As I sped out the back door, I was amazed at how fast my feet could carry me. Sweat poured off my face as I dashed across the yard, not from exerting myself, but from facing fear. As I reached our adjoining neighbor’s backyard, my father’s voice called to me from my back porch, but his words were lost in the distance.
For two blocks I ran before I was greeted by a friendly face. “Hey, Terry,” Norman shouted out at me. “What’s the hurry?”
Not daring to stop for him, I called out as I ran by, “I need a place to hide out. Any suggestions?”
Slow in mind, but fast on foot, Norman began keeping pace with me. “The church basement is always unlocked. We can hide in there.”
The tightness in my chest and my burning leg muscles told me was about done in, and unable to think clearly, Norman and I ended our run at church. As soon as Norman closed the door behind us, I fell to the ground gasping. As I lay there trying to catch my breath, Norman glared down at me.
“Alright, out with it. What’s got you going in panic mode?”
Being illuminated only by the light shining through the windows, long foreboding shadows filled the room, ever creating hiding places for peering eyes and ears. Fearfully, I looked for any signs of unwanted intruders, and when I was finally satisfied, we were alone, I answered, “I was in my room, minding my own business. I thought Dad was still at work, so I said to myself, "Now’s a good time as any to light up a joint." So, I did.
Norman smirked at me. “Man, that’s not the smartest thing you’ve ever done. What if your dad had caught you?”
“That’s just it,” I replied. “He did catch me. I’m not sure when he came home, but the smell of the pot must have caught his nose, because he charged up those stairs like a bat out of Hell. Somehow, I was able to squirm by him in the hallway and beat him outside. So, here I am, hiding in the church with your dumb ass.”
For a moment, Norman just stood there. Then he sat down next to me. “I may be a dumb ass, but I’m not the one running away from your father who happens to be a State Trooper.”
As if I didn’t have to be reminded of my dilemma. I wasn’t sure what the law would say in fifty years, but in 1972, possession of marijuana was a criminal offense.
Norman shoved my arm, bringing me to the present. “Hey man, don’t worry over it. Like, he’s your father, man. He’s not going to bust you.”
If I lived in an ordinary family with ordinary parents holding ordinary jobs, I wouldn’t be worried. But the fact is, my mother has died, my dad is married to his job, and I lived a farther than normal life. If there was an iota of normalcy in my life, it would be I smoked reefer with my friends. Norman may have nothing to worry about, but I do. I swear, if my dad ever caught his mother jay walking, he would give her a ticket. That was my world, my reality, the fear I faced every day.
Oblivious to my concerns, Norman chimed in, “Don’t put off the inevitable, Terry. Go home and face your father. Tell him you’re sorry. I know you don’t think much of him, but he may surprise you. Anyways, what else can you do?”
For being a dumb ass, Norman had a good point. Being sixteen, my options were few. I had no place to run, no relatives living nearby to take me in, and as in hiding from everyone, Dad’s friends in the force would search every nook and cranny looking for me. I had no hope for an escape, but I still needed time to think. So, leaving Norman to his own devices, I started for home.
Had I walked directly home, it would have taken only five minutes to return, but instead I decided to spend my time meandering through the streets. It was a beautiful evening. The sun disappeared over the horizon leaving a dissipating array of glimmering light, giving away to the stars above. The empty streets were illuminated with the lights shining from the houses lined up on the streets. If you peer through the windows, you may be greeted with the smiles of families gathered for their evening supper and reminding me of pleasant times lost in the past. Though I felt a twinge of jealousy, laced with envy each time I looked at one of these families, I couldn’t help but wish to be a part of them.
At the same time, I always wondered why my father couldn’t be more loving, more caring. Before my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, Dad used to spend all his free time with us. Fishing, hunting, and even teaching us to play poker was only the beginning. Now, it was a miracle if I could see him between his shifts. How he happened to return home while I was getting high, I’ll never know, but as for the ramifications of my actions, I was about to find out.
As soon as I walked through the door, I found Dad sitting in the living room, dressed in his uniform. Slowly, he eased himself out of his chair and forced himself to approach me. his chin began to quiver, and tears welled up in his eyes. The expression on his face was almost foreign to me, for I hadn’t seen it since the day my mother died. Then, I single word escaped from his lips and pierced my heart.
So much I wanted to say how sorry I was and how much I loved him, but the words froze in my throat, leaving me in silence.
Then, I heard my father’s voice break when he said, “I’m sorry, son. You’re under arrest. You have the right to remain silent…”
My fate was sealed as my father placed me in handcuffs. In silence, he tenderly escorted me to his cruiser and drove me to his headquarters, where I was booked. In all fairness I understood why he had to do what he did, though it cost us both great pain and sorrow. After serving a three-year sentence, I met my father and we had a long talk about us, mom, and what’s in store for our futures. Since that day, we became closer and even began fishing together again. The stain of my insolence will always remain, but we have learned to forgive each other, as well as ourselves. Together, we faced our fears and overcame them.