The Kids Are All Right

Tommy and I have just expanded our family: a boy and a girl. They arrived not as bundles from heaven, but in a Jeep and on a bicycle. In truth, they are young adult companions for my husband -- miracles of referrals rather than biology or science -- who I’ve hired to give me respite from ‘round-the-clock caregiving.

I do have flesh-and-blood daughters. But since they live on either coast, they can’t be at our beck-and-call. As for Tommy, he entered this second marriage sans children; hence my designation of this new adopted duo as “our kids.”

Before our boy Stuart came for his first assignment, I prepped my husband. Unlike the cinematic moment: “Darling, I have wonderful news. You’re going to be a father,” my revelation went something like this: “Honey,” I said, “I’ve hired a young man who will take over driving you to the Y one day a week. He’s a CNA, that’s Certified Nursing Assistant, so he can also help out when I have my hip replacement surgery.”

Well, okay, I fudged a bit. Stuart’s medical credentials are important for Tommy’s condition, but I hesitate reminding my husband of his special needs. I can take the fall  -- metaphorically of course because of the hip thing -- as I really do see our boy being helpful when I’m shouting for my crutches.

After Tommy gave the plan two thumbs up, I gave Stuart this checklist: “Before you leave the house, be sure Tommy takes his reading glasses, cellphone, gym bag, and that he’s wearing his dental bridge, baseball cap, and gym shoes.” Stuart -- using an impressive two thumbs entry -- recorded it all on his iPhone, immediately winning me over with the product and the pace.

On the morning of their first drive, I left for the health club at 6 a.m. Stuart would use his own new key to gain entry at 8:30. “Don’t text me unless there’s a problem,” I had told him. But, that didn’t keep me from checking my own iPhone at 8:30, 8:45, 9:00. Nada. I was at peace.

Tommy and Stuart were due back between 11:45 and noon. After a sublime four hours to myself, I returned home to await their arrival. At 11:40 I stationed myself at our picture window and watched as each car turned the corner into our street. At exactly 11:45, a black Jeep entered my view.

“Everything was fine,” Stuart said as Tommy walked into the house with two thumbs raised. “He was all set when I arrived, everything on the checklist completed.” I felt as proud of them as if they had just aced their ACTs.

Our girl Kristen had been engaged to be my husband’s companion one afternoon a week. Her task is to follow him as he rides his bicycle to a park about a mile away, and then circles the grounds four times before heading back home. Ever since Tommy returned from a ride with an unexplained bruise on his leg, I’ve worried about his safety.

For her first shift, Kristen rolled up to our house outfitted in a gingham summer dress over bike shorts. She wore a helmet; and slung across her body, an enormous leather purse, which I later insisted she forgo in favor of one of my archived backpacks.

I had told Tommy about Kristen’s arrival, and again employed the hip excuse. “I won’t be able to drive for at least four weeks,” I said. “Kristen can keep you company on bike rides, or use our car to take you to the putting green, golf store, or wherever you want to go.”

But I needn’t have dissembled because the moment Kristen -- who is an actress -- removed her helmet, shook out her hair, and smiled, my husband rushed to the garage to get his bike. While this duo was on their ride, I once again peeked at my iPhone willing away any text messages. Gratefully, as with her faux sibling, none arrived. And in a little over an hour from the time they left, the two returned.

“It was fine,” she said. “I followed behind him [they use sidewalks] and alerted people as we approached. We stopped for water, then headed home.”

Tommy, his face moist and smiling, gave her two thumbs up as he headed for the couch. Before she left, Kristen went to where Tommy was prone to say goodbye. Instead of shaking his hand, she dotted his damp forehead with a kiss.

Perhaps our kids are heaven-sent after all.