Miss you, Brother
John Meiners, Jr.
Daniel is a former police officer in St Louis who lives there with his wife Shirley. His friend Charlie served with Daniel in the St Louis Police Force. They were partners for fifteen years and friends for 40 years. Charlie now lives in Houston with his wife, Annie. Daniel and Charlie talk with one another fairly often and even meet in Hot Springs, AR midpoint between Houston and St. Louis for an occasional vacation. Lately, since the incident with George Floyd, they have spoken almost daily. They are happy about the arrest of Chauvin, and neither one can understand the utter carelessness and/or lack of concern for Floyd that brought about his death. Both are Viet Nam vets, and everyone they know both in and out of the police department are far from racist as are they. While there are peaceful protests or some are attempting to peacefully protest, the protests are being high jacked by outside influences such as Antifa, and looting and fires are prevalent. Peaceful locals are having their mom and pop stores destroyed. Many protests appear to be well organized and look as though the concern for the loss of George Floyd is being used for an excuse for violence. All the violence is happening against the wishes of George Floyd's family. Instead some protests seem to provide an opportunity for revolt. Some of the stores and livelihoods of business owners, many of them black, are being destroyed.
Daniel is upset and tells Charlie he must do something. He wants to help. Daniel is seventy-seven and has been retired for 12 years though still in good health, Charlie is concerned. He knows Daniel has a friend who owns a Pawn shop and has mentioned he wants to help protect it.
Charlie is on the phone the next day with Daniel, "It's dangerous. The police may not have your back. In Minneapolis, the mayor had them stand down, vacate their police station, and watch it burn. You have a wife, five kids and how many grandchildren, now?"
Daniel replies, "Ten."
Charlie exclaims, "Ten!"
Daniel is set in his ways, and Charlie makes him promise to give it a day or two to see what happens.
He tells Daniel, "I know you're upset. I am too. I saw the video of George Floyd and it was pathetic. Chauvin took his life and threw away his own at the same time. There's a lot of anger out there."
"I cried, Charlie. What the hell was that guy doing,Charlie?" Charlie can clearly hear the pain in Daniel's voice.
"Daniel, It's all I've been thinking about, and I haven't figured it out. It's not likely I will. It's horrible."
Daniel asks, "Why can't they be like us?"
"Because we're color blind, and they're not," answers Charlie.
"Now the politicians say the cops are all a bunch of racists."
"Race is a political tool to them; sometimes a weapon."
"Yeah, I guess if you don't like someone, call them a racist and try and make everyone hate them."
"It's a shame. Listen, I'll let you go. You and Shirley take care of yourself. I'll talk to you later and please give this pawn shop thing some thought. Give it a day or too. Maybe things will settle down."
Charlie is very uncomfortable with the situation and can't stop worrying. He remembers Viet Nam. At least there, others were in the fight. The thought of Daniel alone against God knows who, and possibly facing an organized mob that are planning what can only be referred to as an assault, is troubling. Did the plans include looting, setting fires? And how many would be there, he wondered. The thought sent chills up his back. He turned on the TV trying to see what was going on. What protests were happening? His favorite station had a commercial so he kept flipping channels. CNN or MSNBC, doesn't matter which, and the reporter was saying, 'So far it's a relatively peaceful process.' Charlie shakes his head and wonders if the reporter knows a building is on fire behind him. He must be on strict orders to keep the focus on peaceful protests no matter how big the fire. No trust warranted here. He changes channels.
His wife, Annie sits by him and asks, "What are you doing?" Before he has a chance to answer, she notices the worried look and changes the question. "What's wrong?"
"All this crap." He points to buildings burning and looters.
"The world's gone nuts."
"What would you say if I told you I'd like to go to St Louis and see Daniel?"
"I'd say you were nuts. That is not going to happen. Why would you?"
"It's Daniel. I'm worried about him. He has a friend who owns a pawn shop, and he said he wants to help him protect it. I said, give it a day or two, but I'm afraid he won't wait."
"Daniel's a tough old bird, but he shouldn't be doing that, and you're sure not going." Annie looks at Charlie who says nothing. He doesn't reply with 'I have to go, or okay I'm not going.' Upon closer look Annie sees he's silently saying, 'I'm going.' In a few moments, she takes a deep breath and tells him. "I'm going to, and I'm not letting you do anything stupid."
Charlie knows the futility of saying, 'No, you can't go' and nods. Now that is settled Charlie asks her, "Can we go now?"
Annie looks at her watch and tells him, "Charlie, it's 6:00 at night."
"I know, but I also know Daniel, and he thinks he can handle anything. Mostly he can, but all his friend with the pawn shop has to say is 'I need you,' and Daniel will be there... He was always there for me."
Annie thinks she sees a glimmer of tears in his eyes, and says, "Let's pack."
By 6:30 they are on the road, but this trip there will be no sightseeing or stopping for a relaxing meal; just this sense of urgency to get there. They realize they won't be in St. Louis until three AM at the earliest, and Annie calls Shirley. Daniel is out with their son Michael, and Annie tells Shirley they'll see her tomorrow. Shirley assured them all was fine, and she'd tell Daniel they were on their way. Earlier in their marriage when they were younger, long trips were less tiring, but now they stopped around midnight. It was late, but Charlie turned on the TV, and what he saw filled him with apprehension. The protests were far from peaceful. He changed channels one after the other and noticed looting and fires ongoing in many places. In Houston the protests really were peaceful, but not so in Minneapolis, Los Angeles, New York among others. He was horrified and asked himself, 'Why doesn't someone stop them?'
Annie tells him as she does from time to time. "Remember the Serenity Prayer. We'll be there tomorrow." Charlie nods, and they turn in for the night.
The next day just before noon, they arrive at Daniel and Shirley's house in St. Louis. As they pull up they wonder why so many cars are parked outside. Is it a party at one of the houses, or is something wrong? They park and walk almost a block. Both Charlie and Annie hold hands as they walk, saying little, seeing a few people walking quietly with unsmiling solemn faces, and they are terrified. They ring the bell, and a woman answers with tears in her eyes. They both pray it's the wrong house, but it isn't. Charlie sees Daniel's son Michael who sees Charlie and recognizes him. He's known Charlie for as long as he can remember. Michael all but runs to Charlie. "They killed him. They killed my dad." They share a long embrace and cry. Charlie realizes all his fears have become a reality. Annie spies Shirley sitting on the couch with a multitude of people around her. She touches Charlie on the shoulder and gestures she's going over to Shirley. They stayed with Shirley and Michael late into the night talking and reminiscing about everything from picnics when Michael was eight to their shared vacations. Mostly they told the stories about when Charlie and Daniel were on the job together.
As they talk, Charlie learns Daniel was shot multiple times, and a video posted online shows him lying on the sidewalk after he stumbled out of the Pawn Shop. Someone actually took a video as he fell and took his last breath. He is afraid to see the video. He remembers Viet Nam, and how he felt when a fellow soldier and friend was hurt or killed. He remembers the anger and urge for payback. It was a situation he and Daniel had to deal with inside the police department also. Policing was a dangerous occupation, and some friends were lost.
The next day Charlie and Annie were back at the house for lunch. They are all attempting to remember happy times amidst their grief. It's amazing at these hard times that people can share a laugh.
Shirley told them. "Daniel's arrangements have been made. The funeral will be on Wednesday. I hope you'll be able to stay."
Annie said, "Of course."
Charlie nods and says, "We'll be there."
Shirley smiles and tells Charlie. "I'm glad. I want you to speak at the funeral."
"I want you to speak."
"Shirley, I don't know. I..."
Shirley all but interrupts him. "Charlie, you were his best friend when you and he were on the force, and he told me some of the experiences you had. It was more than that. It was about life and how to live it. I loved what you said, 'You give love to others, then they give it to others and pretty soon everyone is filled with love...' and Daniel told you, 'It's like catching a cold, huh.'
Charlie says, "Yeah, he did."
Annie chimes in, "He'll be happy to speak, won't you dear?"
"So it's like that, huh? Two against one."
Shirley puts the icing on the cake. "Seven, my five children too."
"Looks like it's settled then."
Annie and Shirley smile...
After the funeral the fellowship was loving and wonderful. A few guests couldn't hide their resentment over what they felt was the neglect and lack of respect shown Daniel. Some had no kind words for Black Lives Matter. A woman told Charlie, "Black lives are supposed to matter to 'Black Lives Matter.' Daniel was black, and it doesn't look like he mattered to them."
Charlie shared their sentiments but decided to let it alone. He was relieved his eulogy went well and was over, not to mention it was extremely sad, and he was exhausted. The political pandering had already started with George Floyd. He is happy Daniel's funeral was about him. As far as he was concerned, both men died under tragic circumstances, and both should still be here.
Charlie hoped the trip back home would be more slow paced. He needed the chance to relax, have some long relaxing meals, and was glad they were staying two nights in Hot Springs. His grief over Daniel's loss was still very much with him. Annie napped as she tended to do in the car, and he kept up with the news, the protests, the looting and the fires. There is mention of Daniel's death and funeral as well as other police officers killed or injured on Fox, but this news is mostly omitted on the three major networks, and a few low rated cable news. To them, the loss of property and livelihood of both black and white businesses is not the focus. Their narrative is to paint all police with a broad brush of racism, guilty of injustices toward minorities. Charlie knows it isn't true. There are racist police. Both Daniel and he encountered and dealt with them on the force, but all? The answer is 'No.' Charlie thinks there is always room for improvement, and he would be the first to rid the force of a racist officer. He knows Daniel would be right with him. He has witnessed calls for unity and pleas to work together for the good of all to promote justice and equality. These calls he and Daniel answered every day. He remembers answering burglary calls, counseling victims of domestic violence, and saving lives. He remembers seeing the expression of relief on victims' faces when he and Daniel arrived, and pulled people from vehicles that later burst into flame. He hopes that most of America realizes most police are good, deserving of respect and will not fall for the falsehoods of the media and politicians pandering for votes. Some of the peaceful protesters with good hearts and good intentions have been co-opted by far left groups like Antifa. Charlie can only hope that their designation as a terrorist group will have serious repercussions, and that their actions will be rewarded with prosecutions.
Charlie is also so saddened by George Floyd's funeral. He feels for the family of George Floyd. They genuinely are grieving over his loss, and his brother speaks with such heartfelt eloquence, however others who speak, do not share his eloquence. This is a time when love should be preached with the hope of healing. It's a time to honor and respect those lost. Charlie remembers his friendship with Daniel and his funeral, then smiles and thinks, 'Martin Luther King would have approved.' He looks up and says, "I'll miss you, Brother."