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Thursday, January 1, 2004

Alyssa's New Year

By Steven P. Velasquez
January 1, 2004

Written through eyes of an EMS worker and a Daddy

Alyssa G. is a nine year-old girl with a thin build and long, brown hair down to her mid-back. Wise beyond her years, she speaks with an uncommon level of maturity. She tells me Santa was good to her this year.

She is quite good at managing her little brother too. Though she’s only in fourth grade, she shows innate motherly skills already. Perhaps those skills are sharper than her peers because her parents are divorced and Daddy has custody. It appears Alyssa spends a great deal of time playing the role of “mommy” to her infant brother.

She balances the little tyke on her right hip like an old pro. When she changes his packed diaper, she shows the skill of a veteran, though her tender age and lack of experience become quite obvious in the category of finesse. Alyssa tends to be very rough and bounces her brother around a bit too much.

Perhaps her youth, and then again maybe the days events have taken their toll on young Alyssa – for today is New Years Day. It’s the first day of the fourth year in the twenty-first century. Last night while at Grandpa's house, she was together with her paternal grandparents, her favorite Daddy – who eerily is only 16 weeks older than I – and her infant brother, who poops his diapers.

Daddy and baby brother left at about nine to go home for a New Year’s rest. The night passed, the ball in Time's Square dropped and a new year was upon this beautiful young girl with fair skin, sparkling eyes, a room full of pictures and scattered toys and a good report card,  prominently displayed on Daddy’s fridge.

This new day promised to bring change into everyone’s life for it is customary to look forward to a new year. This would hold especially so for young Alyssa. For late this afternoon – and after many an unanswered phone-call – Alyssa and Grandpa came to check on her Daddy. “Why is he not answering our calls?” they may have asked. What they found became the keystone of Alyssa’s New Year and a fulfilled prophecy for Grandpa.
“I was supposed to call him when the ball dropped and I never did” he sobbed. “I knew this would happen. I knew he was dead!”

The two entered her Daddy’s apartment – one not unlike my own – small, humble, tidy - evidence of a divorced Daddy starting over again.

“Daddy?” “Daddy?”

Silence answered.

“Daddy what’s wrong?”

A baby's cry pierces the hall and punctuates the horror. Daddy was no more. Daddy had gone to be with the angels – years too soon if you were to ask Alyssa.

His body, now reduced to a lifeless mass, is kneeling in the kitchen – right arm extended up toward the sink. The dish drying rack lies half off the counter, the dishes scattered, offering silent testimony of Daddy's final moments.

Amidst the crackle of radio transmissions and the normal course of our investigation, my “inner-Daddy” tapped me on the shoulder. “Eh-hem” he said. I glanced quickly around the room, followed by the sudden realization of what was wrong. Quickly, I whisked the children from the kitchen to Daddy's bedroom. They have already seen too much and should see no more, I thought. There, I got to look into Alyssa's crying eyes and explain that her Daddy was dead. “You need to be a big girl now;” was my short-sighted, reflexive answer. How stupid of me! She's been a big girl all her life. This was just another day in Allysa's tragic existence. She told me she couldn't live with her mother. Mommy has a predilection for drugs over her babies. Daddy had his problems too according to Grandpa, but I guess he was the lesser of two evils in the eyes of the courts and DYFS.

Recomposing, I drew a deep breath and attempted a return to objectivity. There is no evidence here as to why he died and even if there was, it’s not my job to judge. I peered into Alyssa’s room and that -- was when this run of the mill DOA (Dead On Arrival) call got personal. My Achilles heel was now exposed. Like a scene from a movie,  I was now transferred into another dimension; I was now a witness at the scene of my own death.

Mentioned earlier were our (mine and her father's) proximal ages. Equally close are our daughters ages and, hauntingly so, their choice of bedroom décor. Alyssa’s room is a mirror image of my daughter Nikki's room; same toys, same Hillary Duff posters, same Scooby-Doo comforter -- on the same sized bed. I looked in the other direction and there was a bicycle in the corner, of the same color and size too. The sign on the front door of Steve's "Office of Objectivity" was suddenly flipped to read "CLOSED."  It’s too close. I can’t overcome the weight of these emotions. My instinct (my inner-Daddy) tells me to take Alyssa and bring her home. I’ll raise her myself! Perfect I am not, but I work hard and do the best I can with my own. I can’t bear the thought of a child without a parent. Or should I say a “good” parent. I left the scene and cried uncontrollably the rest of the day. I wanted to go home. I needed to see that my children were ok.

The unfortunate father's apartment, humble as it appeared, was a memorial to his children. You see, we Daddy's have some common denominators; we take lots of pictures, have rooms filled with scattered toys and good report cards prominently displayed on our refrigerators

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