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Taking comfort from the handball connection

Opinions writer Patricia M. Lazazzaro's car backseat shows

Opinions writer Patricia M. Lazazzaro's car backseat shows the sneakers and handball gloves once used by her husband, Rocky, who died of Alzheimer's disease. Credit: PATRICIA M. LAZAZZARO

Recently, I was sitting at a red light on Wading River Road in Manorville, mentally organizing my errands, when I suddenly found myself thrust forward as my car sharply slammed into the vehicle in front of me.

Stunned that my car had just been rear-ended, I stepped onto the road and stared at the unbelievable damage to my car. My hood was bent upward in a triangle. The trunk of the car in front of me had opened, allowing a golf bag to fly out.

Fortunately, the drivers of all three vehicles were not injured.

After moving our vehicles off the road, we called the police and exchanged registration and insurance information.

Within the next week, the insurance company told me my car was totaled. I was now forced to buy a new car. Unhappy with the knowledge that my budget would have to include an unwanted car payment, I forced myself to accept the situation and entered the world of car shopping.

This was not a pleasant task. I loved my car, a white 2003 Toyota Avalon, because it had belonged to my husband, Rocky. I lost him five years ago to Alzheimer’s disease, but driving his car made me feel as if he was riding with me. A friend went with me to a dealership in Riverhead and, after viewing several cars, I chose one.

I sat down with a salesman to discuss warranties. Apparently, my unhappiness was clearly visible on my face. He asked whether something was wrong.

I shared that this was not a happy experience for me. It’s different when you choose to buy a car as opposed to when you’re forced to buy a car.

I explained that my husband had been a serious handball player who drove to a court in Plainview three or four times a week to play friends in amicable but serious games. I kept the car after losing him and traveled with his handball sneakers and gloves placed neatly on the back seat. I felt close to him, driving with those precious items. Now, losing the car felt just like losing another part of him.

Then an extraordinary thing happened. I noticed a definite sparkle in the salesman’s eyes.

“I’m a champion handball player,” he said.

“So was my husband,” I said.

“I taught myself to be ambidextrous,” he explained.

“So did my husband,” I answered.

Then he went on to talk about killer balls. I knew exactly what he meant. Rocky had spoken about the very same thing — a shot that hits the wall at such an angle and so low that the opponent cannot possibly return it.

At that moment, he and I bonded. And I began to feel that my husband was right there with me, telling me not to feel bad about losing his car. I believe meeting this particular salesman was not a coincidence. I knew in my heart that Rocky was orchestrating the entire situation.

All my anxiety left, and I felt happy with my purchase. I went home feeling renewed, and tenderly placed my husband’s handball sneakers and gloves on the backseat of my new car.

I walked back to the house, smiled and whispered to Rocky, “All is well now. The handball connection has been made.”

Reader Patricia M. Lazazzaro lives in Manorville.