Cathy lowered her eyes; her mind didn’t hear Rory’s English teacher explain his latest report card. The “C” would be a dragging anchor on his prep school admission. The first descendent in the long line of Chatsworth’s to be on the outcast list of Royal Herald Preparatory.
“Rory’s writing is first rate,” droned on Mrs. Harper. “He had difficulty in speech.”
Cathy could excuse the teacher for not blurting out that Rory had a lisp. She never liked to mention or call attention to it herself.
“Rory’s signed up to audition for the class play,” continued Mrs. Harper. “And, Mr. Peterson the drama instructor will be fair in the final casting. However....”
Cathy early on understood that teachers loved to paint a positive picture before the crushing blow that usually began with the word “However” or “We must be realistic” or similar word or phrase. She’d tried to do her best coaching Rory to enunciate since his birth eight years ago.
Rory’s speech challenge hadn’t become noticeable until he reached age three. The lisp became pronounced. When Rory’s grandmother chided him for talking funny, Cathy clenched her jaw at the family picnic. Rory would always be the best thing in her life. If an outsider had uttered the insult, Cathy’s fist would have been clenched and delivered forcefully to a jaw.
Her denial that Rory had a lasting speech challenge lasted but two months until the speech specialist confirmed with a second opinion that, while Rory had no physical deformity, he was most likely to carry the lisp into adulthood.
Cathy became angry. David, her husband, convinced her that anger would do more harm than good. He suggested Rory would feel the undercurrent of being a leper in his own family. The overwhelming parental love they both felt for Rory would be subconsciously subverted by repressed anger.
When her anger subsided, Cathy tried to bargain with the therapist’s facility that their diagnosis protocols were not in accord with the most modern medical practice. A cure existed for Rory’s lisp if they’d only explore the medical literature deeper. The therapist with downcast eyes said their prognosis would have to be accepted.
Cathy sought a higher power. She prayed to God. Give her penance for what she’d done wrong. Don’t take it out on Rory. She pleaded with God to give her pain and take it away from Rory. The arthritis in her shoulder could be worse. I’ll accept that, she implored her God.
Unlike the therapist, God didn’t issue a verbal statement. However, Rory’s lisp continued in milder form and Cathy felt no increased arthritis in her shoulder or any new body pain.
A month later at breakfast, Rory announced he’d signed up to audition for a speaking part in the school spring play. There will be elves and woodland creatures, said an excited Rory.
Two days later, Rory handed his mother a play booklet.
“I think I should be the King or the Wizard,” said Rory. A sparkle in his green eyes reinforced his announced enthusiasm.
“Are you sure? I wouldn’t want you to be disappointed.” Cathy clasped her hand across her mouth. She wasn’t going to imitate those English teachers. Rory needed encouragement, not defeatism. She summoned up her best acting skills. “That will be great. Have you practiced your lines? I can help.”
“Thanks, mom. And do you know what?”
“I have a plastic sword from Halloween that I can use to be King.”
“You’re right. I can find gold paint for a crown.”
Later that evening when Rory had practiced until tuckered out, Cathy and David sat together on the living room sofa. Her brow wrinkled, her eyelids sagged, but more importantly her expectation that Rory would be crushed if not selected for the play festered in her heart.
“Every child needs to have a dream, a goal,” said David. He grasped her shoulder.
“I know. He’s so intelligent.” Cathy snuggled into David’s chest. “His math and science teachers rave at his ability to understand concepts well beyond his years.”
“You could explain that to him.” David’s voice tentative. “That he should focus on what he does best. He knows I can’t cook.” David chuckled.
“David, I can’t. You haven’t seen him with that script. The multiple attempts to pronounce words he stumbles over. It would break my heart to tell him he can’t audition.”
“Then don’t.” David’s face sober, no gaiety in his eyes.
“But ... He’ll be crushed if not selected. I won’t be able to bear that either.”
* * *
Three weeks passed and audition day dawned. During breakfast Rory practiced his dialogue memorization. The tattered and dog-eared script finally zipped inside his backpack. Cathy gave Rory an extra hug, said she loved him always no matter what he did, and wished him the best luck.
She also promised she would be there after school to pick him up.
Cathy skipped a ladies’ noon luncheon. She predicted she’d be too nervous. Four times that afternoon she checked the freezer to prove that Rory’s favorite ice bars were there.
She prayed to God that she’d come to realize that she couldn’t bargain with God and through faith had accepted Rory’s physical limitations. Let him do his best. He’s worked hard.
Cathy drove early to the school to garner a front row parking spot. Her hands alternatively gripped the steering wheel and rubbed her temples. When the school buses arrived, Cathy exited her SUV and stood at the front bumper.
Rory raced across the school lawn. When he got closer, his mother observed Rory’s wide grin and his sparkling green eyes filled with enthusiasm and pride.
“Guess what, mom?”
Cathy couldn’t guess, but Rory’s next words forever represented a great lesson.
“I’ve been chosen to clap and cheer.”