I lay awake for hours last night picturing the huge showdown I planned to have with my son's basketball coach. This is what I imagined: I would meet him first thing Monday morning in his office, catching him slightly off guard. He'd know why I was there, though. It's another mother angry because her son is sitting on the bench.... Why do I have to put up with this? At first, he'd try to be kind, patronizing.
But I am not just any mad Mom. I am right. And I am articulate. I tell him that he is an evil little man (he's 5'2"). I tell him that he humiliated my son Friday night, treating him like a 6'6" pariah. How could he be so heartless, knowing that Noah's father had flown from Iowa to Oregon just to watch him play? How could he do this, when he'd worked Noah so hard, kept him on varsity with promises of playing time, asked him to sacrifice so much--including Christmas in Aspen with his dad--so he could be at practices?
I nail him with the facts: He played everyone but Noah. Even after four starters fouled out. He even played a kid who had just joined the team a few days ago.
Noah is so tall his knees stick up in a funny way, above the line of other unfortunates on the bench. Every time someone fouls out, every time someone screws up, he folds his knees together hard, bows his head, and I know he's thinking, Put me in. Put me in. Oh, please, just put me in!
Does the coach really know how it feels to sit there for two hours watching, cheering your teammates, trying not to let your misery show? Trying not to watch your father watching you not play and knowing he's embarrassed for you?
It's 2 a.m. when I finally wind up my imagined speech with victorious, overwhelming, undeniable rightness. The coach has no choice but to beg forgiveness. But since this will never happen, I cut the scene off early. My body is tight, clenched with rage. I take a deep breath, and finally my anger gives way to something else.
I crawl out of bed and go downstairs so I can cry without waking my husband, David. I know this is stupid. Surely, this must be about more than just basketball.
Of course, it is. And, of course, deep down I know what it is about. It is about injustice, the pain and disappointment of life. It is about the fact that I know it will keep coming and coming, and that I would give anything to hold up my hand to stop it, to throw my body out in front of Noah to shield him if I could.
I realize now that all this year, Noah's last year of high school, I've been submerged beneath a wave of low-level panic. There's got to be a way to save him. There's got to be!
I curl up on the couch and cry into our old Indian blanket, wondering even as I do how much of the dog's hair I am inhaling. I continue blubbering to God about pain and injustice and my child--suffering until it finally hits me: God knows your suffering inside and out because He has been there. Only it was worse. The injustice suffered by His Son was unthinkable. Beyond outrageous. And God the Father could only look on.
No, He could only look away.
God, show me how.how to love my son--and yet look away when I must.
After a while, I gather up my blanket, go into the bathroom and blow my nose. I climb the stairs in the dark, my hand on the wall, which feels cool, like something suddenly gone solid.
I stop by Noah's door, but I don't go in. I can't bear to look. Because I know by now that I won't be confronting the coach. I won't even be calling. I will only be praying--and sitting through every basketball game just a few rows behind the bench.
But as I climb into bed next to my husband, suddenly I am sure of one thing: When I am powerless, I can entrust Noah to God. Having once--for my sake--looked away from His own Son, I know that He will never look away from mine.
Evil coaches or not.