As I sat in the Police Department, waiting for briefing to start, another officer asked if I was ever going to become a full-time police officer. I am a reserve officer, which is the law enforcement version of a substitute teacher.
“No,” I responded and recounted a story about arresting a man whose parents my father had arrested when he was a cop and whose children my son would likely be arresting if he became a cop in his adulthood. At the mention of my father, the other officer’s face lit up.
“I never met your father, I think I was hired after he retired,” she related excitedly, “But I’ve heard stories. Was he the one who fell asleep all the time?”
Nearly everyone at the department has heard of my father. He is a legend, a part of our local police culture. “Yes, that would be him,” I smiled.
“Andy was telling a story about him falling asleep in his patrol car and a bunch of the guys took a broken stop sign and bent it over the hood, sprinkled leaves and twigs over the car and then shook it to make him think he’d wrecked.”
I chuckled at the mental image. My father resolutely insists that this story is a fabrication and did not happen.
Falling asleep on duty was the latest behavior in a set of quirky habits that helped to make my father beloved. My father is a wonderful person and was an excellent cop, but in his last few years of service, my mom began a losing battle with breast cancer and he began to fall asleep on the job. His fellow officers knew the tragic source of his snoozing and did their best to make light of the situation.
There is a paper circulating around the police department labeled “Stone-isms” which contains a list of indicator’s that you might be a Stone. Apparently, now you can catch traits like you might catch a cold. I find it interesting that my father is still a huge presence at the police department so many years after his retirement. Our interests and our legends speak to who we are as individuals and as a society.
My father was an excellent cop. He had a gentleness and grace that lent itself well to law enforcement. I know those are not typical descriptions of a cop and certainly not traits you will find in any Hollywood portrayal of a police officer. Don’t get me wrong, my father was not afraid of fighting; especially those inanimate objects that liked to jump in his way. But he had a deep, perhaps innate, understanding of the cruelties the world could heap upon a person. This empathy made him slow to anger, quick to love and never willing to give up…unless you were a horse or a mailbox. As one Stone-ism reads, “You might be a Stone if you experience intense anger and sudden rage at any inanimate object that threatens you, jumps in your way, or otherwise injures you.”