“It’s not fair!”
“Becky, that’s enough. You know why we said, ‘no’.”
“I don’t care! It isn’t fair! Isn’t! Isn’t! Isn’t fair!”
“Rebecca Marie Elaine Lawson, you are fourteen and much too old to be throwing a tantrum like a five-year-old. Your mother said that’s enough and That. Is. enough!” Thomas Lawson’s voice was hard.
“Darling,” Andrea Lawson took a conciliatory tone. We explained why you cannot join the drum corps. The uniform and boots alone cost more than $200.00. Then there is the $50.00 a month in dues plus the cost of transportation, food and lodging when you have an out-of-town gig. We just can’t afford it.”
“It’s still not fair. I wish I had been born mentally retarded, too. Then maybe you’d care about me as much as you do Teddy.”
“Oh, Becky,” Andrea began.
“No, Andrea. This conversation is over. We do not use the “R” word in this house. And as for you, young lady, one more word out of you and there will be consequences. You will not be going to Penny’s pool party.”
“Consequences, consequences! Teddy never has any consequences and he can yell and scream all he wants!”
Thomas rose from his chair and crossed his arms. “That’s it! You are grounded. Go to your room!”
“Fine!” Becky stomped to the kitchen doorway. There, she stopped and turned. “Just know this. I hate you! Hate! Hate! Hate you. I hate you all!” She fled and the final sound was the slamming of her bedroom door.
“Oh, dear. That did not go at all well.” Asahel sighed to his companion. “What did I do wrong? I tried to guide Rebecca’s thoughts to all the pleasant things she could do this summer – her friend Penny’s pool party, parade and fireworks, a week on her Aunt Susan’s farm riding horses. But she just fixated on this one idea and she does not even really like drum corps. Why, the very idea of marching three miles in the heat would disgust her.”
“You did not do anything wrong, Asahel,” Natanel replied. “Humans at this age are notoriously hard to direct. And as Rebecca does not yet have the Spirit dwelling within her, you are also fighting against the old Eve as well as the hormones in her changing body. As for why she was so set upon joining the drum corps, you saw how her classmate Breanna was boasting about joining on the last day of school. You also heard Breanna say how being in drum corps with Adrian would draw him closer to her. And you know Rebecca has begun to develop feelings for Adrian. She only wants to join out of jealousy.”
“Jealousy. Ugh. That is truly a ploy of the enemy. I must try harder to shield her from it. But tell me, how is it with your charge?”
Natenel beamed. “Wonderful. Theodore learned how to tie his shoes today. And he created a brand new song of praise.”
“Mama! Mama!” Teddy stumbled, sobbing, through the front door. Andrea took one look at her son’s dirt-smeared face, torn jacket, and missing backpack – before gathering him in her arms. He was now taller than her, but she maneuvered him onto the sofa.
“Oh, Teddy, what happened? Where’s your backpack?”
“D-d-d-d-donny t-t-took it. H-h-he s-s-said I owed h-h-h-him m-m-money. Then h-h-he h-h-it m-m-me. I t-t-tried to run away. B-b-but h-h-he p-p-p-pushed me in the m-m-mud.”
“Oh, dear. I’ll have to call Donny’s mother again. Hush, now, Teddy. It will be alright. You aren’t hurt anywhere, are you? No? Just dirty. We’ll get you cleaned up and you’ll be right as rain. I’ll call Donny’s mother and see about getting your backpack.
Watching the scene from the foot of the stairs, Becky snorted. “What you should do is call the police. What is this – the third, fourth time Donny Kingston has bullied Teddy? What good has it done to call his mother in the past?”
“That’s enough, Becky. You’re upsetting Teddy. Mrs. Kingston is a single mother doing the best she can with four kids including that new baby.”
“Hmph,” was Becky’s only reply. But under her breath, she muttered, “If you won’t do something, I will,” and she quietly slipped out the back door.
“Hey! Hey, you! Donald! Donald Duck! I wanna talk to you!” The four boys shooting hoops in the park paused their game. “Donald Duck!”
Three of the boys snickered. One did not. “My name’s not Donald Duck.”
“Sure it is. Quack, quack, quack. I want my brother’s backpack.”
“You’re the retard’s sister? Get lost.”
Becky closed the distance between the two of them. “The only one who is going to get lost is you. I want Teddy’s backpack. And I’m warning you, you will leave him alone from now on or there will be consequences. And I promise you, you won’t like them.”
Donny sneered. “Oohh…I’m so scared. Whatcha gonna do, Retard?”
Becky stared down at the boy. He was a head shorter than her, but stocky. “You really don’t want to find out. Now where is Teddy’s backpack.”
Donny let out a curse word. “Like I said. Get lost.” He turned to walk away from Becky.
Without thought, Becky’s foot came up and she planted it firmly on Donny’s buttocks. The boy went flying and face planted in a large mud puddle. Spitting mud, the boy started screaming curses. “I’m gonna call the police. You’re gonna be arrested. We’ll sue you and your whole retarded family!”
Becky laughed. “Go ahead. Call the police. I’ll tell them how you beat up handicapped kids and your friends here can tell everyone how you got beat up by a girl. They’ll love hearing about that at school.”
Donny glared at his pals. “You gonna let her get away with that? Get her!”
Becky laughed again. “Sure, come on fellas. Who else wants a mud bath?” The boys backed away then took off running. Becky spotted Teddy’s backpack under the basketball hoop. “You’re nothing but a pathetic little bully,” she spit at Donny. She picked up Teddy’s pack and headed home leaving the boy still sitting in the mud.
“Oh, my, my, my.” Asahel muttered. “That is not the way to settle a dispute.”
Netanel chuckled. “Well, at least Rebecca no longer seems to hate her brother. She is on her way to becoming a guardian although she is still immature and will continue to make mistakes. But she is learning.”
“I hope so,” sighed Asahel. “How is Theodore?”
“Theodore has withdrawn within himself for the moment. It will be difficult to encourage him to return to school tomorrow. But his parents are showering him with love and he will eventually respond to that. Plus, he is crying out to the Father in his soul and the Father is holding him close as He weeps with the boy. And the Spirit is strong in him. He will recover. And quite honestly, I should have liked to take the flat of my sword to the backside of that bully myself. One can only hope that somewhere down the road young Donald meets and responds to the love of the Prince.”
Becky wrapped the blanket tightly around her, lay down and pushed off, rolling down the steep slope of the hill in Roosevelt Park. Breathless, she sat up at the foot of the hill and her world swam dizzyingly about her head. What a rush! When her head cleared, she picked up her blanket and trudged back up the hill for another roll. Jean, Mary, and Bill zipped past her shrieking with laughter. At the top of the hill, Teddy jumped up and down. “M-m-me t-t-too! M-m-me t-t-too. I want to r-r-roll, t-t-too.”
“You can’t, Teddy. You’re too little.”
Teddy lay down, kicked his heels and began to scream. Jean, Mary and Bill had just climbed back up the hill. Bill looked at the little boy. “Oh, Becky, why did you have to bring him? He always spoils everything. We’re outta here.” The three of them walked away.
“Wait. Wait. You don’t have to go. We were just starting to have fun. Don’t go.”
Bill gave a backward wave of his hand and the trio departed.
Becky threw her blanket on top of Teddy. “Look what you’ve done now! Every time I try to have fun with my friends, you ruin it!” She stalked over to a picnic table and sat with her back to her younger brother. His wailing stopped, but moments later she heard him cry out in terror. Becky turned to look at him just in time to see him sailing off the bottom of the hill and over the edge of the bluff into Lake Michigan and sink with an enormous splash.
“Teddy! Teddy! Oh, God! No. No. No.” Heart pounding, Becky sat up in bed, tears streaming down her face. “A dream. It was just a dream.” But she could not stop shaking and crying.
Soft steps pattered down the hallway and her bedroom door opened. “Becky, Honey, are you all right? What’s the matter?” Andrea held her sobbing daughter.
“Teddy. Teddy’s dead. Teddy’s dead and it’s all my fault.”
“Shh. Shh. Teddy is just fine. He’s sound asleep in his bed down the hall. You must have had a nightmare.”
“But it was so real. Teddy drowned and it was my fault. I couldn’t live without Teddy. I – I love him.”
“I know you do, honey,” Andrea soothed.
“But I’ve been so awful to him. I wished he had never been born. Or at least, I wished he was normal.”
“I know, I know. You have had to deal with something most girls your age cannot even imagine. You’ve had to care for your little brother and have not been able to have a normal relationship with him. But you don’t have to do it alone. We’re here. And we aren’t alone, either. God is with us and gives us the strength to raise both o f you. You aren’t the easiest person in the world to raise, either, y’know.”
Becky hiccupped. “How? How does God help you? Why would He even let someone like Teddy be born? And what do you mean I’m not the easiest person in the world to raise?”
Andrea chuckled. “Oh, child of mine. I do love you. Now just a minute. I want to get your father.” Andrea rose from the bed and quickly made her way back to her own room. A moment later, a yawning Thomas shuffled into Becky’s room ahead of his wife. “What is this all about? I need my sleep.”
“Becky has a question for us. She wants to know how God helps us cope with raising her and Teddy and why He allows someone to be born disabled.”
“Oh.” Thomas was wide awake now. “Tough questions for three o’clock in the morning. God created a perfect world. But our first parents disobeyed Him and rebelled. Because of that, sin entered the world and it was no longer perfect. Human beings, who were meant to live forever began to die. Oh, the first several generations lived nearly a thousand years, but the effects of sin multiplied. Its like a photocopy. It is difficult to tell the first copy apart from the original. The copy of the first copy is nearly as good and the copy of the second copy isn’t bad either. But eventually, information begins to get lost and the twentieth or thirtieth copy has breaks and smudges on it. That is all a consequence of sin.”
“I learned that in Sunday school class,” Becky mumbled. “But why doesn’t God fix it?”
“He will,” Thomas said. “When Jesus returns, He will make all things right again. But in the meantime, He promises to be with us supernaturally through the Holy Spirit. And when we learn to love God and to surrender to the authority of Jesus, He gives us the Spirit to be with us, guide us, comfort us in the tough times, and give us strength. I know you know all this. Your mother and I have told you many times.”
“I know. But I thought it was just something that grown ups talk about and that all I had to do was go to church and be good.”
“Oh, no, Becky,” Andrea said. “There’s an old saying, ‘God has no grandchildren.’ Your father and I cannot believe for you. That’s something you have to do on your own. Do you want to?”
“Yes. Yes, I do.”
“Well, that was intense! And to think, I almost blocked that dream Rebecca had.” Asahel adjusted his party hat.
Netanel hit him with a high five. “I told you Rebecca would come around. But you know, you’re going to have to be especially on guard these next few years. The enemy will do everything in his power to destroy this daughter of our Father.”
“Yes, I know, and I will be. But for now, let’s just enjoy the party. Wow! It’s sure getting crowded in here.”
Rebecca Marie Elaine Lawson placed her left hand on the Bible and raised her right hand. The Judge spoke. “I will ask you one more time. Are you certain you want to do this? Guardianship is not a matter to be taken lightly. You are a young woman and in time, you may wish to marry and have a family of your own. A husband may not want the responsibility of a disabled brother-in-law.”
“Yes, your Honor. I am certain. Although I did not expect to become Teddy’s guardian until we were both much older, the car accident changed all that. Now that Mom and Dad are gone, I am all Teddy has and I will take care of him for as long as I live.”
Asahel and Netanel solemnly watched the scene in the courtroom with a touch of pride. “Rebecca has certainly come a long way from the days when she said she hated Theodore,” Asahel said.
“Indeed, she has.” Netanel replied. “But we must both be even more diligent from now on. Rebecca has not only her own grief to process, but Theodore’s as well. She will need great wisdom to deal with the pain he does not know how to express.”
“Yes, but the Spirit is with them both…and so are we.”
Time does not exist in hospital waiting rooms. Minutes seem like hours when waiting for news. And news, bad news, turns the hours into but a moment. Becky alternated between sitting and pacing. Teddy’s last physical had showed his heart murmur had worsened and the dilation of his ascending aorta had increased. This morning, he had complained of chest pain and shortness of breath. A scan revealed the dilation had developed into an aneurysm. He needed surgery to repair it, but it was risky. Yet going without the surgery was even more risky. Both Teddy’s primary physician and the surgeon had urged Becky to authorize a “do not resuscitate order.” While Becky trusted both of these men, memories of doctors who had been hesitant to treat even minor problems for Teddy because they equated his diminished capacity as incompatible with “quality of life” had soured her on much of the medial profession. But after receiving assurances from both doctors that they would do everything within their power to achieve a positive outcome for Teddy, she reluctantly agreed.
Becky remained at Teddy’s side as he was prepped for surgery. She did her best to soothe his fears and softly sang his favorite hymns. All too soon, he was wheeled away and now, all she could do was wait…and pray.
Asahel hovered protectively over Rebecca as Netanel took his leave. No words passed between them. The both knew the time had come for Netanel to escort his charge home.
While time does not exist in hospital waiting rooms, the waiting does at last come to an end. Becky looked up and then stood when she heard the door to the private room open. She did not need to hear the words to know what they would be. “I’m so sorry, Ms. Lawson. We did everything we could, but the aneurysm ruptured and we could not get to it fast enough. I’m so sorry for your loss.”
Becky sank back into her chair. The surgeon and a nurse placed their hands on her shoulders. The surgeon asked, “Is there anyone we could call for you?”
Becky sobbed, “Yes. No. All Teddy and I had were each other. But I guess you could call our Pastor.”
Asahel grieved as he watched the Spirit enfold Rebecca in His presence. He was surprised when Netanel joined him. “Theodore is safe and happy with the Father and the Prince. My charge for him is done. I am more needed here.
At the instruction of the Spirit, the two Guardians unsheathed their swords and took up positions on either side of Rebecca. They faced down the vile creatures that hissed accusations at her,
“You always hated him. Now he’s gone. Aren’t you glad”
“You should have done more for him. Remember that trip to Nashville he wanted to take and you wouldn’t go?”
“It wasn’t fair that you had to carry such a burden through life. What kind of God would make you do that”
As the Spirit sheltered the woman, Asahel and Netanel cut through the ugly horde with flaming swords. None of their filthy allegations reached Rebecca.
Becky braided her thinning white hair. She glanced at her lined face in the mirror and let out a small groan. Just the act of plaiting her hair made her arthritic fingers ache. She supposed it would be much more practical to have her hair cut, but she had always liked it long. Slowly, she made her way to the kitchen and poured out a bowl of cereal. It wasn’t the healthiest thing to eat, but these days, even microwaving breakfast took too much effort. After she placed her bowl and spoon in the sink, she limped to her recliner. She smiled sadly at her parents’ wedding photo, gone now these sixty years. Theodore’s picture stood next to it. He too, was gone, nearly 20 years. She couldn’t understand why she was so tired, so, so tired. She sighed. All she needed was to close her eyes, just for a moment or two…
Becky heard the music first. She had no idea where it was coming from, but it was the most beautiful sound she had ever heard. Then there was the aroma. Roses, but like no roses she had ever smelled on earth. She opened her eyes. Before her stood two men. One was a stranger…and yet not. Asahel took Rebecca by the hand. She looked from his face to the face of the other man. Theodore! But not the Theodore she had known. He was strong and healthy. Wisdom and understanding shone from his eyes. He took her other hand. “Welcome, sister,” he smiled.
Together, the trio turned, then fell to their knees and Rebecca Marie Elaine Lawson heard the one voice she had always longed to hear. “Welcome and well done, My good and faithful servant.”