Our life is determined by the mood of a 14-year-old Special Needs girl. I’ve been watching our life morph into a slurry of mediated and moderated events that all have one common theme: accommodation of Bethany’s unpredictability.
Imagine living with the man in the Bible story of “The Man of the Toombs” (Mark 5). The author describes a “demon-possessed” individual that no one could constrain, understand, and worse - no one cared to. At times, Bethany fits this description figuratively and literally and how we deal with those episodes are heart wrenching, beautiful, and humorous at the same time. Sometimes, we can “head off” an episode by creative accommodation and in doing so you find yourself in a position that can only be described as insane.
Heading to watch Jon’s baseball game, Bethany decides that she’d rather lay in the road and throw a fit, hitting herself in the face, ripping her clothes and so on. For the sake of safety I dragged her to the curb and began the process of haggling with her to get her to the game. I really wanted to see the game so I finally hoist the 100lb, flailing bag-o-anger over my shoulder and walk to the game. I calmly watch the game as she acts out all her anger and the crowd calmly watches us. Finally she slows down a bit and sits on my lap, intent on making acquaintance of the lady sitting next to me. In classic Bethany fashion, rather that shaking her hand and saying “hello”, she leans over and squeezes both of the woman’s breasts.
The best response I’ve ever had from someone in such a situation came from a store clerk in Holland. Bethany decided that we needed to go into a store that specializes in intimate wear for mature ladies. What started as a walk on the downtown merchant district, turned into a trip to the foundation section in the back of the store where she immediately decided that we needed to sit under the round rack of bras and related stringy-things. I have no idea how she found this spot but she liked it there and was quiet, calm and happy. She also demanded that I sit with her under the rack. I’m no fool, if something makes her calm we take advantage of it. After about 20 minutes under the rack the sales lady comes over, slides an opening between the 40DD and the 42C section, looks at me and asks if she can be of any assistance.
What do you say in such a situation? Thankfully, the lady took a good look at Bethany, seemed to understand what was happening and merely said, “oh, ok..well, if you need anything – just let me know”.
I thank Jesus every day for people who see, and while incapable of understanding, at least attempt to accommodate us even if only out of compassion. If nothing else, they’ve give us a bit of dignity in a situation that has anything but.