69: All the Buzz

69: All the Buzz

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Dreams and the Unexplainable

All the Buzz

Serendipity is the faculty of finding things we did not know we were looking for.

~Glauco Ortolano

A weekend visit to Las Vegas at age twenty-one turned into a forty-seven-year career in the casino industry. During those years, one of my favorite benefits was meeting many famous people, some of whom happily befriended me, a guy from a small Italian section of Queens, New York. I was spending time with astronauts, golf pros, major league baseball players, superstars of the entertainment industry, and even a few U.S. Presidents! Some people, depending on their opinion of what makes a miracle, might call it a miracle of sorts, but that’s not what this story is about.

This is about the youngest of my three sons, who was seven years old and was deeply affected by my divorce from his mother. My sons and I had moved from Las Vegas to Atlantic City, and they had to start in a new school. My youngest was rather quiet and sensitive, and it was not an easy transition for him.

One day, his teacher was talking about Apollo 11, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, the first men to land on the moon, and she asked if anyone had any questions. Robert immediately raised his hand and proudly announced, “Astronaut Buzz Aldrin used to come to my house for dinner.” The teacher said that was very nice and went on with the questions.

After school, Robert was confronted by a group of his classmates. They sneered at him, called him a liar and said that he should go back to Las Vegas. He came home in tears and could not be comforted. He looked up at me through his tears and asked, “Why, Dad? I told the truth, and they all hate me.”

I felt helpless, but I gave him the best answer I could: “It takes time for a new kid to fit in. Try and forget about it, and I promise everything will be fine.”

Robert pleaded with me to take him out of that school. He said he never wanted to go back. After quite a bit of cajoling, I convinced him to give it a try.

The next morning, I went to work, and Robert bravely went to school. A few minutes after I arrived in my office, the phone rang, and I was shocked to hear Buzz Aldrin on the line. He said he was in New Jersey visiting his father and thought he would stop in Atlantic City to get together for lunch. My mind was spinning, but I managed to ask him if he wouldn’t mind setting aside an hour for me after lunch. He said, “Sure, what’s up?” I was too busy mulling over a plan so I just answered, “I’ll tell you during lunch.”

I told Buzz the entire story about Robert, and he rubbed his hands together in anticipation. “What do you want to do?”

I commandeered our fanciest limo, and we drove to Robert’s school.

We went to the principal’s office, and I introduced her to Mr. Aldrin. I explained the situation and asked if she would allow us to walk into Robert’s classroom. She gathered herself together, after the initial shock of the meeting, and gladly walked us to the classroom door. As we opened the door, Buzz took me by the arm and said, “Leave this to me.”

He walked in ahead of us and announced, “I’m Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, and I’m here to visit with my old buddy, Robert.” I was lucky enough to spot Robert as soon as we entered and was able to see his reaction from the very beginning. I will always see that image as clear as if it happened a minute ago. Buzz rushed to Robert at his desk, gave him a huge hug and said, “How are you, old buddy? Sorry it’s been so long since my last visit, but I promise to be around more often.”

Of course, I looked at the faces of the other kids, and they were all looking at each other with the same dumbfounded expression. I felt so blessed to be able to do this for my son. I didn’t know how to thank Buzz for making it possible. How do you manage something like that properly? All I can say is, until today, I never stopped trying. Robert was thrilled, and he went from being teased to being the school hero.

I’ve never gotten over the miracle — the amazing coincidence — of Buzz Aldrin calling me and visiting the day after Robert was teased for claiming he knew him. A few years ago, we lost Robert to brain cancer. He was thirty-five years old. The memory of his victorious moment still helps to ease the pain.

~Ralph S. Delligatti

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