|Publisher:||Morgan James Publishing|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x (d)|
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STAND BY ME
The beginning of it all is somewhat of a muddle to me, but if I have to start somewhere I think it would be with a phone call in the middle of the night. Actually, it was my husband Jim who picked up the first phone call, and he had the good sense to let me sleep for a while before waking me up. So I woke up to the news that our son Daniel had been in an accident. Driving while intoxicated. The police report was confusing. He had swiped a few cars, gotten into a fight, tried to leave the scene of the accident, the police were going to call back later. Is he OK? Is he in the hospital?
No, he said. Apparently, he's in jail.
I answered the next phone call. By this time, I was screamingly awake. Things still seemed muddled — there were conflicting reports, the police said. But some things were crystal clear. Daniel was going to be arraigned the next morning in city court — you need to be there. I was somehow prepared for the rest — his license was suspended, his car was impounded, he was not injured, he had spent the night in jail. But he had one more thing to add, the thing that blasted me through some kind of barrier into another world. "You need to call your lawyer," he said, "because besides everything else that happened, your son also hit a pedestrian."
It's funny, but my initial reaction was to his comment about the lawyer rather than the news about the pedestrian. Who do you think we are? We're not people who have a lawyer, like some people who have a dentist or a doctor or a dry-cleaning service. My lawyer? Who would that be — the pudgy attorney who was at our house closing whose name I can't even remember? A distant cousin who used to probate wills that I haven't talked to in years? Of course, we don't have a lawyer because we're not the kind of people who need a lawyer. And then I remembered the pedestrian.
"Is he OK?" I asked.
"Still too early to know; he's still in the hospital."
By morning it occurred to me how completely unprepared I was for what lay ahead. The only time I had been in court was for a ticket because my headlight was out, and this was in our little local court. I had to go online to find the location of the city court, and as I looked in my closet, I realized that I wasn't even sure about how one dresses for court. I was in such a state of shock that I couldn't so much as remember the rule whether it is better to overdress or underdress when in doubt. I opted for overdress.
Turns out I was wrong. I entered the court alone because Jim was still circling the courthouse looking for a parking place, and a man in a uniform ushered me toward the first row. Behind me was a row of benches with little groups of people scattered here and there.
Whole families were there, baby carriages and all. Who brings kids to an arraignment? I wondered, but then this was all new to me, so maybe that was par for the course.
It didn't take me long to realize that I was the only one in the first row who didn't have a briefcase, and it occurred to me that I had been mistaken as an attorney. With an apologetic wave to the others, I moved back to where I apparently belonged — with the other family members waiting for the whole process to begin. Jim arrived and later another man joined us on the bench. He seemed to be the most animated person in the room, and I instinctively liked him. He introduced himself and handed me his card. His card had a little dark figure which I recognized immediately — the man from the Get Out of Jail Free card in Monopoly. He was a bail bondsman. I struggled to remember what I knew about bail and came up with nothing. It hadn't even occurred to me before leaving home to stop at an ATM, to even think about money. But I felt somehow comforted having someone around who knew the ropes, and I confidently trusted in the kindness of strangers, having no other option. As we waited, he gave us a preview of what would happen in the next half hour or so. Since he was apparently a regular in the courtroom, I asked him if he could recommend an attorney for a DWI case. He scrolled through his phone and came up with two names and numbers which I scribbled on an envelope which I found in my purse. Good lawyers who won't cost you an arm and a leg if you know what I mean, he said. Of course, I didn't know, I didn't know anything about this, but I nodded, grateful for his help.
Eventually, the judge appeared and sometime later, a door opened and a line of men in orange jump suits shuffled in and sat on a special bench in front. They seemed a ragged crew — huddled shoulders, unkempt hair, stubbled chins, eyes fixed on the floor. I cringed at the sight of them, stunned by the visual image of my own son in handcuffs standing there among them. "Which one is yours?" my new friend whispered and I quickly counted down the line.
"The fourth one," I said, "the young kid."
"Hopefully they won't set the bail too high him being so young and all," he said casually, and again I nodded although I had no idea what might be a low or a high bail. And while we waited for Daniel's turn to go before the judge, he gave me a little background on each person. The judge, the DA, the public defender. Labels from a TV show, not my life, but I was all ears now. When it was Daniel's turn, the bail bondsman gently nudged me and said, "Since your son is under age, you can go up and stand with him, you know. Go on, it will work to his benefit." Why? I wondered, but I immediately got up and headed for the little gate that would let me into the inner sanctum, the judge and sinners. A clerk opened the door for me as I approached, and then I took my place next to my son who was still handcuffed and looked as if he needed a good night's sleep. There was a lot of mumbling back and forth about the amount of bail and the injured pedestrian, and in the end, the district attorney won out for a higher bail. The public defender then turned her attention to Daniel and began giving him an explanation of what lay ahead. It dawned on me that I should be paying more attention and get beyond the shock that I was standing next to a familiar face in a convict suit. Whether it was the shock or the fact that I was functioning on only a few hours sleep, I found the whole thing hard to follow. For all I knew, she could have been reading him the Declaration of Independence and I wish to God she had been because whether I realized it or not, this was my introduction into a whole new world, a world that would soon be made up of probation officers, judges, lawyers, counselors and social service people of all shapes and sizes. For the rest of the day Ben E. King's song "Stand by Me" rattled through my brain:
When the night has come And the land is dark And the moon is the only light we'll see No I won't be afraid, no I won't be afraid Just as long as you stand, stand by me
Little did I know that would become my theme song for the next six years.CHAPTER 2
DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE
Despite the anxiety of that first incident, I still thought of Daniel as someone who had veered off the right track, not gone off on the wrong track altogether. After all, I had grown up in a household of brothers at a time when it was not unheard of to travel any long distance with a six pack on the passenger seat just to keep you company. My brothers wrapped cars around telephone poles, knocked over signs and mailboxes, even got into a few drunken fights. I still suspect that some of my pet kittens who suddenly disappeared from one day to the next found their fates under the wheels of my brothers' cars. Not good, not good at all. But there were no DWIs, no probation officers, no court cases. They each left behind them a trail of gnarled cars but nothing more. And, one by one, each of them moved on to another phase and left all of that behind. You ever wonder why you don't recognize so many fellow alumni at your college reunions? Maybe one of the reasons is that the last time you saw them they were at some frat house playing drinking games or passed out on a couch somewhere. And now here they were, ten years, twenty years later, doctors, lawyers and entrepreneurs, dressed in neatly pressed chinos and matching outfits talking about investments and trips to the Bahamas.
Sure, I had watched my older brothers go through their drinking phase, had listened to their arguments with my parents, had seen their wrecked cars, had even gone to the hospital to visit on at least one occasion. I knew the whole thing was like a scary roller coaster ride. But I fully believed that like any ride, it came to an end. Hold your breath, hang on tight and when you open your eyes again, it will all be over.
Or so I thought. Actually, I thought that the whole incident with the pedestrian was going to be the end of the ride. After all, you put your hand near the fire and get burned once, do you go ahead and do it again? In Daniel's case, the answer would be yes. Again and again and again.
What does it take for you to "get it"? It was a question that I posed to Daniel over and over again. One time late at night we received a phone call from the mother of one of Daniel's friends. Her son and Daniel had found a couple of bottles of whiskey at the house and Daniel was drunk. So drunk in fact that she thought we should take him to a hospital. Which we did. He was so wasted we could hardly get him out of the car, in fact, had to get a wheel chair to get him from the car into the emergency room. He stayed there overnight and in the morning when we went to get him, he was still in the hospital bed, his body covered with little circular white pads and wires.
"Look at me," he said, gesturing to the wires all over his body. "I freaked out when I woke up this morning and saw all this. How did this happen? I don't remember anything." It was a phrase we had heard before. How did the lamp get broken? I don't know. I don't remember anything. Why is there glass all over the floor? What about that hole in the wall? I don't know anything about it. And at first, I thought this response was just a way to avoid taking responsibility. But eventually, I came to the realization that there were times when he really did not remember. He was not only drinking heavily; he was having blackouts. In fact, some of my most vivid memories were of incidents which Daniel didn't remember at all.
One day I came home from work and found Daniel and Jim engaged in a heated argument. Daniel had been drinking, he was getting belligerent, things were escalating. I immediately felt that terrible gut-wrenching ache that comes when two people you love are at odds with one another. Stop this. Go somewhere else. Get away from each other. I knew enough about Daniel at that point to know that there was no point in talking to him after he had been drinking. He was not reasonable when he was under the influence, he was incapable of seeing anyone else's point of view, he had a hairline trigger for anger. "Stop this," I yelled again to no one in particular. "Drop it. Go somewhere else."
I had actually hoped that each of them would storm off into different rooms of the house, slam the door perhaps, and things would cool off. But instead Daniel darted out the front door.
Jim and I stood there shaking for a few minutes, and then I went outside to look for Daniel. He was nowhere to be found.
I immediately panicked. "We can't let him wander around the neighborhood in that state," I said. "We need to go find him."
"He'll never get in the car with me at this point," Jim responded and I knew he was right. So I got into my car and began to drive around the neighborhood. No sign of him anywhere. I was about to give up altogether when I saw him scurry across a neighbor's back yard. I quickly pulled the car to the side of the road and jumped out. "Daniel!" I yelled. He turned around, looked briefly at me and then headed off in the opposite direction. He ambled through one neighbor's back yard, then a second and in the third neighbor's yard, he headed toward the woods at the back of their property. If there is any grace in this universe, those neighbors would have been watching the evening news, engaged in a family argument, surfing the internet or doing anything other than looking out their back windows that day, because if they were, they would have seen a woman dressed in a beige linen suit and heels chasing through their yard after a disheveled young man, his jacket half off, stumbling over anything that happened to be in his path.
Eventually I caught up with him in the woods. He was, at the time, dangling half-way to the ground, his jacket snagged on a bush. As much as he tugged on the jacket, it would not come loose. I stood next to him, out of breath, and simply said, "Daniel, you have to come home."
Surprisingly, he didn't give me a hard time about that. I helped him out of his jacket, pulled the jacket from the bush and slung it over my shoulder. He tried to walk with me, but he kept stumbling over everything along the way. "Here," I said, draping his arm over my shoulder. "Hang on and let's get you out of here."
And in this way, we maneuvered our way through the woods, stumbling over roots and rocks, circumventing fallen trees, pulling back bushes and branches and finally made it back out to the road and to my car. Perhaps I have watched too many war movies, but the image that sticks in my mind is not so much as a mother and a son, but an army man who goes back for a wounded comrade hoping to pull him out of harm's way. It's funny but I remember this incident almost as if I were an observer rather than a participant in the whole scenario. Daniel, on the other hand, by the next morning didn't remember it at all.
Alcoholic? Addict? Those words didn't even cross my mind at the time. After the accident, Daniel went to court-ordered alcohol counseling, and we redoubled our efforts to point out the dangers of alcohol using any means possible. We made sure there was no alcohol in the house and finally convinced him to get rid of the empty liquor bottles that he had displayed in his room as if they were trophies of some kind. We were constantly pushing newspapers articles across the table to Daniel. See? See what happens to people who drink and drive? If you don't learn from your own mistakes, learn from others. During this time, a student who had been a couple of years ahead of Daniel in school got in a car accident driving back to his college campus and ended up killing three people, including his best friend who was with him at the time. It was on the front page of the newspaper, the talk of the town. What a terrible tragedy for everyone. Drinking and driving. See? See? Nothing good comes of it. And Daniel would heartily agree. "Damn, he'll have to live with that for the rest of his life," he remarked.
Apparently he got it on one level, but somehow it didn't make enough of an impact to change his behavior. So the fact that Daniel ended up with a DWI that first day in court and had his license suspended was in some ways a blessing. It would keep him off the road. It would keep him and everybody else safe at least for a while.
Of course, in other ways it was a curse. There are ripple effects to a DWI, especially when you live in the country. No license means no transportation. No transportation means you are constantly relying on other people to get you where you need to go. Jim and I both worked, so we were either taking time off from work or shelling out money for rides. And of course, the only people who were available to provide those rides were other people who didn't seem to have anything else going on in their lives. We were relying on the unreliable.
Daniel finished his six weeks of mandated alcohol counseling. His final report indicated that he had engaged in treatment and was a good participant which meant that we no longer had to spend two or three evenings a week driving him to an agency forty-five minutes away, waiting in the car until he finished his session and then driving him back home again. Other than that, nothing else in our life seemed to change. He may have engaged in alcohol treatment, but we suspected that it was not the only thing that he was engaged in during those six weeks.
Nevertheless, we plugged onward. Daniel was still in school at the time, and we set our focus on making sure he graduated. At one time, I had pictured myself visiting colleges with Daniel, waiting for admission letters in the mail, loading up the car with suitcases and blankets and driving him off to the start of a professional career. The bar was set much lower at this point; in fact, it was only inches off the ground. Getting him out of bed in the morning and out the door — hopefully to school — was as much as we could handle, and we weren't being too successful at even this. Still we had hope. He had, after all, passed all the state exams, an extraordinary feat we thought, considering the fact that we had never seen him with a textbook in his hand. But we were on thin ice. Calls from teachers all reported the same thing: smart kid, but he doesn't do anything and is in danger of failing. Though this threw me into a panic, it didn't seem to bother Daniel at all. And in the end, he failed just one course, but a course he needed to graduate, a course only offered first semester. So sorry. But we were determined to trudge onward. We found an equivalent course at the local community college and enrolled him with the school's full approval. Daniel could still graduate in June. We bought the textbook, read a few chapters ahead so we could perhaps engage Daniel in conversation around the subject matter. But getting him to the college each week was just as hard as getting him to school in the morning, and by June it was clear that he would be one of the few from his class who would not be graduating that year.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Weight of a Feather"
Copyright © 2019 Lynda Hacker Araoz.
Excerpted by permission of Morgan James Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Stand by Me,
Down the Rabbit Hole,
Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!,
Help, I Need Somebody, Help Not Just Anybody....,
Plans B and C and D, E, F,
Oh, the Places You'll Go!,
I am a Rock, I am an Island,
The Pit and the Pendulum,
Didn't Make the Cut ...,
The Enigma of Stigma,
A Very Present Help,
Mind the Gap between the train and the Platform,
About the Author,