The Greatest of These: Chapter 22: Page 1

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Chapter Twenty-two
The Caregiving Heart

"And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing."
~ 1 Corinthians 13:3 ~

Do you like school?" asked Jerome, trying to pass the time as he drove Charlie to her first full day of school in Joshua Tree.

"I do, when I get good grades," smiled Charlie.

Since the other two members of the Overholt family were either unable or unsure about getting behind the wheel, Jerome was left holding the bag-- at least, that's the way he felt about the matter. Yes, he had wanted Charlie to have a good education in a private school; yes, he had to admit that there wasn't one in Twin Yucca! Even so, Jerome felt unfairly pressed into service! The idea of being duty-bound to drive all those miles, to and from school, every single day, made him ill-tempered.

Unlike her uncle, Charlie was in better spirits. Even though she had witnessed Jerome's caustic side a few days previous, she was optimistic that maybe they might get to be good friends. She had never had an uncle until recently, and was looking forward to having a family relationship with her father's older brother. By the look on Jerome's face right now, she knew this was not very likely, but she was willing to give him as much benefit of the doubt as she could muster.

Jerome's sedan dipped as they drove through a dry wash on the road.

"Do you know what line of work you want to go into when you graduate?" he asked, preparing himself for the typical teenage answer of, "I don't know."

"Well," replied Charlie, thoughtfully, "I was going to become a dentist; I was going to take college prep curriculum in high school, major in biology when I attended college, apply to dental school, and do at least one year of residency after I graduate before going into practice." Jerome was pleasantly surprised. His niece had planned her future in accordance to what it would take to achieve her final goal of becoming a dentist.

"You sound like you know exactly what you want out of life," he replied.

"I even started learning Latin because I would need to understand scientific terms in both college and dental school," continued Charlie. "But, with Daddy the way he is, I think I'm going to give that dream up."

"Why?"

"Because, I'd have to have a minimum of five years in college, followed by at least four years in dental school, then a year or two in residency; I can't possibly take care of Daddy and attend classes at the same time. And that's not even counting the many hours I would have to dedicate to studies!"

"Is there any money in dentistry?" ventured Jerome, hating to see this bright "A" student give up a promising future just to care for her father.

"Beginning salary is around a hundred thousand dollars," replied Charlie, "but it doesn't matter, anymore. I'm changing my plans."

"What if," suggested Jerome, "I put Chuck into a nursing home while you attended college and dental school? Then, you could pursue your career without any hindrance."

"I'm going to take care of Daddy!" replied Charlie, resolutely. She tried to hide her shock, from Jerome. How could he even suggest putting Chuck into one of those "death houses?"-- just so she wouldn't be saddled with the responsibility!

Jerome's pencil-mouth spread wide across his face; he was amused by his niece's defiance.

"So, you want to care for your Daddy for the rest of his unnatural life, do you?" he mocked. "You realize, it's my decision when and where Chuck is placed, and not yours." This was true.

Charlie's first impulse was to argue with him over this. But, she sensed that there was a stubborn defiance in him that would only bare down and grow stronger when met with resistance. Charlie didn't know it, but it was the same realization Adam had come to, the first time he had tried to witness to her.

continued on next page...
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