Chapter 59 Dead Reckoning
The long weekend begins, no not playing in the 80 degree weather which always seems to appear when I have an onsite project to complete. Stuck inside in a hurry up and wait mode. The upside of this is I do have some time to write. The downside is that I'm going to have to use the iPad today as the laptop is in use. Bill are you listening I would pay for MS Word that runs on the iPad, I really would. Let's see where we are in the tale. I believe Beverly is in town for a few days to see her newest grandchild and visit her other grandchild and daughter in law. She's also here to observe and come to terms with Leonard and their relationship. The time has come for the realization of plans long ago laid down. If anyone has ever went down this path before including TBBT I must of course be held blameless because my sociopathic make up won't permit otherwise.
Deck the Halls
Wednesday October 10th 2025
Beverly sat on the patio and sipped on her third Margarita that Penny had brought her. Penny was putting the baby down and Lisel was reading in her room. It really was peaceful out here. She knew Penny was getting her a little tipsy though the Margarita's didn't taste too strong. Leonard was at a Caltech Board of Regents meeting that would go rather late he'd said. Last night had been rather comfortable holding the baby and talking to Lisel and Penny. Leonard had been very quiet just listening mostly. He was clearly uncomfortable.
Lisel and Penny were both sweet. Lisel showed her intelligence and curiosity throughout the evening. She asked Beverly about her work and Beverly had explained she was working on a final book about children and their roots in emotional thought. She had explained the experiment she was going to describe about the study of children with different nurturing environments and the results.
She had in the end gone to bed at the same time as Lisel about 8:00. Besides having to make room for the cat she had slept quite well. Lisel had gone to school today and Beverly had spent the day with Penny and Matisse. She could see that Penny would be a mother who fell into the selfless category. She may pay for that devotion someday Beverly thought. But then again she was a mature successful woman already so the outcome was in doubt. Leonard had worked from home most of the day with video conferences and other work she was sure could have waited.
Penny sat down opposite her at the patio table with her own Margarita.
She offered to touch glasses with Beverly which she accepted.
"Mines a virgin I'm afraid, breast feeding. Beverly can I ask you something?"
Beverly took a long sip of her drink, "Of course dear."
"Why is your relationship with Leonard is so strained? You are warm and pleasant with everyone else but then you seem to be so distant from him"
Beverly made a try at changing the subject, "History and decisions made years ago I'm afraid. How is your relationship with your father?"
Penny gave her a knowing grin.
"Very good actually, I dealt with my father issues in therapy we're very close now though separated by distance. What decisions all those years ago?"
Beverly smiled herself, "Bad ones in some ways. Leonard's father and I decided that we would raise our children in an academic environment. There was not supposed to be competition between the siblings but it was inevitable. Leonard as the youngest but I must say really the most gifted had he applied himself took the brunt of that. There was a point in time where his father and I argued over changing the protocol. But we couldn't agree."
Penny was not shocked but looked rather surprised.
"That must have been very difficult to achieve as parents. How could you possibly not have wanted to give them comfort when they were sad, sick or teenagers?"
Beverly grimaced and took another sip, "It was very difficult sometimes but we were both scientists so the protocol took precedence. I couldn't always manage it neither could Leonard's father. When my daughter was a teenager there were times that I held her and talked her through problems. Leonard's brother was always much closer to his father than Leonard was. We both knew as the youngest he would crave attention more than the others. We did the best with Leonard trying to have him solve problems with his intellect and not his emotions."
Penny had a different look now, she looked sad and empathic but not for Beverly,
"Leonard deserved better Beverly. Your 'Protocol' probably set his emotional development back for years. Poor Leonard never had anyone but his dog and his uncle Floyd to be attached to. No wonder it took him an entire year to ask me out then another year and for me to make the first move to a relationship. Don't you feel guilt or regret over this?"
Beverly felt a tear race down her cheek. Damn tequila she thought.
"It's part of my reason for this visit Penny. The protocol is at an end and I'm ready to finish it. I need this one last visit then I can finish the research and the book. I need to do it soon while I still can."
Penny's look changed Beverly saw. It was concern and comforting. How could she do that Beverly wondered. She had seen this same ability in Lisel to instantly empathize with her. Did she learn this behavior from Penny or was it a more instinctive ability. It was a shame she would not have more of an opportunity to study it.
Penny leaned forward, "What do you mean while I still can?"
Beverly finished her drink and sat it down. "Dear I'm 77 years old and even now I feel my mind slipping away. I'm not sure if it's just age or something far more sinister but I need to finish this last piece of my life's work before I slip further. If Leonard lets me we'll have this same discussion. He deserves to know why his mother and father held him at arm's length. I have some things for him that might help."
Penny was about to speak when the she heard the baby cry over the monitor. She got up and shook her head at her mother in law. Reached over and touched her hand lightly before she headed into the house.
Beverly sat for several seconds. She was feeling the drinks now. Leonard was a very lucky man to have this woman she now knew. Penny would have been a fine therapist but her own feelings would have doomed that career. You had to be able to be objective and clinical, if you got too emotionally involved with your subjects your hurt yourself and them.
She thought of her childhood. Her parents who were both very accomplished and had been sometimes emotionally missing from her life but she had excelled. But maybe she had gone too far with her own children. There had been family Christmases and birthdays, holidays at the beach, summer camp in upstate New York when she was a child.
Beverly leaned back and closed her eyes. She held on and blinked a few times then sleep took her.
Penny fed the baby in the bedroom. She made an effort to hold her very gently. She needed to because the anger was building in her. How could you experiment on your own children? She was at a loss perhaps a scientist could find justification but it alluded her. She wanted to let the anger go on Beverly. She knew it wasn't the right thing to do but none the less it would make her feel better. In the end that settled it. She wouldn't go off on Beverly to make herself feel better and it wouldn't help Leonard either. In fact he was coping with the visit very well as far as she could see though he was keeping his distance.
She changed the baby and cradled her rocking her back to sleep. Penny placed Matisse gently back into her crib and went to check on Lisel. She was at her desk drawing a picture. Penny knelt down on her knees and hugged her from behind.
"Hi baby what are you working on?"
Lisel snuggled into Penny's hug. "It's Grandmama and daddy when he was little he's having a birthday party."
Penny looked at the picture. They weren't stick people anymore she drew. Now they were more like cartoon characters. More rounded the faces starting to have feature and the bodies symmetry. It was a remarkably well done for a five year old.
"How old is daddy in the picture?"
"Grandmama said he was four and that it was his last birthday party."
Penny wondered at this remark and looked closely at the picture again.
"Did Grandma Beverly show you a picture of this honey?"
Lisel just nodded yes. Penny hugged her a little tighter.
"Are you almost done it's time to get ready for bed."
Lisel again nodded and started to get up so Penny could get her in pajamas. They picked a yellow pair with shorts and a top with small little birds on them she had gotten in Geneva. Penny got her in bed and tucked in. She was preparing to turn out the light when Leonard walked in.
"Hey you two I made it back before bedtime barely. Where's Beverly?"
Penny smiled at him, "I left her out by the pool."
Leonard nodded and came to the bed to give Lisel a hug and goodnight kiss.
"I love you little Lisel, sleep good tonight" Leonard kissed his daughter and held her for several seconds. Penny did the same and they both stood.
Lisel said "Love you too, Tish sleepy lights please"
The lights dimmed in the room with a slightly brighter one near the door for a night light.
Penny grasp Leonard's hand and led him back to the great room and out to the patio. Beverly was asleep in her chair. Leonard walked over to her and gently touched her hand.
"Mother it's time for bed"
He had to shake her arm gently several times before she woke. She looked up at Penny and her son. Without saying a word she stood and walked a little shakily toward the house. Leonard and Penny followed her to Lisel room where she laid down next to Lisel without changing clothes. Leonard pulled the comforter over her and Lisel reached over and held her hand. Penny noticed that it had liver spots and was more wrinkled than she remembered.
They both headed for the living room and their spot in front of the fireplace. Leonard sat down and kicked hit shoes off. Penny already shoeless curled up into him.
"How was the Regents Meeting?"
Leonard rolled his eyes, "It's a very rigid meeting with an agenda that is followed to the letter. They were very pleased that Sheldon is back and excited about the possibility of a breakthrough. I had to dampen that down a bit. If Raj and Sheldon come up with something new it could take years to prove. How was your evening with my mother?"
Penny wasn't hesitant but related what his mother had said about the protocol her and his father had used in raising them. She had expected him to be surprised but he just nodded his head as if it was just another confirmation of something he already knew.
"So you knew about the protocol they were using?"
Leonard had a pained expression on his face. "We all did when we got into our late teens and headed off to college. My mother published her preliminary results. We knew the subjects of the paper were us, my brother, sister and I. My sister took it the hardest she went to college and never came home on breaks. She always went to friends home for the holidays. My brother once he got his law degree and passed the bar has never been home either."
Penny was watching his face. He didn't seemed to surprised but a little sad.
"Do you think something is wrong with her, Alzheimer's or something?"
Leonard shook his head.
"It's not uncommon but we've never had much of it in our family. She probably is just getting older and insecure. She's been alone a lot of years now by her own choice. Truthfully I'm not sure how I feel about this."
Penny hugged him tighter and kissed his cheek. "We'll be there for her both of us if need be. She may have withdrawn from you all these years but we're better than that."
Leonard gave her the smile, "Why is it you always make me feel like I can accomplish anything you say?"
She smiled back and saw his face soften and show tenderness, "Because I love you stupid"
Leonard chuckled, "enough said."
Leonard was surprised to find his mother up when he went out to get coffee in the morning, She was wrapped in a long grey robe and sipping coffee at the kitchen bar as if she's been up for a while. He walked around the end of the bar and into the kitchen and started to pour his coffee.
"Good morning Beverly" He had learned to not use platitudes or empty inquiries with her again these last two days. He stood opposite of her and sipped his coffee. She replied and actually smiled at him. "Good morning Leonard."
He had listened to Penny about her last night and today he examined his mother closely. She was still a very slim woman. Her hair was a light brown color with slight streaks of grey, he was sure she had it colored. He looked harder at her face and realized she didn't really look any older than she had at 50. Her neck and hands did give her age away though. She had developed that wrinkled waddle below her chin and her hands were heavily wrinkled with liver spots. It took him a moment to realize she'd had cosmetic surgery. He said nothing about it but filed it away. He'd never realized his mother had that kind of vanity. He came around the bar and sat next to her.
"Penny told me you might be concerned about your mental faculties starting to erode. Do you have any actual symptoms or are you just concerned about age?"
Beverly looked over her glasses at him for several moments. She was clearly considering her response. "My memory has started to be quite erratic I'm afraid and some general confusion occasionally."
Leonard reached over and touched Beverly's hand, he smiled at her.
"Are they impacting your life, keeping you from doing daily tasks or disrupting your routines?"
Beverly shook her head no. He could see she was struggling with something.
He decided to jump in, "It doesn't sound like anything serious then, just age and a rather active mind slowing down slightly. You know the classic symptoms of Alzheimer's and dementia any of those?"
Again Beverly shook her head no.
"Leonard I want to talk to you about your childhood. Your father and I we tried to raise you and you siblings differently."
Leonard stopped her in mid-speech, "Oh yes the protocol, we all know about it mother. We lived through it. I can't say any of us agreed with it or considered it beneficial to our lives. But we all knew what it was by the time your first paper was published. I suppose that you have come to some final conclusions."
Beverly regarded him again over her glasses, she didn't seem shocked or surprised but perhaps a touch rueful.
"If you knew about the protocol then it may invalidate the results or add to them depending on how cognizant you were of its purpose and results. I don't regret it Leonard but I do regret the estrangement I have with my children. If it's the results of the protocol then it was a failure but I'm having a hard time quantifying it."
Leonard could see the wheels turning in his mother's head. He saw no way to help her get around the dilemma of producing highly performing children with her estrangement from them. He could jab at her he thought but he might do it gently.
"As a scientist I understand your objective and hypothesis. We all turned out to be highly intelligent and successful people. But it may have been in spite of the protocol rather than because of it. Perhaps the best result you can point to is that the sacrifice of the parent was not a reasonable result for the success achieved. Let me ask you this are you proud of your children and their accomplishments or do you think they should have done more?"
He saw that he had hit his target in a very clinical way it should appeal to her intellect he thought.
"I think you all could have done more. You seem to all have peaked and have now moved on to a more quiescent stage of your life. Take yourself for example. You left your research behind to be an administrator and now you may leave that behind to be what, a house husband? You could still achieve more Leonard."
Leonard smiled again he had her though she couldn't see it. If he were Penny that wolfish grin would be on his face. He endeavored to keep his expression neutral.
"It's because of the protocol and the way we were brought up that we have peaked. It has become the time in my life where the greatest achievement I have any ambition for is emotional fulfillment. To be the best father and husband I can be for my wife and children. Perhaps this in itself is the best result of the protocol. I have finally understood the integration of my intellect and my emotions. I've spent a great portion of my life wanting your approval but now realize I only seek the approval of my family. I know that I can only receive that through their love. Therefore logically that can only be achieved by me being the best husband and father I can be."
Beverly now did look rather stunned. He could see her considering the ramifications to both her theories and data. The picture was clear the protocol had succeeded in producing highly intelligent and successful offspring. It had also caused them to look for fulfillment outside of their family unit and had destroyed its cohesiveness and its ability to provide fulfillment to the parents.
Leonard grasped and held his mother's hand and looked into her eyes. He could see emotion and certain puzzlement there.
"Why don't we let the protocol be at an end and start again by just being friends? Hi I'm Leonard it's lovely to meet you Beverly."
Leonard looked up and saw Penny standing at the entrance to the hallway with her smile beaming at him. He had no idea how long she be there but he hoped it had been for the whole time.
Thursday should be and interesting day for the Hoftstader clan. We'll see.
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