IT HAS COME TO MY ATTENTION THAT SOME PEOPLE ARE HAVING PROBLEMS READING THE STORY IN HTML. IF YOU ARE HAVING SUCH PROBLEMS, PLEASE READ THE FOLLOWING.
As I understand it, the HTML conversion program I use is placing a lock on the font size and some computers are showing it in a small font. That is easily cured for users of Internet Explorer. Go to tools, click on Internet Options. Then select the general tab and towards the bottom should be the line, "Appearance," with the following selections, "Colors, languages, fonts, and accessibility." Click on accessibility and then check the box under formatting which says, "Ignore font sizes specified on web pages." Then click ok on that menu, and ok on the main menu. After that you should be able to adjust font size by going to page and selecting text size and clicking smaller through larger as needed.
If you are using FireFox, click tools and then options. Go to content and then in the line with fonts and colors, select advanced and set the minimum font size. For example, I have my minimum font size set at 15, but you might wish to set it either higher or lower. Again click ok on that and ok on the main menu. If you have more questions regarding this feel free to email me and I'll try to help you. Now, on to the disclaimer that you were looking forward to so eagerly.
Gather round kiddies and read the newest in a long line of disclaimers. In fact the line of disclaimers has gotten so long I've almost forgotten what I'm trying to accomplish with them. Ah well, that's the way it goes when you get old and funny like I am. Still, I may have been a bit funny when I was young so being old isn't a prerequisite to being thought of as funny or strange.
In case you don't remember, this is the place where I tell all the nice little kiddies to leave so they won't have their delicate sensibilities offended. Actually, the little kiddies don't give a damn and it is their parents who are so worried about their kiddy's sensibilities. To go a little further, unless kiddies have changed greatly since I was one, the kiddies themselves are all for having their delicate sensibilities offended and are eagerly looking forward to it. They can't wait to grow up enough to where they can participate in the types of debauchery that might be depicted in this story.
On the other hand, their parents get all excited when they read about such debauchery and immediately try to shield their kiddies from it. They become greatly offended by even reading it themselves and so I say unto them, if it offends thee, thou should not read it. Honestly, I did not go out on the street and grab you and drag you in and force you to read this story, so you have no one to blame except yourself should you continue reading and then become upset. Should you think you might become upset when reading descriptions of gay sex, leave now and keep your blood pressure under control. Let your kiddies read this story and have their fun. After all, you did when you were young and look at how you turned out. Never mind, I see the problem already and should have never written what I did.
Sadly the world is filled with people who think they are far superior to other people. Those people go so far as to impose their own morality upon others by passing draconian laws regarding what people can read. There are even places in the world where the reading of this story could result in the reader being executed. Should you be unfortunate enough to live in one of those areas I can only suggest you leave before you are caught reading this story, and hopefully you can manage to escape and move to a more enlightened area.
If I've written it once, I've written it one hundred and three other times, but in case you forgot, this story is fiction and none of the characters exist and none of the events portrayed ever took place. How many times am I going to have to tell you that? Jeez, can't you remember anything?
This story is posted for your personal enjoyment and may not be copied or posted elsewhere without my written permission. Also, please properly credit me if you find something in it which you wish to quote. As long as you follow those simple rules I will not be forced to haunt you, and I really do need my sleep. The haunting upsets my sleep pattern and makes me tired and cranky.
Again Don has freely given of his time and improved the story. His suggestions and corrections make my work much easier.
And now I have finally made it to the end of the disclaimer where I tell you to feel free to write and offer suggestions, ask questions, gripe all you wish, or merely offer comments. Polite criticism will be answered politely, and that should give you a pretty good idea of how snarky criticism will be answered. Such emails should be sent to "email@example.com" and be sure to put "I Love Corey" or at least "ILC" in the subject line so I don't automatically delete your missive. Also remember that if you wish to be notified when chapters are posted, an email requesting to be put on the chapter notification list will solve that problem. And now that all of the usual BS is out of the way, I hope you enjoy the following chapter. Fritz
I Love Corey, Chapter One hundred and four
Friday got off to a good start before it went to pieces. My mailbox didn't have anything in it that the round file couldn't handle, and the morning meeting had even less of interest. Things were shaping up quite nicely for the day and all I had to look forward to were my meeting with Clara Finley and my usual classes. After that I'd be free until Monday morning. Then it happened. During first period I got called to the office over a telephone call.
It was from the sheriff's office to tell me that they were releasing the bodies of David's mother and brother and it was accompanied by many apologies for not doing so sooner. In fact, the sheriff practically abased himself over it and admitted that it had been a mistake on several people's parts which contributed to the length of time it had taken to notify me. He had turned the bodies over to the crime lab for tests and with all the things going on over the planned movement of the crime lab to its new facilities at the old Shasta General Hospital, the paperwork had been misplaced telling him that the tests were completed. Anyhow, he wanted to know who to turn the bodies over to for burial.
I told him to contact Rowling's and I would do the same. They had done an excellent job on the services for Corey's mother so I saw no reason to change. I still hadn't talked with David about what he wanted for his mother and brother, but now I would have to do so.
As I headed back to my class I wondered how David would react to the planning and funeral of his mother and brother. We hadn't talked much about them because every time I had tried to bring the subject up, he had clammed up. Now we were going to be forced to talk some about them. I could only feel sorry for him and wonder why he had been forced to deal with something like that while so many of us never had similar experiences. Yes, my folks had died in an accident, but I was much older and they had loved and supported me before their death. It seemed so unfair. No matter how hard I tried to understand it, there simply was no explanation for why some people had such bad things happen to them. Everyone in my little family had encountered circumstances which no child should ever be forced to deal with and I was left wondering why it had happened to them and not to me. While I had been crushed when I learned of my parent's death, I now saw that my life had been almost charmed when compared to any of the boys.
As I opened the door to the classroom I caught sight of Marty Logan about to launch a paper airplane. Like many kids he froze when caught doing something he wasn't supposed to be doing.
"Mr. Logan," I started out, keeping my voice very stern. "Come to the front of the room."
I continued walking on up to my desk and had no problem beating Marty there. He was moving so slowly that any turtle would have won a race with him. I had seated myself and was patiently waiting while he completed his short journey. Finally he approached my desk and stood there with his head down.
"Where is the airplane?" I asked him.
"On my desk," he mumbled.
"I suggest you quickly get it and bring it to me," I told him, still keeping my voice stern.
Marty's idea of quickly and mine were not the same, but he did move a little faster than he had on his original trip to the front of the room. Eventually he came shuffling back, airplane clasped in his hand, his head down. For one of the few times the rest of the class was totally silent. Every eye in the room was riveted on the two of us as they waited to see what horrid punishment I had in mind for Marty.
"Mr. Logan, I'm terribly disappointed in you," I started. "I am simply stunned that you can not build a better paper airplane at your age. I could make better ones than that by the time I was ten," I told him as I took a piece of paper and quickly started folding it into a more efficient design. When I finished folding my piece of paper into a plane I stood up.
"Come Mr. Logan. We will now demonstrate our planes and see which one is more efficient," I told Marty as I led him to the side of the room. "You go first and see how far your plane will fly," I told him, gesturing to the aisle along the wall where no desks were in the way.
By now all the students were watching intently. Marty dutifully raised his arm and launched his plane. He must have realized he was in trouble on this test because he almost dislocated his shoulder trying to get as much launch speed as possible, but his design was such that it really made no difference. His plane made it less than ten feet before it veered off course, scraped the wall, and fluttered to the floor.
"It appears to need a little adjustment of trim Mr. Logan. I suggest you retrieve it and make such adjustments," I told Marty. "That way we can see if you understand aerodynamics."
It took him four tries, but finally he got his plane to fly straight enough to where it didn't strike the wall or go off course enough to hit a desk. However, in the end it didn't fly very far. Then it was my turn. My first launce showed me that the center of gravity was too far back and my plane kept trying to stall, but by slightly bending the rear of the wings downward it soon flew as it should. With the proper adjustments my plane traveled almost twice as far as Marty's.
"Wow," I heard a voice from somewhere in the classroom. Suddenly all the students were talking about my airplane.
Nothing would do except I had to show them all how I had folded the paper to achieve my plane. It was a simple plane, but one of the better designs I'd come across. In high school there had been a contest involving paper airplanes and I'd taken part. My efforts hadn't been as bad as Marty's, but some of the kids had built some real cool planes that flew very well while I didn't win any prizes for my efforts. After my crushing defeat I'd looked around and found that there were books on paper airplanes and bought one. The design I'd used today was from that book and one of the differences was that instead of folding the plane lengthwise of the paper, it was folded crosswise with a few extra folds so it presented a smaller shape and therefore had less drag in relation to its mass. It was a modified dart design. It was a poor glider, but did well as a high-speed plane and on good days could travel a considerable distance if you launched it fast enough. I'd selected that design since Marty was using a conventional dart design. I knew that with a little work I could make his fly better, but it would never equal mine for distance when launched at close to the same speeds and heights.
"Calm down you knot heads," I told the class. "I've got a book at home on paper airplanes and I'll bring it next week so you can read it." With that we got back to working on the subject, but I worked in a couple of problems about glide ratio in place of those I'd planned on using. While the boys seemed more thrilled with the paper airplanes, some of the girls appeared to be folding away when they thought I wasn't looking. While none of my boys were in that class, I figured that Andrea would be asking about the book tonight as she was one of those who were folding planes and trying to keep me from seeing it. Being a mean sort of person I took great delight in calling on those students who were busy folding planes and not concentrating on what I was saying, but most of them seemed to be listening enough to answer. By now they were pretty used to that and I had a hard time catching them daydreaming.
Finally I made it through my first two classes and it was time to meet with Clara Finley and see what David's testing had produced. Off I went to the district offices to find out the good or bad news.
The news was mixed. He had a problem with reading, but the tests had shown he was brighter than average in other fields. He had good reasoning powers and excellent spatial awareness. Also his comprehension and retention were excellent for his age. She added that with a little instruction he should do well in math, but the reading was going to be a major problem. Clara suggested that he needed concentrated tutoring in reading and that she thought he would be better off not starting school again until his reading level had improved. She told me that if he got good instruction from now until the start of school next year he would be much better off and might be able to keep up with a class slightly younger than he was.
That brought up the problem of a tutor. While the district had classes for children with special needs, they were not geared for children such as David. In our district his reading problem would have been spotted sooner and we had ways to help him overcome it, but by now he was so far behind that that option didn't seem like the proper answer.
"So, who do you recommend?" I asked.
"I'm sorry Sam, but I doubt that Children's Services will pay for what he needs," Clara answered. "If he were my child I know of a couple of different people who would be good, but they don't come cheap. You're looking at better than a thousand dollars a month for quite a few months. You can contact Children's Services and see what they will pay for, but I've never heard of them investing that much money in a child."
"Forget the cost," I answered. "That isn't an issue."
Clara got a somewhat surprised look on her face, but she went over and pulled several files from a cabinet and after sorting through them made copies of several pages and handed them to me saying, "Here's some information on the better ones. As you know it's important to select one the student likes because they are going to be working closely together. My favorites are these two, but all are very good," she said while marking a couple of them.
We talked a little more before it was lunchtime and I headed back to school to man my office for anyone who wanted to talk with me. Sometimes that counseling program really interfered with what I wanted to do. Were it not for that I would have gone over the recommendations and probably asked Jerry what he knew about each of them. I might have even called Judy and gotten her opinion, but instead I was swamped with kids wanting to know more about paper airplanes.
Actually my noon session was more public relations than anything else. By being accessible every day, the kids felt free to visit with me. That led to some of them trusting me enough to make appointments and talk about their problems, but normally little came up during the noon sessions. Instead they were frequently like today and were mainly about what the kids found interesting. That class only had twenty-three students, but there must have been at least fifty kids who wanted to talk about those silly airplanes. Marty was right in the middle of it and I could tell that his goal was to learn enough to where he could best me in a paper airplane contest. The thought of losing such a contest didn't bother me, but I figured that Marty would consider it a real feather in his hat if he was able to beat me. I was happy that Marty was good hearted because he certainly was driven to succeed and were his personality a little different he would have been very hard to get along with. As it was, I would describe him as eager to prove himself, and smart enough to where he normally could. Yet for all his competitive nature I had never detected a mean bone in his body and he always seemed thrilled when he mastered a new subject and was eager to help everyone else master it also. His attitude always surprised me since his father and mother were very laid back and calm, but Marty was bordering on hyperactive. Some people might have even thought he was subject to attention deficit disorder, but that only happened when he understood the material and was bored. As long as it was a challenge, Marty applied himself. Of course you had to watch out for his pranks, but they were in good fun and the rest of the kids got a real kick out of watching him stretch the envelope as far as he dared. Sometimes he dared quite a ways, but most of the time he stayed within reason.
Just as the lunch period was ending someone suggested that what we needed to do was hold a contest to see who could build the best airplane by folding one sheet of paper. Immediately several others chimed in with what a great idea that was, and Marty was beaming. I told them I would consider it as the warning bell was ringing, and with that they disappeared to get their books for their next classes.
The afternoon went about normally except that instead of immediately setting up for baseball practice as soon as my last teaching period was over, I dropped into Jerry's office to ask his opinion of Clara's recommendations. He quickly skimmed her report and then looked at the names she had given me. Then he thought for a few seconds.
"She left out one person I think you should consider," Jerry started. "He taught here about ten years ago, but never like dealing with a class. He loves working one on one and I wish I could get him to come back. If he's willing to take David on and they get along, he would be my choice."
With that he punched a few keys on his computer and his printer quickly spit out a sheet of paper containing contact information on a Mr. Ed Fielding. As I was reading the information Jerry continued, "I don't normally recommend him because he's a trust fund child and doesn't have to work, yet he charges an arm and a leg. If you're willing to pay his price I know of none better. I'm not sure that he's free right now, but I'd give him a call and check. Be warned that he's somewhat anti-social with adults, but kids love him.
"As for Clara's recommendations, try Mrs. Penny first, and then Mr. Radisson. Both are good, but not nearly as good as Fielding."
I would have liked to spend more time getting Jerry's views, but I needed to get things set up for practice. So after thanking him, I hurried out and quickly changed into my practice clothes and started dragging gear out to the field. Fortunately I had a routine worked out and I was almost done when the bell rang and the team members started showing up for practice.
I suppose practice was okay, but my mind was on other things and I didn't pay it as much attention as I should have. I had a hard time getting my mind off of David and how he was going to react to the fact that we now had to plan a funeral. On those occasions when I could, there was what to do about a tutor and between those two subjects I simply didn't have time enough to do much more than go through the motions. I felt guilty because the team was doing its best, but even if they hadn't it would not have made any difference.
Finally the practice was over and we were finishing picking things up when Corey turned to me and asked, "What's wrong? You're awfully quiet."
"They released the bodies for burial today," I answered.
I didn't have to say anymore because Corey's one word answer and his tone of voice told me everything I needed to know. It told me that while I had mostly worried about David, I had also worried about how Corey would react owing to the fact that he had gone through the same thing not that long ago, and my worrying had been on target. I could hear the pain in Corey's voice as the memory of his mother's death flooded his mind. He seemed to shrink before my eyes and I dropped the load of towels I was holding and wrapped my arms around him. I knew just how he was feeling because of all the times it had happened to me. I would be doing fine and then something or someone would remind me of my parent's deaths and suddenly it hurt like it was the first time I'd been notified of their deaths all over again.
I stood there holding Corey while JJ, LT, and Kyle continued picking things up and loading the washers. Once the washers were running it was time to empty yesterdays wash from the dryers and fold and store it. Between the track team and the baseball team we had all the washers full and by the time we finished folding things they should have completed their cycles and be ready to be emptied into the dryers. On nights when we were in a hurry we would leave and I'd transfer the washed clothes to the dryers in the morning, but between the ballgames yesterday, and the practice today we had everything full and I didn't want to let the wet wash sit in the dryer until Monday.
We finished folding and had to wait a few minutes until the washers completed their cycles. When the washers completed their cycles everyone burst into activity, grabbing the wash out of the washers and stuffing it in the dryers, and then we were out the door and headed home. Apparently the others had picked up on Corey's and my attitude because no one said much on the way home.
Kath had prepared a nice dinner, but I couldn't enjoy it. I knew I was going to have to talk with David about his mother and brother and the thoughts of doing that would have made anything taste like cardboard. All too soon dinner was finished and the dishes in the dishwasher so I had no more excuses for avoiding the subject. I asked David to join me in the living room as the rest of the boys headed for the family room.
Once we were seated I was having a problem with how to bring the subject of David's mother and brother up, so I started with something simple.
"How's it going," I asked.
"Ah, fine," he answered. Then before I could say anything else he looked up and I could see he wanted to say more. So, I waited to see what it was that was on his mind.
"Ah well, ah I was,,, do you,,,, (the pauses were making it hard to keep quiet and I wished he would just say what was on his mind, but he continued on as though he was afraid to say anything), well could I,,,, I mean would,,," and then he trailed into silence with his eyes again looking down.
We were both sitting on the sofa and I reached over and gently tugged him to me by wrapping my arm around his shoulder. Once he was against me I started gently rubbing his shoulder and waited for him to try again. After a while it was apparent I was going to have to encourage him.
"Would I what?" I asked softly.
"Uhm,,, well I was,,, I mean I'd like to,,," and again he trailed off into silence.
"You can ask me anything," I told him as gently as I could. "That doesn't mean I'll grant it, but you don't have to be afraid to ask."
For about half a minute nothing more was said and then David took a deep breath and started. "Well, I wondered if like maybe,,,, like maybe I could have,,," and again he stopped talking and I could feel him stiffen up almost as though he was going to flee.
"What is it that you would like?" I asked. "I can't even agree to it until I know what it is"
"Uhm, I'd like a garden." When he finished that statement he sort of flinched, almost like he was afraid I'd hit him for asking.
Needless to say that wasn't what I'd expected. Well, perhaps I shouldn't say that because I had no idea of what to expect from David, but asking for a garden certainly was something that I'd never even considered.
"You mean you would like to raise a garden?" I asked. For that question I got the littlest of nods, but not a word out of him.
I thought for a few seconds and could see nothing against the idea, that is as long as someone else knew what they were doing. I knew absolutely nothing about gardens except that some people raised them. "I don't see why not," I told him. "Where would be a good place to plant one?"
David's head suddenly swiveled around and he was staring intently at me. "You mean it?" he asked. "You'd let me have a garden?"
"Sure," I answered him. I was lost because I had no idea why he would want a garden so badly. Of all the things a kid could ask for a garden wasn't something I would have thought of in my wildest dreams. "Where should we have it?"
David bolted off of the sofa and grabbed my hand and started dragging me towards the patio door. I was stunned. He'd never acted like that and all I could do was follow him and see what came next. Out through the back yard and through the gate onto the property that Kath's house was on he led me. We came to an area where the lawn didn't look as nice and he stopped.
"Is this where you want it?" I asked after we had stood there for a few seconds without him saying anything.
When I looked a little closer I could see that there was a rectangular area where the grass wasn't the same as the rest of the lawn, and the ground wasn't as smooth. The area was probable about forty by sixty and after thinking about it I wondered if there had been a garden planted there at one time.
"Why here?" I asked.
"Uhm, because this was the garden spot," he answered.
I was still baffled as to why he wanted a garden, but if that would make him happy I had no problems with the idea. Still, I was curious. "Tell me," I asked. "Why do you wish to raise a garden?"
All the life seemed to go out of him and he seemed to get smaller. Now I was really puzzled as to what his motives were. I sat down on the grass and pulled him towards me causing him to sort of collapse on me. Once I had my arms around him I simply held him and rubbed his back for a while as he silently cried. I wanted to help him but I didn't know how to do so because he wasn't telling me anything.
It took me a while, but eventually I pried the information out of him. He wanted to raise a garden because by doing so he thought I might let him stay. He seemed to think that only by being useful would I allow him to live with me. Jeez, where could I start in trying to explain to him that he didn't have to do anything and that he was welcome to stay as long as he wished to stay?
"David," I started, "You don't have to raise a garden in order to stay. You can stay as long as you like. You can raise a garden if you want, but don't ever think you have to do something in order to live here. We like you because of the person you are, not because of anything you can do."
That might have been where I started, but it took an hour of talking to start to convince him that he didn't have to raise a garden in order to prove his worth, and during that hour my legs went to sleep because he was sitting on them. By the time I decided that I thought he was starting to understand, I hurt in places I didn't even know I had from sitting on the grass with him in my lap, but at least his tears had dried up. Yet in the end he still wanted to plant a garden, only now he was telling me how much better things raised in a garden tasted than those from a store. He actually developed some enthusiasm when he was telling me how good corn picked from the garden tasted. About then my cell phone started vibrating.
It was my day for bad news, or so it seemed. JJ's parents had been apprehended in Georgia and would be returned to face charges of child abuse and abandonment, that is as soon as the courts in Georgia finished with them. That might take a while because they had been arrested for auto theft and robbery. So now I had two boys who were going to be upset because I still hadn't managed to bring up the subject of David's mother and brother and what funeral arrangements to make. At least David had gotten off of my lap when the phone rang so maybe I would now be able to stand, although, from the way my legs were tingling, I wasn't sure about that. People might say that having you legs fall asleep feels sort of like your mouth feels with ginger ale in it, but ginger ale doesn't make your mouth hurt and my legs were really aching. It took several tries before I managed to stand and begin hobbling towards my house.
When I finally got to the subject I'd been trying to address, David took it better than I expected. Yes, there were more tears, but he didn't fall apart and was willing to go with me to help make arrangements tomorrow morning. He even said he knew a couple of his mother's favorite hymns and some other things she would have wanted like the color dress she liked and things like that. I didn't bother to tell him that the dress would make no difference because the sheriff had said that he doubted that she could be made to look good enough for an open casket funeral, but that wasn't the point. If it would make David feel better to have her buried in a pink dress, she would be buried in a pink dress.
I think the thing that got to me the worst was when David asked if his brother could have a new pair of shoes to be buried in since he had always wanted some new shoes. That one thing told me more about how the boys had been treated than all the other things he had said. It all crashed down upon me about how lucky I had been and that things I had always taken for granted were things that some people could only aspire to have.
"What kind of shoes?" I managed to ask.
"Uhm, Nikes?" David inquired rather hesitantly.
"Would you like to pick them out?" I asked him, my voice once again under control. "We could go pick out shoes after we talk to the undertaker."
For that question I got a nod as an answer. So we talked a little more and finally David yawned. He still wasn't very strong and tired easily, but he was doing better. He no longer had that starved look like that he had had when I first saw him, but he still had a long way to go to where he would look healthy.
David decided he was tired and headed for bed, so it was time to find JJ and tell him about the capture of his parents. I had stood up and started for the family room when the phone rang. It was Uncle Matt and he wanted to know if I had checked my email. That seemed like a strange question, but when I inquired he told me that the architect had emailed some design concepts and sketches.
When I opened the email, I wasn't expecting what I saw. Ali Hassanzadeh, the architect, had sent all of us a complete package of his ideas and that meant I had not only the ones for what might be my new house, but also Uncle Matt's and Bruno's houses. They were beautiful. I mean his drawings looked real--like the houses had already been built on the property and the landscaping put in. Uncle Matt and Aunt Sandy were babbling on about how well they liked the second of his proposals for them, but I was still hung up trying to look over the proposals for me. I finally told them I needed time to look all the design ideas over and got off the phone. Jeez, they were talking so fast I didn't have time to take it all in.
I'd just gotten rid of Uncle Matt and Aunt Sandy when Corey stuck his head in and asked what I was doing. When I told him, he took off and almost immediately returned with the rest of the boys and nothing would do except they started looking the designs over. Those turkeys even crowded me out and I was left standing there trying to peer over their shoulders. Boys were chattering so fast I lost track of what they were saying and they kept switching pictures and not giving me a chance to really look at any of them long enough to see if I liked or disliked the design.
"I like this one," I heard Corey say, but he was drowned out by LT saying the previous one was better. Mark has wormed his way to the front so he could see, but David and I were at the back and neither of us had a very good view of the monitor. About then I noticed that David was in his briefs so he must have been either in bed or about to go to bed when one of the boys grabbed him and dragged him upstairs. I finally gave up and sat down on the uncomfortable sofa and pulled David down beside me.
"When they calm down maybe we can see the plans," I told him. David didn't say anything, but he snuggled up against me and relaxed. As I was sitting there listening to the boys as they excitedly looked at the various designs, it dawned on me I had never gotten around to talking with David about selecting his tutor. With that thought I got up and motioned for David to follow me and we retired to the family room.
I had barely gotten started explaining to David what his test results were, and what had been suggested to deal with it when Corey came dashing in and wanted to drag me back to the office to look at the various plans. "Oh man," he bubbled, "you have to look at the plans. One of them is radical. Man it's awesome. Come on Dad, let's go?"
I could see David's face as his shoulders started dropping and he suddenly looked like he was losing his last friend. Sometimes a person has a leap of understanding and I experienced one right then. I knew that David still felt left out and still didn't consider himself as part of the family.
"I'll look at them later," I told Corey. "Right now David and I are having a conversation that's more important."
When I said that David's head came up and he looked at me as though he couldn't believe it. Well, so did Corey, but his look was more one of surprise as though he couldn't believe what I had said.
"But..." Corey said, his voice trailing off.
"No buts," I replied. "The plans will be there when I get time to look at them, and right now I'm busy with David." With that I turned back to David.
"As I was saying, we need to set up some tutoring for you," I told David. "I've got some suggestions here on who to hire, but you'll need to pick the one you like best and think you can work with. We can set up interviews with each of them and then you can make up your mind. Do you think that'll work?"
"But I don't know nothing about tutors," David replied.
"It's `I don't know anything about tutors'," I automatically corrected him. "However, in this case you don't have to. All of the people you're going to meet are competent and all you have to do is pick the one you like best. After all, you're the one who has to get along with the tutor, so you get to pick the one you like. If you don't like any of these, we'll find some more to check out."
By now Corey had left, I suppose to go look at the house designs some more, and David was simply sitting there with a sort of stunned look on his face and his mouth hanging about half open.
"You mean I gotta choose?" David finally squeaked.
"Yup, you `gotta' choose," I replied. "Like I said, you're the one who has to get along with the tutor, not me. Perhaps tomorrow evening we can start setting up appointments so you can get acquainted with them. Hopefully you'll find one you like and we can get a schedule set up and get you started so you can get back to school."
I didn't get much more out of David so after trying for a while I gave up and headed back to the office to see what the boys were looking at and what they liked. When I stepped into the office I was pounced on like a mouse in a room full of cats, with every boy trying to point out what he liked about one or another set of the plans. I finally got them calmed down enough to where I could get in the chair and start looking things over for myself. The trouble was, every time I changed the plan I was looking at, I got so much chatter that it was hard to think. If they would not have been asking me questions, it wouldn't have mattered, but each boy seemed to have some thing he liked or disliked about each design and I was expected to comment on each and every one of those likes and dislikes.
"Enough," I finally almost shouted. "Give me a chance to look at them and then we'll discuss what's good and bad about each one."
I got them to shut up, but shortly I was about to burst with laughter because it was apparent I had boys about to explode from the pressure of keeping all their words inside. I mean they looked like some of those puffer fish as they seemed to expand to make room for each comment they were trying to keep in. The only one who didn't look like he had been constipated for a month was David, and he was sitting quietly on the sofa.
"Well," I said after I had glanced through the various designs, "which one do you guys like best?
That was a major mistake and I knew it as soon as the words were leaving my mouth. The whole room exploded in voices and each one kept getting louder as the speaker tried to attract my attention over the others. I let them chatter until I figured the pressure from trapped words was low enough to get them quiet again.
Once they were finally quieted, I started again but in a more planned manner. There were two basic concepts represented. One was two separate houses situated on the site I'd picked, and there were several different house designs that we could select from. The other choice was two houses adjoining and there were several basic plans for that.
Jeez, each boy liked a different plan and was more than willing to explain why. I had voices telling me this and that and then arguing over it. As I listened to them my eyes swept over the boys and suddenly I remembered that I needed to tell JJ that his parents had been captured. I was trying to figure out why I had forgotten to tell him when it dawned on me I had been trying to ignore the whole subject. JJ had been much happier since getting his medicine and perhaps I had been afraid to say anything for fear he would change back into the sad and angry person he had been before it. I had been guilty of trying to avoid telling him because I was afraid of the consequences.
"Dad, aren't you listening?" Corey interrupted my thoughts.
"Uhm, no," I replied. "Something just crossed my mind."
"Well, what is it?" he asked.
Now I was stuck. I had originally delayed telling JJ because I had been trying to figure out how to bring it up in a manner that didn't upset him more than necessary and then had tried to forget it for fear of the same thing, but now everyone was watching and I was trapped with no escape in sight. I was going to have to tell him and hope for the best.
"Uhm, let's not talk about the houses anymore tonight. I think we all need time to digest the plans. Instead let's go to the family room and I've got something I need to tell Jason."
I got some strange looks, but the boys started moving towards the family room. As usual they left the computer on so I closed the programs and shut it down before following them.
"Jason, I received some news about your parents this evening," I started. I still hadn't figured out how to break the news gently so I had plunged ahead. "Uhm, they were arrested in Georgia."
I wasn't prepared for JJ's reaction. His teeth clinched and through them he hissed, "Good." Instead of looking anguished, he looked angry. He continued to sit there and glare at me with his teeth clinched which left me with no idea what to say next. I was frantically trying to think of how to proceed when he finally asked, "When will they be tried?" and his voice still sounded as hard and angry as it had at the beginning of this conversation.
"Uhh, I don't know. They were arrested for robbery and auto theft and have to be tried down there before they'll be returned here for trial. That's all the information I have right now, but Officer Wrangle promised to keep us informed," I stammered.
I was trying to figure out what to say next when JJ dissolved in tears. That was more like the reaction I had expected, but after his initial one I was now left wondering why the change. I was getting more confused by the minute, but at least I now had some idea of how to proceed. It was pretty easy to decide what to do as crying boys need hugs, so I moved over, pulled him to his feet, and wrapped my arms around him. As I held him and patted his back, he kept saying one word, "Why?" I thought I had a pretty good idea of what he was asking, but I simply held him until he started to get himself under control. I was fairly confident that when he calmed down a little I could talk with him and perhaps ease his mind. I caught Corey's eye and with a nod of my head conveyed the thought that he and the rest of the boys should retire and leave us alone. It was bedtime anyway, so Corey quietly herded the rest of the boys out and soon JJ and I were alone.
Finally JJ started to calm down. His crying turned into sniffles and even those sniffles slowed. I got him seated on the sofa and found a box of tissues and handed him one as I sat down beside him.
"Do you want to talk about it?" I asked after he had blown his nose.
Did he ever. When he started talking, all his pent up frustrations came pouring out. I learned more about JJ's previous life than I had in all the time he lived with me. He told me such things as how hard he had tried to make his parents proud of him, but that no matter how good his grades, it had never been enough. Apparently there had never been any congratulations from them no matter how well he did in school, or how well he kept his room clean, or how well he did his chores. According to JJ, he was expected to be perfect and nothing else was acceptable. Even when he scored 100% on a test, there were never words of praise, only admonishments to do the same on the next test. When he didn't score 100% he was berated for failing. While there had only been the one real beating, spanking was a normal part of his life for minor failures such as not scoring high enough on tests, or forgetting to do something. I listened to him for almost a half hour as he told me all about his life before he had come to live with me and was sickened as I heard about it. While he might have been exaggerating somewhat, it still sounded like child abuse to me.
I got to thinking as I was listening. I remembered how wary he had been when he first came to live with me. I had passed most of it off as him being depressed over the loss of his parents and not being used to me, but now it made more sense. Perhaps his quietness had been because he was afraid to join in the fun for fear he would do something wrong and I would punish him. It had taken quite a bit if time before he was willing to allow me to hug him without tensing up. He hadn't been willing to join in any horseplay for fear of making me mad. Even after he had become more comfortable living with me and the other boys he still had been guarded in the way he interacted with me.
Then, after he had lived with me for several months, he had started to open up a little, but there was still the problem of him being rebellious over his chores. I wondered if that was because he was testing me and trying to prove I was like his parents and had only hidden it from him. Perhaps some of his behavior wasn't all the result of depression, but was the result of him still not recognizing that he was loved and accepted for who he was, not simply what he did. Perhaps he still didn't trust me.
JJ finally ran out of words and sagged more tightly against me. I had my arm across his shoulder and sat there holding him while I tried to think of what to say. No matter how I looked at it, convincing him he was safe and loved was going to be difficult and mere words alone would never accomplish it. So far I hoped the way I had treated him might show him that I loved him, but beyond that it was going to be a long slow process to convince him
"Uhh Jason," I started, but got no response. When I leaned slightly forward and looked at him I could see his eyes were closed and his breathing was soft and even. It was obvious he had fallen asleep, and after listening to him I suspected it was due to the emotional exhaustion of thinking about his parents and all that had been done to him.
I sat there trying to decide what to do. It didn't take long to figure out that he would be better off resting than having me try to convince him things were better for him. I remembered how tired I had been after I learned of my parent's deaths, and how I wished people would leave me alone and allow me to rest. JJ was probably feeling about like I had, wanting to rest and pull himself back together.
That left the question of what to do right now. Would he be better off to continue sleeping, or should I wake him enough to get him to bed? I decided to let him sleep and carefully wriggled my way free of him. I then got him stretched out on the sofa and went and got an afghan and covered him. I then turned most of the lights out, leaving one on in the living room which cast a little light into the family room in case he woke up wondering where he was and headed for bed. My nightly check showed that the other boys were all sleeping peacefully, but it seemed strange not to see JJ in bed with LT.
Corey snuggled up to me as soon as I joined him, but I couldn't fall asleep. My mind kept churning over the abuse JJ had suffered. In many senses physical abuse was easier to deal with than verbal abuse. Bruises heal rather quickly, but hearts take much longer to mend. There is also the problem that verbal abuse is much harder to detect. As my mind worried over JJ, it also worried over how many other students might be the subject of verbal abuse. In the case of JJ I had never seen any reason to suspect it, but it had occurred. That meant that it was very possible for it to occur with any of the students and I had no way of spotting it. Some kids I was sure were not experiencing it because I had seen them and their parents together and the way they interacted could never happen were abuse part of their lives. For example I had been around Marty Logan and his parents, Dr. Vince Logan and his wife Betty, and the same was true of Nathan Young and his parents, or the Sterretts, or any of a number of other kids I could think of including Fred and Mike and the way they acted around Vern and Nancy. Jason had exhibited none of the abuse symptoms I had been told to watch for when I was in college, but now I was starting to understand that at best college is only a starting place.
It wasn't that I hadn't learned a lot in college, but teaching had taught me much more about how to get along with kids and how to explain things to them. I hadn't realized how much being the child of two teachers had helped me until I started seeing things my parents had talked about. It was like I had a head start on most teachers because I had heard my folks and their fellow teachers discussing problems I was now encountering and how to solve them. Yet abuse was not a subject that had been talked about much and when it was they were just as puzzled as I now found myself. I could remember a number of instances where they felt as helpless as I now did because they hadn't noticed a student was being abused.
As it now stood, all of the boys except for LT had been subject to abuse throughout most of their lives, where his had only occurred because his father had learned he was gay. And it showed. LT was more optimistic and outgoing than the others. He had far more self-confidence than the others. Most of Corey's abuse had been neglect, although he had mentioned a few times his mother's boyfriends had cuffed him around.
Still, how do you separate and rank abuse? Some kids might not be particularly affected by some types of abuse, where they would be more affected by a different form of it. Everyone is different and reacts differently to situations. To a kid with little self-confidence any verbal abuse might be far more detrimental than it would be to a different child.
Parents walk a very fine line in some respects. They need to encourage their children to strive and succeed, but if they go a little too far it is a form of abuse. In that sense JJ's parents were right to encourage him to succeed, but they were wrong in the way they did it. As long as the child tries, they need to be congratulated for it no matter if they didn't do as well as everyone hoped. That was something I tried to do in my classes. If I had a C student, and that student turned in a B paper, I congratulated him or her for doing well. It is all a matter of degree. Not all students would be good in math, but as long as they tried and did the best they were capable of, they deserved congratulations and encouragement. And I was always surprised at how that encouragement sometimes affected a student. I had had several students climb from rather ordinary scores to higher ones as they were encouraged to do their best.
We'd even had discussions on it at our morning meetings. Jerry had appeared thrilled when I brought up one young man, the first year I was teaching, and had said that he needed encouragement from his teachers and pointed out how much his grades had risen as I worked with him and encouraged him. Mrs. Webb had jumped right in and joined me and for the next couple of weeks it had been a topic we discussed each morning.
People as a whole, and kids in particular, seem to live up to or down according to other peoples' expectations. I'd had a number of students whose grades had climbed as I worked with them. Not just the math scores, but all of their grades. Yet you had to be very careful in how you did it. Saying things like you can do better than that should never be used except in a very few circumstances, and then only if you know the student well and had very good reasons to know said student had been goofing off. Even then I normally would say something along the lines of their work hadn't been up to their usual standards and I was willing to help them if they needed it. And I never compared a student to his or her sibling. That was something my parents had agreed was detrimental and should never be done.
Yet all my worrying was not producing any answers on how to spot verbal abuse. It was apparent that JJ's ego was fragile from such abuse, and I hadn't noticed it and now was left to try to help him. Thinking about it made me wonder where he had found the courage to talk with me that first time because now it seemed like he had little reason to trust adults or ask them for help. Yes, Uncle Matt had said that kids trusted me, and that I had a gift for that, but I was left wondering what it was. All I ever did was treat kids like they were people and tried to listen when they talked to me. I couldn't see that I was anything special, yet some of the things he had said seemed true, so maybe he and kids saw something I didn't. Maybe it was because I tried to convince them rather than tell them, but that only seemed logical. Certainly you can order them to do something, but it is better to convince them that they should do it. I tried to use problems in my classes that the kids could identify with so they could see the use in learning what I was teaching. I'd been forced to learn more about lumbering than I had planned because lumbering was a big part of the local economy and kids could relate to solving problems involving it. And the same held true with retailing when teaching percentages. Some of the kids had been surprised at the markups many products carried, so I had tried to show why such markups were necessary. The students were shocked to learn that almost two percent of each dollar they spend at a store goes to cover theft. When they expressed disbelief, I asked them if they had ever stolen something or if they knew anyone who had. Learning that almost one cent of a fifty cent candy bar went to cover theft started to put the markup percentages more in prospective.
Yet all my worrying wasn't helping come up with the best way to help JJ. I finally calmed down enough to where I was ready to bury my nose in Corey's hair and fall asleep. There was something about the smell of his hair that made everything right with my world. Tomorrow I could worry about Jason.
Just as I was dozing off a thought occurred to me. Jason was still being called JJ by most everyone, but his last name was no longer James since the adoption. Now he should be called JL, but old habits die hard. Even I still called him JJ about half the time.
To be continued...
Verbal abuse is hard to detect and has long and tragic consequences. By destroying a child's ego you set that child up for a lifetime of failure. Stop and think, how many times have you heard someone say that they couldn't do something? Now of course not all of the times you have heard someone say that are the result of a parent not encouraging a child, but far too many instances of it are. If you set your expectations for your child higher than that child can reasonably attain, you slowly convince that child that he or she cannot succeed, and the thoughts of impending failure will keep many people from trying.
By the same token you need to encourage the child to try his or her best. You need to be sure to praise and encourage a child when that child has tried, no matter what the result, yet falsely praising them for ordinary or even lower effort gives them a distorted view of themselves and will produce major problems when they are grown and faced with dealing with others. Over inflating a child's ego again sets that child up for failure.
Mostly kids need love and acceptance. Couple that with praise when they succeed or make an effort to do well, and some gentle chiding when they goof off and don't do well and you are on the way to raising a child who will live a happy life. And in the end, what more do you want? Don't try to force your child to be something the child does not wish to be. Perhaps you think your child should be a doctor, but if that child does not wish to be a doctor, he or she will be unhappy being one.
Something to think about. We can all admire an Olympic champion, but think of all the kids who worked their asses off to try to make it to the Olympics and then suffered the failure of not even making the team. Was it something they wanted, or was it something that their parents wanted for them? Or think of how many children's lives have been harmed by parents who wanted their child to be an actor or actress and spent all their time trying to push that child to be one. Yes, a child needs to be encouraged to succeed, but let the child decide what he or she wants to succeed at. Be alert for subtle signs that the child is doing something to please you rather than what he or she actually wishes to do, yet don't forget that they need some direction.
Parents walk a very fine line and the sad thing is that there is no manual on how to raise kids. Oh yes, there are tons of books on it, but many are simply silly, and the ones that do make sense don't apply to every child. Fortunately the human race has proved to be quite resilient and able to overcome many obstacles, and you are going to make mistakes no matter how hard you try, so the likelihood of ruining a child through an occasional mistake is low, but doing so repeatedly will produce bad results. In the end, loving your child and reasoning with that child will go a long way towards mitigating any mistakes you make. Never be afraid to admit you made a mistake and be sure to apologize when you do. That lesson works well throughout life and not just with children.