Father’s Day Guest Columnist Joe Scalia: My Son Jesse’s Accident

 

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Joe Scalia, twice divorced, is the father of four grown children and grandfather of six grandchildren. Born and raised in Borough Park, Brooklyn, he lives in Farmingdale, Long Island, where he taught English and Creative Writing for 33 years to reluctant junior and senior high school students. He has published five books: the novels “Freaks” and “Pearl” and three short story collections, “No Strings Attached,” “Brooklyn Family Scenes” and “Scalia vs. The Universe or My Life and Hard Times.” 

Dear Jesse,

You were in Boston just six months, a month to the day before your 27th birthday, when your roommate Mike was on the phone telling me you were in the Intensive Care Unit at the hospital where he worked. Then he told me what had happened.

 

You had ridden your 10-speed bicycle down a hill, headed in the wrong direction on a one-way street, unable to see the traffic light ahead, and a car going through the intersection hit you.

 

Your mom and I rushed up to see you. In the car, I joked, “This is our longest time together since the divorce without our lawyers being present!” Neither of us laughed.

 

I had felt sorry when you told me some time before that you were moving back up to Boston. You had returned to Long Island from San Diego. For a short time I had you close and looked forward to your stopping by for lunch and spending afternoons together, even if they were brief and you had to get back to work. I hated to see you go, but I knew you had to. In the months that followed your move back to Boston, your savings ran out and you looked for a paying job with medical coverage, still volunteering and looking for ways to “save the world.”

 

At the hospital, the doctors told us you had flown over the top of the car that hit you and landed on your head. Witnesses at the scene who called the ambulance reported that you were probably dead. The impact broke your femur, tibia and ankle. They had performed emergency surgery as soon as you arrived, inserting a titanium rod to repair the big bone, with pins to hold your ankle. Your helmet saved your life.


The next afternoon, your mother and I went to the police precinct to look at your twisted bike. Then we drove to the site of the accident and walked over the intersection, noting the skid marks. We relived what must have happened to you.

 

In the two years since then, your bones have healed, your bruises faded, and rehab has enabled you to carry on with your life. You have no memory of the accident. But my image of you, my battered and broken son in a coma on a hospital bed, remains vivid and unforgettable.

 

Later, after I knew that you were going to be okay, I wrote this poem for you.

 

Jesse’s hands,
once so small and delicate,
have grown with him,
large and powerful,
into the hands of a man,
his fingers so strikingly
long and tapered, easily those
of a sculptor, an artist,
a classical pianist
with their two octave range,
the gentle hands of a lover,
a tender caresser,
a giver of flowers.
Seeing them now,
bruised and bloody,
makes me wince to think
just how those beautiful hands
bent and broke against windshield,
banged pavement, scraped concrete
that scored ruddy notes on skin
and tore away memory
and music they once
held securely.
Surly seeing him there
today after surgery
in the hospital haze,
his broken leg and ankle
held in place by rod and pins
may seem by far
the greater injury,
but it is Jesse’s hands,
once so small and delicate
held in my own,
that cause
the most pain.


I would have been grateful for a storybook ending with us all “living happily ever after,” but your accident was just the beginning of another, more serious problem that threatened to leave us both with deeper scars.

Love,

 

DadP.S. – Please see part 2 tomorrow

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