Dangerous addresses, part 2

I worked two 10 hour days the weekend after the Kenosha shooting. I’d assume most of you heard of the Kenosha shooting even if you don’t live in the United States. But just in case, it involved a police shooting where a white officer shot a black man. After the shooting terrible violence ensued with protests, looting, rioting, and more shootings. It was bad enough to put my state of Wisconsin on the map.

Now I don’t live near Kenosha but we could feel the after shock throughout the state and most of the country. Racial tension was high. Were you with the police or black lives? Incidentally, not too long after they were looking for census employees in Kenosha. Yeah……NO!

The weekend after the shooting I was assigned to work in a rough neighborhood also known for its shootings. Since I was working 10 hours, I started my shift pretty early on a Sunday morning. But we never started working before 9 AM. I don’t think I have been able to sleep until 9 anytime in this century but I do realize other people do. After all I do have teenagers. One of the first places I stopped at the guy said he partied too hard the night before and was too hungover to answer any questions.

The streets were virtually empty on that beautiful Sunday morning. Just me with my census bag and badge waking up the whole neighborhood pestering people with my personal questions. What is your race? As you can see, I am white. But I am not racist, although how do you know that by looking at me.

I felt looked down upon that weekend. I was a parasite asking too many personal questions too early in the morning. I was a white person working with the government, a maggot, one rung above the police but not as welcome as a postal worker. Maybe not true, but this is how I felt.

I knocked at another door. The house went from absolute silence to full on violent rage yelling once I knocked. What the hell is going on?? I distinctly heard the word ‘police’. I heard things inside being thrown around. I knew I had to get the hell out of there and quick. I didn’t even leave a missed census visit notice.

I walked to the end of the block around the corner. I had more houses on that street to visit. My plan was to swing back after a few minutes and pretend that nothing happened. I was going to pick up where I left off at the next house. When I came back I saw this huge black man raging around the house of the door I knocked on like a bull looking for whomever was waving the red flag. Me.

I was terrified. I was going to die. Time slowed down. I saw a car nearby with a woman in it. A census worker. A beacon of safety. I ran to her. She asked if I was okay, if I needed a ride somewhere, if I needed help. Perhaps a drink of water. She said she wasn’t with the census so I wandered away.

I think the man hopped in a car with his buddies. They were looking for me. I was the only person on the streets. Everyone that drove by was looking at me. He was going to find me and kill me. I was completely in a daze and out of it as I tried to find my way back to my car a couple blocks away. Time slowed down as my heart raced.

I left my cell phone in my car. I couldn’t call for help. My husband wasn’t home anyway. I called my supervisor and told him what happened. He told me to take a little break. I needed gas anyway so I went to the gas station. I couldn’t figure out how to get gas. I was convinced I was getting the wrong gas, like putting diesel into a gas tank. I panicked that my car wouldn’t work and I would get stuck there. I stopped filling my car with one type of gas and switched to another.

I couldn’t make my mind work. It was still stuck in panic mode. There was a disconnect like hearing buzzing instead of talking when the volume is on mute. Things weren’t right in my mind. It took another half an hour to reboot. Then I went back to work as if nothing had happened.

My supervisor added the address to the list of dangerous addresses. When census employees were on the job, they had a list of addresses that were dangerous. Yellow addresses were to proceed with caution. Red addresses were to cease the interview immediately. Red addresses were addresses where a person threatened a census worker. By the time I neared the end of my employment, there were 100 dangerous addresses in that neighborhood.

I never would’ve guessed everything that was going to happen in the world when I applied with the census a year ago.

The people I didn’t meet

I think God was watching out for me while I was working the census more than once or twice. If I had gone to the house a week earlier, I would’ve met the tenants. A man answered the door when I arrived. He stated the tenants were evicted the week before. He was hired to clean up the mess they left behind. From what little I could see behind the door, I knew I was lucky to not have met them. They tore up the floors and down the walls.

I asked the neighbors about the people that lived there. A lady said that people were coming and going at all hours of the day and night. There were little kids that lived there. She didn’t know them though.

I always feared I would have to knock on the door of a drug trafficking house or other disreputable location. What if I saw someone commit a crime? What if there were children involved? Nah, I’m sure they were responsible enough to fill out their census.

One day I drove out to a house a ways back from the road. The house looked haunted. Several windows were smashed. I thought maybe someone lived there because there was a trash bin on the side of the road for garbage day. There was something eerie about the place which made me feel fearful. I wanted to get out of there as fast as I could. As I was knocking on the door, a truck pulled into the driveway behind my car rather quickly. I felt rather terrified.

Thankfully, the person who got out of the truck was the owner of the house. He said he had to evict the renter because she was on drugs and almost overdosed several times. It was a really bad situation. When she got evicted she smashed the windows and trashed the place.

I just lucked out that it was garbage day. The owner was slowly starting to fix the place up again. I was able to close out the file on my first visit to that house.

Sometimes I felt thankful for the people I didn’t meet.

The pharmacist

When he got expelled for selling drugs in middle school, his mother said that he had aspirations of becoming a pharmacist. 

I saw his mother this past weekend. I don’t know if she noticed me. Maybe she pretended she did not, like I did with her. In all honesty, I feel disgust towards her mixed with a strong dose of pity.

Looking back, maybe I shouldn’t have allowed my kids to have sleepovers. But I still fondly remember childhood sleepovers…popcorn and movies…staying up all night…laughter and friendship. Why would I take that from my kids for no good reason?

Did she know back then that her son was the pharmacist??

He seemed so smooth, so friendly. Almost too nice, too charming. He always used terms like Mr. and Mrs., please and thank you. Is being too polite now a warning sign?

Who would’ve guessed? For the record, Paul always had a bad feeling about the boy. But he was so young then, only 12, when he dragged the neighborhood boys off the straight and narrow down a deep dark path.

He left them somewhere along the way and kept going…deeper, narrower, darker…DMT, heroin…pills, needles, pipes…I heard he is in juvie now.

Sometimes, when it first begins, it’s hard to see the sole’s first tread off the path.

I didn’t know why he left school at the beginning of the school year. He went on ‘vacation’ for a couple of weeks after leaving. Something about going to visit a relative out of state, but his mother stayed home. Then he started homeschooling because his mother did not like the school anymore. Then there were the Saturday morning community service projects. The warning bells rang like sirens in my head.

I felt angry with his mother for not telling us what was really going on. But is it her fault her son is the way he is? Did she know what was happening in her own house?? Was it already too late when she found out?

Eventually, the neighborhood moms found out what was happening. Their boys were banned from seeing the pharmacist early in the path. But what happened while we were at work?? He only lived a couple houses down. It was a hard time. Teenagers sometimes need as much supervision as toddlers.

Could it have been prevented? We already made sure we had conversations with the parents before allowing our children over for sleepovers.

Keep vigilant when things seem off.

Don’t tell yourself that the empty Benadryl wrappers you found were from your child treating allergies when you don’t carry those pills in the house. You will second guess yourself at first especially when you are not ready to face the truth. Don’t tell yourself, he is only 13.

Then start hoping and praying that your child did not enter a path that they have a hard time finding their way back from.

The internet is a double edged sword. It’s sickening how much info is out there for kids who want to experiment. But on the flip side it can also be a great resource to parents, like me, who have no clue.

Keep talking, eventually the truth comes out. When the truth comes out, don’t expect it to be pretty. Whatever you do, don’t act out of anger towards your teen if they tell the truth no matter how hard it is to hear.

And don’t expect an apology from the mother. Expect to hear that her son has aspirations of becoming a pharmacist.

 

Moral dilemma 5

It happened at a college party the weekend before finals. She thought he was a friend when he invited her in his room to tell her something he didn’t want anyone to overhear. They knew each other for almost two years. She trusted him.

Maybe I was at home saying my prayers for her continued safety as I was going to bed that night. Her roommate walked in looking for her as she struggled to get away. She left the party crying, her trust broken.

The party continued on…He had another secret to share in his room. This girl had too much to drink and wasn’t feeling that well. He gave her something to make her feel better…Xanax. This time he was smarter. He found a way to lock the door. She wasn’t able to fight him off. She couldn’t get away..

My daughter asked…why her and not me? I can’t believe he would do something like this. He was my friend..

She couldn’t concentrate on finals. She just wanted to go home. She felt so sad. She found it hard to trust again. She told her professor who called the campus police.

She told us that she didn’t want to tell the police about the other girl. She thought it would be too painful and wanted to protect the girl. Plus she wasn’t there when it happened. We argued. You are not protecting her by not speaking up, you are protecting him. What if he does this again? After my daughter escaped, he drugged and assaulted a girl. He needs to pay for what he did, even if he was a nice guy before all of this happened.

Thankfully the police found out about both incidents after all of the interviews. It is so terrifying that it could’ve been my daughter.

This is why I worry all of the time…

 

Thanksgiving break..

This morning as I was leaving for church, I noticed a letter on the ground in my driveway. I drove back towards my house to grab the letter. But it was just a receipt for glue. Glue?? Next to the receipt, there were pills strewn across the ground. What were the pills??

I started my cycle of worry for the day. Unfortunately, I spent a lot of time worrying over the holiday.

Since we last talked, Angel came home from college. I’m amazed we made it this long living in a small house. Angel’s things cluttered the family room. We ran out of hot water one morning from showers. The girls bickered about sharing a room…one liked it quiet and dark to sleep…the other liked to go to sleep with light and noise…

I worried about Thanksgiving. I was afraid of how Matt would respond to Luke’s kids…but Luke and his family didn’t show up. They stayed home sick. The day was relatively uneventful except for a clogged kitchen sink.

Over the weekend, we found out that Alex’s ex-girlfriend Baylee started going out with Alex’s good friend Jake. This has caused a social media war. Horrible things were said online that shouldn’t have been said. People are choosing sides. Jake was the drummer in the garage band Alex was in. The band has been disbanded. I am terribly afraid that there will be a fight in school tomorrow. I have been really stressing about it and am trying to let it go. I tried to talk to Alex about it but he wants me to leave him alone.

I am struggling with the desire to let my kids go yet at the same time still wanting to hold on to them tight. Although I get along great with my son normally, he causes me so much stress that I want him to go to school far away.

This weekend we had a school choir tree lighting ceremony that Arabella sang for. As I watched the choir sing, I was reminded of the times that it was Angel performing. It was like time fast forwarded. I was reminded of other things that we did together when she was young and felt sad that those times went by so fast. I want to grab on to those moments while they last for all of my kids, but can’t.

Paul and I took a walk around to look at the lit trees. We were surrounded by young parents with small children fascinated by the wonder of the Christmas season starting. How did we get so old? I felt happy and sad at the same time. We are coming to the end of a long season of our life and soon will be starting another..

We did enjoy our time with Angel. Paul brought home a Christmas tree that Angel did most of the work decorating. Our cat found his warm snugly spot under the tree. It is very calming.

Angel is on her way back to school as I type these words. She is driving my car back. While she was here, the brakes started going out on her car. We didn’t feel that it was safe for her to drive it back. Alex’s car broke down this past week as well. What are the odds that two cars break down in the same week?? My kids are driving around cars that are as old as they are…At least they have cars to drive.

As soon as I got home from church, I googled the pills that I found in my yard. They were extra strength Tylenol…Whew! I also checked the receipt for the glue. It was purchased at a time when my kids were home..There were so many people in and out of the driveway the past few days…probably more cars than we had all summer. It could belong to anybody. The receipt could have blown over from the neighbors yard. Why do I waste my time in worry?