Roger’s parents arrived about 1:00 PM, and knowing the house and the rules, settled right in with Roger’s Mom going to the kitchen to see if she could help. Robert and Dieter weren’t far behind them, and Jerrod introduced Dieter, whom he’d met briefly in the summer, to his Dad and Roger. Dieter in turn introduced his partner Robert to everyone. “Like David, Robert is employed at Lewis & Clark in the Music Department.” Another academic connection was established with Roger’s Dad being on the faculty at Portland State University, and as everyone got to know each other, JC walked in from the kitchen with Roger’s Mom, who said, “I was summarily evicted from the kitchen. Those two men insist they are doing all the cooking. As the only lady here, I find that objectionable.”
She said it with a smile on her face, though, and Roger gave her a grin and said, “Think of it as a vacation, Mom. We’ll also all have to check with you on the quality of the food.” Jerrod did the remaining introductions, and David walked in to join them.
“I thought I heard some commotion out here. Jerrod and Roger are handling drink orders and the bar. We’re guessing we’ll eat in forty-five minutes, or so, and will have things under control in about ten minutes, and will join you for a drink. So, does everyone know enough about everyone else to get the conversation started?”
He grinned conspiratorially at his guests and said, “Roger’s parents are from Switzerland, where he was born, and his Dad is a prof at PSU. Robert runs the Music Department at Lewis & Clark. Dieter is the best automobile salesperson in the state, and Roger’s mom used to be the top administrator for a private company here in town. JC is Jackson’s Dad, and if anyone has too much to drink, he can arrange a Life Flight ride home. These two,” and he nodded at Jerrod and Roger, “not only have a great relationship developing, but Jerrod is an aspiring defense attorney, and Roger is likely to become a judge of the court. With that, you’ll have to talk to each other to figure out the details, and Jackson and I will be back to join you shortly!”
Jerrod and Roger took drinks orders and when they arrived back in the living room, all the adults were chatting away, with the occasional German thrown in between Dieter and Roger’s parents. It didn’t take long to establish connections and understand the statements David had made about them, which included explaining the defense attorney and judge comment. David and Jackson joined them, but after twenty minutes, David glanced at his watch and then at Jackson and said, “Time to pull the bird out of the oven.” He looked kindly at Roger’s Mom and said, “So as not to leave you in a position of being dominated by all the men, would you help Jackson and me wrap up the prep and then serve dinner?”
She grinned with appreciation and said, “Absolutely, so long as you still have some wine left in the bottle.” They happily retreated to the kitchen, and the boys set about handling a second round of drinks. Both learned quite a bit more about Will and Jackson while listening to Robert talk about their roles in Glee Club and Choir when they were at Lewis & Clark, as well as some shared insight about the role both had taken over the years in working with students in a support group that became the school’s GSA for students now beginning to be referred to as LGBT.
Dieter jumped in with a comment about how well they also fulfilled the role of matchmaker, too. He looked around and said, “They got Robert and me together, and they pretty well facilitated Will and Sam getting together, and I can think of quite a few more.” He grinned at Roger and Jerrod, “You young men understand that you’re in what, in the automobile business, we refer to as ‘Allstate Country,’ do you not?”
They glanced at each other and then quizzically at Dieter. “Have you not seen the TV ads? Allstate Insurance. Meaning ‘you’re in good hands!’ You must know that.” Everyone cracked up, and Robert said, “Dieter tends to assume that everyone understands the auto industry inside jokes.”
Jerrod added, “We’ve both got our licenses, but since we don’t own a car, we haven’t even had to think about auto insurance.”
Dieter grinned back and said, “I understand entirely. You two must be among the few in your class that don’t own a car, am I right?”
“Actually, you’d be surprised,” Roger replied, “Quite a few do, however, most don’t, and they walk or ride the bus…or their parents drop them off and stuff.”
“It’s actually beginning to feel like a problem,” Jerrod added, “since I’m on the ski team and it’s a long drive to Mt. Hood for training and for races when the season really starts. Jackson’s been great about letting me drive the Durango when we take Kaiser to therapy dog training, but it’ll be a real stretch to do that all the time when ski season starts.”
JC laughed, “If he’s letting you drive the Durango, that would force him to drive the Challenger more. Taking it out only a few times a year is better than nothing, but engines need to be run. I keep telling him to get it out at least once a month.” He glanced at Dieter, asking, “Don’t you agree.”
“Absolutely! The lubricants must be kept distributed throughout the engine, one doesn’t want fuel sitting for long periods of time, batteries must be recharged, air pressure drops in the tires. None of those things are good for vehicles.”
Robert turned to Roger’s Dad who seemed to wonder at the conversation. “FYI, Dieter is the Sales Manager at the BMW dealership and sold David his first BMW.” He looked at JC and said, “I’m not a car guy, but I fully understand it now. Am I right that you gave Jackson that Challenger?”
JC grinned. “Sure did. Well, My Dad wanted to give him his sedan when he could no longer drive, but it was a big Chrysler Newport that wouldn’t have worked at all for a freshman in college, so I found the Challenger, and that’s the car he got.” He paused, reflecting, and then said, “that was twenty years ago, but it sure was a fun thing to do, and I’m pleased he’s still got the car. We’ve always been a Mopar family, meaning Chrysler or Dodge vehicles. No Fords or Chevys.”
Dieter bit his tongue and grinned, and JC added, “And as you know, except for one outlier, the family sticks with American-made cars!”
Jerrod told him about the couple of rides they’d done together in the Challenger, including the most recent up the Gorge and what a rush it was when Jackson stood on the accelerator. “It’s still got plenty of power.”
“And it’s power that is rarely and carefully used,” Jackson said from the doorway, “and now, dinner is served, so all of you come and be seated at the table.”
They’d served the food to the table with help from Roger’s Mom, and the table looked as wonderful as the food looked sumptuous. David said, “There’s only a few times a year we have to extend this table to its fullest length to seat this many people, but those few times make it well worth having.” He lifted his wine glass and said, “We’re thrilled you could join us, and here’s to our good fortune to have the lives we have and so many things to be thankful for. And in addition, here’s to good company and great friends.”
The glasses clinked and Jackson motioned everyone to sit and the dishes and platters were passed around. Roger’s Mom commented on how well the turkey was roasted, pointing out that the breast wasn’t dried out, and JC sang the praise of the cranberry sauce with horseradish. “I’m happy every year that I taste it that your old cook taught you how to prepare a few things like this!”
Dessert was a choice of pumpkin or pecan pie…or both, and the conversation was slowing down. David offered coffee, and as Jackson and Roger’s Mom cleared the table he poured. When everyone was seated again, Dieter cleared his throat, looked at Jerrod and said, “Jerrod, have you expressed to David and Jackson the concern you have about driving and ski racing?”
Jackson looked up somewhat surprised, and Jerrod said to Dieter, “Actually, no, I haven’t.” He looked at Jackson and said, “I told them before that it’s just starting to dawn on me that it’s not right for me to be using the Durango to drive to Mt. Hood to ski all the time, and then me and Roger use it to go take Kaiser to therapy training. It’s your car, and that’ll end up being a lot of miles.”
“Well, I don’t have a problem with it. We have two vehicles. Three if you count the Challenger.”
“Yeah, but, there’s the fairness thing,” Jerrod replied, “It’s very cool that you want to do it, but what if you need it for something on one of those days. That could be a conflict. Somehow I don’t think Kaiser hopping in the back of David’s BMW would be good for the leather seats.”
That brought a chuckle from most of the adults, and JC said, “I just got here, but another point is that it’s one thing to buzz downtown for dog training. Regular driving up to Mt. Hood and back doesn’t just put miles on the Durango, it also puts wear on it.”
Everyone looked at Jerrod, and Jackson said, “Thanks for being concerned about it, but I’m fine with it unless you drive off the road in a blizzard or something. Do you have something else on your mind?”
Jerrod grinned, and glanced at Roger with a soft glint in his eyes. “Yeah, I do. I’m thinking about asking Dad next time I call if he’ll help me buy a car. That way we won’t be piling all these miles on yours. And the wear, like JC said. You’re already letting me live here, so there has to be a limit somewhere for the free stuff, right?”
He grinned widely, and before Jackson or David could respond, continued, “I’ll take all the love and free advice you want to give me. We both will,” and at that he glanced at Roger again,” but I’ve got to start handling more of my own responsibilities.”
The conversation lulled, and David who had been listening, then commented, almost as if he was thinking out loud, “I’m sitting here wondering to myself how this conversation got started. Specifically, how it could have moved from a general discussion about cars to something so specific so quickly.” He glanced at Dieter, smiling, and said, “Let me think, who in our midst is in the car business?”
Dieter smiled back at him, and said, “I mainly listened and asked questions.”
“Dieter, that’s what you do. That’s how you helped me talk myself into buying that 2002tii all those years ago. Not that it was a bad decision, but it’s an approach that makes you the best automobile salesman around.”
Dieter blushed slightly and then said, “Well, my ears did perk up when the conversation went to automotive problems. Jerrod makes a valid point, and in addition to miles, wear and tear such as that on tires and shock absorbers is a reality, to say nothing of the fact that mountain driving is harder on a vehicle than driving around town. I suggest that Jerrod is being responsible and showing his appreciation of Jackson and you as well. Should Jerrod’s father agree to his proposal to address this situation, what kind of vehicle would be appropriate?”
Now David was grinning, and said, “You see! That’s exactly what I mean. You have already mapped out a plan in your mind somehow. I know you’re big-hearted and your motives are pure.” He glanced at Robert and added, “At least I think so. Can I still assume that about your partner?”
“Absolutely, unlike the typical salesman, he’s absolutely pure in his motives. Turning inventory and making a profit never comes into the equation. It’s all about satisfying the customer’s needs.”
That brought a laugh from everyone, and then JC said, “Dieter asks a very good question. Should this idea move forward, I’ll say right now, it’s either a small four-wheel drive pickup with a camper shell, or a smaller SUV with four-wheel drive. No sedan, because four-wheel drive and traction tires are frequently requirements in the Cascade passes during snowstorms and freezing weather.”
Dieter’s eyes were sparkling, and David saw it and said, “Alright, Dieter, now tell us the rest of the story.”
He smiled demurely and said, “Well, as it turns out, purely through the turn of circumstances, I am in a position to suggest what I would consider to be a very dependable and appropriate vehicle that would, how do you say, fit the bill.” He looked at Jerrod and Roger as he finished.
Jerrod’s eyes had widened, and he and Roger had expressions on their face that confirmed they didn’t yet understand why or where this conversation was going.
Jackson caught their eye and said, “You guys are getting set up. I mean, it’s a good set up, because that’s Dieter’s way, but it’s still a set up. You should have seen how he set David up for the 2002, with the help of a lawyer friend we had at the time, who made David promise to go for a test drive and also conned Dieter into holding the car over a weekend for it. And then when we both went down for the test drive, and I met Dieter for the first time, he knew the second he saw us looking at the 2002 that we wanted the car. He just had to help us decide and then be patient!” He glanced at Dieter. “Am I right.”
“Sometimes my job is nothing more than assisting clients to make the decision they have already decided they want to make!”
That got a good chuckle from everyone, and David responded, “And that’s why you’re now Sales Manager, so you can make sure all the other salespeople operate that way too. So, now, spill. Tell us what the deal is.”
Dieter smiled softly, looked back at Jerrod and Roger and said, “Well, as it happens, we have recently come into possession of a 1995 Jeep Cherokee. It was the family vehicle driven by the wife of a very good client, an attorney who drives an 8 Series sedan,” and here he looked at David. “She used the Cherokee to drive their children to sports and various events and needed the space and wanted four-wheel drive for winter. Their last child has graduated from high school and is now in college, and she no longer needs that type of vehicle, and traded the Jeep in on a new 5 Series sedan, such as you drive.”
He paused, and Jerrod had looked at Roger and back in something approaching astonishment.
“A Jeep Cherokee?”
“Yes. And it is dark green with a tan interior. Quite stylish and sophisticated colors. Very European! And it has an economical 4 liter six-cylinder engine with an automatic transmission. Oh, did I say it was a Sport model?” His smile enlarged as he said it.
“Are you kidding me? That’s a way cool car. I mean SUV.” He paused, looked at Roger, then at David and Jackson, and finally back at Dieter. “Is this for real? I mean really? I was just thinking out loud an hour ago, and now all of a sudden Dieter has a proposal or whatever you call it.”
Roger’s Dad, who had said little, leaned forward and looked at Jerrod saying, “It seems to me that what Dieter has done, is define a solution to a problem he readily understood when you spoke of it, even though the problem had yet to fully formulate in your own mind.”
He looked at Dieter and said, “Habe ich recht?”
Dieter smiled back, saying, “Yes, you are right.”
When dinner had been cleaned up, the leftovers put away and the dishes washed, all agreed to take a walk to work off the calories. Kaiser was thrilled after a few hours of forced quiet. When they got back to the house, Dieter and Robert prepared to leave, and before they went out the door Dieter said to Jerrod, “If your father is in agreement, then let’s talk again. Tell him that I can arrange for the vehicle to be sold at the same value we granted as a trade in. We’ll do a complete mechanical service, and won’t take a profit on the sale. Make sure he understands that. Agreed?”
Jerrod was momentarily at a loss for what to say, then did say, “Agreed. But why? I mean, I appreciate it for sure. You and David and Jackson are friends, but why are you doing this?”
Dieter grinned. “Because David and Jackson tell me you are a good guy. They’ve told me a little of what you’ve been through, no private details, just a summary. Remember, they came to our house at the coast in the summer when you were here alone with Roger and your other friends.”
Jerrod grinned at him. Dieter went on, “I understand you had a very enjoyable time sleeping in the tent in the back yard, yes?”
“Yeah, we did. They didn’t give up all the details, did they?”
“No, no! Of course not, they are too sophisticated for that. And, more importantly, they love you and Roger, and are very discreet. I’m just glad to be able to assist in some way. You are still getting your legs under you in this new life you have decided on, this adventure you and Roger are embarking on. I want the best for you both, too.”
Jerrod suddenly felt overwhelmed with emotion, his eyes moistening, and he ever so softly said, “Thank you, Dieter. You don’t know, I mean…”
Dieter put a hand on his shoulder and said, “I do know, in some ways. I was there too, once. That’s all. As I said, we all want the best for you and your very handsome boyfriend.”
Jerrod blushed, his heart suddenly opening. “He’s the best, totally the best. You know he was born in Switzerland and his parents speak German. Do you know what he calls me? He calls me liebling?”
Dieter paused, put his other hand on Jerrod’s open shoulder and said, “You should be very happy and very proud.”
Jerrod said softly, “Can I have a hug, like with Jackson?”
“Of course. That’s one of the things that man has taught me. To be happy to embrace those you care for.” He pulled Jerrod close. “Good luck when you speak to your father. If you need me to speak to him, I am available.”
By the time Dieter and Robert pulled away from the curb, everyone had followed them outside to say goodbye, and Roger’s parents turned to bid their farewells also. Roger’s Mom looked at her son.
She spotted his innocent and pleading eyes in an instant and anticipated the request. “Mom, can I sleep over again? It’s a holiday after all?”
“You don’t think you’ll wear out your welcome? You were here last night, remember?” She turned to David and Jackson. “Are you agreeable?”
“Certainly,” David said. “And thanks for your help with dinner. Having a competent female hand made it all that much better.”
Saturday, they all participated in what was becoming a new Oregon tradition for Thanksgiving weekend, visiting tasting rooms at wineries. Many specialized in Oregon Pinot Noir and only opened to the public on Memorial Day and Thanksgiving weekends. The plan was to drive to the Dundee Hills, a premier wine growing area between Newberg and McMinnville. They’d take the Durango and JC’s car, and then when they were done, JC would head on to visit his sister in McMinnville, and they’d drive home in the Durango.
Jackson rode with his Dad so they could catch up on life’s events, and they left early enough to visit Jackson’s brother Gary and his wife Lois in their new home outside of Newberg, and for the boys to meet the youngest of their three daughters. Lois had met Jerrod during the summer was clearly taken with Roger, and told them they were a very attractive couple. The she laughed and said, “It’s a good thing that Carrie, our oldest, isn’t here right now. She’s the same age as you guys, and she’d be moaning something fierce about how unfair life is, to not have two handsome guys like you available in the dating scene!”
The boys blushed slightly, and Jerrod said, “It’s totally out of our control. So, you can’t hold it against us.”
When they arrived at the first winery, they were struck with the beauty. The rolling hills with its reddish soil, the rows of vines with most of their leaves gone and those yet to drop displaying a color between yellow and gold. They visited two tasting rooms before JC took his leave, and the boys even got a small taste of another wine with a growing reputation, Oregon Pinot Gris. On the drive home they stopped at a third winery outside Newberg, and then headed up Highway 99W back to Portland.
Roger would have preferred not to be dropped off at home, but that had been the arrangement, and he and Jerrod planned to get together the next day. Dinner that night was leftovers, and everyone was happy.
Sunday afternoon, though there was no therapy dog training class, the boys decided so go through the routines with Kaiser so he didn’t slip at all, since the following Sunday’s training would be the first at Children’s Hospital. During the afternoon the clouds started building in and Jerrod said, “Good thing we did this now, the weather forecast in the paper this morning was for a big change, with a cold front coming in tonight, and a week or more of rain ahead.” He grinned at Roger. “That means snow in the mountains, and if the temperature drops up there, we’ll start getting a good base built. With what they’ve already got from the last few storms, we could be skiing in a few weeks.”
After a walk in the park, they headed for the empty tennis courts, where they could work in an enclosed space, and practice walking Kaiser on a tight leash, with him heeled close by and walking next to the chain link fence, simulating the wall in a hospital corridor. Then they switched up so one or the other would change direction and walk around the inner perimeter of the fence to approach the person with the dog. The point was for Kaiser to obey the Heel command and stay close and continue walking even though he knew the person walking toward him.
On the third pass, when Jerrod had Kaiser back, as they turned down one of the long sides of the court and he and Kaiser were about twenty feet from Roger, he saw his boyfriend slightly shake his head, then blink his eyes, and raise his hands at his waist as he slowed to a stop. Jerrod tugged the leash and said “Halt.”
He knew what was happening and found himself counting in his head as he watched. After almost ten seconds of blinking, Roger’s hands dropped, and he appeared to focus on what was ahead of him. Jerrod tugged Kaiser’s leash and said, “Walk On.” As they approached Roger, he softly said, “It happened again, I could tell. Is it over now?”
This time Roger showed no embarrassment. “Yeah, it was the same thing, the colored dots.”
“Were there lots of them? Meaning they blocked your vision?”
“Yeah, more than last time, I think.”
“Could you tell if it was in one eye or both?”
“What do you mean?”
“JC told me it’s an important part of understanding it. You can try closing one eye and then the other and try to figure it out. If it’s only in one eye, then when you close that eye, you won’t see the dots in the other eye.”
“Good idea. I’ll try and remember. You’ll help me, I know.”
Jerrod had taken both of Roger’s hands in his, and now pulled him in for a hug. “Also, it’s only been three days since the last one. When was the time before that?”
“I don’t know. The week before.”
“And you said on Thursday it only lasted a few seconds. This one was longer.”
“How do you know?”
“Because I was looking at you when it started, you looked off in the distance, blinked your eyes, shook your head, and then raised your hands. I counted off about ten seconds.”
“What does that mean?”
“I don’t know what it means, but we’ve got to keep track of this. Three days since the last one, and now ten seconds long. Kaiser and I are going to walk you home, and we’ll talk to your Mom.”
“Roger, they’ve got to know. If it happens in front of your Mom and she doesn’t know what’s going on, it could freak her out.” He then told him what JC had shared with him about the signs that helped distinguish a migraine from a torn retina.
Both of Roger’s parents were home when they got there, and his Mom looked up as they walked in the kitchen. “Jerrod, and Kaiser! How lovely. I didn’t know you were coming over. Are you staying for dinner?”
Jerrod explained that he’d waked Roger home because he’d experienced another visual event, and they needed to explain it to her. She called her husband and they all sat in the living room, and Roger described what happened, and then Jerrod carefully explained what JC had told him about symptoms of migraines and torn retinas. Then he said, “I saw this one happen, and it was different from the last one.”
Both parents looked at each other, and Roger’s Mom said, “Honey, if what you told us is correct, and I believe you, then this third event happened sooner and lasted longer. Maybe it’s nothing serious, but I’m calling our doctor tomorrow and scheduling a check-up for one afternoon this week.”
Roger looked resigned but nodded his head.
Jerrod tried to make light of it, saying, “Maybe you’re just getting migraines. That would explain why you get moody sometimes.” Roger gave him one of those that-wasn’t-so-funny looks, and Jerrod grinned back. “It’ll be okay. A check-up is a good idea. I’ve got to get home, but I’ll see you at school in the morning.”
Roger’s Dad drove him home, and his Dad had a few more questions. “Mainly, I think what’s changed is that after the first one he was making light of it, like no big deal. Now he’s not. I told him he had to tell me when it happened, and what happened. I think ‘cause it lasted longer today he’s taking it more seriously.”
“I know full well that much of that is because you convinced him that he has to. Thank you for that.”
“Of course. That’s what you do for people you care about, right? Also, when I get home, I’m calling my parents. My Mom’s a nurse, and she might have some good suggestions, too.”
Roger’s Dad gave him a hug when he dropped them off, and softly again said, “Thanks very much. The way you’re handling this is very mature.”
“It’s nothing special. Everyone on the ski racing team last year had to go through basic first aid training, ‘cause people can get hurt skiing, and it can take a while for the ski patrol to arrive. In any event, part of it was asking questions and recognizing symptoms, things like that. That’s all I did.”
“That was enough. I’m sure we’ll see you during the week.”
Jerrod fed Kaiser, then gave David and Jackson a quick summary and went to call home. He came back into the kitchen where they were sitting at the kitchen table half an hour later. Both looked up expectantly.
“Good talk with both Mom and Dad. I told Mom everything and asked what she thought, and she said she’s not a specialist but the first two things that came to mind were the same as JC: migraine or torn retina. The weird thing is that with a torn retina, the visual stuff doesn’t go away. It’s kind of permanent; meaning the tear is permanent until it’s fixed, and most of the other visual stuff goes away eventually after the retina is repaired, but point is that the symptoms don’t come and go. With migraines they do, like out of the blue, whatever the visual thing that happens to you, can kick off, and boom, they show up in your eyes.”
“Has he had a headache? I hear they can be pretty severe.”
“No, he hasn’t, but Mom said that she’s known patients who didn’t start having migraines till late in high school or college, and they start gradually, but they always start with the visual stuff. It can be loss of peripheral vision, or bright flashing things, or dots, or whatever. And it can come on slowly when it’s starting. They always feel out of sorts for a while because it’s from blood flow changes in the brain, and then later the actual headaches can start.”
“I didn’t know migraines have to do with blood flow changes. Is that what causes the symptoms?”
“Well, Mom said in a migraine that the symptoms, and it can also include tingling or numbness in the face, come from constriction of blood vessels in the dura mater. That’s the lining over the brain inside the cranium. In classic migraines that’s the first part. Then later the second part, the headache with the pain is when the vasoconstriction stops and changes to vasodilation. The same blood vessels dilate and that creates pressure inside the cranium pushing on the brain.”
“I didn’t understand that part,” David said. “I’ve had a few students over the years with migraines, some mild, some so severe the pain was debilitating, and they ended up in bed in a dark room for a couple of days.”
Jerrod’s eyes widened and he looked worried. “Yeah, Mom told me about that and how painful it can be. God, let’s hope it’s not that.”
“What’s the plan,” Jackson asked?
“His Mom’s making a doctor’s appointment tomorrow for as soon as she can get him in.”
“Good start. It sounds like getting the right diagnosis is a key part.”
Jerrod nodded his head, looking thoughtful and worried, chewing on his lower lip.
“I’m doing it, aren’t I?”
“Yeah, because you’re worried, and you’re right to be. But we’ll get this sorted out. We’ll find out what the cause is and get it treated. The good news is that whatever it is, is coming on slowly, and in between he’s perfectly normal.” David paused and waited for Jerrod to glance up. When he did, he continued and said, “And in between he’s a perfectly good boyfriend, too, right?”
Jerrod grinned at that and brightened. “I had a good talk with my Dad, too.”
“Yeah, Mom handed him the phone after we were done, and you won’t believe what he said!”
David and Jackson waited expectantly.
“After he said hello, he said to me, ‘Am I to understand that the medical matter you were discussing with your Mother concerns your boyfriend?’ And he was serious and nice at the same time.”
“Wow! That’s a sign of progress,” Jackson said. “But he has been working on it and trying to broaden his understanding, right?”
“He has, but there wasn’t any of that homophobia vibe, and he was serious, like seriously concerned, and he called Roger my boyfriend, and didn’t choke or anything. I was blown away.”
“And you did what?”
“I told him he was right, and explained what was going on, and how much help Mom was in helping me understand. You know, like that, and he was trying to be sensitive and helpful. I guess you call that supportive, right?”
“That’s a good term,” David replied, “and if so, then it sounds like your Dad has turned an important corner.”
Jerrod grinned and said, “Then I talked to him about the car, about skiing starting soon, and being responsible and not borrowing your car all the time.”
“And, he was open and asked a bunch of good questions, you know like lawyers do to get background, and he agreed that piling all those miles and wear and tear on your car would be taking advantage of a good situation. When I told him that you said you were cool with it, he said, ‘tell Jackson he is too kind, but that it would be taking advantage of your hospitality.’ So, he’s going to do the deal. At least I’m pretty sure he is.”
“Meaning I’ve got to get the facts together. I told him about your friend Dieter and the Jeep Cherokee, but when he asked how much I realized we never asked Dieter how much it cost or anything. I did tell him Dieter said they’d do a mechanical check and stuff and sell it at cost ‘cause you’re all good friends. I guess I’ve got to call Dieter tomorrow.”
“That’ll be easy to take care of. Here’s another alternative. Let me call your Dad at his office tomorrow,” David said. “I’m overdue for our weekly call because of Thanksgiving. I’ll fill him in on Dieter, that he’s totally up and up, and the offer is one hundred percent legitimate and ask him if Dieter should call him directly. Sooner or later that’ll have to occur if the deal happens so the BMW dealership gets paid for the Cherokee, right?”
Jerrod nodded, smiled widely and then said, “You know what? This is one of those times when it’s really great to have adults in your life. I mean competent and caring adults, you know?”
That’s how it went down the next day, and by the end of the business day on the east coast, Dieter and Julius had spoken, Dieter had explained all the details about the vehicle sale price equal to the cost at trade in value, they’d arranged payment by wire and that Dieter would handle all the title work registration.
Roger was a bit subdued at school in the morning, but by lunch time when they met with Eric and Kim, he was back to his bubbly self. Jerrod promised to call him after dinner and was working on his homework, with Kaiser lying next to the desk, when David came home. Kaiser’s eyebrows raised on hearing the noise, but he stayed where he was.
A couple of minutes later, David knocked on the study door, Jerrod looked up and grinned, and when he sat down in the side chair, Kaiser got up and ambled over to plop his head in David’s lap and get his ears rubbed. David asked how Roger was and Jerrod told him that he seemed tired in the morning but by lunch time he seemed back to normal.
“So, you’re less worried than you were last night?”
“Well, yeah! I saw it happen. It wasn’t normal. I mean it wasn’t like some sci-fi movie or anything, but it was kind of scary. To see it happen to anyone, but this is my boyfriend.”
“I know. I’m just glad you’re feeling better. By the way, I talked to your Dad, and later on, so did Dieter, and the deal, as they say, is going down.”
“Yes. Your Dad was quite impressed with the way you presented it, as being responsible and not taking advantage of a good thing.”
“He said that. About me?”
“He did. He loves you, you know. He also is quite impressed with the level of engagement and responsibility you’re showing in other areas of your life…like school and dog therapy training…and your boyfriend.”
“Meaning that you’re very serious about what’s happening with Roger, and you called you Mom to talk about the medical condition. That the medical question came first before the car. And he referred to Roger both by name and as your boyfriend in our phone conversation. I think your Dad is on his way to becoming open, tolerant and accepting.”
Jerrod was grinning so hard it hurt. “Cool. Finally!”
“There are a couple of conditions to the Cherokee deal.”
“Yeah. You’ll be doing long drives to and from the mountain, and even though you’ve had Driver’s Ed in school, he insists you take a Defensive Driving course. Dieter will take care of setting that up.”
“Yeah. Many BMW models are performance vehicles, and you’d be amazed how many people walk in off the street and don’t know that and don’t know how to drive them and can get themselves into real trouble. It’ll be important to put your Dad’s mind at rest.
“In the space of the already agreed on honesty and candor, absolutely no drinking or drugs or anything like that. You’ll get the picture when you take the defensive driving classes, but you’re likely to be under a lot of peer pressure if you’ve got wheels and are doing stuff with other students. You’ve got to agree up front, no drinking and driving. As in, no drinking and then driving. And more importantly, no drinking while driving.”
“That’s easy. The only drinking I’ve ever done in Oregon was here, with you. Well, except at the winery the other day when we tasted. But I wasn’t driving, Jackson was!”
“Then those should be easy requirements to agree to, right? Oh, and the last requirement is that you have to have a mobile phone with you in the car, so that if something happens you can call for help.”
“Really? Jackson’s got one from work, but you don’t even have one.”
“I don’t need one. But it’s part of the deal. Are you going to say no?”
Jerrod shook his head. “How come this happened so fast and so easy?”
“Because Dieter put a good proposal on the table, you have a real need, you presented it in an objective and mature way, and…” David started laughing.
“What’s so funny?”
“You won’t be offended if I tell you?”
“Your Dad said that having you living here and going to public school here, it wasn’t just good for you, but it was saving him so much money over tuition at Haverford that there was no way he could say no.”
Jerrod laughed at that. “It’s true, but it’s also cool he can see it and talk about it that way, isn’t it?”
David nodded. “It is. It was a good day. Oh, and there was one last thing.”
Jerrod raised his eyebrows inquisitively.
“You Dad asked if it would be acceptable if your parents came out here over Christmas. Meaning they’d stay in a hotel, but they’d be here with us over Christmas. What do you think?”
“Well, I don’t know. I’m living in your house. What do you think?”
“I think that your Dad is trying very hard to be open and accepting, he has come a long way, and is now beginning to express in less than direct ways that he wants to have a real relationship with his son. That only happens if he does something to make it come to pass, and he’s doing that. It’s kind of like offering the handshake of peace or goodwill.”
“You really think it’s that? I mean it wasn’t even six months ago he wasn’t going to have a fag for a son!”
“That was then, this is now. He’s trying, Jerrod. He’s trying. He loves you, and he’s exploring the ways to express that to you.”
“That’s heavy. I’m good with it if you are.”
“Actually, I think it’s the best news of the day. Now, I’m going to go see what’s on the menu for dinner.”
“You know what else is kind of funny? There was so much other important stuff to talk about, I completely forgot to tell him how my first attempt at being a defense attorney turned out!”
Over dinner, they got Jackson up to speed on Roger’s situation and the deal coming together on the Cherokee. He was grinning, happy for Jerrod.
“I’ll clear the dishes, then I’ve got to go call Roger and finish my homework. Jackson, will you wash dishes tonight?”
“Certainly, but you’ve got to come tell us if there’s any new info after you talk to Roger.”
Roger’s Mom answered the phone and asked if she could talk to him before she got him on the phone. “You know that next Friday, December 6th is Roger’s birthday, and we want to have a small celebration here, like David and Jackson organized for you in October. Meaning dinner here at our home. Is that agreeable to you? If so, I’ll call David and Jackson. After what’s been going on with Roger, it would mean so much to us.”
Jerrod realized by the tone of her voice that Roger’s Mom was scared. He’d been dealing with the situation kind of like he’d been taught in first aid class, and knew he was being emotionally distant. But this was different, this was his boyfriend’s Mom, worried about her son.
“Of course. It’s a great idea. It’ll be wonderful.” He paused, then went on, “Mrs. Astren, are you worried about what’s going on? I ask, ‘cause I am, and I can’t imagine how much more you love him than I do.”
“Yes, I am worried, and thank you for asking. He’s our only son, and he’s my schatz. In German that means treasure, or special person.” She stopped and sounded short of breath. “I’m sorry if I’m sounding emotional.”
“No worries, you don’t need to apologize to me. He’s your son.”
“Do you know what December 6 is?”
“No, should I?”
“There’s no reason you should, and we’re not really religious, but December 6 is the feast day of what in Switzerland is known as Samichlaus. In the Netherlands it’s the feast of Sinterklaas, or Sint-Nicholas. You know, Saint Nicholas, or what here you call Santa Claus. In the old catholic countries, Samichlaus is a legendary figure based on Saint Nicholas, who was the patron saint of children. Yes, there’s gift-giving and it is the beginning of the Christmas season, but for us it is special because we tried for years to have a child with no luck. Then finally when I became pregnant, Roger was born on the feast day of Samichlaus. It always seemed to us that we were given a special gift of this child because we were older. Be that as it may, we want to include you all in our little celebration.”
“Mrs. Astren, Roger is going to be okay. My Mom’s a nurse and I talked to her last night, and she said that the symptoms should worry us, but not to be overly concerned. You’ll get a diagnosis and Roger will get a treatment if it’s required. Please don’t be afraid.”
“Thank you, Jerrod. I know I’m being emotional, and thank you for saying such nice things. I’ll call David after you and Roger speak. Let’s plan then on Friday night at 6:00 PM. You’re welcome to sleep over as well.”
“Thank you. You know you’re becoming like a second mom to me, don’t you?”
“Well, I mean… I don’t know what to say except that it makes me very happy. Let me go get Roger for you.”
Roger told him that he had an appointment after school on Wednesday, so would be missing GSA, and would call him with the news when he got home. They talked about homework, and the next portion of English Lit, which was starting to read contemporary poetry.”
“I don’t know about that. I’ve never been much on poetry,” Jerrod said. “Iambic pentameter was bad enough. Most poetry makes me glaze over.”
“I can understand that, liebling. But some of it is really special. Alive in a completely different way because of the use of modern language and free of the constraints of normal punctuation and form. We’ll find some you like. Trust me.”
“I’ll try, but it won’t be easy.”
“Dad really likes poetry,” Roger went on, “and has quite a collection of different poets from all over. We’ll find something that you like. What are you thinking about ski team training on Wednesday?”
“Truth? I haven’t even thought about it since last week. We had such a great Thanksgiving and you and I had so much good time together, who even wants to think about that douche bag Matt Willis. I guess I’ll just deal with whatever happens. Hopefully it was a one-time deal and it’s all blown over by now. Anyway, it’s been raining all day, and supposed to rain all week and the temperature is coming down, so that means snow on the mountain. Oh, I forgot to tell you my news.”
“The Jeep Cherokee. My Dad’s going to buy it for me.”
“Whoa! For real?”
“Yeah. I talked to him last night and he was receptive, and then David talked to him about the car and the deal and Dieter this morning, and then he and Dieter talked in the afternoon and he went for it. There’s some requirements though.”
“Like I’ve got to take a defensive driving course, and no drinking or drugs and I’ve got to have a mobile phone in the car just in case.”
“Wow? You get a car and a phone! What a deal”
“That’s not the best part.”
“What do you mean. That sounds like a pretty amazing part to me. What’s better?”
“When I was talking to him last night, my Dad was nice, and when we talked about you, he called you my boyfriend.”
“For real! There was no homophobic vibe at all. David said he was pretty much the same way when they talked. It’s not like with your parents, but there’s hope, love.”
“Oh, liebling, that is totally far out. I can’t believe it. After the vibe he was putting out when he was here in August, this is a totally radical change.”
“And David told me that my parents might come out here for Christmas. He thinks it’s a good thing.”
“Wow. That’s a change. I wish you were here so I could kiss you and do a few things to show you how happy I am.”
“That’ll have to wait till Friday. You Mom talked to me about your birthday dinner and invited me to stay over if I want?”
“Really? And do you want to?”
Jerrod grinned to himself. “Well, I’m thinking about it. You know, if it snows on the mountain all week, I many have to get up early to go skiing and… you know that would mean going to sleep early!”
“No, you don’t, liebling. No excuses.”
“No, I’m kidding. Nowhere I’d rather be on Friday night. Listen, though, I’ve got to go and tell David and Jackson about it, and finish my homework. I’ll see you at school in the morning. Oh, and guess what else?”
“I’m all ears.”
“When the Cherokee deal comes through, I’ll be able to drive to school, so I can pick you up and we can drive together.”
“That’ll be far out.”
They blew each other kisses over the phone, and Jerrod walked to the living room to talk to David and Jackson. “Roger’s got a doctor’s appointment on Wednesday after school. I talked to his Mom for a little while and she’s really worried. She’s going to call you next to invite us all to a birthday dinner for Roger on Friday.”
David said, “That’s very nice.”
“Yeah, and I learned something new. December 6th is the feast day of a certain saint, and it means a lot to her about Roger. You used to be a minister. I think you should talk to her about that.”
The phone rang, and Jerrod said, “I bet that’s Roger’s Mom,” and David went to answer.
Jerrod glanced at Jackson and said, “I’m going to take Kaiser out.”
“Nervous? Want some company?”
Jerrod grinned and they all went for a short walk around the block. When they got back David was in the living room. “Thanks for your comment about St. Nicholas. I didn’t realize how hard a time Roger’s parents had getting pregnant, and the part about him being a gift and their treasure from being born on St. Nicholas Day. I was able to talk to her for a while. She’s concerned and emotional, but at heart she’s rational and logical. I think she’ll be fine.”
Jerrod smiled softly and said, “Thanks for talking to her about that, I know she needed someone to talk to besides me.” He got quiet, and was staring off into space, at the bare wall above the stereo.
David and Jackson watched him for a little while, and then Jackson said, “Jerrod!”
He looked at them and said, “Was I doing it again?”
“Yeah, you were. Now, come here and sit down here on the couch between us.”
He did and was immediately wrapped in a double embrace.
“Are you okay?”
Jerrod was still biting his lower lip. “I’m worried, too.” He leaned into the shoulders that were against his.
“Truth? After hearing from JC and then after talking to Mom, it suddenly hit me that this could be serious. I’m starting to get worried.”