The kids would arrive at any time, day or night. Adam Graves would have new brothers and sisters. Easy as that. He would fall asleep in the old house in North York, Ont., and in the morning he would feel someone moving above him on the top bunk, and that would mean he had a brother. He would hear a commotion in the hall, someone trying on dresses from the ever-present large cardboard box of clothes, and that would mean he had a sister. If there was a cry in the hall, followed by some soft words from his mother, that would mean a baby had entered the family. Brother, sister, whatever.
They were tired, these new kids. They often were dirty and usually were hungry and always were troubled. They had been sent to the house by a children's relief agency in Toronto, spinning from circumstances in which they had been abused or neglected or rejected. These were foster children, all ages, all sizes, all dispositions. They would stay for a week or a month or a couple of years, but while they were in the house, they were home. They were family.
"We were all treated the same," says Graves, the 25-year-old New York Ranger left wing. "We shared everything. I never fell that my mum or my dad loved these kids any less than they loved me or my two biological sisters. What I felt, mostly, was how fortunate I was that I had a family background. These kids were coming from situations where they had been in six, seven, eight different houses in three or four years. They were all looking for attention. More than anything, they wanted to be wanted."
He was the lucky one. He always knew that. He knew he was wanted.
"Did you see his quote when he scored the 51st goal in Edmonton to break the team record for scoring?" Ranger publicist Barry Watkins asked last week after Graves broke the mark set by Vic Hadfield in the 1971-72 season. "They gave him the puck, and he said, 7 wish I could cut it up into 25 pieces and give one to each of my teammates.' That was the quote you saw in all of the stories."
There was one kid who went to the garbage can whenever he was hungry. That was his history. When he thought about food, he thought about rummaging through a garbage can. There was another kid who walked in his sleep. There were kids who went to the bathroom in bureau drawers and in the middle of the floor. There was a kid with cerebral palsy. There was a kid who refused to talk. There was a kid who pulled a knife.
"What are you doing?" Lynda Graves, Adam's mother, said to that kid. "Don't be silly. Put that down."
She did not mind the constant bedlam, the turmoil. Her mother and father also had raised foster children, and she had been in charge of them since she was nine years old. Half of her dates with Henry, the Toronto policeman who would become her husband, had been baby-sitting adventures, two and three and four kids tagging along for the night. It seemed only natural that foster children would continue to be part of life after marriage. Henry agreed.
The house was run by rules and cooperation. Everyone had a job. Some of the new kids objected, say, to shoveling the front walk and tried to get five dollars to do the job. Lynda would explain that she didn't ask them for five dollars every time she cooked a meal, so they shouldn't ask her for five bucks when they did their work either. And if they had any doubts about what was right, well, they could always look at Adam. Did he complain? He simply did his jobs.
He was one of those kids who had a middle-aged maturity by the time he was about 10 years old. He awoke at 4:30 in the morning to deliver newspapers. He mowed lawns, he raked leaves, he cut bushes. This did not mean that he didn't have fun, but his jobs were always completed first, then he had fun. He had perspective.