When you reach a certain age life changes up from the usual slow smack it out of the park pitches that you’ve grown accustomed to, and begins to throw you curve balls. Curve balls are, as any baseball fan will tell you, much harder to hit, infinitely harder. The reason being that a curve ball has a tendency to drop suddenly, or swing wide to the left or the right at the moment you decide to swing. It’s disorienting, it’s unnatural, and it’s life at it’s finest.
Yesterday I was minding my own business, thinking about that artists bio I still have to write, and whamo! curve straight across the plate. I didn’t even know I was at bat. Damn near missed the whole thing, curve balls are like that. Swing! batter, batter, swing! Whoosh, nothing but air.
It came in the form of a photograph of a dead man, and the name of a child. A child that I thought of as lost. I distinctly remember speaking to her parents a year ago and asking about the little girl that I knew in the 1980’s, who would now be a grown woman in her late thirties. I asked them about their youngest child. Did she have a family? Was she happy? She had been such a joyous, laughing child, and I was curious about what kind of life she’d lived so far. I wanted to reconnect, to catch up, and maybe to become friends once more.
The parents enthusiasm in seeing me again after twenty plus years dimmed, their faces fell, and they looked at the ground for a moment, trying to capture their thoughts and find the words. Judging from their reaction I thought they were going to tell me that their daughter had died a horrible death. A car crash at prom, or some face eating bacteria, or cancer had taken her. I waited until they regained composure, and when they looked at me again there was pain in their eyes, and I wasn’t sure but I thought guilt was there too. What could have happened? I didn’t understand, so I waited.
Slowly, deliberately they told me the story, as if they’d told this story so many times that it had morphed in the telling into a cautionary fairy tale. The kind of tale that you tell your children to scare them back onto the straight and narrow. But this wasn’t Sleeping Beauty, or Cinderella, this was their child, their daughter, and their life. This was not a fictitious story, and the characters didn’t wake up, or marry prince charming.
The story isn’t an unusual one, unfortunately its all too common. A sweet laughing girl gets involved with drugs and loses everything. Her family. Her future. That’s the story that her parents tell. I suspect its not nearly that simple, not that cut and dried. There had been guilt in their eyes too. Did they throw her out? Did they yell at her and demean her into feeling like nothing? Did they reach out too late to save her? Did they rationalize their response as tough love? Or did they let her walk out of their lives without a second glance?
I don’t know the answers to my questions. Really doesn’t matter what happened anyway. Not now.
What matters is that I’m taking another swing at this curve ball, and I’m getting to know the woman that I remember so clearly in my mind as a precocious lovable eight year old girl. Her family, and her future have been of her own choosing, and I’ll bet that regardless of the choices she made in her youth, she’s doing just fine. I really hope that she’s fine.