Sometimes we run into people who change our lives. Rocco is one of those people. I met him last year in Bar Elimar. I was typing away on my computer and he was staring at me. I said buon giorno. He slid over to my table stared right into my eyes and said, Come ti chiama? Midge I answered. Come ti chiama he repeated. I figured Midge didn’t sound very Italian and he couldn’t get it. Midge I repeated. He smiled, put his fingers on my computer keyboard and said, Come ti chiama. That was when I realized just how special Rocco was.
Feeling like a trickster I looked at him and said, Io sono Midge ma come ti chiama? Rocco he said and smiled. From that moment we became fast friends.
He was about eight years old that summer and sometimes I thought his mom planned their excursions to Bar Elimar when I might be there. Rocco’s family is part of the Bar Elimar family. His mom is bar owner Elio’s sister.
I set some games up on my computer and iPad and loved sipping my cafe and watching the joyful expressions on Rocco’s face as he drew a picture on my iPad or played scopa – laughing as the cards were swept away by the computer.
He still said, come ti chiama every time he saw me until I realized that it was his own little game. Lots of folks got swept away in it repeating their names until they wanted to scream. The minute I flipped it back on him he knew I understood him. When I responded, my name is Rocco – he giggled and knew I really got him.
This spring, I kept waiting for Rocco to show up. Forgetting that school was in session, I couldn’t understand why I didn’t see him in the morning. Finally, in June my mornings with Rocco started again – just not as often as I would have liked. He told me he had his own tablet that had games on it. He stopped saying come ti chiamo because I always answered Rocco. One day he said, ciao Midge and I was smitten.
They don’t have special education programs here and Rocco has been getting better and better in school and socially because of his parents and family. They get him help, but treat him just like everyone else. Rocco challenged me to find ways to communicate with him and that has helped me communicate with not only the kids of Ponteladolfo but their elders too.
Today, I heard that Rocco inadvertently swallowed acid and is in a medically induced coma in a Naples’ hospital. Rocco thought he was slugggin back juice. His aunt said he never cried. Not once. He is incredibly strong. His throat burned and swollen, he was rushed to the hospital in Benevento where they did nothing for hours. His frantic parents had him rushed to Naples. Lesson here is avoid the hospital in Benevento.
At the Naples Hospital they put him in a medically induced coma with a breathing tube. Because there is so much damage to his throat they can’t send a scope down to see what else is wrong. I don’t pray much but today I pray for Rocco.