The Castaway Hotel: Next Generation Book 4

Winding Up My Stay in Allentown

Sunday morning, we each had a Western omelet, home fries, and toast to start our day, and then we got ready to go to the next place we’d agreed to visit, which was the Museum of Indian Culture.  I suppose if we were being politically correct the name should be changed to the Museum of Native American Culture, but either way it was our first stop. 

We started out in the Northeast Woodland Room where we learned about the history and some of the customs of the tribes in the east that made the forests their home.  Along the way, we were able to inspect some of the items they used, from stone tools to ropes made from plant fiber.  We also observed some of the handicrafts they produced, which included beadwork, baskets, and pottery.  These items were often traded with other tribes, such as the Iroquois, and we also got to see examples of the moccasins and clothing they wore, along with the weapons they used. 

While there, I learned more about a particular tribe that many of you may not have heard about before, at least not by their original name, and I’m referring to the Lenape tribe of Pennsylvania.  The English referred to them as the Delaware tribe, which seemed to stick, and at first the native people got along fairly well with the early colonists.  Unfortunately, however, their land was stolen from them by crooked white men and they were forced to leave their ancestral home. 

This was a common plight for many of the Native American tribes across the continent, and this eviction came with a deadly addendum when a bounty was offered for any Lenape – dead or alive.  Over time, all of the Lenape people living in Pennsylvania and New Jersey were forced to relocate to either Oklahoma or Canada, places that were many miles from where they had grown up and once lived.  

From there we went to the Inter-Tribal Room where we learned about tribes living in different parts of the country, other than the northeast.  We saw a variety of items made by the Lakota, Cheyenne, Navajo, Hopi, and other groups, which proved to be just as interesting. 

The museum also has a Native American Research Library that is used by academics and others wishing to research the history, archaeology, and customs of the various tribes.  It also contains information about their use of herbal remedies, various treaties the tribes had signed, and the wide range of languages the different tribes used.  This included a form of sign language that allowed the various groups to converse with one another.  

In addition to everything else, there were also a handful of exhibits that changed from time to time, and regrettably we weren’t there during any of the festivals.  I’m sure they would have been very interesting as well, but our time there was still extremely informative and I enjoyed the outing immensely. 

As we were leaving the museum, I was babbling about how much I had enjoyed the visit and the various information I had learned when Frankie asked a question. 

“We probably should grab something to eat before we head over to our next destination, so what do you think about having pizza?” 

“I feel as if I’m with my grandchildren now, but I can live with having pizza, as long as it’s not merely cheese and pepperoni.” 

“What if we add mushrooms, bell peppers, and black olives to our order?” Carolyn suggested. 

“That sounds more like my type of pizza.”

“Good, then we’ll take you over to the Slice of Italy for lunch.”

The pizza was delicious and it turned out to be a delightful change of pace from the other meals we’d been having, yet different enough from the pizzas I generally had with the boys at home.  In fact, if they gave away Gold Medals for pizzas, then I would have presented one to the owners of this business. 

Once we finished up there, we used the restrooms before heading over to Trexler Memorial Park.  This was a fairly large city park, but it appeared cleaner than most and was surprisingly scenic, seeing it was in the midst of an urban setting.  We walked around a little at first and checked out some of the nooks and crannies, and then we sat down to chat on this beautiful, sunny afternoon. 

“If there is anything that I can do to help you out with the wedding or anything else, just let me know,” I began. 

“Your offer of financial assistance is more than enough,” Frankie replied, “but there is something else I wanted to discuss with you.  I would like for you to be part of the wedding party and dressed in a tux, because I’m hoping you’ll be my best man.”

I was momentarily stunned by his request, but eventually I found my tongue and answered.  “I’ll be honored to stand up with you, but don’t you want to ask one of your brothers or a friend for this honor, since I’ll already be there as father of the groom?”

“I thought about that, but then I realized no one else means as much to me or has done more for me than you.  You took a defiant and abusive teenager, taught him an unforgettable lesson, and then gave him a second chance.  I wouldn’t be who I am today, if it wasn’t for you.”

“In that case, I’ll be proud to do it.” 

“Awww, how sweet.  Your dad actually has tears rolling down his cheeks,” Carolyn pointed out. 

“Yes, Frankie’s comment touched me deeply,” I confessed. 

“And I meant every word of it,” Frankie stated. 

“Now, I have a question for you,” Carolyn stated.  “Can we bring anything to your house when we come for Thanksgiving?”

“Maybe we should just bring the wine,” Frankie quickly chimed in.  “I wouldn’t want anyone to suffer from food poisoning, and thus ruin the holiday.”

Carolyn made a face at Frankie.  “I was thinking about picking up a couple of pumpkin pies from Wegmans (a local grocery chain) and warm them up when we got there.”

“Either will be fine, because neither will go to waste.  Most of those coming for the holiday will be there until either Saturday night or Sunday afternoon, so we’ll be having many meals together.” 

“Then we’ll do both,” Frankie confirmed.  “We’ll be leaving very early on Sunday morning, because we’ll both have to work the following day.” 

“Then I’ll make sure to fix you a big breakfast before you leave.  By the way, Carolyn, when will I get to meet your family?”

“If you don’t meet them beforehand, then you’ll be introduced to them at the rehearsal dinner.  My parents will be there, and so will my brother, because he’s going to be one of the groomsmen.” 

“Who else did you ask to be groomsmen?” I asked Frankie. 

“No one yet, but I’m going to ask Trey when we come to the house for Thanksgiving, as a way of making up to him for what I did when I first came to live with you.  I also plan on asking Danny, Dion, and Brandon, so they can all sit together at the head table.” 

“And Frankie suggested that I ask Holly to be one of my bridesmaids.  She can match up with my brother, and then I’ll ask four of my friends to complete the group.  And don’t worry, because I’m planning on telling them that the groomsman they’ll be matched with is gay, so their husbands or boyfriends won’t object.  I’ve already asked my best friend from college to be my Matron of Honor, so you’ll be matched up with her.”

“So, I guess that means she’s married.”

“Yes, she is, and I’ve told her that you’re married as well.” 

“Good, then other than the first dance, she can dance with her husband while I dance with Jake.”

“I was thinking about asking Wyatt to be the ring bearer,” Frankie interjected, “but since Danny adopted the twins and they’re all about the same age, we didn’t want to create any hard feelings.” 

“I’m sure we could explain it to the twins so they won’t mind, but I suspect they will all prefer to be together during the wedding and reception.”

“That’s what we thought as well,” Carolyn replied.   

“That’s fine and it will probably work out best.  Is there anything else we need to discuss?” 

“Not at the moment, but I’m hoping that next year we can join you guys for Christmas,” Carolyn answered, “because Frankie has told me a little about what that’s like.  I can’t wait to see how the younger kids react when Santa peeks through the family room window, since I feel that will be precious.”

“I’m afraid most of my grandchildren are old enough now that they don’t still believe in Santa.” 

“It will still be fun to see how they react and I’d also like to hear you read Twas the Night Before Christmas.  Frankie’s told me about that as well, and my dad used to read it to my brother and me until we were both teenagers.”

“Yes, somehow kids seem to lose interest in those things by the time they reach their teens, so I hope it meets your expectations.”

“I’m sure it will, but you’re right – it’s sad, yet true, but teenagers are more concerned with how many presents they get and what those presents are.  However, it should elicit some wonderful memories for me while I’m watching the others.”

“Usually just the younger group goes into the family room when I do this, but you’re more than welcome to join us.”

“Good, and I will, and Frankie will be there with me.” 

“This is news to me,” Frankie countered.

“I know, but you’ll do it for me, won’t you honey?”

“Sure, why not.  I haven’t been part of doing it for quite a few years now, so it might be fun.”

“And you might as well get used to it, because I’m sure you’ll be doing it again when your kids are little,” I tossed in.

“Ummm, we haven’t even talked about having children yet,” Frankie mused. 

“I want a boy and a girl,” Carolyn announced, “so we’ll try twice.  If we don’t end up with one of each then we’ll adopt whichever sex is missing.” 

“Then I guess we’ve discussed it and I have my answer,” Frankie stated, and then the three of us laughed. 

Now that we’d finished our discussion, we began the long, leisurely stroll back to the parking area.  As we walked, I asked the next question. 

“Are we eating out or in tonight?”

“In, and I’m doing the cooking,” Frankie quickly answered.  “I’ll fire up the grill when we get back so I can start the baked potatoes, and then I’ll put the steaks on when the potatoes are just about done.  Carolyn and I like ours pink, yet warm in the center, and if I remember correctly, you do as well.” 

“Yes, you have a very good memory.” 

“And I’m going to fix each of us a green salad to go with it,” Carolyn added, “and we can drink the last growler with the meal.” 

“Great idea,” I concurred.  “Can I do anything to help?”

“Nothing, other than eating,” Frankie joked.  “You can take it easy until it’s ready.” 

“That sounds good to me.”

I kept Carolyn company while she made the salad and I learned a little more about her and her family in the process.  She told me that they were a very tight knit group as well, and she was going to have both her mother and father walk her down the aisle.  I thought that was a sweet thing to do and it would be a very nice touch.  She had found a way to include her entire family, although it was impossible for Frankie do that.  I’m sure the others in our family will understand and not feel slighted by not being part of the wedding party, because they’re all going to be invited, along with their families, which caused me to ask another question. 

“Just out of curiosity, are you planning on having a buffet or sit-down dinner?”

“Even with you and my parents helping with the cost, a sit-down dinner would still be too expensive, so we’re going with a buffet.  The rehearsal dinner will be a sit-down meal in the private dining room at Chris’ Family Restaurant, though.  That’s where we took you after we went to the America on Wheels Museum, and the restaurant offers steaks and other items, in addition to those we had when we were there.” 

“Yes, I remember that from when I looked at the menu.  So, have you thought about what you’ll be having at the reception?” 

“I’m still working that out with the catering service I’ve been working with, because I want it to be creative and not your typical wedding reception meal.  I’m trying to keep the cost down while making sure everyone has a good time and gets full.  We’ll also be limiting the open bar to one hour and it won’t start until everyone is in the hall, because we’ll be taking our wedding photos first.” 

“Sounds good to me, and I’ll cover the cost of the open bar as well, since most of it will be going to my family.” 

“And there will be small bags of popcorn for people to snack on with the drinks and we’ll have snow cones for the kids.” 

“Great idea!”

“And neither of those things is very expensive, so it won’t add much to the cost of the open bar.”

“And I’m sure the younger group will enjoy both the popcorn and the snow cones.”

“That’s what I was hoping, as well as tiding them over until the meal is served.”

As we were finishing our discussion Frankie announced our meal was ready.  He did a wonderful job with the steaks and everything was delicious.  When we finished eating, I helped Carolyn take the dishes inside and wash them, while Frankie cleaned off the grill.  Once that was taken care of, we sat down to watch a movie before we turned in. 

When the movie ended, we got up to get ready for bed and I decided to discuss a few things with Frankie and Carolyn first, since I didn’t think we’d have time to do it in the morning. 

“I’ll be leaving early and I want to thank you for a wonderful and very enjoyable weekend.”

“You’re going to have breakfast with us before you leave, aren’t you?” Carolyn asked. 

“Are you going to have time for that before you leave for work?”

“Yes, we always eat before we leave the house, and I’ll make another omelet for each of us.”

“Ok, then I’ll prepare the home fries to go with it.”

“Then I guess it means I get to make the toast again,” added Frankie with a grin.

Since that had been agreed to, we went through our nightly rituals and hopped into our respective beds.  I slept like a log until morning.

After enjoying our final meal together, I thanked them again, said goodbye, and started for home.  It was going to be a long drive, but it would be on decent roads, so I should be able to make it back to the house by noon, or slightly thereafter. 

Although I was able to drive the speed limit most of the time, there wasn’t a great deal to see, except for when I made my way through Harrisburg.  I was becoming more excited the closer I got to home, and my spirit soared as I pulled into the driveway.  I’d had a great time visiting my sons during this trip, but it was always a wonderful feeling when I was home again.  As Dorothy said in The Wizard of Oz, “there’s no place like home”, and I agree wholeheartedly with that sentiment. 

Almost as soon as I put the car in park and turned off the engine, Joshie and Benny came bounding out of the front door. 

“Welcome home, Grandpa,” they both greeted me. 

I gave each of them a hug before grabbing my suitcase off of the backseat.  “Thank you, and it’s nice to see you too.  How was your trip?”

“It was fun,” Benny answered. 

“Yeah, we had a great time, but it’s nice to be back home,” Joshie added.

“I definitely agree with you there,” I concurred.

“Let me take your suitcase for you,” Joshie offered. 

“Thank you, and I appreciate that.  Where are the other boys?”

“They’re out playin’ in the tree house,” Benny answered. 

“I guess that means Jake and Elliot must have finished fixing it up.” 

“Yeah, and Ian, Ryan, and Noah helped too,” Joshie added.  “You’ve got to go see what they did.” 

“I will, but I want to grab a quick bite to eat first.  Have you had lunch yet?”

“Yeah, we already finished, but I’m sure Poppy will fix something for you too.” 

“If he wouldn’t mind, then I’ll wash up while he’s doing that.” 

“K, and while Joshie is talking to his dad, I’ll go let the other boys know you’re back,” Benny stated.

“Ok, and Joshie you can just drop the suitcase off in my bedroom while I’m washing up.  Tell your dad I’ll say hi to him after I use the toilet and wash up first.”

“K.”

I was still in my bathroom when I heard the other boys come rushing into the house.  “Where’s Grandpa Josh?” they were all asking. 

“He’ll be out shortly,” I heard Trey tell them as he tried to calm them down. 

As soon as I emerged from the bathroom, I was surrounded by the younger boys as they all tried to hug me. 

“Welcome back, Grandpa,” they were saying. 

“Wow, I didn’t expect such an enthusiastic welcome home, but why don’t you boys sit down at the dining room table with me while I eat and tell me about your trip.”

“You’ll have to wait to see the pictures until later, cuz Uncle Brandon has them on his phone,” Wyatt blurted out. 

“Yes, he hasn’t had a chance to download them into our computers yet,” Dion clarified, as he greeted me as well. 

“That’s fine, but I want to hear all about your trip while I’m eating.” 

“Dad, go sit down and I’ll bring your food out to you,” Trey informed me. 

As I was filling my belly, the boys regaled me with tales about what they’d done and seen on their trip – every minute in vivid detail.  It was cute to see them so excited, and it was easy to tell they’d all had a marvelous time, even though there were some aspects of the trip that they weren’t as fond of.  I finished my lunch long before they’d told me everything, and when they finished they began urging me to do something else. 

“Come outside with us so you can see the tree house,” Hayden urged. 

“Yeah, you’ve got to see what it looks like,” Hunter continued.  “It’s really neat.”

“And Grandpa Jake and the older boys built a deck for us to play on too,” Tristan added. 

“It’s really awesome and you’ll like that too, Grandpa,” Revin continued. 

No, this wasn’t a mistake.  Revin has been calling me grandpa as well, and it didn’t bother either me or Becky that he was doing it. 

Some of the boys grabbed my hands and arms as they dragged me out the backdoor to see their new play area, while others were pushing me from behind.  When we finally arrived there, I was immediately impressed with what the others had done. 

“Wow, this looks great!”

“And you didn’t even see the inside or the other area yet,” Tristan added as he directed my attention to the deck. 

“I can see they’ve done a really awesome job on this,” I agreed. 

“Yeah, and we’re gonna sleep out here one night,” Wyatt added.  “We just have to talk to Aunt Becky about it first, so Revin can do it with us.” 

“Yeah, it will be really fun,” Revin concurred. 

“I’m sure it will be.”

As soon as they finished showing me around and telling me about everything, I left them outside to play while I went inside to chat with Dion and Trey.  Trey handed me a glass of ice tea and we went into the dining room and sat down to chat. 

“How have things been going here?” I asked Trey. 

“Fine, although Danny has been working too hard and putting in very long hours.”

“Is that because of the internship process?” 

“Yes, but he says it should start letting up soon.  By the way, Brandon called earlier and said he received a call from Richard and he wants to come to the house later so he can meet with all of us.  Brandon told him he wouldn’t be able to do it until around 9:45 or 10:00, because Danny wouldn’t get home until around 9:00 and then he would want to eat and wash up first.” 

“I take it this means Richard has another boy for them to take in.”

“That’s what we assumed as well,” replied Dion, “but why would he need all of us?  If he had another boy then I’d think he’d only need to speak with Danny and Brandon.” 

“That’s true, so maybe there’s more to this then.”

“And Pop says you guys are leaving on Saturday to visit Shannon and Nick?”

“Yes, Jake and I wanted to spend some time with them as well.”

“So even if this is about a new boy, you won’t be around for a week anyway.” 

“That’s very true, and I might be taking a few more trips afterward, since I’m not really needed around here.  You boys seem to have everything under control.”

“We try, but we still need your advice from time to time.”

“And I can give it to you over the phone, if I’m not here at the moment.” 

“Yes, I suppose you can do that as well,” Trey agreed.  “This reminds me of something else, though.  I talked Holly into waiting to celebrate her birthday until this Sunday so everyone would be here, but I didn’t know you and Pop would be leaving on Saturday.”

“I don’t think it will be a major problem and I’ll just leave our present for her with you, if you don’t mind.” 

“No, that will be fine.”

We were just finishing up our little meeting when my cell phone rang.  When I looked at the display, I could see it was Cole calling.” 

“What great timing.  I just got back about an hour ago,” I said after greeting him. 

“Really?  I didn’t know that you’d gone anywhere.”

“I had, but that’s not important.  What can I do for you?”

“Beth wanted me to call and invite you and Pop to the house for dinner on Thursday.  Will that work for you?” 

“Yes, that will work fine.  Is there a special reason for this?”

“Not really.  We just haven’t seen you and Pop for a while and thought it would be nice to get together with you.” 

“All right, and I was planning to get ahold of you as well, because there’s something I want to run by you.” 

“Great, then we can do that at the same time.  We’ll eat at 7:00.” 

“Ok, we’ll see you then.”

Once the call ended, I told Dion and Trey what Cole had said, and then they mused as to whether they felt there might be an ulterior motive behind his invitation. 

“He said there wasn’t and that he and Beth just want to see us again, but it will work for me as well, because I have something I want to run by him.” 

“And what might that be?” Dion pressed. 

“Jake and I are thinking about buying a new car and wanted to see if Cole had any suggestions about which car we should get.” 

“He’s definitely the man to ask, and you’ll get a meal at the same time.”

“Yes, that will work out well.” 

As we finished our discussion, we went back to considering what Richard wanted to talk to us about.