Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Adolescence/Teen Years (07/16/09)
- TITLE: Summer Grief to Spring Grace
By Bryan Ridenour
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Camp Wappapello sat nestled on ten thousand acres of Missouri forest and sprawled in a half moon around the Lake of the Ozarks. Quiet now, in two days teenagers from all parts west of the Mississippi would converge, Bible study and recreational pursuits being the focal points drawing hundreds.
Camp staffers chatted over round tables, scarfing down an unknown entree'. The hum of the conveyor belt delivering plates and utensils to the cleaning crew droned in the background. A tapping on the cafeteria window drew the attention of everyone inside. Paul glanced at the source of the distraction and nodded. Bobby, his college roommate, was summoning him. Bobby made a phone sign with one hand and pointed with the other. Paul pushed from the table, washing down remnants of the mystery casserole with iced tea. Giving a friendly wave over his shoulder, Paul joined his buddy waiting outside.
"What's up?" Paul asked.
"It's your folks...sounds like their upset."
Paul ran down a flight of steps, taking them two at a time. Dashing into the gift shop, he grabbed the receiver from the counter. Heavy sobs responded to his, "Mom and Dad, what's wrong?" Paul waited silently, listening to the sound of hearts breaking.
"It's your sister," his mom began, "she's pregnant."
Paul, staggered by the news, slid down the wall with a thud. "Fifteen and pregnant," he thought. "What was she thinking?" His throat caught with grief as his mind searched for words of consolation.
"Do you want me to come home?...I will," Paul announced, meaning it.
"No, son. You've got to work for college tuition. We just needed someone to talk to."
Paul paused, thoughts racing. Hurt, anger, disappointment, and shame collided in his mind producing a blinding headache. Paul considered rushing home to beat the snot out of the boyfriend and to kick his sister in the rear end. Maybe she needed to be reminded of her Christian heritage and of her father's pastoral status.
"How is she?" Paul asked numbly.
"Well," his mom answered, "your father wants to run Aaron off, but your sister threatens to runaway with him..."
"We," his father interrupted, "don't know what we're going to do. I guess just take it one day at a time. We called so that we could ask you to pray."
"We'd better go," mom interrupted with hushed tones, "your sister's out of the shower. We love you Paul."
"I love you both."
The phone slipped from Paul's fingers and smacked the cold tile floor. As evening shadows danced with trinkets and camp souvenirs, Paul wept.
Balloons and streamers adorned the walls and corners of the dining room. One large banner draped from the ceiling read, "Happy Sweet 16th!"
"Hi, Uncle Paul," Kris greeted with a hug.
"Hi, Kris! Happy Birthday!"
"Thanks," she responded with a silly curtsy. "I'll talk to you later...I've got t' mingle."
Paul stepped into the kitchen and slipped his arm around his sister who was busy putting the finishing touches on Kris' birthday cake.
"Sis, I can't believe she's 16 and driving. Heck, I still remember the diaper of '93. The blowout...the debris...what were you feeding that girl?"
Melissa laughed easily. "Yep, time has flown...and don't forget, you might remember that diaper, but I had to clean it up!"
"Liss," he started, "You've done a super job raising Kris. I'm proud of you. You to..." he said offering a hand to his brother-in-law. "By the way, we've got to get out to the golf course. When's your vacation, Aaron?"
"In a couple of weeks."
"Are we on then? Kris can drive the cart and we can catch up."
"We're on. How about a little wager?"
"Not on this teacher's salary."
Laughter as well as grace filled the room.
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