As Brandon and I got ready to leave for work Saturday morning, we decided to let the boys sleep in. Brandon and I only had a half-day scheduled to provide appointment times for the parents who couldn't afford to take time off from work during the week to bring their kids in. Sometimes we even had to stay a little longer if there was a huge demand, but we only allowed parents who had no other option to use these time slots, unless there was an emergency. It helped that we had Dion and Trey to give us a hand, because they watched the boys until we got home.
As soon as we arrived at the house after work, we called the boys together for lunch, but we also let them know what was going to happen after we finished. "Noah, Benny, Joshie, and Wyatt, you're all going to be spending the day with Brandon and me. We're going to go shopping for the rest of the things Benny needs and we've decided to take you with us. Joshie and Wyatt's daddies are going to be driving to Philadelphia to pick up Grandpa Jake from the airport, but we'll see them all at home later. Any questions?"
"Daddy and Poppy, do you want me to go with you?" Joshie asked.
"No, you stay here and have a good time with Benny and your brother," Dion replied. "It's not going to be much fun because we'll be stuck in the car for a long time, so I think you'll be better off staying here with your uncles." That seemed to suffice, so Joshie went back to eating.
We were all leaving around the same time, so Dion and Trey helped to get Wyatt and Joshie ready while Brandon supervised what Benny was putting on. Noah was able to take care of himself, so we just asked him to choose something appropriate to wear for the day.
"Where are we going?" Noah wanted to know. I didn't think it was to help him select an outfit, so I felt he had something else in mind.
"We're going to the mall."
"Do I have to stay with you the whole time?" I wondered what he was thinking.
"I suppose not, but that would depend on what you want to do instead."
"Well, it's the weekend, so I'll bet some of my friends will be at the mall too. I thought maybe I could walk around and see if I could find any of them." I considered this briefly before responding.
"Ok. Just make sure you have your phone with you in case we change our minds and decide to go somewhere else. I'll call and let you know when you should meet us."
"Ok, and thanks for not making me stay with you all day."
"I'll give you some leeway, as long as you don't get into any trouble."
"I thought you knew me better than that, Dad."
"I do and it's why I said it." Noah made a face before heading to his room to get ready.
The boys all looked quite handsome when we met up again a short time later, but then again I might be a little biased. We left the house just before Dion and Trey had to leave, so they kissed their sons goodbye and told them to behave. I'd never had any problems with either of the boys and thought their fathers' warning was unnecessary. However, I'd just done the same thing with Noah, even though it was tongue-in-cheek, so who was I to judge?
As soon as we entered the mall, Noah raced off to find his friends. "Thanks, Dad, and I'll see you later," he hollered before he'd gone very far.
"Where's he going and what was that all about?" Brandon asked as we watched Noah heading in the other direction.
"You know how kids are. They don't like to be stuck shopping with their parents, especially if they aren't the ones being shopped for, so I gave him permission to go off on his own. He thought some of his friends might be here, so he's gone to see if he can find any of them."
"How's he going to know when we're ready to leave?"
"I made sure he had his phone with him, because I told him I'd call when we were ready to go."
Seeing that had been explained, we decided on which store we wanted to visit first. We felt Benny would need a suit and some clothes that would be appropriate for when he had to dress up, so we went to take care of that now. Benny didn't seem to be very comfortable trying on suits, since he'd most likely never worn one before, but I figured he'd get used to it. I made sure it was slightly big on him now, so he'd have room to grow. I felt that was called for after seeing how much he ate and knowing that all kids his age have growth spurts. Before we left the store, however, we also picked out some dress shirts, slacks, and a tie for him, along with a nice pair of dress shoes.
After we finished up there, we decided to get him some more clothes for school, along with a swimsuit for home. There might not be a lot of time left this year that he'd be able to use it, but if it stayed warm a little while longer then we could start teaching him to swim. I know we'd explained to him that we did a lot of skinny-dipping, but there were other times when swimsuits were required.
When we finished up there, I had Brandon wait with the kids while I took our purchases out to the SUV. I'd bought this particular vehicle quite a while before Elliot graduated from high school because we often had his boyfriend, or some of Elliot and Noah's other friends with us when we went anywhere. Most of the time we'd just use Brandon's car, though, especially when traveling to and from work, but we took the SUV when we needed more room.
I hadn't gone very far when my phone rang and I saw the call was from Noah. "What's up, champ?" I answered as I made my way to the vehicle.
"My friends are talking about seeing a movie at the cinema complex, so will you give me some money so I can go with them?" he asked as I was placing the bags inside the SUV.
"What time does the movie let out?" I followed, so he checked and told me. "Ok, but if you want me to give you money you'll have to come get it."
He agreed, so I told him where I'd left the others. He said he'd meet us there, so I closed up the SUV and made sure it was locked. When he showed up I played it cool so the other kids wouldn't know I was letting Noah go to a movie, because I didn't want them teasing to see one too. We had a lot to accomplish before we were ready to leave and couldn't afford spending time sitting in a theater.
"Have you been having a good time with your friends?" I asked, just to give him an opportunity to fill me in on what he'd done.
"Yeah, I found a few of the guys and we've been checking out some of the stores that carry stuff we like."
"As long as you're staying out of trouble, and here's a few bucks in case you need anything." He looked at me strangely at first, but then he caught on to what I was doing. "Just be ready to go when we're done." And then I added in a whisper, "Call me when the movie is over." He nodded and then took off again.
I had to tactfully let Brandon know what was going on as we headed toward our next destination. Before we got there, however, Brandon saw a new store he wanted to check out and we followed him around for a half-hour as he looked at the merchandise. He didn't buy anything, but he thought the store might offer some possibilities for Christmas shopping, so we'd keep it in mind. Now, we took off for our original destination.
Seeing we were planning on buying Benny some pajamas for when the weather turned colder, along with a pair of slippers and some sweats and a few more clothes for school, we decided to get them where they wouldn't cost quite as much. We'd agreed the best place to do this was at one of the retail stores and we'd save a little money on those things while still getting him the items he needed.
After we put everything in the cart, we took a walk through the toy department next, because I wanted to get an idea about the types of things Benny liked. I thought it would give us some ideas about what to get him for Christmas, even though it was still a couple of months away. I just wanted to do it now before he suspected what we were up to.
While we were there, I decided to let Benny, Joshie, and Wyatt each pick out one thing they'd like us to buy for them. I was doing this because they had all been so good, but I also wanted to get something for Joshie and Wyatt too, since we'd bought so much for Benny. I know they aren't our sons, but I didn't want them to go home empty handed.
While they were selecting something, Noah called to let me know the movie had ended, so I told him to meet us out in front of this store while we were paying for our purchases. By the time the boys had chosen what they wanted and we'd checked out, we found Noah waiting for us in front of the store. I quickly announced we were done for the day and we carried everything out to the SUV and loaded the shopping bags inside.
It didn't take long for us to get home and the boys helped to take everything inside. They carried most of the bags up to Benny's room, and Brandon went with them so he could help put everything away. Benny was totally blown away when he finally saw how much we'd purchased for him after it was all spread out on the bed. Up until that moment he hadn't fully realized how much we'd actually picked up, since we'd done it a little here and a little there throughout the day.
"I've never had this many clothes before," he gushed as he looked at the clothing spread out on the mattress.
"It's not really that much, but you'll need all of it," Brandon assured him.
"When am I 'posed to wear that?" he asked while pointing at the suit that Brandon was placing on a hanger before putting it in the closet.
"That's for special events. You'll wear it if you're in the holiday concert at school, or when you graduate from fourth grade, but you'll also wear it on special occasions for church or certain celebrations with the family."
"We don't wear suits a lot, but mostly when we go to the fancy restaurant to eat or for special days at church," Joshie added.
"When do you go to the res'rant?" Benny wanted to know.
"We've gone there sometimes for special birthdays, as well as other special celebrations," Brandon explained. "We don't go there often, but when we do, we dress up."
"We went there to celebrate after they adopted Elliot and me," Noah chimed in. "It was really nice."
"Oh," Benny responded as the wheels in his head began to spin
After they all came downstairs again, Brandon decided to start fixing dinner because it was getting late and we weren't sure what time Dion and Trey would be back. The boys would need to eat, and Brandon said he'd also make enough for Dion, Trey, and Pop too, since we weren't sure if they'd stop to eat before returning home.
While he was doing that, I told the boys we could go out and use the swimming pool until dinner was ready, if they wanted. It was a nice day, plus I thought it would be a great chance for me to see how Benny would handle being in the water. I was going to have the boys put on their swimsuits, but Joshie beat me to the punch and made the decision for us. "Noah, take your clothes off and we'll swim with nothin' on."
"Won't someone see us?" Benny shot back.
"Only the people living here," Noah stated, as he also began to undress. While the boys were getting ready, I went to grab a bunch of towels first and then disrobed as the boys were heading back to the rec room to go out the backdoor.
"Is that your pool?" Benny asked when he spotted it as we walked outdoors.
"Yep, that's it," Joshie agreed.
When Benny looked over at me, his mouth dropped open. "Dad D you're nekkid too and you gots more hair than Noah."
"Yes, and you might get this hairy too when you're older."
While we were in the pool, I kept my eye on Wyatt and Benny, although Noah soon took over with Wyatt. Since Noah was doing that and I knew Joshie was like a fish in water, I worked with Benny. However, I quickly discovered that Joshie wanted to teach him instead.
I watched Benny for a while as Joshie demonstrated what he wanted him to do. Benny was having some problems at first, so I held my hands under his chest and stomach to help support him temporarily until he became more comfortable duplicating Joshie's movements. Benny wasn't doing badly, so I let him try on his own for awhile and was impressed with how quickly he was catching on, as well as his lack of fear. I planned on warning him not to become overconfident or careless in the pool, as well as letting him know that he shouldn't use it unless one of the adults supervised. We continued working with Benny until we heard Brandon yell out that dinner was just about ready, so I had the boys exit the pool, grab a towel, and dry off.
"That was fun, but I'm not very good at it," Benny observed.
"I thought you did quite well for your first time," I replied.
"Yeah, you did great," Joshie added.
"We'll work with you some more if the weather stays warm, but I have a feeling you'll be almost as good as Joshie by the end of next summer, but I want to talk more about that later." Benny was beaming after I finished telling him this, which made me feel good.
Brandon had whipped up a meatloaf, some macaroni and cheese, corn, and a green salad for dinner. Once again, Benny seemed to enjoy this simple fair and ate heartily. The good thing was that he no longer appeared to be stuffing himself because he was afraid that he might not get another meal for awhile.
About an hour after we'd finished eating and had put everything away, Dion's car pulled in the driveway. Pop's plane must have been held up for some reason, because I'd expected them home before this. When they walked through the door, we all went over to welcome him home.
"Grandpa Jake, I'd like to introduce you to our newest son," I announced once the excitement had died down a bit. "This is Benny and we met him after Frankie called to tell us about him." I then gave Jake a look that let him know I'd fill him in about it all later, although I suspected Dion and Trey probably had told him about some of it during the ride back.
"Hi, Benny, I'm Grandpa Jake and I'm very glad to meet you. Do you like it here so far?"
"Yeah, I do. Joshie and me are really good friends and Uncle Trey made sketti and a special cake for me when I firss got here. Dad D and Dad B just bought me a whole bunch of new clothes and other stuff, so I like it here a lot."
"I'm really glad to hear that." Jake chuckled after watching Benny's antics as he spoke.
"Are you hungry, because I can heat up what the rest of us had for dinner?" Brandon asked after we'd finished the preliminaries.
"No, because I made Dion stop at a diner just before we left Philly," Jake replied. "I was starving by the time the plane landed because I'd been stuck at the boarding gate for quite some time. I'm not sure what the problem was, but we couldn't go anywhere and ended up waiting for over an hour before boarding. Add that to the driving time to the airport, getting through security, and the flight, it had been quite some time since I'd last eaten."
"Then let's go sit down and chat. Would you like a cup of coffee or something else to drink first?" Brandon followed.
"Coffee sounds good," Jake replied.
"Do you want to sit at the dining room table or in the living room instead?" I followed.
"The living room. I'd prefer a nice comfortable chair so I can relax," Jake answered. When Brandon retuned with a mug of coffee, we all headed to the living room.
"How's Uncle Shannon?" Noah asked as soon as everyone was seated.
"He's doing better, but it's going to be a long process until he's back on his feet again."
"When will Papa be coming home?" Joshie wanted to know.
"Nick's parents are going to Atlanta to spend a little time with him and Shannon between Christmas and New Year, so they said they'd help out so Josh can come home to be with us."
"Will he be staying or going back?" Trey followed.
"He'll be going back, because Shannon's not nearly ready to be left on his own."
"When do you think that will happen?" Brandon asked.
"I'm not certain, but worse case scenario would be next summer, or possibly not until fall. Hopefully it won't take that long."
"That's really a long time from now," Benny chirped.
"Yes, it is," Jake agreed, "but I'm afraid there isn't anything we can do to speed up Shannon's recovery so Josh can come back sooner."
When it came time to give Benny his bath and getting him ready for bed, Joshie had a different idea. "Can we take a shower together instead? Daddy and Poppy promised they'd let me do that sometime."
Brandon looked over at Dion and Trey to get their response before he answered him. "He's been bugging us about letting him take a shower, but we were just worried about him slipping and falling in the tub," Dion confirmed. "With two of them in there together it will just make it twice as likely something like that might happen."
"Maybe not. There's an extra bath mat in the linen closet," Brandon responded, "and adding It would give each boy a mat to stand on and there would be very little tub to slip on."
"Can we, Daddy?" Joshie pleaded, looking at Dion. "Please."
"Ok, but only if Uncle Brandon plans on supervising so you two don't start fooling around," Dion relented.
"I can do that," Brandon agreed. "So do you both want to shower instead?"
"Yeah, and we can help wash each other," Joshie shouted as he began jumping around.
"Benny, do you want to do that too?" Brandon asked, because Benny looked confused.
"I guess, but I've never done that before. I don't know nuttin bout showers." We all cringed inwardly, since this punctuated how sheltered and deprived he'd been.
"Well, I'll take you upstairs and show you what it is. Then, you can tell me if you want to try it or if you want me to give you a bath instead."
"K," was his simple reply.
When Brandon took the boys up to their bedrooms to undress, I filled Jake in about how Frankie had called to tell us about Benny and asked if we'd take him in. I also told him everything we knew about what Benny had been through, and Jake was just as shocked and moved as we had been.
"Dion and Trey told me some of that on the way here, so I'm surprised the kid seems so friendly and happy after going through those things," Jake stated while shaking his head. He still found it hard to believe that a mother would treat her son that way.
"We didn't know what to expect when he arrived, so we were quite surprised by how he acted too. So far he seems to be working out just fine, and as you've seen Joshie had an awful lot to do with his transition. I'm sure the adjustment wouldn't have gone nearly as well if those two hadn't hit it off so quickly."
"Yes, they appear as if they've been buddies since birth," Jake joked.
"I know and that has made a huge difference," I agreed. "I have no idea what might have happened or what Benny would have been like if we hadn't taken Joshie with us when we first went to meet him. His foster parents were another story, though, and in a way they might have been just as bad, maybe even worse for Benny than his mother."
When Brandon came downstairs again he filled us in on what had happened. "After I showed Benny how the shower worked he seemed eager to try it. He said it would be like washing in the rain. Since he wanted to do it, I put both shower mats in the tub and they were fine. They even washed each other and both of them sprouted erections from the intimate contact, so I had to explain to Benny why it had happened. Benny was also amazed at how big Joshie's penis got when it was erect and they were giggling hysterically, but they had a good time. I'm pretty sure they'll want to take showers from now on, so I hope you don't mind." Brandon directed his last comment at Dion and Trey.
"Not if you don't mind watching them while they're in there," Trey agreed. "I'm afraid we'd be too nervous, since we weren't ready for him to do this yet."
"Sure. Not a problem."
Now that the kids were in bed, we pressed Jake for more details about Shannon. "He's doing better," Jake agreed, "but he's a long way from doing very much for himself. He has casts on his left arm and leg, but he also has busted ribs, a fractured skull, and his jaw is wired shut. The doctor says if things go well he might be able to unwire Shannon's jaw and take the casts off in time for Thanksgiving, but if not he says they'll definitely be off by Christmas."
"That's good," I replied. "It sounds like he might be able to enjoy the special meals on those days after all."
"I hope so, because he's looking forward to that too. Right now he's on a liquid diet."
"Damn, that must be awful," Brandon chimed in. "How does anyone survive like that?"
"It's not easy and he's lost some weight, but he does what he has to do. There's just no alternative."
"True, but it still has to be awful," Brandon responded.
Jake was tired from the trip and ready to turn in. The rest of us agreed it was a good idea, so we decided to go to bed too. We checked on Benny and Joshie before heading to our room and found they were cuddled together just like the previous night. They looked so damn cute that way, just like two little angels clinging to each other.
Sunday morning we got up and had a rather late, but nice, family breakfast together. We'd always done this, but recently we'd been taking turns fixing the meal, after Dad left to take care of Shannon. Most days we usually just took care of our own family or the boys took care of themselves, but Sundays were different. As it turned out, this weekend was Brandon's and my turn to do the honors. Seeing we still weren't sure of everything Benny liked, we opted to make pancakes and grilled up some sausages to go with them. We felt those were pretty safe choices, and if he wasn't happy with that then he could have cereal instead. That didn't happen, though, because he liked everything we'd prepared.
"You guys sure fix a lot good stuff to eat," he chirped after taking his first couple of bites.
"We're glad you enjoy it," Brandon replied, pleased by the compliment.
After we finished eating, Dion, Trey, Brandon, and I sat down to talk for awhile. "Joshie's birthday is almost here, so what do you guys have planned? I hope you're doing something big so we can show Benny how we handle birthdays and make them special."
"We planned on having Joshie's party next Saturday, even though his birthday isn't until Sunday," Dion answered. "I dropped invitations off for his classmates and his teacher passed them out when Joshie was out of the room. She also told the other kids not to tell Joshie that they knew about his party, because it was a surprise. We've been able to keep it a secret from him so far too, and we've received a few replies already, so I think most of the kids in his room will be coming."
"What do you have planned for while they're here?" Brandon wondered.
"We'll have cake and ice cream for everyone," Trey replied, "but we put on the invitation that the kids could go swimming in the pool if the weather was nice. We suggested they wear their swimsuits under their clothes if their parents were willing to let them swim, but we'll play games if the weather turns cooler."
We talked about a few other things and then decided on what we wanted to do for the rest of the day. Dion suggested we ask the boys if they wanted to see a movie, and Benny and Joshie were very excited and eager to do it. Once this was settled, Dion helped them check the listings to see what was playing. After looking at their choices, Benny and Joshie agreed that they wanted to see "Dolphin Tale 2". Joshie had seen the original and even had the DVD, so we figured he had most likely talked Benny into choosing it too. It was a good choice, though, because Wyatt would enjoy it as well, so now all we needed to do was ask Noah.
"Nah, I don't want to see that movie, but can I go to the mall with you and do like I did yesterday?"
"No, I'm not going to let you start doing that every time we go to the mall. After you've had a chance to roam around there on your own a few times, the novelty will begin to wear off. That's when guys your age start looking for something else to do and it's what gets them into trouble," I answered.
"I promise I won't do nothin' like that if you let me do this. Please?" I looked at Brandon to see what he thought.
"As far as we know he didn't get in any trouble yesterday, so let's give him another chance. If he screws up and does something we don't approve of, then we won't give him a chance to do anything else on his own again until he graduates. Do you understand, Noah?"
"Yeah, I got the message, but thanks for letting me do this."
After we'd finished our chat with Noah, Dion came over to tell us something else. "Trey's going to stay here, because he has a lot of papers to correct before tomorrow."
"I think I'll stay home too," I added. "I'm way behind on the laundry again, so I think I'll take advantage of having a fairly empty house and no interruptions."
"Yeah, ok. I'm sure Dion and I can handle the kids," Brandon agreed.
Once they took off, the rest of us got busy. Jake decided to go outside and mow the lawn so it would be ready for the party the next weekend. Trey had all of his things spread out across the dining room table and was busy correcting papers, but that didn't bother me. I merely started a load of laundry and then did a quick sweep of the floor downstairs. By the time I finished doing that, the first load had finished in the washer, so I moved those things to the dryer and tossed a second load into the washing machine. Now that they were both going, I decided to vacuum the carpets in the living room and family room next.
If you're wondering why I was doing all of this, I'll explain: I usually took care of the laundry and Brandon cleaned the downstairs while Dad was gone, so I was just covering for Brandon and helping out. Trey was taking care of most of the cooking, except for breakfast on Sunday, when we took turns, and Dion was handling the dishes and cleaning the kitchen. It was all working quite well so far, and I'm sure we'll be giving Dad more help when he gets back. Until we'd started covering for him, we didn't fully appreciate how much he'd been doing to help us out.
When I was done vacuuming, the washer and dryer had both stopped, so I tossed the clothes from the dryer into the laundry basket to fold them in a few minutes, and then I switched the clothes from the washer to the dryer, and put another load in the washing machine. After I folded the clothes from the laundry basket, I carried them up to the appropriate rooms and put them away. I continued doing this until Brandon, Dion, and the kids arrived home, and then I took a break.
After Brandon finished filling me in on how the kids had behaved, including Noah, I decided to ask the boys if they wanted to go for a swim again. I felt it was important for Benny to be comfortable in the pool, especially after Dion and Trey explained the kids might be swimming at Joshie's birthday party. Joshie and Benny were excited about doing this, but Noah opted out and Trey was going to put Wyatt down for a nap. Seeing there would only be the three of us, I grabbed towels, we all stripped down, and then we headed out the backdoor.
Actually, this was even better for Benny, because there was more room and he didn't have to navigate around so many bodies. I just hoped it wouldn't be a problem at the party with all of the other kids in the pool too. Once we got there, Benny actually jumped into the pool, feet first, following Joshie's lead, and I held my breath until he bobbed to the surface on his own. Seeing this made me realize that teaching him to swim might be easier than I first thought.
"I'm surprised you're doing so well," I told him after I'd worked with him for a brief time.
"I used to practice floating in the bathtub when my mommy left me alone. I'd lay back and float on top of the bathwater and this isn't so different, 'cept now I do it like I was standing up, but I can float on my belly too."
"I would never have thought that using the bathtub might be a way to prepare yourself for swimming," I mused, amazed by his explanation.
"It was fun, but I like this better."
Joshie and I worked with Benny for over an hour and he was able to get around doing a doggy paddle, so I felt he would be able to hold his own at the party. I hoped we could do this at least once more before then, but if not this would have to do.
After we dried off and got dressed again, Dion put in the DVD for the first "Dolphin Tale" for the boys. Since Benny hadn't seen it before, he was excited about watching it now. It also kept them occupied while we did other things.
The rest of the day was fairly quiet and uneventful. The entire family had dinner together, including Grandpa Jake, and later Brandon took Benny and Joshie up to shower together again before we all went up to help tuck them in bed. When we came downstairs afterward, we sat down to talk about the following day.
"My staff has agreed to cover for me in the morning, so I can take Benny to school and get him enrolled. You'll have to drive to work by yourself this time and then I'll meet you there after I finish up with Benny," I told him.
"Ok, that will work and I'll take Wyatt with me."
"I'll take Joshie with me too, because it will save Dion from having to drop him off at the elementary school before going to his own school."
"I'm sure he'll appreciate that."
I then went to check with Noah to make sure he had all of his homework done. With Benny being here and having so many other things on my mind, I'd completely forgotten to ask Noah about this earlier. Luckily, Noah said everything was done, so I didn't feel so bad about not thinking of it until now. I thanked him for being responsible without prompting and told him how proud we are of him.
When Brandon and I went to bed, I double-checked to make sure the alarm was set for the correct time, because I wanted to give Benny plenty of time to get ready. It was going to be tight taking care of that before heading to the office, because I didn't want to completely mess up the day's schedule by being late.