Bruce the Blog

The Gift of Spring

8c8db6ab88910ee0ff1f_336d2f66966aa57e150b_49258.jpg
At the 1996 Olympics, Dream Teamers Shaquille O’Neal and Hakeem Olajuwon had a pick-up game with then-8-year-old Harrison Apar. Credits: Bruce Apar
8c8db6ab88910ee0ff1f_336d2f66966aa57e150b_49258.jpg

Spring is in the air, fragrant and glowing with possibilities.

For our family, spring invites renewed reflection of a former life that was both full of promise and fraught with formidable challenges.

It was the first day of spring 14 years ago—March 20, 2003—that our 15-year-old son, Harrison, was wheeled in for open-heart surgery, his third. But this time would not be the charm.

Sign Up for E-News

As much on his mind as the operation was that same day’s opening round of March Madness, the NCAA college basketball tournament. A rabid and knowledgeable sports fan, Harrison was rooting for the Orangemen of Syracuse University, my alma mater.

March 20 of that year also was the day the United States invaded Iraq. Exercising his uncanny knack for wry one-liners, the astute Harrison wrote in his diary, “I only hope Saddam doesn’t disguise himself as my surgeon.”

March 20 also happens to be my birthday. When the office of pediatric heart surgeon Dr. Thomas Spray at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia told us that was the first open date, our family grabbed it as a good luck charm.

We were looking for all the luck we could pluck from thin air. Due to Harrison’s abnormalities, the mortality rate for this procedure was 15 percent, three times the typical rate of less than 5 percent. Not that we had a choice: the surgery was necessary for him to have any shot at survival.

Despite being born with a rare and undiagnosed form of dwarfism, Harrison’s attitude throughout his brief but bountiful life was “size doesn’t matter.” And he proved it—repeatedly and gloriously. In the classroom. On the playing field. On stage. In his way with words. In his outsize personality.

Harrison packed a lot of fight into 37 inches of height. He taught me a lot about life, about courage and about not complaining of things inconsequential.

Job 1 of any parent is to guide children safely through their formative years. Less acknowledged is how children shape us, and hold us accountable for our actions.

Harrison was a champ with a punchline always at the ready. He didn’t suffer gladly the slightest indication that I was patronizing him for his diminutive height.

Trying to outwit Harrison was like trying to block Shaquille O'Neal, who is pictured—along with Hakeem Olajuwon—hoisting Harrison in a cherished photo I took at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

I like to think Harrison made me a better person. His strength made me stronger. When I held him in my arms, he carried me.

In his secret diary the night before surgery, Harrison wrote that he was confident the risky procedure would “give my dad a refreshing birthday gift wrapped in flesh—a son’s healthy heart.”

My son kept his promise by giving not only me but all who knew him the gift of a lifetime: His. And, wouldn’t you know it, with Carmelo Anthony leading them, and Harrison watching over them from his new skybox, the Syracuse Orangemen went on to win their only NCAA basketball championship that year.

Harrison’s mom, Elyse, his sister, Elissa, and I continue to be blessed by Harrison’s indomitable spirit, thanks to the town ballfield in Yorktown named for him, and the Harrison Apar Field of Dreams Foundation that benefits families and young people in recreation and education. When you lose a child, you gain the privilege of helping others in the name of your loved one.

We are fortunate to be affiliated with the Yorktown Athletic Club, to have received support over the years from the Yorktown Police Benevolent Association, and to live in a caring and generous community where so many friends and neighbors generously support the grass roots work of our foundation.

I would not have wanted my son to be anyone but Harrison.

Apar Foundation Fundraiser: On Friday, April 14, a golf outing at Putnam National organized Yorktown High School alumnus and lacrosse star Ryan Froats and other classmates who grew up with Harrison, will help raise funds for the Harrison Apar Field of Dreams Foundation. Greens fee $125. Hole sponsorships $125. For more information, email harrisonapar@gmail.com or call/text 914-275-6887.

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of TAPinto.net or anyone who works for TAPinto.net. TAPinto.net is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Somers

'We'll Have Meals Together'

A few days ago, I watched a rerun of “Everybody Loves Raymond.” In this particular episode, brothers Raymond and Robert went head to head over who would take care of their mother, Marie, during her later years (anticipating that father, Frank, would predecease her).

It brought back the decision Jack, Roe and I were faced with years ago regarding our mom. She was in her 80s, lived ...

Weather or Not

Feb. 2 has come and gone and once again, we have foolishly entrusted a large rodent with six weeks worth of weather forecasting. This year they had a whole entourage of guys who wanted to cram into the Groundhog Day action, but there’s one head groundhog aficionado who’s in charge when they open up Punxsutawney Phil’s cage. Both man and beast are dressed to the nines, one in a ...

The Night They Raided Spruce Street

It was the day of the Finch Ball. Jason had been away on business, but was expected home in time for us to attend that evening. 

I had graduated from Finch College two years earlier and was now married and expecting my second child. We lived in a one-bedroom garden apartment in Yonkers. It was a close community where everyone was young, friendly and just starting out. Each town house was ...

Should Valentine's Day Be Celebrated at School?

Dear Dr. Linda,

I’ve been a third-grade teacher for over 20 years and have never allowed my students to celebrate Valentine’s Day in my class. I know my colleagues think I’m mean, but I’m refusing to celebrate it for many reasons.

1) Children hand out cards to each other and there’s always some child left out or who gets very few; 2) Children are always asked ...

A Trip to the 'Liberry'

Raise your hand if you didn’t—did not—call the library the “liberry” when you were little. I’m guessing not a lot of hands just went up.

Didn’t just about all of us say “liberry” when we were learning to read? (Well, whaddya expect when a place is named something way too easy for little kids to mispronounce?)

OK. Now, raise your hand if ...

I'm Mrs. Heat Miser

To be perfectly honest, I did not need a large rodent with insomnia to convince me that we had six more weeks of winter. It’s been so cold outside lately that when I go out, my nostrils stick together. The dog is so hesitant to go out that he does his business right on the deck, less than five feet from the door, and then gives me a look of contemptuous indignation when he comes back in the ...

Upcoming Events

Sat, February 24, 10:00 AM

Jefferson Valley Mall , Yorktown Heights

Yorktown Indoor Farmers Market

Food & Drink Health & Wellness

Sun, February 25, 10:30 AM

Yorktown Heights

Kids Hamantash Bake

Religions And Spirituality

Mon, February 26, 7:00 PM

Westchester Collaborative Theater, Ossining

WCT Scene/Monologue Study Open For Enrollment Now

Arts & Entertainment Education Other

The Somers Record Shines a Light on 'Great' Community

February 9, 2018

To the editor,

How amazing to see my sister-in-law, Kim Maguire, on the cover of the Record!

We read our paper religiously! Last week, we saw our daughters' picture as volunteers at the Chili Cookoff! This is such a tight-knit community and having articles like the one done for Kim highlight some of the great people and servicemen and women who make this town so special. The writer who ...

Cuba Goes Country

February 16, 2018

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

RELEASE: “Cuba Goes County” to be held at The Palmer in Cuba, NY.

For more information or to schedule and interview, contact Theater Manager Michele Conklin at (585) 209-5512.

The Palmer Opera House is hosting “Cuba Goes Country” on Sunday March 11th- at 2:00 PM

Come join us for a boot stompin', toe tappin' afternoon of country ...

'Are You Friggin' Kidding Me?'

February 15, 2018

Faye M. DeSanto

Guest Columnist

I never watched the hit TV Show “Mad Men.” My best friend, who rarely watches TV, recommended it to me when it was gaining its first good reviews. I said, “I lived through that time period. I can see no good coming from reminding men about that sexist era.” Little did I know how right I was.

My husband drooled over the short-lived ...