I recommended that Wyatt stay home from school on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday that week, and then I cleared him to return on Thursday. Dad took care of him during the day and allowed Wyatt to come downstairs until it was time for the other boys to return home, and then he’d have him return to his bedroom. Trey would take over as soon as he got to the house and he spent much of the evening sitting by Wyatt’s side.
Brandon and I were busy making sure we packed a suitcase to take with us when we went to work on Friday, because we’d be leaving for Penn State as soon as we closed our offices. We’d already reserved a hotel room for the two nights, and Noah had indicated that he wanted to stay with us, so we made sure we had a room with two beds.
I read to the boys from the hallway while Wyatt was still using his bedroom, and then on Thursday we were all together in the twins’ bedroom again. That was also the night that we read the final chapter of Dragonsinger to the boys.
“What’s the next book?” Hunter asked as soon as I closed the book.
“It’s called Dragondrums and it follows what happened in the other two books we’ve read, but this one focuses on a young boy name Piemur.”
“But who is gonna read it to us?” Hayden followed. “Aren’t you going to go visit Noah?”
“Yes, and Wyatt’s dad has agreed to do this while we’re gone.”
Now that everything had been cleared up, we bid them pleasant dreams, kissed each one on the forehead, and went down to chat with the others. As we sat down at the table, I handed a book to Dion.
“We finished the other book tonight, so you can start this one with them tomorrow night.”
“Ok, not a problem.”
“Are you sure you’ll be able to handle Ryan’s friends as they work on the Haunted House?”
“Of course, and if I have any questions I’ll just ask Ryan. From what you’ve told us, you and he have been making most of the decisions.”
“Good point. Oh, and Dad, I told Julie you’d be taking the boys to see her on Sunday.”
“Ok, that’s good to know, but we’ve got everything covered here so just go and get ready for your trip.”
We took his advice and went to do that, and we were all set by the time we went to bed.
We got up and had breakfast with everyone in the morning, and then I told the boys to behave as we said goodbye to them before we left for work. When I got to my office, the staff seemed to be in a very upbeat mood, which I attributed to not having to work a half day on Saturday. When I met up with Brandon at lunch he reported the same thing about his staff, and the day seemed to fly by.
As soon as we saw our last patients of the day, we changed quickly in our offices before we headed out to the car, and then we took off. We didn’t even stop along the way, because we told Noah we’d pick him up and take him out to eat when we first got there, and Brandon called him as we got close to the campus to make sure he was ready.
“Ok, he’s waiting for us at his dorm,” Brandon told me when he finished talking to Noah.
“That’s good, because I’m starving and don’t want to wait too long before we eat. Did he make the reservation for us like we asked?”
“Yes, and we should get there with a little time to spare.”
Noah raced out to join us when we pulled up in front of his dorm, and he was carrying an overnight satchel. After we exchanged greetings, he directed us on the shortest route to the restaurant. We arrived about ten minutes before our reservation and the table was open, so we were seated immediately. It didn’t take long before we were ready to order.
“So what’s on the agenda for this evening,” I asked after our server left the table.
“I knew you wouldn’t get here until late so I didn’t plan anything for tonight. The only thing going on that you might be interested in was an acapella concert, but I thought we’d just spend the night together.”
“That works for us,” Brandon agreed. “What about tomorrow?”
“We’re going to meet in the common area of my residence hall with my roommate and two other guys that live on our floor. They’re going to have their parents with them too, and as soon as you guys get acquainted we’ll go to the Family Tailgate Party together.”
“Are your friends aware that your parents are a gay couple?”
“Yeah, and they’re all cool with it.”
“So you told them about us?” I asked. It’s not that it was a big deal, but I was just surprised that it had been a topic of discussion.
“Yeah, I showed them some photos I took at Uncle Pat’s wedding and they asked some questions, so I told them whatever they wanted to know.”
“Then I guess this should go ok then,” Brandon agreed.
Noah then filled us in about his classes, his roommate, and how things had been going for him. He admitted his classes were a lot harder than high school, so he was spending a great deal more time studying, but he was holding his own.
“Are there any sporting events scheduled for tomorrow?”
“The football team is away and I’m not really interested in the other things that will be going on. I’m not even sure if the football team has a day or night game, but if it’s a day game my guess would be that they’ll probably have it on during the tailgate party.”
After we finished our meal we went to the hotel to check in, and then we spent the rest of the evening learning about his professors and classes. Eventually we decided to call it a night and showered before going to bed.
When we awoke in the morning, we went out to have breakfast first, and then we went to Noah’s residence hall, since he’d corrected us that it was no longer called a dorm. He led us to the common area and two of the others and their parents were already there, and the last boy and his parents arrived a couple of minutes later.
After the introductions were completed, we began to find out a little more about the other parents. One of the fathers worked in banking, another was a lawyer, and the last was an orthopedic surgeon. That gave the two of us something to talk about, and Brandon was busy talking to the banker’s wife. It turned out that she was a dental hygienist and wanted to hear about Brandon’s pediatric dental practice.
We were all getting along quite well when one of the boys asked for our attention. “We’d better get going if we plan on attending the Family Tailgate Party.”
We did, so we all headed over to the Robeson Center for this event. It was crowded and noisy, but the food was good, and we continued to get to know the others better. We also discovered that three of us had dinner reservations at the same restaurant, probably because it was a recommendation from our sons, and we came up with an idea. The lawyer called the restaurant and asked if we could combine the three reservations and make it one reservation for twelve. After a slight wait while the manager checked his reservation seating plan, he agreed to do this for us. When he advised the banker and his wife about it, he immediately called and cancelled his reservation at the other establishment.
When we left the tailgate party, the boys suggested that we should go to the Berkey Creamery for ice cream next, and we agreed. It was a business run by the food science division and it turned out to be a delicious way that we helped to further support the university.
After we left there, our sons suggested that we should head over to the pumpkin festival at the Arboretum next. During our time there we had a chance to view displays of pumpkins that had been carved for the jack-o’-lantern contest, and we were told they would all be lighted after dark. There were also several musicians strolling around the area, and we also got to watch a magician perform his trade. It was a very interesting and entertaining stop and I think we all enjoyed the time we spent there.
We then agreed to freshen up and change before we all met up again at the restaurant, so we all went our separate ways. Once we were together again at the restaurant, we were seated fairly quickly and decided to focus on what we wanted to eat first, and then we chatted a little more. A few minutes later, the orthopedic surgeon looked at Brandon and me and began to speak.
“I didn’t mention this earlier, since we were just becoming acquainted with each other, and later there were too many other people around. We have a little more privacy here, and what I’m attempting to say is that my wife and I wanted to let you know that we’re impressed by what you’re doing. We think it’s wonderful that you’ve adopted Noah and your other sons, and we commend both of you for doing it.”
I think I might have audibly exhaled at this point, because I was a little worried where he was going with his comment when he first started. “Thank you, that’s very nice of you to say.”
“Yes, our son told us about that too, and I agree wholeheartedly,” the dental hygienist said next.
“He explained about Noah’s situation and we were told that Noah thinks the world of you two,” her husband, the banker, added. “We think it’s a shame there aren’t more people in the world who are willing to do what you’re doing.”
“Thank you and we appreciate your support and encouragement as well,” Brandon responded.
“And we also feel that way,” the lawyer added for him and his wife. “It’s a shame there are so many ignorant and narrow-minded people in the world who try to equate all gays with being pedophiles and claim they’re trying to turn children gay. It’s obviously not the case, since my son says Noah is obviously straight, but those people could be ruining any chance other children might have to be adopted by a wonderful and caring couple like you.”
“Thank you, that means a great deal to us,” I replied.
I think we were a little more comfortable after this exchange and we answered many of their questions, and then I told them that I had been adopted as well. I explained about my situation and how it inspired Brandon and me to do the same for others. When I finished, the others wanted to know if there was any way they could help out.
“My family has set up The Castaway Foundation to help others who find themselves in similar situations. The foundation has helped to support group homes that are run by couples, and it’s assisted other families that are doing their best to correct this situation as well. If you’d like to help, you can always contribute to the foundation so it can assist even more people who wish to get involved.”
They all said they would do that, so it seems as if the foundation has just gained some new donors and will soon be receiving an influx of cash. This was an added bonus in our attempt to be responsible parents while helping others at the same time. Before we left there, we agreed to meet up with them again in the morning so we could have breakfast together, and then we would attend one of the final events scheduled for the weekend.
Noah went with us to the hotel, and we chatted a little more. “Is there any other surprises we should be aware of,” I quipped, hinting that we were slightly unprepared for what had happened earlier.
“Hey, I realized my friends had told their parents about us, but we did it so there wouldn’t be any surprises. They said their parents were all cool with it and we didn’t expect there would be any problems, but none of us were expecting anything like what happened at dinner.”
“It seems to have worked out ok, maybe even better than ok if they all donate to the foundation, but I wasn’t so sure about it at first.”
“Neither was I,” Brandon added.
We decided to shower and turn in shortly after that, because I didn’t want to be tired on the ride home the following afternoon. Noah was ok with this too, so we said goodnight and slid in between the covers of our respective beds.
After we met up for breakfast the next morning and had filled our bellies, we agreed to go on one of the many tours that were being offered next. Along the way the four boys pointed out various things they thought we would find interesting. Most of it was old hat to me, since I did my undergraduate degree at Penn State, but I think the others found it interesting.
When we finished up the tour, we all agreed to keep in touch, and since our sons had three more years at Penn State we would also arrange to meet up again at future events. Eventually, we said goodbye to one another, and then Brandon and I dropped Noah at his residence hall. We got out to say goodbye to him before we drove home.
“I’m really glad you guys came to this and I had a really good time.”
“So did we,” Brandon concurred, “and we enjoyed meeting your friends and their parents.”
“Yes, it turned out to be an interesting and fortuitous visit,” I added. “I’m looking forward to seeing if they follow through on their promise to donate to the foundation, and I’m also looking forward to seeing them again in the future.”
“Yes, my friends and I will keep in touch to make sure that happens,” Noah agreed. “Drive carefully and call me when you get home.” He laughed after saying this, since he was playing on what I always told him.
“We’ll do that, Dad,” I joked back, and then we both gave him a hug before getting back in the car and starting out for home.
We arrived at the house before dinner and were somewhat surprised by the cool greeting we received. No one came out to say hello, and when we entered the family room to let the younger boys know we were back, they merely turned their heads long enough to say ‘hi’ before they returned to playing the video game. We then went out to the kitchen to chat with Dad, Pop, and Trey, who were busy working on the evening meal.
“How did things go while we were gone?” I asked.
“Fine, and there were no problems,” Dad answered.
“And what did you think of Julie and Alice?” I asked Dad.
“We had a good time with them and Hayden and Hunter told me exactly what I needed to do. How was your trip?”
“It was good and we met some really nice people. Did any of the other boys get sick while we were gone?”
“No, and Wyatt’s completely recovered,” Trey replied. “I’m glad you were here to take care of him.”
“I’m glad to hear that he didn’t have a relapse and no one else got sick. Do you know how things went with the group working on the Haunted House?”
“No, you’ll have to ask Dion or Ryan about that,” Pop stated.
“Ok, I guess I’ll go do that now. Do you know where they are?”
“I think they’re still out in the rec room,” Trey answered.
“You go ahead and talk to them and I’ll take our suitcase up to our room and unpack,” Brandon offered.
“Ok, thanks.” I then walked out to see what Dion and Ryan had to say. “What’s up guys? How did things go?”
“It went well,” Dion answered. “Ryan and his friends finished cleaning and repairing the items we’d used in the past, and I helped the others put together the other props you’ll need for the new attractions.”
“And next week we can get it all set up and have our practice run.” Ryan added.
“Sounds great. I guess you guys didn’t miss me at all.”
“We did, because there are a couple of things we didn’t finish,” Ryan replied. “I wasn’t exactly sure what you wanted to do.”
“Ok, we can talk about that later. So did everything else go ok?”
“Yes, I read to the boys both nights, but they complained that I didn’t do the voices as well as you and Brandon.”
“I’m sure you did fine. It’s just that they’re used to us, and thanks for covering while we were gone.”
After I finished talking to them I went upstairs to chat with Brandon. “I’m beginning to think we weren’t missed,” I said when I entered the bedroom.
“Don’t overreact. You know we’re all capable of covering for one another, so nothing would have seemed different to the boys.”
“I know, but my ego was bruised knowing they did so well without us.”
“What did you expect?”
“I figured they would do ok, but I guess I just hoped they might have needed us too. At least Ryan said there was something he needed me to help with.”
As I finished speaking, I thought of something else. I grabbed my phone and called Noah. “Hi, Dad. We made it home ok.”
“I’m glad to hear it,” he replied with a little chuckle. “I hope you didn’t get any speeding tickets on the way back.”
“Nope, all the cops were sleeping as we flew by the speed traps. On a more serious note, though, while we were there I forgot to ask you if you’re planning to come home for Thanksgiving.”
“Of course, I’ll drive home on Wednesday after I get out of my last class.”
“Ok, then you’ll get to say hi to your new brothers and sister. We’re having the adoption ceremony for Hayden, Hunter, Holly, and Tristan that afternoon.”
“You are? I’d like to be there, so if I can get away sooner then I’ll try to get home in time for that. What time will it happen?”
“Uncle Steve scheduled it for 4:00.”
“Ok, thanks. I’ll see you that Wednesday then, and I’ll let you know what time I should arrive.”
“Ok, just drive safely and don’t speed just to get here in time for the adoption ceremony.”
“I know and I won’t. Bye.”
Brandon had been able to piece together our conversation, and when we went downstairs Dad mentioned that they were going to start putting dinner on the table. Brandon immediately went to tell the younger boys to feed Dobby and Flash before they washed up, while I went to inform Dion and Ryan. Before long we were all sitting around the table ready to eat.
During the meal I decided to mention another item to the boys. “We’ll be dropping Dobby and Flash off at the vet on our way to work on Friday.”
“Why? They’re not sick,” Hayden objected.
“No they aren’t, but the vet’s going to operate on them so they won’t be able to have puppies.”
“Why not?” Tristan challenged. “We’d like more puppies and we’ll take care of them too,”
“I’m sure you would, but Dobby and Flash are brother and sister, and that could lead to problems with any puppies they have, so that’s why it’s best to have this done.” He didn’t look convinced, but he didn’t argue. “After we get home on Thursday you boys can help me give them a bath, because we won’t be able to do it again until ten days after their operation.”
“Will we still be able to play with them after they get operated on?” Hunter wanted to know.
“They’ll need to take it easy for a few days, so you can’t be too rough with them until they heal and the stitches have been removed, but they’ll be back to normal within two weeks after I bring them home. You’ll just have to be gentle with them until then.”
They agreed and we finished our meal. The boys then took Dobby and Flash outside to do their business, and when they returned they went to the family room to watch TV. Brandon and I weren’t able to join them because we had other things to do – chores we’d fallen behind on while we were away.
As it began to grow later, we finished up what we were working on at the time and sent the boys upstairs to get ready for bed. Then, we went upstairs to read to them.
“We’re glad you’re back,” Wyatt said before I started. “My dad did ok, but you guys read better.”
“Yeah, you do the voices better.” Hayden agreed.
“But we haven’t done Piemur’s voice yet, because you just started this book while we were away.”
“Yeah, but Uncle Dion made him sound like Uncle Dion,” Hunter explained. “You guys make all the characters sound different when they’re talkin’.”
“Ok, then let’s see what happens in the next chapter.”
When we finished reading, we tucked them in and said goodnight, and then we went downstairs to chat with the others. “So how long will Dobby and Flash have to stay at the vet’s?” Trey asked as we were sitting down.
“Just overnight. The vet said we could pick them both up on our way home from work on Saturday.”
“I can’t believe he’s only keeping them overnight, but we’ll help to make sure the boys take it easy with them until they’re completely healed,” Pop stated next.
“Thanks, and that will help a lot.”
“When are you planning to have the trial run on the Haunted House?” Dad followed.
“We’re going to do our best to wrap everything up on Saturday, but if not we’ll finish up after church. Either way we hope to do the trial run Sunday after dark.”
“Do you want Jake and me to dress up for our part?”
“That won’t be necessary, because you two are just there for crowd control. The boys can see what you look like in your costumes before Brandon and Trey take them trick-or-treating.”
We talked a little longer before turning in, but we’d already covered the important stuff. Now, we just had to hope everything fell into place.
The next three days were fairly routine, at least for our family, and then on Thursday the boys and I gave Dobby and Flash a bath before their trip to the vet. I wanted to do this, because being a doctor I felt it would help to reduce the risk of infection and they’d be nice and clean when we dropped them off in the morning.
After we finished our breakfast, we put the leashes on Dobby and Flash and led them out to the SUV. Brandon sat in the middle row to keep them company, since they hadn’t ridden in a vehicle except when they were in the carrier, but we felt using that would be too much of a hassle this time. They were fairly good, though, and stayed by Brandon’s feet the entire way, and then I took the leashes from him and helped lift Dobby out, while Brandon helped Flash get down from the SUV.
The vet was there to meet us, even though his office wasn’t yet open for the day. He did this as a professional courtesy, seeing he knew we also had to get to work to take care of our patients. We led the puppies inside and helped take them back to a cage where they’d wait until his staff arrived to help him perform the operations.
After dropping them off, Brandon and I drove to the health center and managed to get through a normal day. However, when we arrived home that evening the boys began bombarding us with questions about how Dobby and Flash were doing. We told them they were fine and we’d be bringing them home the following afternoon, but I’m not sure it satisfied them. The younger boys seemed to mope around the house for the rest of the night and it was obvious they missed the puppies. Dogs are not only man’s best friend; they’re a boy’s best friend as well.
They seemed to perk up as the evening wore on, but after we read to them we could tell their emotions were swinging back in the other direction again. That’s because they saw the empty doggy beds in their rooms and it reminded them about how much they missed Dobby and Flash. Hopefully they’ll fall asleep soon so they won’t dwell on it, and then we’ll be bringing the puppies home again tomorrow afternoon.
Brandon and I went in to work the following morning and spent a half day taking care of patients. After we closed up our offices, we drove over to the vet’s office to pick up Dobby and Flash, but rather than putting their leashes on them, we carried them out to the SUV instead. I waited until Brandon had set Flash down on the middle seat and then got in and sat down beside her. Once he was situated, I placed Dobby on the seat on his other side. I drove very carefully as we made our way home, because I didn’t want to chance stopping fast and having Dobby and Flash fly off the seat.
When we got to the house, Brandon and I carried the puppies inside. As soon as we walked through the door, the boys rushed out to pet them and see how they were doing.
“They’re fine, but they’ll need time to heal,” I warned.
We then put them on the pads in the carrier, because we didn’t want them running around yet, and we weren’t sure if they might be prone to having accidents while they were recuperating. Once they had been taken care of, we went to wash up, and then we sat down to eat lunch with the rest of the family.