When your Dad is a cop in the same town in which you live, it makes life… interesting. Much of what shaped me into the person I am today comes from that fact.
During my and my brother’s childhood, he would be gone for what seemed like months; in reality, he’d be working a case with the FBI or IBI (IL Bureau of Investigation), or would be in Louisville, KY for classes in forensics for a few days. When we were really young, he was a detective (or “in Dicks” as is commonly known). I don’t know that he was ever really a beat cop, but he became a shift commander sometime in the 80s where he gained the forever moniker “Sarge.”
So, for those of you who grew up with cops in the family, or know cops, are married to a cop, or are a cop yourself, this is what your children have to look forward to… enjoy!
When your Dad’s a cop…
… there will be no sneaking around in town. He has guys with guns in patrol cars e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e. I’d have had a better chance “getting away with things” had I been wearing a neon jumpsuit while leading a parade of orangutans crashing metal garbage can lids together like cymbals down the middle of Lake Street on a Sunday.
… saying you’re spending the night by your best friend is code for we’re going to Crazy Rock, 35 miles away, so we can do something fun without being caught.
… changing out of the appropriate clothing you left your house wearing into the despicable hoochie attire you’ll wear to the aforementioned club you’re not allowed to go to, in the front seat of your moving car, becomes a skill worthy of the circus.
… you can’t make noise during the day, in the house, when he’s on midnights, or “he will kill you.” (that’s what Ma said, anyway) Stop running around, or you’ll wake up your father! Stop yelling, or you’ll wake up your father! I wonder if she realized she was the one doing the yelling?
… you get Dunkin Donuts every single Sunday!!! Oh, the irony.
… you and your best friend get to crack jokes when you see him: *sniff sniff* Do you smell that? Yep… smells like… pork. Nah, it’s Sunday. BACON! Hey, Sarge, careful with the Boston cremes on that nice white shirt. Hey, Dad, I bet it’s nice to be a ‘white shirt’ now; Yea, Mr. D., the powder from the donuts doesn’t show up as badly.
… your male friends show up like clockwork after getting parking tickets, speeding tickets, or any other type of municipal infraction.
… the police scanner is on 24/7 when he’s on duty.
… your Mother rolls her eyes, tsks, or aggressively displays her general disgust for having to “hold dinner” because he’s stuck on a call. Again.
… you forget that regular people don’t speak in “10 codes.”
… he spins his service revolver (safety on, of course) in the general direction of your male friends when he stops at home for a 10-100 (to go potty), just to keep them on their toes.
… no one will date you in high school except for the guy he threw into juvi-hall for drug possession three years earlier. Dad, I’d like you to meet Matt Ashcr… Hiya, Sarge; how’ve you been? Just fine, Matthew; staying out of trouble? Ok, what the hell just happened?! True story. Dad knew the guy before I did. My best friend, now nearly 25 years after that fateful night, still laughs her ass off at that story. I wonder if Dad noticed the handcuffs around his rearview mirror?
… the “rage cage” (holding cell at the PD) is a legitimate possibility for your immediate, albeit temporary, dwelling if you screwed up at home badly enough.
… and you learn he’s a human lie detector, you take it not as a threat or a warning, but as a challenge. (Good grief, I really was a pain in the ass).
… he gets a kick out of picking you up from school in the squad car and making you sit in the back like a criminal.
… you get a kick out of being in the back of a squad car and having people think you’re a criminal.
… it’s typical to see him cleaning his service revolver, which is in a million pieces on the kitchen table, while watching Barney Miller reruns, drinking copious amounts of black coffee.
… you know where he hides the snub nose, and know not to touch it. EVER.
… you get to hang out in the RecRoom at the PD, and play pool and pinball with the detectives.
… you get to be harassed on a daily basis by any and all members of the police department anywhere they happen to find you, especially, and always inconveniently, when with your “teenaged twit friends.”
… and another cop in town pulls you over and lectures you ad nauseum about the speeding ticket he’s not going to give you because of “who you are,” you begin to beg him to just give you the damn ticket instead of telling your Dad so you don’t have to listen to another lecture from him about “how to behave in this town.” Double. Whammy.
… you know what it means to “walk a chalk line.”
… Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner at your house may include 30+ members of the police and fire departments, at varying intervals, who live out of town and had to work that holiday. Ma was a trooper back then.
… you swear you’ll never date one, and then eat your words when you do.
… you develop the ability to spot a cruiser on the highway, 3 miles away, at night, with its lights off, tucked between the orange barricades and the overgrown median brush.
… you learn how to use your transmission to slow down instead of using your brakes when you see a cop timing people. Ah, to see all those other drivers doing the telltale nose-dive/brake lights dance as you drive away unnoticed by Smokey, sans brake lights and at incrementally diminishing speed.
… it’s hard for him to engage your friends, as nearly every teenager with whom he deals is a criminal.
… you instinctively know to keep the seat facing the door at the restaurant open for him.
… you instinctively take the seat facing the door when you’re with anyone else for the same reasons he would.
… there comes a point when you realize he wasn’t… always… a cop.
… everyone in town knows your last name, for many more years than you can possibly fathom or tolerate.
… a 10-96 (mental subject) becomes synonymous with your ex and/or his family, many of your friends, the neighbors, acquaintances, members of your own family, Congress, make that all elected officials, the clergy, teenagers… The list has not found its end as of January 2014.
… you can’t even have a conversation with your friends in the driveway because a cop will undoubtedly pull up and ask you what you’re doing and if your Dad’s home.
… and other cops get called to disperse the crowd of 40+ loiterers and their vehicles from the Denny’s parking lot, you and your friends get preferential treatment, aka no lecture, no phone call home, just a nod and a whispered “get your ass out of here right now, Denofrio.”
… you know everything that is happening around town before anyone else does.
… you can’t tell anyone about the hot scoop around town.
… the word “dicks” has a completely different meaning than your sophmoric brain thinks it does.
… it takes you till your 30s before you can say your Dad was in “dicks” without giggling.
… it takes you till your 40s before you can say your Dad was in “dicks” without giggling.
… you’ll never stop giggling when you say your Dad was in “dicks.”
Thanks for making such an indelible mark on my childhood, Dad. The emotional scars have thickened my skin, and I’ll never forget the memories made from all those years, but the medication is helping.
A special thanks to Tina––my sister from another mister, my partner in despicable activities of varying shapes and sizes, and instigator extraordinaire. Dad still gives me the look over the glasses to this day when I bring up your name. Good job!