It was a day like any other. I had spent the brunt of the daylight hours at work while my son Patrick was at school. What I do for work will become apparent soon but know that if it were not for my job, my son simply would not be a part of my life. Yeah, I am thankful for my employer. Once again, the relevance of my employer will be very telling here, you'll see.
So, I packed my company issued laptop into my briefcase quickly so I could get home before my son did to make him a snack before we start preparing for our holiday celebration tomorrow. It is something we both look forward to as it is one of the few times that we have extra time with each other which is unavoidable and unfortunate. Since Patrick's mother and I had adopted him a few years back, we learned that this little man had a bigger heart than either of us could have ever imagined. It seemed as if each year he would one-up himself and we both loved to encourage him to always follow his heart. Now that it's only the two of us, it saddens me that our time has to be so limited.
Two years ago when my wife passed away, I considered myself to be blessed when I realized that if it were not for Patrick, I couldn't picture myself facing each sunrise that would follow her last. He gave me a reason to wake in the morning and when things were the most difficult, he gave me a reason to soldier on. Adopting him was the best decision the two of us had ever made and one that has been an endless source of joy and inspiration.
On my way home from the market, I stopped off at the farm stand down the road from our modest home to purchase one of the farmer's wife's infamous pumpkin pies. Patrick and I both don't consider it a holiday without one of Mrs. Williams' pumpkin pies with a dollop of the home made whipped cream the woman taught my wife to make, who in turn taught me on her final Thanksgiving. Each year that followed her passing I recreate that meal in her honor. I still believe she watches over me in the kitchen because each meal comes out as if she had prepared it herself yet, before her light flickered out, I could burn water without supervision.
Once arriving home, I put everything that Patrick and I would begin to prepare later on this evening into the pantry and kitchen before deciding that as a snack, we could both sit down and share some cut fruit and yogurt. One of my wife's 'substitutes' for cookies and candy that we both grew to love. As I was sitting down to begin to cut some melon to add to the bowl, the front door slammed as I had become accustomed to hearing since we signed the paperwork that would begin his youthful enthusiastic abuse on the structure we call home. I wouldn't have it any other way.
But, instead of saying his usual 'Hi Daddy, I'm home', his greeting nearly gave me a heart attack.
"Hi Daddy, this is my new Brother, Ben!"
Now it isn't unusual for my son to come home with a bird with a bent wing that he wanted to nurse back to health, often succeeding. Or to walk in the door with a stray animal that was in obvious need of TLC and a good bath. What I saw shocked me but shouldn't have knowing my boy.
"Hello Ben, welcome to our home." I said as I recovered from my shock. Ben was about the same height as my son but so much thinner. He had dark rings beneath his eyes and his clothes were threadbare and in need of a washing, if they could handle it without disintegrating. "Please wash your hands and have a seat boys while I grab another bowl." I said as vague recognition of this sad looking boy began to sink in, the last time I remembered seeing him he was happy and healthy.
"See, I told you he wouldn't be mad." Patrick said as the two boys set their book bags down and crowded the kitchen sink, Patrick playfully wrestling with his new 'brother' for water running from the tap attempting to get him to smile.
As I sat down and spooned out the cut fruit and yogurt, I cleared my throat and asked a question I believed I already knew the answer to and prayed I was wrong: "Patrick, where are Ben's parents?"
I watched as the playing ceased and Patrick dried his hands and passed the towel off to Ben. "Daddy, Ben is the last adopted son of the man that was in the news last night. The one who was adopting and 'losing' his sons. You know him."
My next breath caught in my throat as if an ice-cold wind hit me in the face. The man my son spoke of was a customer of the company I work for. The same place where I acquired the approval to adopt Patrick. He was a man with deep pockets and a twisted mind. He would spend money hand over fist to adopt others of Patricks kind. The same order time and time again. An exact duplicate of previous order that was designed in the image of his son that sadly passed away years earlier, the dismissed investigation of child abuse leading to the man becoming even more of a recluse than he already was with the occasional exception of his visit to our 'Vision' office to replace yet another replacement. He was the type of angry man with a diseased soul who valued the life of an artificially intelligent child as he did a human born and to prove it, he adopted one after another in his deceased son's image and tortured the poor souls until they ceased to be animate. There was no law to protect these boys as they are purchased and legally considered to be property. 'One has the right to do as they please with their property'. Thankfully, the man finally did something that took himself out of the A.I. child elimination business as well as the gene pool; he drank a little too much and wrapped his car around a tree. Leaving his last purchase ownerless if unclaimed by his family or another. A family that I doubted knew anything of the atrocities that went on behind the man's closed doors and no friends to step in. This boy was alone but thankfully alive.
"I see." I replied as I watched Ben's gaze redirect toward the floor. "Ben, you are invited to stay here with us. Join us for our small family celebration and once I establish that there are no legal ties left, and I'm sure there are not; I will de-license you so your new brother here can start the paperwork for us to adopt you." I paused, continuing only after I saw a little glimmer of hope in his eyes as his now tearful gaze final met mine. "If that's okay with you I mean."
The little guy desperately wiped away his tears with the sleeve of his dirty shirt many times before he was finally unable to hold back the torrent of tears that needed to be free from his inner pain. "You really mean it?"
"I told you," Patrick said as he pulled his new brother Ben into a tight and protective embrace, "Our dad can make this your home. He works for the people who believe we are people too." The brightest light in my life continued, "Thanks Dad. This is gonna be the best holiday since our first."
When I got the job at the plant that created these little guys, I knew that what we were creating was something special. Watching my son comfort his little brother reminded me that there is more humanity in these little beings than in many humans without question. "Yeah," I finally replied with a lump in my throat. "I believe you just may be right. Welcome home Ben."