By Craig Hastings
My job as a police officer takes me to a variety of places. Some by choice, some by happen chance, and some by necessity. Because I’m a police officer you might believe that wherever I go the reason is one of a bad circumstance. Mostly this is true but sometimes even when the initial visit is one requiring some type of intervention by police, sometimes our visit will turn to a more positive encounter. This might be for a variety of reasons but I’ll share with you one that happened to me last week here in Tuscola, but something similar might happen to any police officer anywhere.
Mondays through Thursdays during the school year I will usually set stationary close by the North Ward school during the early morning drop off of the students. A variety of mental notes can be logged from what we see during the coming and going of vehicles moving through circle drives of all the schools. Such as, you wonder? Revoked drivers, suspended drivers, expired registrations, cell phone use, no use of seat belts, and even violations of court ordered protection orders among a few other things. There are few things that call me away from my stationary position. A traffic accident somewhere is one of those few things.
A minor traffic accident took place in front of the East Prairie Middle School, and the officer on scene requested I locate one of the vehicles that had left the scene. Because of the minor damage that could have occurred to the vehicle that didn’t stop, we were sure it wasn’t someone trying to elude the police. Sure enough, I discovered the vehicle coming at me eastbound on North Line Road. The driver entered the parking lot of the Brookstone Village senior living complex. I’m no stranger to Brookstone. Management was courteous enough to take me on a tour of the facility just after it had opened for occupancy. It was then and remains today a very well-cared-for facility. Today I would be required to speak with an employee in the cafeteria/kitchen portion of the facility, the driver of the second vehicle.
While waiting in a hallway just outside the open cafeteria seating area I heard: “Hey Chief, what are ya up too?” I thought I recognized the voice but how could that be because who the voice belonged to I didn’t know this person was residing at Brookstone. I turned my head looking into the cafeteria and sure enough, it was the person who’s voice I recognized. Not only did I see this man but I also recognized two other Tuscola alumni that I didn’t know were living at Brookstone Village. By now everyone was staring in my direction.
The person calling out to me was now standing and was by all indications coming my way. I was already on my way to his table. I hadn’t shared a conversation with this good friend of my deceased father for several years. In fact, not since the last time I had done the annual required inspection to his golf cart he used to tool around in and around Tuscola. Now I was pleased it was taking more time than I expected for the driver of the vehicle involved in the minor crash to retrieve their driver’s license and vehicle information. I sat down and our conversation began in earnest with a touch of humor here and there. It was similar to every conversation I’d had with him for thirty plus years when I would run in to him out and about. He has a son that was a classmate of mine, and another that was a classmate of my older brother. Our parents knew each other very well. His wife has since passed away, the family home sold, and now he has moved to Brookstone, which I didn’t know until today.
While we were sharing lies and truths one of the other people I had recognized approached our table. He asked me when I was done if I could come visit his table and speak with a gentleman who he said reads this column in The Journal every week and has done so for some time. Absolutely, I could and wanted to do this. With breakfast done and our conversation slowing we said our goodbyes, and I moved across the room to meet a gentleman I had never met before. We introduced ourselves to one another. He shared with me that he had been a police officer in a community in Northern Illinois for nearly 20 years. He commented how comfortable I appeared wearing shorts and a polo shirt for a uniform. He told me of the full dress uniform he was ordered to wear consisting of heavy wool blend pants and stiff polyester/nylon shirts. They were both hot and uncomfortable he said. I interrupted him as he continued with “you wouldn’t believe…” “Hang on I said; I used to wear that very uniform when I started here in Tuscola.” This prompted a puzzled look from him as though he misunderstood me. “I’m finishing year 39 and will be continuing to year 40 in two weeks,” I said.
He doesn’t know how good the look he gave me made me feel that day. He didn’t expect that I was as old as I am and still doing this. It was the second and just as pleasant a conversation as the first and both in this little cafeteria in Brookstone Village. My driver was approaching me know with paperwork in hand so I said my goodbyes and tended to the business that had brought me to Brookstone this day. My father and mother owned newspapers here in Tuscola for 50 plus years and through this business I was presented the opportunity to get to know many of the men and women of their generation. My father passed away much too early, nearly 23 years ago, but many of his friends of the same generation survive him. This morning by fate or by purpose I was blessed to share a few moments of conversation with two of them.
This is important and meaningful to me because they have been residents of Tuscola for as long as I’ve been alive. Therefore most everything about our conversations are related to moments and people in Tuscola history. The simplest moments and conversations we can all relate because we all lived here when they happened. When they ask me “what’s new” for instance. They don’t expect me to say; “Did you hear President Trump is going to tariff every single product coming from Mexico into the United States?” or, “Did you know Kim Jung Un went on a diet and actually became heavier?” No, no, they would expect something more like, “Have you heard the details of the new roadway being developed east and north of Road Ranger?” or, “Schools about out for the summer and nothing of consequence happened within the district this year. Tuscola Stuff!
It was an enjoyable morning and not because of something I did. Instead because a few people having breakfast at Brookstone Village reached out to me to engage in simple pleasantries while having their breakfast. Where else but in a small community does this happen? My thanks to these three gentlemen for sharing their time with me this day. It was my pleasure.