THE SET UP
I am physically disabled and spend my time in a wheelchair these days. But a few years ago the polio that I have wasn’t so bad and I did quite a bit. I was working at a camp for the disabled on Plum Island in Newburyport, Ma. The Camp was on the Parker River Wildlife Refuge, down four miles of dirt road. I was able to walk with the use of braces and crutches at the time.
I considered myself exceptionally lucky to have the next night at camp off and have tickets to see Harry Chapin at the Hampton Beach Casino. I was very excited. Then I got a call from a friend asking me if I had heard the news on the radio, that Harry had been killed in a crash. Well I rushed to a radio and heard the awful news for myself. I went back to my work at the camp having to put the news in the background.
The next day arrived and I still had the night off, so a friend and I went into town to have some dinner and a few drinks. Well after dinner and a few more than a few drinks, we headed back to the camp.
I was also an entertainer and disc jockey at the time, so when I got back to the camp, with a bit of a buzz, someone was celebrating a birthday, and asked me to play some music. So I set up the equipment and played some music, and had a few more beers! I did the one thing I shouldn’t have. I put on a Harry album. With the high emotions I had, not too mention the drinks, I started getting very sad. Pretty soon I had several people sitting next to me, crying right along with me. One person went up to one of them and asked if they knew who Harry was and he replied, “No, but it just seems so sad!”
Well someone had left a bottle of wine within my grasp and soon it was gone. My dinner pal told me he would help me back to my cabin so I could go to bed. I agreed and we started to walk to the front of the dining hall. Well I remember seeing the fireplace and the next thing I knew, I was laying on my back outside the building with my face covered in blood. Now, remember back to the beginning. Being on the ocean, with an evening mist, and a long sloping wooden ramp plus crutch tips don’t really go along together. Well apparently I fell straight forward with my crutches slipping on the ramp and I stopped my fall to the concrete with my face! I reached up and put my finger in a hole over my right eye. Well some members of the staff picked me up and placed me in the back of a station wagon, and rushed the 4 miles of dirt road to get me to the hospital.
When I woke up next, the doctors were all over me. I was yelling that Harry wasn’t dead and punching the doctors. (Using crutches my whole life had built my arms up a tad) They had to call in my friends to hold me down so the could staple me back together. With that done, we drove back to the camp, I got out of the wagon, somewhat awake, and angrily went to my cabin and bed. When I woke up the next morning and felt this big patch over my eye and saw blood all over my shirt I knew something must have happened last night.
Now, being a permanently disabled person, I knew how to fall. I’ve done it thousands of times, but NEVER had hit my face before that. I had learned how to land. Well now, all these years later, I still have this faded scar over my right eye that will always remind me of the night I was suppose to see Harry and ended up in the hospital instead. I still have my ticket for that show, so I have two very personal memories that will always stay with me and bring happy memories of Harry Chapin.
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