Rick encouraged creative independence in his two boys. But when he heard the sound of the circular saw squealing from the garage, not having been briefed on any new school projects or neighbor’s helping themselves, he felt the need to investigate.
“Hey there, Brent. What’cha making?”
“You’ll see.” Brent, Rick’s oldest at twelve, looked up expectantly, as if he sought acknowledgment of his own confidence or, more likely, scorn at his apparent brush-off. Around him various tools lay splayed in chaotic use; a hammer, wrenches, long wood screws and the unexpected parts of bicycles.
Rick accepted Brent’s dismissal, deferential to the boy’s future as a man. His own father had never been, nor ever would be of such a mind as to assume Rick knew his own mind and how to achieve his goals. “You sure you know what you’re doin’?” or, “I can’t see how that could possibly work.” were just a few of the faithless comments Rick had come to believe comprised his self actualization, or the lack thereof. “Where’d those come from?” he said, pointing to the bicycle parts.
“Junkyard. Mr. McGreeley said I could have ‘em if I came back and organized his pile of alternators.”
“Not gonna even give me a hint at what your makin’?”
Brent shook his head. “But don’t tell Bryan about this, OK?”
“Sure, I can do that. Your mom in on the secret?”
Again the shake. “Could you, you know, keep her in the dark, too?”
“I’ll inform her that her mad-scientist son is elbows deep in a secret experiment.”
Brent gazed up beaming gratitude. “Thanks Dad.”
“You’ve got baseball practice this afternoon, remember.”
“I’ll let you get back at it, Dr. Mad.”
The pediatrician handed out treatment fliers to Rick and his wife, Janette. “They’re making considerable strides in the reduction of MS symptoms. This one, by Sanofi, can nearly stop the deterioration of the endoneurium, sorry, the sheath covering nerves.”
The couple had left Bryan, their youngest son, with his physical therapist while they spoke with his doctor. At ten years-old, Bryan’s diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis had devastated the family. However, Janette’s indomitable personality—she’d completed her masters in psychology while practically raising both boys by herself—would not accept the illness without a fight. Rick, often gone on his job as a civil engineer, had finally secured local employment and for the last few years immersed himself in home-life. The four of them had knit themselves into a rock solid nuclear family.
“I’m assuming our insurance has no intention of paying for such non-standard medical treatment,” said Janette derisively, disdain her native tongue when it came to dealing with insurance companies.
“If it’ll slow the advancement of the disease, do we really have a choice, Jan?” Rick kept flipping the pages over, perhaps thinking to find hidden text alluding to a cure.
Janette rose and returned the fliers, plucking the one from Rick’s fingers. “We’ll let you know. Thanks again for seeing us.”
“Bryan’s a great kid. We’ll keep you informed of any breakthroughs.”
They found their son sitting in his wheelchair, peering out the window at the little league teams playing across McDowell Street at the community ball field. He’d joined a team at eight, but by the time the next season arrived, the condition in his legs had worsened to the point that spectating was his only option.
“Put this blanket over it, OK? Keep it hidden so Bryan…”
“We got it. You go get your equipment bag.” Rick and Janette tucked in the blanket corners to cover Brent’s creation. “And go ahead and help Bryan down the ramp.”
Brent dashed off returning with his red bag full of bats, balls and gloves slung over his shoulder.
“I got this, Brent. You can let go.” Bryan free wheeled down the incline custom-built in the garage, his biking gloves skimming over the rims of his wheelchair wheels. “So, what’s in the back of the car?” He’d rolled down the drive, swerving around his parents, and spied the green covered shape taking up wheelchair room in the back.
“You’ll have to wait, Bry,” his brother said.
Bryan pestered the family all the way to the scrimmage game.
“When it’s time, all will be revealed,” said Rick, mysteriously.
The boy grumbled but surrendered to the suspense.
“Pinch batting for the Wildcats is Bryan Larson.” Brent’s team’s coach announced before the parents in the stands.
Bryan twisted in his wheelchair stationed right next to the bottom bench. “Whaaat’s going on? He said my name.”
The coach pointed at him and curved a finger. “You’re up, son.”
Around the dugout Bryan’s brother Brent came wheeling a Frankenstein contraption that looked half torture device half furniture dolly. “Climb aboard, Bry, I built this so you could come to bat on the team.”
Bryan pinched his lips tight, opened his arms to hug his brother, and said, “Well, don’t just squeeze me. Lift me up and strap me in.”
It took a few misses, but the customized chair proved stable, a solid based allowing Bryan a full swing at the incoming practice strikes. After the sixth or seventh miss Janette looked up from taking video on her phone to hear the crack of a solid hit, the ball flying over second base’s head.
Whoops and cries of ‘way-to-goes’ filled the field.
The coach from the opposite team stepped up, a stand-in umpire, raised an eyebrow in question to Bryan, who nodded. The ump pointed to the pitcher and said loudly, “Play ball.”