Breakfast the next morning was somewhat tense. They’d all gotten up early, and Jackson asked them if they wanted him to take the morning off and be there. David looked at Jerrod for an answer. He reached out and put his hand on Jackson’s arm and said, “Thanks, but no. You’ve got your stuff, and I’ve got to face the music. You already helped a ton with what you told me last night.”
They were in the study when the phone rang. David answered and after the hellos said, “Julius, we’re in the study at home, and I have a speaker phone. Is it agreeable with you that I turn it on?”
Julius hardly paused, familiar with this practice from phone conferences with clients and said “Yes, that will be fine.” David punched the button and then said, “Okay, Julius and Cassie, I’m here with Jerrod as you requested. I briefed him last night following our phone conversation yesterday afternoon, and he’s now aware of the circumstance with the home owner meeting with the students who were caught, he also knows that the information has come out that he and two other frat brothers entered the same house the day before, and he’s prepared to hear what you have to say to him.”
“Thank you, David. Hello, Jerrod.”
“Hi, Dad. Hi, Mom.”
“This won’t be a pleasant phone call, but you can understand where we’re coming from. Not just that you broke the law, but you did so after lying to us about the fraternity as well as ignoring the pain such behavior would cause for your mother, to say nothing of the insult implicit in it given my profession.”
“I understand, Dad. I was wrong. What I did was stupid, and now I know it was more than a prank, it was illegal. I broke the law. I also mislead you about the fraternity, and I’m not only sorry about that, I apologize.”
“Well, that’s a decent beginning, but don’t assume that you’ll get off with a simple apology. What you did was fundamentally deceitful to all that this family considers honorable, and then it was compounded by criminal activity. You know that all your partners in crime have now been caught out and confessed.”
Jerrod felt a flare of anger in response to the partners in crime comment, but he heeded the advice he’d been given the night before not to cop an attitude, and pushed it away, simply saying, “Yes, I know most of that from what David told me. Again, I’m sorry and I apologize.”
“Apologies aren’t enough, Jerrod. The way you conducted yourself for most of last year is unacceptable. That you would even be associated with a fraternity that really thinks of itself as that nauseatingly vulgar name is beyond belief. The way you conducted yourself last year needs to be addressed and it needs to change. We will no longer tolerate this kind of behavior on your part.”
“I understand, Dad, and I can tell you it won’t happen again. I know what I did was wrong. I’ve talked to David and Jackson about it, and they’ve helped me understand that what I did wasn’t just devious and illegal, but inconsiderate of you and Mom.”
“Well, that’s good to hear. That’s a start anyway.”
They heard Cassie on the other end of the line say, “Julius, can I speak to my son?” Then they heard Julius mutter and say, “Uhm, well, of course, go ahead.”
Cassie’s voice came on the line. “Jerrod, first I want to say we love you. But I also want to know why you did these things. Why did you join that fraternity and lie to us about it? Then why the breaking into that house? I just can’t understand it given what we’ve provided you. You didn’t need to associate with that crowd in the fraternity. You have more than what you need, so you didn’t need to break into that house. Why did you do those things?”
Jerrod was silent, and David could see him chewing on his lower lip. He reached over and put his hand on Jerrod’s arm and squeezed, smiling at him and nodding his head.
“I don’t know, Mom. I can’t figure it out. I know it was wrong, I know it let you and Dad down. I know I shouldn’t have done it. But I did. I’m sorry.”
Cassie seemed to realize she wasn’t going to get any more out of Jerrod and she went silent, and Julius came back on the call. “Well, Jerrod, I appreciate your acknowledgment of your wrong doing and your apology, but just like in a court of law, that does not absolve you of the guilt or the punishment. We are still deciding the scope of what we’re going to do next, but what is certain is that you will not be returning to Haverford and that collection of miscreants that comprise the fraternity. I am presently investigating the best alternatives to assure you finish high school in an environment that instills values and discipline. Do I make myself clear?”
Jerrod was quiet, feeling his world crumble around him but when David squeezed his arm again, he finally said, “Yes, I hear you and I understand.”
They were momentarily silent, and David spoke. “Julius, I am well aware that I am not a member of your family, and am only involved because Jerrod has spent the summer here after racing camp. That said, may I make a comment?”
Julius tersely replied, “Yes, go ahead.”
“It’s simply this. What Jerrod did was wrong, and he has come to understand that and has admitted that to us and now to you both, and he has apologized. You and his mother are now contemplating very drastic changes in his life. This is your son that we are talking about, so I want to ask you both a very straight forward question. Are you willing to undertake the kind of decisions you are contemplating after a single telephone conversation? I will say again that we are talking about your son, your flesh and blood. I submit that you owe it to him and to yourselves to do this in person. The decisions you are considering making are monumental. So, I suggest that it be done in person, and I put it to both of you that if you consider the seriousness of what is before you, that you will fly out here for a day or two, and discuss this in person. Your son has changed over the course of this summer, and you only know a little of it from afar. This is simply too monumental a decision to be done long distance over the telephone.”
Julius was silent, but they could hear the exasperation in his breathing, and then Cassie came on the line and said, “David, that suggestion makes very good sense. We should discuss all of this as a family, together, not by phone. Julius, don’t you agree? It’s the right and the human thing to do. I think you should take some time off and we’ll go to Portland as soon as we can. This is our son, Julius, our flesh and blood.”
Julius was quiet, and David could picture him seething and imagine the power dynamic going on between them on the other end of the line. They heard some distant whispered conversation between them, and finally, he came back on the line and said, “Alright. You make your case, and this is of an important enough nature that it should be resolved in person. I’ll take the time off and make travel arrangements for Thursday. That way we lose no sense of urgency by letting this matter drift into next week, and we can return on Sunday so there will be minimal schedule disruption for Cassie and I.”
“Thank you, Julius. That’s a magnanimous decision on the part of both of you. As you know, I’m Dean of Students at Lewis & Clark College, and we have an arrangement with a very nice hotel where we put up dignitaries and visiting faculty and such, and I’ll make the reservations for you. Is that acceptable?”
“It is. Thank you for that offer. How would it be if I had my Administrative Assistant call you later to get the details?” David agreed, and was beginning to feel like there might me a way out of this tiger’s cage. What Julius apparently didn’t understand or was not paying attention to, was the concept of territorial advantage. Jerrod’s parents were coming to Portland, rather than the other way around.
“I’ll look for the call from your Admin. Shall we pick you up at the airport, or would you prefer to rent a car?”
There was a pause, then Julius said, “We’ll rent a car, that means less pressure on you. Thank you for the offer, David. Jerrod, we also want to thank you for your candor and honesty. It takes a real man to acknowledge what he’s done wrong and stand forward for the consequences.”
After saying their terse goodbyes, David hit the button to cancel the speaker phone and hung up the call. Jerrod was looking at him with awe.
“You were amazing. You just handled my Dad!”
“No, that’s the wrong way to frame it. I regularly deal with professionals of all sorts, and an attorney like you father is not that different and not that much more difficult than the President of some university or some government official. The fact that I could interact with him on a professional basis that took a lot of the anger and emotion out of the call is different than ‘handling’ him. Do you understand what I’m saying?”
Jerrod hesitated. “I guess…I mean you knew what you were doing, right?”
“Yes, but that doesn’t alter the fact that you totally fucked up and what they’re thinking about doing could demolish your life. Have you thought about that? Not just the actions, what you did, but the consequences? You’d be out of here. You’d likely never see Kaiser again. You and Roger would be over. Your friendship with Eric and Kim would be out the window. Do you understand what’s at stake here? This isn’t some intellectual exercise. This is a major deal, and you’re the one right between the jaws of the vice.”
Jerrod was quiet again, then started blushing, the emotion rising, and the tears just barely held in control. “I’m sorry I’m such a fuck up. I know this is a big deal, I know it could blow everything up. I didn’t mean to sound like I don’t understand that.”
“I know you don’t, Jerrod,” David said softly, “but I want to be sure you understand the stakes here and what’s at risk. You can’t just blow this off like one other thing that happened last school year that your parents or some other people will fix for you.”
“I know. This is on me.” He was quiet, and the tears appeared in the corners of his eyes. “I’d die if I had to leave Kaiser and you guys, and Roger and, and…God, it’s horrible what could happen. I can’t believe it.”
David stood up and took the two steps to the chair he was sitting in and pulled him upright and into a hug. “Actions have consequences.” Then he was silent and let the hug comfort the boy. “Okay, here’s the deal. You understand the stakes here. This is a big deal. It’s going to change the rest of your life however it goes.”
He leaned back and held Jerrod by the shoulders, at arm’s length. “Here’s what I’ll promise you. We’ll do everything we can to have this turn out for the best, at least as good as possible. You can go to the bank on that. I mean me and Jackson, and Will and Sam—for some reason they seem to like you, too. But it’s not going to be easy. I don’t have to tell you that your father is a difficult man, do I?”
Jerrod shook his head and pulled himself into David’s embrace, and when he felt the warmth, he couldn’t control the tears. David let him cry the emotion out, then said softly to him, “I want to suggest two things. First, once you’re over the emotion, you need to call your Aunt Jane and come clean with her. Tell her everything, including about being gay. I’m next to certain she’s already figured it out, but you need to be straight with her about everything. She’s on your side. okay?”
He felt Jerrod nod his agreement into his chest and mumble, “Okay, I will.”
“And then,” David went on, “You need to call Roger and whether you do it over the phone or ask him here to talk face to face, you need to tell him the whole story. All of it. You’ve got yourself so tied up with feelings of worthlessness that it could really damage the best romantic relationship in your life so far.”
“I guess. How can I do that? He’ll think I’m a total sicko.”
“No, he won’t. He’s a good guy, too. Didn’t you hear Jackson the other day when he told you that you’re living in a fantasy if you think Roger hasn’t fucked up in his life and done stuff, too. You need to be straight with him, because some decisions are going to come down in the next few days, and he needs to be prepared for them.”
Jerrod had stopped crying and was just holding David, rocking in the warmth and affection of the embrace. David whispered softly in his ear, “Do you love him?”
He felt Jerrod tense, and then said, “I know love can be hard to admit to. It was hard for me at first, too. Do you think that maybe you love him?”
Seconds went by, and he felt Jerrod’s head nod against his chest.
“And you’re hung up about that because you don’t think you can love someone if you’re not worthy of being loved?”
He felt another nod of Jerrod’s head against his chest.
“So, I’ll just tell you something really simple: you are worthy of being loved. And I’ll bet my next paycheck on something else: Roger will tell you the same thing if you’re completely honest with him. Transparency is a really important part of relationships.”
“Thanks, Uncle David.”
Now it was David’s turn to be surprised. Then he said, “Why did you call me Uncle David? You know I’m not even your second cousin, don’t you?”
“I don’t care. Aren’t uncles the good guys in the family, the ones you can talk to and who always know how to solve your problems and help you out?”
“I think it applies equally to aunts, and I’m honored you’d think that. Whether you call me Uncle David or not is up to you, but I’m honored that you think of me that way.”
They held each other for a little longer and then David said, “Okay, we have to get moving. We’ve both got things to do. Don’t forget that Jane is in Philly, so that’s three hours later.
Jerrod called Roger and asked him to come over after they met Sean and his Mom at the park so they could talk. He agreed, sounding curious, but Jerrod just said, “I’ve got some stuff going on in my life I need to tell you about. Clear it with your Mom, okay, in case it takes a while and it starts getting late.”
Jerrod then called Jane, and David could hear occasional bits of the conversation which went on for almost forty-five minutes. He was in the kitchen getting some lunch for them when Jerrod came in and sat down with a rueful smile on his face.
“How did that go,” David asked?
“It went pretty well. I’ve taken her for granted. She is a cool person. She’s understanding and cares about me…and you were right. She’d figured out I was probably gay.”
“So, did you talk to her about everything?”
“Yeah, on both sides of the country. I told her the whole story about the fraternity and wanting new friends and being accepted for being me and not liking my parent’s program for me. She understands that Dad is very demanding, and that Mom has kind of gotten that way, too, and she said she’d have a talk with Mom before they fly out here on Thursday.”
“How much did you tell here about the fraternity?”
“Well, not all the gory initiation details, but the main part of the story, that it wasn’t an academic frat, that we caused a lot of trouble and had a lot of parties and then the breaking and entering stuff and how that all blew up. She already knew something was up when I suddenly wanted to do summer racing camps out West.”
“And about being gay?”
“It was hard, but I told her about getting together with the other pledge I had feelings for and what happened. And I told her about Roger. Do you know what the first thing she said was?”
David shook his head.
“She said after going through my brother-in-law the minister coming out almost twenty years ago, finding out that I’m gay is not that big a deal. She said you turned out okay, and then talked about how we know so much more today and understand it’s mainly biological and that it also happens to be legal. She’s also pretty hip to the attitude Dad has. She says it’s not just about homosexuals, but about women, too, and foreigners, and that sometimes she wonders how Cassie fits with him. Anyway, she told me she and Mom had talked about it a couple of times a year or two ago and that Mom suspected I might be gay. She also said what you did, that putting this on them right now, on top of the breaking and entering thing, would be too much. She said she’d talk to Mom, but that I should go slow and just know she loves me and that when the time is right, I have to be straight about it with Mom.”
He paused and heard what he’d just said and giggled.
“No, I’m not that quick witted! Anyway, it was a good call and I feel less like the execution squad is flying out here from Philly now. I also called Roger and he’s going to come over here after we meet Sean and his Mom at the park with Kaiser. Then we’ll have our talk.”
“Good plan. I’ve made the hotel reservations, so the details are coming together. Let’s have lunch.”
Jerrod was a little tense when he and Kaiser walked up to Roger’s house, but Roger came out his normal friendly self. On the walk over he said, “You know you’ve really got my curiosity wound way up, but if you say we have to wait and have a talk about it, then I’m good with that.”
Jerrod took his hand and squeezed it, saying softly, “Thanks. I appreciate you being here for me.”
Meeting Sean and his Mom took their mind off what was ahead, Sean being so focused on Kaiser and the good time he was having. The week before they’d starting doing Sit/Stays with Kaiser where Jerrod would walk him across the grass area and make him stay, then walk back to Sean and give him the dog whistle and have him give two toots to call Kaiser. Sean was totally enraptured with the idea that something he couldn’t hear could set off the dog to come running at him full tilt. He’d kneel down next to Jerrod, leaning on him for balance, and then Kaiser would somehow stop just as he got to them, making excited contact but not knocking them over.
Roger had gotten to know Sean’s Mom a little bit and had told her about his cousin with cerebral palsy, and that common ground opened up comments from her about how meaningful the time Jerrod and Kaiser spent with Sean was. “You have a really good friend there. I hope you understand that. He’s kind and caring.”
“I know that. He is kind and caring, and it was him spending time with Sean that helped me understand that. We’ve all got to help one another, right?”
Roger and Jerrod talked about what a neat kid Sean was on the walk home, and David was in his study when they got there. He waved and said Roger was invited to dinner if he wanted to stay, and they headed for Jerrod’s room. As they closed the door, Jerrod reached out and took Roger’s hand and pulled him close for a hug and said, “Thanks for being so understanding. You’re one of the best things in my life, along with Kaiser and David and Jackson. You know that, don’t you?”
He got a hug back and that turned into a kiss that slowly got more passionate, and Jerrod could have easily lost control and let the passions take over, but he knew he’d promised David he’d do what he needed to do. So, he stood back from Roger, holding him at arm’s length, and said, “This is about me and shit in my life that I need to come clean about. I’m finally at the point where I have to be honest about it all, and especially I have to be honest about it with you.”
Roger smiled back with understanding, but still looking a little confused and concerned. They sat next to each other leaning against the head of the bed and Jerrod started his confession, about joining the fraternity in reaction to his parents, and quickly getting in over his head, and getting involved in delinquent behavior that finally culminated with breaking and entering and while they’d gotten away with it at the time, how they’d now been busted. He told his tale non-stop, almost as if he was afraid if he’d stop that he wouldn’t have the courage to continue.
When he was done, he looked at Roger and said, “I’m sorry if you think I’m such a great guy. It turns out I’m a fuck up like all those other jerks in the fraternity.”
Roger was quiet, not because he was scandalized, but because he understood how he responded would be very important. He had been holding Jerrod’s hand, and after waiting a little while, letting the silence build, he raised Jerrod’s hand in his and brought it to his lips and kissed the back of his hand. Jerrod looked at him somewhat incredulously.
Roger simply said, “I’ve done shit that got me into trouble, too, you know. Not like breaking and entering, but stuff that got my parents very angry. I don’t know what the big deal is. It happened, you got caught, you didn’t steal anything, the homeowner sounds amazingly cool, and it feels like it’ll all work out even if your parents flipped out and are coming out here in two days.”
“But they could send me away to a military school or something.”
“Yeah, and that would suck. But I’m already having to deal with the fact that you’ll be leaving in a month anyway, and that’s a total downer.”
“I know, and this blow up has suddenly made me realize that I could lose you and this thing that we’ve got.”
“I love that you’re telling me about it all because it lets me see more inside you. You know you have a shell, don’t you?”
Jerrod looked surprised, and wanted to challenge the shell comment, but decided to save it for later. “That’s the first half of my story, of the stuff I’ve got to tell you about. I don’t know if you’ll like me so much after I tell you the other part.”
Jerrod then told him about the initiation rite and his other frat brother friend and the sex and how it all went sideways after the breaking and entering became public.
Roger was quiet, listening intently but still holding Jerrod’s hand.
“Please don’t hate me. I told David you’d think I’m a sicko. Please, I mean…I hope you don’t.”
Roger pulled him over, so Jerrod was leaning on his chest, and said softly, “You’re not a sicko. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t want to join that frat or go for sucking off some senior, but you wanted to join and that was the program, right? As far as the other guy you were with, who am I to judge? I mean he’s a total coward if he turned on you like that to save his ass, when he wanted to be with you before that. You don’t deserve a coward like that. He’s the big loser in this scene. You know why?”
Jerrod had expected a more emotional response and wasn’t prepared for Roger’s cool rationality and couldn’t answer the question.
“Do you know why?”
Jerrod mumbled “No, tell me.”
“Because it meant you left Philly for the summer and that we met and that right now you’re laying here in my arms, dumb ass!”
It took a few seconds for all of that to compute in the frazzled circuitry of Jerrod’s brain, but when it did, he was elated and simply said, “I thought for sure you’d hate me.”
“Then you don’t know me very well. Everyone says I’m too timid and my Mom says I’m too rational, but you know what, being rational isn’t so bad. It means you can think about what’s important and what’s not. Most of what you told me isn’t important. I mean, it’s a big deal because it happened to you, but it’s not important to us, because it happened in the past. We’re here, right now. I don’t care if you had to suck a senior’s cock to join a frat, and it’s okay with me if you had a boyfriend before because that means you know more than I do.”
“But, I didn’t have a boyfriend before. It was just him and me doing stuff. I mean I liked him and all, but….”
“Jerrod, stop! You don’t have to keep explaining all this stuff. We’re good, okay?”
“You said ‘have a boyfriend before.’ Does that mean you’re my boyfriend?”
Roger made Jerrod sit up and look at him. “Well, let’s see. You’re a boy and I’m a boy. We’re both gay boys and we’re friends. In fact, we’re really good friends based on what we did in the tent last week, and how I feel all the time. That sounds like boyfriend to me. That is, if it’s what you want?”
“Are you kidding me? David asked me if I loved you, and I couldn’t say it. He said it was because I was having trouble loving myself. But I do want us to be boyfriends. I only quit denying I was gay after we got together. I do think I love you. Will you just work with me on this, because I’m still kind of mixed up?”
Roger smiled softly and said, “I can work with you on this. You know you’ve just made me the happiest boy in Portland, don’t you? You didn’t just say you want to be my boyfriend, you said you love me. You know that, don’t you?”
“Yeah, but you and David and Jackson are probably going to have to keep working with me ‘cause David says my main problem is that I can’t love myself. I’m working on that, okay? But I’ve never felt like this for anyone else, ever!”
As he said she would, Julius’ Admin Assistant called in the early afternoon and said she had booked both of them on a flight that arrived in Portland mid-afternoon on Thursday. David had made the hotel reservations and gave her that information and asked her to convey to Julius that with that arrival time he and Cassie would have plenty of time to drive to the hotel and freshen up, and that they should plan on being taken out to dinner that night to a very nice restaurant less than a block from the hotel.
“We understand that they’ll be on Eastern time, so we’ll meet them in the lobby at 6:00 PM, and it’s less than a five minute walk to the restaurant.”
David, Jackson and Jerrod were in the lobby when the elevator opened, and Julius and Cassie stepped out. When they met, Jerrod quietly said, “Hi, Mom, Hi, Dad.”
Cassie, to her credit, reached out with an embrace and gave him a hug. Julius extended his hand and said, “Hello, Jerrod.” Then he turned to David and Jackson, extended his hand and said, “Good to see you both, too. Thank you for organizing dinner for us this evening. That’s very gracious of you.”
David smiled at them both and said, “You’re in our town for a couple of days, so it’s on us to be good hosts, notwithstanding the material issues we have to deal with. Now, let’s set all that aside and have dinner so we can give you a good introduction to The Rose City. The restaurant we’re going to is right on the Willamette River, and has fabulous seafood, and it should be a beautiful evening.”
David and Jackson managed to keep the conversation light. David ordered two bottles of very nice Oregon wine to accompany their dinner, and initially they talked about David’s career path to rise to Dean of Students, and Jackson’s advancement from advertising into product marketing. Julius and Cassie knew some of the details but were impressed when they heard all of it. The food and wine were a terrific combination.
To their credit, Jerrod’s parents were interested in how the racing camps had gone, and how they had found Kaiser. Jerrod saw David nod at him and understood he was being asked to take over, and he explained how they’d found the dog, and then how the trainer in the neighborhood had offered her help, how well the training had gone, and how Kaiser had become part of the household. At that point Jackson interjected and mentioned how Jerrod and Kaiser met twice a week with a younger boy with cerebral palsy so he’d have the experience of fun with a dog.
Jerrod answered all of his parent’s questions but was purposefully careful in how involved he got in the conversation. David hadn’t said anything to him, but as he watched the boy speak to his parents, he understood that Jerrod had come to some type of realization and was playing it cool.
After they’d had dessert, David looked at Julius and said, “How would you like to proceed tomorrow?”
It appeared that Julius hadn’t thought of all the details, and just assumed that somehow he’d deliver his ultimatums to Jerrod. David wasted no time. “I think a couple of questions have to be answered first. Do you want to meet with Jerrod alone, or are we meeting collectively? If alone, I will drive him down here when you like, and you can meet in your hotel room. If collectively, we can meet at our home, either in the study or the living room. Jackson is a working man, even in the summer, so it will be the four of us. Your call.”
Julius was slow responding and Cassie wasted no time. “I think we should meet together, at your home. Jerrod has lived there this summer. It would be good for us to see the house, how you live, and also meet this dog that we’ve been hearing so much about.”
David smiled at her and said, “That sounds like a very good approach. Julius, do you concur?”
He nodded, and David went on, “Why don’t I pick you up at 10:00 AM. We’ll drive to our house, which is only ten minutes away, have our discussions and we’ll also have lunch there. That will give Jerrod time to mow the lawns before we get there. Then after we meet, we can all have a family outing, like a walk down to the Willamette River at a neighborhood park. Does that sound reasonable? Jackson, can you take the afternoon off and join us for lunch?”
Jackson smiled and nodded, knowing exactly what David was doing, and with some prodding from Cassie, Julius agreed as well. The walk back to the hotel was pleasant and brief, and Jerrod hugged his parents and they all said goodnight.
When they were in the car heading home, Jerrod had to say, “How did you do that?”
David grinned at Jackson and then said, “Do what?”
Jerrod was in the back seat of the BMW and reached forward and grabbed David’s shoulders and squeezed. “You know! You know what I mean. Instead of a lynching party this was some kind of pleasant evening and now we’re having a family meeting at home tomorrow. How did that happen?”
“Remember what I told you about dealing with professionals, and doing so on the same basis they are accustomed to? Well, there’s that, plus, they’re a little jet lagged, and they had some wine, and guess what? At the end of the day, this is about you, their son, and they love you even if they have very unique ways of showing it.”
Jackson turned in his seat to face Jerrod. “Your Mom is all about resolving this in the best way possible. Didn’t you get that vibe? Your Dad is already backing down from the extreme position he had two days ago. A break in the discussion, relocating it onto our territory, has helped a lot.”
“And, not to be overlooked,” David added, “is the obvious fact that Jane has had one or more conversations with your Mom. You can tell that by how Cassie has moderated her position and is working for a compromise. She’s no longer acting all offended, but is acting like she’s trying to find the best solution to this little problem we have, and most importantly, almost acting independently.”
“And where’s it going to end up?”
“We don’t know. Your father is a very good attorney, and may wake up tomorrow morning completely refreshed, with a steel rod up his ass, and ready to prosecute his case. On the other hand, there’s equal odds that the vibe from this evening will carry forward. By the way, you did just the right thing tonight. You were there as their son, you were polite and gracious and part of the conversation, but you didn’t push any agenda. That might disarm your father a little.”
Jackson reached over and took David’s hand, lifted it up and kissed the back of it. He glanced at Jerrod, “See why I love this guy so much. Caring, compassionate and competent. What a combination. Oh, and he’s my Sexy Man, too!”
Jerrod giggled in the back seat, then said, “Yesterday after I told Roger everything, he did the same thing. We were holding hands, and he lifted up my hand and kissed the back of it. I thought it was the most loving thing that’s ever been done to me.”
Jackson grinned at him, still holding David’s hand against his cheek. David then said softly, “That was a very loving thing to do. Were you able to tell him that you love him, too?”
“Yeah, kinda. It was hard, and I had to tell him it’s ‘cause of what you told me about not being able to love myself, but he understood. He’s so mature for being a kid the same age as me. I really do love him.”
“He’s a sweetheart. You should treat that realization with great care!”
The meeting the next morning was somewhat anti-climactic. David had briefed Jerrod for the worst, namely a legal taking-down like would occur during a deposition or in a trial, but that’s not what happened. David arrived with Julius and Cassie, and Jerrod had finished mowing and taken a shower, and was in the back yard with Kaiser. They parked in the driveway and David brought them in through the front door, with Cassie commenting on the roof line and how like a Hobbit House it looked. He showed them the living room and dining room, and when they walked into the kitchen, they could see Jerrod and Kaiser in the back yard.
Jerrod was working Kaiser, just reinforcing him to fetch on command, in other words, sitting when he heard the command ‘Attention’ and then after the ball was thrown, not going after it till he heard “Fetch.” His parents stood there at a loss for words watching Jerrod and Kaiser go through the drill three or four times.
Cassie said, “That’s wonderful.” Julius finally was able to say, “How does he know anything about dog training?”
David smiled widely and replied, “I guess he’s a natural and he worked with that dog trainer we know. Let’s go meet Kaiser.” He opened the back door and they walked out onto the porch. Kaiser turned at the sound of the door opening, immediately curious about the sound.
His parents heard Jerrod say, “Kaiser, stay,” and watched the dog stand motionless, attentively looking at them. They came down off the porch with David, and as they got close Kaiser got more excited and Jerrod again said, “Stay,” and when the adults had stopped a few feet away, he said, “Release.”
Kaiser went right over to the new people, his tail wagging like crazy. Cassie reached down to pet him, and he immediately sniffed her hand and licked it. Julius acted like he wasn’t so sure what to do, but after Kaiser had confirmed that Cassie was good people, he turned to Julius to check him out, too. He passed the test, and Kaiser went back to Cassie, who lavished affection on him.
“This is the dog you found? I can’t believe it. He’s beautiful, and has such a wonderful disposition. Jane and I had a Yellow Labrador Retriever when we were kids, and he was friendly just like this.”
Jerrod caught David’s eye, and David winked at him. After a few minutes David said, “Okay, we’re here for a specific purpose, so let’s go inside. I think the living room will be most comfortable, so Jerrod, will you put Kaiser in his crate and then come join us?
David showed Julius and Cassie the guest bathroom so they could wash their hands, and then showed them into the living room. When they were all seated, Cassie and Julius on the sofa and Jerrod and David in the armchairs, it was no surprise that Julius reiterated his litany of offenses. As he had done on the telephone call a few days before, Julius talked about the deception and the criminal behavior, the heedlessness involved and the insult. Cassie was notably quiet, but Julius didn’t sound anywhere near as strident as he had on the phone. When he was done, David looked at Jerrod.
“Dad, like I said the other day on the phone, I did stupid things, I now know some of it was illegal, and I’m sorry and I apologize. Just like I promised David when I told him all about it, it won’t happen again. I promise both of you that. I’ve learned that actions have consequences, and you have to think about the consequences before you act.”
It appeared that Julius had expected some resistance, at least to the potential punishment he contemplated, and didn’t anticipate the kind of acceptance and acknowledgment that Jerrod has just displayed.
He tried to launch into the line of argument he’d laid out on the telephone call, that acknowledgment of one’s wrong doing doesn’t absolve either the guilt or the punishment, but he didn’t seem to be able to make the case. It seemed like something was missing. Was it the anger or the outrage? Either way, it resulted in a rather moderated position that corrective action was required, and Jerrod wasn’t returning to Haverford where he would be in contact with his miscreant fraternity brothers. He added that he was still researching alternative schools that could instill values and discipline.
Jerrod simply said he understood, at which point there was a pause in the conversation. David joined saying said he would like to put a proposal on the table. They all looked at him, completely caught off guard.
“I’m going to make a proposal to all of you, but I specifically do not want an answer now. I want you both to think about it, at least until tomorrow. You’ve seen that Jerrod has his chores, like mowing, and does them. He offered to stay for the summer to not only train Kaiser, but to assure that having a dog would work for Jackson and me since we both have full time jobs. You know he and Kaiser spend part of two afternoons a week with a boy that has cerebral palsy. He’s also made a few good and close friends here in Sellwood.”
David made certain he had eye contact with both parents before he continued.
“You both are contemplating sending him off to some military-type school where he’d learn values and discipline. I’ve been on the faculty of a college for over fifteen years, and I submit to you that you only know as much about those schools as you’re able to learn in their promotional literature. I also submit to you that you can already see that Jerrod has changed over this summer, and he is already learning values and discipline. He’s made new friends here this summer, and we’re having dinner with the parents of some of them tonight. The point is simply to show you that he has bonded with a new set of people who have replaced the fraternity, and that the changes of that bonding are already evident.”
He paused there for effect, and neither Julius nor Cassie said anything.