The Question at Hand
Stephen age eight Stephen age twenty-one at FIT
I knew without a doubt that Stephen was right-handed. I homeschooled him since he was six and never saw a problem with his writing ability. He had beautiful penmanship and ate with his right hand, never questioned if he was using the wrong side…until he decided he wanted to change. And for what? Baseball. At age eight, life’s all about baseball.
As soon as his dad explains how left-handed baseball players have an advantage, Stephen suddenly realizes he’s supposed to be lefty. He switches the bat from resting above his right shoulder to above his left and turns his feet in the dirt. He hears the cheers, foot stomping from the bleachers as he waits for the pitcher to release the ball. The smell of popcorn and hot dogs tickles his nose as he concentrates on his stance. He swings hard…the ball is going, going, gone! Up to the scoreboard…a homerun!
His dad reaches for the ball at his feet. “Not bad, Stephen. At least you made contact. You’ll have to practice a lot to switch hit.”
“I will. I’m sure I’m a lefty. I’m gonna be the best hitter now!”
“You’ve got plenty of time to practice; you’re only eight.”
“But I’ll be nine next week.”
Every day Stephen gathers a bucket of balls, a bat and his dad and walks to the elementary school field at the corner. The sun toasts his skin light caramel, sprinkles a few more freckles across his nose, and streaks his dark blonde hair with golden highlights. They practice for an hour, until eventually he trains his body or mind or both to feel more comfortable swinging lefty.
Stephen begs his dad to buy him a lefty glove so he can practice pitching. He does, hunting three stores and spending twice as much as he did for a righty glove…but whatever worked for training his swing doesn’t translate to pitching. As I wash the dishes and try not to look out the window, he pitches against the pitch back. Almost. He tries. And tries. My heart beats harder every time he grunts with frustration. If only I could wish success for him and pray that God gives him everything he wants, but he has to learn it won’t come easy.
I focus on the red cardinal landing just as something explodes in the dining room. Glass shards spread across the floor in a kaleidoscope pattern; the window now a hole with jagged edges; a ball rolls by my feet softly squishing sand against the wood floor until it stops at the table leg. Stephen’s mouth is as round as the ball he just threw with his left hand. The next day my husband buys him a new righty glove.
“You can still bat lefty, but you’re better at pitching with your right hand, so don’t force it.”
Stephen slouches a bit. “Sorry ‘bout the window.”
“Just an accident, but tennis balls around the house from now on, okay?”
For the next seven years, Stephen bats lefty. And pitches righty.
Older and wiser? Or ambidextrous?
So I’d expect him to have his right and left figured out by age sixteen, but he is still confused as to which is his natural best side. Now it isn’t a bat, but a guitar.
His dad travels half of Long Island searching for a reasonably priced lefty guitar. He finds one, but definitely not reasonable.
Stephen strums, searches YouTube for beginner lessons, struggles with the strings and breaks the bad news to us. “I think I made a mistake. I might be a righty at guitar too.”
My husband makes the decision for him. “No, you are going to play leftie. After all I went through to get you that guitar, I’m sure you can figure it out. Lessons will help.”
And that was that. He learned, took lessons, got better, became obsessed with improving, went on to major in Classical Guitar at a local college…with his left hand leading the way. But his dilemma doesn’t end there. After graduating from two years as a music major, he realizes he loves drawing animation more than playing the guitar.
“I’ll never be able to strum fast enough with my left hand anyway.”
A new direction?
His drawing skill gets him into an art school in Manhattan where he finally figures out his God-given talent…as his right hand glides across paper.
“A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” Proverbs 16:9