A couple of days later, Dad contacted the medium who was willing to come to the house to remove Hubbard and Abernathy. The medium started out by asking Dad several questions about the house and the history between the family and Hubbard and Abernathy before they were killed by police. He also wanted to know about our religious affiliations, most likely so he wouldn’t do anything that might offend our beliefs. After all of his questions had been answered, he told Dad he would arrive on Thursday, January 4th.
With the appointment scheduled, we turned our attention to New Year’s Eve. We’d already reserved the small banquet room at our favorite restaurant for the evening, so now all that was remaining was to focus on what we were going to do after we returned home. The festivities at the restaurant and the house would only include those living in the area, because the others had chosen not to attend. They’d just been here and didn’t want to make another round trip just for a one night celebration, which we understood.
Dad, Pop, the O’Haras, Dion, Trey, Brandon, and I sat down to discuss how we were going to celebrate at the house and quickly came to an agreement. Dad, Dion, and Trey volunteered to procure the items required to pull it off, since they weren’t working over the holiday. With that settled, we all began looking forward to bringing in the New Year.
It snowed again overnight, so after Dad snowblowed the sidewalk and driveway he asked Elliot to go to Ace Hardware and pick up a few bags of Halite (rock salt). He felt it would be needed seeing more snow was being forecast before the weekend and he wanted to make sure that no one fell and got hurt when they came to the house. As soon as Elliot agreed to do this, Dad told them to take the SUV, since it handled better on the wintry roads. Before he ran the errand, though, Elliot asked Noah to go with him and help carry the bags.
While picking up the Halite, Elliot noticed that Ace had an old fashion wooden toboggan for sale. After thinking about it briefly, he felt his younger brothers would have a lot of fun with it, so he purchased it as well. If you’re not familiar with this item, it’s a long wooden sled that will seat several individuals at the same time, so he and the boys would be able to fit on it together. After they got back to the house, Elliot and Noah carried the bags of Halite inside, and then they told the younger boys to put on their winter gear because they were going sledding.
Needless to say, the younger group was thrilled and eagerly put on warm clothing and winter jackets, as did Elliot and Noah. The boys became even more excited once they saw Elliot and Noah taking the toboggan out of the SUV, with the exception of Tristan. He had never seen anything like the toboggan before and wasn’t quite sure how it was going to work.
“So we’re gonna use that to go sledding?” he asked as he looked skeptically at Elliot and waited for an answer.
“Yes, because we’ll be able to sit one behind the other and ride down the hill at the same time.”
Seeing Tristan was satisfied with Elliot’s answer, Ryan helped Noah carry the toboggan to a nearby hill that had enough snow for what they intended to do. Elliot sat down at the front of the toboggan, just behind the curved nose, and Noah took his place at the rear with the rest of the boys squeezed in between them. Since most of the boys were small, they all fit on it quite nicely, and then they had a wild and swift ride to the bottom of the hill. Seeing they had so much fun they did it several more times and switched places so they weren’t sitting in the same spot on every run.
After they grew too cold to continue, they returned to the house, and they were laughing, joking around, and covered in snow as they went inside. “That was a blast,” Tristan told Dad as soon as they walked through the door.
“Yeah, it was, and we wiped out once when Benny was in the front,” Joshie teased.
“That wasn’t my fault,” Benny objected. “We just hit a rough spot and the toboggan went sideways.”
“Yeah, and we all went flying,” Ryan quipped.
“Yep, but it was really fun,” Wyatt countered, letting the others know that he didn’t think the incident had been a bad thing.
“And I’m glad it happened,” Elliot concurred. “Doing those types of things aren’t as much fun unless you wipeout once or twice.”
After thinking about it quickly, the others agreed that wiping out had made the remaining trips down the hill more exciting, because it had added an element of danger.
“I’ve got to admit that it almost happened when I was in the front too,” Noah admitted, “but somehow the toboggan straightened out again and we only got jerked around a bit.”
“Yeah, I remember that,” Tristan confirmed.
“I’m glad you had fun,” Dad stated, “but now you’d all better go change out of those wet clothes. The snow you brought inside with you is starting to melt and leaving behind a mess on the floors, and you shouldn’t continue wearing those wet clothes because it might cause you to get sick.”
The boys did as he requested and headed to their rooms, and as soon as they put on different garments they came downstairs again. Some of the boys opted to go to the family room and challenge one another on the PlayStation, while the remaining boys went out to the rec room so they could shoot pool, play air hockey, or take turns at table tennis. Brenda and Patrick eventually went out to join the group in the rec room and were soon engaged in heated competitions with their grandsons. Dad said they continued doing those things all afternoon.
“Damn, I didn’t feel old until I spent time keeping up with those boys,” Patrick wheezed when he came up to us on his way back from the rec room.
“Yes, they’re quite a handful, with lots of energy,” Brandon agreed.
“I just hope your mother is holding up better than I am, because she’s still back there.”
“In that case, we’ll go check on her.” Brandon stated, and then he and I headed to the rec room. We found Grandma Brenda playing air hockey against Tristan.
“How are you doing, Mom?” Brandon asked as soon as she scored and there was a slight break in the action.
“I’m doing fine, but you’d better go see how your father is doing. He didn’t look very good when I saw him last.”
“Yes, we know. We just left him. So how come you’re doing so much better than he is?”
“Because I’m using my brain and choosing activities that aren’t quite as demanding. For example, when we went outside with the boys yesterday I made snow angels with them, which didn’t take a great deal of effort. Your father, on the other hand, made snowballs and threw 20 or 30 of them at a tree with the boys before chasing them around the yard.”
“Ok, I can see why that would tire him out, but there’s nothing in this room that’s quite as demanding.”
“Normally I’d agree with you, but he chose to play ping pong against Ryan and Noah and they’re pretty good. They had their grandfather running from side to side chasing shots, and he’s not used to that much physical activity. I merely played pool and air hockey against the boys, which was much easier.”
“Ok, now I understand. I’ll go check on Dad to make sure he’s all right. I’ll take Danny with me, just in case he needs CPR.”
Brenda giggled. “Good idea but let me know before you call the undertaker.”
Patrick appeared to have recuperated after getting a drink and then sitting down to chat with Dad while dinner was being prepared. After we finished eating, we agreed to watch a movie with the boys, and when it ended Brandon’s parents joined us as we tucked the boys in and said goodnight.
When we got home from work on Thursday, we were told that the boys had talked Brandon’s parents into going tobogganing with them. Brenda and Patrick had taken turns switching places with Noah and Elliot, but they never did it at the same time. They also didn’t change places with the same boy every time to ensure that they got to ride down the hill with all of their grandsons, which included Joshie and Wyatt. Brenda and Patrick didn’t get to ride down as often with Elliot and Noah, but that didn’t seem to bother their oldest grandsons, and we were told that everyone had a good time.
After changing quickly, we found Brandon’s parents sitting in the family room and noticed that Patrick looked beat, while Brenda appeared to be fine. We assumed that she’d found an easier way to do things again, so we decided to ask how she had managed it this time.
“Ok, so what did Dad do today that you didn’t?” Brandon wanted to know.
“We went tobogganing with the boys, but when your dad rode down the hill he would pull the toboggan back to the top again afterward, while I talked the boys into doing it for me. It was hard enough just walking up the hill without lugging something behind me, but your dad apparently never figured it out. Either that or he just wanted to prove how macho he was, but he did it at his own expense.” Brandon and I couldn’t help but laugh at how his mother had handled the various situations over the past few days.
The rest of the night was just like the previous one, because we took pity on Brandon’s father and chose to do something that would be a little easier on him. We all watched another movie with the boys and then we put them to bed, but not before the boys got a few extra hugs from their grandparents and kisses from their grandmother.
To our surprise, we learned the boys had talked Brandon’s parents into going tobogganing with them again on Friday, but Patrick didn’t look as bad when we saw him after we returned home.
“You know, if I stayed here a little longer I might actually get back into shape, because the boys have put me through one hell of a workout routine,” he joked as we were sitting down to dinner.
“What doesn’t kill you will make you stronger,” his wife quipped before rolling her eyes and shaking her head at her husband.
After we finished the meal, we decided to go to the cinema complex this evening. Everyone agreed to join us, including Dad and Pop, so we ended up taking three vehicles. It was the only way we could get everyone there without renting a bus.
When going inside, we quickly discussed our current choices, and after some give and take we ended up choosing Star Wars: the Last Jedi. I would have preferred seeing The Shape of Water, but it was rated R, so that was out of the question. Personally, I felt I’d already seen more than enough Star Wars movies, but I gave in since it was what the boys wanted to see. They all seemed to enjoy it too, and in the end that’s all that really mattered.
We stopped and picked up a couple dozen doughnuts on the way home, and then Dad and Brandon made hot chocolate to go with it. After we finished our little snack, we sent the boys upstairs to get ready for bed, and then we went up to tuck them in and say goodnight.
Around midmorning on Saturday, after we’d all eaten breakfast together, Brandon’s parents asked to use the SUV so they could take the boys to the local ice skating rink. Fortunately, the place had rental skates available, because the boys didn’t have their own pair, and then the O’Hara’s did their best to teach them how to skate. Some of the boys had either skated or rollerbladed before and took to it like a duck to water, but Tristan, Benny, and Wyatt weren’t as lucky as the others. I was told the trio fell down more than a few times, but they still seemed to have enjoyed the experience. That point was driven home when those three told us about what they’d done after we got home from work.
“My butt’s still bruised from fallin’ down on the ice so many times,” Tristan told us while rubbing his behind. “Do you have anything I can put on it?”
“Of course. I’ll give you an ice pack.”
“But ice is what gave me the bruises,” Tristan objected looking confused.
“That may be, but it will numb the pain and keep your butt from swelling,” I countered, although Tristan didn’t appear convinced.
“It was like tapin’ knives to the bottom of my shoes and then tryin’ to run,” Benny explained. “I didn’t do very good and fell a lot too, but I mostly bruised my knees and arms.”
“An ice pack will work on those as well,” I assured him.
“I held Grandma Brenda’s hand and she didn’t let me fall as much as they did,” Wyatt offered.
If you hadn’t noticed, the O’Haras treated Joshie and Wyatt as if they were their grandsons as well, and that pair called them grandma and grandpa the same as the others.
“Then I guess you’re the only one who won’t need an ice pack,” I joked, as the older pair made faces at me.
Brandon and I were looking forward to having a couple of days off from work and being able to relax for a while, but after lunch our sons announced they had other plans for us. They wanted Dion, Trey, Brandon, and I to go tobogganing with them, since they’d spent the morning with their grandparents.
“But I’m sure Grandma Brenda and Grandpa Pat still want to spend more time with you,” Brandon countered hoping to wiggle out of doing this.
“No, the boys want to spend time with their dads,” Patrick chimed in looking relieved. “You go ahead, because we’ve spent plenty of time with them already.”
Brenda merely smiled, but that was enough to tell us that it was our turn in the barrel. After talking it over with Dion and Trey we agreed, and then we all went to change into warmer clothing.
We followed the boys as they carried the toboggan to the same hill they’d used before, but it was obvious that we weren’t going to all fit on the toboggan at the same time. After talking it over, we finally agreed to ride down as a family unit, but since Brandon and I had more sons than Dion and Trey, we were going to be more than a little crowded. That’s when Ryan offered a solution,
“I’ll go down with Uncle Dion, Uncle Trey, Joshie, and Wyatt.”
“Are you sure?” Brandon asked.
“Yeah, it’s not a big deal since we’re all really close. Joshie and Wyatt are like my brothers too, and Uncle Dion and Uncle Trey are like two more dads to us.”
“And I’ll switch with Ryan so he can go with you guys as well,” Noah offered.
“In that case, I think we’re all set,” I agreed.
During the first ride with four of our sons, it was a straight shot to the bottom of the hill. Unfortunately, we hit a fairly big bump along the way and the toboggan momentarily went airborne. When it landed, Brandon fell off the back as the rest of us continued to the bottom of the hill. He was still sitting in the snow and laughing as we pulled the toboggan back to the top, so I helped him up.
“Hey, I thought I was the diver in this family,” Elliot teased when we reached Brandon, “but that wasn’t a bad half-gainer.”
“Indeed, complete with a mouthful of snow,” Brandon agreed. “I’m surprised I didn’t chip a tooth, or possibly worse in the process.”
After we handed the toboggan off to the next group, they took their turn flying down the hill. I’m not sure if Ryan did it on purpose, but his weight suddenly shifted to one side and caused the toboggan to flip, sending the others flying in all directions. No one was hurt, but they were all covered in snow as they walked up the hill to join us.
“What happened?” Tristan wanted to know.
“I caused it, but it wasn’t my fault,” Ryan admitted. “Joshie stuck his cold glove under my jacket and shirt and touched my bare shin. It shocked me because it was so cold and I tried to pull away, and that’s what caused the toboggan to roll over and sent us sprawling.”
“I wondered what caused that to happen,” Dion stated as he finished brushing the snow off his clothing. “Seeing Joshie was the culprit behind what happened we’ll have him sit at the very front next time, so he can’t do the same thing to someone else.”
“Awww, Dad. You’re no fun,” Joshie whined with a huge grin on his face.
Each group got to take several trips down the hill, and then they’d make the long walk to the top again, except for the last trip down. We let Tristan and Benny pull the toboggan up the hill this time, and then they got to ride down the hill again with the other group, so they got one more ride than anyone else.
We all had a great time doing this and got quite a work out from walking up the hill multiple times. When we got back to the house, we changed quickly and did whatever we could to warm up again, which included holding steaming cups of hot chocolate between our hands while sipping it slowly. Dad and Pop had everything set up to make the hot chocolate as soon as we returned, so we only had to pour the hot water into the mugs when we came back to join them.
“Well it doesn’t look like there are any broken bones or missing teeth,” Dad joked as he surveyed the mob standing in front of him.
“Which is a miracle,” Trey responded, “because we had a couple of close calls.”
The boys then filled in both sets of grandparents about the various things that had happened, exaggerating as boys tend to do. Their recounting of events was quite humorous, though, and gave all of us a few good belly laughs.
The rest of Saturday was fairly calm as the boys entertained each other and the adults made sure everything was set for the following evening. There were dress shirts to iron, desserts to be made, and party favors and other items to be organized before the boys showered and we tucked them in bed.
Sunday morning we got up and headed to church en mass, and after attending Sunday school and then listening to the sermon, we went out for brunch. “I really like that you do this after church,” Tristan stated as we waited for our food to be delivered. “I never got to do anything like this with my mom, but I really like doin’ it now.”
“And we do too,” Dad agreed.
“It gives us something to look forward to after sitting in church for so long,” Pop quipped.
“And then we only have to fix dinner on Sunday, because this takes care of the other two meals,” Trey added.
“But I still had cereal before I got dressed,” Tristan countered.
“Yes, we all usually grab a little something first, but no one has to spend time cooking a large breakfast for everyone,” Brandon pointed out.
“Ok, I see now,” Tristan agreed.
“And today you don’t have to fix dinner either, seeing we’re going out to eat later,” I chimed in.
“That’s true, so I hope this tides everyone over until then,” Dion stated.
We didn’t do much for the rest of the day, and even had the younger boys take a nap so they wouldn’t be as likely to fall asleep before midnight. We had a lot planned for the night and were fairly certain that no one would want to miss any of it.
We let the boys have a snack when they woke up, and then we had them start getting dressed at 7:00, since our reservation was for 8:00. They all wore their suits again, since this was a fancy establishment and a major event. As soon as everyone was ready, we drove three vehicles to the restaurant.
After entering and announcing who we were, we were led back to the small banquet room. “You mean we got this all to ourselves?” Tristan gasped when we walked into the empty room.
“We sure do,” Brandon agreed. “There will be others joining us too, including many of the same people you met at Christmas, so we’ll fill this place up by ourselves.”
Before long the others began to arrive too. Over the next twenty minutes we greeted Aunt Sally, the Shays, Vinnie and Kevin, Jessie, Richard (Little Ricky), Dustin and Katie, Cole and Beth, and our brother Pat and his girlfriend, Tori. The last pair had driven here from Pittsburgh earlier in the day and would drive back tomorrow after lunch, but Pat was willing to do this so we could meet Tori. We hadn’t met her yet, because she wasn’t able to come with Pat for Christmas. She was celebrating with her family instead, but promised to come with him for New Year’s Eve, seeing it was important to Pat that she met the family. She was quite attractive and very easy going, which made it fairly obvious why Pat was smitten with her. He also had something to tell us, and it seemed quite important that he did it right away.
“I wanted all of you to meet each other, because when I got home after Christmas I asked Tori to marry me and she agreed. We haven’t set a date yet, but the wedding will be in Pittsburgh and I’ll let you know when as soon as we’ve ironed out the details.”
We all congratulated them, and then we chatted with everyone both before and during the meal. Dad also made sure everybody knew we’d be going to the house after leaving the restaurant, because he had much more planned. Even though he never explained what those other things were, everyone eagerly agreed that they’d be there.
After we finished our meals we asked the waiters to leave the door to the room open so we could hear the quartet that was playing in the main dining area. It allowed those who wanted to get up and dance a chance to do so, and most did, and I was pleased to see that Richard had asked Aunt Sally to dance with him during this time.
When we finally agreed that we were ready to leave, a small caravan followed us back to the house. As soon as we got inside and had taken off our coats, Dad announced he would make coffee and hot chocolate to go along with the desserts. We got to choose between pumpkin pie, cheesecake, and chocolate cake, so everyone found something they liked. The boys devoured the chocolate cake, but the adults were fine with one of the other selections.
Dion and Trey also passed out the party hats and noise makers to everyone, and Brandon turned on the TV so we could watch the various New Year’s Eve celebrations. The sound of horns and noise makers filled the air as the boys prepared for the big event, and as it got closer to midnight Dad had all of us put our coats on and go outside for a special treat.
Pennsylvania had just passed a law that made the sale of fireworks legal, so Dad picked up a few special items for tonight. Those combined with the box full that Nick and Shannon had brought with them when they drove up from Atlanta for Christmas would give us quite a show. Dad stared at his watch as he led the countdown to midnight, and then the rest of us watched as Dad and Pop set off a variety of aerial rockets. The sound of the booms and popping noises brought some of the neighbors outside to enjoy the displays with us, and once the last of the fireworks had faded into the night air, we went inside again.
After wishing each other a Happy New Year and exchanging kisses with our mates, as well as with the various ladies in attendance, things began to wind down. Over the next half hour those living nearby returned to their homes, and once they were gone the rest of us turned in for the night. It had been a long and wonderful day, but now it was time to get some rest.