Be thankful for your family

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How many of us will go to Thanksgiving dinner and truly be thankful for what we have? Will you be thankful for the family around you today or will we go through the motions because that’s what you have always done?

On Wednesday afternoon, I dropped my daughter off at my mom’s house on the way to work. After I said goodbye, I drove down the street and stopped for the stop sign before making a right turn. While I was stopped, I saw a man sitting in a chair at the southeast corner.

The sight of the man made my heart ache as a father because I knew why he was sitting there. He was there because this was the spot where his son died many years ago in a traffic collision.

He was sitting in a chair in a small grass area next to his son’s memorial, which included a skateboard and pictures. He was alone with a book in his hand as he looked down, lost in his own thoughts as traffic went by. I have seen him here before over the years, along with a woman, who I assumed was his wife.

I watched him for a moment and couldn’t imagine the emptiness he felt. This was his spot to mourn a life that was taken away too soon. This was his spot to be close to last place his son ever stood on earth. This spot was his last connection to his son.

After I turned, I thought how different my Thanksgiving was going to be compared to this man and his wife. I’m sure they wished they could have one more Thanksgiving dinner together as a family with their son.

This is something to think about when you sit down to have your Thanksgiving dinner with your family. Take a moment and be thankful for the people around you because there are others who wish they had one more chance.

Don’t forget to be thankful for what you have

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Every night at work I’m reminded why I’m thankful for what I have.

The other night I responded to a single vehicle traffic collision call where a pole was struck. When I arrived, I saw the driver and his vehicle in a parking lot with a flat front tire and a damaged fender. There was a pole with minor damage not far away.

The driver, who was in his 30’s, was with his 5 year old daughter. It was after midnight and she was sleeping in the backseat. There was a spare tire on the ground next to the vehicle.

The driver was wearing baggy jeans, a white tank top, had a shaved head, tattoos, and a mustache. The top of his head had a large number 13 tattooed on it.

While we were talking I found out his driver’s license was suspended and he had just spent a little over 3 years in state prison for a felony DUI. That got me interested because you really have to try to end up in state prison.

“Did you kill someone?” I asked.

“No. I hurt someone bad.”

“How bad?”

“I don’t know. I used to drink until I blacked out.”

“How long ago did you get out?” I asked.

“A year ago.”

“How old are you?”

“I’m 34.”

“How many years of your life have you been in custody?”

“Over half,” he replied.

“How old were you when you first got arrested?”

“I was 9.”

“You were 9?”

“I stole a pair of pants from JC Penny.”

“Where were your parents during this time?” Were they gangsters too?”

“I never knew my dad. I know nothing about him. My mom was a doper. They took us away from her and put us in an orphanage.”

“Really?”

“I never had a chance.”

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There were two DUI convictions on his driving record and one for driving on a suspended license. He didn’t have car insurance either. He wasn’t the guy you wanted driving around you in case there was a crash.

I told him his car was going to get impounded because his license was suspended and I asked if someone could pick him up. He told me his aunt could, but she lived in Riverside.

“Go ahead and call her.”

“My phone died. I don’t have a charger.”

“Do you have any money for a cab?”

“No.”

“Do you want to call Uber?” I asked.

“What’s Uber? Is it free?”.

Oh geez…..

My dispatch called his aunt and gave her the message to pick him up. I didn’t want the little girl to be stranded any more than she was, so I said I would drop them off at a 24-hour Subway.

He went to the car and woke her up. She got out of the car with a blanket and a sleepy look on her face. I sat on my rear bumper and her asked questions about school and the Frozen shirt she was wearing. She told me she went to Disneyland today and how she was starting school soon. After we were done talking I asked her if she wanted to ride in a police car. She nodded, but she didn’t seem so sure.

I moved my stuff and then had them sit in the backseat. My patrol car has a regular backseat, so it’s more comfortable. I’m sure the dad had a Beverly Hills Cop moment like when Eddie Murphy said, “This is the cleanest and nicest police car I’ve ever been in.”

I dropped them off at Subway and told the clerk they were in a traffic accident and were waiting for a ride. I then bought the little girl some cookies. As I handed her the cookies I said, “Remember, the police are there to help you. You can come to us when you need help.”

She nodded and took her bag of cookies. The driver thanked me and I left.

Two minutes later,  I was standing next to a vehicle that was completely destroyed by a DUI driver at another collision scene.

After everything calmed down at the next crash, I was able to reflect on the previous call and think how lucky I was to grow up the way I did.

Here was a perfect example of the nightly reminders at work that make me grateful for what I have and where I came from. Everyone needs a reminder from time to time.