“Jeff, I’ll explain everything later,” Grandma said. “We’ll collect Jason and be on our way.”
“Grandma, Jason was expecting you to spend the night here and he decided to spend the night with Jake to give you and Aunt Judy separate bedrooms.”
“Could you call Jake and ask him to bring Jason out?” Grandma asked?
“I could, but why don’t you spend the night and get a good night’s rest before you go home?” I asked.
“Are you sure?” Grandma asked as she looked uncomfortably at me and then Mom.
“We were going to grill some pork chops for dinner,” I said. “I hope you like pork chops.”
“I love pork chops,” Aunt Judy said.
“It’s hard to beat pork chops,” Grandma said.
“Well, I don’t like them,” Mom said.
“Then I suppose we can make you a sandwich,” Grandma said.
“Come on Karen, I’ll show you where we’ll be sleeping,” Aunt Judy said. “If you’re tired from the trip you should have time for a nap before dinner. Mom, do you need to rest a while before dinner?”
“No, I’m fine, dear,” Grandma said. “Jeff and I are going to walk down to the falls and then I’ll help him with dinner.”
“Jeff, you showed a lot of maturity in what you just did,” Grandma said as she sat on the bench at the falls.
“Grandma, I didn’t do that for her,” I said. “I did it for you and Aunt Judy.”
“Nevertheless, that took a lot of maturity.”
“You’re probably wondering why your mom is with us.”
“I did wonder that.”
“When we arrived in Indiana we found your mom in an apartment with no utilities. She had received an eviction notice for not paying her rent. She had started drinking again and lost her job. She was in DTs when we arrived. Judy and I took her to a doctor. He gave her a prescription to help with the alcohol withdraw. She had no place to go, so I agreed that she could come and live with me on the condition that she go to an alcohol treatment clinic and get counseling.”
“Grandma, I understand why you’re doing this. She is still is your daughter. But, to me she is the woman who gave birth to me. She ceased being my mother when she allowed Dad to beat the crap out of me. Later on she even joined in on the beatings. So, you see the best I can do now is think of her as the woman who gave birth to me.”
“Jeff, I can’t say that I know how you feel because I’ve never had to endure the pain that you’ve suffered. George told me that you had scars on your back from the beatings, may I see?”
I stood and took off my shirt and turned my back to Grandma. I heard her gasp and when I turned to face her she was sobbing.
I took her and in my arms and we both were weeping. I finally said, “Its okay Grandma, I’m happy now.”
“Honey, I knew it was bad for you, but I never realized until now that it was that bad.”
Grandma and I prepared the vegetables, mashed potatoes, cream gravy and rolls while Mason grilled the pork chops. When everything is ready I said, “I guess I’ll make Mom a sandwich.”
“Don’t bother,” Grandma said. “She has always loved pork chops and she can either eat a pork chop tonight or make her own sandwich.”
Dinner was a little tense. Mom did eat a pork chop, probably forgetting that she “didn’t like pork chops.” After dinner when Mason and I served coffee and dessert I noticed that Mom was looking around the room and then she said, “Nice house. It’s too bad you had to take mine so you could live like this.”
Before I could respond, Grandma angrily said, “Karen, that’s enough. You promised that you would be civil.”
“Well it’s true,” Mom said. “He went to court and took our home just because he didn’t like a little discipline.”
“A little discipline,” Grandma screamed. “That boy was severely beaten. Have you seen his back? Jeff, show her your back.”
“Grandma it is okay,” I said.
“No Jeff, it isn’t okay,” Grandma said. “She needs to see what that monster did to you while she watched.”
I stood and once again removed my shirt. As I turned I heard Aunt Judy gasp and then when I turned my back to Mom to my surprise I heard her gasp also. Mom quickly left and went to her room.
“I’ll go check on her,” Aunt Judy said.
“No, leave her be,” Grandma said. “She needs to think about what she just saw.
Mason and I cleaned the kitchen while Grandma and Aunt Judy finished their coffee and dessert. Grandma stood and said, “Boys, this has been an exhausting day. I hope you don’t mind if I take my bath and go to bed.”
“Not at all, Grandma,” Mason said. “Get a good night’s rest.”
“What an amazing woman,” Mason said.
“She certainly is,” Aunt Judy agreed. “Jeff, I knew that you were abused, but I didn’t realize how bad it was until I saw your back. There is no way that I could stand by and watch Mike do that to my children.”
“That’s what I told Jason,” I said.
“He told you that he’s gay?” Aunt Judy asked.
“You know?” I asked.
“I’ve suspected for some time,” Aunt Judy said. “I was sure when I saw how he looked at Jake.”
“You’re okay with it?” Mason asked.
“Of course, he’s still my son and I love him,” Aunt Judy said.
“What about Uncle Mike?” I asked.
“He has admitted that it would hard for him, but that he would still love them if either of our children turned out to be gay. I think that is due to the positive effect you two had on him when you visited us in Memphis.”
“That’s good to hear because Jason isn’t afraid to tell you, but he’s terrified to tell Uncle Mike,” I said.
“We’ll give him some space and let him tell us on his own schedule,” Aunt Judy said. “Now if you don’t mind I think I’ll take my bath and go to bed too.”
“Good night, Aunt Judy,” Mason and I both said.
“Good night, boys,” Aunt Judy said
“She has a lot of your grandma’s character,” Mason said.
“Yes she does,” I agreed. “I wish Mom had some of that.”
“Maybe your mom has a little of it somewhere.”
“Yeah, and maybe George Bush has the intelligence of a rocket scientist.”
After a night of restlessness I crawled from under Mason’s arms, went to the bathroom and then to the kitchen to make coffee. When the coffee was ready I poured myself a mug and went out on the deck to watch the morning sun peep over the Ozarks to the east. Shortly Grandma joined me with her mug of coffee saying, “This is such a lovely and peaceful place. I can understand why you love it here.”
“Grandma, I’m happy here. I wish you lived closer though.”
“We’ll have to make time for more visits between us. If I’m not mistaken, Jason has developed an interest in Jake.”
“You’re very observant. Yes, he has and the interest is mutual. Jake is a good kid whose dad and step-mom kicked him out when they discovered that he is gay. Roy and Barry took him in and love him like their own son.”
“You’ll have to bring him with you on your next visit to Memphis. Why don’t you come for the Fourth of July?”
“I was hoping that you and the entire family would come here for the Fourth. A couple of friends, Tom and Craig will be here from Chicago. Also, Bruce and his wife Carol will be here. Bruce is the attorney that found Mom for you.”
“I would love to meet him and thank him. Let’s go inside and start breakfast. I want to get home in time to make some phone calls and get Karen in treatment as soon as possible.”
“Let me know how much it cost and I’ll send you a check to pay for it.”
No Jeff, you keep your money. Regardless of what Karen said, it is your money.”
“Grandma you shouldn’t have the sole responsibility to pay for it.”
“No, Karen will pay for it.”
“How would she pay for? She has no money.”
“Your grandfather and I established a savings account for each of our children to pay for their education. Since Karen never used hers, the money plus interest is still there. There should be enough money to pay for her treatment and some type of education for an occupation when she is well enough.”
During breakfast Mom ate in silence and when we had all finished she cleared the table and loaded the dishwasher. Shortly after breakfast Jake delivered Jason for his trip back to Memphis.
We all said our goodbyes and Mom looked at me and said, “Jeff, I… Oh, never mind.” She then went and sat in the car.
Grandma hugged me and said, “It’s a beginning, it’s a beginning.”
Mason and I began our summer classes and settled into our routine of work and school. Mason was now working in the financial side of the law firm. I didn’t know what to expect from working with Jake. However, he proved to be an intelligent and hard working young man.
Finally Independence Day came and my all of my Arkansas Family got to meet all of my Tennessee family as well as my friends from Illinois. Grandma had called and said that Mom wanted to come to the event too. I agreed, more for Grandma than for Mom.
Jason finally told his parents and Jennifer that he was gay. Aunt Judy told him that she suspected that all along. Uncle Mike said that he wished that Jason was straight but that he still loved him and would support him. Jennifer’s response was, “Now I have to compete with my brother for the cute boys. Jennifer did bring her new boyfriend, Nick, with her. He was cute too. Joseph was dating, but hadn’t settled on just on girl yet.
I was amazed at how much better Mom looked than the last time I saw her. Grandma said that she was enrolled in her pre-nursing classes and was making good grades. She planned to begin nursing school the next fall.
During the visit Mom and I were civil to each other, but there was too much hurt for me to forgive her.
Mom seemed to have no remorse toward Bruce and Roy for representing me in my suit against her and Dad. However, George avoided her like the plague. In general, the holiday went very well though.
Retrospectively, time had passed quickly. I completed my law degree with honors and passed my bar examination. Mason completed his MBA and passed the CPA examination. I became a junior partner in Roy and Steve’s law firm. My cases were mostly handling adoption cases. I had become quite good at handling those cases.
Mason had taken over all the financial responsibilities of the firm and he also handled the other family investments. He took over the handling of my investments and over the years his wise investments had grown to over one and a half million.
Mom did complete nursing school and was employed at Methodist University Hospital in Memphis. Dad served his time in prison and following release called and said he was coming to visit Mom. Mom told him that she wasn’t interested in seeing him, but he said that he was going anyway. He quickly changed his mind when Grandma told him that he would be visiting the end of her gun if he did come.
Mom and I even became friends, but there wasn’t that typical mother son relationship. Her therapist said it was because she never bonded with me when I was a child. I thought it was bullshit, but Mason convinced me that it was plausible.
It was one of those late winter days where the weather could quickly change from pleasant spring like to wintery. I stayed late in the office to prepare for an adoption case of a young preteen boy by a gay couple. Once I believed that I was as well prepared as I would ever be, I locked the office to go home. As I unlocked my car I saw what appeared to be a body behind the dumpster. In the dusk I wasn’t sure if it was a body or a manikin.
I decided I would have to investigate before calling the police. It was a young boy who appeared to be about nine or ten years of age. His face was bruised and covered with blood. He was shivering from the cold. He was dirty and wearing only a light jacket to protect him from the cold.
“What happened to you, son? I asked.
“Nothing,” He said as he hung his head.
“Nothing wouldn’t cause you to look like that; come on and sit in my car and well get you warmed up.” I took a blanket out of the back and covered him up. “I think we need to get you to the hospital to get you checked.”
“No, they’ll make me go back.”
“They’ll make you go back where?”
“Is that where this happened?”
“Who did this to you?”
“Who is Coy?”
“I’m a lawyer and I’ll do everything in my power to keep that from happening. I’ll promise I’ll go there with you. I’m Jeff, what is your name?”
I decided that legally it would be best if I called 911 and let an ambulance move Mark to the hospital. The police arrived a few minutes before the ambulance. The older of the two policemen tapped on my window and said to Mark, “Get out of the car and come and sit in my patrol car.”
“He’s already traumatized, let him stay where he is until the ambulance gets here,” I said.
“Who in the hell are you?”
“I’m the man who found him and I’m volunteering my services as his lawyer. From this point forward I’m going to record everything you say. If you continue to talk to him in that manner I’m turning a copy of the tape over to the Chief. Do we understand each other?”
The ambulance arrived and did an appraisal of Mark’s condition. After putting him in a cervical collar, they said that they were ready to transport him to the hospital.
“I want Jeff to go with me,” Mark said.
“Why don’t you go with this nice young man and I’ll meet you at the hospital?”
“Okay,” Mark reluctantly agreed.
“What hospital will he be taken to?” I asked.
“Washington Regional,” The handsome paramedic said.
On the way to the hospital I called Mason to let him know what had happened and that I’d be late getting home. I next called Steve and told him how the police officer had talked to Mark.
“I’ll take care of it,” Steve promised. “I’ll meet you at the hospital after I make a few phone calls.”
“When I arrived in the ER the policeman was demanding that he see “that boy.”
I heard someone say, “Henry, you’re done here. I’ll take over.”
“Yes, Chief,” The officer said.
The chief turned to me extending his hand and said, “I’m Rick Wilson. You must be Jeff.”
“I am,” I said as I shook his hand.
“I must apologize for the way Henry handled this. I’ve called Jessie Morgan to come and do the investigation. She is very good in these matters and she will do her investigation with some kindness to the victim.”
“Thank you Chief Wilson.”
“Thanks aren’t necessary, but it is Rick. Steve and I are old friends and he speaks highly of you. Speaking of the devil, look at who is here. It looks like Jessie is here too.”
The two men exchanged greetings and then Rick introduced us to us to Jessie, a very attractive woman who appeared to be about thirty. “Jessie why don’t you talk to Jeff and let him tell you what he knows,” Rick said. “As soon as the doctor is done with our young friend I’ll let you know.”
I reported what I knew to Jessie. When I mentioned the name Coy, Jessie said, “I’ll bet that’s Coy Miller. We’ve been watching him some time now for dealing drugs.”
Steve came to inform us that we could go in and see Mark. Jessie invited me to join her, “After all, you are his lawyer.”
I introduced Mark to Jessie and she soon had him relaxed. Mark told Jessie pretty much the same story he told me. He did say that he had a younger sister, but her dad came and got her a few weeks earlier.
Wanda Beamer, the social worker from the Arkansas Department of Human Services, Division of Children and Family Services arrived. She seemed disorganized and unsure of herself. Steve must have noticed this too and he asked if she had a place for Mark. “Can I stay with Jeff?” Mark asked.
“I’m sorry, but we can only place you in a group home or under the care of an approved foster parent,” Wanda said.
“Isn’t the group home full?” Steve asked. I could tell he had a plan and let him continue.
“I’m not sure,” Wanda said. “I’d have to check, but it was full this morning.”
“Why don’t you call Mitch Chapman and get him to give an emergency approval of Jeff as a foster parent?” Steve suggested.
“Oh, do you know Mr. Chapman?” Wanda asked.
“Oh yes, he’s a good friend of mine. Would you rather that I make the call?” Wanda now had that “deer in the headlights look.”
Steve didn’t wait for an answer and he apparently had planned well. He had Mitch Chapman’s phone number on speed dial of his cell phone. “Hello, Mitch this is Steve. I won’t take much of your time, but I have young lawyer in my firm that has offered to foster a young boy who is in need of a place to live. Ms. Beamer doesn’t have a place for him.”
‘He’s good,’ I thought. I saw that Wanda was a little more relaxed since Steve didn’t say anything that would get her in trouble.
“Thank you, Mitch,” Steve said. “Here I’ll let you tell Ms. Beamer that.” He handed the phone to Wanda and then winked at me. I knew that I’d be taking Mark home with me.”
“I hate to put him back in those bloody filthy closes to take him home,” I said.
“While you’re getting all of his paperwork taken care of, I’ll go to Wal-Mart and buy enough things to get him by until we can do some serious shopping, Steve offered. I wonder what size he is.”
“He appears to be about the size of my son,” Jessie said. “I’ll write down his sizes and you can go by that.”
Mark was excited and pleased with his new clothes. He was all smiles when he got dressed. The doctor reported that Mark had no fractures, but he was under weight for his age. I called Mason on the way home and let him know that we were on our way home. “Good, I’ll finish dinner then,” Mason said.
In all of the excitement, I had forgotten about dinner. “Mark, are you hungry?” I asked.
“Yeah,” he quietly said.
“Cook plenty, there are two hungry men here,” I said. Mark smiled at being called a man.
Mason had cooked chicken strips, mashed potatoes with gravy, and corn. It was a dinner made for a kid. After dinner we got Mark bathed and put to bed. Mason and I discussed the possibility of our becoming Mark’s permanent foster parents. I also was exhausted and decided to shower and go to bed. When I came out of the bathroom, Mason said, “Here he is now.” He covered the phone and said, “It’s someone named Jessie.”
“Hi Jessie, what’s up?”
“Jeff, that bonehead Henry has screwed up royally. He went to Coy Miller’s house apparently in an attempt to prove himself to the chief. He told Coy that Mark had told him everything and that he was under arrest. Coy said that he was going to kill Mark. He grabbed Henry’s gun and ran from the house after shooting Henry in the arm. Coy is now armed and dangerous.”
“Oh shit,” I said.