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I Am Thankful For… (by Tamar Chalker)

Tamar and her Dad at Yankee Stadium

Tamar and her Dad at Yankee Stadium

The Yankees memory that I am most thankful for took place in August 2009. Both of my parents are teachers and on August 6th they were at their respective schools preparing for the upcoming school year. It was a beautiful day, so my dad had ridden his bike out to the high school where he teaches English, as he always does until the weather gets too cold. I was at home studying for the bar exam because I made poor life choices. My phone rang a little after noon. It was my mom, calling to tell me that my dad had been hit by a car while riding his bike back home. A nurse had been on the scene and had called my mom to let her know what happened.

We immediately headed to the hospital, unsure of what the situation was. We actually managed to get there before the ambulance and saw him being wheeled in and cracking jokes with the EMTs and definitely giving us a sense of relief.

My dad had been riding back from work when he hit the center of one of the small towns in his district. It was oddly busy at that moment, with a line of cars coming out from where the post office was and Route 4, the main road out there, was pretty backed up. There is a rather steep hill coming into the town and my dad was headed down it when a break in the traffic allowed an SUV to make a lefthand turn up the hill. Unfortunately, she neglected to look to her left before accelerating into my dad and his bike.

The EMT showed my mom and me a picture of the windshield, which was a solid ten-inches concave from where my dad had been hit. He seemed both concerned about the impact and impressed with how well my dad appeared to be doing. He did note that my dad had been mumbling something about tickets to the Yankee-Red Sox game the next day, which I assured him was actually true. We had planned to drive down to my grandparents’ in Madison, CT for the weekend and my dad and I were going to take the train in from New Haven to the Stadium.

Incredibly, my dad had some cuts and bruises, but nothing was broken. Well, the helmet had three cracks in it, so I guess one thing was broken. Remember – always wear a helmet. A year or so later we would realize that he was suffering from some Traumatic Brain Injury from the incident, but all in all, he was very lucky and has been able to continue teaching, riding his bike, and complaining about whoever is managing the Yankees.

So, yeah, back to the Yankees part of all of this. When we realized he was relatively in one piece my dad admitted he wasn’t sure whether he would be able to make the trip. This lead to the doctor “jokingly” trying to get the tickets from us, and that’s all I’m going to say about that guy. I called my brother and then my cousin to let them know what had happened and see if either of them wanted to join me at the game, but they both had obligations they couldn’t miss.

Regardless, my dad was released later that night and the next day we made the trip down to Connecticut. After dropping my mom off at my grandparents, we headed to New Haven to catch the train. When we arrived at the stadium it was almost as if the events of the day before hadn’t happened. I found a Yankees hat that fit my oddly small head (seriously, it’s been a lifelong struggle to find hats that don’t make me look ridiculous) and we made our way up to the nosebleeds.

A.J. Burnett took the mound for the Yankees that day and Josh Beckett was throwing for the Red Sox, so we had been particularly excited for this matchup. At first, the game seemed to move pretty quickly, with both starters going at least seven innings. Beckett had seven Ks and two walks, giving up four hits. Burnett had six Ks and six walks but allowed just one hit.

As the zeros piled up on the scoreboard, it became clear this game could go on for quite a while. Phil Hughes and Mariano Rivera came and went. Alfredo Aceves pitched three strong innings, followed by Brian Bruney. In the eleventh inning, my dad turned to me and asked, “Do you have any ibuprofen?”

“No, why didn’t you bring any?” I asked.

“I didn’t think I would need it,” was his response.

“It’s not like you got hit by an SUV yesterday or anything,” I said jokingly. Then, after a moment’s reflection, “I’m not leaving until someone has won this game.”

“Oh, yeah, we’re not leaving!”

As the wee hours of August 8th crept in, Phil Coke took the mound for the top of the fifteenth. He worked a 1-2-3 inning and the Yankees took their turn. Derek Jeter blooped a single, but Johnny Damon and Mark Teixeira both went down. There had been a couple close calls where it looked like the game might end during the night and we were preparing for another one of those moments when Alex Rodriguez got a hold of a breaking ball. It landed over the wall in left-center for the 2-0 walk-off victory!

The stadium went crazy and after some celebration, we made it back to the train. It was much emptier than earlier in the day, so my dad was able to lie down on one of the seats. He clearly was in pain but maintained that the game was well worth it.

We made it back to my grandparents around 4am, not long before my grandfather would be waking up. In the months and years since, we have continually bumped into people who were at that intersection that day. My dad was very lucky. Things could have been much worse, and while it took him a while to adjust to some of the lasting issues, we are thankful for that helmet that saved his life and allowed us both to be at one of the most epic Yankees-Red Sox games in recent history.


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