Yep. You read the title correctly. Prison Guard and Mom were mentioned in the same sentence. Hard to believe, but true.
Two door down lives Brenda and her husband and Brenda’s son, and her other son, and his girlfriend, and their new baby–whose toes I tickled today, and who gave me a very winsome smile. We have been neighbors for eight years now. Brenda’s grandkids are the ages of some of my kids, so sometime they ride bikes together up and down our sidewalks.
Brenda is a prison guard, so therefore she has to be tough and mean and serious, but I know her more as a mom and wife. We knew Brenda for several summers. I say summers because around here everyone hibernates for the winter and you don’t see them again until spring. And one spring, we didn’t see Brenda. We saw the rest of her family, but not Brenda. I didn’t think too much about this because I was busy making sure that my kids had clothes on when they decided to go outside. There are many runners that come through our neighborhood, and when they pass our house, I usually say a distracted hello. Or. I am too distracted, and they just run on past.
One day while I was out, a runner came past and yelled a “Hello Rebecca.” This shocked me as I didn’t know the person running. Then the unknown person stopped at the house two doors down and caught her breath. That runner was Brenda! Brenda had decided that she wanted to become a marathon runner and over the winter had begun running. She had lost so much weight that I didn’t recognize her. Then I realized that she had been running past our house many days and I never had said a “hello.” I walked down to apologize and explain my mistake. She took it as a compliment.
Now let me introduce Brenda’s husband Kevin. But before I do, let me remind you that I live in Michigan where we get snow in the winter and that this Whit’s End Family doesn’t have a snow blower. We have a son and a Daddi. The only problem is that the Daddi is often away when it snows and several years ago, my son was just a little guy. Now let me introduce you to Kevin–the guy who is kind enough to clear our driveway many times in winter. Now I know he wasn’t the only one to clear my driveway, but both winters where I was pregnant or had a babe in arms, I never once had to shovel snow. Never once! My neighbors knew when The Hunni was away, and I would wake up (late) to a cleared driveway. (He also often mows Mrs. Thelma’s yard for her.)
Brenda’s youngest son has that tall, dark, poetic look about him. I often see him walking down the sidewalk with a cigarette and earphones. Her son used to come over and visit us daily. Eight years ago he was still a kid and would follow The Hunni around the garage talking and telling stories and occasionally lending a helpful hand. Now his stories were not ordinary stories, but wildly vivid imaginary tales. But he believed them. There was always truth woven into his stories–sometimes it was hard to dig out–but it was always there. And the truth that was there was usually his feelings, his emotions, his heart. The one common theme in all of his stories was the heroics of his biological father. His father was a top surgeon, a spy, in government, in the C.I.A., an amazing ball player, an accomplished writer. This boy’s father was also absent from his life. Each week we would hear how he was probably coming to visit. Not just visit, but take his son along on one of his heroic exploits. This boy is bi-polar and schizoaffective. This boy also longed for his father.
Armed with this information, you will understand this next story.
Our neighbor’s middle boy was in the military. I had seen him off and on, but never really had spoken with him. I just knew him through the eyes of his younger brother who thought him and his military job amazing.
One spring day, there was a knock on my front door. Now I live alone (with four kids and general clutter) 50% of the year. I can’t be afraid. If I start becoming afraid, this whole situation won’t work. I know this so I am not afraid. But I will tell you that every time there is a strong, firm, knocking on my doors, I quake. Who is the mystery person outside? So as I head to the door, I always pray, “Help, LORD, help.” Then I put on a professional smile and open the door.
And when I opened the door, there was a very fit man in his late 40’s-early 50’s with a very short hair cut wearing a blue trench coat. He said, “I’m with the F.B.I”, flashed a badge, “and I need to ask you some questions.” Now the very first thought that went through my head was, “This is just like the movies!” Then my next thought was that he wanted to take my kiddos away from me because I wasn’t watching them while they played in the fenced-in backyard.
He then asked me some general questions about being a home owner, how long I had lived here, my husband’s occupation, mine, and then, “What can you tell me about [Brenda’s Middle Son]. In my agitated state, I couldn’t quite remember which name went with which son (there are actually three). The Youngest Son happened to be crossing the road just then, and I asked, “You mean him?” And as I asked, I feared, “Oh LORD, what has he done?”
More questions. I was still trying to get the situation clear in my mind. Somewhere there was still the thought that I needed to protect my kiddos from being taken. Somewhere there was the thought that I needed to use my biggest vocabulary words and best professional smile. Somewhere there was the fear that Brenda’s Youngest Son had done something. And right up there was still the thought, “Exactly what is he getting at?”
Finally, F.B.I man said that Middle Son had applied for a special position in the military that required a background check. And I thought, “O LORD, help me not say anything that would keep that boy from a position.” The questioning continued. He was persistent. There were two wars going on in my head. War One: It would be so much fun to gossip and tell all I know about his bi-polar and schizoaffective brother, and his other brother that had been mixed up in a serious gang. So serious that he couldn’t visit his mom at home as it was dangerous for him–and the rest of the neighborhood. Then there was War Two: It was the mom in me that didn’t want to say anything that would hinder this bright boy from a special position. The Wars raged as the questioning continued, so I had to call in a higher power for help. “Help, LORD, help” I prayed as I professionally smiled and fielded questions.
Finally, Mr. F.B.I. Man was convinced that I didn’t know Middle Son well enough to comment. He left. I closed the door. Then I thought, “Did that really just happen?” Then I thanked the LORD that I hadn’t given into some juicy gossip. Then I checked on my kiddos to make sure they were still safe in the backyard. I called them inside. Somehow the outside seemed like a scary place at the moment.
Then I replayed the entire event in my mind. I realized that I had been in such a glazed-state that I had no idea what I.D. badge he had showed me. I have heard stories where imposters flash their passport and gain information or house access with this ruse. I now understand how it could happen.
Next time I will be ready.
Wait. I hope there never is a next time!
Just a sample of life here at My Whit’s End.