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© 2012-2013 Ted Louis

Joel VI

Chapter 26

The rest of the week was a washout, literally. It rained every day, keeping the boys from their morning run as well as any thoughts of tennis. It finally stopped Sunday afternoon, but we decided against going to ride the horses. I was afraid with all the rain the ground would be slippery and the horses could possibly lose their footing and throw the boys. The sun came out and the temperature soared into the upper 90s. Combined with the humidity, it was downright unbearable. That didn't stop the boys from diving into the pool. The girls soon joined them as well as Manfred, Calvin and me. Donald sat on the patio and watched. He wasn't cleared for swimming, at least until his doctor's appointment on Monday.

I was glad that the sun had come out. Having seven boys cooped up in the house for that long was difficult for them as well as the adults. At times the three girls were also in the house. It wasn't that bad when they were in school, but all day Saturday was a challenge. The only real break was introduced by the Lees coming to give the music lessons.

Donald's physical therapy was progressing. Calvin had him walking short distances with the aid of a cane. The leg bone bruise was still quite painful. Calvin told him that it would still be a source of pain well after the wounds were healed. He and Calvin had gone to Donald's office on both Thursday and Friday. Calvin drove the van that Donald had purchased. Donald told him that he needed to be able to drive it if he wanted to take it back to New Orleans when he returned. Donald's people had thoroughly vetted the charity.

When Donald returned from the doctor on Monday, he reported that he had been cleared to return full time to work and didn't need to use the wheelchair any more. All of his stitches had been removed and he was told to continue doing the exercises that Calvin had outlined for him. I think that Lenore was disappointed that he wouldn't be using the wheelchair anymore. She liked to climb on his lap and ride. He was cleared to drive his car as long as he wasn't taking any of the pain medications.

Donald convinced Calvin to remain through Tuesday so that he could accompany him to the office and have the paperwork completed to transfer the van and wheelchair to the charity Calvin volunteered with. We also wanted to give him a going away party to let him know how much we all appreciated him during his short stay with us. I knew that Peter and William were going to miss Calvin when he was gone.

Tuesday I picked the kids up at school. Chris was the last to join us at the new van. I had seen him walking with Renata to her mother's car. He was smiling broadly as he climbed into the van. I wondered what that was all about. He was normally a happy boy, but I don't think I had ever seen that particular smile before. I would have to ask him about it later, if I got a chance.

"Dad," Joel said, "we have a golf meet tomorrow after school. May I take my car to school so you won't have to come back for me?"

"Where is your meet?" I asked, as I started out of the parking lot.

"It's at Boerne. It's going to be a fun meet," he said.

"I don't see why you can't take your car. You're not going to drive to Boerne are you?"

"No, were going in a school van. Only the top eight are going. We're playing two-man scramble. I'll only need the car to get home from the school when we get back."

"I didn't know they ever played a scramble in high school. Is this something new?" I asked.

"It's not a sanctioned meet, but the regional tournament is going to be played at Tapatio Springs in April and our coach wanted us to get familiar with the course. So did theirs. Since it's not a sanctioned meet they thought it would be fun to play something different. Besides a lot of real tournaments are played in that format," Joel said. "I think it'll be fun. I'm looking forward to it."

"That's an interesting course," I said. "They have three nine-hole courses, so you have a choice of which two you play for your eighteen. I played it several years ago and as I remember there is a lot of water."

By this time we were pulling up to the house and all conversation stopped. I think their minds were on what Hildy had for their after school snack. I was still curious as to what was causing Chris to grin. Donald's car was in the garage when I parked the van. He had already picked up Lenore from her pre-school.

It wasn't long before everybody had changed out of their school uniforms and had sat down at the table enjoying peanut butter cookies and milk. As soon as the snack was finished, most of the boys headed out to take care of and play with their dogs. Chris stayed behind.

"Dad ... a ... here," he said, handing me a small envelope.

"What's this?" I asked.

"It's an invitation to Renata's birthday party. Can I go?"

"Well, let's see," I said, opening the envelope. "It says the birthday party is Saturday afternoon from one until five. Okay, and no presents are requested, instead guests are asked to bring canned food to be given to the local food bank. That's a nice thing to do. Of course you may go. Where does she live?"

"There's a map on the back of the card."

"Hmm, that's not too far from where Rickie lives," I said. "Are your brothers invited?"

"I don't know. I don't thinks so. They never said," Chris said. "It's okay if I go even if they aren't invited, isn't it."

"Sure. Now why don't you go take care of your dog?"

"Thanks, dad," he said, giving me a hug.

"What was that all about?" Donald asked. He had been observing from the living room.

"Chris has been invited to a girl's birthday party. He's been walking her to her mom's car every day for a couple of weeks."

"Young love," Donald said, smiling.

"How did your day go?" I asked. "And where is Calvin?"

"My day went fine. I think I did too much walking. I had to take a pain pill when I got home," he said. "Calvin is in his room getting his stuff together so he can leave early in the morning. I suggested that he wait until close to nine so that the sun wouldn't be directly in his eyes as he drove toward Houston."

"That's a good idea. I've had to drive that early in the morning from time to time and it is not pleasant. I hope he follows your suggestion," I said. "Did everything get handled with the transfer of the van and wheelchair to the charity?"

"Yes, Brian had all the paperwork ready for Calvin to sign first thing this morning. And since I was going to be working all day at the office, Calvin spent the day playing tourist, taking in the River Walk, the Alamo and some of the other attractions downtown. He'd never been to San Antonio before this and had heard a lot about the River Walk and wanted to see it."

"It was cool," Calvin said, as he entered the room. "There are some great restaurants along the river. I ate at one of the Mexican restaurants and sat out on the balcony overlooking the River Walk. It was kind of hot, but they had a big umbrella to shade the table I was at. I'll have to bring my girlfriend to see it."

"You should have brought her with you this time," Donald said. "It wouldn't have been a problem, would it Crane?"

"Not at all. If you bring her, you're welcome to come stay with us. It would save you a lot of money on hotel bills. They're not cheap, especially along the River Walk," I said.

"She couldn't have come if she wanted to," Calvin said. "She's a nurse, also, but she had to go to camp with her unit. She's in the National Guard and this is her unit's two-week training camp. I won't get to see her until Saturday evening."

"Have you decided to take my advice about waiting until the sun gets high enough in the sky so that you won't have to look straight into it?" Donald asked.

"I think I will," Calvin responded. "I think if I leave here around eight, by the time I turn onto I-10 the sun should be high enough that it won't bother me. That would put me in Houston around eleven, eleven-thirty. I'll probably need to stop for gas about that time, anyway. It's another six hours or so on to New Orleans. I should be home at least by six, seven at the latest."

Hildy had outdone herself for our supper. It was a feast and everybody came away from the table groaning from eaten so much.

"I may have to take up jogging after that meal," Calvin said. "Thank you, Hildy. I'm going to miss your good cooking when I get back to the Big Easy and have to cook for myself. My waistline may never be the same."

"We'll miss you as well," Hildy said. "I'll pack some things to take with you in the morning. That way you won't have to stop along the way except for gas."

Calvin gave Hildy a hug. "You remind me a lot of my momma. She was a good cook, too."

"I hope you get to see her often. Does she live there in New Orleans?" Hildy asked.

"Momma died when I was fourteen," Calvin said. "She was a tall woman, about your size. You didn't want to mess with my momma."

We headed into the living room and left Hildy to round up what few leftovers there were from our meal. That was one job that she refused to delegate.

"Calvin, are you all ready to leave in the morning?" I asked.

"Yes, I'm all packed except for what I'm going to wear tomorrow. I'm not looking forward to that drive to New Orleans, but getting that van donated to the charity is worth the drive and then some."

"I've spoken to the foundation that I founded and they will be in contact with the doctor in charge over there to see what kind of support we can provide to assist in your efforts," I said.

"That's wonderful," Calvin said. "I'll tell Dr. Vance. He'll be thrilled. There are so many underprivileged kids that we could help if we only had more resources. The van and wheelchair will be a really big help. We've talked about getting a part time clerk to help with the paperwork, but there just hasn't been the money to hire someone. Right now we depend on Dr. Vance's wife to try to keep our schedules straight. My being gone for the past ten days or so has probably messed up that schedule. I think I'll be forgiven when I drive in with the van."

"I want to make sure that the van is kept in tip-top shape," Donald said. "I've had my assistant VP of my auto dealerships arrange to have the van serviced at no cost to your charity for as long as they own it. If there is any maintenance required on the lift mechanism, they'll see to it that it's taken care of."

"I'd never considered the need for service and maintenance," Calvin said.

Donald handed Calvin a large envelope. "All the information you'll need is contained in here. You will also find enough cash to buy gas for the trip home."

"This has been an experience I will never forget," Calvin said. "I got to live in luxury and get paid for it. What more could a guy ask for?"

"Could I offer you a glass of wine?" I asked.

"I rarely have anything to drink, but on this special occasion, I think I might just have a glass."

"I'm afraid that Donald won't be able to join us since he took a pain pill earlier," I said.

"Spoil sport," Donald retorted. "After all that food, it probably wouldn't matter, but I'll defer this once."

We were soon joined by Hildy and Gilda. They poured themselves a glass of wine, as had Manfred earlier. We talked for some time until the boys started to bring their home work for Donald and me to check. When their homework was checked, Peter and William climbed onto Calvin's lap.

"Are you really gonna leave us tomorrow?" Peter asked.

"Yes, I am, little one," Calvin answered.

"Why?" William asked.

"I have to go back to New Orleans. You know, that is where I met you. That's where my job is."

"Oh," William said. "I'm gonna miss you."

"I'll miss you guys, too," Calvin said. "And the girls."

"Will you come back to see us?" Peter asked.

"Maybe someday. Maybe I'll bring my girlfriend. Would that be okay?"

"Yeah, I guess," Peter said. "Does she tell stories?"

"I don't know. I'll have to ask her."

By this time all the homework had been checked and Hildy announced that the evening snack was ready. All the kids headed for the table where Hildy had dished out the cherry cobbler topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Manfred, Donald and I passed on the snack, but Calvin couldn't resist one more of Hildy's treats.

The next morning before the kids, minus Joel, were loaded into the van, they all said goodbye to Calvin. We had to leave for their school before Calvin took the charity's new van and headed for New Orleans. I, again, reminded him that he was welcome to come back anytime to visit. He said if he ever got back to the area, he would certainly give us a call. I started the van and headed out down the driveway, followed by Joel in his car.

All was quiet when I returned home. No one was in the house, not even Hildy or Gilda. I assumed that they had gone grocery shopping. I poured myself a cup of coffee and went into the library to make a few phone calls. The first was to Gerald. I wanted to find out what he learned about the apartment complex in Austin I had him look into. His receptionist answered the phone and put me through to him.

"Good morning, Gerald. How are things in the world of high finance?"

"You must have the wrong number," he replied. "There's no high finance around here. How are you, Crane?"

"We're all doing just fine," I said. "I was wondering if you had come to a conclusion about the apartments in Austin."

"As a matter of fact, I have. I've been out of the office for the past ten days and was planning to call you later today. I had a building inspector friend, take a look at the complex. He came back with a mixed review. The earlier constructed buildings were very well done. He couldn't say the same about the later ones. It looked as if the builder was running out of money and started doing things on the cheap."

"That's too bad. When I looked at the complex it looked pretty good to me. I didn't look at every building, but the ones I did look at appeared well done," I said. "So, I guess that you're not recommending that I make an offer on it."

"I'm afraid that's the verdict."

"Thanks for your effort, Gerald. I'll see you at the ASEC board meeting on Friday."

It was still a bit early to call Las Vegas and talk to Fenton Bigelow. Although, he had been sending regular updates to Donald and me, I had an idea that I wanted to pass by him to get his input.

I was about to make another call when the phone rang. It was Donald.

"Crane, I just got the ticket information on the new season of the San Antonio Symphony. The season begins the first Friday in October. I was wondering if you would be interested in attending the opening night performance."

"Absolutely. I used to attend every new performance they gave. In fact I was a patron. The last year or two, I've missed the symphony."

"Good," Donald said. "I'll order a pair of season tickets. I've got to run to a meeting, but I've got some news on Kelly. I'll tell you all about it tonight."

When I thought that Fenton should be in his office, I made the call. "Fenton, this is Crane, I wanted to get an update on the lot sales."

"Crane, sales are moving along better than I had anticipated. As you probably noticed by my last report, approximately a third of the available lots have either been sold outright or have contracts pending. From my knowledge of other developments in the area, that's at least a year ahead of where they were at this point."

"How about the golf courses? Are they progressing according to the schedule?"

"The Nicklaus course is about a month ahead of schedule and the Palmer course is right on. It still looks good for beginning operations in the spring. The clubhouse is my only concern at the moment. It's fallen behind schedule. If the contractor doesn't meet his completion date, he will incur some stiff penalties. I've talked to Mr. Baker's construction manager to see if he can work with the clubhouse contractor to get the construction back on schedule. I'll keep you informed."

"Fenton, what golf course lots are available, preferably on the Nicklaus course?"

"There are several good ones. Let me get out my plat of the development. Do you have yours available?"

"Yes, I've got it in front of me. Unfortunately, we haven't been marking the sold lots on it when you've sent the sales report."

"There are five lots available on hole number three. That's the one that Joel was so excited about when he was here. I mention them first because I agree with Joel that is going to be a spectacular hole. There are three on the left side of the fairway and two on the right."

He gave me the five lot numbers and offered to fax me the latest list of all sold lot numbers. "Thanks, do that, but for right now put a hold on those two adjacent lots on the left side of the hole. I'm thinking seriously about building a vacation home there."

"It's going to have to be a big house if you bring all of the kids with you on your vacations," Fenton said.

"You're right. The house we're in has six bedrooms for eight kids and two adults. Sometimes it gets really crowded. I imagine that most of the houses being built in the development are fairly large, so whatever we decide to build should fit right in. Thanks, Fenton, I'll be looking for the fax so I can update my plat."

A few minutes after we ended the call, the fax machine started spitting out several pages of faxes. I spent the next thirty minutes or so updating the development plat to indicate the sold and unsold lots.

I went to the kitchen to pour myself another cup of coffee when Hildy and Gilda came in carrying bags of groceries. They were soon followed by Manfred carrying some as well.

"Don't just stand there," Manfred said, "there's more in the van. I think Hildy tried to buy out the entire stock of the grocery store. If we didn't have that new Expedition we'd never have gotten it all brought home."

Manfred and I went back out the back door and started the job of bringing the rest of the groceries into the house. Hildy and Gilda were busy putting everything away in the cupboards or in the pantry. It's a good thing we had a large refrigerator/freezer because there were a lot of frozen foods to put away.

By the time we had emptied the Expedition of grocery bags, the cup of coffee that I had poured was cold. Since it was nearing lunch time, I poured the coffee down the drain. It was getting a bit stale anyway.

Again, Chris was the last one to arrive at the van when I went to pick up the kids from school. He had to walk Renata to her car and talk to her for a little bit. He was always blushing when he got to the van. I had made it clear to Larry and Lenny that they were not to tease their brother. Their time was coming.

We were about to sit down to eat when Joel arrived home from his golf meet. He hurried to his room to clean up and then joined us. He said he was starved since he had missed his afternoon snack.

"How was the golfing?" I asked Joel.

"It was really fun. We only played nine holes, but Victor and I were seven under par for the nine. I really like the scramble format. If one of us made a poor shot the other one usually didn't. I think we putted for birdie on every hole except for one," Joel said.

"I'm glad you enjoyed yourself. What did you think of the course?"

"I only saw the one nine that we played, but it has some interesting holes. I can hardly wait until April to play it again at the regional. At least I hope I'm in the top four so I can go."

"All you can do is practice and try to keep improving your game," I said. "I heard there's a new pro at River Crossing in case you want a few lessons between now and then."

"Thanks, dad, I may take you up on that after I play a few more rounds."

Donald and I had just settled down in the living room when the phone rang. It was Calvin calling to let us know that he had made it safely to New Orleans. He said that Dr. Vance was beside himself when he showed him the van and wheelchair. He related that Dr. Vance was a short man, about 5' 9" and a little heavy set. Despite that he hugged Calvin and tried to lift him. Calvin was laughing so hard when he was telling us about the scene that we could hardly understand him.

We reiterated the offer for him to come back and to bring his girlfriend. He made a vague promise that he would and we hung up.

"That was nice of him to call," Donald said.

"It just shows that he had a good upbringing. He said his mother was a very strict woman and she probably taught her children manners," I said. "You said you had some news about Kelly when we talked earlier."

"Oh, yes, I almost forgot. All the preliminary information that I had received on him checked out. As far as everyone can determine, he is my only living relative, other than my kids, naturally."

"Well, what are you going to do now?" I asked.

"I've had a plan, but I wanted to see what you thought," he said. "Since Kelly drives for that company that provides limos and drivers, I thought I would have one of my managers hire the company to drive him in one of our company owned luxury cars from there to the house here. This would be with the understanding that Kelly would be the driver and that he would be flown back to New Orleans when the trip was over. I want to have a meeting with him and get to know him better."

"That sounds as if that might work to get him here. What are you planning to do once he's here and you reveal the connection between the two of you?"

"If he is the person I think he is, I'm going to make sure that he is able to continue his education without having to work at two jobs. At first I thought I would just set him up with a scholarship anonymously, but rejected that after giving it further thought. That was too cowardly, if in fact he was a relative. This way there is no deception - except getting him here so I can talk to him."

"When do you plan to carry out your plan?" I asked.

"I've tentatively set things in motion for Saturday. The only thing that I'm waiting for is your approval. After all, it will mean an overnight guest. If you agree, I'll give the go ahead."

"Make the call," I said. "I'll let Hildy know that we will have a guest for the weekend."

Donald picked up his cell phone, punched in the New Orleans number and spoke to the manager who was to be part of the plan. He smiled as he ended the call. "I guess I hadn't made myself clear when I talked to Vincent earlier today. He's already made all the arrangements. It's all set for them to begin the trip at eight Saturday morning."

"Where is Vincent going to stay? If Kelly stays in the guest room, all the bedrooms are going to be filled."

"He has a brother who lives in Schertz. He's taking the opportunity to visit him. It's not often they can get together," Donald said.

Our conversation was interrupted by the boys starting to bring their homework to be checked over.

With Calvin gone, our lives returned to what passed for normalcy, at least until Friday evening when the Lees came to begin the music lessons. When I told Hildy what was happening with our weekend guest, she went into high gear making preparations for Kelly. As soon as the Lees had departed on Saturday, Gilda and Hildy quickly made the guest room ready for Kelly's arrival.

It was shortly before 6:30 when the buzzer sounded indicating that our guests had arrived. I activated the gate opener and allowed the stretch Mercedes to drive up to the house. The car stopped at the front steps and Kelly got out and opened the door for Vincent. I was a little surprised at Vincent's appearance. He had a bandage covering his right eye and a cast on his right wrist.

Donald and I greeted Vincent and then turned to Kelly. "It's good to see you again, Kelly," I said. "Won't you come in and join us for a meal?"

"Thank you, Mr. Johnson, but someone is supposed to pick me up and take me to a hotel for the night," Kelly said. "If I could use your restroom, I'd appreciate it."

"Of course, come in and I'll show you where it is," I said. "There's been a slight change of plans. You'll be staying here tonight. Mr. Baker, here, wants to have a talk with you."

"That's right, Kelly," Donald said, putting his arm around Kelly's shoulders. "As soon as you are ready, we'd like for you to join us in the dining room. It's the one right over there."

Kelly was a little taken aback when he entered the dining room, not only by the number of people sitting at the table, but by the fact that Vincent's bandage and cast were now missing.

"Kelly, I think you know William and Lenore from our trip to New Orleans. The six boys are my sons and the other two girls belong to Hildy and Manfred," I said pointing to them. "And this is Gilda; she was with us in New Orleans. Please take the empty seat near Donald."

"Thank you, but I'm really confused. Mr. Foreman, what happened to the cast and bandage?"

"Sorry about that, Kelly, but it was part of the ruse to make it believable that I needed someone to drive me here," Vincent said.

Hildy and Gilda interrupted any further conversation by depositing platters piled high with pork chops and enough other dishes to feed a small army.

"I'm overwhelmed," Kelly said, after Hildy had chided him for the small amount of food he had placed on his plate. "I still don't know what's going on."

"I'll explain everything over coffee after we've eaten," Donald said.

With cups of coffee in hand, we settled out on the patio. "Okay, we've had supper, now tell me what is going on. Please!" Kelly pleaded.

"Kelly, I assume that you noticed that we both share a last name," Donald said.

"Of course," Kelly responded.

"We also share a common ancestor." Donald went on to describe the information that he had been provided on their family tree. "Son, I didn't know until recently that I had any living relatives. Other than my children, you are the only one. My father taught me that family is the most important thing there is. Please don't feel like your privacy has been invaded, but I have had you thoroughly investigated. I learned that you are bright, hardworking, and driven to make a better place for yourself in this world and most of all you are a young man with pride. I would like to help you, if you're willing to let me."

"I don't know what to say. This is all very sudden," Kelly said, shaking his head. "What do you get out of this? Are you trying to buy me?"

"I'm not trying to buy you. If I wanted to do that, I have the resources to do it. No, what I get out of this is the knowledge that I helped a family member reach his full potential. My research says that you intend to enroll at LSU when you finish your coursework at the junior college. Is that still your intention?"

"Yes."

"Is LSU your first choice to pursue your degree?"

"It's a good school and it's the only one I thought I might be able to afford. Why do you ask?"

"What if you could go to any school that you wanted to, which one would it be?" Donald asked.

"Hmm, that's difficult to answer. The two highest ranked universities for civil engineering in the US are MIT and University of California, Berkeley. If I were forced to choose between them it would be UCB. I don't think I could take the winters in Massachusetts. I'm a southern boy."

"I know that your grades are very good. As of the last grading period, you had a 4.0 GPA."

"Wow! You really have had me investigated."

"If it were possible for me to arrange your enrollment at UCB, would you accept it?"

"I don't know how I can afford it. I'm barely able to pay my way at the JC working two jobs and I know California is a lot more expensive to live there."

"Let me worry about the expense. Here's what I propose. First, you will need to finish the current semester and class that you're taking. Second, you will make application to UCB. I will have an old professor friend of mine assist you in completing the application. He knows how to make it stand out. Once you are accepted, I will pay your tuition and provide you with housing and a car. You will receive an allowance that will allow you to concentrate on your studies. You will probably lose some credits transferring from out of state. That will probably mean you may need to take some summer classes. If that's not the case, there will be a summer intern job available with the construction company that I own in the Los Angeles area. Do you have any questions?"

"I'm in shock. I need some time to think," Kelly said. He got up from his chair and walked around the patio. A few minutes later he came back and said, "Why are you doing this?"

"Kelly, I'm a very rich man. When I see a need where my money will help, I do what I can. Crane was the first to bring you to my attention as someone who deserved some help. When I found out that we were related, it was natural that I would do whatever is necessary to make your life easier. You see all ten of the kids running around here? Every one of them is adopted or about to be adopted. My two were my sister's kids and when she died I adopted them. Crane saved his six from various forms of abuse. Jeannie and Ginny are being fostered by Hildy and Manfred until their adoption next month. Even if you turned out not to be a relative, I would have offered you support. Crane and I feel very strongly about doing things to make the lives of kids in foster care better."

"I'm still confused," Kelly said. "But I'm not so confused as to turn down what you're offering me. You're making my dream come true. All I can say to express my gratitude is, thank you."

"You're welcome," Donald said.

"Okay," I said, "now that is out of the way, let's get down to the serious stuff. Did you bring anything to wear to ride horses?"


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