I have told my story about the day I was injured countless times. I shared it with new friends, curious strangers and many others. I have given speeches on numerous occasions. I spoke at High Schools, Middle School and even Elementary schools. I was the featured speaker at a Regional Conference, Civic groups, a church and even was the default speaker presiding over a funeral. No doubt, that was the greatest honor and privilege as a speaker to date!.
When you are blessed to live as many years as I am, the story of my injury is just the beginning. The beginning of an incredible journey
As I look back at the hardships and struggles of my youth there’s no doubt that God’s plan for me was much greater than anything I experienced prior to my injury. Don’t get me wrong, money was always a constant issue and there were the things that you just don’t talk about. Nothing that my mom ever did. Actually, whenever I bemoaned my situation my mom took exception. I can hear her saying to this very day, “Albert, you have clean clothes, food on the table and a roof over your head. It may not be the best but it’s better than what most people have”. I read several years after mom had passed that if you have those three basic needs you are wealthier than 80% of the world. Years passed since mom had died and she still finds ways to keep me humble. I can not say another word without paying respects to my Mother. She taught me to have faith, say my prayers and above all…love unconditionally. It will be 20 years since cancer took her. I have no doubt her name is written in the Book of Life. For all that was unfair in her life she took everything in stride and rose above her circumstances.
Funny looking back, I always wanted a father. Then one day while paying my respects at the cemetery it occurred to me; mom was the best father for being a mother a son could ever have!
So this is my story. One of many, but the story of how one split second decision changed the course of my life forever. And how an inspiring mother’s love would challenge me to never give up.
Don’t get me wrong, there were many people in my life that played an integral role in where I am today. But I don’t think there’s anything quite like a mother’s love for her children.
It was Sunday, December 2nd 1979. I still remember every detail of that day and everything that was to follow. I was at the table eating a bowl of cereal. There was a knock on the door. It was my friends and it was football Sunday! I had my jersey on and ready to go!!
I remember my conversation with my mom. She said to me, ”you know Albert, you should be going to church instead”. Being 17 and of course knowing everything, I brushed it aside. I would be lying if I didn’t admit how badly I wish I was sitting in the pew that day! But that was not the case. I made a choice, a decision that could not be undone.
Everyday people take calculated risks the minute they walk out that door. I’ve played in pickup football games since I was a little kid. Obviously anything to do with high risk activities the risk of injury is much greater.
As I headed out the door, I remember my mom saying be careful. My friends replied, ”don’t worry Mrs. LoStracco we got his back”.
I was no doubt one of the most physically fit kids on the field that day. There wasn’t a sport I didn’t play.
However, exercise and weight training became my greatest passion! Let me tell you, it would serve to be the smartest choice in my young life I ever made!
So it’s fair to say feeling somewhat invincible I never thought I would ever be the one who could end up in the situation I was in. Yet there I was.
I remember the walk to the field or should I say the jog as we threw the football back and forth. I stopped by and saw my friend Steve Brown. We became friends he was a married man with a child on the way. Needless to say he wasn’t interested. We continued along and gathered waiting for the other group of kids from the other neighborhood.
In the meanwhile there was several men playing football. We challenged them and of course they accepted. I was playing quarterback and those guys were much bigger than we were. I remember how muddy the field was. We only played those guys for about an hour. Heck we took a good beating! I remember running to my right and generally would have had the advantage against a 6 foot 300 pound man. I was 5 foot 10 inches 172 pounds, muscular and fast! But I remember sliding in the mud and that big guys leg sliding right into me. I thought he broke my chest! Believe it or not we each scored one touchdown and that was it. That’s when the other neighborhood kids showed up.
As I laid on a cold ground with my body broken, fear was my only emotion. I’d like to say I was thinking that life the way I knew it was going to be different. But those thoughts were not my immediate challenge. They were a little bit down the road. Not a far trip down the road mind you. But certainly not in that moment.
It was December 2nd, 1979. However, let me digress. It’s important because it sets the stage for everything that followed.
I was 17 and a half. Passionate vibrant and full of life. I love sports! I was not a naturally gifted kid. What I lacked in physical tools I developed through heart. I was seven years old when I entered Saint James church in a small town called Bristol borough.