A COP CAPER

Gilbert police

A COP CAPER

Elizabeth Willis Barett…………..January 2016

I’ve always liked the Gilbert police.  Not that I’ve had lots of run-ins with policemen, but when you’re working with a drug addict or have a minor traffic infraction, you have to speak to them once in a while.   On the whole, I have found them to be incredibly sensitive, friendly and helpful.  Until yesterday.  I now have something to recount to a judge and maybe he will require some changes in the force.

I was on my way to pick up my little three year old grandson from his pre-school class at Gilbert Elementary School.  He is a little doll baby and I love to see his face light up when he sees that it is me picking him up.  I don’t get to do it very often.  I was looking forward to the experience, but because of one very callous police officer, I don’t think I’ll have enough courage to pick him up from school ever again as long as I live—which might not be long.

I was almost to the school when I saw a police car on the other side of Elliot road just waiting for me.  And of course I was rushing a bit since I didn’t want to be late and have poor Maddix just stand there wondering who would be picking him up.  Sure enough, the policeman—whose name I should really say here just to keep you from thinking badly of any other well mannered and helpful Gilbert Policeman, but I won’t since he already is mad at me—was totally aware of my infraction.  And he was not going to let me get away with it.

He whipped his car down and around and behind me in seconds.  Those lights went whirring around and I pulled over immediately like you’re supposed to do.  Looking through the rear view mirror, I saw that the man was pointing for me to go forward and pull into the school.  So I did.  If you’ve ever been to Greenfield Elementary, you know that it is pretty crowded in there.  It didn’t occur to me to pull forward in front of the school which has never had any space when I’ve been there before, so I turned to the right and drove up and around the round-a-bout so Maddix’s teacher would see me and bring me the child before he felt abandoned.  The whirring red lights followed me around the round-a-about.  He didn’t feel the need to turn them off to keep my embarrassment from bursting from every one of my sorry pores.

Mr. Policeman came up to my window just as I was going to get out so Maddix could see that I was there.

“Stay in your car!” he demanded.  He must have thought I was trying for a quick get-a-way.

“I’ve got to get my grandson,” I countered.

It was raining, by the way.   This melancholy happening matched the weather.

“You don’t get to do what you want.” My public service officer threw that at me like I was always used to getting my way.

“I was just going to get my boy so he wouldn’t be afraid.”

“You are being stopped by a policeman and you don’t get to do what you want. You shouldn’t have driven in here.  You should have stopped in front of the school.”

I didn’t holler back that there was no room in front of the school and I needed to pick up my grandson.  I was very calm and even though tears were very close to slipping, I kept them in check and kept calm.

“You can’t just do things so that you aren’t inconvenienced,” he continued.  I think if he had had a paddle, he would have used it on me.

“I was just trying to get my grandson.”

“He could wait.  You can’t just do what you want when you’re being stopped by a policeman.”

Whew.  He said that about three times.  I like to think of myself as a very intelligent person.  I usually get things on the first go round.  Maybe he felt humiliated that I made him go in the parent pick-up circle.  Maybe he thought that I thought it would be funny to be followed around by a police car flashing its spectacular red light.  He didn’t know that this woman was lacking in humor at the moment.  And there was no where else to go.  He’s the one who told me to turn into the school.  Where did he want me to stop?  There wasn’t room anywhere.  And besides, I repeat, I needed to pick up Maddix.

“Give me your registration and insurance card.”

I’m not a swearer.  I’ve never sworn out loud unless it was by mere accident due to a mouth mal-function.  My older grandkids can hold that one over me.  But I will admit that as I leaned across to reach the glove compartment in an attempt to retrieve the latest registration and insurance info, an unattractive word came out in a whisper.  I think the situation called for it.

I grabbed all the papers that looked promising as the right ones and handed them to him.

“These have expired,”  he said.  Then he told me to sit still while he checked on something.  Probably to see if I was on the wanted list.

While he went back to his car, I was able to wave down Maddix’s teacher whose one hand held Maddix and the other held an umbrella. She looked as disgusted as the police officer.  Maddix wasn’t looking too happy either.

“Maddix’s mom didn’t say you were coming today.”  Her voice was as deadpan as her face.  I was needing a sympathetic smile from her.  Some commiseration.  An “I’ve been in your shoes before” kind of look.  But no.  She said nothing more as she put Maddix in the back seat.  Finally realizing that I wasn’t allowed to get out of the car and therefore couldn’t buckle him in, she reluctantly did the job for me.  No “goodbye.”  No “good luck.” No “I’m so sorry for your plight.”

When Officer He Who Cannot Be Named came back with my license and my expired insurance paper, he told me he was giving me a ticket.  (No, duh!) And that I had three choices:  pay it, go to traffic school (yet again??), or meet with the judge.  I think this time I will meet with the judge.  I just want to tell him that this man was very inconsiderate of a little boy that needed me and was extremely condescending to a grandmother who was trying her best to be compliant.

I really think that if I had opened my door once more or gotten a tiny bit irate as some would have done, the officer would have whipped out his gun and ordered me face down on the wet sidewalk.  I don’t think I would have ever recovered from that.  Neither would he.

Just so he knows what he could do better the next time he finds himself in a like circumstance, here are some suggestions:

 

1.  Smile

2.  Laughingly say, “Wow, I didn’t know I’d have to follow you into the parent pickup circle!  You’re a hard one to catch.”

3.  Allow the person to retrieve her grandson before the child gets scared that he will be left there all night with a teacher who is obviously in a bad mood.  (who wouldn’t be after a few hours with a class of preschoolers on a rainy day.)

4.  Then, with some regret, issue the ticket, making sure the person knows that you would rather not give the ticket, but after all, they were speeding in a school zone which you are sure they feel very badly about.

5.  Leave the criminal with some dignity.

All the way home, Maddix was silent, except to answer my questions with “Don’t talk to me!”  He didn’t want to be friendly with a criminal either.  No telling where that would get him.

Thank goodness for another grandchild.  When my ten year old granddaughter texted me about my day, I told her it was a sad day because I had gotten pulled over by a policeman.

“Well, at least you didn’t go to jail,” was her optimistic reply.  She finished with, “I wish I could come over and give you a big hug!”

Thank you, Claire.  That is exactly what I needed!

 

Advertisements

IN DEFENSE OF SARAH’S MOM

TemplepillsLisa Ling

Elizabeth Willis Barrett…………Oct 14, 2014

The other day I watched “This is Life with Lisa Ling: Inside Utah’s Struggle with Drug Abuse.”  She showed that even though Mormons have a strict health guide, they are still falling in high numbers to the addiction of pain pills.  I felt that she was very compassionate in her interviews.  She attended a Mormon Addiction Recovery Program meeting, spoke with a Mormon Bishop and in addition to others, met with a very candid girl named Sarah.

I didn’t learn about the danger of prescription pills until my son was in high school.  He went to a friend of mine who worked in the school’s bookstore and asked her for one of her pain pills.   Very responsibly, this friend called me before giving him one.  She told me that Jeffrey had come to her saying that his back really hurt.  As a football player, Jeffrey had many reasons to have a hurting back.  I told her it was OK to give him one of her pills.  Unbelievable, I know.  Looking back, I am astounded at my naiveté.  I had no idea that I had just given my consent to an addiction that would become so full blown that we wouldn’t see the end of it for fifteen years.  I knew nothing about addictions and, of course, nothing about the role pills play in dependency.

Drugs were so out of my realm of consciousness.  I had five nearly perfect children.  It was very interesting to watch the Ling program because it stressed the obsession we as Mormons tend to have with perfection.  We don’t want anyone to know that our family might be having problems, so disasters like drug addiction can be swept under the rug of denial for years.  Although that’s probably not solely a Mormon dilemma.

Lisa showed how easy it is to get addicted.  Many start innocently with prescription pills given by a well-meaning doctor.  When pills get too scarce or expensive many turn to heroin and other illegal drugs.  Addicts need their next hit just like everyone needs their next breath of oxygen and they’ll do about anything to get it.

When Lisa Ling was interviewing Sarah—a full blown heroin addict—she asked her if she wanted to quit.  “More than you’ll know,” said Sarah.  Lisa also asked Sarah what she wanted.  Sarah’s answer was that she just wanted a hug from her Mom.

Sarah’s Mom, who was never named, might have sounded like an unfeeling woman, one who wouldn’t even hug her daughter.  But not to me.  I have been that mom to some degree and I praise her for her courage.  It takes a lot of courage to divorce your addicted child and let her determine on her own that she is ready to pay the price for sobriety.  I would guess that Sarah’s Mom has already spent years hugging and encouraging and saving Sarah from the consequences of her disastrous choices.  After all, she is raising Sarah’s child which is a difficult thing to do after raising your own children.  I would also assume that Sarah’s Mom has been lied to and stolen from because that is what addicts do—they lie and they steal.  Enough is enough.

Brad and I have had many couples sitting in our living room trying to absorb any advice we can give them about dealing with their own addicted children.  We tell them all the same thing that a recovered addict told us:  “There is nothing you as a parent can do or say that will change your child.  They are the ones who have to decide when they are really ready to walk the difficult path of recovery.”  We also tell them of helps that are available to parents and meetings that would strengthen their resolve.  Most parents don’t like our advice.

I am assuming that Sarah’s Mom finally arrived at the point we all must come to: we are not helping our children by enabling them.  We are not helping our children by giving them a nice place to live and driving them places and paying for their needs.  They will never recover until it is harder to be an addict than it is to be sober.  When we make life easy for them,  addicted children continue farther down that destructive path and there is no retrieving them.  Our son wasn’t willing to get ultimate help until he had been homeless for about a year—living behind dumpsters and on the canal bank in a bush, panhandling for money to get more drugs.  We couldn’t coddle him anymore.  We couldn’t bring him home.  We had to go on with our lives and let him go on with his even though his path might lead to death.

So to Sarah’s Mom I would say that there are many imperfect Mormon Moms who are behind you right now, wishing you the best and saying, “Hang in there, Sarah’s Mom.  You are doing the right thing.  The only right thing!”

I wish I could tell Sarah that although she wants to be clean she didn’t sound like she was quite ready to throw herself into a program where she’d have to give her all into getting well.  With the nation watching, I imagine that many would step up to help her into a rehab if she had said that she was ready and willing to go right now.  But when she is done, truly done with her addiction, there is help for her.

Our son finally got the help he needed in a 24 month program that changed his thinking and his life.  It is called the John Volken Academy . It was started by a wonderful philanthropist and costs next to nothing. Two years seems like a very long time to be in a program, but the many expensive thirty day and three month programs worked only for a little while and then the addiction returned.  When you are deep into addiction, a few months isn’t going to pull you out. Thanks to John Volken we have our son back—our wonderful son.

And one day, Sarah, if you are willing to make recovery your first and only priority, your Mom will get you back .  And, I promise, the hugs won’t stop.

Pride Goeth Before a Rise

balloon 2

Elizabeth Willis Barrett

When my kids were little, I would often trade days with a friend.  I would leave my kids with her so I could go somewhere childless and on another day I would take her kids so she could have some freedom.  Since my two and her two were in the same preschool, our responsibilities included letting them play, then getting them fed and ready and taken to preschool.

Any mother knows that when children and deadlines coincide, there is a potential for volatility.  Since most days did bring these two in proximity, I allowed tension to get the better of me.  “Hurry!” was my mantra.  “Get in the car, NOW!” was my war cry.  On my “on days” with two extra children, my edginess sharpened and those words were raised an octave.  Preschool waited and dawdling children meant we would be late and the teacher would be upset and her upset-ness would affect her classroom and that would make me feel guilty and my guilt basket was already filled to capacity.  (On second thought, guilt is much like Jello–there’s always room for more.)

One day, one of the girls, Carly, came to my house with a helium balloon that she wanted to take to school.  That was fine.  However, in my impatience to get the kids in the car for school after many flustering minutes of un-cooperation, the balloon came off her wrist and floated into the great beyond.  It’s graceful beauty was lost on Carly and she howled all the way to school.  A kind benevolent caregiver would have taken her straight to Walmart to get her another balloon so she wouldn’t be disappointed.  But not this one.  I wanted to get those kids to school quickly.  I was done.

About thirty years later, that particular lack of compassion came back to teach me a lesson in empathy.  Several of us were giving a gift card to a friend and I was put in charge of its presentation.  I thought it would be nice to give the card with a helium balloon that said, “Thank You.”  Sadly, helium balloons that say, “Thank You” are very difficult to find.  But I was earnest in my quest and after four non-compliant stores, I finally found the perfect balloon.  It was blown up for me and I made the somewhat pricey purchase.

Transporting helium balloons can be tricky since they tend to bounce around and ruin one’s driving view, but the balloon and I made it home and I tied the card to it.  I was feeling quite pleased with myself for going the extra mile to make our gift distinctive.  That is not my usual M. O.

I drove to the recipient’s home where the other “givers” were meeting.  They would be glad they had given the gift-giving responsibility to me because I had prepared so well.

However, as soon as I got out of my car, the quote, “Pride goeth before a fall” quickly ran through my mind with a variation: “Pride goeth before a rise.”  As I opened my car door, the balloon that should have been very stable, came off its ribbon and rose, rose, rose into the same great beyond that Carly’s had risen to so long ago.  I felt the same way she must have felt when she lost her balloon.  I was sad and I wanted to howl. No one even got to see its beauty or my hard work before it disappeared. I wanted a kind benevolent caregiver to go get me another balloon before I walked into our friend’s home.  But there wasn’t one available.

I gave our friend the card and told her about the balloon which, of course, didn’t do it justice.

It’s been a while, but I still feel the disappointment in losing my balloon.  I wonder if Carley remembers and still feels the disappointment in losing hers.