Saturday, October 8, 2011

Can't See the Stars, Anymore

"Bring on the wonder, bring on the song. Pushed you down deep in my soul for too long."*

My reaction, to learning that the beautiful, haunting song called "Bring on the Wonder" had been used in a cop-ish show about reading bones (or some such, called "Bones") was not especially positive. I love the song, but don't spend a lot time watching police-oriented TV. Mostly, the technical stuff is just plain wrong. That's not the worst part.

The story lines tend to be so damn...emotional. TV cops either wring their hands and emote beyond all belief, or they are cold, cynical deviates taking perverse (sometimes bordering on sexual) pleasure at the misfortunes of others - often caused by the awful, evil cop. Men have substantial difficulties relating to their children, cheat shamelessly on their wives and engage in primitive, self-destructive behavior. Women either cry way too much or are so damned icy the screen frosts over. I saw an ad recently, a woman playing a cop and saying the first thing she thought of when she got stabbed was "I wonder where that knife has been?" Great line, but the usual response is disbelief, followed by extreme anger and a stream of expletives beginning roughly with "You motherf&^%er."

So I assumed that "Bring on the Wonder" came in at about the time Bones was at wit's end, couldn't take it anymore... Needed to "rest for a while" till her soul caught up. Sure. It's police work. Get over it, lady. I headed out for work.

I had hardly walked through the door, not even in uniform, when that first task of the day arrived. A two year old girl had been beaten, allegedly by her mother's boyfriend, and would soon die. Her body was being kept alive while doctors determined if she retained any brain activity. I had to assign a patrol officer to guard her hospital room, to preserve her as evidence. Complicating things was the conflict between investigators and organ donation folks wanting to.... You can probably imagine. Mom surrendered her phone to our detectives, which had a video of the kid running, giggling and playing.

Bring on the wonder.

The next day, an eighty-two year old woman woke up in the morning, next to her husband. He was dead. They had slept in the same bed, lived parallel lives, for over sixty years. Suddenly, he was gone. On my next shift the same thing, except the couple was in their forties. The wife sobbed that they had planned out the next forty years raising their children, growing old in each other's company and in each other's hearts.

Bring on the song.

A man riding his bike to work veered in front of a car and was hit. He explained to the paramedics that his back hurt. Three hours later he slipped away, injured internally to such an extent that one of the best trauma hospitals in the world couldn't save him.

Pushed you down deep in my soul...

A woman came to our front desk looking like she'd been in a hockey fight. Her husband had punched her once in the face and broke: her nose, her cheekbone, two teeth and the orbital area above her right eye.

For too long.

I sat on my back porch, a boat drink in hand, emotionally exhausted. I didn't know where to look for the stars.

One of our beloved Porties jumped up on the loveseat and plopped her head on my lap. My wife arrived home. Over dinner and a bottle of wine we toasted to another week together, and of the weeks yet to come. I listened to music and read, while she worked on her latest paper - she's getting a PhD. My phone went "ding" with a new picture of our daughter's ten month old son, grinning for his mommy and holding a football. Our daughter Beth calls from Maine, with a story of another law school success. Near my computer a t-ball photo of our oldest grandson, his father - a police officer - towering next to him. Pat and I cuddled into bed and fell asleep in each other's arms.

This week a six year old girl tired of waiting for her ride and set off from elementary school for home. Her frantic mom stood with school officials, expecting the worst. I got to tell her that one of our detectives had found her, safe, walking toward her house. That the mother cried "Thank God" in Spanish didn't change the feeling I had, of the privilege of playing a small role in bringing her daughter back to her.

There was a night, years ago, on graveyard shift, when we arrested a handful of kids breaking into cars. As I was putting handcuffs on one of them he turned and said "What the hell is that?"

The north sky shone purple, like a giant curtain waving slowly in the breeze. Shafts of tiny sparkles and hints of red came and went beneath a cloudless sky studded with a billion stars. All of us stood there, awestruck. A rare sight, the Northern Lights so vivid in Denver. We set aside our roles - good guys and bad guys - and watched the miracle unfold. When the show faded and we resumed our lives - the handcuffers and handcufees - it was with an appreciation for the event and our good fortune at witnessing it.

Okay, maybe they have a point. I'm not sure what Bones did. For a caring person to enjoy a long, rewarding police career they must do much more than momentarily suppress feelings of anger or pain. Our loved ones await our safe return home. Simple pleasures heal, reminders of what a good thing loving a life together can be. For a more substantial restorative, Moab, Mexico.... A beach, a mountain.
The stars.

*Words and music by Susan Enan, performed by Sarah McLauchlan


  1. Lovely story. I'm happy you can still enjoy a night of stars after working in a job that seems so full of stress and sadness. Obviously you are capable of holding tight to the good things and not dwelling on the bad. You work in a profession that is so necessary in our society and people need to stop and tell you all how very much we appreciate all that you give to us every single day. Thank you.

  2. Great post! The first thing I thought of in regards to the show "Ahh real life edited for TV entertainment." It's never said enough, but you and your colleagues are needed and are appreciated especially during our darkest moments.

  3. Patti - thanks! The kind words mean a lot, especially when things get a little tense and folks aren't having their best day.

    Cassie - thanks! About the time things look grim someone like you will say a kind word, or make a generous gesture and I remember why I took the job in the first place.

  4. I caught your post on the WCP Author Digest. Sounds like you go through more than many of us do on any given day. I suppose it is the small things we do for each other, an appreciation of friends, family and nature that takes away the pain that we see all around us.

  5. JL - thanks for your comment, and letting me know how you found me. Yeah, the little things are what really keep things stable. One of the reasons I write - the books as much as the blog - is to tell a little bit of our story, not the one on TV or the movies. I serve in the company of men and women who are spouses, moms and dads.... Real people doing an unusual job. Just normal people coping imperfectly with a lot of different things.