Joel: Book Eight ~ The New Patriarch

Chapter Twenty~One

Monday began with the regular routine. Cary loaded the ten kids into the van and took off for Corinthian Academy with them. Donald and I each took our own transportation since I had to pick up the three musketeers after their practice.

I did manage to set up a lunch meeting with my accountant, Gerald Cousins, and my attorney, Carlos Martinez. I explained to them about the farm adjacent to my original farm that was going to be put up for sale and I was being pressured to add it to my land holdings. I asked them to research the property and to give me an opinion on whether it would make sense financially to purchase it. They promised to give me their opinion by the first of next week.

The rest of the day was filled with the everyday tasks that take up 90% of a manager's time. Many of them are mind-numbing and probably could be ignored and nobody would ever notice, but the papers must be signed and filed in the rare occurrence that someone might want them at a future date. I was beginning to realize that I really didn't want to do this for the rest of my life. I hoped that Donald would hire a VP soon to replace me.

The highlight of my day was picking up my three sons from their practice and listening to their teenage chatter.

"Dad," Larry said. "The school is going to have a Halloween dance next month. Can we go?"

"I don't see why not," I said. "What's the date?"

"October 27," Chris volunteered. "It's a Saturday."

"There's something else," Lenny said quietly.


"They asked us if we would ask you if you would be a chaperone," Lenny said.

"Are you sure you want me to be there watching you guys dancing and flirting with all the girls?"

"Daaad!" Chris said disgustedly. "We don't flirt with all the girls."

"Just Linda Bennett, right, Chris?" Larry said. "Ouch! That hurt."

I looked in the rearview mirror and saw that Chris had hit his brother on the upper arm. It couldn't have been very powerful since Larry was starting to giggle.

"Okay, guys, no hitting," I said as I drove the Lincoln into the garage. "Quick showers, supper will be ready in an hour or so. Don't let your dogs out of their run. The lawn people were supposed to treat the yard with stuff for fire ants. It could make your friends sick if they happened to chew on some grass like they do sometimes."

"Okay," they said and ran in the back door and up the stairs to their bedroom.

"Something smells good," I said as I walked into the kitchen.

"Just a pot roast and all the trimmings," Gilda answered. "There's fruit on the table for the boys' snack. That shouldn't fill them up before supper."

"Like that's possible." I headed for my bedroom to change out of the suit and tie for some more comfortable clothes. When I came back into the living room, I saw that Donald was sitting on the couch with his daughter on his lap reading her a story. He finished a few minutes later. Lenore gave him a kiss on the cheek and hopped down and went to the kitchen to "help" Gilda.

"I got a call from Kelly's doctor after you left this afternoon," he said.

"Good news, I hope."

"Yes, it was, in fact. He said that Kelly was making good progress and he thought he could safely release him around noon on Thursday," Donald said. "I notified everyone to be on standby for his release and the MediVac plane will be waiting for him to arrive at the airport. When I talked to the physical therapist, he said he would like to come check out where Kelly will be staying and what facilities we have available. I told him if we didn't have it after his inspection, we would have it by the time Kelly arrived."

"When's he coming for the inspection?" I asked.

"Tomorrow afternoon around two," Donald answered. "Would you be able to be here? I have another interview for 'your' job tomorrow afternoon or I would do it."

"Sure, as long as my boss lets me take the afternoon off."

"I think that might be arranged."

After supper, all the boys went to do their homework, just like every school night.

"Cary, you've been awfully quiet this evening. Is anything wrong?" I asked.

"No, not really," he said.

"What is it? We can tell there's something on your mind," Donald said, joining the conversation. "Maybe we can help."

"Well, since you got that great computer for me, I've been thinking about signing up for an online college class or two."

"That's great," I said. "What classes have you been thinking about?"

"There are some of the basic courses that I will need when I start back," Cary said. "History and Economics are two that I will have to take to meet the requirements."

"So what's the problem?" Donald asked.

"I'd like to take them both and I could do them during the day while the kids are at school. I guess the problem is that if I sign up for both of them, it wipes out what little money I have saved up to go back to school and I need to get my car worked on and serviced."

"How much are the classes?" I asked. I was surprised when he told me the amount for each of the classes. "Wow, costs have really gone up since I was in college."

"Can you sign up online?" Donald asked.

"Yeah, but you have to have a credit card in order to pay at the time you sign up. I don't have a credit card."

Donald looked at me and I nodded. I knew what he was thinking.

"Let's go get online with your computer," Donald said. "Show me the courses and the enrollment screen. We'll get you registered and signed up for the classes."

"But..., but..."

"No buts. Lead the way," I said as Donald and I got up from our seats.

Later, a visually upset Cary joined us in the living room. Donald had poured Gilda and us glasses of wine.

"Mr. Baker, why are you doing this for me?" Cary asked.

"I guess the best answer to that is because I can, we can. Other than that, you are a great help around here with our sons and my daughter. They all like you and feel comfortable around you. That means a lot," Donald said.

"And you're good company for me," Gilda said. "Rattling around in this big old house all by myself gets kind of lonely."

"By the way, you mentioned that you needed to get your car worked on and serviced," Donald said. "Tomorrow, after you have returned from taking the kids to school, I want you to take your car to a place I know that won't rip you off. I know the owner. You tell him I sent you and if he doesn't treat you right I will speak to his boss." Donald got up and wrote the name and address of the place on a piece of paper where he wanted Cary to take the car, before he handed it to him.

After Cary had retired for the night, I looked at Donald, "Is that one of yours?"

"Yeah, I'll give Ray a call first thing in the morning to give him a heads up. If he can't do all the work necessary tomorrow, he'll arrange a loaner for Cary."

"You people are just too much," Gilda said. "That poor boy is going to be spoiled when he leaves here."

"He's a good kid," I said. "Heaven knows we have the resources to do it."

"I think it's time for me to go to bed," she said. "I'll see you all in the morning."

"Goodnight," we chorused.

Gilda was in the kitchen the next morning when I went to pour myself a cup of coffee. "The physical therapist that Donald has hired for Kelly will be here today around two o'clock. I'll be here to show him what we have that he might use in Kelly's treatment. Kelly, himself, will probably be arriving sometime in the evening on Thursday."

"I'll have that room fixed up for him when he arrives," Gilda said. "Any idea how long he will be staying with us?"

"No, we won't know until we see how well he responds to the therapy, but probably several weeks," I said. "Now, I need to go roust the boys out of bed."

"I'll see to Lenore," Gilda said.

Shortly after breakfast, Cary started loading the kids into the van. "Dad, are you going to be a chaperone for the dance? You never did say yes or no," Larry said.

"Yes, I'll be a chaperone. You guys need to be watched so you don't get into trouble," I said.

"Yeah, like that'd ever happen," Larry grinned.

A few minutes later, Donald and I got into our separate cars and headed out to fight the morning rush hour traffic.

I left the office shortly before one and took off for home. It seemed as if I had just gotten to the office before it was time to leave. I had worked through lunch, so I was happy that Gilda had some lunch ready for me in case I had skipped it in town.

At five minutes to two, the gate buzzer sounded and I pressed the button to open the gate. I met the therapist at the front steps. I introduced myself and he responded by saying his name was Ryan London.

"Ryan, please come in. I'll show you around and you can tell me if there is anything else that you might need," I said. "Let's first start off where Kelly will be sleeping. It's through here." As we entered the room that Kelly was to occupy, Gilda was making the bed with fresh linens. "Gilda, this young man is Ryan London. He's Kelly's physical therapist."

After Ryan looked around, he pronounced that this room would be very satisfactory. He did ask about Kelly being able to contact someone in an emergency. Gilda told him that she lived in the adjacent rooms and she could respond to him. That seemed to satisfy Ryan.

Next I showed him the elevator to the upper floor. It had been some time since the elevator had been used, but it appeared to work just fine. We then moved down the hall to the music/exercise room over the garages.

"This is more than adequate for the preliminary treatment plan I've been given. I should have an updated one by the time Kelly arrives," Ryan said.

Next I took him outside and showed him the pool. I noticed that he was frowning a bit. "Is there something missing?"

"Part of his plan is hydro-massage and I don't see any water jets."

"Would the type of whirlpool units you see in most sports locker-rooms be what you are looking for?" I asked.


"Let's go back to his bedroom and check to see if his bathroom would have room for one," I said. We did and discovered that it had more than enough room for one of those units. "There will be one installed and ready when you come for your first session with him on Friday."

"How's that possible?" he asked.

"It's nice to have friends," I answered.

He shrugged and thanked me for the tour and said he would be back on Friday morning at nine o'clock.

I called Donald and was told he was still interviewing the VP candidate. I asked his secretary to have him call me when he was finished. I did not plan on going back to the office since it would be time to leave by the time I got there.

I had seen Cary come in while I was talking to Ryan London. By the time I had seen Ryan to the door, Cary had left to pick up the kids from school.

Manfred arrived before the kids got home from school. "I got some news from Antonio this morning," he said.

"Really, did the judge set a hearing date?" I asked.

"Better," he said. "The CPS supervisor resigned. Antonio said there was not enough hard evidence to convict him, so the best they could do was to get his resignation. Luke's former caseworker, Gloria Garver, accepted a plea deal. She pled guilty to several counts of accepting bribes, solicitation of bribes and several other counts of using her position for corrupt means. She will serve a prison term of 5 to 10 years. She must also pay back any moneys that she received from these activities and pay a fine of $15,000. His foster mother, Gladys Romans, also accepted a plea and will serve a prison term of one year and be prohibited from being a foster parent or be in a position where foster kids are."

"What about Penelope's foster parents, Hugh and Janice Cole? Did anything happen to them?"

"They got a slap on the wrist. They were in some ways victims of Garver's misdeeds. They are not allowed to be foster parents or adopt for a period of two years. At that time they must appear before the judge to convince him to let them foster or adopt."

"So that means that Luke doesn't have to appear in court," I said.

"And I'm relieved," Manfred said.

At that moment, ten noisy kids burst through the back door. Three of them, two girls and a boy, ran to Manfred and in a single voice, said, "Hi, dad." That caused Manfred to break into a big smile.

He wrapped his arms around all three of them and said, "Let's head for home. Your mom was fixing something good from the smell coming out of the kitchen when I left to come over here. Say goodbye to your friends."

"Can I drive?" Luke asked, with a pleading look.

"I guess," Manfred said, rolling his eyes and shaking his head.

"Dad," Lenny said, later that evening as he sat on my lap while I started checking his homework, "the class sponsors are planning a meeting for the Halloween dance and want you to attend."

"When's it going to be?" I asked.

He pulled a folded piece of paper from his pocket and handed it to me. It took me a minute or so to figure out how to unfold the paper. It was almost like origami. After I got it unfolded, the typewritten note informed me that the meeting would be held this coming Monday immediately after classes were dismissed for the day. It was to be held in the headmaster's conference room. It looks as if I'll have to ask my boss if I can leave early on Monday.

"Cary, have you gotten everything you need to start those classes?" I asked him, after all the kids were in bed.

"Just about," he said. "I need to go to the University book store and pick up the text books for the courses. I planned to do that tomorrow after I take the kids to school. I have to return the loaner car and pick up my car. I hope it won't be that much."

"Those are self-paced courses, aren't they?" Donald asked, ignoring Cary's last comment.

"Yes, but I'm going to try to do them as rapidly as I can," he said. "I'm anxious to get started."

"Donald, did you get that equipment ordered for Kelly?" I asked.

"Yes," he said. "That reminds me, Gilda, some workers will be here to bring a whirlpool unit that needs to be placed in his bathroom. It's a mobile unit, so it won't be permanently installed. I've arranged to lease the equipment since it will be used for such a short time. I was told they would be here sometime around ten in the morning."

"I'm glad you told me." Gilda said. "I had planned on going grocery shopping first thing, but I can do it later in the day."

"Would it be better if I stayed home and helped out?" Cary asked.

"No, it shouldn't take them very long to get it hooked up. From what the man I talked to said, they should have it up and running in less than an hour."

We finished our glasses of wine and headed off to bed.

The only thing that broke up the routine work at the office the next day was I interviewed Phillip Palmer. He was the candidate for the VP job who Donald interviewed via video conference while he was in California. I was suitably impressed with him even though he had limited managerial experience. I was convinced with his personality, he would have little difficulty leading the group of employees who would be in his departments. I spoke with Donald about my impressions of him and he agreed he would be the best choice of all the candidates he had considered for the position. I learned later that Donald had offered him the position and he accepted. The biggest problem that I saw, from my point of view, was he couldn't begin for the next two weeks, but I guessed I could make do for that long.

I picked up the three musketeers from school after their practice and started for home.

"Dad, can we ask Chin and Cho to come play tennis on Saturday," Larry asked.

"Did you forget that your brother is going to be home from college this weekend?"

"Oh, yeah, we forgot," Chris answered. "Maybe we can do it the next weekend."

"That sounds like a better plan," I said.

"Can we take the dogs out of their run today?" Lenny asked.

"I think that would be okay," I said. "The rain last night probably made it safer for them. Just don't let them chew on the grass."

After supper as the dishes were being loaded into the dishwasher, I said, "It's homework time."

"We don't have any," Chris said for him and the twins. "We got it all done in class."

"Good for you," I said.

"I have some," TJ said.

"Me too," Peter added.

"I need to study my spelling," William said. "Can you help me, dad?"

"Of course I can," Donald said. "How many words do you have?"

"Twenty-five," William answered.

"How about you, sweetie?" Donald asked Lenore.

"I have to practice cursed writing."

"I think you mean cursive, don't you?" he said, trying very hard not to laugh.

"Yeah, I guess," Lenore said, ducking her head under her dad's arm.

"Let me help your brother with his spelling words while you practice your writing and then you can show me, okay?"

"Okay," she said and hurried up the stairs to her room.

"What are you three going to do to keep out of trouble while everybody else does their homework?"

"Can we play on the Xboxes?" Lenny asked, getting nods from his brothers.

"If you can keep the noise down," I said.

"We'll use the earphones," Chris said. "You won't hear a thing."

"From the Xboxes maybe," I said. "It's the noise you three make is what worries me. Just keep it to a low roar." There was a lot of laughing and kibitzing, but the noise level wasn't that bad.

After all the kids were in bed and had been tucked in for the night, the four adults retired to the living room. I poured Gilda, Donald and myself a glass of a new Pinot Noir that I had picked up a few days ago on my lunch break. Cary had his usual soft drink.

"I like this," Gilda said.

"It is good, isn't it?" Donald said.

"The guy at the wine shop recommended it highly," I said. "Cary was your car ready when you went to pick it up today?"

"Yes, and it wasn't that expensive either," he said. "I think I smelled a rat."

"What do you mean?" Donald asked, innocently.

"They did an awful lot of work on my car, yet the bill was only what I usually pay to have the oil changed. I did some checking and found that the place is owned by the Rekab Company. The same company owns several car dealerships around town. Even I could figure out that Rekab is Baker spelled backwards."

"Busted," Donald said. "They take care of all our vehicles, and of course, we get a discounted price. That perk also includes household employees."

"Thanks," Cary said. "My car hasn't run this good since I bought it used two years ago. It was five years old when I bought it."

"We can't have you breaking down and not being here to pick up the kids," Donald said.

"Well, I appreciate what you've done for me," Cary said. "Now, if you will excuse me, I'm going to go look through my new text books."

"Goodnight," we all said.

"I just remembered that the hydrotherapy equipment was due to be installed today," I said. "How did that turn out?"

"It looks great," Donald said. "Do you want to go see it?"

"Sure," I said. He and I went to take a look at it. Gilda stayed where she was. She had seen it when it was hooked up. "We better not show it to the boys or they will have to try it out."

"Yeah, it could be dangerous if they weren't supervised by an adult while using it," Donald replied.

"Do you know what time Kelly will be arriving tomorrow?" I asked.

"I'm supposed to receive a call when the plane leaves the ground," Donald said. "I'll have a better idea of his arrival at that time."

All day Thursday we were kept in suspense waiting to hear when Kelly had left California. Everything had been made ready for him when he arrived. It was a few minutes after three o'clock when Donald received the call saying that the MediVac plane had left Oakland International Airport at 1:06 PDT.

"It's a little over three hour's flight time from Oakland to San Antonio," Donald said. "That means he should be landing between six and six-thirty tonight. By the time he has deplaned, gotten to the ambulance and driven to the house, it will be close to eight o'clock, give or take a few minutes."

"He'll still be on California time, so he will probably be hungry. I'm sure Gilda will be able to take care of that," I said. "She's very good at feeding hungry boys."

"That she is. She gets lots of practice," Donald chuckled.

We had finished our supper and the boys had quickly done their homework. They didn't want to miss Kelly's arrival. By seven-thirty they had their work checked and put away in their backpacks to take to school tomorrow.

A couple minutes before eight, the gate buzzer announced that the ambulance had arrived. I activated the gate opener and went to the front steps with the rest of the family to greet Kelly. The ambulance turned out to be a handicap van equipped with a wheelchair lift. The van driver and a male nurse exited the van and secured Kelly's wheelchair onto the lift and it lowered him to the ground where we all gathered around to greet Kelly.

"How are you doing, son?" Donald asked.

"Much better," Kelly said. "I don't have to use this thing all the time. They have me walking a few steps at a time several times a day."

"Well, let's get you in and settled," I said. "We have your room ready for you. You're probably hungry. When you get settled in, Gilda will have supper for you."

"I remember all the good food she stuffed me with when I was here before," Kelly said. "I'm looking forward to some of her great meals."

The nurse and the van driver lifted the wheelchair up the steps and the nurse followed the powered chair through the house to Kelly's rooms. The van driver retrieved a couple of suitcases containing Kelly's things and followed the nurse.

After several minutes, the nurse and driver returned. "He's all set," the nurse said. "I've left a revised physical therapy prescription on his dresser. I understand the therapist will be coming in the morning. Make sure he sees it."

"We will, and thanks," Donald said, following them out the front door. By the time he had gotten back inside the house, Kelly had made his way into the kitchen area.

"Go on over to the table," Gilda said. "I'll bring you a plate. It's just meatloaf, mashed potatoes and gravy, and some green beans. There's more if you want seconds."

"Thanks, Gilda," Kelly said. "It's a good thing I'm going to have physical therapy and a lot of exercise or I would gain ten pounds with all the good things you fix to eat."

"There's dessert when you finish," she said.

After he finished eating, we adjourned to the living room where we spent the next couple of hours getting to know Kelly again and catching up on his college experiences. He was very sad that it was necessary to withdraw from classes for the semester. It would mean that it would take him an extra semester or two to get back into the sequences of the required courses. Donald told him that was not a problem. His education would be paid for.

We had offered him a glass of wine when I poured glasses for the rest of us, like Cary, he refused, but accepted a soft drink.

It wasn't long before he began to yawn. "Sorry," he said, "it's been a long and tiring day. If you don't mind, I think I'll turn in."

"Do you need any help?" I asked.

"No, I see they delivered a walker. I can use that when I'm out of this chair."

"If you need anything in the night, just yell out," Gilda said. "I'm a light sleeper and can respond rather quickly."

"I shouldn't need anything," Kelly said. "I've got the pills the doctor gave me. They usually let me sleep for six or seven hours."

"The therapist will be here at nine in the morning to start your therapy," I said.

We said goodnight and he maneuvered his wheelchair to his room.

The kids had been loaded into the van and had left for school before Kelly emerged from his room.

"Did you sleep well?" I asked.

"Definitely," he said. "That bed is much softer than mine in California. It's like sleeping on a cloud."

"We could fix that when you return there," Donald said.

"Anything special that you'd like for breakfast?" Gilda asked.

"Cereal is fine," Kelly answered.

"I fixed pancakes, eggs and sausage for the kids," Gilda said. "How would that do?"

"You talked me into it," he said.

"Well, we have to be off," Donald said. "Your physical therapist, Ryan London, will be here at nine. If there is anything you need, don't hesitate to let us know. We'll see you this evening."

Again, we each took our cars since I had to pick up the twins and Chris after their practice.

"What time will Joel get home?" Larry asked, as the three of them piled into the car.

"It will probably be some time around six-thirty or seven," I said. "It depends on what time he left and the rush hour traffic in Houston."

"It'll be fun seeing him again," Lenny said.

"Yeah," Chris added. "I wish he could go to college someplace close so he could be here all the time."

"I do too," I said. "Rice is a great school and that's where Joel wanted to go. He'll get a great education there."

It was almost seven o'clock when the back door opened and Joel walked in.

"JOEL!" six boys yelled and ran to greet their brother.