Although I slept more soundly it was a short night. The forms I had completed last night were faxed to Joyce around 1:45 AM. The faxed forms would continue the process that she had already started but she indicated that until she received the original signed copies she could not do some of the checks like the credit and criminal background. I debated whether I should mail them, give them to Theresa or to drive them to her office, but decided that mail was the best option.
Hildy was busy getting breakfast ready when I arrived in the kitchen at around 7:30. Shortly after I had started my first cup of coffee and read the headlines of the newspaper, the boys started to straggle into the kitchen looking starved.
Their hunger appeased, I outlined what was going to happen today. The testing company would be here around 9 o'clock. They would need approximately three hours to complete their evaluation of the boys' educational standing. At 1:30 we had an appointment at the Canyon Lake ISD administration building to get them enrolled in school. If everything went as planned we should be back home around 3 o'clock and have time for a swim. The last comment about a swim brightened the somewhat somber faces they displayed during the earlier part of the day's description.
Just before 9 the testers arrived. Jean and Charles introduced themselves to me and the boys before getting down to business. We decided that my study would be the best place to conduct the written testing. The oral part of the tests would be given individually to the boys either in the study or the family room depending on how quickly each one finished their written parts.
I busied myself at the kitchen table. The telephone in the kitchen allowed me to make a number of calls. I talked to my accountant to tell him about the retainer he was to send to Benjamin Cross and to make sure that the bill he would receive from Broadmohr would be paid.
That reminded me to call Broadmohr to see when the memorial service could be scheduled. They told me that due to the extensive damage done to the face of Mrs. Andersen that it would not be possible to have the service before Saturday morning. We ended up setting the service for 10 o'clock on Saturday with the burial to follow immediately after.
Hildy said that she would contact her pastor to see if he could be present for the service.
I called Joyce to make sure that she received the faxes that I had sent last night. She said that she had all the information she needed to proceed assuming she received the originals in the mail. I assured her that they had already been placed in the mail and she would probably receive them on Friday at the latest. She said if everything went without a hitch that a hearing would probably be scheduled sometime late next week with Judge Frank.
With that knowledge gained from Joyce I called Cross' office to inform them. I didn't get to talk to Benjamin but his secretary said that she would give him the message and he would call me if he thought it necessary.
I just sat back to catch my breath when the phone rang. It was Dr. Sam. He had the results of Joel's tests.
"Crane, I have mostly good news about the test we ran on the urine and blood sample we took from Joel. The sample that you took showed a much higher concentration of blood than the one that I took here in the office on Monday. That indicates that it most likely was caused by trauma such as a beating or a punch or kick to the kidney area. The liver enzymes were slightly outside the normal range. For that reason I would like to take another blood sample and have another test run to see if it gives the same results. If it does then we can start worrying about the cause. The test for syphilis and gonorrhea came back negative."
"Well, that sounds like good news to me," I said.
"By the way what is your opinion on Joel's yellow complexion? You see him every day, is it getting less noticeable than it was? I thought it was when he was here in the office on Monday," Sam asked.
"Yes, I think there is a noticeable color change. He seems to have almost normal coloring. The eyes are definitely clearer," I responded.
"I agree. Except for the liver enzyme reading, everything else is fine. There is one unknown at this time. I told you there was one test that would take about a week to run and that I would talk to you about it later. That test is the one for HIV or AIDS. Everything else we can handle. If that test comes back positive there is no cure. I'm not trying to scare you. I just want you to be prepared in case the worst possible results come true," Sam said in his best bedside manner voice.
"Oh god, I almost wish you hadn't told me about that. I don't know what I would do. I don't know if I could handle it," I choked out.
Sam responded, "Don't worry about it now. I won't have the results until probably next Tuesday. Keep a positive attitude until we know something definite. I would never have had the test run if it had not been clear that Joel had been repeatedly abused anally. I'll let you know when I get the results. You can call the office to set up a time to get the second blood test. And give me a call if you want to talk about anything, okay?"
"Thanks Sam, I appreciate your frankness. Goodbye."
No sooner had I gotten off the phone with Sam when the twins finished the written part of their evaluation and came into the kitchen. Of course they were hungry and headed for the refrigerator. They emerged with a bowl of white grapes that Hildy had cleaned. Each one took a large bunch and began attacking them. Charles came out of the study and said if I would finish proctoring the written test for Joel and TJ that he and Jean would start the oral parts for the twins.
Jean took Larry into the family room while Charles took Lenny to Hildy's apartment. I went into the study to monitor the other two. TJ soon finished his test. I quietly told him to go get some grapes on the kitchen table and to be real quiet so he didn't disturb Larry. Joel finished his test shortly there after and went to get his snack.
The oral exam for the twins took less than 45 minutes. They finished at almost exactly the same time. TJ was next. The oral part could not be given to Joel. Jean took TJ and gave him the oral test while Charles scored the written exams.
The test results were reassuring. Although the tests that had been administered were only indicators of educational levels achieved, they did show that the boys were all performing at or above grade level. TJ was probably performing at least two grade levels above his placement in first grade. No learning problems were detected in any of the boys.
I thanked Jean and Charles for their help as they left.
"Well boys, that wasn't so bad was it?" I asked.
The all shook their heads no, but I was sure that like most kids they really didn't enjoy taking any test.
"Let's sit down and talk a little. I need to find out more information about you mother if that's alright. I don't even know your mother's full name. Can you tell me what it is?" I asked,
The twins responded in unison, "Her name was Dorothy Marie Andersen."
"How old was she?"
The twins looked at each other, then to Joel and tentatively said, "30."
Joel shook his head in agreement.
"Did she have any brothers or sisters?"
"No," the twins said in unison.
"Do you know what her name was before she married your dad?"
"Our grandma's name was Douglas before she died," TJ piped in.
"Thanks, guys that was a lot of help. I think that Hildy has some sandwiches made. You go get your hands washed before we eat. We have an appointment with the school district at 1:30," I said.
Our visit to the administration office was uneventful. The boys told them what school they had been attending so that their records could be transferred. After filling out enrollment forms we were invited to visit the school that they would be going to.
I had decided that Joel would be home schooled until he was able to speak so we only had one school to visit. I was unimpressed to say the least by our visit to the elementary school. Although it was reasonably new it had only, what I would call, the barest essentials for effective teaching. The principal was even less impressive. She was probably the least friendly person that I think I had ever met. I got the distinct impression that she was more interested in maintaining a neat and tidy school facility than educating children. I got a very bad feeling about the school.
I didn't say anything to the boys, but all the way home I debated with myself what I should do. By the time we got back to the house my mind was made up. I was not going to send the boys to that school. If I could find a good private school somewhere in the vicinity, I would send the boys there. Then the rational side of my brain took over and I realized that I had to get the boys in school if for nothing else but for cosmetics. While they are in school for the rest of the week I would make it my mission to find a good private school.
As we drove up the driveway the twins asked in unison, "Can we go swimming?"
"Yes you MAY!" I emphasized. "Go get changed, you have about an hour and a half before Hildy will call us to dinner."
The boys ran off to their bedrooms to change and I went to talk to Hildy. She was in the kitchen fixing the gumbo with the fish the boys had caught. I saw that she had also added some shrimp and andouille sausage. It smelled absolutely wonderful. I hope the boys like it. I knew I would.
"Hildy, do you know of any private school anywhere in the area?" I asked.
Well there are several in San Antonio, of course. But I can only think of one that is close by. I think it is called Corinthian Academy. If I remember correctly they only have grades K through 8, but that would accommodate all of the boys," she said.
"Do you know anything about their academic standards? Is it co-ed? Is it church related?" I fired back at her.
"I don't know anything about their standards, but I think it is all boys and to the best of my recollection it is non-denominational Christian," she responded.
"As long as it is not a fundamentalist Christian that would be okay, I guess," I said. "That school I took the boys to today was anything but satisfactory. I got the impression the students were just being warehoused. I just did not get a good feeling at all. I don't want the boys to go there long term but I realize that they have to be in school to satisfy CPS so I'll send them there until I can find a more suitable educational environment. I hope that doesn't sound too snobbish, but I think that education is too important to have them waste away in a place like that."
"I knew that you wouldn't be satisfied with the school. Some friends of mine have kids going there and they have been trying to get rid of the principal for the last couple of years, but she is the wife of a county official so it is an uphill battle. It is unfortunate that political connections are more important than competence especially when it comes to education," she replied.
With that I went to change into my swim suit so I could play with the boys until dinner was ready.
Dinner was an experience for the boys. They had never eaten gumbo before and didn't really know what to expect. After a few tentative spoonfuls they devoured the contents of their bowls and begged Hildy for more. It was a good thing that she had made a huge pot of gumbo the way the boys ate. As it was there was hardly any left by the time they finished. I didn't do too badly in the eating department when it came to the gumbo.
After dinner the boys were rather lethargic from all the food that they had eaten and all they wanted to do was to sprawl out on the floor in front of the TV and watch an old western movie starring John Wayne. During one of the commercial breaks I explained to them the schedule for tomorrow. I would take them to school and get them settled and would also pick them up after school. The next day they would be riding the school bus to and from the school. I didn't tell them anything about my plans for a private school.
The movie ended at 8:30 just in time for them to want a snack. Hildy dished up bowls of ice cream and cookies.
When TJ finished his ice cream he climbed up on my lap and snuggled into my chest. He looked up with those beautiful azure blue eyes and asked, "When do we get to see momma?"
I was a little taken aback by his question so I said to the boys, "Come here guys and sit down."
When they were settled I continued, "I told you we were going to have a small memorial service for your mother but I didn't tell you exactly when because I didn't know at the time. We have now scheduled the service for 10 o'clock Saturday morning. Is there anyone that you want to invite to be there?"
They thought for a minute before shaking their head no.
"If you do think of anyone you want to be there let me know and I'll see that they come. But right now it is time to get your showers taken and get to bed. Tomorrow is a school day. I'll be in to tuck you in after while," I said popping TJ on the behind.
He giggled and ran after Joel and grabbed his hand as they took off to the bedroom.
Now that Hildy has her own apartment I should ask TJ if he would like his own room. I think I know the answer but I should give him the option in any case.
I heard the water in the showers stop so I gave it a few minutes before I went to tuck the boys in. The twins were the first. They were just slipping under the covers when I entered the bedroom. I bent over the bed and gave each of then a kiss on the forehead before telling them good night.
"Good night, Uncle Crane, we love you," they both said. I guess that they had all decided that I was to be call that now. TJ was the first to use the uncle title last night.
"Good night, Larry. Good night, Lenny. I love you too," I said.
The scene was repeated with Joel and TJ before I retired to my bedroom for a shower and a good night's sleep.
We arrived at the school at about 8:15 and reported to the principal's office. I wasn't anxious to meet with the principal again. I was afraid I could not hold my tongue and say something I might later regret. Thankfully the attendance clerk met us and after making out an attendance record for the twins and TJ she took us to the boys' classrooms. The twins' room was first. I had to stifle a laugh when we entered the classroom. You could have heard a pin drop it got so quiet. The mouths of all the little girls gaped open as they saw the twins. As I had mentioned the twins were 'drop dead gorgeous' and the girls all seemed to agree.
The clerk introduced the boys and me to the teacher. Mr. Lansing was young perhaps 26 and quite effeminate. He almost licked his lips as he shook the twins' hands. Chalk up another reason to find that private school.
TJ's first grade teacher was a grandmotherly woman of about 60 years of age. Mrs. Godwin was perhaps the nicest person I had met so far in the school system.
I worked out the details of paying for the boys' lunches and the school dismissal times with the attendance clerk before leaving for home. As I was leaving I turned around and asked her if she knew of anyone who did tutoring. She handed me a list of people who had registered with the school indicating what subject matter and grade levels in which they were qualified.
"I don't want to put you on the spot, but if you had a seventh grade student is there one person on the list that you would choose first?" I asked.
She leaned over her desk and took the list from my hand and circled a name before handing it back to me. She never said a word, just smiled at me and went back to her work.
"Thanks," I said as I turned to leave.
Joel had stayed with Hildy while I took the other boys to school. I found him in my study looking through the books on my shelves. Reading had been a very important part of my life from the time I could first read. I never threw away or sold any book that I purchased. My study walls were covered by bookshelves crammed with hardback and soft backed books of every subject matter you could imagine. My particular favorites were books by Mark Twain, Conan Doyle and Isaac Asimov. I had all of Twain's books and all of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries. Asimov's 'Foundation' series is probably the best science fiction books ever written. I have read them many times over.
I walked over to Joel, placed my arm around him and looking into his face, "Do you like to read?"
He nodded and his eyes sparkled indicating to me that he may even like to read as much as I did.
"Well, I tell you what. Have you ever read 'Tom Sawyer'?" Receiving a negative response I continued, "Here it is. You take it and spend the morning reading as much of it as you can. After lunch I want you to write down a summary of what you have read. Also if you don't understand something, write down any questions that you have and I'll try to answer them. 'Tom Sawyer' is one of my favorites. I have read it several times."
Although this was not what I would consider 'home schooling', it at least made an attempt until I could get a tutor in to do the real thing. To that end I went into the kitchen to call the tutor that the attendance clerk (I never did get her name) had pointed out.
Paul Coulter was a qualified teacher certified by the state to teach grades 7-14. He said that he was comfortable teaching all seventh grade subjects except mathematics. That was fine with me since I was more than equipped to teach it.
I explained Joel's special need to him but it did not seem to bother him at all. We agreed to meet tomorrow morning at around 10 o'clock to discuss more face to face. I gave him directions on how to get to the house before hanging up.
I looked in on Joel a couple of times during the morning. Each time he appeared to be totally consumed by the book. When Hildy asked him if he was ready for a mid-morning snack, she nearly fell over when he shook his head and went back to reading. By lunch time his stomach won the battle for his attention and he stopped briefly to gobble down the sandwich and soup Hildy had fixed for us both.
Joel returned to the study but returned shortly with a notepad on which he had written, "Can I wait to do the writing till I'm done with the hole book?"
I looked at the page and responded, "May I wait... When you are asking permission you use MAY not CAN. We will talk about homonyms later. Of course, we will wait. I'm glad that you are so interested in reading it. I do want to see if you are retaining what you are reading so I want you to write down for me four characters in the story and a two or three sentence description of them. When you have finished the book we will look at those same characters again to see if you would change your description."
He grabbed the pad out of my hand and ran back into the study and furiously began writing. About 15 minutes later he returned beaming at me as he handed the pad back.
"You go back to your reading. I'll discuss this with you later," I told him giving his neck a squeeze.
His descriptions were right on the money indicating to me that his reading retention was good. The sentence structure and some misspelled words show that he had some needs in the English area.
I had made several phone calls during the morning including one to Corinthian Academy. I was very pleased by my talk with the headmaster over the phone but I wanted to visit the campus to see the facilities before I made any commitment to them for the boys' education. We made an appointment for me to visit on Monday morning at 9 o'clock.
Joel was still reading when I went to pick up the boys from school. They never stopped talking from the time they entered the car until we entered the kitchen. The only things that shut them up were the chocolate brownies that Hildy had waiting for them. Hearing the other boys arrive, Joel emerged from the study with the book still in his hand. This time he did not pass up the snack.
Although we put the boys to bed early, it was very difficult getting them up and ready to meet the school bus at 7:40. I drove them to the end of the lane where the bus picked them up. I told the bus driver that I would pick them up from school since I had to go coach the Little League game in San Antonio.
Paul Coulter was right on time for our meeting concerning Joel's home schooling. I was as impressed with him in person as I was over the phone. Joel also seemed to take to him as he sat with me during the interview. By the time the interview was over we agreed that he would come to the house and tutor Joel for four hours each day in all subject matters except for mathematics. He also agreed to purchase the required textbooks and bill me for them including the math book. He would begin Monday at nine.
Joel read his book the rest of the morning stopping only for a quick lunch. Just before two o'clock he came marching into the study where I was taking care of some ACC business with my office manager over the phone. I could tell by the gleam in his eyes and the broad smile on his face that he had finished the book. As quickly as I could I finished my business with Foster and turned my attention to Joel.
"Have you finished your book?" I asked.
I thought his head would fly off as vigorously as he shook it. His smile seemed to get even broader.
"I think that is wonderful! Come here and let me give you a hug. I'm so proud of you!" I said.
He didn't hesitate and ran to me and jumped up onto my lap throwing his arms around my neck and burying his head in my neck. I gave him a big squeeze and a quick kiss on the back of his head. "If the court allows me to keep you and your brothers, I think we should aim for you to read one book a week. What do you think of that?"
I got another hard squeeze and then he looked up at me with a very quizzical look. I didn't quite understand what he was after until he picked up a pen and pad from my desk and wrote the one word question "court?" on it.
Then I realized what I had said. "You know that I want all of you to stay here but it is not my final say. The judge will have the final say about whether or not you can remain here. I'm doing everything I can to make that happen and I am hopeful that it will but it is not certain until we go to court. Do you understand?"
He shook his head but I could see just the hint of tears forming in his eyes.
"Do you remember what I asked you to do when you finished your book?" I asked getting a nod from him. "You have about half an hour before we have to go pick up your brothers. Which would you rather do: start your report now or go see if Hildy has a snack for us?" That was probably the stupidest question I had asked in a long time as he grabbed my hand and dragged me to the kitchen.
Hildy was ready for us. She had just finished baking the last batch of snicker doodle cookies. The kitchen smelled wonderful but the cookies tasted even better.
"We had better take some of these to your brothers or they might attack us when they find out we already had some," I said more to Hildy than to Joel. I wasn't surprised when she handed me a plastic zip-lock bag with two dozen cookies in it to take to the boys.
We picked up TJ and the twins at school and then headed for San Antonio to the ball field. We arrived with about 15 minutes to spare before the team started to arrive. That was just enough time to set out the equipment and re-mark the foul lines and batter's box. All of the boys chipped in and made the job go faster. TJ was more of an impediment than a help but he did his best and I loved him for it.
The boys sat on the bench so that I could keep an eye on them and cheered the team on to victory. Our team, the Hornets, won the game by two runs. That brought their record to 4 wins and 3 losses.
This time I asked all of the team to help put away the equipment before giving them their coupon for McDonald's. That way we could all celebrate together. I don't know why I hadn't thought of this sooner. Jack and I herded the bunch of boisterous boys across the street and into McDonald's to get their treat.
It was nearly 9 o'clock by the time we got home. The team wanted to hang around longer than usual it seemed to celebrate the victory.
"Come into the family room and sit down," I said to the boys. "Remember, we are going to say goodbye to your mother tomorrow morning. We will need to start out at 9AM to be there on time. Hildy will have breakfast ready for us around eight so that we will have time to brush our teeth and get ready. Any questions?"
Getting none, I said "Okay, go get your showers taken and hop into bed. I'll be in to tuck you in a little later."
I was a little apprehensive about how the boys would react tomorrow but I knew from my own experience that long term it would be best for the boys.