My Probation Officer Was a Nice Man Who Gave Me Hope

RMlogo My Probation Officer Was a Nice Man Who Gave Me Hope

Probation was two years. It did not infringe on anything, other than a regularly scheduled meeting with a nice man. I’m not sure when or why they stopped, but they did. I wish I knew his name. You can find encouragement in the strangest places; it was my probation office whom the Lord used to move me farther along, and eventually finding Him.

What You Want to Do?

Mr. Probation Man asked me during one of our times together what I wanted to do with my life. I told him that I wanted to finish high school, go to college, get an excellent job, and have a family. He told me that I was an unusual juvenile. Most of them did not have ambition, other than more crime. I was so encouraged that I wanted to get mom a, “My son is the best juvie on probation” bumper sticker for her car.

One of the questions he asked me was whether I was going to commute to college. I had never heard that word in my life. Being the cool kid that I was, I gave him a half-baked answer, hoping it would not reveal my ignorance. I said that I had not decided yet. After I got home, I looked up commute in the dictionary to see what I had not decided yet.

Whew! I out smarted him!

Walk This Way

The most significant benefit of the arrest and probation is how it stung me enough to pause and think about what I was doing with my life. Robby was already in prison. Joey was not doing well, and they were about to incarcerate him. They arrested Gary and Dwayne with me, so their lives were circling the drain too.

Dad was a habituated drunk, and mom was sleeping around with many men, including the police force. Let’s just say that my family was out of control. I had to decide if I was going to walk their way or make an about-face.

Self-Reformation

If you don’t know the Lord and want to change yourself, you pay attention to what’s working with others, assuming it’s legal, and you model it. So I cut my hair, stopped cursing, drinking, and smoking. Those things were the natural, common-sense things to amputate.

If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell (Matthew 5:29-30).

I figured I would limp through high school since I had no college plans. (I wish someone would have helped me to think about college and show me what I needed to do to get there.) I chose, instead, to become successful since I had a solid work ethic. I worked wherever I could.

I left home and moved into Mama Grant’s house when I was fifteen, and walked away from the 15 years of dysfunction that I had known. The next ten years were various forms of self-reformation, which had successes and failures.

My Plan

My formula was simple. Get a job, save money, find a wife, and live happily ever after. What could possibly go wrong with that?

I had a job; I was finishing up high school, and I was saving money. Self-reform was in full effect. There were good times ahead, no doubt.

I did note how there was still something missing inside of me, even with the determination and plan to self-reform.

The Dumbest Way in the World to Impress a Girl

RMlogo The Dumbest Way in the World to Impress a Girl

I was sitting in the library reading a newspaper, minding my business. No, for real, I was not doing anything wrong. No smoke bombs, no pranks, nothing illegal. And then, “she” walked through those doors. Teri came right up to me to let me know that someone wanted to see me in the office. It was kismet, though not how I had hoped!

My First Love

Teri worked in our high school office, and she was in my 10th grade class. I saw Teri the first time when I was in the fifth grade. She went to Marshville Elementary, and I went to Wingate Elementary. Our classes met at our school for an event that I do not remember. But I do remember when I saw her standing there. It was brief, from a distance, that beautiful blond hair. And then she was gone.

I never forgot her and couldn’t wait until middle school in two years, when we would be together, to begin my pursuit in earnest. We did date briefly in the 7th grade, but she broke up with me because I was too weird, I think. Undaunted, I maintained my crush throughout high school, so when she came to visit me in the library, all my dreams were rushing back.

The walk to the office with her was my moment for fate realized. But for some reason, she kept a few steps in front me.

Hard to get, I figured. I like coy.

My Worst Nightmare

When I arrived at the office, two or three sheriff deputies were waiting to take me downtown. It was one of those surreal moments in life where you feel like a Dali painting on the inside. I was humiliated from head to toe and full of fear. The rules of engagement vanished, as I forgot all about the love of my life.

They had found the stuff that we had stolen from the high school. The police were looking for something my older brothers had taken. I’m not exactly sure what it was, but in their search, they found what we ripped off from the school. We had hidden it at my grandmother’s property.

They soon arrested Gary and Dwayne as well. I think they let Dwayne go because he was underage. I don’t believe they kept Gary overnight, and I don’t remember what punishment he received. They searched me, took my belongings, including the leather strings to my knee-high moccasins. I was a cool kid, though my coolness was a thin layer that could not shield my stupidity.

Five Days That Changed Everything

I didn’t understand why they took my boot strings. Then, after five days in jail, it made sense: I wanted to kill myself. Suicidal thoughts mounted as the days dragged by like a disoriented sloth in a straitjacket. They put me in a 10’x10′ concrete walled room. I had a cot, sink, and a toilet. It was an open floor plan. There was a small window in the door and a narrow rectangular window that faced Charlotte.

Three times a day, a mysterious person shoved yellow grits and other foods through the small slot at the bottom of the door. Think: doggie door. Other than the mystery food-shover, I had no contact with anyone for five days. Of course, the worst part was that I had a ticket to the Bachman Turner Overdrive concert in Charlotte that weekend. My frustration was pretty high, knowing that my brothers got to go and not me.

It’s all about priorities.

I learned later that my dad decided to leave me in jail, thinking it would change my life. How ironic: the man that I hated with every breath in me made the right decision. The Lord used those five days to change my life forever. I’m grateful for dad’s decision.

I got a couple of years probation, but the impact on my life lasted much longer, even to this day. I determined that my experiences with crime, drugs, and bad people were over. It was time for a change.

As for Teri? Not sure what happened to her, but I knew whatever her plans were going to be, it would be without me.