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It has been said that time heals all wounds and to an extent that's true. The day my dad was killed was the worst in my life; it was frozen in time but I wasn’t. I still went to LSU but on an academic scholarship not an athletic one and it was there that I met the love of my life, Julie. She brought back my smile, and against my advice, accepted my marriage proposal.
On the day we were married I wore the same suit my dad had worn when he had married my mom and, at my request, there was a picture of my dad prominently displayed at the reception. He wasn’t there in person but he was there in spirit and that had to be enough.
Three years after we were married my lovely wife gave birth to a baby boy we named Timothy William the third. From the day he was born I called him Trey; It was an homage to my dad and I knew somewhere he was smiling.
On Trey’s second birthday I bought him a football and on his eighth, at his request, a tennis racket. I wanted my son to know the joy of playing sports but when he asked for a baseball glove for his tenth birthday I reluctantly had to tell him no.
“We are not a baseball family, Trey," I told him. "Is there anything else you would like?”
“I’ll take a basketball if that’s okay.”
He was such a good sport; he didn’t argue. He just moved on to another choice. It’s funny the things I learned from my ten-year-old son. I learned you need to be willing to adjust your sights and I also learned that as much as I loved and missed my father I loved my son more.
Tragedy very rarely happens slowly. As I had learned the day my dad died it usually happens in an instant. I was at work when I got the call from Julie. I was in the middle of an important conference call so when my cell phone buzzed and I saw her name on the ID screen I sent the call to voicemail. Less than a minute later she called again and I once again sent it to voicemail a little irritated this time that she would be so insensitive. When my phone rang the third time and I saw it was again her I snapped to attention and remembered the day my dad died. I remembered how I had continued to pitch when I knew something had to be wrong and all of a sudden I was overcome by panic as I pushed the green button and said anxiously, “Hello”
“J.R., you have to come quick, it’s Trey," Julie said stuttering with panic. "He was climbing a tree and he fell and hit his head.” The fear in her voice nearly ripped my heart out. I couldn’t lose my son. “We are on our way to the hospital, he's unconscious, Oh my God J.R. Please hurry.
“I’m on my way,” I replied not taking the time to announce I was leaving my conference call. “I promise I’ll be there as fast as I can.”
As I sped towards the hospital my mind wavered back and forth between my son and my dad. I said a prayer offering my life for my son’s and then I remembered how fate had stolen my father from me and I doubted God.
I lost all sense of time and a ride that might have only taken about ten minutes seemed interminable. After parking illegally I ran into the hospital and, in what probably looked like a scene from a medical drama, pushed my way past the two people waiting at the nurses' station and demanded to know where my son was. In an act of true kindness, the nurse behind the counter ignored my rudeness and, after finding out my son's name, directed me to the room where he was being treated.
It was all I could do not to burst into the room but in a moment of clarity, surrounded on both sides by life-altering fear, I understood I had to enter calmly to avoid the possibility of making things worse.
There is nothing that can prepare a parent for what I saw as I entered the room. My ten-year-old son, my Trey, was laying in a hospital bed, unconscious, with wires all over his tiny body and a tube down his throat. My wife's mascara stained tears were flowing from her eyes as she immediately hugged me.
My mind was so full of questions but at that moment I couldn’t speak. The doctor, who was in the room with my wife and son, seemed to deduce this and began to give me an update on Trey’s condition.
“Mr. Melesky, my name is Doctor Conrad.” His voice, authoritative and compassionate, snapped me to attention. “Your son has an intracerebral hemorrhage and we are about to take him to surgery. He's a lucky young man. Many people who suffer this type of injury never make it to the hospital.” I knew the doctor was trying to give me a sense of hope but all I could think about was the people who never regained consciousness.
“Oh my God,” I blurted out as I started to sob uncontrollably, “please tell me my son will live.”
“We’ll do everything we can,” he responded, in a way that calmed me enough to sign the consent form and move out of the way as they wheeled my son out of the room. As he passed by I leaned down and kissed him on the forehead and said a quick silent prayer that this would not be the last time I saw my son alive.
Hospital waiting rooms are the worst place for terrified parents to wait for potentially life-destroying news. There are TVS playing shows you don’t want to watch. There are, invariably, children making a ruckus. This is usually because other parents, who are similarly too lost in fear of the worst, forget to control them. Julie and I eventually understood this was not the place for us and we made our way to the small chapel to pray for our son's life.
As we walked through the doors the first thing I noticed was the peacefulness of it all. There were a few other people in the pews praying but there was a silence and a reverence that helped clear my head. As Julie and I sat down to pray an unusual thought entered my mind. At first, it was just a vague idea but little by little it began to crystallize; I knew what I had to do.
“Julie I can’t explain right now, but I have to run home. I need to get something for Trey.” The request was ridiculous but I knew if I explained myself she would talk me out of it and I needed to go. To my surprise my wife, who knew me better than I knew myself, didn’t push back one iota.
“Go, do what you must. I’ll stay here and pray enough for both of us. Please be careful, though. I can’t face this without you.”
I didn’t have time to thank her, I just kissed her quickly and ran to my car and sped home. Once I arrived I made a beeline for my bedroom closet where, on the shelf at the very back, there was a box that contained the glove my dad had given me all those years ago. I didn’t know why, but I knew I had to give my son this glove. I had been wrong, we were a baseball family and I didn’t want to dishonor him, or myself, or my dad by never giving my son a glove.
By the time I returned to the hospital Trey was out of surgery and in a recovery room. Doctor Conrad was cautious in his assessment of Trey's condition. “The next twelve hours are critical. If he makes it through the night then there's hope he'll make a full recovery.”
“Doc, I know this sounds crazy, but is there any chance I could put this in the bed with him?” I said as I opened the box and showed him the glove.
“Absolutely,” he responded as he patted me on the shoulder and left the room.
“What a marvelous idea,” Julie said. “I know your dad would be thrilled.”
As I placed the glove and the bow in his bed next to his left hand I felt the spirit of my father embrace me and, for the first time since Julie’s call, I felt a small sense of peace.
For the rest of the night, Julie and I took turns grabbing a few minutes of sleep while the other watched over Trey. At about six in the morning while Julie was sleeping I inadvertently fell asleep as well. It couldn’t have been more than 10 or 15 minutes at the most when I startled myself awake realizing my mistake.
As my eyes cleared there was a fear that came over me. I had left him, I wasn’t there to protect him. Did I leave my son to die alone?
I jumped from the chair to check on Trey afraid of what I might find. It was then that I saw something that would change all of our lives forever. Trey’s eyes were open and, fitted on his left hand with his fingers spread as far apart as they could go, was my baseball glove, his glove. It was hard to make out because he still had a breathing tube down his throat but he was smiling at me, letting me know he was alright.
It took two more weeks for Trey to be discharged from the hospital and a month after that before he was back to his rambunctious self, but as soon as he was physically able he and I headed to the back yard to have a catch. I know, you might be wondering how we did that since I no longer had a glove but my mom took care of the issue. On her first trip to see Trey after the accident, she brought me a gift. It was an old worn-out glove that had been sitting in her closet at home; the same glove my dad used the first time we played catch.
I’d also like to report that Trey has quite a fastball. Just like his dad and mine, he’s a natural.