Sleep came quickly. I was tired, and sleeping on the plane didn’t cut it for me. I must have been asleep for several hours when I felt someone crawl in bed with me. This wasn’t the first time one of the boys would have a bad dream and crawl in bed with me. I must have felt like a safe haven for them. By the time morning came, I had all of the boys in bed with me.
“Good morning, Dad.”
“Good morning Steven, why the party?”
“Chris came into my room, crying. He must have had a bad dream. I brought him to your bed to sleep. When I first came here to live, if I had a nightmare or a bad dream, I would come and crawl into your bed. So that’s what we did last night. Then the others joined us. I think we’re glad you’re back and wanted to share that with you.”
Steven was the first boy I had saved from a bad situation. He was a New York street boy and not in the best of shape when he asked me for something to eat. I brought him home, and on the rest of my travels, I looked for boys who were deserted and living on the streets.
Slowly the other boys woke up, “What say we get dressed and see what Gram is making us for breakfast?”
Food for young boys is a magic word. Within seconds they were gone except for Chris. “Don’t you want to see what’s for breakfast?”
“Yes, but where are the showers?”
“Come, I’ll show you.” I walked with him back to his room, “Each room has a bathroom. This is yours.”
“I thought that was a closet for hanging clothes.”
“No, this door is for the closet. Get showered, toothbrush and paste are in that drawer, and your towels are in that cupboard. Put your dirty clothes and towel here in this clothes chute that drops to the basement. Today I’ll give you a tour and explain your chores to you. Tomorrow you’ll start doing your chores and attending classes. But now, get your shower, and I’ll meet you in the kitchen for breakfast.”
I hugged him and went to take my shower.
Dressed for the day, I called the office, told Judy I wouldn’t be in today but would be in tomorrow. Due to the time difference, my office hours corresponded more with Greenwich Time than with US time.
Walking to the kitchen, I noticed we were missing one of the boys, “Where’s Chris?”
The boys looked and realized he wasn’t there. They started to laugh, “He’s lost. We’ll find him.” It hadn’t dawned on me that he didn’t know the layout of the house.
I heard the boys before I saw them leading Chris to the table. “Chris, I’m sorry, I forgot that you wouldn’t know your way around the house. Maybe one of your brothers could show you around. Steven, you can explain about the chores and see that Chris has a chore. You can also show him the schoolroom, but for now, let’s have breakfast.”
As the boys arrived, we continue to eat breakfast together. Now we eat all of our meals together, Maria is a household member, and the boys call her Gram. She accepted that role with a lot of love for these boys.
Eating our breakfast together, I looked at the boys remembering how all of this started. “Dad, are you remembering again?”
“Yes, with each new brother, I remember, and I think I’ll always remember. It’s my penance.”
Steven got up and hugged me. “We know Dad, in a way, we are thankful for his sacrifice. He has saved us.”
I hugged Steven as I relived that day over in my mind. I was going to lunch when a young boy stopped me to ask for something to eat. He looked as if he was 8 or 9 years old. He was dirty and in ragged clothes. I took him to a place where I knew the owner wouldn’t care how he was dressed. That was mistake number one. When we got there, I sent the boy to the men’s room to wash his face and hands, mistake number two. While he was doing this, a mean-looking man entered the men’s room, mistake number three. By the time I went into the men’s room, I had heard the boy yelling no, then I had heard a bang like someone hitting a hard surface. I looked and saw the boy on the floor.
I quickly left, told the owner to call 911. I asked for the key to the men’s room door. One of the servers gave me the key. I locked the door. 911 medics arrived with the police. I opened the door. The police were the first ones to enter. They took one look and arrested the man. The boy was placed on a gurney, and the ambulance was ready to take him to the nearest hospital. I was asking about the hospital when the police officer asked about what happened. I told them the whole story. I called a cab to take me to the hospital. When I arrived, they told me he didn’t make it. I sat down and cried. The hospital chaplain came and sat beside me. He talked, I listened. I made arrangements for the boy. I didn’t even know his name. The chaplain helped, and he was buried in the church’s cemetery. I had a memorial made and installed on his grave. At that time, I committed to God, with his help, I would try to save every boy I could who worked the streets to live. Steven was the first. Many times I wonder if he was the test case.
Maria’s hand on my shoulder brought me back to breakfast. I looked at the boys. They were quiet. “Dad, we love you, you saved us, you can’t save the world. We’re glad you were able to save us. You need to take Chris to see our brother.”
I knew who and what Steven meant. Maybe I need this more than Chris. I just nodded. “Let’s finish breakfast. Can’t let Gram’s good cooking go to waste.”