The next morning, Dad, Dion, and I sat down with the boys to talk to them about an upcoming event.
“Next Wednesday is Danny’s, birthday,” began Dad, “so we’re going to sit down with you boys in groups and let you order something for your dad or uncle online. We’ll have it sent directly to the house they’re staying at.”
“Do you know his new address?” asked Benny.
“Yes, I had your other dad give it to me.”
“Will it get there in time for his birthday?” followed Tristan.
“Yes, we’ll arrange for express shipping so it will get there by his birthday,” I confirmed. “Grandpa Jake is going to let his coworkers know that if any packages come for Danny at that address they should put them aside and he’ll take them home with him so they won’t get stolen.”
“Ok, that’s good.”
Doing this took up most of the morning, and then we returned to the lessons we’d planned for the boys. While we were eating lunch, Dad turned on the TV to watch the news, and that’s when we heard that the US had now reached one million cases and 50,000 deaths due to COVID-19.
“Now that’s a gloomy statistic,” stated Dion when he heard it.
“Yes, and now I understand why Danny was so worried about this pandemic, even before it was declared as such,” agreed Dad.
“Yes, we should be thankful that Danny’s a doctor and he was able to give us an early heads up,” I added.
On Saturday, Dad called Brandon at his dental practice and left a message for him to call when Danny wasn’t around. When Brandon returned the call, they set about to coordinate their efforts for Danny’s birthday party.
“What are you going to do for his birthday dinner?” asked Dad.
“I talked to Pop about this and we’ve agreed to call in a take-out order from one of the restaurants. We’ll pick it up after work and then we can all eat together at home.”
“Do you want me to make a cake so you can pick it up?”
“No, I’ll order a sheet cake from the bakery, and then the next day I’ll drop off what’s left for the boys.”
“Why don’t you just order a smaller cake for the three of you, and I’ll make cakes for here. I can use the ‘3’ from Trey’s birthday cake and the ‘6’ from Benny’s cake and we’ll let Xander blow them out for Danny.”
“I’m sure Xander will appreciate doing that. I’ll call and set up the ZOOM connection after we finish eating our dinner.”
“Ok, and that will give us plenty of time to eat and clear off the dinner dishes so we can have the cakes on the table when you call.”
“It sounds good.”
He then asked about the boys and Dad told him they were all doing well, and then Brandon said he and Danny would call to speak with them later.
It was a half hour after we’d finished eating dinner when Brandon called back, and Dad summoned all of the boys so they could talk to their dads. Joshie and Wyatt also joined them because Brandon and Danny were like second dads to them, just like Dion and I were second dads to their sons.
The boys took turns speaking and asked Danny and Brandon how they were doing and if they liked living there. After that, Danny and Brandon asked the boys how their studies were going and how they liked having school at home.
“It’s pretty fun, cuz we got these kits with interestin’ things to do,” said Hunter.
“And Uncle Dion and Uncle Trey got some other stuff for us so we can do things outside. It’s like we’re havin’ PE class,” added Hayden.
“I kinda miss seeing my other friends,” stated Wyatt, “but there’s plenty of stuff to do so I don’t miss them too much.”
“And Noah is working with me and Joshie on math and science,” continued Benny. “He’s kind of like havin’ a student teacher, cuz he’s still in college.”
“Yes, I suppose that’s one way of looking at it,” replied Danny with a chuckle.
“And Revin’s here too,” said Tristan. “He’s my partner when we use the kits.”
“And I’m partners with Wyatt,” added Xander.
“It sounds like you’re all doing well and appear to be enjoying working with your new teachers.”
“Yeah, my dads and Grandpa Josh are tough on us, but they still make it fun,” said Joshie. “And Noah is cool too, so it’s not too bad.”
“We’re glad to hear that,” agreed Brandon.
The boys continued chatting with Danny and Brandon for a while longer before ending the call, and then they set about doing other things. They were proving to be very resilient in the way they adapted to one unusual situation after another.
Since we weren’t going to church due to the virus, we all got together and watched a service on TV instead. It helped to reestablish our routine for the boys, although they didn’t have to dress up for it and we merely ate lunch once it ended.
On Monday, we returned to holding our classes again, and this continued until Wednesday night. That was Danny’s birthday, and I helped Dad prepare our dinner. He thought for a while about what he should have and finally decided on having a meal that Danny used to enjoy as a boy. He hoped Danny’s sons and nephews would like it as much as Danny had, because we were having barbecue meat loaf, potatoes au gratin, green beans, and Italian bread. Brandon had dropped the bread off on his way home the previous evening so we’d have it for tonight.
“This is almost like havin’ barbecue hamburgers, but without the bun,” commented Tristan.
“And I never had these taters before, but they’re good,” added Xander.
“And I like this bread better than the kind you use when you make us sandwiches,” said Hayden.
“I can see why our dad used to like this stuff,” followed Hunter.
“And you boys obviously take after him,” joked Dad while thinking that biology wasn’t the only factor in determining the boys’ tastes.
As soon as we finished eating, we cleared off the table quickly, and then Dad and I set the two cakes on it. The first was the chocolate cake the boys liked, while the other was a red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting. Dad figured Danny might have requested this type of cake if he were here, and he’d placed the large ‘3’ and ‘6’ on top of it.
A short time later, Brandon called and we quickly established our ZOOM connection. Brandon and Dad lit the candles on the cakes at each location. Once that was completed, Brandon led us in singing Happy Birthday to Danny, and when we finished, Danny made a wish and blew out the candles on the cake there. At the same time, we let Xander blow out the candles on the cake we had for Danny at the house, and he was beaming proudly as he glanced up at his dad.
“I appreciate your help with that,” Danny told him. “My lungs just aren’t powerful enough to blow those candles out from here.”
“You’re bein’ silly,” replied Xander, “and Grandpa Josh asked me to help you do it.”
“Thank you and that cake looks delicious,” stated Danny while I was cutting the red velvet cake.
“I thought you might like it,” said Dad, “so I’ll cut a couple of pieces, wrap them up, and you guys can pick them up on your way home tomorrow night. I’ll add a slice of the chocolate cake for Jake, so there will be a piece for each of you.”
“Thank you. I’m sure we’ll all enjoy it.”
Once Danny ate the slice of cake that Brandon got from the bakery, he opened the presents Brandon gave him, and then he opened the gifts we’d ordered for him online. He thanked each of us for the items we gave him, and this continued until he’d opened every one. When he finished, he thanked all of us again.
“This certainly was a different sort of birthday party for me,” said Danny, “but I’m glad I got to share it with all of you. I miss each and every one of you very much, and I hope that before long we’ll all be together again.”
“Yeah, we hope so too,” the boys chirped back, and then we ended the connection.
We were still upbeat the following morning as we were having breakfast. Dad was watching the news on TV when Governor Wolf made another announcement. This time he was extending the stay at home order, so it didn’t appear as if this situation was going to be ending any time soon.
As we attempted to keep things at home as normal as possible, Ricky began calling Dad so they could discuss the details of his upcoming wedding. Since Dad wouldn’t be there to assist him, Ricky wanted to know what things Dad thought he should do, because he didn’t want to overlook anything. He wanted the day to go smoothly and be something Tiffany would remember fondly in the years to come just in case they didn’t get a do-over at church later. Dad was happy to help out, and together they worked out all of the details for Tiffany and Ricky’s special day.
It was another two weeks before the wedding, and then we dressed up for it, just as if we were going to be there with them. As soon as the connection was made, we could see that Ricky was a nervous wreck, although he looked sharp in his tuxedo. The minister soon appeared on another part of the screen, and once he was certain that everyone who’d been invited was connected, he started a recording of Mendelssohn’s Wedding March. As it started playing, Tiffany appeared from off-screen dressed in a beautiful wedding gown. She was carrying a small bouquet and looked absolutely gorgeous. They made a very handsome couple.
As soon as she’d joined Ricky, the minister spoke and began a typical wedding ceremony. Ricky and Tiffany were even able to exchange rings, and then Ricky was told that he could kiss the bride. He got a little carried away when doing this, but when the kiss ended, the minister spoke.
“I’m pleased to introduce to you for the first time, Mr. and Mrs. Richard Allen Currie.”
Those of us watching began to cheer, and then someone managed to add some virtual confetti to the ZOOM connection. This was meant to represent the throwing of rice or blowing bubbles at the newlyweds after the ceremony, and it was actually a nice touch. At that point, we all began to congratulate Ricky and Tiffany, and Tiffany’s parents went first, so we all listened as they spoke.
“Welcome to our family, Ricky. We feel that Tiffany chose a great guy to be her husband.”
“I guess Ricky’s never played a prank on you then,” someone joked, and I think I recognized Pat’s voice. His remark caused Tiffany’s dad to laugh.
“I wouldn’t go that far,” he said as he continued to chuckle.
“In the same vein,” added Dad, “I feel Ricky chose a terrific woman to be his wife. I’m actually surprised she said ‘yes’, though, so I hope he’s truly housebroken.”
“Oh, he is,” Tiffany replied as she punched Ricky in the arm and then tousled his hair.
“I think I’m beginning to like my father-in-law better than my dad and brothers,” chirped Ricky in response.
“That’s probably because we know you better than he does,” another voice added, and this time I believe it was Shannon who spoke.
There was a lot more ribbing going on, but we also sincerely offered the couple our congratulations and wished them a long and happy marriage.
“Blessed with children,” Ricky’s mother-in-law added.
“We’ll start working on that right away,” came Ricky’s retort, and then we heard many of the other women giggle.
The connection ended a short time later, and then we all changed into more comfortable clothing, along with the bride and groom. Dad was going to reconnect with them in an hour so we could hold a virtual reception with them as well.
Dad had started a roast and a pan of baked ziti before he’d changed for the ceremony, and we were going to have that along with a salad, and he even prepared a wedding cake for us to share as well. Dad had also ordered a special wedding dinner to be delivered to Ricky and Tiffany from one of the restaurants he had eaten at when he stayed with them, and then we would all eat together.
“I’m glad you told Ricky you were going to do this,” Tiffany told Dad. “My parents were going to do the same thing, so I told them to send their meal to us tomorrow instead.”
“That works out well then.”
“Yes, and my mom had the bakery deliver a small wedding cake for us.”
“It seems that great minds think alike.”
We then sat down to eat together, so to speak, and Tiffany’s parents were in on this connection as well, so it was a small, intimate family reception. When they finished eating, Ricky played a couple of songs on his computer so he and Tiffany could dance. They also did a virtual throwing of the garter and bouquet, but I couldn’t tell who caught them.
We eventually let them have the rest of the night alone, even though it wasn’t as if they hadn’t spent the night alone before. Dad said he’d call them the following day to get their reaction about how this went, and then he said goodnight. The recent celebrations have been highly unusual, but still very rewarding. However, we can’t wait to get back to doing these things the old-fashioned way again.
Ricky and Tiffany called Dad the next afternoon after we’d all watched the church service and had lunch. They looked happy as well as relieved that it was finally over.
“So how did you think it went?” asked Dad.
“It was great, but a little weird,” answered Ricky.
“It wasn’t the way I always pictured my wedding,” added Tiffany, “but it was fun and we were able to include our loved ones. You could probably say that we used the lemons to make lemonade.”
“We’re sorry you got stuck with a lemon,” teased Dion, which caused Tiffany to laugh.
“Sure, laugh at his stupid joke,” snapped Ricky, although we could tell he wasn’t upset.
“I’m sorry, but I thought it was funny,” Tiffany admitted sheepishly.
“Ok, before we start an argument between you, I think we’ll leave,” said Dad. “Congratulations again and try to be as happy as you were yesterday.”
When the connection ended, Dad offered a suggestion. “Maybe we should ease up on Ricky a bit. He appears to be taking your comments to heart.”
“He knows we’re just trying to get even for things he did to us,” countered Dion.
“Possibly, but I still think we should cut him some slack.”
I think we all considered his comment for the rest of the day. Maybe we WERE taking it a bit too far, just like Ricky used to do with his pranks, and we know how we felt about that.
Even though the school year had technically come to an end, we continued working with the boys on their studies, although not for as long each day. Continuing this routine helped to keep the boys from getting restless and bored, and seeing there were so many of them, they weren’t lacking for social stimulus either. However, I believe Benny and Joshie were missing being with their friends more than the younger boys, but they kept in touch with them via phone calls, text messages, and over the Internet.
A couple of days after the wedding, we learned that the U.S. COVID-19 death toll had passed 100,000, so the situation wasn’t improving. And then on Friday, June 5th, Pennsylvania’s stay at home order ended, and the following day Dad got a call from Frankie and Carolyn.
“The stay at home order ended,” stated Frankie, “so do you think we should go back to our original wedding plans or do it like Ricky did?”
“Personally, I’d suggest you do the same thing Ricky and Tiffany did. We’ve just passed the 100,000 death mark, and you don’t live that far away from either Philadelphia or New York City, so I believe you’d be putting lives at risk to do it in person. As I told you before, just do it using Zoom for now, and if things are better by next summer, then you can renew your vows in a church.”
“That’s what we were thinking too,” said Carolyn, “and I think that would be best for all of us.”
“I just have one question,” said Dad. “Frankie, are you going to wear a tux, and Carolyn are you going to wear a wedding gown, or are you going to get married in your State Police uniforms?”
“We hadn’t talked about this,” answered Carolyn, “but if we do it like Ricky and Tiffany did, maybe we’ll just wear our dress uniforms, kind of like a military wedding. Then, if we have another ceremony next summer, then we can wear the tux and wedding gown.”
“Sounds good to me,” agreed Dad.
I believe we were all glad they’d made the decision to have a virtual wedding, because a little over a week later it was announced that the US had reached 2 million cases of COVID-19. During this period, Dad talked with Frankie and Carolyn a few more times to help them plan the various details of the wedding. This was the same thing he’d done with Ricky and Tiffany, so the ceremony and ‘reception’ would be very similar.
When the big day arrived, we all dressed up again and waited for the ZOOM connection to begin. When it did, we saw Frankie standing in his living room in his dress uniform, and then the minister appeared on the other side of the screen. Once the minister felt everyone had been connected, he made a final comment before he began.
“We are here today to unite two of Pennsylvania’s finest, so let’s get things started.”
After saying this, the Wedding March began to play and we saw Carolyn approach Frankie, and she was wearing her dress uniform. Once they were standing together, the minister started the ceremony. Eventually, it came time for Frankie and Carolyn to exchange vows and rings, and then Frankie got to kiss the bride. As soon as the kiss ended, the minister introduced them as Mr. and Mrs. Franklin Albert Currie.
As the ceremony concluded, instead of confetti appearing on the screen, this time a bunch of bubbles appeared instead, which caused Dad to comment.
“This reminds me of the old Lawrence Welk TV show that ran from 1951 to 1971. It was my mother’s favorite, and since I was so young, she had me watch it with her every Saturday night. Seeing the bubbles, which were his trademark on the show, I can almost hear him making some of his most memorable comments. ‘Uh one, an’ uh two’ or ‘Wunnerful, wunnerful’, as well as ‘And here’s our lovely Champagne Lady.’ You see, Welk was raised in a German-speaking community in North Dakota and he spoke English with a very pronounced accent…” and then Dad glanced around at the rest of us. “I guess you’re really not interested in this, so I’ll stop talking.”
We weren’t sure if anyone other than us had heard what Dad had been saying, because everyone else had continued to congratulate the newlyweds. Once the others had finished, we finally got to hear from Carolyn’s parents and younger brother.
“We both think the world of Frankie and are grateful that he’s now a part of our family,” said her dad.
“I’m so glad they agreed to get married,” added her mom.
“And I’ve gained another brother,” teased her younger brother, since he always claimed Carolyn was like having a brother, not a sister.
“And we welcome Carolyn into our family as well,” added Dad. “I believe she might be one of only a few people who could stand up to Frankie and hold her own.”
Now that everyone had a chance to speak, the connection ended and we took some time to change into more comfortable clothing. Dad prepared the same dinner that we had for Ricky’s wedding, since their wedding took place a month ago. He also had a meal delivered to Frankie and Carolyn from one of the restaurants they had taken him to during his visit. When we were already to eat, the ZOOM connection was restored and we had a private reception with Frankie, Carolyn, and Carolyn’s family.
Just as Ricky and Tiffany had done, after they ate Carolyn played a couple of songs so she and Frankie could have their first dance as a married couple. They skipped the throwing of the bouquet and garter, since neither of those items had been used. We eventually bid them goodnight and let them spend the rest of the night alone, although this was far from the first time they’d done this.
Since we were continuing to work with the boys on their studies, I ordered several books for each of them to read that were appropriate for their grade level. I even worked with Benny and Joshie on a couple of Shakespearean plays and found video productions of those plays online that we watched together and critiqued. I knew this was something that was still included in the school curriculum, so this might put them ahead of their classmates in the fall.
By mid-July, the US reached 3 million cases of COVID-19, and just before Elliot’s birthday, the country had also reached a total of 150,000 deaths. Although we continued to hope and pray things would get better, the reality was that nothing seemed to be improving. It might even be getting worse.
Elliot’s birthday was on Monday, June 29th, and we had his party at the house. Once again, connected his dads and Grandpa Jake to the party using ZOOM, and we also allowed Elliot to invite Ian. Ian had been living with just his mom at home since his dad was staying at the hospital. He had taken quite a few of his clothes in to work with him and was sleeping in his office so he wouldn’t expose his wife and son to the virus.
As you might remember, Elliot is the son with somewhat expensive tastes, so for his meal he asked if he could have filet mignon, lobster tails, baked potato, broccoli casserole, and a salad for his birthday dinner. He even offered to pay for it, if we thought it cost too much, but we told him it was fine and his fathers and grandfathers had agreed to foot the bill. The younger boys would only get half a filet and half a lobster tail each, but other than that we’d all eat the same meal.
“Man, I’ve never had this before, but it’s good,” said Hayden after trying the lobster.
“Don’t forget to dip it in the melted butter,” urged Dad.
“We are, and it’s kind of sweet,” added Hayden.
“I didn’t think I was gonna like it, but it’s pretty good,” stated Xander.
“Yeah, I like it too,” agreed Wyatt. It seemed that everyone was enjoying Elliot’s choice of the meal.
Elliot was never very interested in sweets, so when Dad asked him what type of birthday cake he wanted, he asked Dad if he’d make a pineapple upside-down cake for him. Dad agreed that he would, and said he’d make the chocolate cake for the others.
After we finished the meal, we cleared off the dishes and placed the two cakes on the table. The chocolate cake had a large ‘2’ and ‘4’ on it, and once everything was set, we made the ZOOM connection with Danny, Brandon, and Pop.
As soon as we were all together, I lit the candles on Elliot’s cake and we sang Happy Birthday to him, and then he made a wish and blew out the candles. We let Elliot cut the pineapple upside-down cake and I cut the other one, and then Dion passed out the slices to whoever wanted one. While Elliot was eating his piece, we gave him our presents.
“These are from your dads, and these are from Grandpa Jake and me,” Dad told him.
“And these are from our family,” said Dion as he handed him two more presents.
“And these are from us,” his brothers and Holly announced as they gave him even more gifts. Most of those presents were from two or more of his siblings.
As he was opening them, Danny spoke to Dad. “If you wouldn’t mind, Brandon and I would like a piece of the pineapple upside-down cake, but Pop wants a slice of the chocolate cake instead.”
“That’s fine and I’ll wrap them up and leave them on the porch so you can pick them up after work tomorrow.”
When the party ended, Elliot and Ian went up to Elliot’s room so they could spend some time alone, because Ian had promised his mom that he would come home afterward. She didn’t want to stay in the house alone, so he agreed to return, as long as he got to spend some time alone with Elliot first.
These unusual birthday parties and weddings were becoming commonplace for us now, although we still would rather have them as we did before. The pandemic situation did not seem to be improving, and we had no idea about how long we’d have to continue doing things this way. Unfortunately, unless there was a sudden change in the way they were approaching the problem, it didn’t appear as if it would end any time soon.
I believe Thomas Paine said it best when he published the pamphlet, The American Crisis. Even though the current crisis is different from the one he was talking about, the message is still appropriate: “These are the times that try men’s souls…”
This had been a very unusual and trying past few months, and it obviously isn’t over yet. Just how long this problem may continue, only those with powers greater than mine are able to tell. I just pray that it doesn’t get any worse.
THE END of The Castaway Hotel: Next Generation – Book 4.