In the rare, rare moments of candidness and lucidty during his illness, my dad would make brief mention of his fear. When asked for his thoughts in these moments, he would say:
“When a clown leaves the circus, it’s not the circus he misses – it’s the other clowns.”
And throughout the six months of his illness, these “clowns” came out in droves. After more then 30 years on the police force, he had made his share of friends and admirers. It became very clear, very fast, that my dad’s life, identity and existence was tied up in his status of a Chicago police captain.
What I learned during this time, more than any other time in my dad’s life, was the type of family police officers are. They were the ones calling to “shoot the shit” at 6am, and the ones who knew all about the details of us kids and our accomplishments more than we did. They were the ones with whom my dad spent 20 hours of his days. And for old schoolers like my dad, they worked with each other not for five or ten years, but twenty or thirty years. These guys were more brothers to my father than his own might have been.
And on early Wednesday morning, in Chicago, one of his brothers – one of the closest and longest known to him – was killed in an on-duty incident. Apparently he was shot in the head when trying to stop a disturbance on Belmont. From what is known now, a woman (possibly homeless) was causing a disturbance, and when my dad’s friend approached her, she grabbed his gun from him and pulled the trigger.
He was 60, and one year short of retirement. He has almost three decades on the job. He worked next to my dad in the 18th district for innumerable years, and then next to my dad on all of my dad’s side jobs for almost two decades. Because I often worked at these side jobs too throughout high school, college and grad school, I spent many-a-summer with this man.
When my dad was sick, this man was at out many morning a week, just to sit with my dad, share time with hear, hear another one of my dad’s famous stories, and do just what police officers do for each other in the time of tragedy – sit, listen, support.
This is one of those moments when you feel pissed for the injustice, sad for his family – biological and police- and their loss, and hopeful, because you can just see him sitting up with my dad “shooting the shit” like they did in my dad’s office, and cruising the Heaven version of EBay for sports memorabilia. Just like the old crew did.
But mostly, it just kinda sucks – the randomness and senselessness of it all.
I have no real profound thoughts on this.
It just is.