Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Risk (05/17/12)
TITLE: Bending of Age
By Joanna Stricker
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The chatty teacher didn’t stop talking to the elderly couple when they paused in the doorway of the special needs classroom.
The white-haired man occasionally interrupted. Asked for clarification.
His wife kept quiet. She knew what he was doing. Her hearing was slightly better than his, and she was only catching every other word that came out of the woman’s mouth. But the scene before them told more than they could hear. And she was searching for one child in particular.
A cute pony-tailed little girl sat in a specially designed chair, her head back, mouth hanging open, attention fastened on an enthusiastic aide. Another aide looked at a book with a child; he labored hard with elementary words…bird, plane, boat.
Her attention finally rested on the child who sat at the center of the room--surveying his surroundings with angry eyes. His presence here was temporary, but he’d had attitude issues and the other classes were full…
His back was stiff with resentment, face sulky and a frown. A frown that mirrored her boy’s…thirty years ago. She blinked away the tears that threatened at the reminder. Her little boy was gone now, as was the man he’d become. But he’d left this boy.
A boy…who had years before he became a man.
What kind of man would he become? She looked up at her husband. The teacher fell silent. Waiting.
There was still time to walk away. No expectations had been placed upon them. Social services had him in foster homes and eventually would seek “permanent placement”—she assumed the unfamiliar expression meant adoption.
But he wasn’t alone. He wasn’t aware…but they were.
She’d thought about the disruption to their home—the energy needed for a child, a teenager, and maybe, eventually, a college student. They’d assessed the man’s health—the high blood pressure, the heart that sometimes skipped a beat. They discussed the fact that their work was done. They’d expected to end their days in quiet, puttering around house and garden…
But what if God wasn’t done with them? Did one ever become too old to trust?
His eyes searched her face—he’d already decided. He’d counted the cost, even the strict adherence to diet and exercise, and he was willing.
Fear had stretched her decision to this moment. If they stepped forward, it was commitment to see the boy through. If one of them didn’t make it, the other would be alone…no, that wasn’t right…
“With God’s help?” he queried gently.
It was time to tell the boy he was not alone. And that he was loved.
Twenty years later…
Hats were still flying as the crowd surged forward swallowing the new graduates into their midst with congratulating approval. One black-robed figure separated and with long strides quickly reached the couple waiting at the back of the room.
“I did it, Grams!” With boisterous fervor, he bussed the wrinkled cheek. She laughed and beamed at her boy. He already had an arm around his grandfather’s shoulders.
“Thanks, Gramps. I never could have done it without you.”
The older man snorted in disbelief, “Sure you could have! What’d I always say? Just need to set your mind…”
“…and get God’s blessing. Now I just have to convince my students that anything is possible.”
His school internship had turned into a permanent position as the special needs teacher. “You can do it,” she assured him, “with God, all things are possible.”
A high-pitched voice carried over the crowd.
“Teacher, teacher! I saw you!”
The young man turned in time to catch the small figure before it careened past him.
“Whoa, there.” The boy’s almond-shaped eyes were bright with affection. His smile was wide, generous and as guileless as any she’d ever seen.
“Oops.” Barely a heartbeat passed before the boy eagerly continued, “Did you see me?”
“I sure did.” He smiled at the child before greeting the straggling parents.
The older man put his arm around his wife’s shoulder, “We did good.”
“We did…” She agreed, looking up into his eyes.
They finished in unison—“With God’s help.” –and smiled.
(NKJV) Eccl. 5: 19-20 “As for every man…God has given…to receive his heritage and rejoice in his labor—this is the gift of God. For he will not dwell unduly upon the days of his life, because God keeps him busy with the joy of his heart.”
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