NO MORE SOFTBALL FOR YOU!
My dad burst into the hallway of the busy Emergency Room and took one look at me. He yelled loudly and angrily, “Your softball playing days are OVER!”
Debbie, my three-year-old sister, was rushed to X-ray to make sure her skull hadn’t been cracked from a fall down cement stairs. She cried so loud, we could hear her over the commotion of the Waiting Room. She had a big lump on her forehead from the fall, so, the doctor wanted to make sure something more serious hadn't happened. Laying there on the bed, she looked really small and scared. Her face looked white - as white as the sheet she was laying on. My heart ached for her! How could I let this happen? How did it happen?
My mind raced through the day's events. My friend Elizabeth called. "Tori, we have softball practice tonight at six o'clock." My team was getting ready for the big game against Hess's Catering. Hess's was the number one team in the 14 and Under League, and my team was in second place. If we beat them, we would be number one. How would I tell my Dad that I had another practice? This would be the third night in a row.
The night before, my dad fired one question after another at me. “How bad of a player are you, Tori, that you need all this practice?, What kind of a coach makes 8th graders practice every night?, Don’t these people know that you have responsibilities at home?”
I never told my friends or coach the hard time my dad gave me before every practice. My parents never came to my games - not once. They didn't know that I was a good player. They didn't know that my team needed me. They didn't care.
During the summer, I watched Debbie all day. This meant I played with her, fed her, bathed her and put her to bed. I also helped my mom with anything she needed. My three brothers got to do whatever they wanted. The only time I saw my friends, was at softball practice. It had been this way since I was ten years old.
This night, my dad allowed me to go, but only because I told him I would take Debbie with me. At practice, Debbie was a good little girl. She waited for me and talked to my friends, who thought she was adorable. They helped me watch her. After practice, Debbie and I headed for home. We walked past this one house that had cement stairs leading downward to a basement door. Debbie's foot slipped and down she went.
Her scream shot fear through me! I never heard her scream like that after a fall. She laid crying in a heap at the bottom of the stairs. I quickly ran to get her, and saw the big lump that started to form on her head. It protruded out from her forehead like a big goose egg. As I rocked and tried to comfort her, my coach drove by. He was a policeman during the day, so he stopped and took charge of the situation. Taking one look at Debbie's forehead and the growing goose egg, he told me to get into the car. I thought he was taking us home, but he said, “We’ll take her to the hospital, Tori, and call your parents from there."
Take her to the hospital! Oh no! Was her injury that bad? She wasn't bleeding! In the back of my mind, I knew that this would be the last straw. This would be the ammunition my dad needed to make me quit the team.
We got to the Emergency Room and my coach called my dad. Then he called his wife and told her to bring my dad to the hospital. The doctor and nurses worked on Debbie, taking her blood pressure and looking into her eyes with a little flashlight. My stomach churned from fear, and again my heart ached for my baby sister. Her little hand squeezed mine as she laid there crying. Why didn’t I hold her hand when we were walking home? I usually do. What was I thinking? What if her skull was cracked open? Then the thought entered my mind that maybe my dad was right - softball was more important to me than taking care of Debbie. Guilt gnawed at my stomach until I thought I would throw-up.
Shortly after that, my dad stormed in and told me my softball playing days were over. He went on, "This happened from your neglect," pointing his finger in my face, "Look at all the trouble you caused! Imagine how your mother and I felt when we heard what happened."
I tried not to cry. My coach talked to my dad, but I didn’t hear anything they said. I felt numb. My blank stare hid the fear I felt for Debbie, and what might be wrong with her. It consumed my every thought. I couldn't concern myself with softball right now.
Finally, after what seemed liked days, the doctor came out of the examining room and said Debbie's x-rays didn't show any damage to her skull. Silently, I thanked God that nothing was wrong with her. The tightness in my stomach relaxed a bit. The doctor said we could take Debbie home, but we were to keep an eye on her overnight in case she had a concussion.
The ride home in my coach’s car was a quiet one. Debbie fell asleep beside me, resting her head on my lap. My dad fumed in the front seat. I imagined I saw steam coming out of his ears. He turned around once to look at me and Debbie, and our eyes met. His glaring eyes, and the way his lips looked tight. told me I was in for "it". As the car got closer and closer to home, it grew harder and harder to hold back my tears. Fear took over my whole body and I shivered, despite the warm night.
Once the door to our house closed behind us, my dad immediately started yelling at me. I still held Debbie in my arms. Awakened by my dad's yelling, she looked up at my mom, who had rushed to meet us. "Oh my God! Look at the size of that lump!", she said. "Let Tori put Debbie to bed before you start in on her,” my mom said to my dad.
When I returned, the yelling began all over again.
“You were supposed to be watching your sister!" my dad said.
I fired back, "No! I was supposed to be at softball practice! You're the one who wouldn't let me go unless I took her with me!"
He ignored that and went on, "If this is what playing softball does to you, then that’s it for you! Tonight was your last practice! You can kiss your softball playing days good-bye! You have responsiblities at home."
"I watch Debbie all day, and do whatever mom tells me to do! No one else helps mom like I do. The only time I see my friends is when I have softball practice."
During the argument, my mom sat nearby, listening to everything. I looked to her for help, my eyes pleading, but she didn't step in. She sat silent, avoiding my eyes, and not taking either side of the argument. She never did. Finally, I realized there was no budging him and it was useless to try. I stormed out of the kitchen, crying and went straight to bed.
I laid awake most of the night worrying about my team. How was I going to tell them I had to quit right before our big game? They wouldn't understand how my family is, and they would be mad at me for letting them down. Why did I have parents like this?
The next day Debbie felt much better. The lump on her head had gone down a lot, and she played like nothing happened. At six o’clock, I sat in the kitchen reading to her. My team started practice without me, and probably wondered where I was. I didn't have the nerve to call my coach and tell him that I had to quit. My stomach began to churn all over again.
Suddenly, my mom asked, “Tori, aren’t you going to practice?” Looking up from Debbie's book, I turned to face my mom. Was she making fun of me? I couldn't tell from the look on her face.
“Dad said I can't go”, I answered.
“Well, I say you can! You better leave now, it's six o'clock already”, she said.
Looking up from his newspaper, my dad asked my mom, “Are you letting her go to practice after what she did last night?”
“I told you it was an accident! I didn’t "do" anything.” I said.
“That’s the problem! You never do anything!” he yelled back.
Before another argument broke out between us, my mom interrupted, “Look! She does "do" things! She works hard all day. She takes care of Debbie and she's the only one who helps me around the house. She has to have some fun! I'M letting her go!" She really emphasized the word “I’m”.
My dad grumbled something I couldn't understand, and went back to reading his newspaper. My mouth gaped and my eyes bulged wide with surprise! I never thought my mom would stand up for me like that. She only did that for my brothers. Besides, after her silence the night before, I didn't think she cared if I played softball or not.
I looked at my mom again, and this time, I saw a smile on her face. It was a secret smile shared between her and I. "You go to practice Tori, and have fun," she said warmly. Then the moment was over and she said, "Come here Debbie, let's read your book," taking her from my arms.
I thanked her and kissed Debbie good-bye. Then I grabbed my glove and headed for practice.