Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The new old me

I knew it was only a matter of time before I was asked this. Last night, like every night at work I stop off at the fire house to chat with my friends for a few minutes and get a cup of coffee. I go in, pour myself a cup and talk with a few of the guys who just hang out there because they'd rather be there than home. And the question just comes out. In fact, I was really amazed that it took this long for someone to ask me.
"Hey Tom. The town cop quit. Why don't you apply?"
Well, first off this is the third town cop this tiny little hamlet of Athens has gone through this year alone. That should tell me the management style the town uses for it's one-man police force.
Secondly, No. The tough-guy macho thing to say at this point is "Been there, done that".
When I first was discharged from the army I did what every Irish kid in my neck of the woods does. I joined the police department. In my neighborhood you either became a cop or fire fighter. It was engraved in stone. So I followed in my brother's footsteps and joined the cops.
My first night on the job out of the academy I was partnered with a grizzled old veteran, overweight, huge bulbous alcoholic nose and a stub of a cigar firmly planted in the side of his mouth. With a voice that sounded like he gargled with razor blades and turpentine I was asked...
"Kid, why'd you become a cop?"
"I, I, I guess I want to help people..."
"Piece of advice kid. They don't want your fucking help."
Wow. Heady shit for a twenty-two year old. I wondered that night how anyone could be that cynical and pessimistic?
Flash-forward about eight years. (This part, my fellow readers I have never told anyone before, you are the first to get this deep into Ranger Tom's psyche, something I've never let out before. It's not real pretty and I'm not to proud of it, but here it is. Thank God I'm not like this anymore)
So eight years go by. I answer a call one night. Disturbance House. (Domestic) I get to the address and find a skinny seventeen year old stabbing a woman repeatedly with a large kitchen knife. I order him to stop and put down the knife... Instead of complying with my order, he turns towards me and launches at me with the knife. In a split-second my service piece was unholstered and one round was decidedly placed into the "X" ring and down he went for the count. He was definitely dead when he hit the floor but the woman, who turned out to be his mother was still alive, but barely. I called for EMS and waited for Fire Rescue to show. I couldn't do anything for the massive stab wounds the woman had in her upper body.
Fire Rescue arrive and does their thing, onto the stretcher, out the door and off to the hospital with lights and siren.
After reams of paperwork and the expected "interview" that would rival anything the Spanish Inquisition would perform with the Gink Squad (Internal Affairs) I was free to head home. But I didn't go home. I went to the hospital where the woman who's son had stabbed her seventy-two times (because she wouldn't give up cash so he could score more crack) had just come out of surgery. I sat by her bed all night that night and every night after my shift and prayed... Seven nights until she finally died, never coming out of the coma she was in.
All the hospital staff and other guys on my squad thought I was a fantastic guy, a real gem for doing that. Praying for this woman, keeping a bedside vigil...
But I really knew what I was praying for. I was a sham. I wasn't Saint Tom of The Suffering.
Know what I was praying for?
That she would die. I was praying she'd never wake up, because I knew in my warped version of the world at the time if she had fully recovered, I'd have been sued for wrongful death of her sweet, precious little boy.
How the fuck did I get that callous and cynical?
Now here I am again. I am not that person anymore. That I can thank a very special dear friend in part for. Making me actually care again. They brought back from the depths of despair that twenty-two year old, bright eyed boy who really thought he could help people. Through this person, in the past year I learned how to care again. My friend is much stronger than me in a lot of ways. I can't face things like that anymore. I know deep down in the bottom of my heart I can't.
But I can try to help.
Maybe I can't help all the people, and in the way I tried on the PD, but if I help one person's suffering I think it'll all be worthwhile. I don't ever want to be put in that situation again so I'll never be a cop again. I'm not running away from it, I'm making an educated decision to not put myself into a position where I'm ever able to become the cynical and angry cop with the startings of a serious drinking problem.
Forgetting the past is a mistake. I choose to remember it and learn from my mistakes and make a vow to never to repeat them. My friend and the other guys on the FD are helping me do just that. I really like the new old me.
God bless you. You're the best thing that's ever happened to me.
Copyright 2005 Thomas J Wolfenden


Kat_womanx2 said...

You know..small town work is alot different than the big city you used to work in...think Mayberry....this could be an opportunity to actually "help" people, Athens has a pretty low crime rate....think about it...

berly02 said...

I was moved by your story.
Thank you for sharing it.

btw . . .where do I get one of your shirts? ;)

Ranger Tom said...

know Kat, It wouldn't be the same... Light-years difference actually. I just feel more apt to feel useful helping fight fires and assist in MVA's that writing speeding tickets.

Berly, scroll up to just below my profile, click on the "I HEART Ranger Tom" T-shirt pic and that'll take you right there.

Becky said...

Small-town policing or not, I think Tom's doing the right thing. Good for you to learn from the past, RT.

cantellya said...

*Pats Tom on Back*
Way to go bro.

Lora said...

I, too, was very moved by your blog this morning, Tom. I am very thankful that you have come to a point of healing and renewal in your life; breaking through the scars, callouses, and cynicism to allow the real Tom to come out, the one who cares. I am praying for you.

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them."
2 Corinthians 5:17-19

Tina said...

Congrats on opening up a lil. Do what you think is right.

Dirk said...

I don't know that you were being callous or cynincal - seems like a fairly realistic appraisal of the situation to me.
BTW- have you ever had a job which didn't entail wearing a uniform?

Dirk said...

cynical, either.

Lindsey said...

I'm so proud of you!

cmk said...

Amazing writing. Be at peace.

Ranger Tom said...

Thanks all, it means a lot.

And Dirk, yes, last year when I was workinng on the railroad was the only time I really didn't have to wear a uniform for work... Actually, I've been wearing uniforms my entire life. Eight years in a Catholic gradeschool, four years of a Catholic high school, five years in the army, the police department... Now this job...

It does make things easier. I don't have to stress or think about what I'm going to wear for work...