The Castaway Hotel: Book 3

Chapter 32: Problems and Solutions

Monday proved to be a very busy day for me. First I called and set up the boys’ test appointments for their permits. Then I called and ordered the things we would need for Kevin’s birthday party. After that I phoned Sally and Steve to invite them to the party, before I took some of the boys with me to choose a bed for Pat’s room and shop for birthday presents. When all of that was done, I picked a date when I could go and meet the Lawrences and then called and reserved my ticket.

Next, I called Nick, and then his parents, so I could inform them of my plans for us to meet up in Oklahoma City. Everyone seemed satisfied with the arrangements and I was ready to collapse after I got off the phone, but I wasn’t finished yet. Now I called the school, to check on some things pertaining to the restarting of classes. When I got done with that call, I went to round up the older boys.

Once I had them all together, I informed them the fall sports physicals were going to be held Wednesday morning and they would have to decide if they wanted to play again this year. Then I told them that tryouts would begin the following Monday and school would start the Monday after that. I didn’t hear as many groans as I expected, but I know those I heard were just knee-jerk reactions. For the most part, the boys really did enjoy going to school.

I also informed everyone that I’d be flying out to meet Nick’s parents the following week and would be gone for two days. Some of the boys asked to go with me, but I told them I’d have to do this alone. I explained that I was planning to ask Aunt Sally to stay at the house with them, help prepare the meals and keep an eye on things for me while I was gone. However, the older boys argued they were old enough to take care of things themselves and didn’t need Aunt Sally to stay over.

Rather than argue with them, I told them I’d tell Sally to do nothing, except be there in case of an emergency. She could have my room and spend most of her time there, and that way they could prove to me they could do everything for themselves. Then, if things were successful, the next time I had to go somewhere, I would be able to leave them on their own, without worrying whether they could handle it. It wasn’t quite what they wanted to hear, but after some grumbling, they gave in. As they were leaving the room, I asked Dustin, Danny and Brandon to remain, after the others had left.

“I’ve scheduled your permit tests for tomorrow afternoon and we can go looking at cars after you boys get done with your sports physicals on Wednesday, if that’s all right with you.”

“Sure, Pop, that sounds great!” Brandon responded first.

“You’re still going to let us help with picking out the vehicles? Right, Dad?” Danny wanted to know, since he seemed to be most concerned about these vehicles fitting in with his image.

“Yes, but like I told you earlier, I’ll make the final decision about what we end up buying,” I reiterated. “I’ll consider your recommendations, but I’ll have to go with what I think will be best for all of us. If you don’t like what we end up with, you won’t be forced to drive it.”

The boys looked puzzled by my response, but then one of them caught on. “Do you think you’ll discourage us that easily?” Dustin wanted to know. “I’ll drive a tractor, if it means I can go places and do things on my own.”

“Why? Has your social life been that stifled since you’ve come to live here?” I asked, jokingly.

“No, but you know that’s not what I meant,” he assured me. “It’s just that at our age you don’t want your daddy driving you every place. It’s just not cool.”

“I understand and that’s why I’m agreeing to this. There will only be the two vehicles for you three drivers to use though, so you’ll have to be able to work things out between you and you’ll have to team up sometimes. Kevin is sixteen now as well, so it will only be a few more months before he’ll be able to get his license too, which means that then there will be four drivers for two vehicles. I just want to get you boys to pass your tests before I start with him.”

“We understand and we’ll work things out between us,” Danny responded. “I know you and what you’ll do if we can’t work things out for ourselves. You’ll just take the keys away to both cars, if we start having fights over who gets to drive or which car we’re going to use.”

“You’re right about that and I hope you all remember it,” I warned them. “Any problems and the vehicles will be either restricted in their use or taken away from you completely, no matter how inconvenient it is for you or me. And there will be no further discussion or debate, if it comes to the point where I have to make such a decision. It’s up to you boys to make certain it never comes to that.”

“We will,” they chimed in unison. “So let’s just end the discussion here,” Danny added, sounding a bit like me in the process.

Later that evening Kevin came up to me, broaching a topic I was sort of expecting. “Dad, I know you’re letting Dusty, Danny and Brandon get their licenses and Dusty tells me you’re going to buy a couple of cars for them to use. I’m sixteen now as well, so can’t I get my permit now, too?”

“Kevin, you know you can’t get your license until you’re 16 1/2, even though you can get your permit at 16,” I explained. “If you don’t mind, I’d rather get this group taken care of first. I promise I’ll include you as soon as I can, but I even think three is too many to start with.”

“But, Dad, why can’t I start now too?” he whined. “Danny and Brandon aren’t 16 1/2 yet either.”

“No, but Brandon will be next month and Danny will be in November,” I informed him. “You won’t be that old until February. That gives me more time to teach you, after I’ve been able to work with them. If it will make you feel better, I’ll let you sign up for driver’s training at school at the same time as the rest of them. I’m not sure if you’ll be able to get into it for the first half of the year or not, but you’ll be able to take it second half for sure.”

“But, Dad, please?” he begged. “I want to start driving when Dusty does.”

“Kevin, I understand what you want and why you want it,” I confessed, “but each of them had to wait a few months after they turned sixteen, before they could start too. You’ll have to do the same thing and you’ll just have to be patient.”

“But, Dad…”

I cut him off. “Kevin, I know how you’re feeling, but it’s either that or you can forget about it altogether,” I stated, adamantly.

In response, Kevin gave me a very mean look and stormed off. I understood how important it was to him, as I had felt the same way when I was his age, and I’d also gone through it with my older children, when they were this age. I hated to make him feel so badly, especially just before his birthday party, but he had to learn patience. Besides, like I always told them, it was time to learn that life is not often fair.

Kevin didn’t speak to me for the rest of the evening and even went to bed early. I told Dustin what was up, so he’d be prepared for his wrath too, in case he redirected it at him. Dustin said he understood, both Kevin’s position and mine, and would do what he could to smooth things over. I thanked him and then he went to bed too, although I think he planned to talk with Kevin instead.

Tuesday I had a lot more things to do, including going in to school for a couple of hours first, since I had a great deal yet to do before the academic year started. It was actually quite refreshing to return to my office, if only for a brief time, but it began to get me in the mood for seeing the students again, which was only a week and a half away.

Once I finished there, I went home, picked up the three boys and took them for their written permit test. They had been studying for it since we spoke about it the first time, at the end of the last school year, but I wasn’t how sure how much they’d remember after our long summer and only a couple of days of cramming. I figured at least one of them might fail, and then they could wait and go through this again with Kevin.

After what seemed like an eternity of waiting for them, I discovered they had all passed their written tests and now had their permits. It was good news for them, but I knew that this would do nothing to improve Kevin’s disposition. We went home and the three of them quickly told the other boys about their success and everyone seemed to be happy for them, that is, everyone except Kevin. He slinked up the stairs and I heard the door to his room shut behind him. Other than that, the only other time I saw Kevin during the entire day was at dinner, and he didn’t say a single word to anyone. I was really beginning to feel bad about this, as I didn’t want him in this funk for his party, but there was no way I was going to give in to his childish temper tantrum. He was just going to have to learn how to take the good with the bad, since that was what life was all about.

The next day, I ended up taking all of my athletes down for their physicals and we picked up Jay on the way. Kevin rode as far back in the van as he could, not speaking to anyone, including Dustin. I was very disappointed in him. When I let them off, I informed them I’d be back in an hour, and then went to my school building again, to do a little more work.

When I picked the boys up later, Kevin still wasn’t speaking to me, but he was now mumbling a few words to the others. I wasn’t going to approach him yet, as I’d give him until tomorrow night to get over his moodiness, and then give him an ultimatum, if necessary. I hated for it to have to come to that, but I wasn’t going to go through his birthday party with a sour guest of honor. I took the boys back home, but told Dustin, Danny and Brandon to stay in the van and we’d go car shopping. I think Kevin was disappointed that I didn’t include him in this as well, but I didn’t feel he deserved it. However, the others were very excited about this opportunity and we were soon on our way to look around.

When we arrived at one of my friend’s car lots, I told the boys we’d look for the mini-van first, since that was the vehicle we needed most. It seems that as I turned in one direction, the boys went in the other. I found a couple of possibilities, a Dodge Caravan and a Chevy Venture, but they didn’t hold as many passengers as I would have liked. They were only designed for seven people and, with Brandon living with us now, we had eight young men attending the high school. If I purchased either one of those, it would require the boys drive both vehicles every day, each carrying part of our brood.

As I was pondering this dilemma, the boys came back and dragged me off to a vehicle they had found. Soon I was standing next to a two-year old GMC Suburban, as the boys pointed out its advantages to me. My first reaction was that this was almost as large as our van, except it would be easier to see out of, having a full spread of windows. Besides being easy to see out of, it would also seat 9 boys.

We debated the pros and cons of this particular vehicle some more, although I still wasn’t totally convinced by their arguments. At that point, the boys talked me into taking it out for a test drive. I drove it out of the lot and down the street, and soon discovered it was a much easier vehicle to drive than our big old van. It looked as if I would end up giving in to them on this selection, but we still had to choose a car.

When I told them I agreed to buy the Suburban, a chorus of satisfied comments ensued, before we pulled back into the lot and parked it again. As we exited the vehicle, the boys grabbed me by my arms and dragged me off again, this time moving toward the area designated for the used cars, and soon discovered they had been doing their research. They had been eying cars online, so they would have some idea about what they wanted, and had found something they all agreed on.

As we bounced between the numerous rows of cars, like metal balls in a pinball machine, they finally came upon their choice, a three-year old Pontiac Grand Am. I looked it over, checked it out and then we talked about it for a minute or two, before deciding if I would take it out for a test drive too. It was a mid-size car, which would seat five, and it would be a good vehicle to use to teach the boys how to drive. I took it out for a test drive and I liked the way it handled, so we went back to the lot and I talked to my friend.

We hassled briefly over price and then I bought both vehicles. My friend told me it would take a couple of days to take care of the paperwork, get the vehicles inspected and register them for me, so we closed the deal and said good-bye. The boys were just excited that they were going to get both of the vehicles they had picked out.

Just before we got to the van, all three boys surrounded and hugged me, before thanking me for listening to their ideas. Now, they decided it was time to inform me of their reasons for wanting those particular vehicles. First, they wanted an SUV instead of a mini-van, since they thought they were much cooler. They realized a standard SUV wouldn’t accommodate the numbers we needed, but when they saw the Suburban, they concluded it was a practical compromise between the two. As for the Grand Am, they knew it was the type of car I was looking for, but it was also sporty looking and wouldn’t be looked upon as a ‘family car,’ at least where their friends were concerned. They were excited, I was satisfied and we could start their driving lessons just as soon as the vehicles were in our possession.

When we got back home, they told the other boys about our purchases. Everyone seemed pretty enthused about this, except for Kevin. I think he felt it was just something else he had been left out of. That’s when I decided he needed another lesson in life, so I took him aside to speak with him. He didn’t really want to join me, but I left him no choice.

“Kevin, I would have asked you to join us and help make those selections,” I began, “but with your attitude of late, I just didn’t need or want the hassle. If you hadn’t have acted so immaturely about waiting to take your permit test, I would most likely have included you, but I wasn’t about to reward you for acting like a brat.”

I think Kevin was shocked to hear me say that and a pained expression came over his face. Again I felt bad for him, but it was another problem he had thrust upon himself, by his immature response. Even though I know it’s hard for a kid his age to delay gratification, I feel it is important that he learn this now and avoid other problems of this type in the future. Obviously he still didn’t agree with my logic and soon disappeared again, going off somewhere to sulk alone.

That night after dinner, the boys wanted me to drive them to school, so they could have a pick-up soccer game. Everyone was going to play, including picking up Jay, and they asked me to play too, to even up the teams. When I agreed, Kevin acted like he wasn’t going to go, but Dustin talked to him, rather sternly, so Kevin ended up going anyway. To make matters worse, we ended up playing on the same team. Kevin played only half-heartedly and we were getting trounced. Boys from both teams were getting on him about his attitude, and then the boys decided to stop the game and just go back home. Now, nearly everyone was pissed at Kevin and he’d be lucky if his birthday party didn’t turn into a roast, and I mean that literally, or a one-man event.

Dustin was so mad at him that he asked to sleep in with me that night. Reluctantly, I said yes, knowing that would probably make Kevin even madder at me, but I understood Dustin’s take on this too. At first I was going to suggest he share with one of the other boys, before realizing there was nobody for him to share with. Without the double bed for Pat’s room, everyone else already had a full bed. The only option was for Dustin to sleep alone in one of the spare rooms, but I wasn’t going to punish him because of Kevin’s tantrum. Therefore, I gave in.

Thursday the new bed was to be delivered for Pat’s room, sometime between breakfast and lunch, so we had to get everything ready. The house was a flurry of activity, as some of the boys took down Pat’s single bed and moved it into the old master bedroom, while other groups gave each room a quick cleaning before the beds were moved into them. However, none of the groups asked Kevin to help them.

Kevin tried to act like this didn’t bother him, but I could tell this exclusion hurt him more than anything else. By the time the furniture store truck pulled up, all they had to do was carry everything up to Pat’s room and assemble it. When I went in to check it out, I noticed a mistake.

“This appears to be larger than a double bed,” I announced, which caused one of the two men setting it up to pull out his tape measure and measure the size of the mattress.”

“You’re right,” he agreed. “This is a queen-sized bed.”

“But I only ordered a double bed,” I told him.

“Let me call my boss and see what he says,” he told me, before making a quick call. As soon as he hung up, he explained the situation to me. “The boss said it was his mistake, as he wrote down the wrong number, so since it was his error and will cost more to take this back to the store and bring the new one back, he’ll just let you keep this bed at the same price, if it’s all right with you.”

“Sure, that’s fine,” I agreed, thinking this would make things even better in the future.

By lunchtime everything was done, including Pat making his bed, after I ran to the store to exchange the bedding I’d purchased for the double bed for a queen-sized set up. Everyone was happy, especially Pat, and the house was back in shape again.