I was so filled with pride at that moment I thought my heart was going to burst. I couldn't make my mouth work to say the words that I wanted to say. All I could do was to go to each of my sons and give them a hug and a kiss.
When I was able to speak again, it dawned on me that I had left John out. "I don't want to overlook our latest addition to the family, no matter how temporary it may be. John, we are proud that you're a part of this family. You are welcome to stay with us as long as it takes."
The conversation continued around the table for a while before I saw Jack Jr. whispering to his dad and then his dad whispered something back to him.
Jr. cleared his throat and then asked in a voice laden with devilish humor, "May Bran and I be excused? I want to beat him in a game of foosball."
"Of course, I should have thought to let all of you boys be excused," I said laughing. I was glad to see that those two were getting along so well. Then turning to the adults, "There's coffee for those who want it. There's also more wine. Shall we adjourn to the other room? It will be more comfortable in there."
Carol and Carolyn insisted on helping Hildy clear the table. Usually the boys helped, but tonight they were busy playing with their friends. Eric, Sam, Jack, Manfred and I offered to help also but Hildy politely told us to scram. With tails between our legs but smiles on our faces we went into the family room.
"Crane," Dr. Sam asked, "have you heard anything about the boy, Roger Davis?"
"No, I haven't. I really should have called Helen, but I didn't know for sure if they were even home yet."
"She brought Roger home on Thursday," Eric volunteered.
"Oh, that's right. I forgot that Brian was staying with you," I said. "Have you heard anything? I thought that Roger was supposed to be home earlier in the week."
"Not much," Eric said. "Helen called to thank me for keeping Brian while she was gone. She said that Roger was doing all right, but still had some pain and hadn't started trying to walk yet. She thought that the operation had been successful."
"I'll have to call her tomorrow afternoon and get an update. The twins have been concerned about him."
The women joined us shortly and before long Sarah came in and climbed onto her father's lap. I guess she felt outnumbered by the ten boys upstairs. We could tell that the boys were having fun from the sounds of laughter and other boy generated noises of glee. I went to check on the boys every so often just to make sure that things didn't get out of hand. The last time I went up, Lenny asked if they were going to have a snack. I told him and the rest of the boys, because it had gotten very quiet when he asked, that I would call them when Hildy had it ready.
Hildy laughed when I told her what Lenny had said, but she and Carol Greene got up, went to the kitchen, and began dishing up the chocolate frosted chocolate cake and ice cream. I think the boys could smell the dessert being prepared because they were sitting at the table by the time it was ready without being called.
Shortly after the cake had been consumed by all, our guests began to leave for home. Jack and his family were the first to leave saying that they had to get up early to go to Mass. Soon after, Sam and Carol took their leave. Hildy and Manfred retired to their apartment after all the dishes were in the dishwasher. That left Eric and me and the eight remaining boys. Eric and I sat on the couch and talked while the boys sprawled on the floor in front of the TV watching some inane comedy show.
It wasn't long before TJ crawled up on my lap. "What's the matter son?"
"My tummy's too full," he said.
"That was a big piece of cake that you ate," I said rubbing his stomach.
"Uh huh," he murmured and turned to lay his head on my chest.
"I know one little boy who's had a busy day."
"Well, I think it's about time that we take off for home," Eric whispered when he saw that TJ was almost asleep. "Don't get up. We can find our way out." He stood up and then leaned over and kissed TJ on the top of the head. "Goodnight, little one."
The boys began saying their goodbyes, which took a while, before they all headed for the door. A couple of minutes later they came back in and sat down on the couch with TJ and me. No one said anything for a few minutes. We just sat their enjoying each other's company.
"Did you have a good time today?" I asked after a while.
"Yeah," Joel said. "It's fun to have our friends come here."
"Bran said that Roger was home. Can we go see him?" Larry asked.
"I'm going to call his mother tomorrow to see how he's doing," I said. "We'll see if he can have visitors. Okay? Now, I think it's time to get your showers taken and then get ready for bed."
When I looked down at TJ he was fast asleep. "I guess you'll have to take your shower in the morning," I said struggling to get up off the couch. I carried him into his bedroom and started to undress him. At first I thought I would try to get him into his pajamas, but decided against it after struggling to get his pants and shirt off. I decided that he could sleep in his underwear tonight.
It was around one o'clock in the morning when I heard someone open my bedroom door and slip into bed beside me. When I turned over I could see that it was TJ. "What's the matter, son?" I asked.
"My tummy still hurts."
"You wait here. Dad will get you something to make it better."
I went to the medicine cabinet and got a couple of antacid tablets and a cup of water. I brought them back to the bed and gave them to him. I told him to chew them up and wash them down with the water. Within minutes he had fallen asleep. I pulled the covers up over us both and turned off the bedside light.
Sunday morning I was awakened by a strong thunderstorm that was passing through the area. The rain was coming down in torrents as it often does in South Texas. The thunder nearly rattled the windows as I headed out of my bedroom. TJ was still sleeping. I think he could sleep through almost anything. Hildy, as usual, was in the kitchen preparing breakfast.
"Don't you know this is supposed to be your day off?" I asked her.
"Yes, I know, but I had to fix Manny's breakfast so I decided to fix some for everyone. He's gone after the Sunday paper. Should be back in a minute," she answered.
After breakfast the boys spent the rest of the morning playing upstairs with only occasional visits downstairs. The only reason they had to go outside was to take the dogs. Thankfully the rain was not very cold, but they still didn't stay outside any longer than was necessary. I caught up on reading some of the technical publications that had begun piling up.
Lunch was a simple affair of soup and sandwiches. It seemed to satisfy the six bottomless pits.
Around two I decided to call Helen Davis to see how Roger was coming along. We exchanged greeting and then I asked her, "How's Roger doing? How did the surgery go?"
"He's doing very well. He still has some discomfort and the doctors don't want him to try to walk yet. At least he can move his legs and feet and toes," she said choking back a sob.
"That's great. Has he started his physical therapy yet?"
"Oh yes, Celia was here Friday and started working with him. Dr. Yankowitz gave us specific instruction on how she was to help him. Right now, she's helping him develop some of the muscle that he lost while being in the chair for the last year and a half. The small incisions that the doctor made are almost completely healed. The doctor said it would probably be a couple of weeks before Roger starts standing and taking a couple of steps. In the mean time he'll still use his chair."
"Look, if the doctor says it's all right and the weather is warm enough, feel free to bring him over to use our swimming pool. The boys would enjoy that if he did," I said. "The pool is heated so we use it almost year around."
"Thanks, the doctor gave Celia instructions that swimming would be a good place to start Roger standing up because it wouldn't put any stress on the wasted leg muscles," she said. "I really appreciate the offer and I'll let Celia know."
When we hung up I relayed to the boys what I had learned about Roger. The twins were excited that he might be coming to swim in our pool.
After supper, I reminded Joel that he had an appointment with Dr. Sam in the morning and then one with Dr. Adams in the afternoon. He didn't look pleased but was resigned to his fate. It had been a while since he had an appointment with Dr. Adams. He only went once a month now and it was only for the doctor to confirm that the past abuse was not having any long term psychological effects.
Monday morning the rain was gone and it looked like it was going to be a beautiful day. Joel and I walked the boys down to the gate to catch the school van. After hugs all around and a reminder to behave themselves, they hopped on the van and it drove away. This was the first day that I hadn't followed the van to check for the suspicious car. I put my arm around Joel as we walked back to the house. I knew that he would rather go to school than go to the doctors.
We got into the BMW and took off for San Antonio. There was enough time to stop at the foundation office before our appointment with Dr. Sam. Darcie was going over some new files when we entered the office. I checked with her to see if there was anything that needed my attention. There was nothing urgent. She did inform me that she had set up a board meeting for tomorrow at lunch to approve the latest recipients.
Dr. Sam was running behind schedule when we got there. We had to wait almost an hour before he was able to see Joel.
"Sorry to keep you waiting Crane. One of my patients came in this morning with a broken arm, so I got way behind," he said. "Now Joel, have you had anything to eat this morning?"
Joel giggled and said, "Yes."
"I know that was a foolish question, but I wanted to make sure before you started on the pills," Sam said before he handed Joel the first series of pills and a cup of water. "I need to take some blood and then we'll be all done."
This was the part that Joel hated. I didn't blame him. I hated to have blood drawn also. Joel turned his head away so that he couldn't see the blood being taken. After a year of this you'd think that it wouldn't bother him.
We had some time to kill before Joel's appointment with Dr. Adams and it was also a little early to eat lunch. Since it was such a nice day we decided to take a stroll along the River Walk. It wasn't far from Dr. Sam's office. Joel reminded me when it was time to take his next series that he had to eat something before he could take them. It was a good excuse to stop and get something to eat. By now it was nearly time for lunch so we stopped at a Tex-Mex restaurant.
After lunch we walk back to where the car was parked. Dr. Adams' office was not too far from the foundation's office so we decided to head back there until it was time for his appointment. Joel played with one of the computers while I talked to Darcie to make final arrangements for the board meeting tomorrow. We decided on the amount of support that we would recommend to the board and discussed other agenda items that we thought should be brought before them.
We got to Dr. Adams' office a few minutes before the appointed time. Joel was ushered into his office while I sat in the reception area. After forty-five minutes Joel came out and Dr. Adams asked me to step into his office, which was the usual procedure.
"Crane, I have some concerns about Joel from this latest conversation. He seems to be stressed over the status of his friend John. We've discussed his attachment to the boy before, but it was never upsetting to him. He has a real fear that John will be sent away again. This would be an event that could set his treatment back severely."
"John is in my temporary custody. There's a hearing on Wednesday in Waco to determine what's to be done with him. I'm going to ask the court to let him remain in my custody until it can be determined whether his father is willing to accept him as he is. John's told his father that he's gay. His father hasn't been able to accept the fact and sent him to a 'school' that was supposed to cure him of being gay," I said.
"It sounds like his father needs some help," he said. "How are the living arrangements at your house working out?"
"We have plenty of bedrooms and I have made it clear that they are to stay in their own beds. I may be a prude," I said, "but I don't think that thirteen year-olds are mature enough to have a sexual relationship. So far they have followed the rules. At least I think they have."
"I believe that they have. How long that will last is open to debate," he said looking at me seriously. "I don't think it would be wise for Joel to be involved in a sexual relationship at this time. Not only is he not mature enough to handle it, it might trigger a flashback to his father molesting him. That could set him back to where he was a year ago. I'm not talking about the kinds of things that many boys his age engage in. I'm referring to engaging in oral or anal sex."
"Thanks, doc, when do you want to see him again?" I asked.
"I'd like to see him one more time before Thanksgiving. My nurse will set it up for you."
After stopping at the nurse's desk to set up Joel's next appointment, we headed out to get a snack. It was time for him to take the last series of pills.
The school van was just pulling away from the gate as we arrived. I could see five dogs and five boys racing up the lane with Manfred trailing behind. I stopped the car and offered Manfred a ride the rest of the way to the house but he declined.
As Joel and I entered the house we were met by TJ and John coming out of their bedrooms after having changed out of their school uniforms. TJ ran to his brother and gave him a hug. We were soon joined by the twins and Chris and of course the five dogs wanting their share of the affection.
Tuesday was a very calm day. We had the foundation board meeting at noon. The only other thing of note was my conversation with Karen Lin concerning the hearing for John tomorrow. She believed that she was prepared for any eventuality and I believed her. If she worked for Benjamin, I'm sure that she was thoroughly prepared. I left early and was home twenty or so minutes before the boys got home from school.
That evening I could tell that John was a little apprehensive about what was going to happen tomorrow. I tried to reassure him that everything was going to be okay. I told him that we were going to meet with his lawyer for lunch before the hearing.
"Do I have to dress up to go to court?" he asked. "Joel said he did when he had to go to court. I don't have any dress up clothes."
"Well, you're about Joel's size. I'll bet that you could wear some of his. I know he wouldn't mind. Let's go see."
We spent the next half hour sorting through Joel's clothes to see what he had that John could wear. I had heard that girls are particular about what they wear, but John would run a close second. Finally, between the two of them, they selected the right outfit for John to wear. He did look handsome in it.
Later that night as I was getting ready to go to bed, I heard John crying. I tapped lightly on his door before I opened it and went in.
"What's the matter, son?" I asked brushing the hair back off of his forehead.
"I won't go back there. I won't," he sobbed.
"No one is going to make you go back there. I can promise you that."
"But my dad will, I know it."
"Look at me John. Trust me, I won't let that happen."
"No buts, your lawyer, Karen Lin, told me that the judge is a very nice lady. She looks after kids. She'll do what's right for you. Now, try to go to sleep. We have to leave for Waco right after the boys take off for school," I said kissing his forehead and tucking him in again.
I left the door to my bedroom open just in case he needed me in the night. He didn't. I don't think his sleep was too restful because his eyes were red when he came to the breakfast table. Hildy paid special attention to him before he and the others went off to get dressed for school.
The three hour drive to Waco was mostly silent. I knew that John was worried but I didn't know what I could say to blunt his apprehension. We arrived at the restaurant about fifteen minutes before we were scheduled to meet Karen. I told the hostess that we were expecting a third person to join us shortly when she seated us at our table.
John said that he needed to go to the restroom. I didn't want him to go alone in a strange place so I went with him. While we were in there, Karen arrived and was waiting for us at the table. After all the social amenities were out of the way and we had ordered our lunch, Karen began discussing what she thought would happen. She made it sound very cut and dried that John would be staying with me for some time. She thought it very unlikely that the judge would send John back to his parents in the near future. I hoped that she was right. I was still a bit nervous as the time for the hearing approached.
We got to the courthouse early. It would not do to show up late. Melinda Cassidy was there along with another woman who was introduced as Marsha Wills, the lawyer for CPS. Marsha and Karen went off to the side and spoke quietly. Melinda took John and spoke to him leaving me sitting by myself. Before long Pauline and Bruce arrived. I greeted them but received a rather chilly reception.
It wasn't long before the bailiff called us into the court. John had hold of my hand and I thought he was going to squeeze it off before we got settled in our chairs. A couple minutes later the court was called to order and the judge entered the room. I was surprised by her stature. She was a very small woman probably not over five feet tall and I guessed she couldn't have weighed a hundred pounds. Her voice betrayed her size. It was full and commanded attention.
After all the parties were introduced, she got right down to business. Melinda was asked to provide the background information on how John came to be in the system. She went through the scenario of her interview with John at the God's Own Bible School for Boys and her observation of the welts on his back as the result of the discipline he endured.
At this point Judge Joan Moss interrupted Melinda. "I wish there were some way I could close that hell hole down," she said. "This is the second case of abuse from that so called school that I have handled in the past month." Then turning to Bruce and Pauline she said, "What ever possessed you to send your son to that place?"
After stammering a bit Bruce answered, "Your Honor, we thought that they could cure our son. They said they knew how."
"Mr. Gordinier, are you an idiot?" the judge asked. "First and foremost there is no cure for being gay. Either you are or you are not.
"Ms. Cassidy, what is the recommendation of CPS concerning the status of John Gordinier?"
"Ultimately, Your Honor, we would like to see him returned to his parents. We do not feel that, at the present time, it would be advisable. For the time being," she said, "we recommend that he remain in the custody of Mr. Johnson."
"Mr. Johnson, are you willing to accept responsibility for John until this court sees fit to return him to his parents?" Judge Moss asked.
"Yes, Your Honor, I am."
"I see that you have adopted five other boys. Does having a sixth boy present any problem for you either financially or crowding of your house?"
"No, ma'am, my financial situation can more than support the addition of an extra person, even without the stipend that CPS provides. Our house is also more than big enough to accommodate John. He has his own bedroom and bath. My live-in housekeeper/nanny and her husband can provide supervision if I am unable to be there."
"Thank you, Mr. Johnson. Ms. Lin, you're here representing the minor. What do you and your client recommend?"
"Your Honor, my client and I agree with the position of CPS. John does desire to return to his parents, but not if he would be sent back to that school or if he would be continually harassed and berated because of his sexual orientation. If I may suggest to the court that it stipulate, before the Gordiniers are permitted to regain custody of their son, they undergo counseling and possibly check out organizations such as PFLAG to help them come to grips with their son's orientation. The information that I have presented here is also laid out in detail in the brief that I have submitted to the court on behalf of my client."
"Thank you, Ms. Lin. I want to talk to John now. We'll be in recess." She stood and indicated for John to follow her.
He looked at me, but I patted him on the back and nodded to him that it was all right. He followed her slowly as if he were going to his execution. I watched him until the door to the judge's chambers closed behind him. It was almost as traumatic as when I watched my own sons do the same before I adopted them.
For what seemed like hours, but in reality was only about twenty-five minutes, I sat fidgeting in my chair. The door opened and John emerged, still with a scared look on his face. He walked quickly to my side. I put my arm around him as the judge came in and the bailiff called the court to order. I think he more collapsed than sat when the judge took her seat.
"Mr. and Mrs. Gordinier, what are your intentions regarding your son?" Judge Moss asked.
"We want our son back," Pauline answered. "We would like to take him home with us today."
"Do you still believe that it is possible to change your son's orientation?"
"I want my son to be normal," Bruce answered.
"That's not what I asked you. I'll ask you again. Do you believe it's possible to change your son's orientation?"
"I want to believe that it is, Your Honor," Bruce said.
Judge Moss shook her head, "Mr. Gordinier, it is always my preference to reunite children with their parents whenever possible and when there is no danger to the child either physically or psychologically. I cannot in good conscience do that in this case. You have demonstrated by your actions in sending John to that God forsaken place and your professed belief that it is possible to change his orientation that his psychological state could be damaged if he were returned to your care at this time.
"I, therefore, am ordering the current custodial arrangement remain in place at least until November 28 at 2:00PM when the court will consider whether those arrangements should be changed.
"As parents of John, if you want your petition for his return to be considered favorably, there are several conditions that you must meet. First, you must receive counseling from a court approved counselor. My clerk will provide you with a list of at least three in your area that are acceptable. Second, the selected counselor must submit a written report to this court on the results of the counseling sessions. Third and the most important condition, you must convince me that you pose no threat to John's physical or mental health. Do you have any questions?"
"Yes, Your Honor," Bruce said. "May we be allowed to see our son between now and the next hearing?"
"Yes, I believe that reasonable visitations are appropriate. Mr. Johnson, I suggest that John's parents be allowed once a week visits. I will leave it up to you whether these are supervised or unsupervised."
"Yes, Your Honor," I said. "I believe that it is important for John to have contact with his parents and with his three sisters. I will work with the Gordiniers to see that they have reasonable visits."
"If there is nothing else to present, this hearing is adjourned," Judge Moss said and exited the courtroom.
Before we left the courtroom, John went to his parents and gave each of them a hug. It tugged at my heart that he couldn't go with them, but I knew that for now it was best that he stay with our family. I thanked Karen for her assistance and then we headed for the parking lot.
We stopped at a Dairy Queen for a snack because I knew we wouldn't get home until well after six o'clock. While we were there I did some mental calculations and saw that we would be hitting Austin right at rush hour. There was no way I wanted to face that. I checked a Texas road map and decided to head south on I-35 until we got to Belton and then head west on 190 to intersect 281. I knew the roads were not Interstate quality and the speed limits were slower, but avoiding Austin at that time of day was worth it. As it turned out, we probably got home faster then if we had gone the shorter route.
"Are you gonna stay?" Joel asked hardly before John got out of the car.
"Yeah, I get to stay until after Thanksgiving," John said receiving a hug from Joel.
"That's great. Come on, Hildy's fixing supper. Go change your clothes," Joel said grabbing John by the hand and dragging him into the house.
I guess I didn't rate. Joel never even said hello to me. I knew he was anxious to see his friend. At least the other boys greeted me with hugs as I entered the back door. I also received licks from several of the dogs so I guess I was appreciated after all.
Hildy had made John's favorite for supper, lasagna with lots of stringy mozzarella cheese. I must say it was one of my favorites also. With a salad and bread stick, it was all we needed to leave the table stuffed.
Thursday was an absolutely beautiful day. Sometimes the best weather in South Texas is in October and November. I would have loved to play hooky from work but I knew that there were things that needed to be taken care of at the office after having missed a day.
I was right. Darcie had placed a number of file folders on my desk to review plus there were numerous email messages that needed my attention so I saw that my day was going to be full. In the afternoon, Darcie and I went over the files that she had screened. There were a number of them and we tried to give each one serious consideration. I lost track of time and when I looked at my watch I noticed that I barely had time to get home to meet the boys' school van. I said goodbye to Darcie and headed for my car.
I pulled into the property a couple of minutes before the van was due to arrive. Deciding that I didn't have time to drive to the house, let the dogs out and then walk back down to meet the boys, I parked the car just inside the gate.
When the van hadn't arrived several minutes after its normal time, I began to get worried. I thought that maybe it had a flat tire or some mechanical problem. I turned the car around and drove back along the route that I knew the van took. About a quarter mile down the road I saw a boy running towards the car. When I got close enough, I saw that it was Chris.
"What the devil is he doing running out here alone?" I thought to myself.
I pulled up beside him and stopped the car. I could tell that he was out of breath because I saw that he had been running at full speed.
"What's the matter? Where's the van?" I asked.
"They... they took... him," Chris panted.
"Who?" I asked not really understanding what he said.
"The men... they took him."
"Who? Who did they take?"