We didn’t get a chance to check out Dad’s new car until we came home from the hospital for dinner on Monday, because we were busy until after dark yesterday and Jake drove it to work this morning.They’d purchased a blue 2019 Toyota Avalon to replace their 2016 silver Toyota Avalon, so it wasn’t a huge change.
“I like the color, but this car isn’t that different from your old one,” observed Dion, “although it does have a few newer gadgets on it.”
“Yes, we realize that, but the other car had a lot of miles on it from all of the trips I’ve taken and Jake driving it to work every day.It’s not that there was anything wrong with it, and we got a lot of use out of it.In fact, it was very reliable and we enjoyed having it, but we were ready to experience that new car smell again.”
“Yes, it certainly was a good car for you,” I added, “and I’m glad you’re happy to have a new vehicle now.”
Throughout the week, the boys were all good about keeping up with their new chores.The younger boys were taking turns helping Ryan and Dad with the meals when there was something for them to do, as well as doing some cleaning, and Joshie and Benny were keeping up with the laundry.All of them were also getting psyched about school starting again, which happens a week from today.That’s pretty much how things went until Friday, when Ryan, Holly, and Noah spent the entire day getting their things ready so they could leave for college.
Danny and Brandon were picking up Ryan after work and driving him to Stroudsburg.They were going to spend the night at a hotel and then take him to the campus the following day.Ryan wasn’t exactly thrilled about sharing a hotel room with his dads, so Brandon and Danny joked that they wouldn’t have sex while he was in the room.Even though he didn’t find their comment amusing, Ryan was ecstatic that they weren’t going to bring the other boys with them.
When Danny and Brandon arrived at the house after work, Ryan began loading his things into the trunk and backseat of the car, while his dads said goodbye to Noah and Holly.Those two would be leaving for their campuses in the morning, while Danny and Brandon were taking Ryan to his campus, because they couldn’t be in both places at the same time.
Danny, Brandon, and Ryan weren’t going to eat dinner with us either, because they thought that stopping to eat about halfway there would give them a nice break before continuing on to Stroudsburg.The rest of us just followed them out to the car and said goodbye before they drove off.Once they were gone, the rest of us went inside to have dinner.
“Are both of you all packed and ready to go?” I asked Noah and Holly while we were eating.
“I am,” said Holly.
“I just have a couple more things to pack up and then I’ll be ready to go,” followed Noah.
“That’s good.Maybe you should load your cars tonight, so you can get an early start in the morning.That way you can take your time driving to your campuses and won’t have to speed.It will also give you some leeway, in case you get stuck in traffic, since there will be a lot of other students heading there at the same time.”
“Yeah, I was going to do that,” confirmed Noah.
“Me too,” added Holly.
Dion and I offered to give them a hand carrying their things out to their vehicles after dinner, and they accepted.Once they had their cars loaded, we all got a chance to relax and watched TV together in the family room.During one of the commercials, I made a comment to the other boys.
“After you get home from church on Sunday, I want you to choose the clothes you’re going to wear to school on Monday and set them out.That way you won’t be debating about what you’re going to wear on Monday morning and then make the rest of us late to school.”
“That’s a great idea,” Dad agreed, “so I’ll make sure they do it while you’re at the hospital.I’m sure you will be going back there so you can be with TJ after you meet us at the diner.”
“Yes, we will, and we appreciate your help,” confirmed Dion.
Dion and I said goodbye to Holly and Noah before we went to bed, because we weren’t sure if they’d be getting up as early as we did in the morning.We also took a couple of minutes to speak with Dad and Pop, so we could remind them about the following weekend.
“I hope you remember that Brandon, Danny, Dion, and I will be going on our private getaway next weekend.”
“Are you guys going to Hershey again?” asked Pop.
“No, we talked it over and decided to make reservations at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, which is near Farmington.That’s on the western edge of the state’s southern border, southeast of Pittsburgh.”
“Is the resort nice?”
“From what I saw and read online; it has everything we require. It also had openings for the Labor Day Weekend, so we placed our reservations.”
“When are you leaving?”
“We’ll take off just as soon as Danny and Brandon get home from work on Friday.”
“Interesting,” commented Dad.“That means Danny and Brandon will be closing their offices on two consecutive Saturdays.”
“Yes, but they only work a half day on Saturday, and they were going to be closed on Saturday and Monday of Labor Day Weekend anyway, so they’re only taking one extra Saturday off.”
“True, but I was just surprised that they’re closing their offices on two Saturdays in a row.”
“They didn’t have an option if they were going to drive Ryan to college.It shouldn’t be a problem, though, because both of them are also leaving information on the recording for their office about what their patients should do in case of an emergency.”
“I figured that much, and now it makes more sense why they’re doing this.”
“I take it the four of you have reserved separate rooms, but are you going to do other things together?” asked Pop.
“For the most part we are because we’re only taking one vehicle and we plan on having our meals together.We’ll be doing some of the other activities with each other as well, except for the private ones, which we’ll do in our rooms.”
“That makes sense.Just make sure you relax and have a good time.You all deserve it,” added Dad.“Have you told the nurses at the hospital that you won’t be showing up over the holiday weekend?”
“Not yet, but we intend to.We just hope it doesn’t set back the progress TJ has been making.”
“Why would it do that?” asked Pop.
“Danny says that any change in his routine could have a negative effect on his recovery, so I hope that doesn’t happen.”
“I hope not as well.Do you think the nurses will let me go in and cover for you while you’re gone?”
“I can check with them about that, but who will watch the other boys while you’re with TJ?”
“Jake will be here, since this will happen on the weekend, and I’m sure he can handle the other boys for a few hours while I go in to spend time with TJ.”
“Sure, I can do that,” confirmed Pop.
“I won’t stay as long as you do, but I’ll spend a couple of hours with him in the morning, and then come home to make lunch for everyone.I can go back for a couple more hours in the afternoon, and then I’ll return home in time to make dinner.In fact, I can even do it in the morning during the week while you’re all at school, and I think that will take care of everything.”
“Yes, it would, but I thought you guys were going to have a barbeque on Monday,” said Dion.“Didn’t you invite Aunt Sally, Aunt Mary, Uncle Steve, and some of the others?”
“We did, but I could just go once to visit TJ on Monday and still be back in time for the barbecue.I can prepare everything we’ll need the night before, and maybe I can get Joshie and Benny to help out as well.”
“And I planned on doing the grilling,” added Pop, “so I think we’ll be fine.”
“Ok.I’m sure Joshie and Benny will step up while we’re gone,” said Dion, “and that way TJ won’t be spending the entire weekend alone.”
“What types of things should I do with him while I’m there?” asked Dad, looking concerned.
“I’m not sure if you’ll want to sing to him, but the nurses can show you where we keep the books so you can read to him,” I replied.“You can sit in the rocking chair when you’re holding him, because that’s what we do, and then you can read one or two stories to him.”
“I’m sure he won’t enjoy my singing after listening to Dion, but maybe I can tell him some nursery rhymes, because they have sort of the same rhythm pattern as a song.”
“Sure, that would work as well.”
Now that we’d finished discussing those issues, we said goodnight to each other and headed to bed.Dion and I checked on all of the boys when we went upstairs so we could make sure they were all ok.While doing that, we discovered that Tristan and Xander had left their bedrooms and were now sleeping together on the air mattress in the same room as the other boys.I guess they must have enjoyed being in with the others over the weekend.
Dad and Pop were already up when Dion and I went downstairs in the morning, and once again Dad offered to fix our breakfast.The only difference was that he and Pop had waited to eat until we got up, so we all sat down together.
As Dion and I were finishing our meal, Dad gave us a reminder.“Don’t forget to ask the nurses if I can take your place visiting TJ over the holiday weekend and possibly during the weekdays, while you’re in school.”
“Don’t worry, I won’t forget,” Dion promised.“I want someone to be with TJ as much as you want to be there with him.”
“Ok, I just wanted to make sure.”
As soon as we got to the NICU, Dion went up to speak with the nurse at the desk.“Trey and I are going to be away this coming weekend, so we were wondering if it would be ok if our dad came in to cover for us?”
“Sure, we all know Josh and he’s the baby’s grandfather, so of course he can cover for you.If you don’t mind my asking, where are you two going?”
“We’re taking a little alone time and going to the Nemacolin Woodlands Resort for some R & R, so to speak.It will be the only time we’ll be able to get away and do something like this now that school is starting.”
“You two deserve to get away, so have a good time and we’ll make sure your dad gets to know his newest grandson.”
“Thank you, and he might also come in during the day while we’re at school.We really appreciate you doing this for us.”
“Actually, I’m surprised he’s willing to do it, because most men his age aren’t comfortable around newborns any longer.”
“Dad isn’t like most men his age,” countered Dion.
“Yes, I guess you’re right about that.” As I walked away, I wasn’t sure if her comment was about his willingness to be with the baby, or that he married a man after being married to a woman.
We washed up and went in to spend some time with TJ.We did the same things we always did, and TJ seemed to enjoy this ritual, so we weren’t about to change it.We stayed there until it was time to go home and eat lunch, and we knew he’d take a little nap after we left and then the nurses would change and feed him before we got back.
When we arrived at the house, I assured Dad that everything was set and told him the nurses were looking forward to seeing him next weekend.I also mentioned that they promised to introduce him to his grandson.
“I can’t wait.I’m really excited about doing this.”
“We know, and we let the nurses know that as well.”
“Oh, and just so you’re aware of this – Joshie and Benny helped to prepare lunch today.”
“Is it edible then?” I asked jokingly.
“Or should we worry about getting sick afterward?” asked Dion.
“No, its fine and they did a really good job, since this is the first time they’ve ever done it.We made cheeseburgers and French fries, and there’s also cottage cheese for us and applesauce for the boys.”
“Sounds good,” we agreed as we headed into the dining room to sit down.
As we were eating, I had an idea.“You know, if Pop will watch the boys this afternoon, and if you want to do this, you could go in with us and get a feel for what we do with TJ.You can also meet him so you two won’t be complete strangers this weekend.”
“Sure, I’m willing to watch the cast of Monsters, Inc. for you while you’re gone,” joked Pop.This surprised us because we didn’t know he was even aware of that movie.
“Hey, we’re nothin’ like them,” protested Wyatt.
“Calm down.He was only joking,” Dion assured him.
“Ok, then I’ll go in with you,” agreed Dad.
After we finished eating, the three of us went out to get in our car.I sat in the back and let Dad sit in the passenger seat next to Dion, because the backseat was a little cramped for someone his size.When we reached the NICU, the nurse we spoke to earlier was there and looked at us oddly.
“I didn’t realize you were going to bring him in with you today,” she stated.
“We didn’t plan on it, but then we thought that he and TJ should get to know each other before we left them alone.”
“That’s probably a good idea, but only two visitors are allowed in to see him at a time.”
“We didn’t even think about that policy,” I said, mildly shocked.“Tell you what, Dion and I will split our time and one of us will go in with Dad while the other one stays in the waiting room.We’re hoping that by doing this TJ won’t be surprised next weekend and possibly have it stifle the progress he’s been making.”
“That’s a wise precaution, and it will be fine as long as only one of you goes in with him at a time.You can show him where to wash up and how we want it done before he enters.”
“Thank you.We will.”
Once that had been agreed to, Dion and I talked about who would go in with Dad first.“You usually sing to TJ before I read to him, so why don’t you two go in first,” I offered.
“Are you sure?” followed Dion.
“Yes, that’s our pattern, because TJ often falls asleep while I’m reading the second story to him.Dad, I hope you’re willing to sing to TJ part of the time.”
“I can try doing it today, after Dion sings to him, and that way I can see how TJ reacts to my gruff vocal ability.”
I then headed over to the waiting area, while Dion and Dad went to wash up.Once they were ready, they went in where the incubators were and Dion had Dad sit in the rocking chair.
“Are you doing this because I’m an old man?”
“No, Trey and I always sit in it and rock TJ while we’re either singing or reading to him.I want you to hold him the entire time, even while I’m singing to him.”
“Yes, I want him to get used to your touch.”
Dion then instructed Dad to cradle TJ in his arm and talk to him as sweetly as he could before Dion started singing.I was told that TJ looked at Dad strangely and laid fairly still in his arm at first, but as soon as Dion started singing his arms and legs began moving, which let Dad know that TJ liked hearing his daddy’s voice.
“Ok, your turn,” said Dion after he finished a couple of songs.
“Ummm, what shall I sing to him?”
“Try Mary Had a Little Lamb or Row, Row, Row, Your Boat.”
“Ok, I can do that.”
When Dad started singing, TJ’s arms and legs stopped moving temporarily, but after a minute they started going again.
“See, your voice isn’t that bad.TJ likes it too.”
“I guess there’s no accounting for tastes, so I’ll sing to him as long as he likes it.I guess I’ll have to build up a repertoire before next weekend.”
“I’ll help you think of some simple songs he’ll like and that you probably know.”
“Ok, that works for me.”
As soon as Dad finished singing his second song, Dion had Dad hold TJ against his chest, with TJ’s head on his shoulder, and then he suggested that Dad sing to him again.This time, Dion recommended he sing The Farmer in the Dell and Three Blind Mice.
“I didn’t realize I knew so many songs that would be appropriate for him,” said Dad before he began the next song.
After he finished both of those songs, Dion left and sent me in to replace him.I grabbed the books on my way in and told Dad where I kept them, and then I started reading to TJ.I selected Jack and the Bean Stalk and really hammed it up so TJ wouldn’t fall asleep.After I finished the first book, I handed Dad the next one, Cinderella, and let him read it.Right on cue, TJ started to drift off about halfway through the story.
“I guess I’ll have to use different voices and act it out more next time, like you did,” Dad said when he noticed TJ had fallen asleep.
“No, you did fine and TJ usually does this during the second story.”
“Ah, in that case I don’t feel so bad.”
As soon as the nurse noticed that TJ was asleep, she came over and asked if we wanted her to change him and place him back in the incubator.
“Yes, I think we’ll go home now.We may have Dad come back with us tomorrow afternoon as well – if he wants to.”
“That’s fine and don’t worry about TJ.We’ll take good care of him.”
“You always do,” I replied.
We then went out to the waiting area to get Dion, so we could head home.
“So, what did you think of TJ?” asked Dion once we were in the car.“Did you like spending time with him?”
“Yes, I did, and he was a lot more attentive than I expected.When Richard told us about him, I thought he’d be less responsive and more lethargic.”
“I know.We thought that as well,” I concurred, “but he really surprised us.He reacts to everything we do with him.”
“Yes, I noticed that, and he’s got an adorable smile.”
“It’s amazing how he can still smile after what he’s been through already,” replied Dion.
“Maybe he’s merely responding to the new and improved situation he’s found himself in.It could be that he’s happy with his new daddies.”
“Yes, I suspect you’re right.”
When we reached the house, I helped Dad fix dinner, and then we all sat down to eat.
“How did your visit with TJ go?” Pop asked Dad.
“I thought it was amazing.It’s been a few years since I’ve held a baby, because I think Wyatt was probably the last one.”
“I ain’t a baby,” objected Wyatt.
“No, not now, but you once were.I helped to take care of you while your fathers were at work and I held you a lot.”
“Oh, and now you’re gonna do the same thing with TJ.”
“Yes, I am.”
The rest of the evening was very quiet, and the boys were on their best behavior.After the younger boys went to sleep, we sat down to chat with Dad and Pop.
“We suppose you’ll want to go to church tomorrow, so Dion and I will go in to visit TJ without you.We’ll meet you at the diner afterward, and then you can go in with us in the afternoon, if you still want to do that.”
“I do, and I can’t wait to hold TJ again.”
“Man, you didn’t even hesitate about holding him.Dion and I were reluctant at first, because he’s so tiny, and he’s not that much bigger now than he was then, but it didn’t seem to bother you at all.”
“No, I’ve held babies that were nearly as small before.”
“I’m certainly not going to worry about TJ when we go away then, because we’ll know he’s in excellent hands,” said Dion.
“I appreciate your confidence in me,” said Dad, and shortly thereafter, we turned in for the night.
When Dion and I woke up in the morning, we went to the hospital while Dad and Pop took the boys to church.We let them use our SUV again, and then we met them at the diner after the service.
“Any problems?” Dion asked when we joined them.
“No, they were all very good.”
“Do you want to go home and change first, before we go to the hospital?”
“Yes, maybe I should, if you don’t mind?”
“No, we’ll follow you to the house and then you can ride with us to the hospital.”
“You’re going in to see TJ?” Becky asked Dad.
“Yes, I went in with them yesterday as well.They wanted TJ to get used to me before they went away next weekend.”
“Oh, where are you two going?”
“Brandon, Danny, Dion, and I are going to a resort to unwind.We’ve planned on doing this since Brandon and Dion returned from their Texas trip.”
“It sounds wonderful, but I’m surprised you’re all going together.”
“We’ll have separate rooms, but we’ll be traveling and doing a few other things together.It will be our chance to relax and unwind without the kids, because Dad and Pop have agreed to watch them for us while we’re away.”
“And will he be able to go to the hospital to spend time with TJ as well?” she asked.
“Yes, because Pop will be home on the weekend and has agreed to watch the other boys while Dad is with TJ.”
“Ok, I see now.I hope you all have a great time.”
As soon as we finished eating, Dad and Pop dropped Becky and Revin off at their house, and then they drove home.We met them there and waited for Dad to change, and then he rode with us to the hospital.We went through the same routine as the day before, and Dad and Dion went in first.They took turns singing to TJ, and then Dion came out so I could go in.
After I washed up, I went in and read 101 Dalmatians to TJ, and then Dad read Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.I was somewhat amazed when Dad started doing voices this time and sang Heigh-Ho from the movie when he started reading about the dwarfs.I think it surprised TJ as well, because it was the first time he didn’t fall asleep during the second story.After Dad finished reading, he lifted TJ against his chest and continued to rock him.He also rubbed his back until TJ dozed off, and then the nurse took TJ and placed him back in the incubator.
“I think TJ likes your singing nearly as much as he likes it when Dion sings to him.”
“Or it terrifies him so he can’t sleep,” countered Dad.
“I doubt it’s that, but we need to get going.Let’s go get Dion so we can head home.”
When we got to the house, Dad and I fixed dinner, and before it was ready, Brandon and Danny arrived home from Stroudsburg.
“How did things go?” asked Dad.
“Give us a chance to freshen up first and then we’ll answer all of your questions over dinner,” answered Danny.“That way we won’t have to repeat ourselves when the others ask the same questions.”
“Certainly, that will be fine.”
When we sat down to eat, everyone began asking Danny and Brandon questions.
“So, is Ryan all settled in?” asked Dion.
“Yes, he’s in his room and we met his roommate.We hope they’ll get along.”
“Why?What’s the matter with him?” asked Benny.
“Nothing’s wrong with him.He’s just different than Ryan.He’s slightly overweight and very quiet, and he didn’t seem overly friendly.His parents fussed over him the entire time we were there, and they didn’t seem happy that his roommate’s parents were gay.I wouldn’t be surprised if the boy gets homesick and drops out of school before the first semester is over.”
“That bad, huh?” followed Joshie, and Danny merely nodded his head in response.
“Was the campus nice?” asked Dad.
“It’s smaller than Yale and PennState and not nearly as impressive, but it’s still a lovely campus,” answered Brandon.
“And Ryan agreed we could bring you boys, if you wanted to go with us for Parents’ Weekend.”
“What made him change his mind?” I wondered.
“After meeting his roommate and his roommate’s parents, I believe Ryan began to appreciate our family more,” replied Danny.“So, what happened here while we were gone?”
“Not much,” responded Dion.“We just took Dad to the hospital with us so he and TJ could become familiar with one another before we went away next weekend.”
“Ahhh, and how did that go?” Brandon asked.
“Very well,” I replied.“TJ seemed to get just as excited when Dad was doing things with him as he did with us.”
“That’s great, although it doesn’t surprise me,” commented Danny.“Dad has always had a way with children.”
“Yes, he has,” we all agreed.
“So now everything is set for next weekend,” I added.“You two just have to pack your suitcases and leave them in the foyer Friday morning and we’ll do the same.We’ll take our SUV, because it’s newer, and we’ll have Joshie and Benny load everything into the back after school, while you’re at work and we’re with TJ.That way we can take off as soon as you’re ready.”
“Do you want to eat here before you leave, or are you going to stop along the way?” asked Dad.
“We might as well eat here first,” replied Brandon.“We have enough drivers so we can switch off if the person driving begins to tire.”
“I doubt that will happen,” stated Dion, “but it’s always good to have a backup.”
After that, we merely finished our meal and spent the night with the boys before turning in.