said
“Well, not exact replicas, but somewhat.”
My dad had just parked his car in the empty garage spot, and walked into the kitchen when he spoke, “So, when we killing this Thomas Giradi guy, he doesn’t deserve to be the grandfather.”
“Sign me up,” Rita joked.
“Funny… but that’s not our mentality,” I said.
“Yeah, I know. I was just joking. But honestly, I could hire someone.”
“DAD,” I laughed.
“Oh knock it off Gordon,” stated my Mother.
“It was a joke, lighten up people.”
“Who said I was joking,” Rita spoke which sent everyone into laughter.
“Alright alright, enough everyone. I have a good legal team and the support of CPS. I think that will be enough to keep Jacob with me.”
“It’ll work out son,” my father stated. “So why was Christian here? That was a nice surprise.”
“Like I told mom, it’s not my place to tell you, but he got out of school early, and decided to spend the day here.”
“Uh huh,” my father said, “cut the shit, what’s going on?”
“Look, dad, it’s not my story to tell. Christian will tell you when he is ready.”
“Alright, I believe you.”
“Good, so what do you guys have planned for the stay here?” I asked.
“We will probably leave Tuesday morning, but tomorrow we are meeting people for lunch. Friday we are heading to Kelly’s for dinner, Saturday is the party, Sunday we will relax here, and Monday is similar to Sunday,” spoke my Mom.
“Awesome, so glad you guys could come and stay, I know the boys are excited,” I replied.
“It’ll be nice honey,” said my Mom, “I’m going upstairs to freshen up before dinner.”
“I think I will too,” my father stated.
“Alright well, dinner should be ready in about 15-20, right Rita?”
“17 minutes to be exact.”
“Thank you, Rita” I chuckled. As my parents went upstairs, I began setting the table. After I finished that task, I went downstairs to check on the boys. They were mid-game, with Christian and Lincoln Vs. Ryker, Jacob, and Clayton. I watched them play for a few minutes but had to put a stop because dinner was ready. I was sure they would want to head back downstairs to finish their game after dinner, so they left everything as is. We went upstairs, and I told the boys to go wash their hands and grab a seat.
Dinner was filled with laughter which was much needed, especially for Christian. Every hour he spent with us, the more he was returning to his usual self. However, it was only a temporary fix as he needed to go back to school sometime. After dinner, my prediction was correct, and the boys took off for the basement. As my parents, Rita, and I were cleaning up and putting dishes away, Kelly arrived to pick up Christian.
“How is he?” She asked as I opened the front door.
“When I picked him up. He was in pretty rough shape, but since he’s been around the boys, he has lightened up a bit,” I returned.
“I… I just don’t know what to do.”
“What do you mean?”
“Should I send him back?”
“What other choice do you have?”
“Hey sweetie,” said my mother to Kelly as she walked over and interrupted our conversation.
“Hey mom, how are you?”
“Oh fine as always, is everything alright?” My mother asked Kelly.
“Umm… no it’s not, but it’s gonna be okay,” Kelly returned.
“Oh, honey what’s wrong?”
“Christian is… he is just having a rough time at school,” Kelly spoke.
“A rough time?”
I injected to save Kelly from revealing Christian’s secret. “Just dealing with some bullies.”
“Oh that makes sense to why he is here,” said my mother. “Anything I can do to help?”
“Can you holler for Christian to come up?”
“Of course honey!” Spoke my mother as she left for the basement.
“Garret, I don’t know what to do.”
“Well good job avoiding her question, Christian can tell mom and dad when he is ready. But, I would send him back. If he avoids this issue, it might not get better.”
“Send him back?”
“Well go to the principal… tell him Christian doesn’t feel safe in school. I mean listen to Christian and if he tells you what happened today. then complain about it, but, I think he needs to go back.”
“But what if it happens again?”
“Him needing to be picked up? Guess what, we have more family in town so it will be easier. I just think it would be wise to send him back. He will get bullied again, but you can’t avoid it. If you wait to send him back, you are only prolonging the situation which will make it worse, let’s just hope someone sticks up for him, or the teachers take responsibility.”
“I just know he won’t want to return.”
“If I were him, I wouldn’t want to return either, but you can’t give up on the first day. If things don’t get better within a week or two, I’d consider pulling him out and starting somewhere else.”
“I don’t know,” Kelly said.
“You don’t know what?” Christian spoke as he turned the corner.
“Hey honey,” Kelly returned as she opened her arms and gave her son a hug.
“What were you guys talking about?” Christian asked.
“About your situation,” I said, as it was my turn for a hug. “Hope you had fun and hope the boys took your mind off everything.”
“They did Uncle G,” replied Christian who gave me a hug, “thanks for umm… picking me up at school… you made this day not suck completely.”
“Anytime bud, we will make it through this as a family. Just promise me you won’t be getting any crazy boyfriends and try to act like a 13-year-old some more. Getting older sucks, enjoy your childhood still.”
“Apparently I attract the crazies, so who knows.” Giggled Christian.
“Love you buddy,” I chuckled.
“Love you Uncle G. Thanks again,” Christian said and gave me another tight squeezed.
“Did you say bye to everyone?” Kelly asked.
“No, but grandpa is in the bathroom so I can’t.”
“We will see him another time, he could be in there for a while,” chuckled Kelly. “Come on, let’s go home. Your father has been worried sick about you.”
“Bye Uncle G,” Christian said as he walked out the door. It was around 7:45 and the boys needed to get bathed, so I hollered down to the basement, 15 more minutes of knee hockey. It was also time for Rita to leave as it was getting late, so I helped her to her car, and she was off. Just as I was walking back in, the boys came racing up the steps.
“Alright, so what’s the plan for tonight?” I asked.
“I’ll shower with Clayton,” Lincoln spoke.
“Can I have a bath in the big tub?” Ryker asked.
“Yeah, I wanna go in there too,” Clayton spoke.
“Same,” agreed Jacob.
“I guess I’ll join,” Lincoln stated.
“Alright let’s go then,” I said. The four of us went upstairs, and I started running warm water in the tub. The boys each went to their rooms to strip and one by one they came running in. Lincoln, as usual, couldn’t contain his happiness and ran in sporting a full-on erection. I think erections are contagious because Ryker sprouted one as soon as he saw Lincoln’s. Thankfully it was just those two, and everyone was enjoying the bath.
After everyone was clean, I reminded everyone to at least put on underwear, and they had 30-45 minutes before bed. Clayton was exhausted, so he went downstairs to stay goodnight to my parents, and he and I went to his room.
“Can you finish the CJ story?” Clayton asked.
“Of course, let’s just get you tucked in first,” I replied, and Clayton cuddled up next to me. “So where were we?”
“Umm,” Clayton said as he rested his head on my arm. “What kind of sports injury?”
“Oh yeah, so CJ was playing soccer when he went for a header. He jumped so high that another player clipped his feet, which made CJ flip in the air. The only bad part was he fell on his back and neck area. Which resulted in the loss of movement in his legs.”
“So it wasn’t a car accident?”
“No buddy,” I chuckled, “CJ was not in a car accident. I don’t know how you came up with that.”
“Right, so… the accident that was so bad that CJ couldn’t participate in sports anymore. Or that’s at least what the doctors told him. CJ was done and had given up hope. He didn’t care about anything, as he felt he was useless if he couldn’t play sports anymore. Even his teammates stopped talking to him, and CJ became very sad. So sad, that his grades were being affected. So sad, that he didn’t want to leave his house anymore. However, that all changed a year after his accident. CJ was tired of living a sad life, so he set goals for himself. He knew the doctor said he couldn’t play sports anymore, but CJ didn’t listen. His first step was to have surgery and potentially repair what was broken. The recovery was going to be long and grueling, but it was a slow process of building strength and learning to use his muscles again. After 6 months, he stood for the first time, which to CJ felt like a miracle. After 8 months, he could walk 30 steps with a walker. After 10 months, he was walking on his own. And after a year, he was finally back to running. However, there was a mental hurdle to overcome, as CJ wasn’t sure he could go back to the sporting world.”
I saw Clayton yawn, and I decided to stop there. Not only for his tiredness, but I was stretching my story capabilities to the maximum.
“Alright buddy, we are going to stop. Get some sleep okay?”
“Can… can you scratch?”
“Of course,” I replied and kissed the top of his head.
“Love you Garret,” Clayton spoke as he cuddled up to me more.
“I love you so so so so much,” I stated as I began running my hand through his hair. Clayton didn’t last long, probably another 5 minutes. I slowly maneuvered my body away from him and went downstairs to the family room where the boys were cuddling with my parents. Jacob was using my dad’s lap as a pillow, and Lincoln had his legs up on my mother’s lap. I took a seat in the recliner, and my lap was quickly taken by Ryker. He curled up into a ball and rested his head on my chest. I rubbed his back as we watched TV. I let the boys stay up for another 20 minutes. However, Ryker didn’t make it through as he fell asleep in my arms. I let him sleep on my lap until it was time to head to bed, and I carried him to his room. I went to Lincoln’s next and said my goodnights.
My last stop was Jacob’s room where he was sitting on the edge of his bed looking at his scar.
“What’s up bud?” I asked
“I’m just scared.”
“Of your grandparents?”
“Yeah,” he said as he started to cry, “I don’t wanna leave.”
“I know, I know,” I replied as I sat down beside him and put my arm around his shoulder.
“I already have your parents as a grandma and grandpa to look out for me, I don’t want anyone else.”
“You will always have us to look out for you.”
“What… what if they try to hurt me?”
“I won’t let that happen.”
“But-but, I’m just… I don’t know… I’m just scared I guess. I don’t wanna leave because of my brothers and well I love you… you’re nice to me!”
“And I love you too Jacob, but the control is out of our hands.”
“What… what does that mean?”
“I mean you should stop worrying about it for the moment. You need to get to bed.”
“Can you lay down with me.”
“Pwh, I’d thought you weren’t every gonna ask,” I sarcastically joked. “Yeah, let’s get to sleep.” Similar to earlier with Clayton, Jacob cuddled against me and slung his arm over my chest. I scratched his back as we chatted about something silly, and within ten minutes he was out cold.
After Jacob was down, I went back to the family room where my father was finishing up a glass of whiskey.
“She went upstairs to get ready for bed.”
“Want some more whiskey?”
“Oh no, this was a perfect nightcap.”
“Good,” I said as I sat down.
“So how have you been, son? Any progress with the adoption process?”
“I’ve been good, dad, just worried about those boys, but yeah. I mentioned the idea of adoption to Lincoln, and he was thrilled. Cried tears of joy! But I haven’t told the others yet because it will take a few months before any real movement happens toward adoption.”
“Well, I’m glad you mentioned it to Lincoln. You mean so much to these children, I don’t think you fully understand.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well take Ryker for example. He needs to be around you, which isn’t a bad thing because he loves you so much, but I mean he is always sitting on your lap or being close. Lincoln is always checking on you, and when you’re not in the room, you can sense his feeling of panic or worry, but when you enter back into a room, it’s like a wave of relief comes over him. Little Clayton, well he is just in love with everybody! Then, Jacob, he is a special boy. There is a lot to him, I can tell, but he wants to be strong.”
“Since when did you turn into a therapist?” I joked.
“Just calling it like I see it.”
“Well, I can say that I am slowly making progress on Jacob. He is starting to open up more and more, which is amazing. Ryker and Clayton are just so special, they brighten my day just when I look at them and if that doesn’t work, all they have to do a crack a joke,” I chuckled. “Then Lincoln, he and I share an extraordinary bond. It’s hard to describe, but I understand him, and I think he needed someone to be there for him, which was me. It’s… it’s just that… I’ve never cared for people like I do for the four boys. I don’t know what it is, but I love them so much, they are so unique but also so similar. I just can’t believe how much my life has changed,”
“Son… welcome to being a parent. It’s a wild ride, but totally worth it to see them grow and become great people. You know son, I couldn’t be more proud of you than I am now. I know you sold your business for a godly sum of money and were a successful businessman, but I am more proud of you now than a few years ago. You’re changing these kids lives.”
“Thanks, dad, it means a lot hearing it from you.”
“Love you son.”
“Love you too,” I responded. We chatted for another few minutes, and then it was time for bed. I went upstairs, got a quick shower and collapsed.
Part – 3
Thursday morning was the typical morning. The boys woke, eat breakfast, got ready for school, and we were out the door at 8:35. For the majority of the day, my parents did their own thing as I did mine. With tomorrow being Friday, the nervousness of Jacob’s situation heightened. I hadn’t heard from Laura, and Kelly was out of the loop because she had her own problem to deal with, so I was in the complete dark. We have a plan, but I have no idea if it’s going to work. However, there wasn’t much I could do besides wait and see.
The day went pretty quick, I picked up Clayton, and we came back to the house. A few hours later, I was back and taking Lincoln to therapy. Just like always, we made no progress, and I was really beginning to doubt the ability of Ruth. If I didn’t start seeing improvements within the next month, I would need to consider more options. After therapy, I went back to the house, and we loaded the SUV for ice skating lessons. My father tagged along which meant the boys were trying extra hard. Plus this was Lincoln’s return as he couldn’t participate last Thursday. Just like every time, Clayton was skating circles around the other three, but Jacob definitely improved as he was second best. Ryker wasn’t far behind Jacob, and then there was Lincoln… well let’s just say I think he was enjoying the 1-on-1 lessons with Eric. After the lesson was over, Eric said that Clayton, Jacob, and Ryker were ready to move onto the next level, which was using a stick and handling the puck. Lincoln still needed a few more lessons before he was ready. Once we jumped back into the Mercedes, we went to stop for some food at a burger joint. All in all, it was a fun evening, that was filled with laughter.
We also heard from Christian again, and thankfully today went a little better. He didn’t have to leave early, but people were still making fun of him. However, the teachers and the principal were more aware of the situation and helped him out. Although, it was still emotionally draining for Christian as he went through the whole day not speaking to anyone his age.
The rest of the night consisted of homework, showers, and bedtime. It was challenging to get Lincoln to fall asleep because he was so excited for career day tomorrow. Clayton and Ryker were exhausted, so they went to bed pretty quickly. Jacob, well Jacob was concerned about his grandparents, but after 15 minutes of talking, he was down for the count.
Friday, March 4th, 2016 I was awoken by Lincoln practically jumping up and down on my bed. You could tell he was excited about today, as he kissed my forehead good morning.
“Morning to you too,” I chuckled.
“You ready for today?”
“Yes,” I laughed again. “Let me shower, and I’ll meet you downstairs for breakfast.”
“Okay,” Lincoln said and gave me another kiss.
After my shower, I was downstairs with Rita, my parents, Lincoln, And Ryker. The other two hadn’t come down yet, but Rita was just about finished with pancakes and bacon, as we set the table. Chatter and laughter between my parents and the two boys filled the kitchen. It was music to my ears to hear the boys’ giggle, it was infectious.
About 10 minutes later we were joined by the other two, which even added more chaos, as my father was always trying to make the boys laugh. Which happen to be every time he spoke. However, they eventually finished their breakfast and were upstairs to change.
As usual, we were out the door at 8:35, with 5 lunches packed including one for myself. We arrived at the school around 8:50. Since I had some time to kill before my presentation, I met my parents at a local coffee shop. It was a lovely time being able to sit down with them and discuss. We covered all topics including Jacob’s situation, as I was anxious that I didn’t hear from Laura yet. I tried to call her after coffee, but she didn’t answer. I tried Kelly, but she was staying home just in case Christian needed to go home early, so she wasn’t much of a help. I literally have never felt so helpless in my life.
Before I knew it, I had to go to the school. I arrived at 10:45 and parked my car next to a familiar face.
“Todd!” I said as I got out of the car, “good to see you again.”
“Likewise! You ready for this day?”
“Yeah,” I joked. “Gonna be a long one.”
“You can say that again. Oh, by the way, my wife and I would love to have dinner sometime soon.”
“Of course! I’ve just been super busy. Do weeknights or weekend nights work better?” I asked as we walked towards the building.
“Mondays through Wednesdays are generally not good, but any other night we are free.”
“Excellent, how about next Friday?”
“I will have to check with my wife, but we should be good.”
“Alright, get back to me,” I said as we entered the building and went to the office to sign in. Todd and I walked to Amy Wilson’s room, where a few other parents were already waiting inside. The classroom had all the desks and chairs pushed to the side, which allowed the children to sit in the middle on the floor. There was a desk and chair for parents to use as they presented and chairs for parents who weren’t presenting to sit that was positioned in the back of the class.
Lincoln saw me right away and ran to me.
“Hey Garret, I want you to meet my friends come on!”
“Alright buddy, let me introduce myself to your teacher first.”
“Fine hurry up though!” Lincoln spoke. I walked over and did the greetings with Amy Wilson. She seemed like a sweet woman that enjoyed what she was doing. Very energetic and passionate, which was delightful to see. After that, I was pulled over to Lincoln’s spot where he was sitting with his friends.
“Garret this is Carter! And this is my friend Devin. You obviously know Max!”
“Hey boys,” I said, “you excited for today?”
“Yeah, my mom is coming,” said Carter. Carter was a good looking kid, he was African American and stood a few inches taller than Lincoln. He body build was skinny, and his hair was short. “But she isn’t here yet.”
“None of my parents are coming, they couldn’t make it,” spoke Devin. Devin appeared to be as tall as Lincoln but a little stockier, but not fat. He had dark red hair and blue eyes.
“Well, you can join us for lunch then.”
“Is it true you own a Ferrari?” Asked Carter.
“Who told you that?” I inquired.
“Well the rumors are true,” I chuckled, “I do own one.”
“See Carter! I wasn’t lying,” Stated Max who stuck out his tongue.
“Can I come see it someday?”
“Wait, Garret, do you think they can all sleepover some night?” Asked Lincoln.
“Well not this weekend, but I’m sure we can make something work.”
“Yes!” Lincoln said.
“Alright boys, I’m going to go sit over with the parents, I’m expecting some good comments,” I stated and walked to sit by Todd.
After a few minutes of meeting other parents, Mrs. Wilson started off with introductions. Lincoln was sitting in the middle between Max and Carter, while Devin sat beside Max. It was nice to see that Lincoln found a group of buddies to hang out with. The first speaker was a doctor, and she had the class asking all sorts of questions, so the bar was set pretty high. After the doctor, a firefighter spoke, and of course, he had multiple hands being raised.
The presentations went surprisingly quick. The class heard a wide variety of careers such as a lawyer, a policeman, an accountant, a dentist, and a consultant which was Todd. Todd had the last slot before lunch, and he did an excellent job of bringing in questions and comments.
Since it was lunchtime, all the kids were excited. Lincoln was basically bouncing off the walls as we walked to the cafeteria. Once we entered, I saw Ryker in the distance. We made eye contact, and he came running over to say hi, which got him in a little bit of trouble with the lunch ladies, but he thought it was worth it. I sat down at the table with Lincoln and Devin sat across from us. Max and Todd also sat down beside us, and we enjoyed each other’s company. Let’s just say I am happy Rita packs the boys a lunch every day, the food at the school looked terrible and unappetizing. I’m pretty sure the school’s pizza was cardboard with sauce, cheese, and slices of pepperoni on top. We finished our lunch, and everyone got to go outside since it was a warmer day. While the kids went out, the parents were able to socialize with each other for 15 minutes. I was able to meet many people, including Carter’s mother. She was fortunate enough to speak already and talked about her job as an accountant.
After lunch and recess everyone settled back in, Lincoln was sitting in a different spot. To his left was Max, I think those two were tied at the hip. Beside Max to his left, was Lincoln’s other friends Devin and Carter. On the right side of Lincoln was a classmate named Levin. I didn’t notice this boy before lunch, but now that he was sitting next to Lincoln, he stuck out due to his mischievous grin and bright caramel blond hair.
I saw Lincoln and Levin share a few words before the next parents started speaking. Presenter after presenter showcased their careers, and thankfully it was now 3 o’clock…. my turn.
I walked up and started getting ready while the teacher introduced me and what I was going to be talking about. Finally, it was my turn to speak.
“Well, thank you all for letting me come and speak to your class, it’s been a fun day. So I am here for Lincoln, and my name is Garret Hamel, but you all can call me Garret! To start, I am in the process of opening up a foundation called the HLRJC organization. It stands for Homes for Lacking, Runaway, and Jeopardized Children. Our objective is to give children another chance at succeeding in life. To be qualified for our program, a child must fit into one of the categories I already listed. The good news is our categories are broad, so hopefully, the organization will be able to help as many children as possible. Now before we get to the fun part, I wanna let you guys ask questions. I could talk more about the process of setting it up, but I think hearing questions will be more fun,” I said and a few hands raised. “Go ahead, Max.”
“Is it a place for kids that don’t have a home anymore?”
“Essentially yes, so once a child is accepted into our organization, they receive a room. That room is theirs until they are either adopted by a loving family or graduate college.”
“How does the business make money?” Asked a girl in the back.
“Excellent question. So our organization is going to be non-profit, which means we are tax-exempt. That may sound unfair; however, our business model will generate a lot of money from donations. The donations will cover expenses to operate, such as building new facilities and paying employees.”
“Why is the name so long?” Asked a boy sitting in front of Lincoln.
“I get that question a lot,” I chuckled. “So the name is important to me. It represents a change in my life, and hopefully represents a change for a child in need.”
“Is it like a sleepover where everyone sleeps in the same room?” Asked another boy.
I chuckled again before answering, “no not exactly, so every child that comes through our doors will have their own room to themselves which includes a private bathroom. Each room will be supplied with a TV, a desktop, an area to do work, and a closet. One of the things I wanted to avoid was children sharing rooms.”
“But what if some brothers or sisters want to share?” Asked Lincoln.
“Well bud, I haven’t thought of that yet, but I’m sure we could accommodate that need if an issue like that arises.”
“Can kids recommend other kids for your help?” Levin asked.
“That is an excellent question. Plain and simple yes, sometimes friends can be concerned for each other. Anyone, adult or child, can suggest a child to us, they will be given a fair chance to be selected.” I replied
“Is there gonna be a swimming pool?” Asked a girl sitting behind Max.
“Okay, so your question helps move us to the next part of our discussion. I’m gonna take some notes on your thoughts so give me a second to get my pen and paper… okay ready. So what would you guys like to have in a bedroom? For example, name anything you currently have or wish to have in your bedroom back home. Raise your hands please.”
“A bookshelf, I would like to read,” said a girl in the back.
“Beanbag chairs,” Lincoln commented.
“Game systems like Xbox or PlayStation,” a boy stated.
“A place to keep my toys,” commented a girl.
“A Hot tub,” giggled Max.
“I like the way you’re thinking Max,” I remarked. “Go ahead… err Devin.”
“A basketball hoop, you know for the doors inside the room.”
“A place to hang posters,” shouted another girl in the back.
“What about speakers or a radio…. or a stereo?” Asked Carter.
“All great ideas,” I stated, “so moving into the play zone or community area. What would be fun?”
“A ginormous TV,” commented a boy in the front.
“A Cookie machine!” Levin giggled.
“A swimming pool or a playground or umm… a swingset,” spoke a boy sitting in the front.
“My older brother workouts at a gym a lot, so a gym?” spoke a boy to my left.
“Umm,” stuttered a boy, “a… a… umm, a movie theater?”
“Good idea, keep them coming,” I said. The answers kept flowing, and the activity turned into a lot of fun. I had children talking about rock walls, pool tables, table tennis, basketball courts, hockey arenas, and many more. It was a huge success and gave me some vital feedback to use. I finished up with about 15 minutes before the bell rang. Mrs. Wilson used this time for students to come and chat with parents about their careers. Lincoln obviously came sprinting to me and gave me a huge hug.
“You did awesome!” Lincoln stated.
“Well thanks, bud, I enjoyed the answers and questions your class gave me. You have a smart group of classmates,” I replied as I tousled his hair. To my surprise, the boy sitting to the right of Lincoln approached us and introduced himself.
“Hi Garret!” the imp giggled as he put an arm over Lincoln’s shoulder. “I’m Levin Hunter; my parents are gonna love hearin’ what you’re doing!”
“Why thank you, Levin, it’s a pleasure to meet you. Guessing your parents couldn’t make it out today, huh?”
“Naw, Daddy and Poppa are really busy doin’ security stuff for my Uncles,” Levin explained.
“Daddy and Poppa, you have two dads?” Lincoln asked.
“Lincoln!” I said, “it’s not polite to ask personal questions like that.”
“I’m sorry, its… I was surprised.”
Levin smiled. “It’s okay; Grandma makes sure I get something like mommy time. It’s different but fun!”
“That’s like Rita,” giggled Lincoln. “I don’t have a mom either, so I understand.”
“Grandma says family ain’t blood, family is in your heart,” Levin said sagely.
“Yeah,” Lincoln replied as he looked at Garret and gave him a hug.
“That was well put Levin,” I commented. “I think you described our situation almost perfectly, huh Lincoln?”
“Yeah!” Lincoln said and released his hug.
“So Levin, did you enjoy Career Day?” I asked.
“Yeah, it was awesome!” Levin acknowledged, “and I KNOW that you’re gonna help lots’a kids!”
“That is very sweet of you to say, my mission is to help as many children in need.” I spoke, “You were the boy that asked about recommending someone, right? That was a good question.”
“Daddy says kids see stuff adults don’t, so we gotta look out for each other. That’s why all my little brothers talk to me about stuff that bugs them, it makes it easier to deal with. Poppa says that if parents ain’t listenin’ to their kid’s problems, it’s just like ‘busing them.”
“Well, your folks sound like they raised a terrific son. You already know important values that some never learn in life.”
“Yeah… wish my parents would have listened to me more. Uhh, not Garret… please don’t tell anyone this but Garret is my foster dad, hopefully, my real dad soon, but my birth parents never listened to me. I… I guess I know what you mean,” Lincoln stated. “Your parents say much about abuse?”
Levin nodded seriously. “Both Poppa and Daddy were abused really bad, Daddy so bad that Uncle C still gives him hugs when he has bad days. He’s gettin’ better, though. Garret, you see that boy that stuttered? He acts like what Poppa and Daddy taught me abused kids act like.”
“Hmm… okay? Lincoln do you know the boy who stuttered?”
“Umm.. yeah, I think his name is Cameron. He doesn’t talk much though.”
“You know his last name?” I asked.
“No. Levin do you?”
“Yep, it’s Furgenson,” Levin replied with assurance.
“Okay, Furgenson you said. Now, what do you mean by acting like he was abused?”
“He tries to keep from making any real friends, is really jumpy if anyone makes a sudden move too close to him, and only really talks if someone asks him something,” Levin explained.
“Uh huh, now have you talked to Mrs. Wilson or do you know for sure if he is being abused?” I asked.
“Mrs. Wilson knows, but the schools won’t do anything unless there is a mark somewhere where they can see it. His is like what Daddy says mental abuse acts like,” Levin replied. “I’m sure he’s gonna need help before he thinks about killin’ himself.”
“Alright, thank you for telling me Levin, its very kind of you to be looking out for a fellow student. I will be sure to notify some people I know. We will see what I can do.” I stated.
“Garret you gotta try and help him,” Lincoln commented.
“I will try, I promise.”
Levin looked into Lincoln’s eyes and stated “As long as you help Garret, you’ll save him. You’re his eyes here in the school.”
“You can help me too, right?” Lincoln asked Levin
“Just don’t forget me if I gotta move,” Levin stated cryptically. “Daddy and Poppa gotta move around a lot for their job with no notice, but in one way or another you’ll know I’m helping.” Levin then turned to Garret and stated as his eyes seemed to drill into Garret’s inner being “You’re a great adult, and Lincoln’s lucky to have you. Now I gotta go, Grandma’s baking cookies!”
“Well thank you for the kind comments,” I chuckled, “it was nice meeting you. I will try to see what I can do.”
“He will help, I know he will,” commented Lincoln
“Yeppers!” Levin giggled as he gave both of them hugs then skipped towards the doorway. “Chocolate chips calling my name! See ya soon!”
“Strange kid,” I chuckled.
Lincoln paused for a second, the giggled, “I like him!”
“So do I,” I commented and tousled his hair. “Come on, let’s go get your brothers.”
As we were walking to the front of the office, my worries instantly shifted to Jacob. I hadn’t checked my phone until now, and still no message or word from Laura. She must have been cutting this move real close to the deadline since Thomas, and I are supposed to meet at 5:30. I decided that I couldn’t wait any longer, so I gave her a call… no answer. I didn’t know what to do besides wait and see how the scenario plays out.
Anyhow, we were standing outside the office for about 30 seconds, when I saw Ryker round the corner walking out with Hannah. The two were giggling and talking, so it was nice to see that they were still friends.
Jacob soon followed, and the first thing he asked me was about his grandparents. I told him the truth that I wasn’t sure what was happening, but I would find out soon. All four of us walked to our car, and we were off to our house. Once we arrived, the boys were able to do what they wanted besides Jacob. I was upstairs helping him pack a small suitcase because I had no idea what was happening. The clock read 4:30 and we had to leave within the next 15 minutes.
“You bringing Riley?” I asked as I zipped closed his bag.
“I don’t know,” Jacob softly said.
“It’ll be okay bud,” I said as I gave him a hug. “I think you should bring Riley, she will give you comfort.”
“But I don’t want anything to happen to Riley.”
“Nothing will, plus you’re going to need a cuddle buddy,” I said.
“Yeah, I guess,” Jacob spoke.
“Alright bud, umm… let’s… let’s go say bye to everyone.”
“Okay,” he replied as he released my hug. I could see a tear roll down his face, and it almost brought me to my knees. I had a strange feeling in my stomach that something wasn’t right, but what more could I do? I couldn’t prevent this, my lawyers haven’t given me much advice, and the only person that can help me tried to take the boys away. We walked downstairs, and Jacob started his goodbyes with Rita and my parents. He then went to each brother and gave them a hug. He first went to Clayton and then to Ryker.
“Love you, Jake,” Ryker said as he extended his arms for a hug. I noticed that only Ryker called Jacob Jake, and I found that odd. However, I didn’t look much into it.
“Kick some zombie butt,” Jacob said to Ryker, which made no sense to me, but must have been an inside joke because Ryker laughed and responded, “I’ll make sure to leave some left for you.”
“Thanks,” Jacob laughed and moved to Lincoln and gave him a hug. “Love you Lincoln.”
Lincoln just hugged his brother and didn’t say a word. Come to think about it, this was the first time these boys were being separated since that night I found them, so it must have been hard. Especially for Lincoln as he viewed himself as the protector.
After the goodbyes, Jacob and I hopped in the truck. I was still mad that I didn’t hear from Laura, but I backed out of the garage and drove down the driveway. About 5 minutes in, the phone rang, and it was Laura.
“Laura? Please tell me you have some good news,” I stated.
“Umm I have some good news and bad news,” began Laura. “The weekend trip has been postponed for the moment. The judged ruled in our favor.”
“What! That’s amazing news!”
“Yes it is, but now Thomas is livid. They have a house inspection scheduled for Thursday, and they want Jacob next weekend if the home inspection is passed. They also said they want to start the process of moving Jacob to there house full time.”
“Yeah so no trial run, they want full custody now… no trial run at all.”
“No, I don’t want to live with them,” said Jacob. He could hear the conversation since it was on Bluetooth speaker.
“Is that Jacob?” Asked Laura, “am I on speaker?”
“Umm… yes, we are in the car now turning around to go back home.”
“Take me off speaker please,” Laura stated.
“Give me one second… okay done.”
“Okay thank you, now I don’t want Jacob to hear this directly, but the grandparents don’t want the trial run because of the actions we took today. Thomas wants to meet this Sunday afternoon with Jacob for lunch. Just like the first time, but Thomas doesn’t want you present at the table.”
“I’m not allowing that.”
“You don’t have a choice.”
“Can you sit in?”
“It’s up to Jacob.”
“What if Jacob has a lawyer, can he sit in?”
“Yes, just not you.”
“Okay, can you contact them with the meeting time and location?”
“yes I will, but I know Thomas won’t be thrilled.
“Whatever… this is BS.”
“It’s the best I could do. Once Thomas found out the weekend trial run was blocked, he called me immediately and made these demands,” Kelly said.
“Do we even know if these people are related, like by blood?”
“No tests have been run to confirm blood relationship.”
“Don’t you think we should do that?”
“Well, birth records from the state are a pretty good indication.”
“Yeah but nothing is making sense to me, why did the father forge a fake birth certificate?”
“I don’t know.”
“Shouldn’t people be looking into that too?”
“I can make a case for more investigations, but ultimately the judge has to approve of them.”
“Let’s try and do something. I mean if you guys are really on my side then prove it.”
“We are doing the best we can Garret. Just trust me, please. I’ve told you everything so far. I got the weekend visit blocked, like what more do you want from me?”
“Look I’m sorry, but it’s somewhat hard to trust you, given our past experiences of working together. It’s just that I care about these boys, and I don’t want anything to happen to them.”
“We know that. You are doing a tremendous job as a foster father, but I need you to trust me.”
“Alright,” I said. “well thank you for uhh… blocking the weekend trip Laura. You scared me a little, but this was big. So umm, thanks.”
“Don’t thank me yet we are still in deep water… just be happy with the extra week right now.”
“Not a fan of compliments are you?” I asked.
“I am, but we aren’t even close to stopping anything right now. We got lucky with this one.”
“Well thank you,” I replied.
“Goodbye, and enjoy the weekend. See you Sunday.”
“Oh wait, I almost forgot… you still here?”
“Yes?” Inquired Laura.
“I had career day for Lincoln and his class. I don’t know if you know this, but I’m starting a foundation for children without homes or children that runaway. At the end of my presentation, a boy in the class mentioned his friend was being abused. Since my foundation isn’t started… I can’t do much. However, you can, and the boy’s name is Cameron Ferguson.”
“Do you know what type of abuse?” Questioned Laura.
“I’m not sure, I think mental abuse.”
“Uh huh, we will look into it, but mental abuse is tough to prove. Almost impossible, but I will give the boy’s name off to a caseworker.”
“Thank you, I’m sure Lincoln will be thankful. Have a good day,” I said and hung up.
As soon as I hung up, Jacob bombarded me with questions.
“What’s happening? Do I stay? Am I going to the birthday party? What’s happening this Sunday?”
“Easy bud,” I said as we just turned back onto the driveway. I shifted the car in park so he and I could talk. “So… you’re staying with me for the weekend.”
“However, you are meeting with Thomas, you grandfather on Sunday. I don’t know what for, and I’m not sure why.”
“Okay, but do I get to go to the party?”
“Yes, you do!”
“Yes!” Jacob yelled.
“It’s not all good things. This is just a stepping stone, Jacob. Let’s be excited about the weekend but let’s remember we are not out of the woods.”
“Can we go get George a birthday present?”
“Are you listening to me?”
“Yeah,” giggled Jacob, “but like… I don’t know… I don’t care. I’m just excited I can go to the party.”
“You’re not excited about staying?”
“I am, but… you said everything would work out. And well…. it did!”
“For the moment.”
“That’s okay! I’m proud of you.”
I had to chuckle at his statement, “well bud, I’m proud of you too… come on, let’s get your brothers.” I put the truck into drive and drove to the house. Once again, I was confused about Jacob and about his thoughts. I didn’t understand him, but I guess he was being positive and looking at the good side. However, maybe he just needed some time to process everything.
Together Jacob and I walked from the garage and into the house. Lincoln was sitting in the family room but quickly came running over when he heard I was back. When he saw Jacob, his mouth dropped. He started asking how Jacob was still here, which attracted the attention of the other boys who came from the family room. Soon everyone was in the kitchen asking questions.
“Alright, I answer this once!” I started, “so obviously Jacob is staying for the weekend. Laura’s plan worked, and she got the house visit blocked. She went to a judge and requested a home inspection be complete before Jacob’s stay. The judge agreed, and the weekend visit was blocked. However, it’s a short-term fix to a long-term problem, but Laura is looking into a few things, which means all that matters is that Jacob is staying with us.”
“Thank you, Garret,” Ryker said as he ran into my arms.
I picked him up and supported his butt with my arm, “I would love to take credit for this, but we need to thank Laura. It was her idea, and she put in all the work.”
“Yeah but still,” Ryker spoke and kissed my cheek. “Thanks.”
“Yeah thanks,” Lincoln stated as he came over and wrapped his arms around my waist.
“You’re the bestest,” Clayton giggled, and we were in a group hug.
“Well I didn’t do much, but I will take a group hug from you boys any day… now everyone go put shoes on, we’re going gift shopping,” I said. The boy responded by running to their rooms, while Jacob and I went out to the car. Within a few minutes they were in the vehicle, and we were on our way to Walmart. Once we got to the store, each of the boys wanted to get him a gift. I gave them each 35 bucks to pick something out. However, they combined their money into 2 piles: $100 and $40. They collectively bought him a really nice RC car for 100 bucks, and they divided the 40 bucks amongst themselves to buy George little gifts. Clayton got him matchbox cars, Jacob bought George an action figure, and Ryker and Lincoln combined their money to buy a small LEGO set. All in all, I was very impressed with their decisions and the process of buying toys.
After getting our gifts, we went home, and the boys began wrapping the presents. Let me say, it was painful to watch, I think Clayton used half a roll of tape. Jacob kept cutting the wrapping paper small. Ryker somehow managed to wrap his present in 3 different colored papers, and Lincoln was using too much tissue paper in the bag. It was a scene to behold, and as always, I was loving it. It was a great time watching the boys, and it added a bit of character to each gift.
After we cleaned up, the boys wanted to go in the hot tub. This time my father was going to join them, as I had to go to the office and make a few phone calls. One by one I saw the boys run past my office and to the hot tub. They had to wear swimsuits since we had company, but I wasn’t prepared for Lincoln to be wearing his speedo. It fit him so perfectly, and he pulled the look off great.
He walked into my office before going to the hot tub, “what do you think?”
“I think you look good Lincoln. You really pull it off!”
“Really?” He eagerly asked as he did a spin. “I don’t know how I feel about them.”
“Well, they sort of crush my balls.”
“Yeah let me see, they might be too tight.”
“They feel good, besides my balls,” Lincoln said as he was walking over to me. I placed my hands on his hips and slipped my fingers into the waistband and stretched them out. They didn’t have much give in them which is how a speedo is supposed to feel, but I could barely get my hands free.
“Yeah we might have gotten a size too small,” I replied and retracted my hands.
“Okay, I’m going to go get changed into my normal ones.”
“Sounds good, just bring them back down, so I remember to return them.”
“Here,” Lincoln replied and stripped them off.
“You not afraid of been seen by grandma or grandpa?”
“No,” giggled Lincoln. “You said they’ve seen worse.”
“That I did,” I replied as Lincoln handed me the speedo.
“What are you looking at?”
“Just something for the HLRJC organization. Keith, my business partner, sent me an outline of the building.”
“Can I see it?” Lincoln asked.
“Cool,” Lincoln stated and took a seat on my lap. You think I would be used to the boys and their nudity, but it was still slightly uncomfortable having them sit on your lap.
“Yeah,” I said as I rested my hand on his knee. “So this is the layout of the ground floor, where people will enter. When you first walk in, you’ll see a help desk toward the center of the room. But on each side, you have office spaces for staff. You turn left down the building, and you hit an electronic security gate. After that, there is a wide open area for kids to play and have fun. It may be hard to visualize at the moment, but I will have a better rendering for you.”
“Why is my name on it?” Lincoln asked.
“Surprise,” I chuckled. “You weren’t supposed to find out yet, but the first building is going to be named after you. Lincoln Center 1, the HLRJC Foundation of Columbus.”
“You’re kidding,” Lincoln stated as he turned his body to the side so he could look me in the face.
“You like it?”
“Wait are you serious?”
“Yes I’m serious,” I laughed.
“I love it,” Lincoln replied and leaned his side against my chest.
I kissed the top of his head and rubbed his back with my left hand, “you have earned it buddy.”
“Will… will I have other buildings named after me?”
“Oh my gosh, thank you, Garret.”
“No problem buddy, but uhh… you need to go put a swimsuit on and go join your brothers.”
“I forgot I was even naked.”
“That’s okay,” I laughed. “But go, I’m sure they are waiting.” He gave me one last hug before hopping off my lap and running upstairs. He was probably in his room for 10 seconds, as I heard him barreling down the steps, and run to the hot tub. “Walk,” I yelled!
The rest of the night went by quick and smooth. The boys were upstairs and in bed by 11. I was exhausted too and collapsed in my bed around 11:40.
Part – 4
Saturday morning, the boys were up and active at 9. It was a gorgeous day, with the high reaching the 60s. It was a perfect day for a birthday party. George’s party starts at 1, so we had to be showered, dressed, and ready by 12. However, before that, we decided to go outside and enjoy the weather. We were tossing the football around and which would sometimes lead to tackling each other. It was fun family bonding time especially since Jacob was around and present. We were outside for two hours, and we had to hurry back inside to get showers. Jacob and Clayton bathed with me as Lincoln showered on his own as did Ryker. After the shower, I laid out outfits for Jacob and Clayton then went to Ryker’s room where the usual debate of what to wear started.
“This shirt or this shirt?” Ryker asked me.
“How about we start with underwear,” I laughed as I went to his dresser and threw him a pair.
“Okay fine, but you think I should wear shorts or pants?”
“What do you want to wear?”
“Umm… I think these pants,” Ryker said as he laid down skinny jeans.
“Alright good choice, jeans go with just about anything.”
“Yeah, but do I wear this light pink polo? Or should I wear this black button-down?”
“I like the polo, I think it will go well with your jeans. And by the way, that color is called salmon.”
“Salmon… pink… whatever it is, but what about shoes?”
“What about them?” I asked.
“Should I wear my Nikes?”
I laughed at his concern, “look, buddy, you’ll make anything look good. I’ve helped you enough, you pick your shoes, and then fix your hair. We don’t have much time!”
“Okay, I’m going with the Nikes.”
“Sounds good,” I spoke and kissed the top of his head. I went to Lincoln’s room next, and he was already dressed. “Looking good bud!”
“Thanks,” he blushed.
“Be downstairs in 15, and don’t forget the presents.”
“I won’t,” Lincoln stated. I went back to my room and got changed as well. After getting changed, I went downstairs where all the boys were waiting with presents. My mother and father had already left a few hours ago to go help set up. So we hopped in the SUV and made our way to Calvin’s house.
“Who’s gonna be here?” Asked Ryker.
“So aunt Charlotte and Uncle Calvin plus their kids. Aunt Kelly and Uncle Tom, and their kids. Grandpa and grandma, plus a lot of people from Aunt Charlotte’s family.”
“Uncle Lucas and LJ aren’t coming?” Asked Lincoln.
“Nope, they couldn’t make it up.”
“Oh, well at least Christian will be there.”
“That he should,” I replied. The drive went by quick, and we arrived at my brother’s house. We were greeted by the birthday boy himself, as he came sprinting out to greet us.
“Hi George,” Jacob returned. “We got you really cool presents.”
“Yeah,” Lincoln replied as he went to the trunk.
“Hey Uncle G,” George said as he gave me a quick hug.
“What’s up birthday boy,” I responded,
“Nothing, but everyone’s inside.”
“Alright, we will be in.”
“Are we the last ones?” Asked Ryker.
“I don’t know,” giggled George. “I’ve been downstairs most of the time.”
“Well let’s head in,” I suggested. The boys each grabbed a present, and we followed George inside the house. We were greeted by numerous amounts of people. Christian was first to spot us and came to give everyone a hug. After saying hi to everyone, Christian and Lincoln took off to the basement together. Jacob went with George, and Clayton stuck around me for a little. Ryker was chatting with Ashley, Kim, and Giovanna. It was quite comical to see because he was sitting on Ashley’s lap, and if you recall from the first meeting, Ryker thinks she is pretty. He was soaking up the attention from the older girls.
The party went on, and it was a lot of fun. I learned that Ashley was going to USC now since Kelly could afford to send her out their with her new job title. I also learned that Christian had another rough Friday, but was ecstatic to see my boys again. I also had the chance to spend time with Derrick, which as always was enjoyable. For a kid with cerebral palsy, he was a joy to have around. He loved attention, and he received plenty today.
Around 5, George opened his presents in front of everyone. One by one he tore through bags and wrapped presents. It was funny to see his reaction to the RC car because he wasn’t expecting. He also received money and many other gifts. For a newly crowned 8-year-old boy, I think he had a pretty fun day. After presents, we had dinner and then ended the night with a campfire for those who stayed.
My boys were exhausted, as Ryker had fallen asleep in my lap. Lincoln had fallen asleep in the chair next to me, and Jacob had my father’s lap. Surprisingly the only one not sleeping was Clayton as he was inside playing with George. Around 9:30, I decided it was time to leave because the boys were sleeping and everyone decided to call it a night. I woke Lincoln and told him to go get Clayton. I carried Ryker to the car, and my father did the same for Jacob. Those two boys were out cold, as neither of them woke during the process. Lincoln and Clayton walked out, and each took their seats. I started the car, and then went in to say goodbyes. My father and mother were leaving too, so as I went back inside, they went to their car.
After the goodbyes, I went back to the Mercedes, and we were on our way back home. It took about 45 minutes, and the boys slept the whole way. Thankfully, they did wake as we were pulling into the garage, but it was short-lived as they went upstairs to their rooms and collapsed. I checked on each of them before heading to the first floor where my parents were relaxing.
“What a good day,” I said as I sat down on the couch.
“Yes it was honey,” spoke my mother.
“So when do you think you guys will be back?” I asked.
“We aren’t sure, isn’t Ryker’s birthday coming up?” Questioned my father.
“Yes, I believe so. I have to double check but I think his birthday is April 23rd, so you have a while.”
“That’s good then, I know that LJ, Ashton, and Jackson want to do something with you guys again. Maybe you’ll come down to Pittsburgh this time.”
“Yeah that’s a thought, I’m not sure when, but we will see.”
“Do the boys have spring break?” Asked my mother.
“You know… that’s a very good question. I have no idea,” I responded.
“Well let us know!”
“I will,” I returned.
“So,” stated my father, “what’s new with your Foundation?”
“We have a building that’s been inspected and approved, just need to sign the contract, and the building is mine. Then we start renovations on the place, but our goal is to be open in 5 to 6 months.”
“That’s wonderful son!”
“Go ahead, tell him, Gordon,” spoke my mother.
“Tell me what?”
“Well son, we are just so proud of you, and we believe in what you’re doing. So we are going to donate $1,000,000 to your foundation.”
“Wait… what… wait?”
“We are so proud of you.”
“Wait wait wait, I can’t accept that much. That’s an outrageous number.”
“Son, you know your mother, and I have more money than we know what to do with. At least this million would be going to a great cause.”
“Yeah Garret,” began my mother, “we just keep thinking that there are children out their similar to your boys, and all they need is a chance. This is a great thing you’re doing, and we believe in you.”
“I… I… I’m speechless. Umm, thank you guys,” I replied and gave them each a hug.
“You’re gonna do great things.”
“I agree,” my mother said.
“I can’t thank you enough, this is amazing,” I returned.
“You’re welcome,” both my parents said. After another brief conversation, it was for me to go to bed. My parents had a similar idea, and we went upstairs, I checked in the boys one last time and went to my room and collapsed on my bed.
To Be Continued….