“Do I have to?” is my usual thought when I realize that it is time to join my wife for our weekly grocery shopping trip. It’s about as much fun as having my teeth cleaned. I recently suggested that first, she join me for breakfast at my favorite little restaurant.
As usual, the regulars were all there, sitting in the same booths. But on that day, there was one exception.
I was about to tell my wife of an older gentleman who would show up every morning, open the car door, slowly turn in the driver’s seat, and mount his walker. Slowly, he would make his way from the car to his regular table. Someone would take his cowboy hat and fold his walker.
So deliberate were his steps that I wanted to go out and help, fearing he might never make it inside. It struck me that I hadn’t seen him in my last two visits. I asked one of the servers if they had seen him.
I was informed that he had passed away three days earlier.
There was something about his determination to make it to breakfast every day that demanded admiration, even from those of us who never knew his name. You could tell that every step appeared to be painful.
AGE CHANGES PERSPECTIVE
No question, I am getting older. I’m trying to fight getting old with all my might. I remember high school classmates who acted ‘old’ at the ripe old age of eighteen. That wasn’t me. Mentally, I’m still ten years old – much to the chagrin of my wife.
As I look back over my life, I realize that I have been blessed, beyond words. Yup, I’ve had my tough times and bad breaks. But, the good outweighed the bad. I have been pondering the great teachers who have come in and out of my life. They willingly passed along their knowledge and their wisdom on a whole bunch of issues.
I remember an FTO – Lt. Tom Wilson (God rest his soul). He taught me a lot about shooting. I still use the stance he taught me. It made a tremendous difference in my accuracy. He also taught me how to clean my gun as well as the importance of cleaning it frequently. Tom was a salty old cop. He demanded the best from those under his command. I busted my butt to meet his expectations.
Then, there was Ron Carver in Warren. He taught me how to ‘sniff’ out a bad guy. He loved to make traffic stops in the pouring rain. It toughened me up. (There’s nothing like working all shift with ‘squishy’ boots.) Ron was my partner on my first homicide. It was 2330 hours on a summer night. The radio rang out and we were on our way. There he was: a young twenty-something, laying on the cold concrete outside his small apartment with most of his guts cut out and lying on the ground next to him.
It was a rude awakening. I was assigned on the call with Ron; being a rookie, I handled the tasks as he directed. The next day, I felt mentally scrambled and reluctantly reached out to Ron. He helped me through it and patiently got me back on my feet. From that day forward, I became much better at handling “tear-your-guts-up” calls.
Joe Higham in Monroe County taught me a lot about driving safely under stress. He showed me the fundamentals and then how to put them into practice. There is still nothing like our 95 Chevy with the Corvette engine running through a freeway construction zone at 140+ MPH. I learned more from Joe about driving than from all the instructors in the academy. Joe also showed me the important role the cop’s demeanor has in getting a successful outcome on interactions with trouble-makers.
Tom Ackerman was the very best instructor in my academy experience. He taught me how to instruct and how to speak well in public. Those are skills which have enabled my twenty-years as a trainer.
OUTSIDE LAW ENFORCEMENT
I thank the day that I found Taylor Gibson. He is the man who trained and prepared me for six bodybuilding contests. He taught me that I am capable of more than I previously believed. He taught me how to be in the best shape possible and to keep my health strong in my later years.
Giving thanks must include the outstanding job my parents did in providing as near perfect childhood as is possible. Finally, I thank my Grandmother for cementing my belief in Jesus Christ as my savior.
Without question, I have more road behind me than there is in front of me. I have realized that there are no “safe spaces” from old age. There are no safe spaces from arthritis, either. Someday, the young ones in our Brotherhood will have to face the reality that they will not live forever.
I believe that we, in the older generation, have a responsibility to share the gifts, knowledge and wisdom that we have been given to us. We should share those gifts the young ones coming up who will replace us.
To be sure: it is NOT our job to TELL them how to live their lives. Rather, we should be diplomatically encouraging the young. When facing a decision, our role is to carefully ask if they have considered all of the possibilities. No one wants to hear advice that starts with, “If I were you, I would …”
The kids have the right to disagree. And, for the sake of ingenuity, they SHOULD disagree from time-to-time. All we have to offer is the wisdom we’ve gained in the past. I often say to a young guy, “You are smarter than I am; you’ve had more history to learn than I did. BUT, I’ve had many experiences in life that you haven’t had YET.”
Make no mistake: when needed, we should stand firm and remind our young colleagues of the importance of sold values, i.e. honesty, integrity and treating others fairly. The American culture is under attack these days. We need people who believe in America and are willing to boldly stand tall in its defense.
Some of the young need to be reminded: seeking safe spaces from bad decisions, improper use of pronouns to describe a person’s sexual self-identification and other idiotic nonsense is a complete and total waste of time – their time. We must reinforce the belief that NONE of us has so much time left on this earth that we can afford to waste it on such stupidity.
We in the Brotherhood are to lead the way. We represent all that is good about America. The ‘mature’ among us are responsible for teaching the younger one about collegiality, about brotherhood, about the bond that is promised by the Brotherhood and their individual role in its continuance.
We love one another so deeply that we would take a bullet for a brother in blue without hesitation. Remember that. When the time is right, don’t be afraid to tell another cop that you love him like a brother. In times of stress, our human side feels better if we know that someone cares about us.
At the bottom line, it’s all about saving just ONE life.
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James Csabi Sr. contributed to this article.
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Thank you for taking the time to read this message and allowing me to share my story with you. I can be contacted with questions or input: EMAIL ME or call me at my home office (386) 763-3000.