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"My lawyer advised me to protect Charlie by obtaining a legal guardianship. That way, no court could claim that there isn't anyone taking responsibility for the child. It doesn't always happen, but it could."

"You want to be Charlie's legal guardian, also?" exclaimed Chuck, still numb. "Do you want to raise her?"

"I don't want to do anything of the kind!" replied Jerome. "It's only a legal precaution, that's all. According to my lawyer, a guardianship remains in effect until the child turns eighteen, or marries, whichever comes first. How old is she? fifteen?" Chuck nodded. "Well, there you are. It'll only be for three years. It's very temporary." Chuck looked concerned. "I don't like this any more than you do!" exclaimed Jerome. "They're going to do a background check on me, to make sure I don't have any arrests or previous involvement with Child Protection Services! That's one indignity I can do without!"

"Do I have any choice on who Charlie's legal guardian will be?" asked Chuck.

"That's a fine thank you, I must say," grumbled Jerome. "As far as I'm concerned, you're both connected. When I take responsibility of you financially, I am, in effect, taking responsibility for her, also. I don't see how you have much choice. Anything that concerns Charlie, financially, concerns me, legal guardian or not." Chuck still looked unsure. "Look," said Jerome, growing impatient, "I don't want to be Charlie's father. That's not what this is about. She's your kid, and she always will be."

This was the decision that Chuck had never dreamed he would have to make. He had to admit that his financial instability had placed him even deeper into Jerome's clemency, than he had thought possible.

"If I agree, will you promise not to interfere in my raising my daughter, any way I wish?" asked Chuck.

"Gladly," replied Jerome, not eager to take up his brother's mantle of fatherhood.

"I'm trusting you to keep your word," reminded Chuck.

"I'll keep my promise," replied Jerome. "The only time I'll ever interfere in your family affairs is when it concerns money. And that, by the way, has nothing to do with any guardianship. You're sleeping under my roof and eating my food. I have a right to say where and how my money is used. If that's going to stick in your craw, tell me now."

There was no other choice, and if there were, Chuck couldn't think of one. Chuck knew he must trust in God's providence. After all, not everyone had a brother who could assume the burden of one ill, middle-aged man and his teenage daughter. Even with Jerome's belittling attitude, Chuck was fully aware of the fact that God was providing for their needs. This was part of the Lord's promised way of escape, that Chuck and Charlie would be able to bear the financial strain that Early Onset Alzheimer's would cause.

"Charlie and I are very grateful," replied Chuck.

Jerome went about his business as if he hadn't heard his brother. He wasn't doing this out of any benevolent pity; this was a duty that could not be gotten out of-- no, not by this self-righteous man.

"Are you coming back to Dad's room?" asked Chuck, seeing that Jerome had left off speaking.

"I would sooner go to a wake," Jerome breathed under his breath.

"I think Mom is expecting us to come back," continued Chuck, going to the office door. He looked expectantly at Jerome.

"Very well," sighed Jerome, getting up.

Soon after being introduced to her grandfather, Charlie quietly left Arnold's room. His room felt creepy and weird. And besides, the old man that lie in Bed 3 was a stranger to her. The implications of his current mental health had little effect on Charlie. Yes, it looked like there was something wrong with him, but he was old-- not youthful and strong like her father. A lot of the elderly at Mullen-Overholt looked like they had problems. In truth, Charlie had no previous memory of Arnold to compare against his present state. She just couldn't picture her father looking as sickly as Arnold Overholt.
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