Soccer, Stitches, and Everything in Between

February 12, 2008
By Alaina Altamura, Kannapolis, NC

The trees had already begun changing colors splattering the dead—end street with spots of gold and red. New York was always pretty around this time of year. The morning was new and already the neighborhood kids had set up to start a pick up game of soccer. The town that the Altamura family lived in was a small one with about 10 houses on their street. Everyone on the street knew Vinnie and his family the Altamuras had seven boys: Joe, Tony, Vince, Tommy, Michael, Steve, and Frankie.
Trash cans improvised as goal posts while Joe, being the oldest and therefore wisest of the boys, made out imaginary field lines using sidewalks and lamp posts as boarders. They used a ball that had been given to the kids by their neighbor Tony Acosta a few weeks prior.
As the game began, more boys from the surrounding houses began to come out and join in, making the teams bigger and the match more competitive.
“That was definitely in!”
“Michael that’s yours!”
While the players sprinted around the makeshift field, a jumble of cheers, insults, and instructions could be heard being yelled from all sides of the turf.

Vinnie waited for the ball to come up the field as one of the defenders kicked the ball down the center to a midfielder. The pass turned out long and Vinnie sprinted up the sidelines to intercept it. He had almost caught up to the ball now; there was no way the other team’s defense would get there first. Vinnie could hear the wind pass by his ears and feel the sweat forming on his forehead. The ball came closer and closer, just an arms length away, when all of a sudden, BANG! He went tumbling, onto the cement as the ball thumped its way across a pile of gravel and into a nearby gutter.

Vinnie looked up from the ground to see the grill of a parked black station wagon looking back at him. A sharp pain slightly above his left eyebrow shook him out of the dazed state. From the stares and “ooohs” from his friends, he knew that the cut looked bad. Slowly lifting himself off the road, Vinnie caught his reflection in the rusting grill of the car. Blood oozed out of a long cut beginning in the middle of his forehead and curving around to the end of his left eyebrow.

The youngest Altamura boy, Frankie, had gone inside and brought their mother out to examine his injured brother. The exasperated and almost humored expression on her face made it obvious that this could not have been the first time she had had to make a last minute trip to the emergency room due to a cut up limb or a broken bone.
The boys’ dad had driven the car to work that morning, but luckily for the Altamura family, Hempstead General Hospital happened to be only two miles or so up the road. Vinnie and his mother, Pat, began the familiar walk. The journey down Front Street was a twenty minute trip. A green street sign hung unsteadily above the road clumsily knocking back and forth every now and then in the wind. The sky had turned grey but the sun was still out, giving the almost deserted street a washed out look. Although his head burned, the walk did not seem that long to Vinnie.
“How did that happen?” his mother asked
“I ran into a station wagon.”
“I think you’ll need stitches”
The two rounded the last curve of the street and entered the hospital through the double glass doors reading “Emergency Care Unit” in bold red writing. The hospital looked small on the inside. The walls were a light tan, the faded green furniture fitted with plastic coverings. The emergency care building only consisted of two main parts: the first was the rectangular lobby and waiting area, the second being the treatment and surgery rooms. All the nurses and desk attendants new Mrs. Altamura and all of her boys.
“Who are you bringing in this time Pat?” A nurse from behind the main desk asked.
“Vinnie hit his head on a station wagon.” Pat half laughed back while looking over to where her son was sitting in the waiting area.
“Alright, have a seat and we’ll get you fixed up in no time.” The nurse smiled as
she motioned towards the empty seats in the foyer.
Because of how small the hospital was, the rule “first come, first serve” did not apply here. Usually, the worst injured patient got treated first, followed by the less serious afflictions, such as a sore throat or a stomach ache, but nobody ever waited over forty-five minutes.
The nurse brought Vinnie into the examination room only seconds after sitting down and they released him shortly after. The cut required seven bold black stitches sewn into his head to fully close the wound, but besides popping some Tylenol and using a disinfectant, nothing else was required for the maintenance of Vinnie’s wound.

Walking home, Vinnie felt exhausted after his long game of soccer followed by his trip to the emergency room. Although he was tired he didn’t want to have to lean again his mother to walk home, risking the chance that someone he knew would see them. Although the first part of the walk was manageable, by the last quarter mile Vinnie was about to collapse.
“Lean on me,” his mother said, noticing his pale complexion.
“I don’t want to I’ll be too heavy for you,” he replied for both selfish and gallant reasons.
“You can always lean on me,” she said, “because I will always be here to carry you.”
At the time my dad did not understand the full meaning behind those words, but as one grows up there are so many more opportunities to test the truth behind those them. My dad tells me that he tries everyday to apply those words to how he parents. In today’s age anybody can be a parent, and there are so many stories about kids who have not grown up in a healthy family, so I know how lucky I am to have a father and a grandmother that care so much about our family.

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