On Saturday, Dad’s biological children returned to the house and we spent some more time with them before they had their kids load their belongings into the cars so they could begin the journey home. They were leaving today so they would have tomorrow to rest up before they had to return to work, and we said goodbye to each one as they exited the house. We let them know that we had enjoyed seeing them again, and then we waved as they drove off.
The following day I took Holly, Hunter, and Hayden to visit their mother. After taking Julie and Alice for a walk around the building, since it was too cold to take them outside, we spent a couple of hours playing rummy and chatting with them in the lounge.
“The desserts you brought last time were delicious,” Alice told us as we were getting ready to leave. “We had one the night you left them, another on Friday night, and the final dessert last night.”
“Yes, they… were all… very good.” Julie confirmed.
“We’re glad you enjoyed them,” I responded.
After the kids gave each woman a hug and a kiss, we said goodbye and headed home.
When we arrived at the house, we helped Holly pack her belongings first, and then we helped her load everything into her car. Before she left, I gave her a word of advice.
“Just take it easy and call us when you get there,” I said as I gave her a hug and said goodbye.
“I will,” she agreed, “and Noah told me you always say that.”
“It’s because I want you kids to be safe.”
“I know, and I love you guys for being like that.”
“And we enjoyed having you home for a while, although we wish it could have been longer,” Brandon added as he also gave her a hug and said goodbye.
“And I really had a great time with all of you too. I can’t wait to see you again at Christmas.”
She then said goodbye to her brothers, Ryan, Noah, and the rest of the family, and we all went outside to wave at her as she drove away. She was returning to Dawn’s house early enough so she could get some rest before going to her first class on Monday
Dion’s birthday was a couple of days later and we honored his wishes by only having a small family party for him at the house. We did that after dinner on Tuesday, and I was surprised that he hadn’t wanted to do more, but it was definitely his choice.
Revin’s birthday was four days later, on Saturday, December 1st, and it was also the same weekend that Tristan was to spend with Revin and his mom. We had agreed when Becky asked us to have the party at our house, since her place was too small to accommodate all of us and a few of Revin’s friends. After he told her who he wanted to invite, she mailed out the invitations to his four friends and used our address to inform them where the party would be held.
When Becky first asked us to do this, we discussed some ideas with Revin to see what sort of party he wanted. A couple of his initial choices weren’t feasible, since it wasn’t cold enough to go ice skating and there wasn’t an ice rink nearby. There also wasn’t enough snow yet to go sledding, so he eventually agreed on a roller skating party instead.
The four boys arrived at the house just before 2:00, and we loaded them into our SUVs, along with our kids, and drove everyone to the roller rink. After each of the boys had rented and strapped on their roller skates, they spent the next couple of hours perfecting their skills. As soon as they started to gain a little confidence, some of them even attempted to skate backward or race, both with varying levels of success. When we eventually told them it was time to leave, they turned in the skates and put on their shoes again, and then we loaded into the SUVs and headed back to the house.
When we got there, Dad had the sheet cake on the dining room table, with two large ‘ones’ on top to indicate Revin was turning eleven. After we sang Happy Birthday to him, he made a wish and blew out the candles before Becky helped him cut the cake. While they were doing that, Dad and Pop carried in the ice cream. After we gave everyone a piece of cake and whatever ice cream they wanted, we moved to the family room to play games.
We started out with Simon Says, and I led them in the fast paced action. I quickly called out a series of activities for them to perform, most of them beginning with the phrase Simon Says, but occasionally I would slip in another suggestion without saying Simon Says first. Over time we eliminated each of the players except for one, and then he was declared the winner. The eliminations usually happened one person at a time, but there were other instances when multiple players were eliminated at the same time. We played Simon Says three times, because those eliminated early wanted another chance, and then we moved on to the next game.
This time we played Who or What Am I, and to do this I brought out a large plastic container with multiple, self-adhesive ‘Hello, my name is’ stickers inside. On each sticker was written the name of a famous person, an animal, or a familiar object. When it was the first boy’s turn, he selected a tag out of the container without pulling it all the way out. I would take it from him before he could read what was written on it, and then I would have him face away from me so I could stick it on his back.
The other boys were able to see what was written on the sticker, and the boy with it on his back would go around asking each boy a ‘yes or no’ question which they had to answer truthfully. He would continue doing this until he was able to figure out who or what he was. We continued playing this game until everyone had a turn, and some boys took a little longer than others before they figured it out, but everyone seemed to have a good time doing this.
We were just about finished playing the game a second time when one of the boy’s parents showed up to take him home. We said goodbye to him and kept playing until we finished that round, and before long each of the other boys’ parents showed up as well. We bid those boys goodbye as they left and thanked them for coming, and after they had gone we started cleaning up.
“You always seem to pull off parties that the boys think are fun and really seem to enjoy,” Becky said while we were picking up. “I’m glad you offered to do this for Revin, because I know the boys had more fun roller skating and doing this with you, than they would have had at any party I was able to put together.”
“You gave Revin this party, not us. We only helped out and allowed you to have it here so they would have more room.”
“But you helped to transport the boys back and forth to the roller rink and played the games with them.”
“Once again, we were merely helping out with the party you were having for Revin.”
“It’s nice of you to put it that way, but I know better. Thanks for being such a great friend.”
Now that all of this was behind us, Becky thanked us one more time, and then she and Revin headed home, and they took Tristan with them. Before he left, Revin had something he wanted to say.
“Thanks for doin’ this for me. It was a great party and I had a really good time. I’m really glad you let me have the party here, cuz we wouldn’t have been able to play those games at our house. It would have been too crowded.”
“You’re welcome, and like I told your mother, we were only helping out. When she asked if she could have the party here, we had no problem with saying yes or helping to drive everyone to the roller rink and then back again. You’re both part of our family and we just wanted to do whatever we could to help. In fact, we wouldn’t have had it any other way.” I said it like this so he’d know it wasn’t just us pulling this off for him and that his mom had played a big part as well.
The next three weeks were filled with pre-Christmas activities such as shopping, attending school concerts and other functions, along with attending the typical seasonal church services. During this time we also finished reading the Dragonriders of Pern trilogy to the boys and then we began reading the Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander. The boys were disappointed that we’d finished with the dragons and were leaving them behind, but they seemed to like the new series nearly as well.
Christmas fell on a Tuesday this year, and everyone who hadn’t made it for Thanksgiving managed to show up for this holiday. Frankie even brought his law-enforcement girlfriend with him, since they’d spent Thanksgiving with her family.
“This is Carolyn and we’ve been seeing each other for a while now,” he said when introducing her to everyone.
“And it hasn’t caused the two of you a problem at work?” Pop asked.
“No, but that’s because we’re not part of the same division or in the same chain of command. I’m assigned to the criminal investigation division and she’s with patrol. We met when I was investigating a crime scene that she was in charge of.”
“Were you able to solve the crime?” Brandon followed.
“Yes, we were,” Frankie answered.
“Then it seems to have worked out well then,” Pop agreed, tongue-in-cheek.
Ricky and Tiffany showed up a little later, and it was evident that Marie’s observations had been correct. Tiffany proved that she was more than capable of keeping Ricky in line, although we’d previously wondered if that was even possible. To her credit, she had evidently found a way to housebreak him.
To our surprised, Brandon’s parents also showed up for the holiday. “I didn’t think you would come, since Christmas is in the middle of the week,” Brandon stated after greeting both of them.
“We had to come and meet our new grandchildren, especially our first granddaughter,” Brenda replied. “Besides, your father is planning on retiring in March so he took some of his vacation time now.”
“We’re really glad you came,” I told them next.
“And we’re hoping you can bring the kids to visit us in Texas this summer and we promise t show you a great time,” Pat added. “I’ve saved up a little money along the way and I’d love to spend some of it spoiling our grandkids.”
“We’ll do the best we can, but it’s really difficult for us to get away, seeing we’re in charge of the entire health center as well.”
“We know, but we’d really love for you to visit us. There’s a lot we can do if you come to Texas,” Pat added.
“We know and we’ll do our best to get there,” Brandon agreed.
In the end, we enjoyed a wonderful and very Currie Christmas, and everyone seemed to have a fantastic time. On Christmas Eve, Grandpa Josh had the grandchildren watch A Christmas Carol with him, and then he read Twas the Night Before Christmas to the boys. As soon as he finished, Hayden and Hunter got to see Santa Clause peeking in the window to see if they were awake. That encouraged them to race up to their bedrooms and go to sleep, the same way that it happened every year.
Becky and Revin joined us both on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, so they also got to participate in the Currie Christmas experience. Christmas Day was filled with unwrapping presents, cleaning up the mess afterward, and then stuffing ourselves with the plentiful and very delicious Christmas dinner. Brandon and I drove to Shady Pines to pick up Julie and Alice so they could join us for Christmas dinner, and then we returned them a few hours later. I know they really appreciated that we’d done this for them, because Alice thanked us multiple times for including her as well.
On New Year’s Eve we welcomed 2019 in with another of Dad and Pop’s fireworks extravaganzas. Well, maybe it wasn’t exactly an extravaganza, but it was more than sufficient to entertain us, along with the extended family members who lived locally that came to join us, and more than a few of our neighbors. It was also a very colorful, noisy, and delightful way to ring in the New Year.
Later on New Year’s Day, Brandon and I went to pick up Julie and Alice again so they could join us for a ham and cabbage luncheon, followed by another huge assortment of desserts. It was a wonderful gathering and we enjoyed their company, and both of them thanked us several times for including them in our family celebration.
I had been taking the twins to visit Julie and Alice every Sunday since their mom was first placed in the nursing home, and Holly joined us on these visits whenever she was around, including the holidays. Our last visit happened just before she left to return to college on January 6th, but unfortunately we had to call her a few days later, on the 9th, to give her some bad news. Her mother had passed away during the night and we had the unpleasant duty of informing her about it.
When Dr. Epstein called to inform me of Julie’s death, I asked what had happened. He told me that she had suffered a myocardial infarction during the early morning hours and died from complications of the heart attack and kidney failure. He concluded that the ALS had made the effects of the heart attack worse than they otherwise might have been, and the kidney failure merely complicated an already serious situation.
When Holly returned home, she wasn’t alone. Her mother’s friend, Dawn, whom Holly had been staying with while attending college in Johnstown, came with her. Dawn told us that she did this for two reasons. First, she wanted to pay her respects to her friend, and she didn’t want Holly to make the trip alone. We thanked her for doing that and told her she was welcome to stay with us at the house, and then Holly told her she could stay with her in her room. That worked out well, because Holly didn’t have to be alone during this difficult period.
Julie’s lawyer was not only handling her estate, but he also took care of the funeral arrangements as well. This worked out well for us, because Brandon and I were able to devote all of our attention to Holly, Hayden, and Hunter. They were taking their mother’s death very hard, even though they admitted that they knew it was going to happen sooner or later, especially after her doctor had her move into the nursing home. They were just grateful that it hadn’t happened until after the holidays, because it gave them a chance to spend some quality time together. They were also able to let their mom know how much they loved her before this happened.
Tristan helped to console Hayden and Hunter, since he had gone through a similar experience a little over a year ago, and Wyatt didn’t leave their sides either. Ryan and Noah were there to comfort and console Holly, along with Dawn, which helped out a lot. Holly, Hayden, and Hunter had been far too young when their fathers died and had no memory of those experiences, so this was the first time they actually had to deal with the death of a loved one. It was just too bad that we weren’t able to delay this for a few more years.
The calling hours, funeral, and burial were all quite difficult for them, but they made it through each step with the help of the family. It wasn’t easy, but they all proved to be stronger than their ages would have indicated, and Holly returned to Johnstown the Sunday after the funeral. We were glad that Dawn was with her, because this way she didn’t have to make the trip alone, and slowly things began to return to normal.
I was glad that Julie had been able to make the various arrangements before this happened, including bringing her situation to our attention and allowing us to adopt her children. We were also grateful that she had arranged for her lawyer to handle the funeral, as well as settling her estate.
In the end, the lawyer used the money from the proceeds of the sale of her house and her insurance death benefit to pay for the funeral expenses, and then he gave us what was left. Julie had bequeathed the money to us so we could use it to take care of her children, but we divided it equally amongst the three of them. Holly would be able to dip into her share to pay for college, and we put the boys’ shares into accounts for each of them. They could use it to either pay for their education or get a start in life when they were older, just like Dad had done for us.
Brandon and I were also glad that we’d been able to spend a little more time with Julie as well, because it gave us a chance to know her better. Life doesn’t always give you the time you need or would like to have to plan for these events, so we were grateful that we’d been a part of this rare exception. Now, we would do our best to see that Julie’s children were able to lead long, happy, and productive lives as part of our family.