The sweat beaded up on my forehead, upper lip, and back; coalescing into larger droplets in the small of my back, sliding slowly, with imperceptivity, allowing gravity to carry them down, where, encountering the waist band of my boxer shorts, soon wicked it full and commenced withering its way to my ass crack to settle damply on my very tensed pucker. Squirming in the seat I occupied in the very back of the lecture hall, I looked again at my class schedule, breathed deeply in and out trying to relieve my anxiety, and looked again, knowing full well it would read “Money and Banking – 101 – Dr. George Robbins.” I shook my head in dismay and viewed once more the apparition ensconcing himself behind the wooden lectern at the front of the hall.
This wasn’t right; I needed this class – it was required for completion of my accounting major! Somehow, during all of the confusion surrounding everything that happened in my freshman year, I failed to take “Money and Banking 101” at the branch of the University System I attended in my home town. Living at home not only saved me money, allowing me to work a part-time job, but also let me help Momma around the house.
This class, this one I desperately needed if I was going to graduate at the end of this semester in January, was generally taken by freshmen and sophomores, sometimes juniors but rarely seniors! I’d already been promised employment once I received my degree and certification as a Certified Public Accountant. My advisor and mentor, Dr. Henderson, sorting through my credits, checking to see all was in order for my graduation, looked at me across his desk, raised his eyebrows in questioning and asked, “Jason, how in the world did you not take ‘Money and Banking’?”
I was dumbfounded, shell-shocked, double-fucked, if you know what I mean! I just shook my head, not really answering, but acknowledging I’d screwed up.
“What do I do now?” I asked anxiously.
“Enroll,” was his simple answer.
While in his office, I tried to enroll, but all the sections were full. I gave him a disgusted look, excused myself, and walked over to the Registrar’s Office, Class Enrollment desk, and there, a very nice lady informed me, indeed all sections were full, but I could be placed on a waiting list for the next semester. Waiting list for a lower level class; nonsense! I was a senior, waiting to graduate at mid-year, needing a 100 level class. Granted, I was twenty-five years old and had taken six years to get to this point, but I wanted, I needed that diploma! I’d been through too much to be foisted aside at this point. It’s not as if I was a bad student or lazing my way through the University; I was salutatorian of my high school class, received several scholarships, and living at home and working, I could do it!
My goal was to graduate with a degree in Accounting and become a certified public accountant like Daddy was before he got sick but, as they say, “Many’s the slip twixt the cup and the lip” and the situation changed. We started noticing him become more and more forgetful and Daddy was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Now residing in a nursing home, he sometimes recognized me as someone he should know, but most of the time he didn’t.
Questioning the lady concerning the waiting list, she answered, “Oh, yes; we’ve had to close and limit many sections of our classes this year. With all of the budget cuts to the University system from the state, we just don’t have the money to accommodate all of the needs and wants of our students.”
Handing me an ink pen and a piece of paper, she continued, “Just sign here and date it. This is the waiting list we’ve started and will let you know when you can enroll in the class.”
Well now, I didn’t fall off of the turnip truck on the way to the market, as my Daddy often said, so I requested to petition into the class! She raised her eyebrows, lowered her voice, and in a hushed tone, “You have to see her,” pointing her finger ostensibly toward a wizened, skinny, bony looking woman about four desks down, “and she can be somewhat of an obstacle at times.”
Obstacle, my ass, she was a roadblock, a mountain unwilling to be moved, a reluctant participant in the educational process, and looked at me as though I were a complete idiot when I requested a class petition form. She scrunched up her eyebrows, scanned me rather spuriously, grunted a couple of times as if she were trying discharge something lodged in her lower bowel, pushed herself back from her desk, spun her office chair around, pulled open a drawer in a filing cabinet, retrieved a yellow piece of paper, and thrust it across the desk at me.
“Fill it out,” she instructed giving me a look like I could never complete the task since it was beyond my comprehension, “return it and you’ll be notified when you can appear before the appropriate department chair or dean to plead your case.”
I lifted the paper from her desk, smiled, saying a simple “Thank You” and left the office before I committed mayhem and ended up as a jail inmate instead of a university graduate.
After filling out the petition form, I carried it to Doc Henderson for his signature and requested he appear with me before the Department Chair, Dr. George Robbins and he agreed to do so; thank God! Doc Henderson was such a help over the years, I would’ve been lost without him; his advice, and his insight into the ways of man helped me in so many ways. He set up the appointment for me and on the day it was scheduled, walked with me down the hall to the Department Chair’s office.
We were greeted by a smiley, giggly secretary effusing hospitality, obviously infatuated with Doc Henderson.
“Dr. Robbins is waiting for you,” she gurgled, somewhat romantically, patronizing, flirtatiously, as if it would do any good! She didn’t know what I knew; Doc Henderson was a bent as an Irish shillelagh!
Doc Henderson and Dr. Robbins were old friends and, with very little persuasion on my part, after Doc Henderson explained the unusual circumstances concerning my failure to register for the class and the necessity to secure a place in it, concluding with what a “wonderful young man” I was, Dr. Robbins approved the petition.
“No problem,” he said to me, “I’m teaching the class, so one more student such as yourself will make little impact. You’re consistently on the Dean’s List and considering your circumstances, that’s something to be proud of. Hell, you could probably teach the class better than I anyway.”
That may be all well and good for him to say, but given the situation, I had no choice. Even if I would’ve, I’d still made the same decision; after all, Will was my little brother and I’m really all he has left now. Momma and Daddy began having their family quite late in life. I was born when Momma was forty and forty-eight when Will was born. Momma knew it was pretty late in life to having another child, realizing the possibilities of bringing a child into the world that might be physically or mentally challenged, but it was a chance they were willing to take.
It was not an easy pregnancy for her, but she managed to get through it with Daddy’s and my help. When Will was born, he was a beautiful, dark-haired, black-eyed little baby boy who was a joy to have in the house. I cared for him from the day he came home and do to this day.
Will had all of his fingers and toes and everything seemed to be normal, but things weren’t normal! As he began growing, we noticed he didn’t develop at the same rate as other children; he didn’t crawl or walk as soon as others and his language development was definitely slower. Momma and Daddy recognized and realized something needed to be done and took him to a specialist who treated developmentally or mentally challenged children or children with special needs. A series of tests were administered and we were informed of what we already knew; Will was mentally challenged, more learning disabled than anything, and would need special education services and programs while in school and probably would always lag behind the other “normal” children. It didn’t mean he couldn’t learn, it would just take more time and patience and repetition. He’d eventually reach his capacity and level off.
We could live with that, Momma, Daddy, and I. We’d take it one day and one success at a time. He was such a joy to have in the house, always as helpful as he could be, always wanting to please and never a discipline problem. If he did do something, I just couldn’t be angry with him because he’d just look at me, smile that lovely smile of his and I’d kiss him, remind him gently of what he should’ve done, forgive him and move ahead. Will was my shadow and I was his best friend.
I was the one who most often changed his diaper, wiped his butt, and powdered his balls when he was little. As he outgrew the diapers, he learned toilet habits from me, patiently explaining to him what to expect, how to tell when, and finally, accompanying me to the bathroom. If I was at home at his bedtime, I’d strip him and plop him in the tub for his bath. Will loved the water; he’d splash and play using a couple of measuring cups and an ice cream pail, pouring water from one to the other and back again; then empty them and start all over again. While he played, he would hum to himself, perhaps some song he’d heard on television or one I’d sing to him and, suddenly becoming aware of my presence, look up at me and smile that wonderful, innocent smile of his!
Will loved having his hair shampooed and would coo relaxingly as I gently worked the suds around in his hair, massaging his scalp with my fingers, and rinsing with warm, clean water. Hair all done, he’d stand in the tub and I’d scrub him from top to bottom, cleaning all of his cracks and crannies and bits and pieces, all the time explaining how important it was for him to keep everything clean. Rinsed, he’d stand while I toweled him dry, wrapped him in his terrycloth robe, and trotted him to his bedroom so we could dress him in his pajamas. After bath, we’d go to the living room where either Momma or I’d read to him until bedtime. Will loved to be read to, listening to the cadence; the rhythms of the flowing words entranced him and held his attention, even if he might not understand everything. He was on one of our laps and all was well in his world!
We laughed one evening when, with hands on his hips, a determined look on his face, and clad only in his little-boy boxer shorts, he declared since “Jay takes a shower, I want to.” Momma looked at me, smiled, tilted her head toward the bathroom, and Will and I headed for his first shower. Turning the water on, while explaining how, and cautioning him about not getting it too hot, I peeled off my clothes; Will wriggled out of his shorts, giggling with excitement. He was going to be a big boy now; he was going to shower! Into the shower we went, a naked teenager and his equally naked little brother.
God, he thought a shower was the greatest thing since ice cream! It took some time, but he soon learned how to turn it off and on and regulate the heat. Cleaning himself was a bit of an effort at first, but he soon was doing a fair job, not the best, but a good start. I still finished him up and he was fine with that.
Whenever he was frightened, when storms kept him awake or other kids teased him on the bus and called him “tard,” he’d come to me, his big brother, for comfort and protection. He just couldn’t understand why other kids would so such a thing; he liked everybody and assumed they liked him. It soon stopped when they discovered he’d just smile at them and seemed to dissolve into his own mind. What they didn’t see was him dissolving into tears in my arms when he got home. Momma’s biggest concern for him was his trusting nature; he was so open and honest and we were wary of others taking advantage of him when we weren’t around. She and I were determined to help him lead as normal a life as possible. Would he ever be able to be completely on his own if we weren’t around? Probably, but only time would tell!
Each night, if I wasn’t working, he’d join me at the kitchen table so we could do “our homework.” I was a good student and really enjoyed school, so homework was no effort for me, but doing it before anything else was a habit I just couldn’t break. Will usually had some little, but important, item for us to review and drill him on, so he’d sit at the table while we did his and mine together. If his was done, he’d help me with mine – well, he thought he was and now, in retrospect, he really was! I’d work the math problems assigned and talk through the process as I committed the problem and answer to paper. Will would nod his approval and scribble something on a piece of paper and wait for the next one. If I had a history or English assignment to read, I put him on my lap and read aloud to him. Honestly, it helped me commit the information to memory and it certainly didn’t hurt Will any either. If he started to dose or get fidgety, I’d close the book, declare “all done” and fix us our evening treat before he went to bed. Once in bed, he’d cover up and lay patiently while I selected a book to read to him. This was one of his favorite times of the day, just before going to sleep, having someone read a story to him.
Will was my biggest fan while I was in high school; attending all of my choir concerts, plays I was in, and would listen with rapture as I played guitar and sang to him when we were at home. If I went to a movie, Will came along; if I wanted a pizza, Will was in attendance with me. How could I leave him home? No way! Momma always instructed, “Will, honey, hold Jay’s hand and stay close so you don’t get lost” and he would. I was his anchor, his lifeline, and best friend!
Momma always said I didn’t have much of a social life and how could I ever meet some nice girl if I spent all of my time with Will. The truth was I didn’t want to meet some nice girl; I wanted to meet some nice guy! I think she knew, but, bless her heart she never said or ever pressured me. Will didn’t care what I was or did in life as long as he was part of it.
My decision to attend the local campus of the University System was based on me living at home so I could help Momma take care of Will and Daddy, plus save us some money. Daddy was not at home, but in a nursing home so I’d care for Will while Momma visited. When I was in high school, we noticed Daddy was forgetting, becoming confused, and was diagnosed with Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. It’s a horseshit disease and steals life from the victim and loved ones combined with a slow death for the stricken one!
I was sort of wishing some sort of “forgetfulness” would happen today as I watched the professor thumb through his class roster preparing for his lecture. He looked up, smiled at the multitudes in front of him as I tried to slink lower in my seat, hoping he would just begin without calling role.
No such luck today, ladies and gentleman.
“Good morning class,’ he intoned, “I’m Dr. Eric Young and for those of you who expected to have Dr. Robbins, I do apologize, but he’s currently recovering from emergency surgery and won’t be teaching this class this semester. If any of you wish to drop the class because of that, you may do so without penalty. I am new to the University system so I hope you will bear with me as I become acquainted with procedures and with you.”
Taking a deep breath, he then said, “In order to know who you are, I’m going to read your name from the roster and, when I read yours, please raise your hand so I can place a face with a name. First, any of you who wish to drop, please come up so I may remove your name from the list and sign your drop slips.”
A number of students milled around the lectern, waiting their turn to scratch their names from the roster and take the class another time. I wish I could, but I really needed this damned class if I wanted to graduate in January, Dr. Eric Young or not! I hoped he failed to recognize me, but I doubted it. As far as becoming acquainted, he couldn’t become anymore acquainted with me or me with him, than we already were; right down to the tickly hair around his dick. Shaking my head in despair, I absent-mindedly toyed with the metal identification bracelet secured around my right wrist. It was identical to one Will wore at all times. It was a result of a really nasty situation that brought it about. No one need call our name in the future to identify us; nope, just call the 800 number on the bracelet.
Thank you for reading “Where there’s Will, There’s a Way” Chapter One - “To live is not to live for one’s self alone.” (Memonder)
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or locales is entirely coincidental or used in a fictional content.
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