Friday, May 17, 2013
Three Prayers And A Hope
Nick had soccer practice the other night at one of those sports parks you see everywhere. Zack went along and when he does we usually take our gloves and he and I throw ball while N practices. Nick doesn't like me watching practice so much anymore, he's sort of trying to find his way on his own a lot more these days. I try not to let it hurt my feelings, but, it does a little.
At the sports park there were a couple of Little League games going on, not club baseball, but U10-12 rec stuff. Zack and I couldn't really find a very good place to toss so we wandered over to one of the games, Reds - Brewers as I recall.
We sit and watch a little warm-up, standing behind an extremely, absurdly, I remember thinking, tall fence and before long the game starts. We sit through a couple batters and I ask him if he wants to move down a little bit so he can see the batters box a little better. He says yes and we begin to walk around the Reds bench and ...
... a ball comes out of nowhere and is headed right at Zack. I have no time to react although I lunge clumsily towards the ball, and it hits that sweet boy right in the face. And it took him down. Have you ever heard someone say "and it happened all at once?" Well, it happened all at once.
I feel certain I thought and felt all these things at exactly the same time and in no discernible order:
How did a kid get a ball over that fence?
Where is the nearest emergency room?
What is the protocol for broken teeth?
What am I gonna do with Nick?
Is he knocked out? No he's screaming.
I'm gonna need ice.
I'm so sorry son, why couldn't it have hit me?
How could God let this happen?
This is gonna ruin our lives.
How could I have let this happen?
I thought all these things and ran a gamut of emotions and felt the fear and adrenaline absolutely surging through my body, energizing and focusing me. But, and I hate to admit it, the very first thing out of my mouth as I ran towards him was:
I cursed skyward. I am still not sure if I was cursing the batter or the wind or Fate or the now too short fence or God or myself.
The first thing Zack said heard me say was "I know it hurts, Zacky, and I'm sorry this happened but, I gottta get a look at it." He was screaming and, again all at once, I ascertained that he was going to be alright. I knew it. There was blood, but it wasn't gushing. Although there was some blood on his teeth I wiggled them and they were intact. His nose was untouched, his eyes, though full of tears, were clear and focused.
"Does any one have some ice?" I shouted and someone said they were on it.
I looked back and tried, physically, emotionally, viscerally to take his pain from him. I held his head and stroked it and said soothing things to him.
I looked him in the eye and, with confidence and assurance, told him that he was going to be alright - which I don't always do the instant a child is hurt - because, in this case, I knew to be true.
I used the bottom of my shirt to wipe the blood and keep a little pressure on the wound on the inside of his lower lip. It slowed quickly and I was handed a bag of ice and we got that right on the place the ball had hit him and, well, he stopped crying.
Thankfully, only a few people had gathered around, one the father of the umpire of the game who I knew by sight, he'd given me the ice, and another couple watching their son's game. They all stood in just a way, purposefully, that shaded the boy and I. I appreciated that.
Zack said later that he didn't even hear "the ping off the bat" so he didn't know it was coming and neither had I. I think he was mad because if he'd of seen it, he could've caught it, I could've caught it too, I mean with both had gloves on. As it is, it's a good thing he had no idea it was coming, because the ball just clipped his bottom lip with such surgical precision that it just, basically, bruised and slightly abraded it. You couldn't really take a popup foul to the face any better.
I said before that I thought everything all at once. I thought a broken nose, broken teeth, a cut lip or tongue, stitches, black eyes, shattered cheekbones, grisly stuff I know, but, you have to go there sometimes.
And yet all he got was a fat lip.
There's a little more to the story, the part that come with retrospect and consideration.
Just before I cursed the fates I remember that the woman who was standing near us, correctly calculating the trajectory and wind and all, seemed to anticipate the impact and, just before it struck Zack she said:
"Oh my God"
A few minutes after it happened, Zack was calmer, just sort of just sobbing a little bit, in fear I'd guess, one of the guys providing our shade asked if he was going to be alright. Zack nodded and said he thought so.
And, together in one voice, both men said:
I have been thinking about the whole thing, trying to not blame myself, considering how I reacted, how I handled things and I am alright with it all. But, for some reason what left an imprint is this.
"Oh my God." A prayer for intercession.
"GODDAMMIT!" A prayer for strength and courage over fear and hopelessness.
"Thank God." A prayer of thanksgiving.
I wonder what happened beyond this realm that day. Did that "oh My god" wake the wind just soon enough to blow the ball off track so that it didn't hurt him as badly as it could have? Was my unorthodox and perhaps disrespectful curse enough to get God to curse back at me the power of calm and purpose, because that's how it felt? Don't two men simultaneously moved to utter the same words at precisely the same time constitute a choir of angels in celebration?
I don't quote bible passages, except when I do. In Isaiah, God says “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine." I never feel that way, I don't feel that God knows me by name. I guess I wonder why he'd bother, or that he's too busy, or ...
For some reason, that day, in the shade of two kind men, under the blue spring skies, holding a scared and injured little boy, I felt that God does knows me by name, and Zack by name, and Nick by name and Marci by name and, well, you by name.
I heard an affirmation once that I sometimes use to combat the frustration of that feeling that God doesn't know who I am: I am (insert your name here), a child of God, Lord hear my prayer.
I have noticed the little prayers people unknowingly send up all my life. When I saw a fire break out of the window of a brownstone in Brooklyn one time and I heard like twenty people say "oh my God." A prayer. I've seen a boy get up after a hard fall at a soccer game to the collective and audible murmur of "thank God." A prayer. I've seen a woman, bent over her injured son, cursing and cajoling God, simply trying to get His attention as her son suffered from injuries in a car wreck. A prayer.
There is one more I have heard, it's more subtle, but I do it everyday and perhaps you do as well. We hope. When we hope, we pray. A hope is always a prayer, I promise.
I am Bill, child of God, Lord hear my prayer. ThankYouthankYouthankYouThankyou.