Family & Friends Series

Sandy & Dan

By Ron Robbins,
edited by Frank Perry

©2010 All rights reserved

Part Nineteen


Dan, Joe and the boys returned from soccer practice late in the afternoon. “Joe," Dan said, "will you stop by my office before you leave this afternoon?”

“Yes, sir.”

Later, Joe knocked on Dan’s office door.

“Come in, Joe, and have a seat.” Joe sat in one of the wing chairs in front of Dan’s desk. “I’ve noticed that you have been preoccupied for the last few days. Is there something troubling you that you would like to discuss?”

Joe said, “I’m sorry that I let my personal life interfere with my job. But, I have some serious personal problems that need to be sorted out.”

“If it is too personal to share," Dan said, "I'll understand, but if it is something that I can help you with, I'd like to discuss it with you.”

Joe said, “As you know, I divorced my wife, Lucy, over three years ago and I have a ten year old son, that I support, who lives with Lucy. She called me on Monday night to talk to me about her future. She told me that her boyfriend, Mark, had proposed marriage to her over the weekend. It seems that he has received a big promotion, and they want him to relocate to Houston as head of their western division. He wants Lucy to marry him and move to Houston with him. My son Steve and Mark don’t get along that well. Lucy casually broached the subject with Steve and he became very upset and said that he would never accept him as his stepfather and did not want him to move in with them. She said she loves our son, but she is in love with Mark and wants to start a new life with him. Mark wants to get married before they move to Houston. He said he would make every effort to get along with Steve, yet he does not feel that it is in the cards. Mark feels that Steve will never accept him. I have the feeling that it would take quite a long time in therapy to turn Steve around, if ever. He never accepted our divorce and always thought in his mind that we would get back together again.

“Lucy wants to marry Mark, yet she is torn between the love for her son, and her future with Mark. She asked me if I would be willing to take Steve to live with me. Steve could still visit them in Houston after they were settled. I agreed go up to Atlanta to talk to Steve and to let him know what we have decided. I know this is going to be traumatic for the three of us, but if this is what she wants, I won’t stand in her way. Lucy was always a career oriented woman. Our marriage was great but when Steve started school, Lucy was bored and went back to work with her old firm in marketing. She was a go getter and after a few short years she was promoted to Director of Marketing. Then she was earning a salary much higher than me. She was a workaholic and spent a lot of time out of town and less and less time at home. She hired a full time house keeper to take care of Steve and me. She kept pushing me to find a more rewarding career. But I was happy working with children and did not want to start a new career. We both realized that our marriage was over and decided to get a divorce.

Dan said, “What about Steve? Did Lucy get custody of your son?”

“We were awarded joint custody. I felt that Steve would adjust better if he remained where he was and not live with me in a small apartment."

“I love my son very much and I’m delighted that he will be living with me again. He's a great kid and has never given us any problems. Lucy wants me to be there and discuss this with Steve. We need to know how Steve feels about moving in with me. Naturally, he is close to his mother, and I have a feeling that he is not going to like the idea of leaving his home and friends to move to Dunnlap with me. When Lucy and I divorced, we still jointly owned the home she is living in now. The decree stipulates that we can sell the house and divide the proceeds between us. We both pay child support and split the monthly cost on the house. That house is the only home Steve has known in his young life and I feel he is going to resent the fact that he must relocate and leave all his schoolmates and friends behind. You know how kids are at that age. I think it will be very hard on him.

“There are other considerations as well. I will need to get a larger apartment and make arrangements for Steve to enroll in school in Dunnlap and to have him attend a daycare facility, or hire someone to take care of him while I’m working.”

Dan said, “I can see that you'll need a larger apartment with two bedrooms, but I don’t see why you need a sitter for Steve. You can enroll him in the same school our boys attend and he can come home with them and stay until it’s time for you to leave for the day.”

“That is kind of you to offer, but I feel that it would be an imposition on you and Sandy.”

“Your son would not be imposing. If as you say, Steve is a good youngster, I don’t think he will have any problems fitting in with our boys. Anyway, we are only talking about three hours a day. I’m sure Steve will participate in soccer and the other sports our boys are currently engaged in and will get along. Your big problem is going to be how Steve is going to react to this move.”

Joe said, “Well, I’ll know where we stand this weekend. Lucy and I have agreed to talk to Steve this Saturday. Poor kid, he does not have much of a choice. I know he won’t go to Houston to live, so his only choice is to move in with me.”

“I wish you good luck," Dan said. "I hope we’ve resolved the problems at this end. Give Steve some time to adjust. I feel that he will fit in after he has been here for a while. Both Sandy and I feel you are doing a fine job with our boys and we don’t want to lose you.”

“Thank you, Dan, I'm glad to know that you are satisfied with my work. I really enjoy working here, and your boys are fine young lads.

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Dan returned to his suite. Sandy was seated on the sofa with his laptop open. Sandy said, “Hi, Tiger, is it dinner time already?”

Dan said, “We have a few minutes yet. I wanted to share the conversation I just had with Joe. I found out what has been troubling him.” Dan related the conversation.

“You did the right thing, Dan. It's unfortunate this had to drop in his lap now. Yet, life is always throwing us little curves along the way. I’m more concerned about his son, Steve, and how he will react to this situation. You might suggest to Joe that Steve may need some professional counseling. Maybe we can get a quantity discount from the children’s psychologist. Not all young boys can handle a situation like Jeremy has. Kids would like things to happen to their way of thinking, and find it difficult to accept the way things really turn out. In Jeremy’s case, his parents were killed outright. He had no options. His only concern at that point was who was going to take care of him. That worry consumed his entire thought process. However, Steve is laboring under the impression that his parents will get back together again, as a family. For that reason alone, I think he will take this very hard. It is going to be very difficult for him to accept this change. His mother has chosen her fiancé over him, but on top of that he is leaving the only home he has known for his entire childhood. Joe is not going to have an easy time of this. It's going to take time to turn this boy around. I have a feeling that he is going to hate his mother and blame her for destroying his little world.”

Dan said, “I agree with your assessment that Joe should enroll Steve in counseling right away. I’ll mention this to him tomorrow before he takes off for Atlanta. You realize we have our own dramatic event tomorrow evening.”

Sandy chuckled, “You know, being a parent gives you a whole different perspective on life. Here I was going along thinking that running a multi-billion dollar business has its problems. But as challenging as that is, it is not as emotionally challenging as raising young children, particularly when they are from ages six to twelve. It’s not like raising our new infants from the get-go. In that case, we are both learning from each other. But when you’re dealing with little people with all their issues, it is not easy. Although Steve is really not our problem, I don’t think we should turn a deaf ear to Joe’s problems since he is helping us raise our boys. I thank God that our boys are all healthy and well adjusted.”

“You can say that again,” Dan said.

“Well, tiger, are you ready to eye-ball the latest slide show that Captain Nelson sent me today?”

“Yes, I’m anxious to see what the finished product looks like.” Dan sat down next to Sandy and viewed the slides on Sandy’s laptop.

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Friday evening while the family was having dinner, Sandy said, “Boys, your father did not feel up to coming down to dinner tonight, so after we finish eating, we all are going to go up to his suite to visit with him.”

Chip said, “He was sleeping when I went to visit him after school today and was still asleep after we came back from our swimming lessons. Is he alright Uncle Sandy?”

Sandy said, “That is a good question to ask him after dinner.”

The three boys followed Dan & Sandy up to Craig’s suite. Craig was awake sitting in his lounge chair watching the evening news. Chip and Lloyd ran over and hugged their father. Chip said, “We came by to visit you after school and you were sleeping. Are you feeling better now?”

“Yes, son, I’m feeling fine now. You see, my doctors discovered that I had developed a brain tumor, and I have been taking some strong medication to try and dissolve the tumor. Some days I will sleep much of the time, other days I will feel fine. It depends on how my medication affects the tumor.”

Jeremy said, “Does it hurt, Uncle Craig?”

“No, Jeremy, I don’t feel any pain. But, sometimes the medication causes some side effects that need to be monitored. The tumor may cause some tempory vision loss, or some numbness in my arms or legs. For that reason we have decided to hire Nelson Ryder, a professional nurse, to take care of me in case I have any problems. He starts next week.”

Chip said, “Can’t they remove the tumor?”

“I wish they could Chip, and I asked the same question. The specialists said the tumor was in an area of the brain that they cannot reach without causing permanent brain damage. The tumor cannot be reached with laser surgery either. My only hope is with special medications. The doctors will be monitoring my condition and will experiment with different types of medications that may help to dissolve the tumor. . However, they just don’t know what combinations of medications will do the job. I will need to make several trips to the hospital for tests so don’t be surprised if I’m away for a day or so. But, you're free to come see me as often as you like.”

Jeremy said, “Did they give you any idea how long this treatment will take, and when you will be able to go back to work?”

“They just don’t know, Jeremy, they told me they think we are looking at a three to six-month period.”

Craig said, “Well, guys if you have no more questions, I think I going to get ready for bed, and Chip and Lloyd I want you to mind your Uncle Dan & Sandy during my illness. Now come on a give your Dad a big hug and a kiss.”

All three boys hugged Craig as he kissed them and left for the bonus room. Sandy said, “I’m sorry you had to go through this Craig. I know it must have been difficult for you.”

Craig said, “It was, but it went better than I thought. I don’t think I could have gone through any traumatic scene with the boys right now. It would have been too painful for all of us. They are just too young and sensitive to be told I won’t be around much longer.”

Craig said, “I had a chance to visit the nursery this morning. Your babies are beautiful. I’ll be honest and tell you I never thought babies were beautiful, cute maybe, but never beautiful. Yet those three babies are beautiful.”

Both Dan and Sandy smiled, “Thank you, Craig, we think they are very special.”

Sandy said, “By the way, we may have another boy visiting from time to time so don’t be too surprised if Joe’s son hangs around with our three. We'll know more next week.”

Craig said, “Don’t tell me you are about to adopt another boy?”

Dan laughed and said, “God, no, if Steve does visit it will only be to play and take lessons with the boys.”

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The week flew by and the christening plans had moved along smoothly. Penny, Pete and the four children arrived in time for coffee Saturday morning. Joe took charge of the boys while Pattie, the Nanny, took Kip Dunnlap to the bonus room.

Sandy said, “Thanks for coming over early. Our boys were anxiously waiting the arrival of their cousins. I told Joe to let them burn off some of that excess energy before the rest of the children arrive. They are so excited about this christening they can hardly contain themselves.”

Penny said, “Our four are all excited about the party and the country western group you hired for the afternoon. We plan to change before we leave for the church.”

Dan said, “I’m sure the guests will start arriving shortly for brunch. My mother and Rodger, and my baby brother, will be flying down with Alex & Sandy. Alex and Sandy were spending a few days with Sandy’s parents. Their kids love the farm and enjoy riding their ponies. Sandy’s parents are crazy about his children, and the kids love staying with their grandparents.”

Pete said, “I like the way Alex remodeled the children’s wing. He did a great job.”

Dan said, “There is no question about using Alex’s firm; they are the best in the business.”

Sandy’s cell phone rang. Sandy said, “Thank you, Brian, we’ll meet them at the front entrance.”

Sandy said, “Murdoch, Ryan and the children have arrived. Now we should have enough boys for two teams. Murdoch and Ryan left the babies at home. They figured that eight children were enough to watch over. But I must admit those children are well behaved and are a pleasure to have around.” Sandy and Dan left to greet their guests.

The christening party returned from the church and joined with the rest of the guests awaiting their return. When they had all gathered in the ballroom, Sandy, Dan and Jeremy stepped up on the stage. Sandy said, “Ladies, gentlemen, boys and girls, Dan and I thank you for joining us in celebrating the christening of our children. In addition to our three babies that were christened this afternoon, we are proud to announce the welcome addition of another boy to our growing family. I would like to introduce my son, Jeremy Dunnlap.” After a round of applause, Sandy continued, “Our staff has planned a special party with entertainment for children of all ages. Margaret Taylor, the director of our children's staff, will step up to tell you what they have planned for the children this afternoon. After Margaret takes charge of the children, the cocktail hour will begin. For those of you that would rather eat, there is a buffet set up to receive you. After the buffet has been served, the country Western group will begin their show. Again, thank you for attending and we hope you will enjoy your afternoon. One last note, I am proud to announce that the food prepared for the baroque today is fresh from my brother Pete’s farm.”

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Mac and Drew were chatting with Sandy and Dan after the county western show. Mac said, “This was a pleasant, relaxing party, and I am glad Drew and I had a chance to talk to Murdoch and Ryan. Ryan is not out of the woods yet, but Mike Lee feels that they are safe from any further attacks.”

Sandy said, “We're delighted that you could join us this afternoon and we hope to invite the entire gourmet group to christen our new ship. The cruise will be a private party for our gay friends to make up for the reception we never had.”

Drew said, “How long of a trip did you plan?”

Sandy said, “I thought we'd try for a five-day trip. Everyone can fly in on a Wednesday night and we would return to port on Sunday night. I don’t think we can be away more than five days.”

Mac said, “That is fine with me, then I can be back in the office on Monday.”

Dan said, “If any of the guys have an emergency, they can use the onboard helicopter to fly back to Savannah, or for that matter the closest airport to meet up with their jet.”

Mac said, “My God, how big is this yacht anyway?”

Dan chuckled and said, “She’s not a yacht; she's a ship three decks high and over 300 feet long. Wait until you see her, she is really a beauty.”

Mac said, “I can’t wait to see her.” He turned to Drew and said, “Now, don’t you get any ideas of buying me an ocean liner, Drew, we don’t have the time to spend visiting all the homes you own now. These guys only need to visit two continents, so a large ship is a smart idea.”

Drew chuckled, “You’re right, sweetheart a ship would take up too much of your time.”

Dan said, “At first we thought we would ask the group to bring their children along, but after checking with the guys, they felt it would be more relaxing for them to leave the children at home. How often do we have the opportunity to mingle and talk about what's going on in our lives? We all have competent staffs to look after them for the few days we’ll be gone, and their grandparents are only a short chopper ride away.”

Drew said, “I agree, we don’t really have the time at the gourmet dinners to discuss what the other firms are planning. I think we could all learn more about what is going on in our companies. God knows, there is a lot going on, and maybe we can kick around some ideas where we can help one another.”

Mac said, “I agree, maybe we can have each of the presidents get up and give the rest of the movers and shakers an idea of what they are up to, and if they are having any problems with government restrictions at home and abroad.”

Sandy said, “That’s a great idea, Mac. Why don’t you talk to your presidents and I’ll ask the rest of the presidents. Maybe we can circulate a memo and line up the speakers. We can block out some time every day and pencil in the speakers and their topics. I know I for one would like to find out what’s going on with my counterparts. I never seem to have the time to learn what's happening outside my own area.”

“That sounds like a winner,” Drew said. “Sandy, why don’t we hash this out the week before the cruise?”

Sandy said, “I would be glad to do that, Drew. I'll know better after Dan and I return from our inspection trip up to Canada to check out our ship. We plan to take the family out on the weekend that the Captain docks the Danny Boy in Savannah. I thought we might get together a couple weeks after that.”

“That sounds like a good plan, Sandy,"Mac said. "We'll look forward to that getaway cruise. I think we'll be ready for a short vacation by then.”

Drew said, “Sandy, I know this was for members of the gourmet group, but would you object to inviting Lance on the cruise as well? He knows all the guys and is not uncomfortable around our gay group.”

Sandy said, “I don’t have any objections at all. He a smart young man and I think he would enjoy hearing what the movers and shakers have to say. I’m also inviting my brother, Pete, I'm sure he would like to keep abreast of what's going on in the business community.”

Drew said, “We are grooming Lance to take over from Mac when he steps down, so we try to keep him in the loop while the leading executives of other companies are lecturing us on the businesses and the problems and restrictions they find in their market place. Our group is very fortunate to have a pool of smart, talented young people to be groomed to take over their family’s business. My sister's oldest two have shown an interest in coming into the business. Not to be outdone, Neil’s youngest boy has shown signs of taking up law like his dad and taking over that business some day.”

Sandy said, “Dan and I pray that a few of our kids will want to learn our business, and be ready to take it over one day. I know Murdoch and Ryan are hoping their kids have an interest in running their vast empire. I feel confident that the kids we are raising today will be the future business leaders of tomorrow. I wish with all my heart that this will happen. I know that I, for one, am going to motivate them in that direction.”

Mac said, “Drew and I feel the same way. There is room in our many divisions to accommodate all the kids that are interested in taking over and running our businesses. If they don’t want to take a hands-on approach, we hope they will at least sit on the board of directors.”

Drew said, “Wellfolks, I think we’ll round up the troops and head for home. Sandy we had a delightful day. Thank you for inviting us, and we look forward to our trip on your ship, Dan.” They shook hands and headed into the ballroom to gather up their party and headed for their jet. Sandy & Dan thanked the group that left with Mac & Drew. Shortly after their departure, the rest of the guests took their leave. The only people remaining were Sandy’s parents, and Pete's family.

Pete said, “We had a great time, Sandy, thanks for inviting us. Mom and Dad are going to spend the night with us so they can play with their grandchildren. They didn’t have much of a chance to visit this afternoon.”

“I thought everything went smoothly," Dan said, "and everyone seemed to have a good time.”

Sandy’s mother said, “I know I had a good time and from what I could tell, everyone enjoyed themselves. All the children behaved well and seemed to enjoy themselves. I must say, your staff did a great job of keeping all the children amused. I think the pony ride was a big hit. I don’t know what it is with ponies and kids. But kids of all ages love pony rides.”

Pete said, “Come on kids, say goodbye to your cousins, we need to get home.”

Pete and the family left as the staff were putting the place back together. Sandy and Dan walked over to the middle of the ball room. Sandy said, “I want to thank you all for the great job you all did in planning and pulling everything together for the Christening today. It was a great success and we appreciate all your help.”

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Sandy turned to Dan and said, “Let's round the boys up and have them hit the showers. After they're in their PJ’s they can watch a movie in the play room while we visit the babies up in the nursery. I’ll ask Nelson to supervise them while they are in the shower. I think Craig should be alright while Nelson is watching the boys.”

Dan said, “It sounds like a plan. Why don’t you round up the boys and I’ll talk to Nelson.”

Sandy and Dan were sitting in the nursery holding their babies. Dan said,” they are so precious. But they sure can go through the diapers.”

Sandy chuckled and said, “I think they have it timed so I end up changing their really dirty diapers.”

Dan smiled and said, “Danny is a good boy and doesn’t poop in his diaper when it's his dad’s turn to change him.

“Well, Danny is asleep, so I think I'll put him in his crib and head down to tuck the boys in for the night.”

Dan walked into Jeremy’s suite and saw that Jeremy was in bed reading. Dan said, “I see you are catching up on your history,” Dan said as he sat down on Jeremy’s bed. “Did you enjoy yourself today, son?”

“It was a great party. It is the first time I’ve ever seen a live concert and the games were fantastic. It was great meeting all the other kids. There were a lot of boys that were around my age. I was amazed at the long distances they traveled to be here today. There were quite a few children from the Retreat. I didn’t like to ask, but is that some kind of special school?”

Dan smiled, “No, Jamie, the Retreat is a large complex that is owned by Drew and Mac Stevens. It is quite a place to visit. It is a city unto itself, like Dunnlap. It is in the mountains in New York State. The parents of the children that you met, own private homes at the Retreat, while some of the other kids fly in every day to attend private schools that were built on the Retreat grounds. It’s like one big family. Sandy has been trying to schedule a visit to the Retreat but we have not had the time to get away. I think we'll try to make it up there in a few months. Our next trip is going to be the maiden voyage on the Danny Boy. If all goes well on our trip tomorrow to check out the ship, and there are no major changes, we hope to plan make the trip with the family in a couple of weeks.”

“That’s sound exciting, Dad. One thing's for sure, there is always something exciting going on here.”

“Well, tiger, I have to see that the other two are ready for bed. Don’t stay up much longer. Remember, tomorrow is a school day, and you need your sleep.” Dan kissed Jeremy on the forehead, “Good night, son.”

“Good night, Dad, I’ll turn the light off shortly.”

Dan left Jeremy’s bedroom and walked through the suite into Chip and Lloyd’s bedroom. “Okay, boys, time to turn the game off and get to bed,” Dan said. The boys turned off the TV and hopped into bed. “Did you guys have a good time today?”

Lloyd answered, “I had a lot of fun, and the new kids were very nice. Of course, I was glad Uncle Pete’s kids were here. They are more like brothers, and not like some of the unpleasant kids at school.”

Dan felt Lloyd was holding something back and said, “I take it that some of the boys at the academy are picking on you? Why don’t you tell me about it?”

Lloyd said, “Well, there is a bigger boy in my class that makes fun of my speech. He also calls me the Prince. Or Little Lord Fauntleroy; he also has a couple of other boys in his group that pick on me as well. I told Joe about them and Joe told me to just ignore them. If they see that it doesn’t bother me, they will eventually stop. Joe said if they try to get physical, I should let him know, and he will take care of it. I’m afraid of them, Uncle Dan.”

Dan said, “Chip, have you seen these boys picking on Lloyd?”

‘No, Uncle Dan. Lloyd had a different recess time. As soon as class is over, Lloyd and Uncle Pete’s boys, and me stick together until Joe drives us to the helicopter to come home.”

Dan said, “It’s a good idea that you boys stick together. Lloyd, I want you to come to me and tell me every time these boys pick on you. I will not allow this to continue. If they don’t stop, we will see that those boys are disciplined. You should not be harassed in school.”

“Would you like me to read another chapter of Ivanhoe?”

Both boys said yes. So Dan picked up the book, opened it to the marker and read the next chapter. After he finished the story, he hugged each boy and kissed them on the forehead. As he turned off the light and he said, “Good night, boys, I'll see you at breakfast. Don’t forget that Uncle Sandy and I will be flying up to Canada until Wednesday, but we will call every day to check on you.”

Chip said, “Where abouts in Canada will you be going, Uncle Dan?”

“We will be landing in Saint John, New Brunswick. Our ship is docked at Saint John Shipbuilders. If all goes well, we may be back that night. We shall see.”

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To be continued
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