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A Father's Gift - Part 2

Thanksgiving is a an occasion to be mindful of the right to open our opportunities and feel well founded freedom. It's a time to be with family and friends. It's a time for gratitude and acceptance, acceptance of others and acceptance of our own good fortune. Santa Fe is a town in the southwestern section of that freedom.

I begged like a man on death row to be delivered to that space. I convinced my folks that there was education there and I wanted to be there with it. They balked at my initial requests, but finally let me go. After all, they insisted that I attend a Catholic high school which was the domain of a teaching order known as The Christian Brothers. This was the very same teaching order that maintained the educational integrity at The College of Santa Fe. I'm pretty sure that this is what turned the tide of doubt in their minds. They really didn't have the money, but they caved anyway. Over two thousand miles would separate me from the stock that had protected me for seventy-six seasons. They paid dearly, but they let me go.

Oh, what a feeling. I'd spent my entire life on the east coast. No, I'd spent the entirety of my nineteen years in Connecticut, a state which should rightly be a city in the state of New England. Now I was heading west, to Santa Fe, New Mexico!

This was the first time I'd ever stepped foot on an airplane. I was a bit jittery at first, but my anxiety quickly turned into exhilaration as the plane rose into thinner air. I could see houses, cars and people grow smaller, sort of like Alice in Wonderland.

People? I couldn't even see cars or houses after a while.

I looked out the window beside which I had the good fortune to be sitting. Clouds engulfed the airliner. Some were even beneath us. Clouds were beneath us! I couldn't believe it! And we were not moving. Sure I heard the sound of the engines humming a monotonic song, but we couldn't have been moving. The clouds were right there all the time. Fluffy, billowy, soft looking masses of atmospheric cotton candy. I was overwhelmed with the beauty of it all. I knew the fun was just beginning.

I came to the realization that we must have been moving when we landed in Albuquerque. In fact, I was quite sure of it once the plane began its decent. However, while I was higher than I'd ever been, in any sense of the word, I could have sworn we were just providing those clouds with some companionship.

I made it. A bus ride and I was in Santa Fe, New Mexico - Southwest Freedom!

Education quickly ceased to be a priority in Southwest Freedom. I was there for “there's” sake. I was there by evoking a mistake in judgement. The mistake in judgement was theirs, the lie was mine.

I was nominally a student at The College of Santa Fe. I almost immediately began to ignore the reason why those buildings, classrooms and lecture halls existed. I traded attending class for attending to sex and drugs and rock n’ roll. And, of course, drinking - lots of drinking. I just loved attending The College of Santa Fe. I was receiving the kind of education that I counted on.

Back to the day of praise and Southwest Freedom. He was from The City of Brotherly Love, just a little southwest of the city of Connecticut. For some inexplicable reason, we began to yearn for the sights and sounds of that which had embraced our pasts. The holiday break was only going to be a week long, but we started a voyage eastward in an attempt to join family and friends in celebrating Thanksgiving. We waited for the kindness of humanity to aid us in our journey.

There was some kindness manifested. Even some who guided closet sized man made eagles glided us eastward in small degrees. In those days, 1969, pilots of small aircraft were required to obtain a weather report before piloting their machines. This weather report was obtained from a small building called a weather station, a waiting room for two college students heading east. The pilots would walk in, we'd ask for a “ride” and were twice obliged.

However, time was not our advocate and, like the clarity of New Mexican air, it became clear that our efforts had failed. Classes, those places that I rarely visited, were to resume in less than a week. It was then that we retreated westward.

Catastrophe struck on a road in a place which wore the graceful Spanish words “Las Cruces”. Dark would blanket my persona. Speed would be the weapon.

A concealment of night. An exit. An automobile express. Tons of metal. And I stood like a bull's eye in the center of the exit.

There was the horrific impact, followed by the flight of about fifteen feet and finally the blunt, almost imperceived landing.

I laid on the ground for a time that was impossible to exist, a short time of long duration. A strange numbness masked the pain. I was shocked that I could be struck by racing tonnage, yet feel no pain. I was either engaging in a dream or what assaulted me with violence and force met me with neither.

However, pain ultimately caught me and followed me as I slithered like a serpent toward the vehicle that struck me. Shouts of encouragement from my partner, as well as the people in the vehicle, were like the plaudits that an athlete receives from his team mates during the crucial part of a sporting event. There was a lot of moral support, as if everyone had wagered on whether or not I could crawl to the vehicle which hit me. No physical assistance, but a lot of moral support.

I finally made it to one of the rear doors of the car and one of the gentlemen kindly created a spot for me on the seat among the myriad of empty beer cans.

Then it happened.

There was the hospital. There were the calls. There were the questions, shot at me like rounds from an automatic weapon. The morphine influenced me to relay the truth to the patrolman who was conducting the interrogation.

Dark clothes?

“Yes.”

Hitchhiking?

“Yes.”

Night time?

“Yes.”

Interstate?

“Yes.”

There were calls. Sounds of maternal hysterics were incomprehensible vocalizations that traversed the telephone wires. They oscillated between vocal lachrymosity and reluctant chastisement.

Was I all right?

“No,” was the answer from the physician. “The leg is shattered like glass. We're going to have to insert a stainless steel rod into your son's right leg to keep the femur together.”

Then there was the father. Then there was his question.

“What did you tell them?”

“I told the truth.”

“You son of a bitch, you just cost me a ton of money!”

I couldn't think of an appropriate response. I still can't.

COPYRIGHT 2005 by Michael Bonanno

Reproduction of "A Father's Gift-Part Two" or any part therein,
is prohibited with the exeption of "fair use" circumstances.

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