If you are just joining this story, please note the DEDICATION of it, stated on the disclaimer page..
I again want to thank my good friend Miguel Sanchez for his extensive help in developing this chapter, along with work we are doing on future ones. (Julio, of course, is now the mature Doctor Jay Sanchez in this story). (Also, sorry about screwing up his address before!)
The kids were as dazzled as I was as we entered the airport complex. Instead of going to the main terminal, Jay drove to a smaller, private terminal and to a large gate entering the flight line. As he approached the gate it opened electronically, and a he proceeded to a nearby Learjet. Two attendants rushed to the back of the Hummer and began transferring our luggage into the aircraft as soon as the vehicle stopped.
"Good morning!" Miguel announced as he descended the stairway from the plane. "Would you like to go flying?" he asked my wide eyed boys.
"Come on, it's totally awesome, I'll show you!" Steven hooted, pushing Mark and Johnny toward the aircraft before wrapping his arm around Ronnie and ushering the bug-eyed youngster next to him.
"We are leaving soon, did you want to say goodbye to Jay and Ronnie?" Miguel asked, standing at the bottom of the stairs, cutting the boys off.
They glanced between Miguel, Steven and I a couple of times, then turned back and rushed back toward us. The three of them made me feel proud of them as they politely and genuinely thanked Jay, then Ronnie and finally Angela for the weekend and the good time they had before they all rushed back toward the aircraft. Johnny scrambled up two or three steps before turning back around, and rushing back onto the flight line.
"Thanks, Doctor Jay," he said he pushed into a tight hug against his physician. "You're an neat doctor and stuff, thanks for fixing my arm and stuff! I love you, sir," he whimpered.
"I, I love you too, little one, thank you for visiting our home," Jay almost whispered. "But, we are not done, I will see you again soon, we have to get your arm ready for Little League season! You work hard, I'm going to come examine you in a month, that is not very long," he added, his voice recovering somewhat.
"Yes sir," Johnny answered, pulling against his doctor's stomach with his arm.
"I understand you are going to teach me how to ride horses, have you decided which ones Ronnie and I should learn on?" Jay asked. His ploy worked perfectly, Johnny' ears turning as red as his hair as if gears grinding in his head were overheating them. "You better get onboard, or my father will leave without you!" he said, tousling the boy's hair.
"Thanks for the weekend, and for your help," I said as we watched Johnny dart toward the airplane. I think we all noticed his limp as he rushed up the stairs into the cabin.
"Thank you," Jay answered, cutting me off. "Thank you so much." His face told me not to take the discussion any further.
"I'll contact you in a day or so about what we talked about earlier on the beach. As soon as I know something," I told Jay as we shook hands. "But, hey, I'll still give you a GREAT deal on my three! I could leave them now, if you want!" I added as I said goodbye to Ronnie and Angela. The only response I earned was a glare from Angela.
When I followed Miguel into the aircraft its cabin was something out of shows I had seen on cable TV programs. The main cabin was a small sitting room, with a couple of tables and high backed chairs around them. Toward the back of it was four rows of seats, somewhat like on a commercial airliner, but much more plush. From the open door I could tell there was another cabin behind the one I was in, but couldn't see any details.
Mark and Johnny bumped into me as I looked around. "Arf! There's the captain pit and stuff, he said we might get to drive it some!" Johnny exclaimed, pointing to the aircraft's nose.
"Cockpit, stupid!" Mark corrected. "And maybe we get to FLY it some! You don't drive them! Watch Discovery, stupid, I already know how!"
"Yes, but please sit down, we are going to be taking off soon," a smartly dressed flight steward asked. Without waiting for an answer he turned and pulled the stairwell/door up. "Please fasten your seat belts, as soon as we are airborne I will serve refreshments," he politely ordered.
Everyone followed Miguel's lead, and settled into the craft's comfortable seating. After I fastened my seat belt I started to check to be sure the boys had done the same when the aircraft's hull began vibrating, as if something was hammering on it from the outside. `God, not again!' I thought. Miguel exchanged worried looks as the steward lowered the door.
Miguel and I were both, at least for a second or so, shocked when Ronnie rushed into the aircraft's cabin. "Steven, get your butt out here, NOW!" he barked. I was trying to digest his request as I followed his glare to the back of the cabin, until Steven and my Ronnie's heads slowly appeared from the last row of seats in the cabin. "RIGHT NOW, YOUNG MAN!" Uncle Ronnie growled, the veins in his forehead broadcasting his anger.
"Ah, well we didn't know they were leaving or nothing!" Steven whined as he half crawled toward his uncle, dodging Miguel and my eyes. "I'm sorry!" he added.
Ronnie gave his nephew a couple of disbelieving glances, but seemed to calm somewhat until my Ronnie added, "Well, and we weren't gonna do nothing, he was just gonna go meet Zoe, and, , ," His face was so priceless as he realized what he had said I would have given a year's pay to have a picture of it. "I mean, well, he was helping me so my seat belt worked and stuff, SIR! He was Dad!"
"Plant it!" I snarled toward my Ronnie, pointing at the seat next to mine. Young Steven's face reminded me of the perfect Hollywood portrayal of a condemned prisoner entering the death chamber as he looked back at his friend before leaving the plane. I started to chew my boy out for his part in their little shenanigan, but after I saw Miguel's face, clearly trying to keep from smiling, I knew I'd crack up if I did.
Fifteen minutes later we were in the air, and soon leveled off at flight altitude. Almost immediately after the 'SEAT BELTS' sign went off the steward rushed to a intercom phone buzzing near his seat. "The Captain would like to see the children on the flight deck," he announced as he hung up the handset.
Johnny and Mark bolted out of their seats. I had to snicker when Mark was initially slammed back into his having forgotten to unfasten his seat belt. Ronnie reached for his belt latch but stopped, giving me a sheepish grin. "Do you think you can behave yourself?" I asked, trying to force some anger into my voice. He whimpered something I couldn't hear as he nodded his head and widened his grin into one of his `I'm sorry' smiles, showing his braces as carefully as his sad puppy dog eyes. I just slightly nodded my head and he was at the cockpit door at the speed of light.
"You are far too harsh with them," Miguel teased. I just shrugged, knowing better than to touch his comment.
The steward had just asked us if we would like anything to drink when Mark came bouncing out of the cockpit. "Wow, Dad, Johnny's flying the plane, all by himself!" he proclaimed. "He can't reach the pedals, but the Captain said that's okay!"
I started to order a stiff whiskey as I digested my son's comment, `A one armed kid, that can't reach the pedals, is flying by himself?' I thought. `Maybe I'll have a double,' I thought when Mark added, "Ronnie's helping! I get to try next!" I relaxed somewhat when I leaned out in my seat. I could see enough through the open cockpit door to see an adult sitting in the left hand pilot's seat, and Ronnie sitting on a small jump seat behind and between the two main control panels.
The rest of the flight was very comfortable to say the least, I found myself comparing commercial airlines to Greyhound busses. Miguel and I chatted about the plans Jay, Ronnie and I had made that morning both about their visit to Texas and interest in fostering as we choked down a hot dog each, while the boys inhaled five or six each. I was thrilled that Miguel accepted my invitation to visit the ranch along with his sons. Much sooner than I expected, the steward cleared everyone's drinks and snacks from the tables and asked us to fasten our seat belts, that we were about to land in San Antonio.
After we taxied to one of the private aviation terminals at San Antonio International Airport, I smiled when our pilot entered the cabin before we deplaned, 'asking' if he could enlist the boys 'help' in refueling and inspecting the aircraft, while I went to retrieve my car from the main parking area. Even inside the aircraft's cabin Mark and Ronnie's silver smiles were so wide they almost blinded me when I agreed.
I laughed so hard I had trouble controlling my Jaguar as I drove through the terminal gate and toward Miguel's jet. Ronnie was hanging out of the cockpit window, his golden hair and silver headgear brightly reflecting the sunlight as he watched one of the pilots and his brothers walk around the plane. The man seemed to be able to pay fairly good attention to his inspection despite Mark and Johnny being completely underfoot, pushing against the aviator, almost climbing up his body to get a better look at everything he stopped to check.
Miguel chatted for a few minutes as the flight line attendants loaded our luggage into my car. I was about to call the kids when Ronnie appeared at the aircraft's steps, and Johnny began up them, clearly changing places. "Ah, guys, time to go home!" I announced.
After a pair of dirty looks Ronnie retorted, "Well, but we gotta help check the plane!" Johnny glanced back at me as he rushed up the stairs, and his turn in the cockpit.
I started to nail them, to order they get into the car, but took a deep breath. "I'd like to get home, to check on the horses and Buddy!" I replied. "I hope Ginger and Zoe and everyone are okay!"
I would have loved to get back into Miguel's jet and see the skid marks I'm sure Johnny's gym shoes left on the carpet as the boy reappeared on the stairs. He flew down the several steps at lightning speed, his good leg taking three steps at a time while his bad one took one, but with the grace and speed of an Olympic track runner. He was only a few feet from me when he turned back, looking for his brothers.
"Come on, you heard Dad!" he barked in a command voice that would have made soprano pitched military officers around the world jealous. "Right now!" he snapped as he wrestled with the back door of my big cat. I was impressed that he climbed back out of the car and gave Miguel and the aircraft's pilot an warm hug as his brothers joined us, but his cute little pixie face was still in the command mode, clearly telling me to get off my backside and drive the damn car. `What happened to my shy little boy?' I wondered as we left the airport.
`I don't even believe this shit!' I thought as the white wooden fence of my land came into sight. A fairly large, cinnamon colored blotch, Ginger's head, was protruding between the rails, a pair of huge black eyes staring, more glaring down the asphalt.
"YEAH, there's Ginger!" Johnny hooted from the back seat, jerking against his seat belt so hard the car shook slightly. At the same time the cinnamon blob withdrew from between the fence rails. I felt my ponytail being pulled toward the back seat of the car, from a window being lowered, as we came next to my fence. "Hi Ginger! ! ! Hi, you gotta see what they did to my arm!" Johnny yelled out the window.
`Neither one of them are normal, the horse or the kid!' I thought as I saw Ginger buck into the air, then push against Zoe and one of Cindy's horses, clearly her entourage, before she started loudly snorting and naying at her boy as she pranced more than galloped next to the Jaguar as I drove toward the gate, Johnny already filling her in on our trip and his surgery despite the fact he was yelling into the wind from my forty-mile-an-hour speed.
I punched the remote to open the gate as soon as I dared, but had to wait probably a minute for it to open after I turned off the road. `Chill, girl.' I thought as I noticed Ginger, her ears laid flat against her neck, glaring at the gate's electronic mechanism. As soon as my car began moving through the gate the filly's ears perked back up and she kicked her rear hooves in joy before running along side us.
By the time I approached the house we had probably six horses running next to us, Ginger nudging her neck toward each of them as they joined the procession. Both Mary's car and the Robert's Suburban were in front of my house, and, knowing it was a lost cause, I reminded the boys we had to unload our luggage, and say hello to our guest as I stopped in front.
I didn't bother to try to call Johnny back as he dove out of the car and bolted toward the pasture fence, even with his slight limp he clearly would have outrun my voice anyway. "You guys say hi, then bring your bags inside and get changed, then you can go riding," I managed to get out before Ronnie got away.
`He's damn sure recovering,' I thought as I watched Johnny dive between two of the fence rails, roll on his back and land on his feet. He was still regaining his balance when Ginger pushed against him, pushing her neck into him. `Damn, and the camera is in the trunk!' I thought as the other horses gathered around, and Mark, then Ronnie joined the joyful reunion, hugging their horses then the others.
"Dude! How'd you get here so quick!" Junior's alto voice rang. I looked around in time to see him galloping to the group on his horse, bailing off it before the animal stopped running.
"You are early, your flight wasn't due for several hours!" Cindy said from next to me, making me jump.
"We hitchhiked," I answered. "A unique end to a completely unique weekend." I briefly filled her in or Miguel's private jet, and our return trip, only about half my mind on our discussion as we watched Johnny, with Mark's help, clearly explaining to Ginger and the other horses his shoulder immobilizer. After Ginger and Zoe examined it Mark removed the chest belt and pulled the back of Johnny's shirt up. To my amazement each horse sniffed and studied the area of the boy's thin back where Jay had performed surgery. "Strange animals," I commented.
"Yes, but they belong to a totally strange family!" Cindy teased. "Come on kid, buy me a drink, you owe me several!" she added, giving me a corny seductive look and starting toward the house. 'I won't argue with that!' I thought as I joined her.
A cold beer and my favorite pool side chair felt good as we chatted. Cindy and Junior had come out the feed the houses while Carl was tied up at the hospital. Mary had decided to prepare a meal and leave it in the refrigerator for us. Of course Junior managed to turn his feeding chores into a riding session.
I had just begun filling Cindy and Mary in on the weekend when a series of noises inside the house distracted me. 'I'm impressed!' I thought as I saw all the kids dragging suitcases in from the car, including mine. They started to stack them in the entryway, but after a loose huddle picked everything back up, taking their bags upstairs and mine into my bedroom. 'Damn, maybe some of the Sanchez grace and charm rubbed off on them!', I thought as I watched Johnny carry my laptop and camera bag into my study.
My feeling of pride was short lived. "I wonder what they want? They're about to hit you up for something," Cindy commented as we watched them regroup in the foyer. They all started rushing toward the patio door but stopped, everyone turning to Junior. He blushed slightly and disappeared toward the kitchen. "He's in on it, what ever it is," she added, grinning slightly.
Junior reappeared almost immediately, still installing his headgear into his mouth, and all four of them were out the patio door, begging to go riding. "Not in those clothes, go get into some play clothes, and you can," I answered.
"But, these are dirty and stuff and I told Ginger I'd come quic. . ." Johnny stated to argue, until Mark subtly poked him in the back as the other boys glared at him. "I mean Yes Sir," Johnny corrected himself, following his brothers back inside. Junior glanced nervously between his mother, his friends rushing into the house and I a couple of times before turning and bolting behind the other boys.
A minute or so later they were all back outside, lining up almost as if for some sort of inspection. "Thanks guys, don't be too long, we still have to unpack and get ready for tomorrow," I tried, wondering if it would prompt them to unveil their plot. They exchanged glances before chiming in a group Yes Sir and rushing toward the pasture.
Junior was a few feet off the deck into the yard when he turned back and rushed to me, pushing his bony hip under my forearm. "Thanks Doctor Pop, it's cool you're back!" he said, giving me a wide silver smile that almost blinded me. I only had time to grin back at him before he was gone.
"Should I set out another plate?" Mary more tittered than asked Cindy.
"Well, have you ever heard him say no? After all, he is a Doctorate level parent!" Cindy quipped as both ladies traded shrewd smiles. I downed the rest of my beer as I realized what they were talking about, that the boys were again setting me up.
"Ah, , , where's Buddy?" I asked, more to rescue some of my macho before the conversation deflated my sinking ego any further, than out of concern for the dog. Cindy informed me, as I already knew, that Buddy was still at their house. "Why don't we call Carl, see if he wants to come out and have a drink, maybe he could bring the dog with him, you guys could stay for supper!" I suggested, hoping for reinforcements. After Mary said she was preparing oven fried chicken for our supper, I suggested we get some sausage out of the freezer, that he could bring Jennifer and that they join us for supper.
My ego rescue plan only partially worked, the women forced me to suffer through another round of knowing looks before Cindy called Carl. Jennifer was away with one of her girl friends for the afternoon, but thankfully Carl said he would join us shortly. It took a little convincing, but Mary agreed to join us for supper, and even to stay away from my barbeque pit, and relax as a guest.
As we enjoyed a second drink I filled them in more on the Doeman situation. We watched the boys ride and play with their steeds as we semi-joked about the horses telepathic reaction back here in Texas, but I think each of us was almost afraid to go too far into how the animals, especially Ginger, knew something was awry thousands of miles away. I was a little leery of bringing it up for fear of being disbelieved, but neither women doubted in the least that Ginger knew the boys and I were driving up the road before hearing or seeing us or my car.
"What about his arm, what's the prognosis?" Mary asked, almost abruptly changing the subject. She listened very intently as I recapped Johnny's surgery, along with the therapy and recovery regime Jay had laid out. "I'd like to view the CD, if I may," she asked.
"Actually, I was going to talk to you later, perhaps you can recommend some of your associates, you know the area therapists better than I," I told her before I relayed the incident last night, and Johnny's almost panic stricken fear of Hill Country. "We know he's an out-patient, that he's not going back to the secure wing, but I don't think he completely believes that. I'm not sure it's the best facility for him now, if he's in fear while there, he is not going to thrive.
"He still needs management of both occupational and physical programs, and I want him to get academic tutelage, towards what I hope is enrolling him in Cornerstone with the other boys. Hill Country is the best center in the area, but I don't think it's right for him anymore."
Mary didn't respond right away, turning to watch the kids play. From her face I could tell she was thinking about my statement. Suddenly she shuddered slightly, her eyes widening. "Oh my goodness, my cookies!" she exclaimed, hastening out of her chair and rushing inside as if the house was on fire.
"I wish I had those instincts!" Cindy quipped. "If I'd forgotten something in the oven, it would have burned until we saw smoke," she added. "It seems safe from your guard-horses now, let's go for a ride." I thought about her offer for a minute, but the weekend and our trip were starting to take its toll on my body, and I declined, deciding to get in a pair of trunks and soak my weary bones in the pool.
When I stepped back out of my bedroom onto the deck the pasture, and patio, were both abandoned, save the horses lined up at the fence, glaring at the house. 'What were we saying about telepathy?' I asked myself as I stepped to the family room door. I wasn't too surprised when I saw four skinny young eating machines lined up at the breakfast bar, their heads moving in perfect synchronization as they watched their Nanny and Cindy move about in the kitchen.
'For a senior citizen, she's quick!' I thought as I watched Mary set a plate, piled high with chocolate chip cookies between the boys, and managed to withdraw her fingers before they were mistaken for a snack. 'Air breathing piranhas?' I wondered. Cindy reinforced my thought as she set glasses of milk next to each boy and Junior, Ronnie and Mark inhaled their contents so quickly I was sure either their headgears would warp or the straws they were sucking on would collapse. Johnny held his own, his arm switching between his milk glass and the cookie plate like a high speed robotic arm.
I managed to grab one of the last cookies off the second plate-load, thankfully without getting bit. "Hi Dad, these are YUMM!" Mark muttered, his mouth full of cookies as his hand jerked the last cookie off the tray before anyone else could.
"Hey, leave some for Doctor Pop!" Junior snapped as Mary set still another plate on the bar.
"Yeah, CHILL!" Ronnie ordered in his best alto command voice. "Hi Dad, you wanta get some more?" he asked me, his pixie little face doing a perfect imitation of the stereotype used car salesman Hollywood spent years perfecting for their best actors.
'Here we go,' I thought as Junior, Mark and Johnny gave me wide, innocent grins, their foreheads tightening as they tried to resist looking, or continuing their attack, on the newly arrived plate of cookies. "Thank you, but I just wanted to taste one of them, they don't go well with beer, and I think I'll get another beer instead."
Junior and Ronnie collided with each other as they dove off their stools toward the bar. "Go, hurry," Ronnie whispered softly. He glanced back and blushed when he realized I had heard him. I reminded myself to check for burn marks on the carpet as Junior darted to the bar and back with a fresh beer.
"Yeah too, watch Dad, Johnny keeps getting stiff and stuff!" Mark exclaimed, pointing under the breakfast bar toward his new brother's mid-section. "He did a couple of times on Ginger, but I can make it get stiff and point straight up!" he added, making Johnny blush bright red. Cindy and Mary's faces made me bite my lip hoping not to show my embarrassment, but I silently called them everything but human as they disappeared back onto the patio, the glances and snickers they exchanged said volumes.
"Show him Johnny!" Mark snapped at his brother. Johnny gave Mark, then I a 'do I gotta' look before reaching under the bar with his good hand. `Where are my notes from Adolescent Psych 1310, I asked myself as he fidgeted under the counter for a minute then pivoted on his stool so his thin body was facing me. To my shock, and relief, he grasp his paralyzed arm, now free from his sling, and rested it on the breakfast bar.
The room went silent as he concentrated on his hand, his freckled little brow tightening as his eyes narrowed. "It don't wanta," he gowned after a minute.
"Yeah, come on, you gotta show Dad!" Mark cried. "You can do it dude, come on!" Junior and Ronnie joined in, encouraging him with their cheers.
Johnny gave the other boys a frustrated look before taking a deep breath and turning back to his hand. "It don't wanta," he exclaimed after a few seconds. "Maybe it's tired or stuff, maybe it'll feel better laters,"
"No dude, I can make you stiff!" Mark countered, stepping next to his brother. "Watch Dad, it's totally awesome!" he added, wrapping one arm around Johnny thin waist, reaching under his patient's arm with the other. I was watching Mark more than Johnny's hand until Mark hooted, "Yeah, there Dad, see!"
I glanced back to the counter in time to see Johnny's thumb fully extended, sticking proudly in the air, his wrist twisting slightly as it did. "Ouch, it's getting mad!" he told his brother as the muscles in his overly thin forearm began to quiver.
"Wow!" was the only thing I could think to say. "God, that is wonderful, you can do it on your own?" I asked Johnny as I stepped behind them, pulling both boys into a hug.
"Well, a couple of times," Johnny answered. "I think it don't like everyone watching it. It works when I show Ginger, but it don't like other people watching, I think," he added. 'Ginger, but not other people,' I thought, wondering how accurate his statement might be.
"Guys, that is fantastic!" I exclaimed, kissing both their foreheads. "I can't think of a way to tell you how proud I am of both of you, how happy this makes me. Keep trying, and you're going to be playing baseball, like Doctor Jay said!" I added, pulling Johnny against me. "And you are something very special to help your brother like this," I said toward Mark as I pulled his forehead against my chest, kissing it again.
"Yeah, Dad, it's totally neat!" Ronnie added as he and Junior pushed against my sides.
"We're glad you are so happy, Doctor Pop," Junior added giving me a wide silver smile.
"Well, yeah, Dad, it's neat! We are ALL so happy, especially Junior cause he didn't get to see when you fixed Johnny's arm," Ronnie said. "Well, and he don't know how to help him with his therapies and stuff, but he wants to!" Junior reinforced Ronnie's statement with a wide eyed look, pushing against me a little harder. "Well, and since we don't gotta go to school tomorrow, maybe if, I mean, ah, what about if Junior stays here tonight and tomorrow so he can learn how to help Johnny!" he proclaimed in a way that made me wonder how much CSPAN he had been watching, which crooked politician he was emulating.
"Sorry guys, but you are going to school tomorrow, bright and early," I answered, causing all four of them to stiffen like boards. "I said IF we didn't get home from Virginia in time you might have to miss school, remember?" I felt what I was afraid at first was a heart murmur in my chest as thought waves reverberated through me from each side, I could feel the Ronnie and Junior's eyes rattling in their sockets as they tried to see each other.
"Ah, well," Ronnie began, I guess the first to recover. "Ah, yes, sir, but well, can Junior spend the night? He can ride the van with us, and we can all help Johnny tonight!"
"Yeah, sir, I got my books in Mom's car and stuff!" Junior pleaded.
"And he's got a uniform here too sir, I mean Dad!" Mark threw in. `I wonder how that got here?' I silently snickered.
"Guys, we have been out of town, and had a VERY long weekend, I think it would be better if we invited Junior to stay, maybe one night next weekend." I countered, feeling a bit of angina from their brain waves again passing through my chest.
"Please Pop! I mean Doctor Pop!" Junior whimpered. "My mom don't care she said, I mean she is gonna say its okay if you do!" When I tried to look at him I was attacked with his and three more pairs of sad puppy eyes.
`Yeah, well, I will begin serious parenting, next week, no more spoiled kids!' I told myself. "Go ask your mom," I told Junior.
The patio was empty when I stepped outside toward the pool. When I glanced toward the pasture was a little surprised, but pleased, that Mary was with Cindy and the kids, petting the horses as she and Cindy and Ronnie walked among the ones my other boys were not riding. As I settled in front of my favorite water-jet in the pool I could tell from their body language and gestures that Cindy was encouraging Mary to go for a ride. 'Go on, you'd love it!' I thought, but she stepped back toward the fence, waving to Cindy and the kids as they rode away. She leaned back against the fence and watched Cindy and the boys ride for several minutes before turning and starting back to the house.
"Why didn't you ride?" I asked Mary as she walked onto the deck.
"They're one of the few creatures that weigh more than I, I don't think I need to be on one of them. They don't need me on them, I could imagine treating a horse for back strain!" she quipped. "They are beautiful animals, they are much friendlier than I expected," she added.
"If you ever tried it, you would love riding, I wish you would give it a chance, the kids would really enjoy it too," I replied, getting no reaction.
"May I have some of your rum?" she asked after a couple of seconds of silence. She ignored me as I chastised her for asking and went inside, returning shortly with a drink, and a fresh beer for me. "It is wonderful, so revitalizing out here," she said as she settled into one of the chase lounges. "I sometimes have trouble believing I'm getting paid to come here," she told the land behind my house more than me. "You have provided me with the most perfect retirement job anyone could wish for," she added as we both watched the boys enter into a spontaneous horse-race.
"Thank you, you have done wonders helping shape this nut-farm into a, well, somewhat working family unit!" I answered as I climbed out of the pool and sat next to her. "You came here to be a nanny, be careful, I think you are getting close to being stuck with four more grandsons!" I teased as I opened the fresh beer can.
Doctor, , , I mean Adam," Mary began after we watched the kids and horses for a minute or so. "I have been thinking about your concerns, about helping Johnny. Thank you for allowing me into your lives, and into his life, he is a wonderful boy." The intensity in her facial expression started to scare me, 'God, if she quits, I'm dead meat!' I thought.
"You are also correct, he does not belong at Hill Country, he has progressed far beyond a rehab center," she stated. She turned her head toward me, then toward the pasture a couple of times, from her expression I could tell she was searching, for words or reaction, one of the two.
"I want to help Johnny, I would like to work with him," she said. She shifted in her lounger facing me directly before adding, "I'm not certified as a Physical Therapist, but I know what I'm doing, and have a lot of friends that can help. I'm not a teacher, but I have a Master's degree, and I could home school him until his academics are back on track, I know I can help him, sir."
"Please don't call me sir, I should be calling you ma'am! You're old enough to be my mom!" I countered, trying to digest her statement, and hoping to buy myself a little time to determine if my ears had heard correctly. I started to offer to freshen her drink, more to give me a little time to think than anything else, but her face told me that was not a good idea. "What do you have in mind?" I risked.
"What I used to do for a living, developing and executing OT programs, " she responded, her eyes showing a confidence I had not seen before. "I have some girl-friends that can coordinate his physical therapy sessions with home therapy. If you give me a contact at Cornerstone, I'll provide you with a plan to get him back on track scholastically. Johnny is highly intelligent, just behind academically, I feel I can have him back on track, if you let me try," she announced.
"That isn't much of a retirement," I responded. "God bless you for the thought, but you should enjoy your freedom, you earned your retired life."
"Retirement suc. . . isn't what it's cranked up to be," she said, blushing slightly at what was the closest thing to a vernacular term I had ever heard from her. "I spend most of my day sitting around my apartment, watching CNN, and wishing the boys would get out of school, so I can come to work. Do you have any idea how many times those people can repeat the same dry news, and act like it's earthshaking?"
"Oh do I, I haven't been out of school that long!" I snickered. "What would you, what would be a reasonable compensation for your time?"
"I don't want any more money, I want to help the boy," she answered with a slightly hurt look. "I want something to do that is productive." I digested her statement, and her expression for several seconds.
"Okay, let's make it happen, but with the condition that you are compensated for your time, I insist." She stated to respond but I cut her off, adding, "We have to check with either Cindy or the court, I don't know which, we might have to modify his Plan of Service; he is still technically under my care. We'll settle the money issue later, but when would you like to start working on this?"
She caught me off guard by answering, "Tomorrow morning, of course! It would take a few days to get completely organized, but I don't think Johnny should return to Hill Country. I'd like to be here first thing in the morning."
`Damn, thanks for the lead time!' I thought. "Let's talk to Cindy, see if we can make it happen!"
"What are you getting my wife into THIS time!" Carl's voice boomed from behind us. "God damnit, the last time you got her involved I went from being a Cardiac to a Horse-bite Surgeon!" he quipped with a wide grin, beer can in his hand. "Welcome back, I heard you had a LONG weekend!"
Before I could react a furry black form flashed into my vision, and a long wet tongue soaked my face as its owner landed in my lap. "Hi Buddy!" I stuttered, trying to talk while he tried to lick my nose and lips off my face. After spending almost a minute stumbling spastically in my lap and soaking me with saliva, he dove into Mary's lap, his seemingly mile long tail still slapping my arm as he drowned her with tongue kisses.
Mary had almost gotten control of him, trying to pull him away from her face, when something seemed to distract him, and he pushed out of her arms. Still in her lap the bounced around, looking toward the pasture for an instant before barking and diving off her chair. "Tough little rat," I commented as the puppy rolled head over heals, thankfully in the grass next to the deck, and lumbered at full speed toward the pasture fence and his boys. "God, and he's going to weigh a hundred pounds?" I laughed as we watched him trip over his own long legs several times.
The little dog quickly got the attention of the kids, and horses, darting around barking and jumping up at his two legged brothers begging for attention. Although he got a few dirty looks from the horses, Cindy, then the boys began filtering up toward the house, Buddy running back and forth between everyone. The kids rushed inside, quickly returning with cans of soda.
"When can we eat?" Johnny asked, looking longingly at the smoking barbeque pit.
"Yeah, we gotta quick!" Junior added, grasping his stomach.
"Soon, but it's also getting late," I answered. "You guys go groom the horses for the night, supper will be ready when you get back." I ignored their dirty looks and soon they took the hint, rushing back down to the pasture, Buddy in the middle of the pack. The other adults and I moved inside and began setting out supper, after we watched the boys break the heart-breaking news to their four legged friends.
"Legally, all you have to do is inform Judge Rodriguez you are modifying the POS," Cindy responded after Mary and I told Carl and her about Mary's idea. "According to the Custody Order, you have not only guardianship, but full rein regarding his recovery. Also, you know you can get the court to pay for most of this, we probably could get payment for some of his tuition at Cornerstone later if you two word your programs correctly," she added.
Mary and I exchanged lost looks before she continued. "If Mary Hope, OT, becomes a PC, a Professional Corporation, like you and Carl, well, and I are, you can contract her to provide OT services to Carl, and the court can order the state to pay for her services. CPS won't like it, but I don't like them either. I know CPS is among Adam's favorite people!" Cindy snidely quipped.
"Adam, do you know how copper wire was invented?" Carl injected. He paused for a second or so as everyone turned to him before looking directly at his wife and adding, "It was invented by two lawyers fighting over a penny!"
Mary blushed, but then laughed with the rest of us as Cindy shot her husband a one finger salute. "Would you care to donate a sausage, your Little Smoky, to the others we're going to cook?" she countered. Carl and I glanced at each other before moving outside and taking control of the barbeque pit.
The boys reappeared a couple of minutes later, surrounding the pit almost as if they had been transported by a nearby Starship to it, instead of returning from the pasture on foot. Carl and I ignored their dirty looks as we sent them inside to shower and change into clean clothes, but the threat of withholding food until they did worked so beautifully I was surprised, and soon again surrounded with freshly scrubbed, starving kids.
As we ate I finally managed to inform Cindy that I needed to talk to her about Jay and his mate, but without going into any detail around the kids, we agreed to meet for breakfast the next morning, before I went back to the work-a-day routine and my first patient visit at noon.
Mary excused herself shortly after we ate. She surprised the other kids by telling Johnny she would see him in the morning, but Johnny didn't snap to what she had said until after she had left, and I think a little prodding from Ronnie and Junior. "Why's Mary coming tomorrow, do I gotta go somewhere? I don't gotta go to more doctors or stuff, do I?" he asked after a series of quick conferences with his brothers.
"You don't tomorrow," I began, deciding to let the doctor visits part of his question slide for now. "I want to change your therapy, the things we are doing to help your arm heal, and help you get ready to go back to school. I know you don't like going to Hill Country, so we're going to try a new, approach."
His reaction was the opposite of what I had expected, instead of being relieved he wasn't going back to Hill Country he stiffened like a board. I was just able to catch him as he started to dart away from my side. "Do you want to stay at Hill Country?" I risked, pulling him next to me.
"But, where are you gonna put me? I'll be good, please don't put me back somewhere like, , ,"
"I'm going to put you right here, here at the ranch," I cut him off. "Do you know what home-schooling is?" I asked.
"But, I'll be good, I wasn't gonna run away or nothing at Doctor Jay's, please Doc! Please don't!" he cried.
"Dude, wait!" Mark exclaimed as he pushed under my arm next to Johnny. "You mean he don't have to go back there at all?" I had Junior and Ronnie on the other side of me before I could answer. I heard the patio door open, and looked around in time to see Carl and Cindy disappear outside.
"Will you listen to me, to us?" I asked Johnny. "I love you son, I love all of you, and I want you to be happy. Promise to listen?" Johnny looked up, his tear welled eyes only making very brief contact with mine before he lowered his head and pushed against Mark.
"You don't have to go back to Hill Country, or any other rehab center. Mary is going to work with you here, just like Hill Country did, but here at our home. Do you understand what I'm saying?" only earned me a slight flicker of his eyes, more to the carpet than me. 'And you are the expert on talking to kids?' I chastised myself.
"For REAL!?!" Ronnie hooted. "Dude!" he added, slapping Johnny's arm. Johnny glanced at Mark, then Ronnie, still lost. I was trying to decide how to bail everyone out of the befuddlement I had started when Ronnie pushed his brothers out from under my snuggle, ushering them toward the breakfast bar.
As Junior joined them, Johnny's eyes darted toward me several times as Ronnie whispered, Mark glancing between Johnny and I as he listened. "For real?" Johnny muttered, I think a little louder than he meant to. "No way, he's, but. . ."
"Yes, for REAL!" I loudly interrupted, praying Ronnie was on the same wavelength as I. "Come here son, all of you," I ordered as I moved to the couch. "Starting tomorrow, you are going to stay here, at the ranch, and Mary is going to work with you, to get you ready to go to Cornerstone, with your brothers," I told Johnny, as he and the other boys piled onto the couch around me, "And get you ready for Little League, like Doctor Jay wants. Will that work?"
Johnny glanced between Mark and Ronnie a couple of time. "You're really gonna let me stay here, you're not gonna send me nowhere?" he softly asked.
"I'm going to send you to Cornerstone, with the other turkeys, when you are ready. Until then, I'm going to send you to Mary's Academy, right over there," I answered, pointing at the breakfast bar.
He glanced to Mark, then Ronnie, clearly asking for verification of my statement, before his face brightened into a thin smile. "I love you Pop! I mean Dad!" he proclaimed, pushing his little head under my neck "After! I gotta go tell Ginger!" he hooted, climbing out of my lap.
"But, you tell Ginger you are going to be in school, working hard ALL day!" I countered, pulling him back into my lap. "Nothing different than Hill Country, except Mary is your teacher now, understood?" which earned me a weak nod. I started to add a few more cautions, but as I thought about my nanny's performance, didn't. `I wish I could be a fly on the wall tomorrow,' I thought as I kissed Johnny and watched the boys rush outside.
To Be Continued…