She was horror-struck at his poetic sense of balance teetering on the pinnacle of the rooftop. Anita’s heart caught in her throat.
Please don’t fall Ben! She prayed silently, concerned about startling the child. Ben often balanced precariously on the tops of fences, oblivious to the danger. This was horrifying. While Anita stood frozen, Ben’s mom opened the screen door.
“Where’s Ben, Anita?”
Anita pointed silently to the neighbor’s rooftop, covering her eyes with her other hand. “Forgive me, he took off on me, Bonnie.”
“Not again! He was up there yesterday. Some days I think the guys in the white jackets are going to take me away Anita,” Bonnie moaned.
“I thought he just balanced on the tops of fences. I had no idea…”
“Well, yesterday was worse.” Bonnie looked on at Ben’s high wire act. “He bolted and headed for the highway, Anita. I stood helplessly watching a gruesome ballet between my son and the oncoming traffic. His timing was perfect, missing each car by inches. When he got to the other side, he kept going until he reached the Mississippi River. Ben jumped right in, taking a swim with that silly grin plastered on his face. I’m glad he can swim. Mark had to fish him out. Thank goodness he’s bigger than his son.”
Bonnie wrung her hands, “Anita, I want to scream, ‘BEN GET DOWN’ but then he might fall.”
Anita and Bonnie gasped as Ben teetered back and forth suddenly loosing his balance. He steadied himself deciding it was time to finally climb down.
“Thank you Father!” Anita gasped with relief.
“Ditto. Anita, did you know that Ben asked to be baptized last night? We asked him who he wanted to be there. He said, ‘Sea Lion Anita!’ Just like that. My boy loves you, Anita.”
“Well at least he calls you ‘Sea Lion Mom’ as well, or I wouldn’t appreciate my new title. I’ll never forget him standing up in church yelling ‘HIPPO’, at the music conductor. Calling his Sunday school teacher Cruella that same day. Now that was a moment.”
Anita finally relaxed as Ben walked back home without a scratch. He reached for her, petting Anita’s shoulder with his big strong hand like she had been a good puppy.
“Sea Li-on! Sea Li-on! Bap-tize! Me bap-tize!”
Tears welled in Anita’s eyes, knowing how hard it had been for this autistic child, to learn each word. “Ben, Sea Lion Anita will come to your baptism.” She patted his shoulder with affection. “When is it going to be, Bonnie?”
“Tonight at seven sharp! Maybe then Ben will stay off the roof!” After Ben was safe in the house, Bonnie paused. “Anita, one more thing. Please don’t tell anyone about tonight. He might freak if crowds of people show up.”
Anita winked at Bonnie, “Don’t worry, Bonnie I won’t tell a soul. I’m still in shock that he’s asked to be baptized. I’ll see you at the church, Bye!” Anita waved before climbing into her car.
Later at the church Anita thought Ben looked angelic dressed in white. His family had all gathered. She was astonished at how calm the young man seemed. Ben appeared to absorb everything around him. He listened intently to the speakers who presided over the Baptismal Services. It was miraculous.
Ben walked into the waters of baptism with his father holding his hand. There was a hushed reverence that came over the gathering. All six of Ben’s little sisters were watching immersed in their joy. Ben was looking at each of them with perfect clarity where vacancy had always been. It was as if Heavenly Father had cleared the clouds away and the sunshine was streaming through his eyes for the very first time.
Anita held her breath as Ben went under the water. As he came up he wiped the water from his eyes and let out a triumphant yell! “Wahoo! Wahoo! Wahoo!”
The elation that his spirit must have felt overwhelmed her. Anita had never experienced such a spiritual awakening. It was inspiring and no one would ever forget the blessing of this baptism. Anita would never take her own baptism for granted again.
After dressing Ben joined his family. The moment of transformation had fled. The glazed mask had returned. There was one subtle change to his appearance. Ben’s lips were touched by the sweetest smile. Anita felt his contentment. His special day had reached beyond his mask and all who loved him had felt its serenity.
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