DANGER AND COMFORT

danger and comfort“We’re looking for a white male- five foot six inches- approximately 160 pounds”!!! Came the voice over a loud speaker, it was hard to make out all the words. “There’s a helicopter with lights looking for someone-I’m really scared”!!! She said in a hushed but frantic voice.

I just heard the tail end of it as my wife got out of bed to see what our youngest daughter was talking about. “What’d she say”? I asked when my wife came back in. “The police are looking for someone in the neighborhood”! — “Someone’s around here”! She whispered with urgency. My wife was shaken, I could tell by her voice in the dark.

“You’re kidding”! I asked as I was getting up. This wasn’t a nightmare or stomach ache, this was my department. I went outside onto the deck into the cool damp night air. Sure enough, it was a police chopper flashing spotlights. I could smell a skunk off in the distance as I looked for any would-be intruder.

On vacation, my wife and daughter were a little out of their element. This wasn’t like home. No air conditioner forced the doors and windows open. With all the trees and vegetation in this tropical paradise, a person could hide 40 feet away from a person and they’d never know it.

I shut the doors and even though my daughter’s room was inaccessible on a second floor, she shut the window. No point in arguing in the middle of the night. The only slider I left open was the one in our room.

I know from experience that not all police choppers are looking for ax murderers. As I lay there I recalled my buddy Steve Darby and me running from a police helicopter when we were freshmen in high school.

That was no small piece of juvenile delinquency work, ditching a spotlight equipped helicopter in the desert. They patrolled the C.A.P. canal (the concrete canal that pumps water out of the Colorado River across Arizona to the Valley of the Sun for farm irrigation), with a vengeance.

That fear being almost trapped by the chopper was a different fear than I had as a kid just a few years younger. Funny how thrill and fear are intermingled as a dumb kid…like danger and comfort.

I knew that if the guy they were searching for in the middle of the night was a significant danger there would have been more than one chopper searching for him.

Not to take chances with my loved ones, the only door open was the one next to my side of the bed. As I continued to lie awake, I felt regret that our little one had to know fear. She’s old enough to know the world is a dangerous place and still doesn’t really comprehend just how ugly the detail of it.

The damp yet cool summer night air blowing across me by a floor fan almost completely drowned out the sound of the distant train blowing it’s haunting whistle way off in the distance. It reminded me of where I grew up, not too far from our vacation spot.

That midnight whistle has a distinct melodic sound. Although heard by the ears, that whistle was felt in the soul. As a kid that whistle reminded me of a dangerous part of town and the violence that erupted constantly in and around it.

God and time have a way of changing our perspectives, not just hers, but all of ours. Our little one was so enamored with the area in California that we vacation in, that she commented to her mom she wanted us to live there.

The next day, after the police helicopter scare, our daughter never brought up the subject of living there again. Coincidence? Not likely…

Me? I set one of the steak knives by the bed and listened to the train howl its one note song. The tune danced across the moisture in the midnight air of the night into our bedroom…

As I drifted gently off into sleep, that old familiar lonely whistle sang softly in the background. I was comforted by what once haunted me…

Funny how our perspectives change with time…

It was comforting to hear my old friend again…

It’s been a long time…