Every once in a while you run across an inanimate object that has some innate power—the power to reach deep into the recesses of your soul and touch a soft spot that makes you laugh, or cry, or just behold it with a bit of wonder. It might be an old photo, or a yellowed and tattered letter, or a dried out pressed flower… or a light.
A lot of years ago when Mike Shull and I were working Homicide/Sex, we found it difficult to navigate through traffic with lights and siren in an unmarked car. Without a Mars light or some such, the average citizen didn’t seem to be able to readily identify where the siren originated. The spotlight on the squad was woefully inadequate.
Enter, the light: I bought one of those 250,000 candlepower handheld spotlights powered off the cigarette lighter. It was a miracle… it really got folks attention and it made our emergency driving much easier and safer. We carried it with us whenever we knew we would be driving after dark and it rode in the front seat between Mike and me. Beat officers on occasion recognized us.
“Are you the guys with that big-ass light? Pull up on the grass over here… there’s a gun somewhere in these bushes…”
At some point, my first wife Karla, made a cover for the light out of some scrap zebra skin patterned fabric. She turned the soft faux zebra skin surface in to protect the light. It was a custom sewn sleeve and it served to protect the light from breakage as well as scratches. Breast cancer tore Karla away from the boys and me in 1975 but Mike and I continued to carry the light in our unmarked squad for as long as we worked together. Several years later Durell and I were married and Timmy was born. By the time son Jay came on the job, the light was a relic. I told him how Mike and I had used it. I gave it to him and promptly forgot about it.
This past week son Timmy was spending some time up at the summer home with his brother Jay. One evening after dark the two of them decided to take a cruise around the lake; just some quiet brother time together in the peace that only starlit night on the water can provide. Jay brought out the light, which by this time must be over 35 years old. He told Timmy the story of the light. Timmy took a cell phone picture and texted it to me:
Jay using your spotlight “night boating.”
I looked at the picture of Jay, now a grown man, holding the light as he guided the boat through the darkness. That light was probably bought around the time he was born and long before Timmy was born. I texted back:
“Love it… brings a tear to my eye because Karla would love it. Is the cover still with it?”
“Oh yeah!” was the response in an immediate follow-up phone call. I could sense the excitement in his voice “And Dad! The cover has your names on it; ‘Shull/Padar, H/S-4.’ Pretty kick-ass hey?”
I had forgotten about the names.
Karla looks down and the light shines on…