I've thought of a few other adventures that took place before the boys moved in.
A few weeks before I stayed with them in the hotel in Indiana, Coach, Curly, and I were supposed to meet Debbie half way. We ended up sitting on the expressway for over an hour in the same.exact.position. There'd been an accident on the other side of the interstate. Loss of life. It was incredibly sad.
Fortunately, Debbie agreed to meet us at our hotel rather than sit at the halfway spot and wait. We appreciated that so much, and Curly was so relieved. The next day we took the boys to a water park. It was a fast 24 hour visit, but they had a blast. Fortunately, so did Curly.
It was a hot sunny day and we had little info on this park, so we got there early in case they shut down for too many guests. Nope, they let in everyone and their brother. If you are keeping a tally, you can count Indiana as a state that likes to pretend there's no pandemic.
Our kids had participated in visits whenever possible, often missing out on something at home. They rose to the occasion regularly. Sometimes I gave them a gentle reminder about how much their presence meant to the boys, and also how much we were banking on their feedback. As in, we need your input.
At the water park, Larry made a friend. This was typical. Larry made friends at every park, playground, or beach we visited.
Larry could kind of hold his breath in the water, but he knew no strokes. I tried to show him how to blow bubbles, kick his legs, then add arms. The basics. I'm no Michael Phelps. We were in the main pool. Coach had taken Harry on the lazy river or something that Larry didn't want to do right then. And Curly was free to do whatever she wanted.
He and I played catch with a ball we'd brought and occasionally I gave him pointers on how to swim. It didn't take long before a little boy came over and asked if he could play catch with Larry. Larry asked me if it was OK.
Me (to myself): You mean, you want to play with a kid your age and you expect me to just lean up against the side of the pool and catch some rays instead of trying to create fun out of a game of catch in a crazy crowded pool where I am constantly worried that I might accidentally hit someone with the ball, or you will, and one of us will get a nasty glare, I mean - I guess I'm OK with it.
After the boys played catch a bit, they came closer to me. Larry had a question.
Larry: This is my friend. Can you teach him how to swim like you taught me?
I never saw this kid's parents and I have no idea how you let a kid who doesn't really know how to swim just wander off to do his thing at a crowded water park, but there are lots of different parenting styles, I guess.
Me: Um, sure. What's you name, buddy?
Boy in need of swimming lessons: Doodie.
|compliments of YARN memes|
Above is a GIF from Caddy Shack. If you are unfamiliar: it's a Baby Ruth dropped in the pool. The rest is history. Someone, who doesn't watch their kid in a water park, named their kid Doodie.
I asked him to repeat it a few times, so I was sure I wasn't CALLING him Doodie without just cause.
Anyway, I provided Doodie with a few basic swimming lessons. He would 'perfect' kicking or blowing bubbles and splash right back over to me and ask for his next assignment. He was quite pleased with himself. He and Larry splashed around in their new mission to swim like champs. It was pretty sweet.
When we left to meet Debbie again, Larry said something along the lines, SO THAT'S YOUR POOL THEN? Poor confused boy, who wasn't allowed to leave Indiana with us, thought that was going to be our regular, daily-pool hang-out once he officially moved in. We were like, nope. Our pool isn't that busy - wish we had slides like this, but we have a high dive and a low dive. It's also a lot less crowded.
The other visit I failed to give a shout out to was back in April when Larry was celebrating his 9th birthday. We drove in for the day and met him at an indoor adventure place full of bouncy houses, video games, gross pizza, people who looked like they hung out in those venues too much, and most likely lots-0-germs. Nary a mask was worn, except by us.
Anyway, Curly was the only one planning to go. When we were literally walking out to the car to leave, Reg walked into the kitchen. We'd already begged him to come. It was more fun for Curly to have a buddy along and we commenced with our begging. Reg wanted to play basketball outside all day - an almost 8 hour round trip drive did NOT appeal, but we pointed out that it was a rainout. We reminded him that Debbie had the keys to the school she worked at. She'd let us go there to shoot hoops after the germy-kid-place.
A nice gym. All to ourselves. Reg threw on some clothes, brushed his teeth, and hopped in the car. Curly squealed with delight.
Curly and Reg ran around the germ-infested-joint and helped the boys get as many tickets as possible so they could eventually pick a really lame prize. Then they found the basketball shooting game. Um, Reg and Curly broke the record and got to type their names in the register thing - Harry and Larry were impressed and overjoyed.
Debbie's 3 yr old granddaughter, who she is raising, was there. She is super shy and kept begging Debbie to take her on the bouncy houses. I gave Curly a nod and soon granddaughter had Curly wrapped around her little finger, or vice versa.
Afterwards we went to the school and basketball was played at nauseum. We drove home with a sweaty, smelly Reg. He and Curly chuckled about little things that had happened during the visit.
The highlight: we gave Larry his gift. It was a pop-up soccer goal and a mini b-ball hoop for over the door. We'd talked about signing them up for local soccer league and they were pumped. B-ball is Larry's favorite thing in the world.
I also made him a photo frame. I took a handful of photos since we'd met the boys and organized them in a collage. I made sure each of our kids was represented. It was a last minute add on, but it turned out cute.
I wish I could share the expression on his face when he opened it. His face went from:
OH, A GOAL. OH, A BASKETBALL HOOP. WOW - LOOK AT THIS!
I happened to snap a picture of him opening the frame and I captured his face. Priceless.
Heads up: not gonna lie, these happy memories are hard to share. I wish I'd posted them in real time, but I wanted to be SURE this was a go before I opened up about our journey. Things get incredibly difficult later. It is REALLY hard for me to look back at all of this knowing what lies in wait for us. Sometimes writing about it is therapeutic and sometimes it's just a struggle, but I don't want to delay the rest of the story either. I wanna wrap it up. I'm in a pickle over here. I so appreciate everyone's support, but I also feel like I'm stringing you along on this hopeful ride that might not turn out the way any of us dreamed and I feel unjustified in accepting all of your praise. Not that we weren't doing EVERYTHING that I'm describing AND THEN SOME, but it feels odd to hear how overjoyed everyone is that we are accepting the boys into our life (even though that is exactly what we've done) . . . because you all happen to be a little behind in the reality that is currently happening. I'm going to leave it at that for this week.