As usual, Steve was there to meet us at the airport when we arrived and all of us were happy to see him again. After collecting our luggage, we quickly loaded everything into the van, eager to return home. It was already late, but we still had a couple hours of driving ahead of us, and this wasn’t going to be easy to endure. The problem for us was that our bodies were still operating on the time zone in England, which was five hours later than our own, so even though we had slept some on the plane, our bodies were confused about what they should be doing.
Steve asked me questions about our trip and I answered him as best I could. The trouble was, I was finding it difficult to focus. Steve seemed to understand and left me alone after that, saying I could fill him in on the details later. I was extremely thankful for his understanding nature.
Due to the fact it was dark out and therefore very little to see, most of the boys slept the entire way back. For Steve’s sake, I tried to stay awake and keep him company, knowing he must be a little tired too, but I wasn’t always successful. I did doze off a couple of times and Steve just laughed when I tried to apologize to him for that. When we arrived home, I merely herded the boys to their various bedrooms, telling Jay and Carlos that I’d take them to their own homes after we all recovered. I didn’t have the energy to drive. Besides, I didn’t wish to wake Jay’s parents at this ungodly hour and the trip to take Carlos back was almost as exhausting as the trip from the airport, but this time I’d have to drive roundtrip myself. Both boys understood and soon were asleep with the others. Carlos was in with Pat, while Jay slept with Ricky, Cole and Graham. I passed out shortly thereafter in my own room.
The next day everyone was a little slow getting moving, as the boys fought desperately to help their body clocks change back to the Eastern Time zone. After cleaning up, getting dressed and having some breakfast, I told Jay and Carlos to get ready and I’d take them back to their parents. The other boys didn’t need any additional travel, so I put the older ones in charge and left all the boys at the house to unwind.
Of course I took Jay home first and was helping him get his things together to take into the house when his parents ran out to greet him. He was soon being smothered in hugs and kisses, since his parents were excited that he was finally back home. As soon as the embraces were broken, Jay began to tell his mother and father about all of the things we had done and how much fun he had. I enjoyed watching this emotional reunion and let them continue uninterrupted, until they decided it was time to stop.
Howard and Audrey thanked me for including Jay in on this wonderful opportunity and said they were pleased their son had such a wonderful second family as ours to be part of. I thanked them for their kind comments, before telling them Jay had been no problem and was always welcome in our home and would be included in our plans. After exchanging a few more pleasantries, Carlos and I excused ourselves and set out for his apartment.
It took me a couple of hours to drive there, but I could tell Carlos was excited to see his mother again. The closer we got to his apartment, the harder it became for him to sit still in his seat. It turned out that his mother had exchanged days off with another employee so she’d be there to greet him, knowing he would be returning home today.
This was an even more emotional reunion than Jay and his family had shared, as Carlos’ mother was crying and squeezing him like he had been gone for years, not just a few weeks. I sat back and let them carry on, knowing Carlos was enjoying this reunion as much as his mother was, and merely waited for them to finish celebrating his homecoming. When they finally broke their frantic and enthusiastic hugs, his mother asked him how the trip was, so Carlos started on a lengthy retelling of everything we had done and seen.
Carlos was so excited and animated in his telling of our adventures that it caused his mother to laugh at his antics. They were both having a great time with this exchange, with him recalling all the wonderful places he’d seen and her reveling in his excitement. When he finally finished telling his tale, his mother hugged him again and thanked me for including him in our plans. She said they would both always remember our kindness for taking him with us and was thrilled he had a chance to do things she couldn’t afford to have him do on her own. I told her it was no big deal and her son would always be welcome to join in whatever we were doing. She thanked me again and we said our good-byes, with Carlos giving me a hug, a kiss on the cheek and several thank-yous before I departed.
The ride back seemed long and lonely, since this was the first time I’d been completely alone in quite some time. Although solitude is sometimes nice, and maybe even necessary, I think I prefer to be surrounded by my boys instead. They always seemed to do something to cheer me up or say something that brightens my day. Just having them around continues to make me feel young and alive.
I often think back to my lonely, mundane existence before they began to arrive in my home and wonder how I ever survived the loneliness, once my wife had died and my older children had gone off on their own. The best part was, I would no longer have to consider that, as my house was now full of love and alive with the energies of youth and an abundance of testosterone. I shall never regret heeding Sally’s suggestion to become a foster parent, only wishing I had been moved into action even sooner.
When I arrived home, the boys were continuing to take it easy. Some were still putting the rest of their things away, watching a little television or chatting with friends on the phone or computer. I had barely passed through the doorway, when I was literally attacked by Dustin, Danny and Brandon.
“Hey, Dad, when can we take our driving tests?” Dustin began for the group. “You did promise us that we could do it after we got back.”
I remembered the discussion I’d had with these three before we left, as they were all getting the itch to get behind the wheel and be able to go places on their own. It would also help me, as I made them promise they’d help take the others various places, including driving the high school group each morning and evening, thus saving me from making the additional trips.
“Well, we’ll have to do a couple of things first,” I responded, “because I think it would prove to be a huge disadvantage for you to have to take your test in our big van. Therefore, I’m going to buy a medium-sized used car for you to practice on and take your test with, but I’m also going to purchase a used mini-van or something similar, which you can use when you take everyone back and forth to school. I’ll do both of those by the end of the week and then we can begin some practice in the school parking lots, whenever they are fairly empty. Does that meet with your approval?”
“Sure, Dad,” Danny answered, “but can we help you pick the car and the mini-van out, since we’ll be driving them?” I could tell he and his brothers were concerned about having something to drive that wouldn’t besmirch their image. However, I took a minute or two to consider their request, before I answered him.
“You can help and give me your input, as long as you remember that the final choice about what we get will be up to me. I know you will want a sporty car, or at least something that doesn’t look too parental, but I will need to make certain that whatever we get is not only nice looking, but also practical for the family. I’ll see if we can blend those two concepts together, so I can make all of us happy, but I won’t make any promises. And remember, you’ll be allowed to use either vehicle that I purchase, with permission of course, as long as you maintain your grades and I don’t get any reports about you being irresponsible or pulling foolish stunts as a driver.”
The boys nodded in agreement and we set Wednesday as the day we’d go car shopping. In the meantime, I’d make appointments for their tests and we’d set up sort of a practice schedule, when I could take them out to learn the basics. I’d also make sure that all three were enrolled in the driver’s training class at school, so they could get another viewpoint on how to be a competent driver. I had a great deal of confidence in the maturity level and responsibility of all three boys, but I wanted them to understand that this was a privilege and not just a right of passage. I also wanted them to know this privilege could be lost, just as easily as it was acquired, especially if they didn’t remain mature, accountable and trustworthy.
As they headed off, I concluded it was time to address a more pressing issue I still had to deal with. I called Kevin into my room, so we could speak alone. “Kevin, I know your birthday was yesterday and we didn’t do anything special for you because of our trip back home, so how would you feel about having your party next Saturday? You can help me select the menu, give me some ideas about what you would like to do and let me know who you want to invite, besides the family.”
“I wasn’t worried about it, Dad. I knew that you wouldn’t forget, but you’ve done enough already,” he told me. “I mean… going on the trips was more than enough for my birthday.”
“But the trips were for all of us, a family thing, but everyone still has their own birthday party, and you will be no different,” I explained. “We had Ricky’s and Jay’s parties before we left and you will have yours now that we’ve returned. Think it over and let me know what you want to do and then we’ll start making plans.”
“Okay, Dad. I’ll let you know later,” Kevin replied, before going off to think this out for himself.
After Kevin left, I thought of a few others things I also needed to do, and the first concerned a certain young boy we had left behind in Texas. Therefore, I went into my bedroom and closed the door behind me, so I could have a bit of privacy, before dialing Brandon’s parents’ home, to see how things were going. Brandon’s father answered the phone.
“Hello, Patrick. This is Josh,” I began. “We just got back from our trip and I wanted to call and let you know that Brandon was fine and I wanted to see how Nick was doing.”
“Hello, Josh. How did the trip go? Did everyone have a good time and are they happy to be back?” he inquired.
“Yes, the trip went fine and we all had quite an enjoyable time,” I replied. “I’ll let you speak to Brandon after we’re done, but I wanted to see how Nick was doing while we were gone. I’ll also need to talk to him to try to work something out about his future.”
“I think you’re going to have your hands full with this one, Josh,” Mr. O’Hara told me, and I began to worry I’d done his wife and him a disservice by leaving Nick there.
“Did he give you any trouble?” I asked, concerned.
“No, not like you’re thinking,” Patrick answered. “He has been well behaved and very helpful… it’s just his other activities.”
“What do you mean by that Patrick?” I pressed, unsure as to what he was implying.
“Well, I know Brandon is gay too and we will always love and support him, but this boy thinks all there is in life is sex,” he explained. “I think he’s tried to seduce every boy for twenty miles around and wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. He would apply as much pressure as was needed to get what he wanted.”
“Do you mean he’s forced boys into having sex with him?” I wanted to know, since I was suddenly worried about how this would play out if he came to live with us.
“Not in the physical sense,” Patrick assured me. “It’s just that he’s so charming he seems to be able to sweet talk his way into getting almost anything he wants or knows how to apply enough pressure, verbally, to persuade others into allowing him to get what he wants. Josh, I really think that you’ll need to talk to this boy about having safe sex and about the various diseases and other dangers associated with such liberal sexual practices.”
“I will, Patrick, I promise, but how do you know all of this?” I felt I had to ask, since I was fairly certain Nick hadn’t told him all these things.
“I found out from a couple of the neighbor boys, whom I have hired to do odd jobs for me in the past,” he explained. “One day they came over to see Nick, but he was out, so I started talking to them and asking how they were hitting it off. Although they didn’t come out and say they were speaking about having sex, they did explain that Nick was very persistent about getting his own way and they found it was generally easier to give in to him, so they could then do what they wanted to, afterward. I could tell from their uneasiness with giving details and their scarlet faces what it most likely concerned, especially overhearing Nick and another boy one evening, when they were out in our garage.”
“Patrick, I’m sorry about dumping this problem in your lap,” I explained, thinking I took advantage of his kindness and generosity, because he felt he should do me this favor to pay me back for taking care of Brandon for him. However, Brandon wasn’t a problem, as Nick was turning out to be.
“Josh, don’t worry about it,” he insisted. “There’s been no major issues, except I’m worried what types of problems Nick’s proclivity might create for him.”
“Patrick, thank you for all you’ve done and for keeping me informed,” I assured him. “Do you think I could speak to him now?”
“He’s not here at the moment,” Patrick explained. “He went off with a group of other boys about an hour ago. They said they were headed to the park, but I think they had other plans in mind. I’ll have him call you as soon as he returns.”
“No, that’s okay, Patrick. Tell him that I’ll call again at 4:00, your time, and I’ll speak with him then. In the meantime, let me get Brandon so you two can chat.”
I went out and called Brandon and let him use my room to speak with his parents and catch up on what they had done since they had last seen each other. While they were chatting, I was mentally preparing for the things I would need to talk over with Nick, if I was going to allow him to come live with us. I had a plan about how to legally get him here and thought this plan also had a fairly good chance of succeeding. Now, I just had to talk to Nick, present my ideas to him and hope he agreed to go along with my suggestion. Only by chatting with him about these issues would I know if my hopes and intentions were realistic, or even wise.
About that time, Kevin came back with Dustin and told me when he wanted his birthday. He also told me whom he wanted to invite, what types of things he wanted to do and also gave me a couple of hints as to what I could get him. I agreed with his suggestions, so he and Dustin went to invite the others, while I took care of the remaining details.
Kevin had decided to have a fairly typical get together, similar to many of the other parties we’ve had for the boys, inviting a few of his old friends in for the festivities, but he also wanted to ask them to stay overnight. I informed him they would all probably have to sleep on the floor of the family room, as the bedrooms were already overcrowded, but Kevin just smiled and said that would be fine. He would make sure to have everyone bring a sleeping bag with him, so it wouldn’t be a problem. He thanked me once again and the two of them took off.
The rest of the day seemed to fly by, as we did the unpacking, the laundry and some of the other little chores that had been neglected for far too long. Almost before I realized it, it was time to call Nick again. I went into my room, dialed the number and he picked up the phone on the second ring.
“Hello, Nick? This is Josh Currie.”
“Hi, Mr. Currie. Mr. O’Hara told me you called earlier and that you would be calling back. How was the trip?”
“The trip was wonderful, Nick. I’m just sorry that you couldn’t go with us,” I told him.
“Oh, that’s okay. I’ve had a good time here,” he assured me, and I wondered how much of that had to do with the types of situations Patrick informed me about earlier. I thought this would give me a chance to possibly find out more.
“Really?” I replied. “So what exactly have you been doing that’s been so much fun?” There was a slight hesitation on the other end, before he answered.
“Oh, just made some new friends and hung out with them,” he told me, being careful about what he said in response.
“So you and your new friends have been having a good time?” I continued. “That’s great. So what have you been doing with them?” Once again there was a slight hesitation before he answered.
“Oh, you know. The usual teen stuff,” he explained, in an attempt to shrug the question off. “We go swimming, play ball, mess around… You know, stuff like that.”
“Well, as long as the stuff like that doesn’t mean you’re pressuring anyone into something and you’re taking appropriate precautions,” I hinted, letting him know I had a fair idea about what he’d been up to, “then I guess it’s okay.”
“Hey, how do you know what I’ve been doing?” Nick countered, somewhat confused.
“It’s because I got to know you a bit,” I answered, “plus I have a houseful of teenage boys. I definitely understand how much teenage hormonal urges affect what types of things you do and how often.”
“Dang, Mr. Currie,” he mumbled back. “That’s almost scary. My parents or the O’Hara’s never figured that out, and they were in the same house as me, yet you know about what I’ve been doing while you’re miles away.”
“Oh, don’t think the others are naïve,” I warned him. “I think they might have also had a fair idea about what you were up to, but they were just too polite or inhibited to comment about it. The thing is, I have no such compunctions. I often say what’s on my mind.”
“Okay, I’ll remember that,” he informed me, although I could sense a hint of nervousness to his tone. I think he was intimidated by having an adult confront him about what he’d been up to.
“But that’s not why I called,” I continued, taking him off the hook. “Nick, it’s now time to deal with your situation and decide where we’re going to go from here.”