But that’s not what he finds when he looks outside.
Adam and I got home from Davis on Sunday in the early evening, unpacked the car, and I couldn’t believe what we talked about next — after everything we’d had to eat at Beth and Sean’s and the Holiday Inn Breakfast Bar during the past few days — we sat down at the kitchen table to talk about what to have for dinner.
“So, what would you like?” I asked Adam.
“How about some of the leftover turkey Aunt Beth gave us? We could make some absolutely wonderful sandwiches with sourdough bread, lettuce, and tomato. Is that okay?”
“Sure. I love turkey and never eat enough of it except around the holidays.” I watched Adam to see his reaction to my next question. “You know, I read about putting a little cranberry sauce on a turkey sandwich. How about we give that a try, too? I’ll put it on half the sandwich in case we don’t like it all that much.”
“Okay. You’ll help me, dad?”
“Sure. I’ll start by getting the ingredients out of the refrigerator.”
We made the sandwiches, put them on plates, got a bag of potato chips and something to drink, and sat down to eat. We both liked the half with cranberry sauce, but not so much that we’d rush to have it that way again. While we ate, we talked about school.
“Do you have any homework that you didn’t finish?”
“I think I’m caught up. But I should log on to school loop and see if any of my teachers sneaked in another assignment to make sure our Christmas holiday could be spoiled.” Adam chuckled. “I’ll let you know after I log on.”
He got up and put our dirty plates, glasses, and cutlery in the dishwasher. “Now I’ll check school loop and see if a teacher added any homework and if what I had posted has been picked up. I think they should have used their holiday time grading the homework we had to turn in by last Friday.” He looked at me to see my reaction. “Do you agree?” he asked.
“Yes, if the assignments had to be turned in no later than Friday, Your teachers could have graded everything that was turned in by the end of Friday and will return it to you in your class or online no later than Monday.
After everything was cleaned up, I went to my office and checked my phone calls, email, and texts. There was nothing that I had to do — or even read.
I went to the family room and turned on the TV to watch the evening news. I assumed Adam was in his bedroom on his computer.
Adam returned to the family room after a few minutes, and I looked up. “Any additional homework?” I asked.
“Nope. And two of my teachers reviewed and graded the homework that was due Friday night.”
“Geometry and English.”
“So, nothing more to do until you go back to school on the Monday after New Year’s Day?”
“Yup, not anything. So, I’m going to watch some TV in my room until it’s time for some ice cream.”
I grinned. “I don’t remember seeing ice cream or any other dessert on tonight’s dinner menu.”
“Hmm. I thought ice cream was always on the menu.”
I laughed. “Okay, okay! We can have ice cream. One small scoop for me, please.”
“I assume that means one small scoop for you and two scoops for me?”
I just looked at Adam and laughed. He looked at me for a few seconds, then laughed, too. “Okay,” I said. “Don’t complain if you’re over your weight class at the weigh-in for your next meet. If you are, I’ll tease you about it!”
We went into the kitchen, and I scooped two small scoops of vanilla ice cream for Adam and one small scoop for me.
We sat and ate our ice cream, and Adam looked at me.
“I’ve been thinking about the memorial service for my mom. I’m not sure about the list of people that we would invite. I don’t know anyone she worked with.”
“I can find out who her manager was, describe what you’re doing, and ask for the names of the workers who were her friends.”
“Oh, that’s a good idea!”
“I was talking to Mrs. Billingsley the other day. She suggested that she could invite some of your neighbors and your mailman. People who were friendly with your mom.”
“I want to invite Brian if he wants to come. You think that’s a good idea?”
“Yes, I do. But… maybe a warning. He might be reluctant to attend since he and your mother didn’t know each other.”
“But they did! He came to my house a few times when his dad drove the two of us to school or home. That’s when Brian met my mom. But we weren’t boyfriends yet.”
“Okay, then he did know your mother, and asking him to come to the service is a good idea. I didn’t know he and your mother had met.”
“Brian and I met when they were holding the first wrestling tryout in August before school started. Parents had to come with us to sign papers that afternoon. I guess I looked lost, so he came over, he said his name was Brian Wong, and he explained what was going on. I told him I was Adam Rios. I liked him, and he must have liked me because we became friends that day.”
“There’s something else I’ve been wondering. You’ve been busy with school and wrestling and Brian since I’ve known you. What you haven’t done is talk about your other friends.”
Adam sat back and looked at me. “You know, you’re right. I have a lot of friends at school. Mostly freshmen, and mostly boys. Once wrestling is over, I’ll start getting together with my school friends more often — and Brian, too, if he wants to hang out with a bunch of lowly freshmen.” Adam laughed.
“What sort of things would you do with Brian and your friends?”
“Go to one of the parks and shoot baskets, play flag football or soccer, play tennis, and go swimming at the Heather Farms Park or Larkey Park pools. Sometimes we could go to the movies, go downtown to wander around, go to the Bedford Art Gallery, go hiking… and lots of other things.” He took a deep breath and let it out, grinning.
“You seem to know what you want to do. Have you done these things with your friends before?”
“Sure, but not as often as I’d like. Trouble is, all of my friends had bikes, and I didn’t. So I’d have to find a friend who could get their mom or dad to drive them and pick me up then go wherever we wanted to go. Sometimes my mom would drive me if I asked real nice. But usually, she was at work.
“The other thing, my mom didn’t want me to have anyone come to our house unless she was there. I asked her why, and she said she didn’t like to have people she didn’t know at our house. The trouble is, she worked afternoon and evening shifts, so she wasn’t home very often when I was home from school. So, I’d visit friends at their houses when it was close enough so I could walk. Sometimes we played video games or watched football or basketball, went to the park or the movies or something like that. The only times I could see friends at my house was when they’d come over on the weekend and when my mom was home.”
I grinned and raised my eyebrows. “Do you remember something I asked you?”
“You asked me lots of things ever since I met you. So what’s the ‘something’ that you want me to remember?”
“We were in the garage in your mom’s house. I asked you if you had a bike. You said no. I said I could get you one.”
“Okay, I remember. I also said my mom wouldn’t get me a bike because they were too expensive. And I said that’s why I’d never learned how to ride a bike.”
“There’s a big bike store on California Boulevard. If you buy your bike from them, they have free classes to teach you how to ride. Your mother’s memorial service is on Saturday. So, let’s go to the bike store on Sunday and take a look at what their bikes look like. That way, I can buy you a shiny new bike as one of your Christmas presents — an early Christmas present. How’s that sound?”
“Okay, you’ve convinced me.” Adam let out a moan. “You know, it means more homework, learning to ride a bike and all of the things about where you can ride and rules about signals and so on. I’ll have to reserve time to do that. At least, there won’t be any tests.”
“Hmm… I think there will be tests,” I said.
“Learning the rules and regulations you just talked about, and learning how to ride your bike without you and the bike falling over or you falling off all the time.”
Adam narrowed his eyes and glared at me. “You said I wouldn’t fall off!”
“As I remember, what I had said was because of wrestling, you should have good balance, and it should be easy for you to learn how to ride without falling off or falling over.
“Brian has a bike, right?”
“Do you want him to go with us to the bike shop on Sunday?”
“Yes! That’s a great idea. He can look at the bikes and tell me which ones he likes or doesn’t like, and why.”
“So, you’re going to ask him to join us?”
“Sure. I’ll text him right now. Then I think I’ll watch some TV and then get ready for bed. See you in the morning, Dad.”
“Have a good evening, Adam. Let me know when you’re about to go to bed, and we’ll say good night, and you can tell me if Brian can go with us on Sunday.”
“Will do.” Now Adam seemed more excited about getting a bike.
The memorial service for June Rios was held on Saturday, the twenty-first of December, at noon. Fortunately, the weather forecast on the radio reported that we would have cool and clear weather.
As planned, everything was organized by Ruth Billingsley, June Rios’ next-door neighbor and probably her best friend. She did the planning with Adam’s assistance, and I paid for the food and drinks by writing Ruth a personal check.
The Wednesday evening before the service, Adam and I went to a local hardware store and bought two round-point shovels. When we got home, I took the boys to Adam’s house. Then Adam and Brian dug a hole next to the tree where Adam wanted his mother’s ashes to be buried. There were two shovels, so both Brian and Adam could get the hole ready. They did that on Friday afternoon, the day before the service. The hole was easy for the boys to dig, and it was large enough for the aluminum box with her ashes. I let them know that if they needed assistance, I was available since Mrs. Billingsley had a I could use. The boys didn’t need my help.
Adam and I and Mrs. Billingsley greeted each person as they arrived, thanking them for coming.
Those who came to the memorial service included seventeen people who worked with June at the John Muir Rehabilitation Clinic. In addition, ten neighbors were there, including Mrs. Billingsley and their regular mailman.
To begin the memorial service, Mrs. Billingsley described that after Adam had been born, his mother told her she wanted her ashes buried under a tree that she had planted. She pointed it out so the attendees could see which tree it was.
Next, Adam introduced Brian as his boyfriend and that they’d dug the hole together for the ashes. Then he introduced me as his new father and said I was adopting him and that would be final in mid-January.
Adam and Brian put the aluminum box of ashes in the hole, then packed the leftover dirt around and on top of the box.
After it was buried, Adam told stories about living with his mother and some strange things she liked and disliked. This included not wanting Adam to have his friends come over unless she was home, and she wouldn’t allow him to play music unless he was wearing headphones to listen to it. She also liked to buy cases of household items like toilet paper and paper towels from Amazon, so they wouldn’t run out. He said he wondered if she was planning for the zombie apocalypse. Everyone laughed at that. He also talked about her unusual food likes and dislikes. She liked sweets but never gained weight, and he was glad he’d inherited that gene from her. She didn’t like turkey, fish, or anything fried and wouldn’t grill or broil meat. She said the scent would carry throughout the house, and she didn’t like that. So most meals at the Rios’ home were salads and frozen meals like lasagna from the supermarket.
There were snacks and drinks that Mrs. Billingsley had prepared, and everyone commented that they were ’s.
Several of June’s co-workers spoke and told stories about some of the funny things she did when she had patients who were not doing the exercises she’d taught them. For example, if they were exercising to lose weight, she’d bring out a camera and take the patient’s picture when they came to start a series of on-site physical therapy sessions. Then, she’d give them the pictures and suggested they look at them if they ever decided to skip doing their exercises.
They said her techniques usually worked.
Mrs. Billingsley talked about how she and June shared recipes and would sit on Mrs. Billingsley’s front porch to have coffee and chat most weekday mornings.
As each guest left, Adam, Mrs. Billingsley, and I said goodbye. We were glad to see everyone who attended the memorial service said they were pleased that they’d been invited.
Fortunately, there were two things no one asked about. One was June’s boyfriend, Ted Loaming, and the other was how and where she had died.
The Sunday after the memorial service, I stopped at Brian’s house to pick him up and took both boys to the bike shop.
It was busy — very busy! Christmas would be in a few days, and they were crowded with customers.
After about a half-hour wandering around looking at road and mountain bikes, Brian had convinced Adam that a mountain bike would be best. Brian liked the Schwinn High Timber 21-speed mountain bike with 26” wheels, a replaceable padded seat, and other accessories. It was black with green lettering, which Adam liked better than the more colorful bikes. It was on sale for $399.99 plus sales tax, assembled, which was reasonable compared to the prices on many of the other bikes. That way, when Adam was older and taller, getting him a bike that fit him better wouldn’t be a big a hit to my wallet. I paid for it with my personal credit card. I was told that we could pick it up on Monday.
Adam was excited. Brian said he could teach him the basics of how to ride, supplementing the bike shop’s classes.
The Monday after the memorial service was also the first day of Christmas vacation for local schools. Instead of sleeping in, Adam got up at his usual time, and we had breakfast.
“Once we pick up your bike, what are you going to do with the rest of your first day of vacation?” I asked.
“Brian is going to come over and teach me how to ride. It’s not as in-depth a class as the one at the bike store, but it’ll get me started. It gives me a way to learn beginning stuff, like how to balance myself, how the shifter and brakes work, and so on.”
We drove to the bike store and picked up Adam’s new bike. With the back row of seats folded down, it just fit into my SUV. We drove home, and Brian was sitting on the front porch waiting for us. We unloaded Adam’s bike, and Brian’s training session got started.
“Okay, guys. It’s time for me to go to the office. There’s lots of food in the refrigerator for your lunch. Have fun, and I’ll see you tonight.”
“See you!” they both said, and I noticed Adam was smiling. It was obvious that his new bike was a lot bigger deal than he’d initially thought it would be.
It was about noon by the time I got to my office. When I arrived, one thing was different. Jared was sitting in one of my guest chairs, waiting for me.
“Well, good morning, Mr. Wong. And what is this unexpected Monday meeting about?” I asked.
“Do you remember a few days ago you asked me what you needed to do if you wanted to start the process to adopt Adam?”
“Yes, I remember that. Is there a problem?”
“You know that Adam is NKR, don’t you?”
“Yes, I found out he has no known relatives.”
“Congratulations! That means you can adopt him a lot sooner. That’s because the process has been simplified, so you’ll be able to complete the adoption by the middle of January.”
Jared continued; he had a lot to say.
“First, adoptions require a series of classes to learn what it is like to adopt a preteen or teen. It’s online training. However, because of your CPS position and your fostering license for Adam, the training class will be waived.
“Second, there are forms that have to be filled out. I can help you with that. There are four forms: an Adoption Request form, an Adoption Agreement form, an Adoption Order form, and an Adoption Expenses form.
“Third, a family law facilitator from the court will review the forms to make sure you, with my assistance, have filled them in and everything is correct and complete.
“Fourth, the forms will be submitted to the court clerk so they can be reviewed. After they’ve been reviewed, you will pay a filing fee. Usually, applicants pay the filing fee when they turn in the forms. That way, they don’t have to return to the court an extra time just to pay the fee.
“Fifth, a staff member from CDSS will meet with you and Adam and will investigate the adoption. Both you and Adam will be interviewed, both individually and together, to determine if you two are compatible, and both agree that you want the adoption to be finalized. Then the CDSS staff member will issue a report which will be filed with the court. Those investigations can be held later this week. Since CDSS licenses me to conduct investigations, I’ll be the investigator for you and Adam.
“Wait a minute,” I said. “Since you know both Adam and me, and we work together, wouldn’t you have to recuse yourself from doing the investigations?”
“No. I have the approval to do the investigations from the CDSS staff in Sacramento. And there are no recusals for adoption investigators except for the judge, if he or she knows either party.
“Sixth, you and Adam will appear before the judge at the adoption hearing. I’ve arranged for the two of you to meet with Judge Benson Jeffers, and I scheduled it for Thursday, the ninth of January 2020, at ten a.m. You are number seven on his docket, so it will probably be in the afternoon. Hearings usually last about a half-hour each.
“I also assumed that you and Adam would be excited about meeting with the judge to finalize the adoption, so I recommend that you have Adam excused from school for the entire day for the hearing and after so you can celebrate. If Adam would like to have Brian come to the adoption hearing, let me know, and I’ll arrange to have him excused from school, too.
“Any questions?” Jared smiled and sat looking at me.
“How did you accomplish all of this? And so fast and so soon?”
“Brian and I knew that you and Adam want to complete the adoption forthwith, so I talked to the judge, and he said you should go ahead as soon as possible.”
Jared’s use of a term that sounded very legalistic made me laugh, and I asked him, “And what does ‘forthwith’ mean?”
“Without any delay,” he replied, then he continued.
“I found out that the CDSS system is speeding up adoptions of preteens and teens. Juvenile court and CDSS have a surplus of suitable preteen and teen candidates for adoption. One of the reasons is because the public is more interested in newborns, infants, and young children. In some cases, when the adoption is straightforward, like yours and Adam, they are eager to have the process completed quickly. They hope this speedup will double finalized preteen and teen adoptions through next year.”
I listened to Jared, and I must have been smiling because he laughed and said, “I think you’re thrilled that we can move fast on your adoption of Adam. Am I right?”
“Oh, yes, you certainly are! When can I tell Adam?”
“How about this evening, after he’s finished his homework and you’ve had dinner?”
“That sounds good. Except now I need to write down what you told me. I’ll never remember it on my own.”
That’s what we did, with Jared dictating as I keyed everything into my PC. Then I printed three copies. One was for Adam and one was for me; I folded them and and put them in my jacket pocket. The third was for Jared.
When we finished, I was sure I’d remember everything and wouldn’t need the written version. Though, just in case, it was a good idea to have it as a referral, especially when Adam started to ask questions.
Jared continued. “When your adoption of Adam is finalized, Joyce and I expect you’ll take us out for a nice dinner. I assume Adam and Brian will want to come along.”
I grinned. “Yes, I’m sure they will. And I’ll make sure to invite them. Then we’ll go to Flemings for an outstanding steak dinner. Is that okay?”
Jared smiled. “Yes, it is. Definitely.”
Jared and I worked together to start the second step of the adoption process, filling in the forms. First, we started with the Adoption Request form. It was pages of detailed information about Adam and me. We started by bringing in some sandwiches for lunch and spent most of the lunch hour filling in the form. Sometimes I wasn’t sure what they wanted me to fill in, and Jared guided me.
I had to attach copies of Adam’s and my birth certificates and copies of Adam’s parents’ death certificates. Then I looked over the form. We were nearly finished, and I decided we could complete anything else on the Adoption Request form at my house the next day.
Jokingly, I told Jared, “I thought they’d also want to know the last time Adam and I had haircuts.” Jared thought that was funny. I didn’t laugh because we had finally finished the first form. What I did was take a deep breath and relax.
“The rest of the forms are straightforward and faster to fill out,” Jared said. So, let’s meet at your house tomorrow at lunch, and we’ll start on the Adoption Agreement form. Is that okay?” he asked.
“Good. You providing lunch?” he asked.
“Yes. See you tomorrow at my house. And thanks for the help with the Adoption Request form.”
When I got home, Adam was sitting in the family room watching a basketball game.
“Adam, is all of your homework finished?” I asked.
“Yes. I didn’t have much, mostly reading for English and Living Earth. We have a Living Earth quiz tomorrow. I studied for it last night. It should be easy.”
“Good. After dinner, I’d like to sit down with you, and we’ll talk about some of the details so we can get ready for me to adopt you. Okay?”
“Okay? That’s fantastic!” He jumped up and hugged me. “Can I help get dinner ready?”
“Sure. We have Chicken Florentine, peas and multicolored carrots, and a salad with avocado and tomatoes. First, you can fix the salad, and I’ll get the vegetables ready. The Chicken Florentine is frozen, and all it needs is to be heated in the microwave for about ten minutes. So, in about ten minutes, you and I will have everything ready to go.”
During dinner, I asked Adam about his bike training sessions.
“It was great! Brian is a great teacher. With his help, I found out that staying upright, bending one way or the other to make turns, and balancing myself so I wouldn’t fall down were all easy. Then I worked with Brian and practiced riding a lot with him riding alongside me. I found out that he’s a strict teacher!
“Also, I found out that there’s a class at the bike shop on Wednesday, so I signed up to take it. Brian and I will ride our bikes to get there.”
“Do you think you’ll take more lessons at the Bike Shop?”
“Yes. And I’ll practice a lot more with Brian. By the time we have to go back to school, I’m planning on riding my new bike from home to school and back every day. The exceptions are when we have wrestling practice or meets. On those days, can you drop me off at school and pick me up after school like you’ve been doing?”
“Absolutely. If you’ll give me your updated schedule showing when you have your practices and home and away meets so I’ll know which days I have to take you to school and bring you home.”
“I figured you’d need that, so I already created a spreadsheet with those dates.” He handed me a spreadsheet page with all of the information.
I grinned. “You’re ahead of me, and I appreciate it. I’ll add this to my personal calendar and the calendar I use at the office.”
After dinner we sat down in the living room, and I outlined what Jared had put together for me. I gave Adam a copy of the steps for adoption. We went over the steps, spending most of the time on the forms and the adoption hearing with Judge Jeffers, and I answered most of Adam’s questions. The four I couldn’t answer were about changing his last name to mine, what the Adoption Expenses form was for, are there are fees I have to pay for me to adopt him, and if there are fees how much they would be.
There was also a question Adam didn’t ask me, so I asked it for him: “If the fees were real expensive, would I still adopt him?”
My answer was an unconditional “Yes.” That resulted in a big smile and some tears, too, followed by a tight, long, hug.
“Jared’s coming here tomorrow, and we’ll complete the rest of the forms. It shouldn’t take more than a couple of hours. After that, I’ll ask Jared your questions, except the one I asked for you, and he will tell you and me the answers.”
“Is Brian coming with him?”
“I don’t know. Why don’t you call Brian now and ask him?”
“Okay, I will.”
Adam went into his bedroom to place the call to Brian. He returned after about fifteen minutes.
“Well?” I asked.
“He talked to his dad, and he’ll be coming with him. That way, if you need to ask me any questions, I’ll be nearby. Brian and I will play some video games or shoot some baskets, or both. Brian’s dad said we’re supposed to provide lunch.”
“That’s right. We have a frozen pizza, and we’ll heat that. How about you and Brian put together a salad to go with the pizza?”
“Okay. Sounds like a plan!”
“Sounds like we’ll be ready for tomorrow. Anything good on TV now?” I asked.
“FBI and Blue Bloods. We haven’t seen either of these episodes before. They’re both new ones.”
“Okay, let’s watch both of them,” I suggested. “Is that okay?”
“Yes and yes and yes,” he replied.
“What was the third ‘yes’ for?”
Adam grinned. “Ice cream, of course!”
“I should have guessed! What flavor?”
“I saw some mint chocolate chip in the freezer. How about some of that?”
“Okay. As usual, it’s a self-service kitchen,” I said, then grinned.
We served ourselves then went into the family room to watch TV. Adam showered and went to bed at 10:00, and I watched the news. Then I took a shower and went to bed. Tomorrow would be another busy day filling in forms. The difference was Jared and I would be working on them at my house instead of at our office. That would be a lot more convenient.
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