Last week my daughter, Kari, celebrated her twenty-first birthday. A landmark anniversary ,for sure. She spent her birthday eve (and midnight when she became legal) in Morgantown, WV, home of West Virginia University where she attends, surrounded by friends. She came home on her birthday to be with her family. We celebrated it with her and prepared her favorite meal… taco pizza. Afterwards, we sat out on the patio and made s’mores.
Still, that entire day I just couldn’t shake the sadness and anger. I’m certain it was exaggerated with Ryan’s eye surgery looming the next day, but I just couldn’t push Ryan’s twenty-first birthday from my mind. It was spent in a rehabilitation hospital in West Orange, NJ. It was a bright and beautiful day, exactly like the day he was born (although the night of his birth was havoc as a Hurricane Hugo stalled over northern Virginia). I wrote about that night in a past post, Ryan Eve. It’s good reading, if I say so myself.
There was no fanfare, just somber celebration. We sang “Happy Birthday” to him. In the evening we set-up a Skype call with Kari who, at the time, was a first-semester freshman at WVU. There wasn’t much more we could do. His friends were away at school, were he should have been. The was no cake. No lighted candles. No fun presents. His day was spent in therapy sessions.
His birthday was just days before his discharge. Sue and I spent the day on the phone arranging for his transport and arrival home. It was endless conversations with doctors, insurance, med-flight, ambulance services, case managers, and medical equipment and supply companies.
He was robbed of yet another rite of passage. He surely has no memory of that day. It was wiped clean on November 9, 2009. Since that night it’s like a phonographic needle skipping on an old vinyl record. Nothing being played. Nothing being recorded. His attackers, who likely prefer the headbanger or gangsta’ genre, put a gash so deep that the stylus just can’t find the groove play on. Stuck.
The music stopped. His life’s symphony, a masterpiece that was in the making, is silenced.
Lastly, I urge everyone who hasn’t to read Austin Vantrease Parole: We Must Take Sides. I wrote this just last week. Not only is it the most read post ever, but the message is important.