This is Josh, and since no one else came with me on this trip, I’ll be the one telling you about it.Shortly after Brandon and Dion left with the boys, I threw my suitcase in the car and took off.Since Jake and I only have one vehicle, Trey offered to let Jake use his and Dion’s car to go back and forth to work, so that he would have their SUV to use.That took care of a minor problem for me, because otherwise I would have had to rent a vehicle to go on this trip.
I drove directly to Sammy, Andrew, and Graham’s house, which they’d purchased together.They did this the first summer after they began teaching, because they thought it made more sense than continuing to rent an apartment.Before their lease was up, the three of them went house hunting and finally located a place they were all satisfied with.It was a lovely four-bedroom home, although I was a little surprised by a couple of things when they were showing me around.
“So, you two still share a bedroom?” I asked Sammy and Andrew when they took me there.
“Yeah, we were used to sleeping together and it solved some other problems as well,” Sammy answered.“We wanted to keep one bedroom as a guest room and another we could share as an office, because we didn’t want to clutter up our bedrooms with desks and bookcases.”
“Ok, I guess that makes sense.”
I then went over to see Graham’s room next and immediately noticed something as I walked in.“I see you still have Cody’s portrait on your wall.”
“Yes, I thought Andrew did a wonderful job on it when he drew it for
Cody’s funeral and it helps when I start to miss him.”
“I know it has to be rough, but it’s been more than fifteen years since we lost him.Don’t you think it’s time for you to move on and start looking for someone else to fill that void?”
“I’ve tried, but it just isn’t the same.Besides, the portrait gives me a viable link to him, so he’s not totally gone.”
“I know you two were in love, but how does it still give you a link to him?”
“I think Cody must have attached to it at the funeral, so whenever I get down and have a really bad day I just talk to his portrait.It allows him to hear me and he’ll show up to help me get through it, so that’s why I keep his portrait in my bedroom. I don’t want to lose my connection to him.”
“I thought Cody’s spirit was always at our house?”
“He’s there most of the time with Brent, but he comes here whenever I need him.”
“I didn’t know that, so why didn’t he come here to tell you when David Hubbard was causing problems?”
“He didn’t want to leave Brent alone, because he was helping him control things at your place.”
“Does that mean the others weren’t there to help out?”
“The others are only there on the holidays and special events, so if he’d come here to tell me about Hubbard, then things might have gotten out of hand at your place.”
“Couldn’t one of them have somehow summoned the others to help out?”
“They couldn’t do it then, because Hubbard and Abernathy required their full attention.Brent couldn’t handle both of them alone so Cody had to help out, but he eventually got a chance to contact the others when Abernathy started to lose interest in doing those things with Hubbard.”
“Ah, I see now.”
After the three of them showed me around the house, we decided to have lunch, and as we were eating, they told me about their jobs and classes as well as sharing some information about their students.It was during this time that Graham confessed he’d become incredibly close to one of his students.
“I know I’m not supposed to do it, but I couldn’t help myself.I was initially drawn to this boy because he reminded me of Cody, but I was also able to identify with him.His home life isn’t very good, which only helps to magnify his learning disabilities, and it’s kind of like what Cole and I went through. Since I’m able to relate to him, I worry about what he might be going through now that school is no longer in session, and I’m almost tempted to drive over there to see how he’s doing.”
“Do you think that would be wise?”
“Not for me professionally, but I can’t help worrying about him.His home situation is just about as bad as what Cole and I endured, and I’m concerned that he isn’t getting enough to eat.He has similar disabilities as to what Cole has, and I know an improper diet can worsen the problem, so I’m tempted to reach out and see if I can help him.”
“Wouldn’t it be better if you called the local D.S.S. and had one of the caseworkers look in on him?You might even be able to contact Richard and ask him to get in touch with one of his contacts in your local office.”
“I never thought about asking Little Ricky to help out, but is he really in a position to do that?Maybe I should contact Aunt Sally instead.”
“I take it that you aren’t aware that Aunt Sally retired and she recommended Richard as her replacement.He’s running our local D.S.S. now.”
“No, I didn’t know that, but it’s D.H.S., not the D.S.S.It may have been called D.S.S. a long time ago, like when you were younger, but it’s the Department of Human Services now, not the Department of Social Services.”
“Why didn’t Aunt Sally or Richard correct me then?”
“They knew what you meant and I suspect it was their way of showing you respect.You know I respect and love you, but I decided to point it out to you so you didn’t sound outdated.”
“Thank you, but I wish they had pointed it out to me first.”
“Would it have made a difference?”
“No, I suppose not, so I won’t mention anything to them about it.”
“And they’ll just be surprised when you say it correctly.”
“Yes, I suppose they will.So, do you want me to contact Richard for you or will you do that yourself?”
“I don’t have any phone numbers for him, but if you want to give them to me then I’ll contact him either at work or at home.”
“You’re more likely to get his complete attention if you contact him at home, because there’s a lot going on in his office that he’s involved in.I’ll give you both numbers, though, and you can use either one to get in touch with him.”
We continued chatting and catching up over the next few hours, and then I took them out to eat.I let them select the restaurant, since they were more familiar with the area and knew which ones were the best, and then they directed me on how to get there.I was a little surprised when they had me pull into the parking lot of an Italian restaurant because I thought they would prefer going to a steakhouse.
“I hope you didn’t choose this just to save me money?”
“No.This is our favorite restaurant and I’m sure you’ll soon see why,” Andrew responded.
As soon as we walked in I noticed the décor, because it definitely had an Italian flair.On the walls in the various rooms were painted familiar Italian landmarks, such as the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, gondoliers on a Venetian canal, and Roman aqueducts.There were also famous works of art on display, such as three foot (1 m) tall replicas of Michelangelo’s David and his Pieta, along with replicas of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and the Last Supper.Italian music was playing softly over the speakers, and the tables were covered with traditional red and white checkered tablecloths.There was also a candle in an old-fashion ceramic wine jug that sat squarely in the center of each table that enhanced the ambiance of the place.
Once we were seated, I began looking over the menu and the boys informed me that all of the entrees and desserts were made from scratch and totally authentic.The restaurant didn’t use any mass-produced ingredients, and they even imported the wines and other beverages directly from Italy. I was totally intrigued that the owners would go to this much trouble and I had a difficult time deciding on what I was going to order.I liked nearly everything on the menu, so I talked the boys into ordering different entrees and then sharing them so we’d each end up with a sampler plate containing several different items, and they all agreed.
After we placed our orders, the server soon returned with a basket of homemade Italian bread and the antipasto I’d ordered for us to share. He also informed us that the chef had agreed to split the four entrees onto four plates so we didn’t have to do it.We continued to chat as we enjoyed the appetizers, sipped our glass of Chianti, and waited for the rest of the food to be delivered.
“This is quite a place,” I stated.
“Wait until you taste the entrees,” Sammy countered.
“Everything about this place is wonderful,” Graham added, “but the food is out of this world.”
“I can see why you wanted to come here.”
When the entrees arrived, I eagerly dug in.The boys were correct and the food was absolutely delicious.Even though I was full when I finished what was on my plate, I had to try the desserts as well, so we each ordered something different off the dessert menu and shared those items as well.All-in-all, it was truly a wonderful experience, and once the last crumbs were devoured we all waddled out to the car and headed home.
When we got back to their house, we plopped down in the chairs in the living room, since we were all too full to do much else.During this time, I filled them in about how things were going at home and that Brandon and Dion had taken the boys to visit Brandon’s parents.I also told them about Danny’s newest venture and how it impacted his life, and then I advised them I was going to visit Ricky and Frankie after I left there.
“Then how long are you going to stay with us?” Andrew asked.
“That depends of how long you’re able to put up with me,” I joked.
“As long as you want, because we enjoy having you here,” Sammy answered.
“Then a couple more days.You can show me around tomorrow, because I want to see the rest of the area and the schools where you work.If there’s anything else that you think we should do, then I’ll be happy to discuss it with you, because I’m up for just about anything.”
“I think we should take you to the Belmont Theater on Thursday, if you’re going to stay long enough to do that,” Graham suggested.
“Sure, I can stay until Thursday and then I’ll travel to see Ricky on Friday.In fact that will work out even better, since he’ll have the weekend off.What’s playing?”
“They’re performing Carousel, so I’ll call and reserve tickets for Thursday.”
“That sounds great, because it’s one of my favorite musicals, and I’ll take you out to eat either before or after the show, depending at what time it’s being performed.”
“Sounds good,” they all agreed.
“And if you want, we can go into Harrisburg before then, since it’s not very far away,” Sammy added.“Since you’re a history buff like me, you’ll love going to the National Civil War Museum and FortHunterMansion and Park.”
“But will the others want to do that too?”
“It’s not our thing,” Andrew replied, “but it’s still interesting and I don’t mind going with you.”
“Yeah, I’ll do that too,” Graham confirmed.
“What if I get us a hotel room the night we do this and then we can do something else the next day?”
“Yeah, that sounds good,” they all agreed.
“We’ll show you where we work and a few other places tomorrow,” Graham suggested, and then we can go to Harrisburg on Tuesday and Wednesday.”
“It sounds perfect, so I’ll call and reserve a hotel room with two beds for Tuesday night.Since Sammy and Andrew are used to sleeping together they can have one bed, so I hope you don’t mind sharing with me, Graham?”
“No, not at all.”
“Then I think we’re all set.”
After using one of their computers to find a decent hotel, I called to reserve a room, and during the same time Graham called to reserve tickets for Carousel.Once those things had been taken care of and I knew the time of the performance, I went online again to check out the restaurants in that area.After we discussed where we wanted to go, I called to make a dinner reservation, and then I called Ricky to let him know I’d be there on Friday.
“I hope you don’t have other plans.”
“No, and it sounds great. I’ll tell Tiffany, because I’m sure she’ll love to see you too.Anything in particular you’d like to do?”
“Not really. I’ve visited Philadelphia several times before, so I’ve seen just about everything, unless there’s something special going on.”
“Then we’ll plan something other than sightseeing and you can stay with me.I’ll fix up the guest room before you get here.”
“Then where will Tiffany sleep?” I joked.
“She sleeps with me,” he quickly snapped back.
“I had a feeling that’s what you were going to say, so I’ll see you on Friday.”
Now that the rest of the week had been planned out and the details taken care of, I agreed to watch a movie with them.It was something they selected off of Netflix and there was a lot of action, but it wasn’t exactly the type of movie that would be nominated for an Academy Award.As soon as it ended, we decided to call it a night and headed up to bed.
“Do you want me to tuck you in?” Graham teased before he went to his room.
“No, I think I’ll do just fine.”
“Ok, I wasn’t sure if Pop did that for you now.”
“No, smartass, and I’ll see you in the morning.”
After going through my nightly ritual, I turned in.The bed was very comfortable and I slept really well, and when I woke up the following morning I went downstairs to see if I could help fix breakfast.I was surprised to find all of the boys in the kitchen when I got there.
“I don’t remember you boys being early birds,” I remarked.
“We weren’t until we started working, and now it’s just habit,” Sammy answered.
“So, who does the cooking?”
“We take turns,” Graham replied.
“And whose turn is it this morning?”
“That would be me,” Andrew responded.
“Ok, so can I help?”
“Not unless you want to, because I’m used to doing this alone.”
I gave him a hand anyway, and then we all sat down to eat.We chatted as we ate and they told me what they had planned for the day.After we cleaned up the breakfast dishes, we got ready and headed out.
The boys took me to see the schools where they worked first, and since each one worked in a different building, we made the rounds.We even went inside the various locations and I got to see most of each building, including their classrooms.We couldn’t go in some areas, however, since the custodial staff was busy working in those locations at the time.Once we had stopped at all three schools, they showed me a few other places they liked to frequent.
By the time we finished doing all of that, it was time for lunch, so the boys took me to another one of their favorite places to chow down.“The service here is fast and the food is good,” Sammy told me as we parked.
“And we sometimes meet here and have lunch together, rather than eating at our schools,” Graham added.
They were correct.The food was tasty and served quickly, and after we finished our meal I asked what we were going to do next.
“We thought we could spend the rest of the afternoon at SamuelS.LewisState Park,” Andrew responded.“We felt it would give us a chance to relax and enjoy ourselves before the hectic pace of the next couple of days.”
“Ok, that sounds good to me.”
The park was located on a hilltop and provided a terrific view of the surrounding area.We could see the Susquehanna River in the distance and we took a leisurely stroll around the entire area so we could check out the sights in the other directions as well.Along the way we found a spot where there was a collection of extremely large boulders, and there was a group of kids climbing on them at the time, which was somewhat of a surprise to me.We’d passed a very nice playground that wasn’t far away and it had a large collection of well-maintained equipment for them to play on, so why wouldn’t they use that area instead?After thinking about it for a few seconds, I decided it isn’t unusual for kids to prefer something more adventurous than playing on playground equipment, so I went back to checking out the other sights.
It was fairly breezy out and we spotted another group of kids flying kites in a large open area, so there was a lot going on and plenty to see. I enjoyed the time we spent there, and I think the boys did too, and when we were ready to leave I offered to take them out to eat.
“No, we can fix something at home this time,” Andrew offered.
“Ok, and seeing you fixed breakfast this morning, whose turn is it to work on dinner tonight?”
“It’s still my turn, because we’re responsible for the entire day.”
“So, wouldn’t you rather go out to eat, instead of slaving over a hot stove?”
“Nah, it’s cheaper this way.”
“But I’m paying.”
“I know, but why pay extra for something we can fix ourselves?Besides, you said you were going to take us out to eat the next couple of days, so you can save money tonight.”
“Ok, then we’ll eat at your place, as long as you let me help fix the meal.”
“It’s a deal.I planned on making Sesame chicken, so would you rather have it with rice or lo mein?”
“What do you boys usually have with it?”
“We switch off.”
“In that case I think I’d prefer to have lo mein.”
“Ok, then you can fix the lo mein while I’m working on the chicken.”
“But I’m not sure how to do it.I’ve eaten lo mein before, but never made it.”
“I’ll talk you through it.”
Even with me bumbling my way through the process, the entire meal took less than an hour to prepare and it tasted great.I was pleased that I hadn’t messed up the lo mein and I’d learned how to fix another meal in the process.
After we finished eating, the boys suggested we could watch another movie.This time they selected a mystery, rather than an action film, and I enjoyed it a lot more.When it ended, I asked a question before we headed up to bed.
“So, whose turn is it to fix the meals tomorrow?”
“That would be me,” Graham answered.
“Would you like my help?”
“It’s not necessary, but you can help if you want.”
“Very diplomatic and I’d love to give you a hand.Do you have anything planned?”
“Nothing in particular, so do you have something in mind?”
“How would you boys like to have French toast?”
“It sounds good to me and we can have bacon and sausage links with it.Which would you rather prepare?”
“I’ll fix the French toast and you can work on the other things.It looks as if there’s enough room at your stove for both of us to work there at the same time.”
“Yeah, we often do that if we’re in a hurry.”
Now that we’d reached an agreement, we headed upstairs and packed an overnight bag before getting ready for bed.Tomorrow is going to be a long and tiring day.