Kim shared something last week that reminded me of an incident that happened at our house back in March…
Tuesday night, 9:15pma
I wasn’t going to go to sleep yet, but I just needed to be done with the day. My husband had been out of town for a while, and I was exhausted from trying to do all the things for all the people. After family prayers, and as soon as Ronan was tucked in his bed, I told the kids I needed to go to bed, too. All I wanted to do was get off my feet and watch some mindless television.
So I did.
I had just gotten under the covers. I had just opened my laptop. I had just started to watch a silly show when Ronan’s younger sister knocked loudly on my bedroom door.
“MOM, MOM, MOM!” She was frantic.
I had just said goodnight to her, so I was not expecting her to come barreling in my room as loudly or as nervously as she did.
“Whoa, what’s up, honey? I asked.
“MOM, the police are at the door. The police. They’re at our door!” she blurted out quickly.
I shot up from under the covers. When I stood up, I heard the doorbell. What on earth?? I had heard a faint doorbell chime a minute earlier but thought it was part of a show I was watching - some of the people in the show were sitting in the living room of an apartment. They were talking about friends coming over, so I thought the doorbell I’d heard were those friends.
Nope, it wasn’t in the show - it was coming from my house!
I bolted out of my bedroom so quickly. After running past Izzy, I grabbed a sweatshirt, threw it on, and ran to the front door. The last time we’d needed the police’s assistance at home was years ago - when Ronan wandered one very cold, winter night. With my heart pounding through my chest, I peeked through the front door window and was startled. Staring back at me was a very young woman. I thought I knew everyone on our neighborhood police force–who were all men. I could see her bullet proof vest, with POLICE blazoned across it, but couldn’t make out much else.
Who is at my door?!
Peering through the glass from the outside, the young officer knocked and said, “Police, ma’am.”
It was dark, and the front porch light was still off. So I couldn’t make out much more than the outline of her face. Flipping on the light switch on, both of us continued to stare at each other. My first instinct was to panic when this all started. It continued to be panic in that moment also.
Without thinking, I opened the front door and also the screen door. I’m sure she’d said who she was, but all I could think to say was, “What’s going on??”
“I’m looking for Linda. We got a call to check on her…can you tell me, is she okay?”
“Linda? Who? What?” I asked, very puzzled. Quickly continuing, I said, “There’s no Linda here.” My mind raced, who near us would need to be checked on? Then it hit me, “Ma’am, which house are you looking for?”
Looking at her notepad, she shared the address.
A wave of relief fell over me. Then a twinge of frustration. “That’s next door,” I said to the officer. Pointing to the left of us, I added, “I think you’ll find her there.”
The young officer apologized profusely. I smiled, accepted the apology and wished her luck. Then, I locked the door and quickly went to find Izzy. She’d stayed out of view of the foyer but stayed close enough to hear the entire conversation. She relaxed her stance the moment we hugged.
I held her tightly.
I held her until she was done hugging me.
Sometime a little past 9:30pm
“Mom, I was so scared. I had no idea why the police would be here. I mean, Ronan’s safe, so why'd she show up?” Izzy asked with emotion.
“Honey, I know. I couldn’t understand why either,” I answered her.
My husband and my oldest daughter were miles away that night. But both of our first thoughts were not on their whereabouts or of their safety. Our first thought was of Ronan.
Ronan was home.
He was safe.
He was under his covers.
He hadn’t wandered.
He hadn’t had any seizures.
He hadn’t fallen either.
So why did the police show up??
That was the question Izzy and I had both thought of the instant we heard the police officer at the door. It was so strange. It was so confusing. But when you live parts of your life in a constant state of worry for someone else, that thought is not so strange and not so confusing.
Things had been so good for Ronan for so long, that the mere presence of this young woman took us both completely by surprise. We hugged one more time. Before letting go, I asked Izzy if she’d be okay.
“Yeah, Mom,” she finally smiled. “Go back to bed. I’ll be okay.”
We’d both be okay.
The adrenaline from those few minutes pounded through our veins long after we retreated to our own bedrooms. When we had said prayers that evening, Izzy mentioned she had only about an hour of homework yet to do. It would take her several hours for her to complete though. Even though earlier I had felt like collapsing after a very long day, I would be wide awake past midnight.
Part of that time had me thinking every impossible thought possible.
I can never fall right to sleep when that happens.
Since I was so wide awake, and since it wasn’t terribly late yet, I texted my sister and our best friend. Our best friend is married to a law enforcement officer. This incident rattled me, and I needed my friends’ support. I also needed a question answered.
“So we just had a wrong-house police response. Scared the ever living poo out of us…it was for a welfare check…I think for the neighbor’s (elderly) mom.”
I then shared that I hadn’t been aware of a new officer on the force, a young woman.
“...that scared me even more. Is she legit? It was dark and panic mode set in. She was very polite, then very apologetic. I pointed her in the right direction…I am back under the covers ready to start my silly show again.”
Both my sister and our best friend responded to my text right away.
I was so grateful.
I replayed the situation in my head one more time, then asked, “I do think I answered the door incorrectly and would love your husband’s advice. I had to turn on all the inside lights. Then I had to turn on the outside light, then I opened the front door. Should I have not opened the door? I’m sure I could've had the conversation through the front window. But all brain cells left the moment Izzy came walking into my bedroom telling me the police were at our front door!”
“If you can look out and see the police car, it should be fine.”
That was the other weird thing - besides the unexpected evening visitor, I couldn’t see how this young woman got to my house. When we’ve needed help from the police, whoever responds has parked right in front of our house. I could not see any police vehicles anywhere when I initially peered out the window.
I couldn’t see anything because the cruiser was not in front of my house. It was in front of the next door neighbor’s house to the right of us. It wasn’t until I watched the police officer walk up my driveway did I get a view of the car. She had left the blue lights on - but they were a solid blue, not the flashing blue I’d have expected to see.
My friend’s husband also offered this advice to me if there ever was a next time, “The other option would be to ask for the badge number, politely let them know you’re going to verify that they’re supposed to be there, and call the police department’s non-emergency number and verify.”
I don’t know if I’d remember to calmly do that with how nervous I’d gotten. Back in 2012 when I called 9-1-1 when Ronan had wandered, I could barely pick up my phone. There were only 3 numbers that I had to dial, but my hands were shaking so badly it felt like it took forever to dial them.
As I got ready to write this story, I reached out to my best friend again. “Remember that scary night? Well, I’m going to write about it. Let me know if there are any other tips I can add.” The advice I received was to, “Ask for their last name and badge number and they shouldn’t refuse…also many cities have it so that you can text 911, so you can verify through that as well.”
Texting 911! I had no idea that was an option.
All of the information I received that night back in March and again last week was helpful. It’s info I never thought I’d need to know. It’s info I wanted to share here after Kim shared that she and her daughter encountered a policeman in their neighborhood the other day. We never know when our kids will need assistance from community helpers.
We never know when our assistance will be needed also.
A random afternoon, several days later, sometime after 5pm
Not soon after that scary night, Izzy came into the house with a little pep in her step.
“Mom, remember that police officer who came to our house? It wasn’t our house she needed but the neighbor’s? Well, I just helped her when I was out skateboarding! There’s a girl who lives down the street who may have run away, and she was out looking for her, and no one knew where she was. I know where the girl lives, and I know where some of her friends hang out. I don’t know them personally, but I said if I see her or any of her friends, we’d call. I was going to come home right after and tell you, but I stayed out and skated a few streets farther in case we could help find the girl.”
The night when that police officer showed up really did scare the poo out of us. But here my daughter was just a few days later offering up some of her free time to help someone else’s family, a family who were probably very scared also. Some days I worry that my kids have seen too much, have heard too much, or have experienced too much compared to their peers. I know, though, that what they have seen, heard and experienced has given them strength to bounce back. In a heartbeat, including a panicked one, I would change what happened to their brother and how it affected their childhoods. I would not, however, change that they have turned into some of the strongest human beings I know. I couldn’t do that. Ronan needs them to be strong, and I do, too.
Cathy Jameson is a Contributing Editor for Age of Autism.