(Page 5 of 5)

An Extraordinary, Ordinary Girl A decade after radical brain surgery, Beth Usher, now 17, has made a miraculous, inspiring comeback.

April 13, 1997|By Scott Shane|| TC | Scott Shane|| TC,SUN STAFF

And as if Beth had not some time ago exceeded a lifetime's allotment of pain, she lost her best friend in December 1995. Evie, Beth's duckpin bowling partner and confidante, was hit by a drunken driver while standing by her mother's broken-down car.

"Evie had the most beautiful hair, long and blond," Beth says. "We'd fix it up and laugh and laugh. She had such a good time at my house."

When Evie died, the emotional fence came down. For once, Beth cried. She spoke for hours to her parents and to Rebecca. She wrote a letter, which the priest read aloud at Evie's funeral.

She's given up bowling. "That was something I did with Evie," she explains. "I still think about her all the time."

Beth has other high school friends. Still, says Ursula Laak, Beth's special education teacher for three years, "I know she'd like to have more of a social life. She's 17, and people are talking about the junior prom."

Beth admits to feeling out of sync with the mainstream. She says she doesn't regret it. "I'm not really into gossip," she says. "I'm not into boys, or makeup, or lipstick, or dating and all that."

Yet in a recent poem, Beth expressed the edgy outcry one might expect from a 17-year-old with disabilities. It was a hint that her empathy has roots in her own, well-hidden pain:

Don't stare at me,

Stare into me.

See the real me --

Feel my loneliness and my hurt

I am me but could be you.

Writing is a place where Beth can escape -- from unwanted attention, even from her own stoicism. She writes in a journal daily -- "My life in review," she calls it. Occasionally she has attempted flights of fiction.

"I'd like to see Beth become a children's writer," says Jennifer Audette, 26, an aide in two of Beth's science classes. Audette calls her "very bright, very, very creative"; she was particularly impressed by a story Beth wrote last year about shrinking to the size of a cell and taking an anatomical journey through the human body. "It was amazing," says Audette.

Others see Beth teaching pre-school, or working with handicapped kids or with the elderly. Beth says she likes all those ideas. Maybe she'll marry someday, she says -- "if you find someone who'll marry me." She'll definitely adopt children. "Children no one else wants," she says.

In the meantime, Beth Usher moves through her life with hesitant grace, distilling strength from trouble, shaming the small-minded, reaching out to the lonely.

It is as if she asks: If I can laugh, after what I've been through, why can't you?

Pub Date: 4/13/97

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.