The professors are no longer the only teachers on campus
|Chapter 20 - Crystal and Erick Continue Their Teaching
After a one-night stopover in Georgia, Erick and Crystal arrived in Lexington. Stopping to see Erick’s parents in the nursing home, they arrived home about 8:00 P.M. As Erick brought Crystal in the house, he laughed. “You know, baby, you might want to call your mom and tell her how things went after we left them, before she calls you and asks why you haven’t done that. Your folks know we’re getting in tonight, remember?”
”Good point, honey,” she chuckled. “I love how her feelings turned around once she realized how close you and I are and how happy I am.”
”Why don’t you call her while I bring the luggage in, sweetheart? I’ll bring you the cordless,” Erick said as he wheeled her up to her homework desk in the living room.
”That sounds like a plan to me, honey,” she said, smiling. “Just make sure you don’t go back out there without kissing me first,” she teased.
”Just for that it’s going to cost you two kisses, honey,” he laughed. Sitting the cordless within her reach, he leaned down, embraced her and they shared their latest kisses of the day. She picked up the phone as he went out the door moments later.
”Mom, it’s Crystal.”
”Hi, honey. I was just getting ready to call and see if you two were home yet.”
Crystal laughed. “Mom, that’s just what Erick said would happen if I didn’t call you first.” They laughed together. “And before you ask, our honeymoon was wonderful. We shared a lot of thoughts and memories, watched our new wedding video together, and our wedding night was even better than our first night together.” She knew that would get a response.
”Honey, I can tell you mean that, and I certainly believe you, you know that. But it just feels a bit hard to believe, you know?”
”I know, mom, and it took me a while too. I felt that way, but it was a little hard at first to believe that feeling was real and not just the way I might have dreamed it to be.”
”What proved it to you?”
”When Erick admitted that it was the same way for him. That it was better than our first night for him, too. Then I had no doubts. This is all a dream come true for me, mom. I hope you know that.”
”Honey, I love seeing you this happy. I know I had my doubts, but it’s only because I love you and I wanted you to be happy. Especially after that accident. Tell me if I’m wrong, Crystal, but I get the feeling that even though we never knew about him till recently, it’s the love you and Erick share that got you through all this rough road you’ve had since that surgery.”
”You’re right, mom. Once I realized that Erick meant every word he told me and that he was going to be here for me no matter what, there was no stopping me. And I know it was natural for me to worry about that a little at first, but I kept reminding myself that the love Erick and I had shared for three years would never have lasted that long, over that distance if it wasn’t real. And when I fully realized that, I knew for sure that he’d be here for me and all my fear disappeared.”
”Honey, I love the fact that you have found your dream, and thank you for forgiving me for my over-protective attitude at first. And I want you to know that your father and I will support you and Erick in every way we can. We’re very proud of both of you, and wish you every happiness.”
”Thanks, mom. I love you.”
”I love you, too, honey. I better let you go. I don’t want to be keeping you two lovebirds from each other at a time like this, you know,” she laughed, but Crystal could hear the tears of love in mom’s voice.
Just then, Erick stepped up to her and kissed the back of her neck after putting the luggage in the bedroom. “Thanks, mom. You want a chuckle before we go?”
”Your timing is as good as Erick’s was when he told me to call you first. We’re finishing this conversation right when he’s done bringing our luggage in from the truck. I’ll talk to you soon, mom,” she finished as she heard her mom’s laughter.
”Talk to you soon, Crystal. Give my love to Erick,” Helen said warmly. “Goodnight, honey.”
”It sounds like you two had a nice, warm talk, baby,” Erick said smiling as he kissed Crystal quickly.
”Yes, we did honey. I think mom and I are even closer now, and she’s totally admitted that you’re the one I need now. She sees it for herself and is totally behind us. I love it.” Erick kissed her again.
”I love hearing that kind of relief in your voice baby. It makes me feel great too. I love seeing you this happy. Baby, we have one more decision to make for the moment. Do you want to unpack our things now, or do it later?”
”Let’s do it now baby. I um… plan on being a bit too busy later to want to bother with it,” she laughed with a naughty tone to her voice.
”Honey, I’m not about to question that plan,” Erick laughed as he wheeled her into the bedroom.
”Erick, I think it’s neat how the wedding trip taught us a shortcut or two to packing and unpacking and still let us strengthen my arm, don’t you?” Crystal asked as she got her clothes out of her suitcase and dropped them in the dirty clothes basket nearby. “Especially putting away the clean ones.”
”I agree, honey,” Erick said. “We did that in about half the time at the Bridal Suite than we did at your parents’.”
"I know. I love it. And to think I used to be worried about how long it would take for me to learn new ways of doing things,” she laughed.
Erick smiled. Inside too. It felt great to see her having conquered another of her major fears after the accident.
”I’m done, sweetheart,” she said, closing her suitcase and setting it on the floor. “Beat you again!” she laughed.
”Yes, you did, you lovable little minx!” he laughed, taking her hand after dropping the last of his dirty clothes in the basket. “Stand up, darling,” he said warmly. Once she was, as he embraced her and before she could beat him to it, he grinned and admitted, “And yes, darling. I just have to hold you ‘the right way’! They laughed together as she pressed herself against him.
”God, I love you, Erick!” Crystal said firmly as she squeezed him.
”I love you too, baby. You’re the light of my life, Crystal Eryn Sandlewood Metcalf!” said Erick lovingly.
As they stood there, tightly embraced, the look in Crystal’s eyes told Erick how very deeply she loved him, and, just like their wedding night, exactly what she wanted.
Softly, so she wouldn’t think he was upset, Erick asked, “So early, darling? Not that I’m complaining, you understand,” he grinned.
”Yes, sweetheart. I feel the need to have your arms around me, and your hands on me. And I want our usual time for that, but I want a full night’s sleep too. Because we go back to the grind tomorrow. And to have time for all of it we need to start earlier. Please?” she coyly batted her eyes at him as she said that last word.
OK, Brown Eyes, okay,” he laughed warmly. “I never can resist you when you plead like that, whether you bat your eyes at me or not, and you know it!” Erick laughed, scooping Crystal up in his arms and carrying her across the room to the bed. She giggled shyly, yet with delight as he stood her before him, in their usual spot, and began undressing her just as tenderly, and affectionately as always.
A few days later, as they approached the Student Union center for lunch, a young man approached them. Erick and Crystal looked briefly at each other and the look on their faces told them that neither of them knew him. It was obvious to them both that he was fairly nervous.
”Excuse me, Miss,” he said politely to Crystal. “I… um… God. This is harder than I thought it would be. I’ve um… seen you on campus for a while now, and I… well, I… um… was wondering… if… I night have… the pleasure of your company for dinner some evening?”
It was immediately obvious to both Erick and Crystal that in his nervousness the young man had failed to notice her wedding rings. Crystal was totally surprised at the offer, and yet she felt very gratified to have first hand proof of what she’d felt in her heart all along: that there really are others in the world willing to look beyond a disability and want to know the real person. She thought for a second about how she wanted to respond. She knew what she wanted to say, it was a matter of finding the words.
”I don’t…” Erick began calmly.
”Let me answer, please, Erick,” Crystal cut in quickly.
”Um… okay,” Erick said, surprised that she had cut him off.
”Um… don’t ever lose the wonderful compassion you have for those of us with disabilities,” Crystal began. “It will be deeply appreciated by all of us that you meet in your life. I’m afraid I have to decline your gracious invitation, though. You see, another man with more of that same compassion and love in his heart then I’d ever known existed came into my life before you, and he’s now my wonderful husband,” she finished, looking up at Erick lovingly. Turning back to the young man, she added quietly, “I’m sorry.”
”That’s OK,” he said softly. “I’d decided a while back that I at least had to ask. You are very attractive you know.” Then, pointing to her left hand, he said, “I didn’t see your ring. I’m sorry I overlooked it. And thanks for your comment. I’ve always been this way. And I’m very proud of that, despite what others may think. Thanks for showing me it’s still OK to be compassionate in this crazy world.”
”You’re very welcome,” Crystal said as he turned to go. “And thank you for your compliment.”
”It’s the truth,” he said, smiling as he left.
”Honey,” Erick began, “I wondered for a second why you cut me off when I started to answer him, but I quickly found out your reason. I think I’d better try to let you answer all these comments we get first, and I’ll try to keep my mouth shut unless you ask me for help,” he laughed. “Now I see why Pastor Markham offered you that job. He saw this inside you where it took an example like this for me to see it. I’m very proud of the way you responded to that boy, darling. I don’t know of anyone who could have done it better. I love you!”
”Thank you, darling,” Crystal said warmly as they entered the Union. "I love you, too, sweetheart."
About an hour later, as Erick and Crystal were preparing to leave their table after finishing lunch, a young lady approached them. “Excuse me, Crystal. I’m Evelyn Johns. From your Freshman Math I class.
”Hi, Evelyn,” Crystal said warmly. She noticed Evelyn was just as nervous as many others who approached them had been almost from the beginning. She’d gotten pretty well used to it, now, as Erick had said she would, and anticipating it made it much easier to talk to them. Erick had been right again.
”If you… have a minute, I… have a question… I’d like to ask you um… privately.
Erick looked around, and spotted an empty corner. And with most of the students due back in class in about ten minutes, he doubted they’d be disturbed. “Let’s go over in this corner, honey,” he said as he rolled Crystal in that direction. He pulled her up to a table, sitting beside her.
”Sit down, Evelyn, please,” Crystal said calmly.
”Um… I… meant just the two of us, Crystal. My… question is a very… personal one.”
Crystal smiled. “I understand, Evelyn. Let me explain something to you,” she said warmly. “There’s nothing you can ask or say that will surprise or embarrass Erick. In my condition right now, I’m basically helpless. I’ve learned to do a few things already, for myself, but not many. Erick has to handle virtually everything for me right now, because I was right handed. And that includes helping me with those things that are related to that time of the month. And, I’m still nervous enough myself, mainly about running into sudden, unexpected situations, physical or otherwise, that I can’t yet bear to be away from Erick for one second. It's still a little too soon after the accident for me to be able to do that. It’s just the way things are with me right now. I don't mean to embarrass you in any way. Please believe that. If you are willing to ask your question with Erick present, after what I’ve told you about him, and about me, I’ll be more than happy to answer you. I hope you will.”
”God. Um… okay. Here goes,” she said, swallowing hard and taking a deep breath. “You may have already answered this with what you just said, but I need to be sure. Um… don’t you get embarrassed needing Erick’s help during that time of the month? I’m only asking because I suddenly found myself wondering what I’d do in your situation. And I don’t think I could handle having a guy help with that.”
Crystal smiled. “Evelyn, I’ll tell you something. I was embarrassed the very first time he had to help, but only for a moment. Right behind that feeling came my old fear that I was a burden to him. But that fear, too, disappeared in a hurry right then, when I noticed how tenderly, and lovingly he handled even that situation. And I immediately realized that he really did mean it literally when he said, before we were married, that he welcomes every chance - every chance - to show me how much he loves me and how important I am to him. And I love knowing for certain that I can never be a burden to him in any way, and feeling his deep, tender love with every touch of his hands on my body. Anywhere on me, even there. I hope I said that so that you really understand. It’s important to me.”
”I do, Crystal, I do. God I hope that if I ever have medical problems of any kind that make that kind of help necessary even temporarily that I’ll have found someone as caring, and loving as Erick is to you before those things happen.” She looked at Erick, then back at Crystal. “Thank you both,” she said softly.
”Thank you for that wonderful compliment, Evelyn,” Erick said as she turned to go.
”You’re welcome, Erick,” Evelyn said as she left.
A few short weeks later, Crystal’s second college term began. But now she and Erick were ready for the changes that meant. They had her new class schedule mapped out and numbered and everything ready to toss in the truck in much less time than they did at the start of the first term. And, as they both had predicted, new classes also meant new kids they hadn’t met. This term it started in her Accounting Principles I class, at 10:00 AM the first day of class. Professor (Allan) Parker had just introduced them, basically with the same introduction as Professor Martin had used in her English class during first term. Erick and Crystal chalked that up to his having to make sure the kids all followed the same rules. Like not asking for copies of her class tapes. That would be universal for at least that next year. But this time, they’d planned ahead with Professor Parker to try and keep the same questions from being asked each term. When he finished introducing them, he said, “Crystal and Erick will answer any questions you may have before we begin today, but first Crystal would like to say a few words. Crystal?”
”Thanks, Professor Parker. Before Erick and I answer your questions, I’d like to tell you the answers to the ones that we’re most often asked, so we have more time for any unique questions you may have. I’m 18, Erick is 54. We met online, fell in love online, and he proposed to me online, but we never saw each other face to face until I came here two days before the school year started. Yes, that means we fell in love with the person inside each of us because we had no pictures to deceive our hearts. We fell in love without ever seeing each other, much less dating. And yes, that also means he never saw me with two arms and two legs. And finally, I know you girls are wondering, because my first term English classmates were. Erick and I have a very deeply meaningful and intimate sexual relationship, and are definitely able to satisfy each other. As I told that English class when the question was asked about how wonderful it can be with someone Erick’s age, it works so well with us that I can’t wait to be in bed with him tonight. Now. Do any of you have any questions I didn’t answer with this?”
”Yes?” Professor Parker said, pointing to a young man eagerly waving his hand about two rows back.
”Um… I think I need help from both of you with this one, but um… my girlfriend has to have part of her left leg amputated due to diabetes. Like you, Erick, I’m standing by her, and she knows that. But I need to know HOW to do that. What am I in for? How will she feel after the surgery, and what can I expect FROM her, and how do I best show her my support so she KNOWS I’m not going anywhere?”
”We’ll tell you these in the order you need to know them,” Crystal began, “so that you can remember this easier. And, we’ll meet with you privately any time you want so you can be sure you’re doing this right. It’s crucial to her peace of mind that you know what to expect so you can keep mostly calm around her. Notice I said ‘mostly’. Because we’re all human. Being nervous in these situations is normal and you need to start by accepting that and making the best of it.”
”Now,” Crystal continued, “the real impact of this won’t hit her till she wakes up after the surgery and sees the leg is really gone. If you possibly can, be there at the moment she wakes up if her parents will let you. How old are the two of you?”
”I’m 22, Sheila’s 19. I’m sure her parents won’t mind. We get along really well.”
”Great,” Crystal said. That will be a big help. Now. First reactions. She’s going to feel fear and denial right away. Fear of not being loved, of not deserving to be loved, by anyone, including you and her family. And fear of an unknown future. Her self esteem and self confidence are going to take a nose dive. Erick will tell you how low mine went. Equally important, she’ll feel incomplete. As if she’s not a whole woman. And she’ll feel as if you couldn’t possibly think or feel that she’s whole either. Your first job is going to be to prove her wrong. Very wrong. One of the best ways to do that is to remind her of something the way Erick reminded me. My self confidence and self esteem were in the pits so deep he had to use tough love on me. Listen carefully to my next few sentences. I’m going to give you the key phrase to handle that first stage after her leg is gone. Just keep reminding her: ‘Sheila, this does NOT change the person you are. It changes only your appearance, nothing more. You’re still the girl I fell in love with, and the girl I want to marry, assuming you do plan on asking her. Then finish with a firm question like: ‘Got that?’’ Tell her that, or words like them, anytime you notice her getting down about all this. And plan on saying that a LOT to her for at least three weeks. She’ll not always ASK you to say it, you’ll have to learn to read her actions and voice tone to catch some of the times she’ll need to hear that, so keep your eyes and ears open.“
”And if you DO plan on asking her to marry you, go ahead and ask her. After the surgery. That will be the biggest boost you could give her. Erick did that to me, even though we were already engaged. He asked me again, point blank. And I loved finding out that way that he’d still be here for me. That he still loved me despite the hassles of caring for me and everything else. Basically, he used that to tell me that the only thing that was, and is important to him is being with me. If you’re sure about it in your mind, ask her. Just make sure you're fully prepared to go through with it if you do. She won't be able to handle anything seriously negative for a pretty long time."
”Then your next step,” Erick began, “will be to back up everything you tell her with your actions. Be there for her, and with her, every minute you can that’s OK with her parents. Let them know you want to help as much as possible, then do that. In every way you can. She’ll have moments, especially early on, when she’ll be shy or hesitant about your help, or she’ll feel like she’s a burden to you. Whenever she sounds like that, tell her point blank, using tough love if you have to, that she can’t be a burden OR impose on you because you’re doing it all out of love. We’ll arrange to meet privately so we can get into more detail for you. Please meet with us. We want to see you two succeed like we have.”
”Thanks to both of you and we’ll definitely meet privately. I promise,” the young man said as he sat back down.
”Next?” Professor Parker said, pointing to a girl in the back row.
”Crystal, haven’t you ever gotten frustrated at not being able to do anything for yourself after doing it all your life?”
”I did at first, but it sure didn’t take long to get used to Erick spoiling me,” she said, smiling lovingly at him. “Now I can learn how to do things all over again at my own pace, feel comfortable and relaxed about doing it, and know without a doubt that he doesn’t mind one bit taking care of me while I learn. I should say that doesn’t mean I get to ‘goof off’. Erick sees to it that I exercise my arm daily, using every daily task he can think of, to get it ready for when I will really need it to help me later on. Erick pushes me, lovingly, more toward a normal life every day, and I love him for the caring way he does that. I don’t get to fool around. I need to make that clear,” she said, smiling. But I know that I’ll eventually be doing almost everything for myself again, so I’m not worrying about it, and that leaves me free to enjoy having him spoil me while I can.”
”Yes?” Professor Parker asked, pointing to a guy in the front row.
”Erick, don’t you get tired of doing all that for Crystal 24/7? I think I would for my girl.”
”No, I don’t,” Erick said confidently. “For us it’s literally a perfect match. In every sense of the word. She needs the care, and to know that she is still loved as much as always, and I need to be needed. I thrive on being able to show my love to her in special ways. All her situation does is give me a lifetime of extra chances to do just that. Even the times when I’m undressing, bathing or dressing her have literally become extensions of our wonderfully enjoyable intimate moments. I’ll never tire of any of it. I live for it.”
”One more question for this morning,” Professor Parker said as he pointed to a girl about half way to the back. ”Yes?”
”Either of you can answer this, but… um… with all the intimate time you have to have in just taking care of her, Erick, doesn’t the intimacy overall get old? Become a ‘routine’ of sorts that you just go through? I’d think that most of it would end up that way.”
”We’ll both answer that,” Erick smiled, looking lovingly at Crystal. “I just said that I never tire of showing her my love in special ways. I meant that. How many men have a situation where they can thoroughly enjoy intimate time with their wife or girlfriend by dressing, bathing, or undressing them, and doing it every single day? How many women would let, much less want their man to do that? Many would feel like they were missing part of their freedom or something.”
”And then,” Crystal began, “there’s the fact that he shows his love IN all those ways that gets ME feeling good. He’s so gentle, loving and tender whenever he touches me that it’s actually gotten to the point on some weekend mornings that we’ve gotten turned on enough in the process of getting our showers and getting dressed that we’ve ended up making love before we got dressed. Let alone enjoying ourselves tremendously at night, like any truly loving couple. The intimacy get old? Not a chance. Not when the love is as real, and deep, and meaningful as ours is. And that’s something Erick and I hope all of you will have in your lives someday.”