School resumed which meant I was left pretty much alone during the day. That suited me fine, it allowed me to catch up Board issues and to make an important phone call to Child Services in Pittsburgh. In our phone conversation, they indicated what information they would need including references. Getting that information from Cody without telling him what I was doing was going to be tricky. Some of it I already had, but I needed confirmation of that information.
I made a list, I had to get information from Brian to substantiate my position within the company, I needed notarized bank statements, including investment portfolios. I needed photos of my home and I needed to talk to Charles about getting a notarized statement that indicated the house was built according to his plans. I asked Mary and Brain for a letter of recommendation.
After I had all of the information, I called Mrs. Benish of Child Services and set an appointment for the following week. I told Cody I had to go and see Charles about the possibility of building a fishing shack by the river. I wanted to be sure it was harmonious with the house.
The following Tuesday, I drove to Pittsburgh to meet Mrs. Benish. I was a little nervous as I wasn’t sure what my chances are of being qualified as a foster parent. As I approached the office, my nerves started to make themselves known. The funny thing was, I was never nervous meeting the heads of large corporations in the US and Europe. In fact, I have even met royalty and never did I feel like I do now.
Taking a deep breath, I announced myself to the secretary indicating I had a meeting with Mrs. Benish. She called someone on the phone, an elderly woman came into the receptions area introduced herself as Mrs. Benish. Her hair was up in a bun and she had a scowl on her face. I thought this was going to be a disaster until I saw the twinkle in her eyes. I followed her to her desk, I took the seat she offered and the interview began.
It wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought. I told her that my partner loves kids, explained about the boys of our friends who like to spend time with us. I told her about our trip to New York and that the kids were very well behaved.“There’s no chance we’d have a child of our own and the parents of the kids who spend time at our home suggested I should look into the possibility of a foster child. Although I would really like to adopt a child but fostering a child is also desirable.”
She asked more questions about what I did and what Cody does. I explained that he was attending college to be able to teach. She asked if we had a preference. I told her I would prefer a boy but I would be open to any child needing a loving home. Was age a preference, I told her no.
She said that she would arrange for a home study and get back to me. When I left I wasn’t too positive about the outcome of the meeting. I drove home feeling a little down, maybe I was too upbeat. The resulting feeling being more realistic. The decision is now in the hands of Mrs. Benish.
It was about 6 weeks after I interviewed with Mrs. Benish when I received a call saying there would be a house inspection the following week. She gave me the name of the person and their telephone number. She said since there isn’t a Child Service’s organization in our area, the inspection would be carried out by an officer of the court. I was unaware that an officer of the court was competent to judge the suitability of our home, but if that is what needed to be done, then that will be done.
That evening before the home evaluation, I told Cody what I had done and what was going to happen tomorrow. He was shocked when I told him and at the same time there was a grin on his face. That night he was quiet.
The next morning we were sitting in the dining room have a cup of coffee when we heard a knock at the kitchen door. Getting up to answer the door, a young woman and a police officer where there. They asked if I was Mr. Bradley, I said I was and invited them in. I noticed as they came in their eyes were all over the kitchen. “We are having a cup of coffee would you like to join us?” They agreed and as I was getting their coffee, Cody came into the kitchen and introduced himself. With our coffees, we moved to the dining room.
The young lady introduced herself as Angela Brown and she was an officer of the circuit court. The officer introduced himself as Mike O’Leary, “I have been asked to accompany Miss Brown as a matter of policy.”
Miss Brown asked if Cody would give her a tour of the home. While he did that, Officer O’Leary and I had another cup of coffee out on the patio. As usual, the conversation turned to fishing and then how did I land here in Clarion. I proceeded to relate the tale again. By this time I had the tale down to a quick 5 minutes. As we were talking, I heard a motor bike and knew Andy was on his way to the kitchen.
“Andy, could you please bring out the coffee pot?”
Andy opened the patio door and froze. “It’s ok Andy, will you fill Officer O’Leary’s cup and mine as well.Thanks Andy, you can go and get anything you want to drink.”
Anticipating Officer O’Leary’s question, “Andy is the son of a close friend of ours. He spends a lot of time here and jokingly we call him our permanent staff.”
Coming back out to the patio with his drink, “Where’s Cody?”
“He’s giving someone a tour. He should be here soon.”
Just as I finished saying that, the sliding door opened and Cody with Miss Brown came out to the patio. Andy seeing Cody went and stood by him. “Would you and Miss Brown like a cup of coffee? I’m sure our permanent staff would be glad to get it for you.”
Cody ruffled Andy’s hair, “Yes, that would be nice. How do you take your coffee Miss Brown?”
“Thanks, just black will be fine. I didn’t see anything in the papers that said you have a permanent staff.”
Cody started to laugh, “We really don’t, however when Andy is here, we refer to him as our permanent staff.”
Miss Brown followed Andy into the kitchen. “Andy, do you mind if I ask you a few questions?”
“From what Cody said, I gather that you spend a lot of time here.”
“With school, I only spend the week-ends here. I have my own bedroom. Would you like to see it?”
“Yes, if that is ok with Mr. Bradley.”
“Oh that wouldn’t be a problem. Uncle Alan also calls it my bedroom.”
Miss Brown followed Andy to his bedroom. She made some notes in her book, looked around the room and noted the boy’s clothes.“This is a very nice room. How often do you stay here?”
“Almost every week-end, I like to be here. Cody treats me like his son and we do some great things together.”
“We take the ATV to gather nuts in the woods, we go fishing and sometimes we just sit and talk. I feel that he understands me. This past Christmas, we went to New York and had a lot of fun.”
“Andy, is the coffee ready?”
Andy started to laugh, “I need to get Cody his coffee and probably a refill for Uncle Alan and Officer O’Leary.”
Andy took an empty cup and the coffee pot to the patio to fill everyone’s cup.As he was filling Cody’s cup, Cody ruffed his hair, “Thanks Andy, I could really use this coffee.” Andy just smiled.
“Mr. Bradley, if we could sit down I have a few questions I’d like to ask you.”
“Sure, why don’t we go into the dining room?”
Cody, Andy and Officer O’Leary walked down to the river. They were deep in a conversation concerning fishing. When Alan and Miss Brown were finished, they walked out onto the patio looking at the men by the river.“This is a beautiful home and the view is spectacular.”
“Thank you. There’s only one thing missing and I hope your inspection today will fill that vacancy.”
“I can’t tell you what my report will say, although I may be sympathetic to your wish, my report must be analytical. I‘ll submit my report to Child Services in Pittsburgh. Mrs. Benish will get in touch with you.”
“How soon will you file the report?”
“I should have the report ready by the end of the week.”
When Cody, Andy and Officer O’Leary returned, Miss Brown thanked us for showing her our home and answering her questions. Saying good-bye they left. I could see in Cody’s eyes he had a lot of questions and even Andy had a few. “Ok, how about I get us something to eat and then you all can ask your questions and I’ll try and answer as many as I can.”
I guess food trumps all, with them pitching in we soon sat down to hot soup and sandwiches. Andy was the first to ask a question, “Why was the lady so interested in my bedroom?”
“Andy, Miss Brown was doing investigation of our home to determine if Cody and I are suitable to foster a child. I’ve noticed how much Cody likes having you around that I think he’d be a good father. What do you think? You know that Cody is my boyfriend, gay people are always suspected of doing improper things with young kids. I’m sure she was trying to determine if we were having improper relations with you.”
“That’s ridiculous, I have my own boyfriend. You and Cody are my best friends. I know you would never try anything with me. I still remember the conversation we had at the hot tub.”
“Alan, what do you think our chances are of being able to foster a child?”
“I don’t know. It’ll depend on Miss Brown’s report. With the data I gave them if we were a heterosexual couple we’d be approved. It all will depends on this report and if they have any prejudices. We’ll have to wait and see.”
I cleared off the table and started the dishwasher, “Alan, I’m going to go for a walk.”
“Can I go with you?”
“Sure, come on. I’ll see you in a little while, Alan.”
I watched as Cody placed an arm around Andy’s shoulder as they left. I knew Cody was afraid that being able to foster a child wouldn’t happen. I’ve done all we could. The rest was up to a higher power.
45 minutes later, Cody retuned with Andy. They both had smiles, “Uncle Alan we saw a deer with a fawn in the woods. We watched for a while until the doe raised her head and smelled us. She looked in our direction and nuzzling the fawn they walked further into the woods. I wouldn’t mind having a fawn as a pet.”
“The question Andy is would you like to have a deer as a pet because within a short time, the fawn will be an adult. Then they won’t be as friendly or cuddly. Stick to stuff animals they are safer.”
“Ok, the next time we go to New York I’ll get a stuffed deer.”
“I’m going to drive Andy home. I’ll see you in a little while.”
I took out some steaks to thaw for dinner and picked up the book I was reading. I must have lost time. I heard the truck pull into the garage and when I looked at the clock it was close to 8. Cody entered a few minutes later. “Are you ok?”
“Yes, I just hope that we are approved. I really enjoy the time I spend with Andy and wouldn’t mind him staying here all of the time. But that isn’t possible or right. He has a family that cares and loves him. It isn’t right for me to think like that or be jealous of Mary and Brian. But I’d love to have a clone of Andy, if possible.
“You know, we don’t get to choose and pick who we want. We could end up with a girl.”
“As long as she likes to fish, it will be alright by me. Whats for dinner?”
That night as we lay in bed, “Cody, don’t give up if Child Services deny us as fostering parents. I would prefer to adopt but that's almost impossible in today’s prejudice view. Maybe someday that may not be true. But don’t lose hope, there are higher powers that can help us.”
As Cody snuggled against me I heard, “I hope you’re right.” I’m not a religious man but I do believe in a higher power. Tonight I prayed not for myself but for Cody. If this was not to be, then I prayed something would happen to provide the comfort he’d need.
For the next two weeks, Cody and I were on pins and needles. Every time the phone would ring, we were afraid to answer thinking it might be bad news. I had my monthly trip to New York and while there I picked up a stuffed deer for Andy. Cody met me at the airport, he laughed when I showed him the stuffed deer.
Upon arriving home, he took the deer and placed it in Andy’s room. Yes, my guest room became Andy’s room. I wonder what we would do if we were allowed to foster a child. We couldn’t take the room from Andy. There was the spare room next to ours but that would leave us without a guest room. Thinking further, I decided that I’ll wait to see what happens before I start worrying about that issue.
By the fourth week of the inspection, I’ve given up hope and decided that it wasn’t going to happen. I felt sorry for Cody but obviously the cards were stacked against us. Just when I had given up all hope, the phone rang. It was Mrs. Benish and wanted for Cody and I to meet her at her offices in Pittsburgh. We agreed upon a time and date, I told Cody. When I told him, he had a big smile on his face, but I tried to tell him that this might not be what he was hoping. I didn’t want him to be disappointed.