When Roger’s visual event was over, he confirmed the symptoms were the same as the time before, with complete vision loss in the right eye, and Jerrod had watched the clock and this time it lasted almost four minutes. They’d tried to carry on a low-key conversation, and Jerrod had held him in an embrace, but David and Jackson could see the turmoil he was going through. Jackson had gone for a glass of water and dug the migraine pills out of Roger’s coat and had him take one.
Finally, when it was finished and the emotion had resolved, Roger said, “It’s back to normal now, but I’m starting to get a headache. It’ll probably take a while for the pill to work. Will you take me home, Jerrod?”
Jackson said, “I’ll feed Kaiser. You take care of Roger. Make sure his parents know what happened, too.”
Roger’s parents were home when they got to his house, and they got the day’s story in reverse order, starting with the visual event and ending with the therapy dog session and how well it had gone. They were placated that the event hadn’t been any worse than the previous one and that the headache seemed to be already easing.
“Still, tomorrow you’re going to have a rest day,” his Mom insisted. “You’ve had too much stimulus, ending the quarter, the therapy training and all the rest. Tomorrow you’re taking it easy.”
“Mom, that’s not fair.”
“Roger, it is fair. It’s your health we’re talking about. If you want to go skiing with your friends on Tuesday, then you’ll take it easy tomorrow.”
Jerrod smiled at him and simply said, “Mother knows best. I’ve got to go, but I’ll call you later, okay?”
When he got home David and Jackson were waiting for him and said they were going to the Sellwood Grill for dinner. When he asked them what they thought now that they’d seen one, David said, “It was actually a little worse than I thought it would be. I don’t mean to say it was terrible, but it was certainly concerning. It’s almost like it takes seeing it in person to understand what losing vision in one eye is like.”
“Yeah, that’s why I started getting scared. It’s like one half of being blind or something. I mean I know, it’s only lasting a few minutes now, but what if it last longer and longer and then if it’s both eyes?”
“Jerrod, remember what we said about fear and not letting it control you?”
“I do, but I love him. Even if I didn’t love him and he was just a friend, I’d be worried the same way.”
He was quiet and finally said, “Any way, for right now the symptoms have only gotten a little worse, so there’s that.”
When they got home, Jerrod called Roger’s house and first spoke to his Mom who was more relaxed than earlier, and they talked for a few minutes. Then she went to get Roger and when he came on the phone, he sounded better. “How come you didn’t call my mobile?”
“I wanted to talk to your Mom for a few minutes and make sure she’s under control. How are you, boyfriend?
Roger immediately started being grumpy about having to take it easy the next day. “Selle, it’s for your own good. Do your parents a favor. Chill out and make them feel better, then they won’t be hung up about us going skiing on Tuesday with Eric and Kim.”
Roger was quiet, and Jerrod said, “Roger, are you there? What’s going on?”
“Well, it sounded like nothing. You went quiet on me. I’m your boyfriend, remember? I love you.”
It took a while, then Roger grudgingly said, “I know, but this is totally the shits. Why does this have to happen? Why to me? Why to us? Everything else is so good, I mean, and now this.”
“Roger, you promised no self-pity.”
“That was before I realized I could go blind with this fucking thing that nobody seems to be able to figure out.”
“What do you mean, blind?”
“One eye goes black. Like blind! What happens if it starts in both? Then what the fuck can I do? I can’t drive, ‘cause it could just happen. I wouldn’t be able to do much of anything. And what if it isn’t just three or four minutes? What if it becomes permanent and I end up some fucking blind invalid? What then? Are you going to want a blind boyfriend?”
Jerrod took a deep breath and told himself to pause, and give Roger sometime after he’d vented.
“Roger, are you still there? Are you hearing me?”
“Good. So, to start with, you remember that I love you, right?”
“And do you remember what I said to you last week when you laid that line on me about being a basket case?”
“Yeah, I guess.”
“Okay, I’m going to say the same thing. I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear what you just said about being blind. Because it is like not going to happen. First, you can’t go down this worst-case scenario trip. All you’ll do is totally bum yourself out. Second, I’m not going anywhere, and I’m almost offended that for the second time you said something like I’d dump you because you’ve got a problem.”
He stopped and waited. Roger said nothing, but he heard a sniffle.
“Roger. Selle. Are you hearing me?”
“Yeah, I guess.”
“And if I tell you that’s not an acceptable answer?”
“Well, then… I don’t know… I’m sorry. This is totally fucked, Jerrod. It’s getting worse and I don’t know where it’s going or where we’re going and…”
“I know where we’re going, so stop talking like that. Didn’t you tell me that I’m your soulmate? Well, guess what? This soulmate is permanent and I’m not leaving no matter what. You could be blind and in a wheel-chair and I’m not leaving. Now will you give this shit up?”
Roger was quiet again and finally said, “I’m sorry I did the self-pity thing again. You were right last time. The kids we visited in the hospital have it worse, and they’re not doing this shit. Maybe they’ve worked through it or something. I’m just bummed right now, and the plan wasn’t to dump it on you.”
“I know, selle. This is hard, but you’ve got to be strong. We’re going to get through this, okay?”
Roger was quiet again.
“I need you to tell me that we’re going to get through this, okay.”
“Okay, we’re going to get through it.”
“Do you really mean that?”
“Well, yeah. I said it, right?”
“It didn’t sound very certain. Can you say it with more certainty? You know, just for me, your liebling?”
Roger giggled. “Yeah, I can, and I’m sorry I’m being such a jerk about this. I do love you and I know you love me, and you don’t deserve this ration of shit. Sorry.”
“Well, that’s better. Now that you sound like my boyfriend again, and only if you keep it up, maybe tomorrow I’ll walk Kaiser early and then come over and see if you’re rested enough. You know, like rested enough to be able to get it up. I bet I could help if that turns out to be your problem.”
“Ha, ha! Not very funny. But I like the idea of a visit like that! Okay, I’ll chill out and make the parents happy, and I’ll get a grip on my attitude. But, and it’s a big but, only if you come and visit me tomorrow. And I want some loving, for sure!”
“No worries, I can take care of that request.”
And Jerrod did. He pulled up at Roger’s house around 4:00 PM, and Roger met him at the door. Pulling him into a hug he kissed Jerrod’s neck, whispering softly, “I’m so glad you’re here. I’m sorry about last night. It wasn’t fair to dump on you like that. I was just feeling shitty, but it wasn’t fair.” He was crying softly.
Jerrod leaned back and looked into the blue eyes he loved, framed by a face full of anguish and said softly, “It’s okay. It’s all over. I love you. It’s all good, selle.”
“But I dumped on you and you didn’t deserve it. All you’ve ever tried to do is help, to be there for me. I just got bummed, and… and you won’t believe what happened.”
“Well, remember you called the house phone not my mobile? Well, Mom heard my side of the conversation, and after it was over, she tore me a new one.”
“What do you mean?”
“She read me the riot act for feeling so sorry for myself and for taking it out on you. She just let me have it for caring only about myself and ignoring how you’re trying to help and that you love me… and, that you don’t treat soulmates that way, and…”
“So, are you over it?”
“Okay. Guess what? It never happened.”
“What do you mean?”
Jerrod smiled wickedly. “I’m trying to remember if I called you last night. It seems to me like I forgot, and that’s why most of what you’re saying I don’t understand.”
Roger wiped the last of the tears away and smiled weakly. “You’re the best, you know?”
“I’m also horny,” Jerrod said as he massaged Roger’s crotch. “I’d really like to see that beautiful cock of yours right now.”
Roger giggled. “Okay, but first we have to say hi to Mom. She’s in the kitchen and she’s still pissed at me for dumping on you. Come on, I’m truly sorry, but you’ve got to convince her everything’s okay.”
They spent ten minutes talking to Roger’s Mom, and at one point, Jerrod tried to make light of what happened using the same ‘I don’t think I remembered to call Roger last night, did I?’ line. She smiled wryly and said, “I know what you’re doing, Jerrod. You’re being too nice. What my son did to you last night wasn’t fair. It’s not what you do to people you love. I have a mind not to let him ski with you boys the next two days.”
“I understand, Mrs. Astren, but he’s apologized like half a dozen times. He even cried on my shoulder just now. I think that means he’s serious about the apology. Don’t you?” He had a hard time stifling his grin.
“I suppose so.” She looked at her son, struggling to keep a stern face.
“And since he’s apologized so sincerely, and since I forgive him, too, it’s only fair that he can go skiing with us, right? And I have a request. Can he stay over with me tomorrow night? Then there’s one less pickup stop on Wednesday morning.”
She was smiling now, too. “I suppose so. You two are too much for me. Go spend some time together,” and then she looked at her son, “but don’t let me hear you doing something so unfair like that ever again!”
They slipped out of the kitchen and down to Roger’s room and he pulled Jerrod onto the bed. “Thanks, liebling. Will you just hold me? I’m sorry, but I’m still fighting being totally bummed about all of this. Just hold me, please.”
“Come here. That’s easy. I won’t just hold you. I’ll tell you I love you, too.”
He did, cooing into Roger’s ear, and a couple of minutes later he slowly slid his hand down to Roger’s waist and undid the snap at the top of his jeans, and then slid down the zipper. “Since you’re being such a good boy today, maybe I’ll do this, too.” With the jeans open, he slid his hand down into Roger’s boxer briefs and danced his fingers in his pubes.
Roger sighed. Jerrod said ever so softly, “Take your pants and boxers off.”
Roger complied, and Jerrod leaned up on his elbow and pushed his boyfriend flat on his back, slowly stroking his belly above his pubes.
“I haven’t seen your beautiful cock soft for a while,” he said, glancing up at him and smiling widely, “it’s still totally beautiful. I love the way the skin covers the head when it’s soft. Like it’s lying there quietly in waiting, you know waiting for just the right signal to start standing up.”
Roger giggled, and gasped as Jerrod slipped his fingers down to the base of his cock, softly encircling it.
“Ohh! Is that the signal to stand up straight? Look it’s getting bigger, but it probably needs some help.”
He reached down and slowly moved his hand up Roger’s half-hard cock, and then slowly began to pull the foreskin down. “God, Roger. You’re so beautiful, meaning you and your cock. Look, it’s almost standing straight up by itself. And what’s this? Oh, it’s that wonderful precum you make that tastes to good.”
He paused and looked at his boyfriend, staring into the blue eyes that looked back at him longingly.
He blew him a kiss and went on. “Yeah, that precum that tastes so good. Let’s see if it tastes the way I remember it.” He leaned down and licked the top the Roger’s cock-head and felt him flinch.
“Yep, tastes as good as it did last time. That’s cool! You’re a dependable boyfriend.”
He paused, looking Roger straight in the eyes. “Did you hear me? You’re a dependable boyfriend.”
Roger smiled weakly and touched his fingertips to Jerrod’s lips, feeling him kiss him back.
Jerrod smiled back and said, softly and lovingly, “It’s looks to me as if this beautiful cock needs some attention.” With that he slipped his mouth over Roger’s cock-head and heard him gasp, and then barely choke out, “oh my god, Jerrod.”
After Roger had come, bucking wildly on his bed, and then was laying with his head on Jerrod’s chest, his boyfriends arm holding him tight to his chest, he spontaneously started crying softly. Jerrod realized what was happening, recalling what David had told him about penthos and reaching the point of being able to freely express your emotions. He said nothing, just pulled his boyfriend closer, kissing the top of his head, nuzzling his lips and nose into his blond hair.
“Let it out, selle, let it out. It’ll all be okay. Somehow I just know it will.”
Jerrod was back to get Roger at 8:00 am, and then they headed over to pick up Eric and Kim and head for Timberline. It was the first time they’d be skiing together this winter, and all were excited. Eric made a point of telling Jerrod he’d have to take it easy on the rest of them since they were more like casual skiers, not a racer like him. He promised not to embarrass them. It turned out that they’d all skied enough that they were competent skiers, and Jerrod was happy to dial it back and match their pace. There was a high cloud deck, but it wasn’t snowing, so it was a pleasant first day on the mountain.
Sometime in the early afternoon they were starting to get back into the line for the Magic Mile lift when two guys cut in front of them. It was Matt Willis and his buddy. “Oh look, it’s the fags from school. All four of them. So, are you guys all hanging out together all Christmas break, doing your gay stuff? I’m surprised they let you on the mountain.”
Roger said softly to Jerrod, “Ignore him. You told me he was a jerk.”
Jerrod smiled back and then looked at Matt and said, “Maybe someday we’ll get to test it side by side on a GS course. Think you could handle it, big guy? You could bring your buddy along if you need moral support or something.”
Matt gave him a disgusted look and said, “In your dreams, fag. See you on the mountain, or hopefully not.” They moved ahead in the line and Eric said, “What was that all about?”
“Just the two homophobes on the ski team, is all.”
Roger added, “They’ve been harassing Jerrod since ski team training started.”
“Why don’t you report them?”
“Because it could screw up the ski team. Anyway, they’re stupid and jerks, so I just try to ignore them.”
“You think you could beat him in a GS race, like you challenged him?”
“Actually, yes. He’s bigger and heavier than me, and he’d win on a vertical downhill course. But he’s not that good when it comes to courses where he can’t just plow down the mountain. Anyway, let’s ignore them and enjoy our couple of runs.”
They did, and Jerrod had Eric and Kim home before 6:00 PM, and said he’d pick them up at the same time the next morning. They had a pleasant dinner and recounted the day’s skiing to David and Jackson. David said the term at Lewis & Clark was over now, too, but as Dean of Students, David still had plenty to do to prepare for the winter quarter, and Jackson planned on taking some vacation days the following week and driving up to visit JC in Seattle.
They washed the dishes and chatted a little longer, then Jerrod gave Roger the high sign and then said they were going to their room to listen to music and probably get to sleep early.
Jackson wiggled his eyebrows and said, “No doubt your legs are feeling it after the first day of skiing. I’m sure you’ll just climb into bed and fall right to sleep.”
“Well, we’re going to take showers and clean up, and then, you know, relax and well… you know! We’ll see you in the morning!”
Jerrod showered first, and was lying on the bed with just a towel around his waist when Roger came in from his shower. His blond hair was still damp, and hanging limply around his head. Jerrod looked up and smiled.
“What a beautiful sight. Shake your head for me. I love it the way your hair moves when its wet and the water drops flip off it in the light.”
Roger did, and Jerrod’s smile widened. Their eyes met, and Jerrod saw Roger lick his lips and then untie the towel from his waist and drop it on the floor as he stepped to the foot of the bed and lay down between Jerrod’s legs. He stroked the calves and thighs, and said softly, “Nice legs. Especially up here,” and ran his hands up under Jerrod’s towel to settle his fingertips in the crease of each thigh just above his balls. He grinned up at his boyfriend.
Jerrod just smiled back and blew him a kiss. Roger’s fingers circled up into Jerrod’s pubes and began softly stroking around the base of Jerrod’s cock.
“You could help me out,” he whispered softly, “by opening that towel up.”
Jerrod flipped the towel open, and Roger slowly stood the now hardening cock up.
“Look what I found! And it looks lonely, like he didn’t get any attention yesterday.” With one movement he moved further up the bed and took Jerrod’s cock in his mouth. He sucked and stroked with his tongue a few times, and then came off and looked Jerrod straight in the eyes. “This is for yesterday. Thanks again for being so great and making me feel so great. I love you.”
Jerrod blew him another kiss, and then gasped as Roger slid down the length of his cock and he felt totally engulfed.
It was early afternoon the next day, and the weather had cleared to high clouds that gave a sense of open expanse on Mt. Hood. The boys had had another great day of skiing together, just having fun working their way through small patches of bumps, repeatedly taking a couple of small but totally enjoyable jumps to see who could get the most air, running a couple of steep sections as though they were racing, and having an all-around good time. After lunch, Roger and Jerrod were skiing side by side, with Eric and Kim behind them when it happened. Roger lifted and arm and came to a stop, then slid to the side of the run. Jerrod followed him, almost knowing what was happening.
He slid up next to Roger and put his arm around his shoulders as he said, “Are you having one?”
Roger nodded and pushed his goggles up. “I better sit down.”
Jerrod leaned down and released his bindings and said, “Step off the skis, then I’ll move them around so you can sit on them.” He did, as Eric and Kim slid up and stopped behind them.
“Roger’s having one of those visual events. Be cool. It shouldn’t last long, okay?”
Jerrod released his own bindings and stuck his skis upright in the snow after he stepped out of them, and then squatted down in front of his boyfriend.
“Is it like usual,” he asked carefully.
“It was the bright spots when it started, and it’s on the right side again, but now it’s gone black. I can’t see anything out of that eye.” Jerrod stood up and walked around behind Roger and knelt down, putting his arm around his torso and said, “Lean back on me and relax. Maybe it’ll help.”
Roger leaned back and stretched out his legs. Eric asked what they could do, and Jerrod said. “We’ve all just got to wait. It usually just last three or four minutes. Just you guys being here helps, right, Roger?”
Roger extended a hand to Eric and said, “Thanks, man. Sorry to screw up the skiing.”
Eric grasped his hand and said, “No worries,” and Kim leaned over and put a hand on Roger’s shoulder. “We’re here with you, bro.”
Jerrod was watching and trying to judge the time. He was pretty sure two minutes had passed when he felt Roger roll slightly onto his left side and relax back into his arms. Then he felt the twitching. It was Roger’s right arm twitching slightly within Jerrod’s arms. He involuntarily tightened his grip, wanting to control it, and then he looked down and could see Roger’s right leg slightly twitching, too. He didn’t know what to make of it, but he decided not to say anything right them. No point in freaking them all out, especially if it would all resolve in a minute or two. What he could also feel, though, was that Roger was slumped against him like he was asleep.
He quickly looked down and saw that his eyes were closed, and noted this was the first time he hadn’t been fully conscious through the whole event. Then Roger’s eyes fluttered and opened as the twitching came to a stop. He glanced at Eric and Kim and could see the strain on their faces even though they were grimly smiling.
In another minute Roger blinked his eyes and shook his head slightly, and began to sit up as Jerrod relaxed the embrace. He looked around, and then quietly said, “It’s gone. I can see out of that eye again.”
Jerrod hugged him tight and kissed the top of his head, saying, “I’m so glad, selle.”
He felt himself relax and looked at Eric and Kim. “It usually takes a few more minutes before he feels normal again. Are you cool with that?”
They both nodded, and Jerrod said, “We should probably call it a day. He usually feels kind of spacey for a while so he shouldn’t be skiing.”
They both grinned at him. “No worries, Jerrod. Whatever we need to do.”
Jerrod had seen a red jacket approaching behind Eric and Kim and said, “First thing we’ll need to do is deal with this Ski Patrolman. We’ll just tell him Roger had a migraine and it’s clearing, alright? No big deal. Then we’ll head down.”
That’s what they told Ski Patrolman, who asked if they had migraine meds, which reminded Jerrod to find Roger’s pills and make him take one. The patrolman confirmed that Roger could safely ski down on his own, and then skied off. Five minutes later they slowly skied down to the Timberline parking lot and went into to use the bathroom before the drive home. Jerrod let Kim and Roger get ahead and go in first and pulled Eric up.
“I’ve got to ask. Did you see the twitching in his arm and leg?”
“Yeah. I didn’t see it at first, it wasn’t that major, but I saw it. I didn’t want to say anything right there. Why?”
“It’s the first time it’s happened. We need to talk about this with him when we get in the Cherokee. Is that cool with you?”
“Yeah, whatever you think we need to do.”
“My worry is that he doesn’t know it happened. We need to make sure he understands and doesn’t just blow it off. Thanks, man. Let Kim know, okay?”
They all got Cokes on the way out, and when they were loaded into the Cherokee, Jerrod started it up to run the heater and then turned in his seat to face Roger who was in the passenger seat. Roger glanced over curiously.
“Selle, we’ve got to talk before we start driving.”
Roger was quiet, his eyes wide, but his expression wasn’t resistant. “If you say so.”
“There was something new when you had that event. It wasn’t just visual, like with the flashing spots and going black in you right eye. After that you leaned back on me like you went out.”
Roger’s eyes widened. He looked over the seat-back and at Eric and Kim.
“That’s what happened.”
Jerrod reached over and stroked Roger’s chin. “And then your right arm and right leg twitched a little bit.”
“Really? What’s that about?”
“We don’t know, but we all saw it, and if you were out for a minute, we figured you wouldn’t know about it. It’s what happened. It was new. This was different. Right guys?” He glanced into the back seat.
Kim reached forward and put both hands on Roger’s shoulders. “It’s what happened, man. It didn’t look like anything major, but Jerrod’s right. You need to know it happened.”
Roger was quiet and turned to look out the windshield at the hood of the car parked in front of them.
Finally, he said, “Fuck! One more bad thing. It keeps getting a little worse every week or two.” He fell silent again, with Kim rubbing his shoulders and Jerrod holding his left hand. After a minute he said, “But I’m not doing what I did last time, meaning the whole self-pity thing. Jerrod’s too cool to tell you but I dumped on him big time two days ago, and he didn’t flinch. My Mom heard me doing it and ripped me a new one for treating my boyfriend so badly. Anyway, I’ve got the best boyfriend and I’ve got the best friends in you guys, so thanks for being here for me. I know you’ll help me out and help me get through it.”
He wiped his eyes and turned to Jerrod. “What’s next, liebling?”
“We drive back to town, and when I take you home, we tell your parents what happened. We agreed no secrets, right?”
Roger nodded his head, and as they pulled out of the parking lot, Jerrod made a comment about the quality of the skiing, and though it was forced, they kept a light conversation going all the way back to Sellwood. Roger fell asleep at one point, but seemed refreshed when he woke up twenty minutes later. When they dropped Eric and Kim off, Jerrod said they probably wouldn’t see them till Christmas Day with his parents coming into town that night. Eric and Kim walked around to the passenger window, and when Roger rolled it down, they both put a hand on Roger’s shoulder and said, “It’ll be okay, if you need us to do anything, just let us know. Hang in there, bro. You’re the best.”
Roger’s Mom was cheery and busy cooking dinner when they walked in the kitchen. They all said hello, answered a quick question about the skiing, and then Roger asked “Is Dad here? We all need to talk.”
His Mom’s eyes widened, and she nodded and said, “Just a moment,” and went to call down the hall. Roger’s Dad followed her back into the kitchen, where they all sat down at the table. “I had another event this afternoon while we were skiing, out of the blue. It started the same way, and then something new happened.” He looked at Jerrod asking with his eyes that he take over.
“I had him sit down on his skis since we were on a run, and then knelt down behind him so he could lean back on me. He told us it started with the same flashing spots, and then turned black in his right eye, but then after he’d leaned back on me, he kind of sagged and turned sideways and his eyes closed, and then there was some twitching in his right arm and his right leg. We’re not trying to freak you out, but we all agreed we’d be totally honest. There wasn’t a lot, you had to be close to see it, but it was there. Eric and Kim saw it, too.”
He stopped to let the parents process, and then Roger’s Dad took his hand and said, “Were you aware of this?”
“No, they had to tell me. When we got in the Cherokee before we drove home, they had a talk with me to make sure I knew what happened. I don’t remember any of it.”
Roger’s Mom was quiet, but her brow was furrowed, and finally she said, “I’m calling the specialist at the clinic tomorrow for an appointment to get you back in there as soon as possible.”
“Tomorrow’s Christmas Eve, then the holiday weekend. How’s that going to work?” Jerrod asked.
“Probably not well. I probably won’t get an appointment till next week, but at least we’re starting.” She turned to Roger, “How are you feeling now, schatzy?”
“Back to normal. I took a nap in the car, and woke up feeling normal. I didn’t get a headache, but maybe that’s ‘cause I took the migraine pill while we were still on the mountain. It was three days from the last time, so that seems to be the cycle.”
“I know. I’ve been hoping all day it didn’t happen, so you would have a fun day skiing. Okay, I’ll call tomorrow. We’ll try not to get overly concerned at present. Tomorrow you will take it easy, especially if you’re going to have dinner with Jerrod and his parents. Then we’ll all hope for a pleasant Christmas.” She looked at her husband with a wan smile.
Jerrod stood up and stepped behind her, saying, “We’ll stay on top of this. You try and get the appointment, and I’ll talk to my Mom tomorrow and see what she thinks.” He reached around her shoulders and gave her a hug. “You’re all coming to our house for Christmas, so you can talk to my Mom, too. We’ve all just got to hold together till we know exactly what’s happening and what to do.”
Roger’s Dad stood up and gave him a hug as he started for the door, saying softly in his ear, “Thanks for being there for our boy. You don’t know how much it means to us. That he can do normal things and you’re always there for him.”
Jerrod felt a huge flush of emotion, but knew he couldn’t show it in front of Roger right then, so he hugged the man back, and then put his arm around Roger’s waist and said, “Come on, selle. Walk me out to the Cherokee.”
“You’ll probably be tired tonight from the skiing and the event, so get a good night’s sleep. I’ll leave you alone, though what I really want to do is molest you some more.” He pulled Roger tight and kissed the side of his face. “Sleep well, selle. I’ll call you in the morning.”
“Love you, liebling. Thanks for being my lifesaver!”
Dinner was going on the table when he got home, and David said, “We were starting to worry since you’re late.”
“I know, and I should have called. I’m still not used to having a mobile phone. Sorry. Roger had another event. Let me clean up and I’ll tell you guys.”
He related all the details and the new parts over dinner, and David said, “The loss of consciousness and twitching sounds ominous. I bet your Mom will tell you tomorrow it has nothing to do with migraines. Tomorrow, I’ll call my former student from Lewis & Clark, the one I told you about who’s the emergency medicine doc at OHSU. They see lots of different types of conditions in the ER. I’m betting he has some suggestions.”
Jackson, who’d been cautious about them opening their own medical discussion concerning a teenager for whom they weren’t guardians or parents agreed. “This new stuff doesn’t sound good. If Roger can’t get an appointment for a week or more because of the holidays, that makes me uncomfortable.”
The next day, Jerrod’s Mom called to check in around lunch time, and said that even though it was Christmas Eve day, his Dad had a few phone calls to make about pending cases, and they wouldn’t be able to visit in the afternoon, but would all meet before dinner. He told her about Roger’s event the day before and the new symptoms. She was quiet at first, and then said, “Losing consciousness and twitching are not usual parts of the symptoms of migraine syndrome. What are Roger’s parents doing?”
“Trying to get an appointment ASAP with the headache specialist he saw ten days ago. That’ll probably not be till next week, though. David said he’d talk to a former student who’s an emergency doc at the university hospital and see what he thinks.”
“I think that’s a good idea. The more eyes we get on this the better. Some of these symptoms just don’t fit. I’ll try and call my neurosurgeon friend at work, and maybe I’ll have some new information for you at dinner. What time are you all coming down?
“It’s the same seafood restaurant we went to before, and David made the reservation for 6:30 ‘cause you’re still on East coast time. Is that okay?” Since it was only two blocks from the hotel, they agreed to meet a few minutes early for the walk.”
Jerrod met Sean and his Mom at Oaks Bottom Park in the afternoon, and they had their usual work and retrieving drill. He explained that Roger wasn’t feeling well and couldn’t make it today, but that didn’t blunt Sean’s enthusiasm and he was as animated as ever. The rain was light, and eventually they were all starting to get wet and decided it was time to quit. Jerrod told her about the session the previous Sunday at the Children’s hospital and thanked her again for seeing the sign and suggesting Kaiser would be a good therapy dog. “Roger and I love doing the work and everyone is really impressed with Kaiser. We’re waiting for our schedule and are hoping it’s on Sundays since I’ll be ski racing on Saturday. Oh, guess what? Jackson say’s we should call ourselves Team Kaiser. Pretty cool, eh?”
When they all walked into the hotel lobby, Jerrod’s parents were already waiting, and Jerrod hugged both of them as Roger watched. They said hello to David and Jackson and then turned to Roger. David went out of his way to try and get Julius and Cassie engaged. “You remember Roger Astren from the summer.”
Cassie looked at him with a wide smile. “I certainly do, if I have my facts straight, he is not only a wonderful young man, but also my son’s boyfriend.” She was looking directly at Roger, and continued, “Am I right?”
“If you’re going to call me Ma’am, then I get to give you a hug. It’s good to see you again, Roger.” When she released him, Julius stepped up and extended his hand. “It is good to see you again, Roger. I’m very pleased you chose to join us all for dinner. I’m hearing very positive things about the undertakings you two are involved in.”
They walked the two blocks to the restaurant in light rain. Jerrod joked that unlike back east, at least it wasn’t snowing. “But guess what? It’s snowing up on the mountain. We skied yesterday and the day before with Eric and Kim. And by the way, Dad, the Cherokee is fabulous. Thank you for buying it, and for following Dieter’s suggestion. It’s perfect for the drive we do.”
“I’m glad it worked out so well. I will have to call Dieter and thank him personally.”
They settled into a table and Julius handed the wine list to David. “You’re the local expert.” He ordered a good bottle of Pinot Noir and one of Pinot Gris, and after they ordered their meals, started discussing school, the mock Macbeth trial, finals and the grades they expected to receive…everything but Roger’s condition. Julius said, “You know, you told me you lost the Macbeth case, but I don’t believe you ever told me quite how that happened.”
Jerrod grinned. “I can laugh about it now, but it was kind of painful at the time. Like I told you, I was the defense attorney, and Roger was the High Court Judge. I told you the only way I could see to get him off was the insanity plea, and I was able to convince Macbeth and his wife about it. But there was one little problem. One little detail I didn’t think of.”
He squeezed the back of Roger’s hand and nodded his way for him to continue. “In Jerrod’s defense, he was born and raised in the US, and grew up with you, an American attorney as his father. He fell into the trap I probably would have, too, namely the jurisdiction. He was thinking the standard American constitutional right of being innocent until proven guilty. However, the crime was in Scotland, and England’s law says guilty until proven innocent. So, when Macbeth pled guilty, I had no choice but to sentence him to death.” Roger almost winced as he said it, and had placed his hand on top of Jerrod’s, and gave it a soft squeeze. Cassie was watching all of it, the hand contact and how seamlessly they had handed the parts of the conversation off to each other.
Julius sat quietly thinking, and then said, “I’ll be damned. I should have thought of that and pointed it out to you. My failure.”
“No, Dad. It’s on me. I should have done more research. I had Jackson’s encyclopedia set, but it was an English Lit class, so it’s not like there was a big emphasis on legal systems or anything. Anyway, it was a good learning experience for all of us about not assuming stuff.” He looked at Roger and then said, “I was totally bummed, but Roger told me to lighten up and get over it.”
Cassie cleared her throat and said, “Okay, you guys, we need to talk about the elephant in the room. I tried to call the neurosurgeon I spoke to previously, but he’s off for a few days for Christmas. I did speak to another doc, a neurologist, and he agreed that the twitching and momentary loss of consciousness are certainly not typical of migraine syndrome. He recommended a neurological work up. What’s the status on this end?”
Roger looked at her and said, “Mom was able to get an appointment with the headache specialist, but it’s not till late next week.”
Jerrod jumped in, “That’s the internal medicine doc who specializes in headaches. He’s not a neurologist.”
“Well, at least you have an appointment for a follow up. Much of medicine is based on referrals, so it would be the appropriate approach, and if this headache doctor isn’t clear about what to do then he should refer, and you and your Mom should be asking for a referral to a neurologist. I don’t know what that work up would include, but it seems to be the logical next step. Your parents are joining us tomorrow for Christmas, right? I’ll talk to your Mom about it all then. Is that agreeable with you?”
“Well, yeah. Of course, but why are you asking me? It’s not like you need my permission.”
“Roger, it’s your life. It’s your body and your condition. You may be Jerrod’s boyfriend, but that doesn’t give me the right to barge in and tell you or your parents what to do. So, I am asking you if it’s agreeable with you?”
Roger’s eyes lit up, realizing that something new had just taken place in their relationship and how Jerrod’s Mom, at least, viewed him. “That would be great. Thanks.”
David and Jackson had remained quiet, letting the conversation take place between the boys and Jerrod’s parents. Into the silence that followed, David said, “I spoke to my former student who’s an ER doc at OHSU this afternoon. He concurred with the observation you made, that loss of consciousness and twitching aren’t normal parts of migraine syndrome. He also said that if a person presented at his ER with those symptoms accompanying onset of migraine, he’d stabilize and make sure the appropriate migraine meds were being administered, and then recommend a referral to a neurologist for a workup.”
Cassie nodded, and Jerrod said, “That’s confirming.”
“It is. Everyone we’ve talked to is saying the same thing. He also said that if you and your Mom run into any resistance, to remind you that you are within your rights to request a referral, and if the headache doc doesn’t have one, he’d be happy to recommend a few.”
“Wow. Thanks, David. Mom and I were beginning to worry it could be some headache dead end or something.”
“And, while we’re talking about all this stuff,” Jerrod added, “the troubling thing all the way through this is that their family doctor and the headache doc didn’t take seriously that all the symptoms are in one eye only. And always on the same side.” He looked at his Mom. “The first thing you told me was migraines always show up in both eyes because of how it works, the contraction in the…what do you call it, the covering over the brain?”
“The dura mater. And you are right, it covers the entire brain, so when it contracts it effects the whole brain. That piece has troubled me, too. I’ve seen some misdiagnoses in my day. One was a patient with a torn retina who had lots of black dots and even a scintillating scotoma, but the family doc missed the fact that they only appeared in one eye and treated it as a migraine. Fortunately the doc did refer to an ophthalmologist for a check- up, but it took a week for the patient to get there, and when he did as soon as the ophthalmic exam was over the eye doctor said, “You have a large tear in your retina. It has to be repaired now or you risk a complete detachment.’ They did the laser procedure later that day.”
She paused and reached over and took one of each boy’s hands in hers and added, “I’m not trying to scare you or anything like that. I’m just confirming that I think your hunch about the one eye versus two is correct. Misdiagnoses do happen. Now, what say we order dessert and turn the conversation onto sweeter subjects.”
Everyone gathered at David and Jackson’s around 1:00 PM with a target for a 2:00 PM dinner. They were preparing their usual Christmas dinner, which centered on a Serrano ham from Spain. It was the whole bone-in ham, cured for ten months, and both tender and delicious. David had fallen for it years before, and it had become their Christmas dinner center piece. It was accompanied by roasted Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes and butternut squash, and followed by pecan pie.
While the boys cleared the table and helped put away the leftovers, David insisted that Roger’s and Jerrod’s parents adjourn to the living room and talk. He looked at Roger’s Mom and said, “I know you’ve got the same questions and concerns we all have. Cassie is a nurse, and she probably won’t have all the answers, but she’s spoken to doctors that she knows, and she is a health care professional, so go have a frank conversation. We’ll do the kitchen stuff and then join you in a little while.”
When David, Jackson and the boys walked in a bit later, the parents looked up and smiled. Roger’s Mom said, “Thanks for sending us in here to talk. It was a great help. I feel so much more secure being able to talk to someone who understands medical conditions and who’s also a Mom and knows what I’m going through.”
The gift exchange was subdued, and Roger and Jerrod had asked Will to make the purchase for them, and they gave David a bottle of good single malt Scotch, and Jackson a good quality Bourbon. Jackson commented that it would be improving the quality of the Manhattan’s he mixed. They gave both boys a Banana Republic gift certificate, which raised some eyebrows in appreciation.
Roger’s Dad and Julius stepped out of the living room and came back from the study a minute later with two mid-size boxes. “David told me that you’ve been having to schedule time on the computer in his study so you wouldn’t have to stay at school and use the library computers,” Julius said. He glanced at Roger’s Dad.
“Same thing at our house, Roger, where you’re having to compete for time on my computer. Also, I know for a fact that more and more course work will move to computers, so, Julius and I decided to address that problem by buying you both your own laptop computers. There are ink jet printers to go with them.”
“Wow! Dad, that’s so cool, “Roger commented, “but weren’t they really expensive?”
“Not that bad. Remember, I’m on faculty at PSU, so I get the educational discount in our campus bookstore. At any rate, they should improve things for you when it comes to doing reports and such.”
“Also,” Julius added, “the way the internet is advancing, it shouldn’t be long before you’ll be able to use them for online research. You’ll also be able to establish your own email accounts, so it’ll improve communications, too.”
Jerrod walked over and hugged his Dad and whispered his thanks, then hugged his Mom, too. “This is a really neat gift. Thanks. It’ll help a ton with school.”
David put on Handel’s Messiah and the adults kept talking while Roger and Jerrod unpacked their laptop. Before too long, Julius and Cassie took their leave, Roger’s parents headed home, too. Roger was staying over with Jerrod, and they drove down to see Eric and Kim and exchanged gifts and hung out for a while.
When they got back, the order of the evening was left-overs for anyone that was hungry, David and Jackson were watching a movie, and after saying hello they headed to their room to play with their laptops. It had been a festive day, like it was supposed to be, and they lay together talking softly about it, and especially how well their parents seemed to be getting along together, and how accepting they’d become of Roger.
“Why are you surprised,” Jerrod whispered in his ear, “I knew it was only a matter of time before those innocent blue eyes and lovely blond hair would work its magic, even on my Dad. I know my Mom thinks you’re pretty cool.”
“I couldn’t believe it when she just came out and said we were boyfriends. And then hugged me like that.”
“I’m guessing it surprised my Dad, too. He’s usually into downplaying stuff and not talking about it, but Mom’s calling it like it is. I think that means Dad’s come around and she’s just leading the charge.” He paused and nuzzled Roger’s neck, licking up to his ear and slipping his tongue into it. “Speaking of leading the charge, I can think of a charge I’d like to lead.”
Roger giggled and turned to kiss him back as he slid a hand into Jerrod’s briefs, cupping his closest buttock and pulling him close. “I’m up for that kind of charge. Let’s go take a shower and get clean and see what we can do. Maybe we can both get a charge off.”
Saturday, the boys helped clean up after breakfast, and then chipped in with the other weekly chores. They were both doing the laundry, putting a second load into the dryer and starting to fold the dry sheets they’d just taken out. Jerrod giggled and Roger looked over at him, asking, “What?”
“When we have our own place, this is what we’ll be doing one day per week. Won’t that be cool? I mean our own place, not the laundry.”
“Yeah, it will. But it’s also pretty cool here, too you know.” He grinned and then added, “I know it can’t continue. At some point we’ve got to go do our thing, right? Like maybe at college.”
“Yeah, there’s college. We’ll have to start thinking about that pretty soon.”
They left about 11:30 to meet Jerrod’s parents for lunch, and then the plan was to bring them back to the house, where Roger’s parents would join them, and all of them would go for a winter walk at Oaks Bottom Park. Because of the light rain, they drove both the Cherokee and the Durango to the parking area near the Willamette River. They took a leisurely walk north on the trail along the river, admiring the Christmas lights from across the water. At the north end the trail turned east to cross the park and then south back to the parking area. One side of the street was the park with sidewalk and across the street the houses that started the Sellwood neighborhood.
They got about two blocks south when Jerrod said to everyone, “This is where we found Kaiser.” He leaned over and rubbed his head and asked, “Do you recognize the street, buddy boy?” Kaiser glanced up but wasn’t fazed, and kept on walking down the sidewalk.
The boys and Kaiser were out front, and Jerrod was holding Roger’s hand, and a block later he felt his hand squeezed and Roger stop walking. He heard his boyfriend say, “Oh fuck, here we go!” He turned to Jerrod and said, “I’m getting one.”
“Do you want to stop or keep walking?”
“I don’t want to be the center of fucking attention, that’s what I don’t want. What should we do?”
“What is it now, flashing lights? Can you walk safely when your right eye goes black?”
“Yeah, flashing now. I don’t know. Probably better to stop.”
Jerrod squeezed his hand and then said, “there’s a bench down there before we get to the end of the block.” When they got to the bench, Jerrod stopped Kaiser and whispered, “Sit down, selle.”
He turned to the adults and said, “Roger’s getting a visual event. It started with the flashing lights, and his right eye just went black. He needs to sit down till it clears up.”
Roger’s Mom sat down on his right side of him, saying, “Schatzy, what can we do?” Cassie sat on his left side. Jerrod was standing in front of Roger with two men to either side of him.
Roger glanced at his Mom and meekly said, “I’m sorry to screw things up.”
“Schatzy, you’re not screwing things up. It just happens, and we’re all together here for you.” She stroked the side of his face and he turned to look at her. “I can’t see you out of my right eye, but I know that hand.” He tried to turn a little on the bench to see his Mom with his left eye, but instead his torso sagged back against Cassie’s shoulder. She instinctively raised her arm to brace him as his Mom said, “Roger, are you alright?”
He didn’t answer and she said, “His eyes just closed, like he went to sleep.”
Cassie said, “Stand up, and let’s lay him flat on the bench.” They did and she knelt next to his head and leaned close to his face. “He’s breathing normally, but he’s temporarily lost consciousness like last time.”
The men had stepped back to make space, understanding that Cassie was in charge, and watching the events unfold.
Roger’s Mom gasped, and then they all saw Roger’s right arm and leg start to twitch.
“That happened last time,” Jerrod said, “but it only lasted a minute.”
Cassie put her hand on his forehead, “His skin feels normal, and he’s still breathing normally.
That’s when the twitching intensified, as if the right side of his body was trying to jerk independently of the left. Cassie dropped to her knees and slipped an arm under Roger’s shoulders and pulled him up against her so his head wouldn’t flop. “Roger. Roger, darling. Can you hear me? We’re here. We’re all here waiting for you. Can you hear me?” She was holding his chin with her free hand so his head wouldn’t move.
Roger didn’t make a sound but in fifteen or twenty seconds the jerking motion settled back to twitching and then stopped. His breathing had increased in correspondence with the work his body had been doing, but then it settled back to normal and they all watched his eyes flutter and then open.
“Thank God,” Cassie said, and stroked Roger’s hair off his forehead. “Roger, can you hear me?”
He nodded his head. “Can you see me, darling,” she said?
He nodded again and then slowly said, “I can see again in that eye. It’s all back. Am I okay?”
“You are. We’re all right here, you just take your time coming back. Don’t rush. There’s no need for you to move till you feel completely back to normal.” She kissed his forehead, and Roger’s Mom knelt down beside him. “Schatzy, are you back? Do you really feel okay? You had us scared for a minute.”
Roger swallowed and then said softly, “I’m sorry. I couldn’t help it. I can’t control it. It just happens and always at the worst times. It totally…” he let the sentence die as his Mom and Cassie comforted him. When he felt good enough to sit up a couple of minutes later, Cassie said to David and Jackson, “He shouldn’t walk for a while. You two should go get the cars and we’ll drive him home.”
They were back in five minutes and Roger was carefully helped into the front seat of the Cherokee, and the Burgoynes climbed into the Durango with Jackson and David, and Kaiser behind the back seat, and they drove both vehicles to Roger’s house. By the time they arrived Roger felt recovered enough to walk on his own into the house. Cassie said out loud, “If Roger is up to it, we need to talk. If not, then Jerrod should take him down to his room so he can rest, and we’ll talk.”
They all looked at him and he said, “I feel a little out of it, but it happened to me. I want to be part of the talk.”
“Good. I like that spirit. You’re a brave young man.”
They all sat down in the living room and Cassie took Roger’s hand and then looked at everyone else. “What we just saw happen was difficult and disturbing. I have to tell you that from what I know, it wasn’t a migraine. What Roger just had was a mild grand mal seizure.”
“Seizure?” Jerrod gasped, “you mean like in epilepsy.”