The following week went by quickly and now we were ready for the weekend again. After dinner on Friday, we threw a small celebration for Elliot’s birthday, because he wanted to wait and have the cake and ice cream on Sunday. Dad made cupcakes for the occasion, and after we sang Happy Birthday to Elliot, he made a wish and blew out the lone candle on his cupcake.
After we enjoyed this little treat, we gave Elliot his presents, but it’s hard to buy something for someone who already has everything he wants. That’s because he inherited quite a bit of money when his father was killed, so we had to think outside of the box when it came to his birthday and Christmas. Based on our recent experience with our own birthdays, we gave him a card with a message inside.
“What’s this?” he asked.
“It’s our offer to purchase a two-day package to Hershey Park for you, and it will include a two-night stay at the Hershey Lodge, breakfast, and tickets to the park both days. You can take Ian with you, so both of you will have to decide which two days you want to do this. As soon as you’ve selected a date, we’ll purchase the package for you.”
He was thrilled with the gift, since it would give him a chance to be alone with Ian for a couple of days, so we felt we’d made a wise choice.
Once the others had given him their gifts as well, Brandon and I spent some time with the boys as they interacted with the puppies. We were pleased to see they were making some progress with teaching Dobby and Flash how to ‘sit’ and ‘shake’ and had even accomplished more than we’d anticipated. It was definitely a step in the right direction.
The potty training, on the other hand, wasn’t going quite as smoothly. Much of the lack of success had to do with the puppies’ ability to control their bladders, because it would be another couple of months before they’d be able to do that. For now, however, we dealt with the occasional accidents and the boys were very good about catching the puppies and taking them outside to do their business. They were also rewarding the puppies when they peed or pooped in the grass, and they picked up the feces afterward. It was a good sign and the boys were making progress, but we knew there was still a long way to go.
After the boys put the puppies in the carrier for the night, they went upstairs to shower and get ready for bed, and then we went up to tuck them in. During the week we started reading a chapter from the book Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume to the younger boys before they went to sleep. It all started unexpectedly, because when I was doing my chores the previous weekend I came across the “Fudge” box set that we’d purchased for one of the other boys when he was younger. We started with the first book in the series, which got its name from one of the characters in the story. It’s a cute tale we thought these three would find interesting, and Tristan heard us reading it to them and asked to join us for these sessions as well, so now he sat in with us most nights as well.
Doing this allowed us to continue a tradition Julie had started with the twins, but had to discontinue when she was no longer capable of reading to them, due to her illness. The twins seemed pleased that we were doing this with them now, and Brandon and I enjoyed it since it gave us a chance to spend a little more quality time with the boys. It was now becoming a nightly ritual, and as soon as we finished reading the chapter, we kissed each one on the forehead, wished them sweet dreams, and tucked them in before we turned off the light.
When Brandon and I got home from work on Saturday, we had lunch with the family and then went outside with the boys so I could record a video of them playing with the puppies. Doing this would allow me to keep a promise I’d made to them, and we would show the video to their mom and Alice when we visited them the next day. The boys also brought the puppies closer to me while I was filming them so I could get a nice shot of each one, and then they raced around the yard so the puppies would chase after them.
It was after 8:00 that evening when Elliot’s phone rang, and he went into the other room to answer it. When he returned, he let us know who had called.
“It was Ian, and he was calling me from his parents’ car. He wanted to let me know they were on their way home now.”
“So his parents drove to the airport to pick him up?” Brandon asked.
“No, they drove to Pittsburgh a couple of days ago and caught a flight to California so they could see him graduate, and then they all flew back together. They had left their car in the long-term parking lot at the airport, and now they’re driving home.”
“I’m glad he made it back safely and you’ll be seeing him soon,” Brandon responded.
“Me too, and I invited him to dinner and my birthday party tomorrow, but he said his parents want him to have dinner at home. He said he’ll come for the party, though, so I told him I’ll pick him up at 7:45, because we were having the party at 8:00.” Although Elliot didn’t mention it, I imagine he also advised Ian to plan on spending the night.
After the boys took their showers, we went up to read them another chapter before we tucked them into bed. I have to admit that even Brandon and I found the story interesting and humorous, while at the same time we were hoping it didn’t give the boys any ideas about mimicking some of the antics of the characters in the book. When the chapter ended, we kissed each of them on the forehead and wished them pleasant dreams before we left the room, and then we went to say goodnight to the others.
In the morning, Brandon and I were surprised that we didn’t have to wake the younger boys this time. They woke up on their own, came downstairs, let the puppies out of the carrier, fed them, and took them outside. In fact, it even seemed as if they were enjoying the puppies so much that they looked forward to doing this with them, so it was working out even better than we’d hoped.
After the boys washed up afterward and grabbed a bite to eat, we all got ready to go to church. We picked up Becky, Revin, and Tristan on the way, since it was Tristan’s turn to stay with them, and then we headed to the church. It was another typical Sunday morning for us, and once the service ended we went to the diner for brunch.
“By the way, Becky, you and Revin are invited to join us on Wednesday for our Fourth of July cookout,” I told her while we were eating.
“That sounds wonderful. What can I bring?”
“We’ve got what we need to make the potato and macaroni salads, and I’ve purchased the meat for the grill,” Dad responded, “but you could make a three-bean salad or bring a watermelon.”
“I’ll do both. Who else is coming?”
“The usual crowd, which means everyone who lives close by,” Pop answered.
“Uncle Steve is bringing the corn so we can have corn-on-the-cob too,” Brandon added.
“And Aunt Mary is making a couple of apple pies and Aunt Sally is baking a cake,” Trey followed.
“So I don’t think anyone will go home hungry,” Dion concluded.
“Then it sounds like it will be a wonderful time,” Becky agreed.
After we finished eating, we dropped Becky and Revin off at their house, and then the rest of us went home. Once we’d all changed out of our church clothes, I told Holly and the twins to hop in the car so I could take them to visit their mom. Once again, Brandon chose to stay behind so he could work on his chores while I was driving them to the nursing home.
As soon as we got to Shady Pines, the twins led the way to Julie’s room, since they remembered the way from the last time we were there. As soon as we said hello to Julie and Alice, the twins began teasing me to show the video of them with the puppies, so I let Julie view it first.
”They are… really cute,” she told the boys after watching it. “You both… seem to… have fun… playing with… them.”
“We do,” Hunter agreed.
“We like the puppies a lot,” Hayden followed.
“Do you… play with… them too?” Julie asked Holly.
“I mostly just pet them, but I enjoy watching the puppies chase the boys around the yard.”
While Julie and her children were chatting, I took my phone over so I could show Alice the video. “My uncle had one of those dogs when I was younger, and I enjoyed playing with it too.”
“Yes, beagles can be a lot of fun, especially for a child,” I agreed, and she nodded. “Do you have any family in the area?”
“No, I was an only child and my husband and I didn’t have any children. My husband died a few years ago in a traffic accident, and I don’t have any relatives that live around here. I have a couple of cousins, but they live out of state.”
“Do they ever visit you?”
“They have, but it’s a long trip for them to make and they obviously can’t stay here when they visit.”
“Yes, that would be a little awkward, so you can join us when we come to visit Julie.”
“That’s very nice of you, and I appreciate you doing this.”
After a while, we offered to take Julie and Alice outside again, and they were more than eager to go with us. “Can I push mom this time?” Hunter asked.
“Yeah, let us do it and I’ll push Alice,” Hayden concurred.
“Would that be ok with the two of you?” I asked Julie and Alice next, and they both nodded in agreement. “Ok, but only if you promise to be really careful and don’t try to go too fast.”
“Yeah, we promise,” they replied in perfect unison. I think only twins could do it that precisely.
Once again, we took Julie and Alice for a walk around the lovely area behind the nursing home, and then we sat down to chat with them as we all enjoyed the beautiful day. The twins got up and left us at one point and started chasing a squirrel that had been foolish enough to scamper across the grass while we were there. The squirrel ran away from them and climbed a nearby tree to escape, and of course there was never any chance the boys would actually catch it.
Eventually, Julie announced that she was tired again and wanted to go back to her room. We wheeled them both inside, but this time I didn’t offer to help Julie get into bed. Alice had explained to me earlier why Julie had turned down my offer the week before, and it was because she was afraid I didn’t have experience doing it and thought I might drop her. It was probably better that the aides did it for her anyway, since they knew how to do it safely.
We said goodbye to both of them, and Holly and her brothers gave their mother a hug and a kiss before we left the room. “We’ll see you both again next Sunday,” I said just before I walked out the door.
“Thank you,” Julie said before I disappeared.
“And thank you for including me too,” Alice added.
When we got to the car, I decided to ask the kids a question. “I hope you’re not disappointed that this visit was shorter.”
“No, it’s just nice to get to see Mom every week,” Holly answered.
“Yeah, it’s not your fault we couldn’t stay longer,” Hayden added.
“It’s cuz Mom got tired,” Hunter confirmed.
“I know, and I just wanted to make sure you understood and weren’t disappointed.”
“Nah, we’re fine,” Hayden agreed.
I drove back to the house and they thanked me again for taking them before they headed off to do their own thing. I went to find Brandon, and he asked how the visit went.
“It was very nice, but Julie got tired again. I also discovered that Alice doesn’t have any family in the area.”
“Then we’ll have to fill that void for her when we go to visit Julie. I think I’ll go with you next Sunday.”
“That’s a good idea and it won’t be a problem, because the kids can all fit in the backseat.”
“Yes, the twins are small enough that the three of them should have plenty of room back there.”
“What’s been going on here?”
“Not much. I did the laundry, but I had to stop while Elliot was taking his shower. I forgot the washing machine was on the same hot water supply line as the bathroom he was using. I guess he got a cold blast while I was doing the whites.”
“Ouch, that can be a shock to the body, but didn’t he shower last night?”
“Yes, but he was showering again before he picked up Ian. I think he wanted to be squeaky clean for the private birthday party they’d be having in his room later.”
“Ah, yes, the celebration of the end of several months of being apart, since Ian didn’t come home for Christmas.”
“Yes, I’m sure they’ve got a lot of making up, and making out, to do.”
When I went to check on the kids, Tristan and the twins had just fed the puppies and were taking them outside. Holly was in her room making more visual aids for her daycare group, and Ryan was up in his room talking on the phone with Owen. I just said hello to him and didn’t stay long, because they seemed to be planning what they were going to do while he was there. When I went to find Noah, he didn’t seem to be anywhere in the house.
“Do you know where Noah is?” I asked Brandon when I got back to the first floor.
“Yes, he asked if he could spend some time with his friends, and I told him that would be fine as long as he was back in time for dinner.”
“Ah, yes, the freedom that comes with having his own car.”
“Hey, it saves us gas money,” Brandon joked.
We all came together again for dinner later, and while we were eating Dad and Pop asked Holly and the twins about their visit to the nursing home. “So how was your mother today?” Dad asked.
“She’s doing good,” Holly answered, “but she got tired again.”
“And we got to push her and Alice this time,” Hunter added.
“And we showed her the video that Dad took of us and the puppies,” Hayden offered.
“Did she like that?” Pop wanted to know.
“Yeah, she thought the puppies were cute,” Hunter answered.
“And we chased a squirrel while we were there. It was kinda like when the puppies chase us,” Hayden followed.
“Did you catch the squirrel?” Pop followed.
“Nah, it was too fast,” Hayden responded.
“And it climbed a tree,” Hunter chimed in.
“Yes, they’re good at doing that, but I’m sure your mom enjoyed watching you run after it,” Dad stated.
“Yes, she was laughing at them,” Holly confirmed.
“And what did you do while your brothers were chasing the squirrel,” Pop asked.
“I was telling Mom about what it was like living here and about what I was doing at my job.”
“Then it seems as if you all had a nice visit,” Dad observed.
“Yes, it was wonderful to spend time with her again,” Holly agreed. “And Alice is really nice too.”
A short time after we finished eating, Elliot left to pick up Ian, and about thirty minutes later they arrived at the house. “Sorry, but I stopped in to say hi to Ian’s parents,” Elliot apologized.
“It’s not a problem,” Brandon assured him. “How have you been, Ian?”
“I’m doing well, especially now that I’ve finished my bachelor degree and won’t be so far away from Elliot this fall.”
“Yes, we heard that you’ll be attending Harvard Medical School,” I concurred.
“Yes, and even though we won’t exactly be together, Harvard’s a lot closer to Yale than Stanford is, so we should be able to spend a little more time together.”
“And maybe you’ll get to come home for the holidays this year too.”
“Yes, but I’m glad I stayed in California last Christmas. The boy I’d been spending time with died before I would have gotten back there, and I was with him when he took his last breath.”
“Damn, that was awfully nice of you,” Trey told him.
“I know we’re not supposed to get emotionally attached to the patients, but he was a really sweet thirteen-year-old and I became close to both him and his parents.”
“I’m sure that must have made them feel a little better as well, having you there,” Dion stated.
“Yes, we talked a lot, especially when their son was asleep.”
“How are you going to deal with losing a patient when you’re a doctor?” Noah asked.
“I’ll be a cardiologist, so my patients will most likely be older and it won’t be as hard to accept. It’s a lot easier to cope with the death of someone who has led a fairly full and active life, rather than one who is just getting started and should have many years still left to enjoy.”
“That’s very true,” I agreed. “We’ve had to deal with that when we lost Brent and Cody.”
Everyone remained silent for a few minutes as we recalled those times, and then Dad and Pop went out to get the cake and ice cream. When they returned, Dad set the cake in front of Elliot and I lit the pair of deuces on top of the cake, announcing he had just turned twenty-two, and then we sang Happy Birthday to him.
“Make a wish and blow out the candles,” Brandon urged when we finished singing.
“I already got my wish,” he stated as he gave Ian a hug.
“Make another one then,” I suggested.
He made his wish and blew out the candles, and then we had him make the first cut in the cake. Brandon then finished cutting it for him and placed the slices on a plate before I passed them to Dad and Pop so they could add the ice cream. While we were doing that, Elliot showed Ian the card we’d given him.
“It’s for a two night, two day trip to Hershey Park, and we just have to decide when we want to go there.”
“So it’s for both of us?”
“Yes, in a way it is. You weren’t around for your birthday in February, so we decided to give Elliot something that you would both enjoy together,” Brandon explained.
“We thought you could use the time to become reacquainted and unwind after studying for so long and so hard,” I added.
“Yes, it sounds great. Are there any restrictions on when we can do this?”
“Only if the Hershey Lodge is booked up on the dates you select, so the quicker you choose a date, the sooner we can buy the package to ensure you’ll get the dates you want,” I offered. “I assume the park will probably be busy all summer long, but most likely even more so on the weekends, so it would probably be best if you selected two weekdays to do this.”
“Yeah, we’ll look at a calendar later and let you know what we decide,” Elliot confirmed.
“And Ian,” I continued, “you and your parents are invited to join us on the Fourth of July. We’re going to have a cookout here at the house.”
“Thank you and I’ll be sure to tell them tomorrow night.”
After we finished the cake and ice cream, the younger boys got the puppies to show Ian next, and then Elliot and Ian disappeared. Brandon and I took the rest of the kids to the family room to see if we could find a movie to watch, but we also did this so the other boys wouldn’t bother Elliot and Ian. We assumed they were being intimate and we didn’t want the other boys to disturb them.
When the movie ended, the younger boys went to take their showers, and then Brandon and I went up to read the next chapter to them before they fell asleep. When we finished, we kissed each one as we tucked him in, and then we wished them sweet dreams. We went around to do the same thing with the older kids next, although we skipped saying goodnight to Elliot and Ian. Another hectic weekend had come to an end.