I sit in the rocking chair looking down on Bethany as she quietly plays with a ball near the big glass windows. The sunlight through her jet-black hair makes it look more red than black and it makes her brown eyes appear more clear than they really are. She’s having a quiet moment, gently tapping the ball against her teeth as she stares out the window.
Times like this, I can see her, the sunlight, and the dust in the air all gently mixing together to make a living ray of hope that washes over her being, right into my soul. It’s a calming sight; it’s an infrequent sight. She sighs, shifts the ball to the other hand and resumes the tapping pattern, all without moving her gaze even so much as a millimeter.
Its times like this that I realize how big she’s grown. She’ll be 16 years old soon and her size and voice are taking on a more commanding presence while her demeanor becomes more harsh, her demands more insistent. As I stare at all this I hear the ball drop to the ground as she, squatted down comfortably on her heels, stops all motion. There in that rich sunlight I see the beginning of the end.
With a loud and instant crash, I hear her head smash into the window – I hear it before I see it and I’m staring directly at it; its as if I’m in such denial that I can only hear and not see the action. The entire window wobbles in recoil and for this hit, remains intact. I know it’s only a matter of math before her head makes it all the way through the glass. She slams into the window a second time and then rises to her feet, turns her back towards the window and leans her back against it. Calm again but staring straight ahead I can only wonder what’s next. I know I need to move her away from the glass but she was so calm, is still so calm and I hate to jinx the moment. I hold my breath but it does no good – she gradually leans forward and then slams hard backwards into the glass and for the second time, the glass flexes to its breaking point – its frame creaking and its full length in a violent wobble.
I instinctively yell “no”! at her as I jump up out of my chair, she on the other hand loads up for another hit. I grab her arm and shove her away from the door opening, an act that makes her laugh her delightfully throaty laugh... Getting a rise out of me is the first step. It can take the form of smashing the window, slamming a door, pulling on your elbow while drinking hot coffee, or pinching your boobs if you happen to we wearing a pair. Nothing is sacred, everything is in play.
So many times this scenario plays itself out; so many times I’ve played along allowing my patience to take the brunt of the affront. So many times I’ve wondered how my wife manages this abuse after all, she’s the one wearing the boobs, not me.
On the other hand, that deep, throaty laugh has become the trademark of a few cycling friends when they pass me while biking. I’ve told them of Bethany’s devious laugh when she’s up to no good and they latched right onto that little tid-bit. Now every time I get passed, just before they blast by I’ll hear a loud, deep, “heh, he, he, he, haw….” and in a whirl of gears and spandex they flash by me. I can’t help but smile as they go by; again, Bethany holds more impact on the lives of people than I do.
Her obsessions have become the delight of many. She takes great pride in the ball she wears on her head, the dishrag that’s carefully threaded over her index finger is worn like a regal gown over her hand. The tattered, bumpy ball clutched tightly in that same hand is an equally valued ornament. Her denim vest is worn over the fleece top, and the purple coat (that for so long was worn 24/7) has been replaced by Sherry’s hooded sweatshirt. The logo “LAKERS” on the front is always good for a laugh and a smile from her. “Bethany, are you a Laker or a faker”? I’ll ask her, she’ll close her eyes in a big toothy grin and tap the Laker’s logo and yell “Hraker”.
All of these vestments are part of the Bethany experience and people who know her seem to light up with delight when she comes along. Her lazy flat-footed “fwop, fwop, fwop” and painfully, high pitch squeal combine to announce her coming. Those moments of delight, when people see her, recognize her and welcome her are a brief Godsend for us. Its momentary of course, most everyone knows that the next few seconds could be simply a hand holding moment for them or a full, cross-check with no time spent in the penalty box for it. Instinctively their arms cross to block a potential hit to the face, the groin and the breasts – somehow they manage this protection to all three regions in one pass. When she’s done with them, she gives a high-pitched “heeeeeee”, done through inhaled breath that hurts me to even think about trying. This squeal and a flurry of left hand turns and “poof”, she’s gone and off to the next person.
The look we get is one of amazement, joy and confusion all scumbled into one contorted facial expression. Few people understand the depth of what just occurred and most just wonder how we “do it”. They have no idea really. They just met a “typical” teenaged girl, albeit an “unplugged” teenaged girl. She’s moody, loving, playful, crabby and confusedly complex…
It’s the quintessential Bethany, just as God created her.