Go West, Young Woman

Today we put the baby of our family, Bethany, on a plane as she moves clear across the country to embark on a new adventure in Montana.  One would think I would be used to this, as my daughter Miranda has lived all over the world and both Kara and Bethany left our area two years ago for Cincinnati and Pittsburgh.

Although I did not love it when she left, I always knew Miranda would explore the world because she talked about it her entire life.  And I have always prepared myself for the likelihood that my children would have to leave this area due to the lack of economic opportunities, so having Kara and Bethany move to larger cities in our region came as no big shock.  To be clear, I’m well aware that it could be worse, as thankfully, Amber and Ally have so far chosen to stay nearby and have managed to find careers they love.

I guess it’s the sheer distance of Montana, but this one is hitting me very hard.  Pittsburgh was bad enough, but I just never imagined that Bethany, our beautiful little 25 year-old surprise (or “accident” as her sisters lovingly call her), would ever move so far away.

While I’m not so sure about me, I know Bethany will be more than fine.  She thrived in Pittsburgh and there is no reason to suspect she won’t do the same in Montana.  I used to worry about her ability to make it in this world because we had raised her more like a grandchild compared to our other children.  Being the youngest by 11 years, she was literally carried around like a doll by her older sisters until she finally grew too heavy.  Plus, by the time she came around, our financial situation had changed drastically from the early, lean years that our older children experienced.  So you might say she had an easy life compared to her sisters.  But like all my children, she was born with this inner toughness that I honestly cannot take any credit for.

I recall a time when Bethany was about 12 and pitching for a Little League softball team.  She “pegged” the opposing batter who happened to be one of her best friends.  From my experience, when this occurs many female pitchers will stand there saying they are sorry and worrying the batter is hurt.  Not Bethany.  She just stood on the mound staring down her friend, who was lying on the ground sobbing and being attended to by adults.  Concerned that Bethany was upset for hurting her friend and having a weird stress reaction, I walked to the mound to make sure she was okay.  Without taking her eyes off her fallen friend, she paraphrased the movie A League of Their Own and said dryly, “There’s no crying in softball.”  I remember thinking, dang, this kid is tough, but I bet she goes far!  Don’t get me wrong, Bethany is actually a very lovable person, but her point was that sometimes you just have to suck it up!

Another time when Bethany was pitching in high school, she caught a come-backer line drive in her belly basically like a football, as she couldn’t react fast enough with her glove.  She didn’t flinch.  Again, she stood on the mound staring down the batter as she retreated to the dugout.  Later I asked her how in the world she had caught that ball without getting hurt and she lifted her shirt to reveal a nasty bruise.  You can’t teach that kind of stubborn grit.

You have probably figured out that I’m not the best empty nest guy.  I’m the one who told everyone that when Amber got married she “moved away” to Westmoreland.  When they asked me where is Westmoreland, I would say, “In West Huntington just past the Wayne County line, close to Camden Park!”  In case you’re wondering, that is about 15 miles from our house.  While she lived there, I called her “Amber Graves of Wayne” (think about it), but I digress.  I am excited to watch my children spread their wings and I love my life as a grandfather, but I would be lying if I said the period when all five of my children were still living at home was not the favorite time in my life.

So goodbye for now, my dear, sweet Bethany.  Pay attention to your phone, I’ll be calling it a lot.

“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6).