On Thursday, March 19, Kid Billy a.k.a. Billy Joe Paulus, turned the ripe old age of 30. Gee-whiz, it seems like only yesterday he was 8 months old and asleep on a woman’s shoulder in a foster home somewhere in rural Clark County--on a 72-hour hold from Human Services.
Still asleep, he was moved from one shoulder to another—mine—placed in a newly-purchased car seat, and we traveled to Benton in Saline County. We were both unaware of what our future together would bring.
Seventy-two hours? How about thirty years? His first five years were spent in Benton on West Sevier—across the street from Our Lady of Fatima School. At only $135 a month, the tuition was worth walking him across the street to (the late) Mrs. Debra Cloud’s classroom. He loved Mrs. Debra.
In September after the beginning of first grade, I took a job in Arkadelphia. Before I could secure a house there, I drove back and forth. The Fatima teacher and principal wanted to medicate him for ADHD. I actually asked the teacher (whose son was a problems my in middle school music class) if she wanted me to take him out of school that very day. She backed off and said no, so we were good for a time.
We found the perfect house in Arkadelphia on North 15th Street with great neighbor-landlords. They had a son a little older than Billy named Jesse. And they had cats.
Sure enough, Dr. Kluck watched Billy for 10 minutes and pronounced him, yes, definitely afflicted with ADHD. He prescribed Ritalin.
But that was then and this is later.
On the first day of March when he was 23, I watched him sing with both the Henderson Concert Choir and the Chamber Chorale. He stood stock-still for long periods. His hands held the music folder up so that his eyes could flit from score to director without obvious head movement. Focused? I’d say so!
After the concert, he introduced me to the friend who’d asked him to go in with some others and rent a house in town for next term. I wrote out his part of a down-payment (in addition to paying his on-campus apartment rent: what we do for love) on the spot.
I still give thanks to Dr. Jim Buckner, who offered KB, from Benton High School, a band scholarship to HSU. Thanks also to the former choral director, Dr. Eaves, who accepted KB into the select choral group, and to Dr. Ryan Fox, the choral director, for being supportive friends and excellent—no, superior––choral men. KB was one of only two or three non-music majors in this group. Which made Grandmother extremely proud.
Even today, two trumpets still lie somewhere in our residence, unused. But KB, after six years as a Reddie, who changed his major three times, and finally quit school, worked at Cracker Barrel in Arkadelphia, then in Bryant, and now in Hot Springs where he lives.
This “fifth child” of mine is why I don’t volunteer. I think 30 years of raising a grandson, seeing him through low-salary times by paying his car payment and rent occasionally, should be considered my volunteer work.
As well as my passion. Happy birthday, Billy.