Westcott Family Farm

by Nicholas Hall

Chapter 17

"Elected silence, sing to me
And beat upon my whorled ear
Pipe to me pastures still and
Be the music that I care to hear."
(Gerard Manley Hopkins)

It didn't take long for the television crew to load their vehicle and leave. Looking around, Jamie and Eddie still embraced by Mrs. Anderson, I noticed the activity in the berry patch had ground to a halt during Jamie and Eddie's sorrowful confession. I motioned to the crew supervisor, a college student who'd work all summer at the farm, to get things going again. He did so with little fuss and a few words.

"If anyone should ask," informing him of the cause of the disruption, "just explain the boys were upset over a family illness and say no more."

"Jacob," Mrs. Anderson asked, "would it be possible for us to see Janet or is she too ill to receive company? I understand she's at the house."

I could not, would not, refuse this dear lady and caring teacher's request. She'd been an important part of Janet's life and of mine and now was exerting her influences to extend to Janet's children.

"Andy is with her now, along with Jacob Matthew, known as 'Mattie.' He's pretty quiet so don't be surprised if he doesn't say much."

David, hearing my apology on behalf of Mattie, added quickly, "He only talks to Robbie, sometimes Momma, and then not very much."

Mrs. Anderson shot a quick, subtle glance toward her husband who, after so many years of marriage and companionship, assimilated and understand her meaning. After hearing what he'd done for a living, I thought I'd pay close attention to their interaction, if any, with Mattie.

"David and Scott," I asked, "please take Mrs. Anderson's berries to their car so they don't have to bother with them."

She protested they weren't paid for yet, but I quickly squelched declaration by informing her they were but a small down payment for the caring attention she'd given my nephews and for the time she tolerated me in her classroom.

"You've earned more than just these few berries."

Jamie, Eddie, and Scott accepted the offer from Mr. Anderson to ride to the house while David decided to ride on the back of the ATV with me. He settled on the seat, sharing it with me, behind me, secured himself with his arms around my midriff, and we headed toward the house, following the Anderson vehicle.

Andy heard the car and the ATV pull up and stop in front of the house and stepped out to check on who was in the car, since he recognized the sound of the ATV. Meeting us on the porch, he watched quietly as the boys, nodding their greetings, walked by instead of clamoring in as they usually did. He raised a questioning eyebrow toward me.

Shrugging, I said, "I don't know, Andy, if you've ever met Dr. and Mrs. Anderson. She was Janet and my third-grade teacher. Her husband is a retired Professor of Speech Pathology.

Andy smiled, acknowledging he'd never had a formal introduction which made me think, at some point in time, he had a professional relationship with either one or both of them and decided to let them "break the ice."

The relationship was soon established when Dr. Anderson commented, "I wondered where you lived after marriage, Andrew. I haven't seen you for a couple of years. If you remember, you treated me in the ER when I ran a fish hook into one of my fingers."

Andy laughing, remembering the incident, responded, "I remember it well. You were more than just a little irritated, complaining it happened just about the time the crappies were really biting. I suggested some medication to numb the site, but you were not only impatient, but indignant since you thought it'd take some time for it to take effect and wanted to return to the lake. As I recall, in rather colorful language, you demanded I forget the stuff and just get the darned thing out."

"Good thing Mrs. Anderson wasn't in the procedure room," Andy continued, "she might have been slightly offended."

"More than slightly offended," she snorted in return, before turning her attention to Mattie, walking into the room from Janet's bedroom, also wondering who was here.

"Who would this handsome young man be?" she asked, bringing forth a bright smile and blush to Mattie's face. "I'll bet he's the strong, silent type."

"That's our brother, Mattie," Eddie announced proudly.

"And he's awfully smart," Jamie added, "but he doesn't talk much."

"And loves classical piano music," Scottie interjected. "Don't you, Mattie?"

Mattie just nodded and beamed!

"I'll bet you've been here taking care of your mother while your brothers played around in the strawberry patch, haven't you?" Mrs. Anderson said as she stepped forward, taking Mattie's hand in her own, continued, "Now you want me to meet your Momma, right?"

Without giving Mattie a chance to respond, she asked, "Did you know I was your Momma's and Uncle Jacob's third grade teacher? He was sometimes a little rascal, but your Momma was such a nice young lady," and the two of them disappeared into Janet's room.

Following close behind, I heard Janet say, "Mrs. Anderson?"

"Yes, Janet it's me and I've come to say hello to one of my favorite students."

Janet was dressed and seated in the easy chair we brought in so she could sit up, yet, recline if she grew tired. Being bedridden would come soon enough and Andy thought to prolong the on-set as long as he could. Quick as a wink, Mattie, who sneaked in to his mother's side, grabbed a chair so Mrs. Anderson could sit next to his mother so they could visit.

"Why, thank you, Mattie," Mrs. Anderson said. Turning to Janet, "He's such a pleasant and quiet boy."

Janet nodded, glanced toward Mattie, and said, with raised eyebrows, "Remember Freddie Jacobs?"

"I certainly do. Have you ever met my husband? Henry is a retired Professor of Speech Pathology and knew Freddie well."

I'd forgotten all about Freddie Jacobs. He stuttered so bad it was difficult for him to say his first name. It'd come out F-F-F-F-F-Freddie. I realized at that moment, Mrs. Anderson's soft announcement, Dr. Anderson was Freddie's therapist or at least in charge of it. By the time Freddie graduated from high school, his stuttering improved dramatically, not gone, but manageable with his growing self-confidence and coping skills he learned. It didn't take long for people to ignore his speech problem and concentrate on Freddie himself. Mattie didn't realize it at the time, but my Third-Grade teacher just lined up therapy for him, through her husband.

"So far Janet, I've met, David, Scott, Mattie, Eddie, and Jamie. Is that all of your boys?"

"One more, Mrs. Anderson; Robbie, my oldest. He's working out on the farm right now."

"I'll have to meet him. I'm willing to bet he's just as nice and sweet a boy as the others. You've done a fine job with your boys, Janet and a wise one to choose Jacob and Andrew to help them out. They will love your sons beyond your wildest dreams!"

They chatted a few more minutes before Mrs. Anderson apologized for having to leave, saying they had berries to freeze and Janet looked tired. Before she left, she leaned over to Janet, whispering, "Don't worry about Mattie. Henry will work things out and someday he'll be just fine."

Mrs. Boyer arrived early Monday morning, shortly before six-thirty, along with Paul so he could go to work directly from our house. Of course, this pleased Robbie to no end. They soon found each other and settled down at the table, while Robbie ate.

"I wanted to get acquainted with your kitchen," she explained as we visited, "before breakfast time." She looked toward Robbie, chatting with Paul, and eating his breakfast. "But, this morning, you seem to have part of already under control. Any plans for the rest of the crew?' noting Robbie was busy with a couple of eggs and ham, along with toast, jelly, and juice.

"I'm fixing ham and egg inside a toasted muffin for the rest of the boys. It's easy for me to fix ahead of time and keep them warm or reheat when the boys are up and dressed. Janet, my sister, will have a soft-boiled egg, which she enjoys, juice, a piece of toast, a protein drink Andy insists she have, and her medication. Sometimes she eats it all and other times not. I've noticed her appetite diminishing these past few days. She has started to prefer tea instead of coffee, so I have a pot of that ready as well. She's awake now and up, Mattie is brushing her hair, because she likes to see her boys every morning before they go to work or do chores."

Paul and Robbie were snickering softly about something, probably the size of their dicks or something trivial such as what the current government debt was.

"Paul," I asked, "want something to eat as well?"

He hesitated, Robbie smiled a very mischievous smile which sent the message to me, what Robbie wanted to eat or Paul wanted to eat, wasn't necessarily the breakfast I was fixing, but something attached to each of them, loaded with protein when excited to a point of orgasm.

"Nah! Grandma fixed waffles with fresh strawberries on them for me."

It reminded me to check with Lee and Tim and the supervisor of the berry patch crew how close we were to shutting down the U-Pick patch. We had to be close. Usually, once the patch was closed to the public, I'd invite Pastor Rodriquez and his group and another food pantry to come out and glean a field. We'd still keep part of a field in reserve so we could continue to sell our berries in our fruit stand in town, at least as long as they lasted. Anything left then, we'd pick clean and donate to one of the pantries. If we were close, it'd be time to reduce our workforce since we wouldn't need anyone in the patch or be picking large wholesale orders.

"I thought the berry season was about over," I heard Mrs. Boyer say, "so I froze several quarts of berries for us, just in case. We do love them when winter comes. I think it reminds us of summer days. Besides tasting good, they're good for us as well."

Rather than tour the kitchen and our pantry and freezers, I decided to introduce Mrs. Boyer, Rose, to Janet. We walked into Janet's bedroom, after a light knock on the door, and were invited in. Janet was up, in a robe, and sitting in her easy chair. Mattie was just finishing brushing her hair.

"Hi, Mattie!" Mrs. Boyer said in greeting. "My, you do such a marvelous job on your mother's hair. I'll bet you hum something to her from, perhaps Liszt, while you do? Lang Lang loves to play his music. Do you have any recordings by Lang Lang?"

Mattie grinned, nodding his head vigorously.

"Perhaps, someday, if you should ever visit my home, I could play some music for you. Would you like that?"

Again, a broad smile and fast nodding of his head.

It didn't take but a moment for Janet to accept Rose Boyer and appreciate her presence in the house, listening to and observing her conversation with Mattie concerning his taste in music and offering to play for him someday. The broad smile on his face was recommendation in itself. Personally, her interaction and what I'd observed thus far, reinforced my original first impression Mrs. Boyer would be just what our family needed!

She turned to Janet, after her conversation with Mattie, confessing she was a pianist and majored in music in college until her academic career was interrupted raising babies.

"I thought I was done with raising young people, but my husband was killed in an accident and one of my sons died, leaving me to raise his three sons. I don't think you've met the oldest, Paul, yet, but he seems to be great friends with your oldest, Robbie."

"I met him a few days ago," Janet acknowledged, "when he joined the boys for a swim and Robbie introduced him to me."

Our conversation was interrupted by the sounds of feet thundering down the stairs, quickly followed by shouts from David and Scott, returning from doing chores, of "save some for us! We still have to shower."

"Phew!" I heard Jamie drawl. "You all smell like pig shee-it!"

Mattie rolled his eyes, looked down, and smiled shyly, wondering how Mrs. Boyer would take that.

She merely said, "Boys, will be boys," before adding, "I assume, Janet, that's another of your sons?"

With that, before Janet could respond, Eddie and Jamie scooted into the bedroom to greet their mother, as was their practice in the morning and before bed at night. Brakes on, screeching to a halt by the presence of a stranger in the room, they diminished their exuberance to a more subdued, mannerly, demeanor.

"Eddie, Jamie, I'd like you to meet Mrs. Boyer," I said by introduction, "she's to be our new cook so if you want to eat, treat her right."

Both boys responded, in unison, "Good Morning, Mrs. Boyer."

"So I can remember which one is which, please either wave or raise your hand when I repeat your name."

Eddie and Jamie did as was requested, to which she smiled and said "thank you."

"If you would excuse our rudeness, Mrs. Boyer," Eddie continued, "we'd like to greet Momma first before we begin a serious conversation concerning our meals."

I damn near purged, listening to the line of bullshit spilling from his mouth. Granted, they did greet their mother every morning and wish her goodnight before bed, but this "serious conversation concerning our meals," was beyond the pale, so to speak. Not only were my nephews extremely bright, but first-class cons as well.

I felt a finger poke me in the ribs, turned and saw a smiling Mattie, give me a wink.

"You're excused," Mrs. Boyer responded politely, as if someone inadvertently burped or made some other minor social faux pas requiring only a perfunctory response. She turned to me, smiled and said, "Please excuse us, Janet, I'd like to see to the kitchen."

Walking out, I murmured, "There's still two more to go. I can't promise what they'll be like."

"They'll be just fine," Mrs. Boyer responded confidently.

While walking to the kitchen, we discussed meal times; breakfast at seven, lunch at noon, and our big meal at night, dinner at six. With Andy here, most of time, depending on his shift, and Robbie working all day on the Farm, the dinner meal was the one opportunity for us to dine as a family and I thought it was most important to do so. Concerning food likes or dislikes, I told her there was nothing thus far they didn't seem to eat. She did need to know the boys were on their own many times in the past, so fast food was on the menu, and, since they spent their lives in the deep south, hence the accents, they seemed to have a preference for the spicier menu found in many southern cooking recipes. They did enjoy seafood, any kind. I didn't think they'd experienced many beef or pork roasts, casseroles, or other such homemade meals.

"When their mother was at work, Robbie, generally with David's help, fixed the meals and took care of his brothers. You'll notice, if Robbie is gone, David takes over. If David and Robbie are gone, Scott takes over, and so on down the line. They are very loyal and protective of each other."

Entering the kitchen, I noted Robbie and Paul were off to work and Jamie and Eddie followed us, with David and Scott close behind.

"Time for breakfast," I announced and asked Mrs. Boyer to step back and "let things happen."

With a nod from David, a soft word, or wave of a finger from him, the table was set, juice poured, milk in glasses, and the roaster with the breakfast sandwiches on hot pads on the table.

"Fresh berries?" David asked, and several heads bobbed up and down. Jamie had the bowls, Eddie had spoons, and David placed a bowl of fresh, sugared berries on the table. With that, before they sat down, Mattie wheeled Janet into the kitchen in the wheel chair Andy got on loan from Pastor Rodriquez's church.

"My this looks good, boys," she said with a smile. "Please don't wait for me. Have your breakfast." David prepared a small tray for his mother, making certain she had her protein drink, fresh berries, and medicine, before he fixed his own plate. His chair was close so he could help his mother if she needed it.

Mrs. Boyer's eyebrow went up in question, to which I responded, "Happens all of the time! Just like clockwork. Wait until they're done and, oh, they're willing to help prepare the meals as well."

She watched closely as breakfast was finished and each of my nephews trooped to the dishwasher to place their soiled dishes and flatware in it. The table was cleared and kitchen cleanup began while David, Mattie, and I helped Janet back to bed. She was, in my opinion, growing weaker day by day, more rapidly than I thought she would.

I needed to go to the office, not only to check my mail, orders received, invoices, inventory, and available produce on the farm and in wholesale markets, but to confer with Lee and Ted on the status of the strawberry patch.

David gave a nod to Scottie to watch over their mom and Eddie and Jamie to help in the kitchen. He wanted to go to the office with me. He'd taken a strong interest in the business operation of the farm and the markets. I remember being just as absorbed in learning all I could at that age as well. Mattie, it seems, would go where I went and the others understood it. He was most comfortable and relaxed around me and it was good for him to have an adult, other than his mom, to trust and who trusted him.

Mattie held my hand, sort of skipping along, happy as a tick on a fat dog's back while David peppered me with questions. How do you know how much to order? What to order? How do you set a price? These were only a few, but my stock answer was experience, education, reading, and Mrs. Jenson. David seemed awfully young to be asking such in-depth questions, but I was soon to learn he a definite head for business. Like his brothers, he was extremely intelligent and skilled with numbers. A real whizz when it came to math.

Ted and Lee were chatting with Mrs. J. when we walked in the office door. A quick greeting and Ted indicated we needed to talk about the berry patch. At that point, David opted to stay and visit with Mrs. J., hopefully, I thought rather than interfere by asking some of the same questions he asked me. Mattie chose to be with me.

I realized stepping into my office and sitting behind my desk, looking at the stack of invoices and mail to be sorted through, while attempting to focus my attention on Ted, I was struggling internally, with my roles as a business proprietor and as man with a ready-made family wondering how I'd reconcile the two. In addition, my twin sister, my nephews' mother, was laying dying in our house. I wondered how many others were in similar situations? Did they do it as I was doing, accepting and carrying on the best I could, forging ahead or just say "fuck it" and give up?

"I think we ought to close the berry patch to pickers soon," Ted was saying. "The spot of free publicity we got darn near cleaned the patch. Perhaps, Wednesday at the latest."

"We'll have enough to fill our standing orders for the next week or so, if everything goes right," Lee added. "We've had a tremendous season. Best since I came to work here several years ago."

Their advice would mean laying off a sizeable number of my temporary staff. It takes quite a few, during the prime season, to handle the patch and still help fill orders. Those same workers also helped move irrigation equipment each day as needed. Within those ranks of summer employees were those who were hired for the entire summer. We'd utilize them on other jobs on the farm until school started in the fall. I had a cadre of retired people and housewives who liked to work the fall markets and finish the field work.

I agreed with their assessment, telling them to notify our temps Wednesday would be their last day and make certain Mrs. J. was notified as well.

"Already did," Ted confessed.

"Make certain we have their addresses so we can mail their bonuses as well."

"She's already printing a list of workers so we can check against it," Lee advised.

God, it was nice having two such experienced and trustworthy employees. I'd really miss them when their senior year, this coming academic year, would be over and they'd graduate from the University.

I followed them out of the office and before I could mention it, Mrs. J. asked, "Should I call Pastor Rodriquez so he and his people can glean a couple of fields? Say, Thursday?"

The phone rang and I expected her to answer it. Instead, from the other desk normally used by Ted and Lee, I heard a familiar voice.

"Wescott Family Farms. How may I help you?"

I pivoted and there sat David, pen in hand, phone on his ear, pad of paper at the ready in front of him, continue, "May I ask who's calling, please?"

David put the caller on hold, announcing, "Uncle Jake, it's Dr. Anderson, you know, the man that was here the other day, remember?"

I nodded, thanked David, and said I'd take it in the office. Mrs. Jenson quickly showed David how to transfer the call to my office desk phone. I had a pretty good idea, given my conversation with Dr. Anderson previously, the call would concern Mattie, so I motioned for him to join me in the office.

"Dr. Anderson," I began, "how are you and Mrs. Anderson today?"

He indicated they were fine, but the real reason for his call was Mattie.

"I'm still connected here at the University and enjoy an emeritus status. I've made a few inquiries on your behalf and Mattie's. I don't think his situation is all that unusual given what you've told me. Some of my colleagues are interested in seeing if they can help him. Would it be possible for the two of you to come in tomorrow? There are a couple of tests I'd like to have administered to Mattie. I don't think he was properly placed, educationally, and is much, much brighter than his previous schools cared to realize, given his social-economic status. I'd also like to check out his musical aptitude as well. Please see if he'd be agreeable to take these tests. I really think we can help him in his communication skills. Not necessarily 'cure' them, but greatly assist him."

Putting Dr. Anderson on hold, I asked Mattie if he'd be willing to go with me to the University the next day for the tests. I was pleasantly surprised when he readily agreed.

We met at the University in one of their lab/testing centers. Dr. Anderson explained what they wanted to do and how it'd be done so Mattie would have a better understanding and, perhaps, reduce any anxiety he might have. Thus far, I'd noticed none. In fact, he seemed almost happy to having some tests run to relieve his previous anxieties and concerns. Dr. Anderson made it very clear in a comment directed to Mattie

"I don't want you to think there's something wrong with you. In fact, I suspect I'll be very surprised and encouraged with what we will discover, as I'm just as assured you will be as well. I can't promise you I can fix anything, if there is anything amiss, but I can promise you, if you really have the desire, to help you understand what's going on! Okay?"

Mattie smiled nervously, uncertain what lay before him, yet he nodded his understanding.

"Oh, one other thing, Mattie," Dr. Anderson said with a smile and reassuring tone in his voice, "no one will force you to do what you don't want to do. Every question asked can be answered with a nod or shake of your head or a mark on a piece of paper. First, we will have one of our audiologists administer a hearing test. You'll go to another room for that, and, afterwards another person will give you a series of short tests to see where you stand academically and where you should be placed next school year. So far, if I understood your Uncle Jacob correctly, I believe you were placed well below the grade level you should have been in."

Three young men and a young lady came in, introduced themselves and invited Mattie to go with them. Looking at me, questioning me through the look, I saw fear in his eyes and hesitancy to leave me.

"It's okay," I promised, "I'll be right here and if you are frightened, you can come right back."

He was gone a good two hours and I was beginning to worry. Dr. Anderson recognized my concerns and bade me not to worry.

"It's time," he advised, "for us to go to another area where they will administer the 'music' test. It'll be most interesting I think."

It was a short walk to the section of the building where the test would be administered. We entered a small observation room with a one-way glass giving an unfettered view of a small studio type room. There was a baby grand piano in the room with a young man seated at the keyboard. The piano was situated so those of us in the observation room had a clear view of the face of the young man.

"That's Greg," Dr. Anderson informed me, "he's a graduate teaching assistant in the music department and often helps in this department when we need him."

Two other individuals joined us at that point and sat where they also had a clear view of the room.

"This next part," Dr. Anderson explained, "isn't so much a test, but the opportunity for us to observe how Mattie reacts to the events happening in the room. We'll need to focus our attention on his facial, physical, and/ or emotional reactions. I believe it'll confirm what several of my colleagues and I have surmised. We will be able to see and hear everything as well as video record it."

Greg began playing something by Liszt, according to Dr. Anderson. I think he mentioned "La Campanella" which meant little to me, but I thought it would to Mattie.

Mattie walked in the room, hearing the music, his attention immediately focused on the piano and the person playing it. His eyes twinkled and a soft, endearing smile spread across his face as he gravitated toward the piano. Clearly, he was in his element, a lover of music and the fine arts. Without invitation, he joined Greg, who nodded his approval, on the piano bench.

As Greg played, Mattie's body motions seemed to rise and fall with the flow of the music. Soon, the piece was over and Greg transitioned into the theme from "The Notebook®." It didn't bother Mattie the type or genre of music changed. The pianist segued, sliding a folio of sheet music to the stand on the piano, to an older tune, "Dream Along with Me" and started singing. After singing it through once, Greg gave Mattie a nudge, pointed at the sheet music, and started through again. This time, without hesitation, Mattie joined him in a clear, beautiful boy soprano voice. Greg then slid another sheet of music on the stand and began "Beauty and The Beast®", nodding again for Mattie to join him and he did, singing in two-part harmony where indicated.

I was dumbfounded! Either Mattie could read music or had one hell of an ear for music. I was about to comment but was shushed by Dr. Anderson, as the other two observers seemed to peer forward, concentrating on Mattie.

"What happens next is most crucial and important, so watch and listen carefully."

I listened carefully as Greg half turned to Mattie and said, "You have a b-b-b-beautiful voice, M-M-M-Mattie."

Mattie's jaw dropped, his mouth gaped, eyes widened, and his facial expression easily was shock, surprise, and disbelief personified!

Slowly, tentatively, Mattie reached a hand forward and with one finger hesitantly, gently, touched Greg's lips.

Greg smiled, took Mattie's hand into his own, clasping it carefully, responded, "Y-Y-Y-Yes, I s-s-stutter. Do you?"

Mattie nodded his head up and down, all the while watching Greg carefully, indicated he stuttered as well.

"Y-Y-You know what, M-M-Mattie?"

Mattie shook his head no.

"Those who know you and l-l-love you really d-d-don't care! So, who hurt you M-M-M-Mattie?"

Mattie sniffled back a tear or two, and stuttered, "A t-t-t-t-teacher, called me s-s-stupid and s-s-s-s-slapped m-m-m-me!" and sobbed softly.

I said little as Dr. Anderson and I walked back to the office. He offered little concerning Mattie other than saying, "Mattie initiated what some would call 'voluntary mutism' in response to the emotional and physical trauma he received in school. It was devastating to him emotionally and socially! Rather than subjecting himself to more emotional or physical hurt, he chose to be silent. He's done this long enough it is almost habitual, except with ones he trusts, such as his older brother, Robbie, or his mother, or you when he was walking in his sleep. We'll have to move him beyond that and help build his self-confidence and permission to speak again without fear of retribution."

I waited patiently, sitting in one of the chairs in the office, as Dr. Anderson studied the reports on the desk concerning Mattie's test results.

Mattie arrived, in the company of the three individuals who's led him off in the first place, seemingly little upset by it all. They thanked him for his polite manner and cooperation, and then, congratulated him on doing so well. He just grinned shyly, highly pleased for the compliments. One of the young me mentioned, as he left, "You're a very fortunate and gifted young man!" If stroking someone's ego was helpful to some, to Mattie, it was almost orgasmic! Of course, it made me inordinately proud as well.

He scooted a chair close to me, close enough so I could put an arm around his shoulders and close enough he could lean in to me for emotional support and protection.

"Mattie," smiled Dr. Anderson, "let me assure you there's nothing really wrong with you. Your hearing is excellent and so is your intelligence. Therefore, you're not deaf or stupid! With your and your Uncle Jacob's permission, we'd like to do some further school type tests. You have a great deal of intellectual ability and should never have been placed where you were."

"The only thing we really have to work on is your silence! As you discovered, Greg, the pianist, is a stutterer. Are you?"

I have expected Mattie to do his usual, nod his head yes. Instead, he looked at me whether seeking refuge or permission I wasn't certain. Shrugging, I nodded my approval, giving him encouragement to do as he wished.

He thought a moment, nodded his head in assurance, and answered, "Y-y-y-yes!"

"Thank you, Mattie," Dr. Anderson replied sincerely. "It took a great deal of courage for you to speak to me and I'm ever so grateful to hear you."

"Let's see if we can answer some questions you might have, Mattie. Okay? You'll not be required to speak aloud if you chose not to or feel uncomfortable. I know your Uncle Jacob feels the same way. First question; why do I stutter? We really don't know, yet there are various reasons or opinions concerning why people do."

According to Dr. Anderson, although some research indicates what factors cause stuttering in a child, it was his belief genetics, in Mattie's case, might be the probable cause. Sixty percent of children who stutter have a close family member who stutters. There are basically two other types of development and neurological factors as well.

"I'm not inclined to conclude neither developmental or neurological factors are the reasons in your case, Mattie, although I haven't ruled them out. More than likely your biological father may have been a stutter since no one else in the family, such as your brothers, your mom, or Uncle Jacob. Your Uncle Jacob has said he could think of no one in his family who did so."

"Your next question might be; how long will my stutter last? That, Mattie, is difficult to answer since it depends on many things, including how you approach it. The probability is simply, it may last in some form the rest of your life. Research has shown boys are three to four times more likely to stutter than girls and boys who begin stuttering before age three or four are likely to outgrow it while others, such as yourself who's stuttered for some time, are less likely to."

I saw the disappointment in Mattie's face. He was hoping for some sort of magic cure for his problem, but deep down, I think, he realized there wasn't one. Hearing Dr. Anderson say it, merely confirmed it.

"Don't be down-hearted, Mattie," Dr. Anderson said responding to the look of disappointment in Mattie's facial expression. "There is much we can do to ease your problem, such as teaching you coping skills on how to deal with it. Speech therapy can be of great benefit. In most cases, individuals notice marked improvement in speaking skills and self-confidence. I have every confidence, with your desire and intelligence, we, you, Uncle Jacob, and the rest of your family can help you make those improvements. You must trust us to do so, as much as we trust you to help yourself, at your own pace, however."

"Your next question; when do I start? As soon as we can set up your individual program of therapy- probably two to three weeks. We'll work with Uncle Jacob for that, okay?"

Mattie smiled and so did I. He saw a light at the end of the tunnel. A new day is coming!"

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