I was a year old when a man fell asleep at the wheel, blew a red light, and t-boned my father’s car as he was driving through an intersection. The man, who was almost 90 years old, died instantly. My father, meanwhile, broke two cheekbones, his right wrist, and lost about 75% of his right kneecap. He also cracked his forehead on the steering wheel–resulting in a gash that required more than 40 stitches to close–and the resulting head trauma left him in a coma.
Despite giving him about a 10% chance of living, doctors operated on his broken bones over the next few days. Steel pins were placed in his wrist, a false kneecap–held together with a copious amount of wiring–replaced what had been lost, and his jaws were wired shut. He would stay that way for the next six weeks. His face was so swollen, my mother tells me, that she couldn’t even see his ears.
By the end of the week he had come down with pneumonia and was placed on life support. Eventually, his right lung collapsed.
But then my mother felt him squeeze her hand.
A devout, devout Catholic, my mother had been praying to God, for 10 days, in hopes that he would give her husband back to her. Her prayers, it seemed, were answered. Albeit, with cruel irony.
My mother ran out of the room screaming to the nurses that her John was awake. A nurse came in and squeezed his hand three times. He squeezed it back three times. She leaned down, and said to him, “Your wife is here. Say something to her.”
He smiled and turned his head. He looked my mother in the eyes, and said, “Fuck off.”
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