A knock interrupted the dream I was having. I tried to bring it back, but it floated off. My room was still dark. A faint light came through the slats in the blinds. More knocking then slippers flip-flopping across our hardwood floors. I sat up and blinked to read the clock. Seven twenty-nine a.m. My father. He forgot something. Or car trouble. It was snowing when I went to bed. Then my mother's voice called from downstairs.
It didn't sound like her. She had never called to me like that. Something was wrong.
When I got downstairs, I saw two policemen. My mother stood to the side, not moving; she was looking down. Spasms of adrenaline rose within me.
"This is my son." She spoke so quietly I could barely hear her. She looked at me. Her eyes were blank and staring. "Frank, your father―"
One of the men interrupted. "Frank D'Antonio?"
He shifted his weight and looked directly at me. "Sir, I'm sorry to inform you... your father's been shot."
"Shot? Where?" I looked at my mother. "When?" My voice sounded odd to me. I wondered if they had heard me.
"We don't have all the details, Sir. The Brooklyn precinct called us. He's at Methodist. There was another man. A black man. He was shot too."
We exchanged stares. My throat tightened. I tried to clear it. "That's Reggie, his driver," I said. "Are they okay? Is it serious?"
"Sir, we don't know. Maybe you should be there." They apologized again and wished us well. The door closed behind them. The silence engulfed us.
"I have to get dressed," my mother said. Her face was strained. She was speaking with effort, one word at a time.
"Ma, I can't wait. Tell Angelo and Carman to get you no, I'll call them. I'll tell them to come." I ran upstairs to finish dressing.
The sliding-glass doors opened and I stepped into the emergency room. In the corridor, people waited along the walls in stretchers and wheelchairs. A voice burst out on the loudspeaker, paging a doctor. I looked everywhere for my father but dreaded to see him. At the nurses' desk a man and woman were checking a clipboard. They wore white coats and green pants. The woman looked up. "Can I help you, Sir?"
"I'm Frank D'Antonio."
The man lowered the clipboard and looked at me. "You're looking for Joseph D'Antonio?"
"You can see your grandfather but just for a minute."
"He's not my grandfather. He's my father. How is he?"
The man raised his eyebrows and looked more intently at me. I was used to these looks of surprise. The gap in our ages always amazed people.
"His condition...is critical." My stomach tightened. I stared at him.
"He has multiple gunshot wounds. We're preparing him for surgery now. You must be quick. Around the corner. Number three."
I rushed down a short corridor, dodging stretchers. Cubicles were separated by white curtains. I couldn't find any numbers. I counted to three and pushed aside the curtain.
My father lay still. His eyes were closed. A plastic tube was in his nose. From two plastic pouches above him, a clear liquid was flowing into his arm.
I moved toward the bed and stared down at my father. I put his hand in mine. It seemed to have no strength, but it was warm. I looked down at those familiar hands. His middle finger was bent slightly from that night he caught the ball at Yankee Stadium. I was seven. It had been so exciting. The ball coming at us. Straight at us. I hadn't learned about his pain until later. He hadn't wanted us to know.
I was there, holding the same hand. My father's hand. It looked so alive. So normal. Not like a hand that belonged to a dying man. There was no wound. No sign of trauma. I clung to it, aware I could not squeeze though I wanted to. I wanted to take his hand and walk with him out of the park and go home.
As if by the intensity of my thoughts, he opened his eyes. He looked at me and made an effort to smile. His mouth didn't move, but I could see the smile in his eyes. I felt a slight squeeze of my hand. When he let go, I held on.
"I'm here, Dad. Everything's gonna be all right."
Tears stung my eyes. Everything's gonna be all right. That's what you say. But how did I know? I really didn't know anything. I didn't want him to see me cry. He opened his mouth but no sound came. He tried again. There was a hollow sound, as if he had no breath. I leaned close to him.
"We've...come a long way, Son." He lifted his hand slightly off the bed, as if the movement would give more power to his words.
"We got a long way to go, Dad." I didn't know what I meant. It just came out.
"Make sure―" His eyes closed briefly. "Make sure you go the right way. You are my son. I love you, Frankie."
There was no keeping my tears away,
"You're gonna be okay, Dad. You're gonna be okay." My voice sounded more urgent than reassuring.
Suddenly his hand tightened.
"You're a good boy, Frankie. You got a good name. Don't let anybody change that."
"Please, Dad, don't worry. I'll take care of everything."
He squeezed again and his eyes flickered with pain or confusion. I couldn't tell which.
"Take care of yourself!"
The curtain moved behind me and a woman's voice startled me.
"You'll have to leave now, Sir."
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