It's taken a long time, but I'm finally ready to post the next book in this lengthy saga. I hope you enjoy.
It's been a couple of years since you last heard from us, and I’m still trying to come to grips with the idea that Brandon and I are finally alone and on our own. Well not exactly alone, since there are others living in the house as well, including our younger son, Noah. However, our older son, Elliot, left a few days ago to attend Yale University. Even though we'd let him use some of the money his father left him to buy a BMW shortly after he turned 18, we were apprehensive about allowing him to drive there by himself, but we eventually gave in. After he'd loaded the car with the things he was taking with him, we had a little heart-to-heart chat.
"Elliot, drive carefully and take your time," I urged him. "You don't have to speed and please don't talk on your cell phone or text while you're behind the wheel. We love you and want you to arrive safely, and please don't forget to call us when you get to campus."
"I know, Dad Danny, and you don't have to worry. I'll be really careful."
"And when it starts to get dark find a nice motel and get a room for the night. You should take two days to make the trip so you don't get tired and fall asleep behind the wheel," Brandon added.
"I will, Dad Brandon, so don't worry. I love you both and want to get back here to be with you and Noah for Christmas."
Shortly after we finished our conversation, Elliot left on his trip. He called from the motel that night to let us know where he was and that he was safe, which made us feel a lot better. He also called after he arrived at Yale, but warned us that he wouldn't be calling quite as often from now on. He said he just did it this time because he knew how worried we'd be if we didn't hear from him, so I guess he really understood us after all.
Elliot's boyfriend, Ian, who had spent a great deal of time at the house with Elliot over the summer, left a day later, so he wasn't around either. Our youngest brother, Jesse, is no longer living here, after deciding to move in with a couple of his friends in early June.
Jesse said he was doing it because living at home was ruining his love life. He claimed there were always too many people around to get any privacy and the younger kids, primarily Noah and Joshie, were nosy and always seemed to be spying on him. For those reasons, he didn't feel he could bring a date home and get any quality time alone, so he felt moving out was his best option. Even though Jesse had messed around with Elliot and some of his brothers throughout the years, he's now dating a girl. We've all known he was bi for quite some time, so this didn't come as a complete surprise. He merely says he wants to see which sex he prefers and then he'll decide what will be best for him in the long run.
Dion, Trey, and their two sons are living here at the house with us as well. Joshie is Dion's biological son, but Trey adopted him later so he'd have parental rights too. Then, they both adopted Wyatt, who came to our attention through a professional friend of mine. Dion and Trey allow both mothers to be part of their sons' lives, and Joshie visits his maternal grandparents from time to time as well. Wyatt's maternal grandparents, however, want nothing to do with him, since he's half Afro-American. Since Dion is Afro-American and Joshie is bi-racial too, it has all worked out quite well. In fact, Wyatt and Joshie bear a strong resemblance to each other and could easily pass as biological siblings.
Dad (Josh) and Pop (Jake) aren't at home right now either and are currently in Georgia. It all happened quite unexpectedly when they received an emergency call from Nick. "Shannon's been in a terrible car accident and was taken to the hospital."
"What happened and how bad is it?" Jake demanded, extremely worried about his biological son.
"He was badly injured and it wasn’t even his fault. From what the police told me, Shannon was driving down the street when another car t-boned his vehicle. The cops said the driver of the other car had been an active participant in a drive-by shooting that injured several people and was fleeing the scene. When the 911 call came in, a police cruiser that was close to the area gave chase and that's when things got out of hand.
"The cops said that while they were pursuing the suspect, the jerk blew through a red light and slammed into the driver's door, where Shannon was seating. They also advised me that the EMTs told them Shannon was in critical condition and he's been transported to the Emergency Room at Northside Hospital. I'm just heading out the door to go there now, so I'll call you when I find out more."
"Ok, I'll call my boss and take some time off from work so I can fly down there to be with both of you. I'll let you know when I'll arrive, just as soon as I make the arrangements."
"Great. I'll see you then, but please be careful. We don't need another accident."
"Thanks, and you too."
Nick called back about an hour later and filled Pop in about what he'd discovered. "The doctors told me that Shannon was barely clinging to life when he arrived at the hospital. They rushed him into surgery and dealt with the most serious injuries first, which was to stop the internal hemorrhaging and to patch the various injuries to his organs. They told me that Shannon had sustained numerous broken bones too, so they called in an orthopedist as well. As soon as the internal injuries had been dealt with and Shannon had been stitched up and stabilized, the orthopedist took over. He set Shannon's broken bones and placed him in traction, so he's going to be in the hospital for quite a while."
After Pop contacted his boss and told him what had happened, he was cleared to take an emergency leave of absence. He then hopped online and booked a flight to Atlanta, and Dad offered to go with him too. He wasn't only worried about Shannon, but he was also concerned about Jake and didn't want him to go alone. Before they left, Dad checked with Dion, Trey, Brandon, and me first, to make sure we could handle things while they were gone. After we assured him we could, he thanked us for our help and said he felt better about going. We told him to give Shannon our best and to let him know we wished him a speedy recovery.
When they arrived in Atlanta and had an opportunity to talk to Shannon's doctors, they learned even more. "We had to repair several of his organs, including one of his kidneys, a lung, his spleen, and part of his intestinal tract. We also had to suture or graft several damaged blood vessels to stop the hemorrhaging, which means he'll have to remain in the hospital for several days. When he's released, it could take several months for him to recuperate fully, but it will also take a great deal of effort on your part, along with his."
"I'm not sure I understand what you mean," Jake responded, since he was so upset after seeing Shannon that he wasn't thinking clearly.
"In addition to what we've done for him, and will continue to do for him, Shannon will require around the clock care at home, because he won't be able to do anything for himself. Then, once his broken bones have mended, Shannon will need rigorous physical therapy to strengthen the muscles that have atrophied from non-use while he's been laid up."
"Ok, I understand now," Jake followed. "Thank you for your help, Doctor."
When they realized how long Shannon was going to be unable to take care of himself, Dad called and asked if we'd be able to handle things for a while longer than we'd first planned. He explained that he wanted to stay and take care of Shannon until he was able to take care of himself, to eliminate having to hire others to do it.
Dad then went on to explain that Nick couldn't take the time off from work to do it without jeopardizing his job, and neither could Jake. He wouldn't be able to stay away from work for longer than the month he'd been given to handle the situation without being terminated as well. Since he didn't feel he could afford to lose his job, and he certainly wasn't old enough to retire yet, he wouldn't be able to stay with Shannon for as long as he wanted. Therefore, Dad offered to stay and take care of Shannon instead, so Pop would be able to return home after his time was up.
It has been difficult not having Dad around, seeing he fixed most of the meals, did nearly all of the laundry, and kept the main parts of the house clean. This left a lot for us to do after working all day, and without our older son, Elliot, and our youngest brother, Jesse, around to help, it has been a challenge. We’re coping fairly well on our own, but it helps that Dion and Trey are here to give us a hand. They're both teachers, so their hours align with the boys' schedules, with the exception of Wyatt who is only two, so they help us keep an eye on Noah, both at school and at home. Trey has also offered to fix most of the meals, seeing he enjoys cooking and had occasionally helped Dad, while Dion has taken over the dishes and keeping the kitchen clean. That's important, since Trey makes quite a mess when he's fixing meals.
Now that Dad's not here to watch Wyatt during the day, they've temporarily had to place him in daycare, so I arranged for him to be enrolled in the daycare at the health center. Brandon and I transport Wyatt back and forth to help out, but we also take care of Wyatt and Joshie when Dion and Trey have something else going on, such as a school function. We also handle all of the boys medical and dental needs, but Brandon and I are doing our share of the duties. He's keeping the downstairs clean and often helps Trey with the meals, and I'm taking care of the laundry. All in all, I'd say we've pretty much got things covered.
Since I've mentioned the health center, this might be the perfect time to mention that we’ve also made a few changes there as well. It still goes by its official name, the 'South-Central PA Regional Children's Health Center' for legal purposes, but we've renamed the building and it's now known as the 'Cody Currie Children's Health Center'. Seeing we also allow the community to use the gym and athletic fields, they've been collectively designated as the 'Brent Currie Athletic Facilities'. We did this to honor our two brothers who died far too young, but the signs for both places tie in nicely with Kevin’s 'Currie Pharmacy', which is right next door. It means that most of the block now has the Currie name attached to it.
As you might recall, our youngest brother, Jesse, was working in the radiology lab at the health center, but now he's basically running it. He has two assistants that work part-time when he needs the extra help and business is booming.
As I stated earlier, Elliot left a few days ago to attend Yale University. We were quite pleased that his grades were good enough for him to be accepted, although he still took advantage of his 'Heritage' status, since both of his parents had graduated from Yale. He's planning on majoring in History and Political Science, because his goal is to become a lawyer. We'll see him again when we go for Family Weekend, which will be in a month.
Elliot's boyfriend, Ian, had been accepted to Stanford, another very prestigious university, and he plans on enrolling in pre-med. He wants to become a doctor like his father, possibly even following in his father's footsteps and becoming a cardiologist. Since California is so far away, he decided to fly there and pre-shipped most of the things he wanted to take with him.
Noah has just begun his freshman year in high school and will be turning fifteen in November. Joshie is going to turn nine in a couple of weeks, and he's just started fourth grade, while Wyatt will be turning three in October. Not much has changed over the past couple years, except that Brandon and I have formally adopted Noah too. We also agreed to honor his wishes to do the same as Elliot had done when he dropped his middle name and used his former surname as his middle name to honor his parents. Then, Noah elected to use the hyphenated surname O'Hara-Currie, as Elliot had done as well.
We struggled to become a family, because it took awhile for Brandon and me to adjust to being parents. Not only were we starting our careers at the same time, but we'd become the parents of teenagers and hadn't had an opportunity to learn from our mistakes as the boys grew up. Then there was another issue; Brandon and I had just turned thirty and our sons were eighteen (Elliot) and soon to turn fifteen (Noah). I don't know of any other people our age that have sons as old as ours, but we were very fortunate to have Dad around to give us advice and guidance when we needed it.
In a way, it's been good that we've had the past two years to adapt to being parents, but it also gave us a chance to get our practices established, so that they now pretty much run on their own. That doesn't mean we don't do anything, because we're still important, but we both rely on our experienced staffs and loyal patients to make it work. It has also given us a steady income, so life is good.
We'd spent most of August helping Elliot get ready to leave for college and making sure Noah had everything he needed for the new school year, so we were happy to see the month coming to an end. We had just finished eating dinner and Brandon and I were relaxing in the living room, sipping our coffee, and chatting about our day at work. Noah had gone to his room so he could work on a school assignment and the house was quiet until the phone rang. I knew it wasn't work trying to contact me, because they would've dialed my cell phone instead. I assumed the call would be for Noah, Dion, or Trey, but I eavesdropped anyway when Dion picked up the receiver.
"Oh, hi Frankie. No, Dad and Pop are still with Shannon in Georgia."
"Shannon's doing better, but I've been told he'll have a lengthy recovery ahead."
"Yeah, sure. I'll call him. Danny, it's Frankie and he wants to speak with you."
That news surprised me. Frankie and I got along fairly well, but I didn't think we were close enough for him to be calling me out of the blue, especially after first asking for Dad. It made me very curious about what he wanted.
"Hi, Frankie. What's up?"
"Danny, I actually called to speak with Dad, but since he's not there, I take it that you're running the show."
"We're all filling in for him, but no one is actually in charge while he's gone."
"But you're pretty much taking care of the Hotel now, right?"
"Well, I guess in a way, but Dion and Trey do a lot too. Does this mean you're calling about another youngster?"
"Yes, and it's a difficult case, so I felt you guys were probably the best equipped to handle it. I wish Dad was there to help out too, but since he's not, I'm sure you and Brandon will be more than able to deal with this poor boy."
"Why? What makes this situation so bad?"
"Ok, let me tell you the story about how we discovered the boy, because then you'll understand why I thought of you. A call came in to the dispatcher about a suspected case of animal abuse, so I and another trooper responded to the call. When we reached the address, the neighbor who'd called in came out to meet us and explained what had prompted her to call."
"I hope it wasn't too horrible."
"Trust me, it was, but maybe not in the way you're thinking. The woman said at first she thought her neighbors were abusing an animal, because of the growling sounds and banging noises that were coming from a plastic animal kennel they kept on the porch. When we went to investigate, we found a large, portable kennel, but we definitely weren't expecting what we discovered inside. The door to the kennel had been secured with a padlock because they were keeping a ten-year-old boy locked inside."
"What? They were keeping a child in a portable cage for animals?"
"Yes, but that's not the worst of it. We thought maybe they had merely put him in there to teach him a lesson, hopefully just a one-time punishment, but we soon discovered the boy spent hours on end in there. It turned out that the boy was the product of a brief romance between his mother and biological father, but the father took off as soon as he was born. For years, his mother has told the boy that the only reason she had him was because she thought his father would marry her and they'd become a family. She's also told him repeatedly that if she knew his father was going to abandon them, she would have had an abortion instead, because she didn't want to be tied down with a snot-nosed brat."
"My God, that's awful. Not only has she treated him like an animal, but she's also repeatedly let him know that he wasn't wanted and is a burden to her."
"I know. It's bad enough that the boy has been physically neglected and emotionally abused, but he was also forced to eat all of his less than adequate meals in that damn device as well. The only time he was let out of the cage was to sleep, bathe, go to school, and occasionally to use the toilet, but he often was forced to relieve himself in there too. That's why if you guys agree to take him, then I'll call Aunt Sally and arrange for her to have his case transferred to her agency. She's still running the local D.S.S., isn't she?"
"Yes, she hasn't retired yet because she wants to groom Little Ricky to replace her first, but we've been told it will be a while before he's ready to do that."
"I'm glad she's doing it that way, because it means we'll still have a powerful contact at D.S.S."
"I agree, but why didn't this boy tell anyone at school about how he was being treated?"
"Apparently he was afraid to. I think he'd been threatened that something awful would happen to him if he ever told anyone about anything that happened at home."
"That's horrible. So where is this boy now?"
"He's been placed in a temporary foster home while they look for something more permanent. The thing is, he's going to need a great deal of love and understanding to make up for the years of abuse and neglect, so that's why I thought of you guys. I just wish Dad was there to help out with him too."
"I know, but he's with Shannon and he might be there for quite a while. Jake was allowed a month of emergency leave, but I think he'll be returning to work at the end of that time. He's too young to retire, since he's only in his late 40s, and I don't think he's ready to quit working yet. I imagine Dad will remain with Shannon until he's able to do things on his own. Nick's there at night, but he has to work too and is currently using all of his vacation time to be with Shannon, so someone will need to be there to help out and do things for him during the day, as well as getting him to numerous therapy sessions and doctor's appointments."
"I'm sure you and Brandon will be able to handle this on your own, if you're willing."
"Let me talk this over with Brandon first, and then I'll call you back."
"When will that be?"
"Probably sometime tomorrow night. I'm sure Brandon and I will be able to make up our minds by then."
"Ok, and I hope you decide to do this. I can't imagine anyone who would be better for this kid than you guys."
I went to ask Dion and Trey to join us in the living room where I'd left Brandon, so we could discuss this together. I wanted the other two involved in this as well, because we're all living in the same house and they're going to be around the boy too, if we decide to do this. After I'd finished relaying all of the information that Frankie had given me, Brandon said he'd like to meet the boy in person first. Dion and Trey agreed they wouldn't have a problem with us taking the boy in, if that's what we chose to do. Seeing we were all pretty much in agreement, I called Frankie back to advise him what we'd agreed to do.
"Frankie, Brandon would like to meet the boy in person first. This weekend would work fine for us, if you can arrange it."
"Ok, I'll see what I can set up and then I'll get back to you."
"We might bring Noah with us if you don't mind, since this will affect him too."
"Sure, it will be nice to see him again. By the way, how's he doing?"
"He's been doing quite well. He just started high school and is playing on the J.V. soccer team, which is why I'm not sure if he'll be able to join us, although I hope he can."
"I understand and I really appreciate that you guys are open to doing this. My heart broke when I saw what this kid was going through."
"I'm sure it did. You may be a tough guy as a cop and good at your job, but we all know what a big softie you are when it comes to kids."
"Yeah, I guess I am, but that's because of what I've heard from the rest of you about what you'd gone through before you came to live with Dad."
"Yes. I guess being around those things tended to make us all more empathetic and willing to help others."
"Yep, you're right about that. Hey, I'll call you back if I can set something up for this weekend. Thanks again."
Once I got off the phone, I realized that I hadn't even asked the boy's name. I knew he was ten and a little of what he'd gone through, but I didn't know his name. I guess I'll find that out soon enough, but I just thought it was a little strange that I hadn't bothered to ask.
We didn't get a call from Frankie until the following evening, and he told us to meet him at his apartment Saturday afternoon. He said he would drive us over to where the boy was staying and we'd get a chance to talk to him. As soon as that was settled, I went to find Noah, to see if he wanted to join us.
"I don't think I'll be able to go," Noah responded. I could tell he was disappointed that he might not be able to join us. "I have a feeling the coach will have us practice Saturday morning, cuz we've got a big game on Tuesday, and doubt we'll be done by the time you'll have to leave."
"That's ok, and you'll meet the boy soon enough if we decide to do this. I'll just ask one of your uncles to pick you up after your practice."
"Thanks, and I hope the kid comes to live here. I know he's only ten, but I think he really needs us. From what you told me, he's had it worse than I did, but I know being here will be just as good for him as it was for me."
"Thanks, Noah, and I'm glad you feel that way."
"I do, because this place and you guys have been really great. I didn't know what was going to happen to me when my mom died, but you and Dad Brandon have been great, and so has Grandpa Josh. I liked having Elliot for my brother too, but I like being around Joshie and Wyatt as well. It's been fun being able to help Joshie practice different sports, but I also like watching Wyatt when Uncle Dion and Uncle Trey need me to babysit."
"Yes, you've been great for us too, and I'm sure the new boy will feel the same way about you."
After I spoke with Noah, I went in to ask Dion and Trey if they'd be willing to help out with him while Brandon and I were away. They said it wouldn't be a problem and they'd be happy to do it. Joshie was in the room while I was talking to his daddy and poppy, but I didn't think he'd been paying attention to what we were discussing. That's why I was so surprised when he asked a question.
"Can I go with you and Uncle Brandon? That way I can tell the boy what it's like here and help him see that he'd be happy with us." He was right, because he had a child's perspective on what it was like living here. He and the boy were also close to the same age, much closer than the rest of us, so maybe he would be able to help.
"Dion, Trey, what do you think about Joshie going with us?"
"If you don't mind, then I don't see why you can't take him with you," Trey answered. "We'll keep an eye on Noah while you're gone and pick him up from practice."
"Thanks, guys. That will help out a lot."
Now that those issues had been settled, Brandon and I started making plans for the trip. We spent a lot of time going over the things we wanted to say to the boy, along with the questions we wanted to ask him. We were hoping we'd be ready to make a final decision about him before we returned home, and if we agreed to do this, then we'd just have to wait until the wheels of bureaucracy were able to arrange for him to come live with us. This should prove to be a very interesting trip.
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