To show my appreciation, I made gifts for my watch and made sure they had a Thanksgiving and Christmas meal on me. Think about it. Nothing is open on Christmas, but Waffle House and, if I remember correctly, Dunkin’ Donuts. I think everyone had a good time at the holiday precinct parties, but the single officers, many of them divorced, seem to enjoy it the most.
One year my whole family took the old-type light bulbs and painted Santa Claus faces on them, turned them upside down, glued a heart shaped-foot stand, and created a cotton beard and tasseled cap. My daughter, Nikki, was about eighteen and her boyfriend of the moment helped us. We had an assembly line for more than a few days because each stage had to dry before going forward with the project.
I think we made thirty-five or forty Santa ornaments for the watch and another twenty or so for the Tharp Family Christmas, a huge undertaking with a wooden backdrop and a live nativity scene with costumes, lights, and Christmas carols.
No. I didn’t start the tradition. Mom and dad, Mr. & Mrs. Mickey Tharp had bought a very long nativity record back in the fifties that we had to listen and sit through before Santa Claus and presents would arrive.
By the way, for all you dance lovers, my mom’s married name was Twyla Tharp.
I digress. Many caregivers needed a break during the holidays from their loved ones with mental health issues. Our 911 calls always increased. (There are an unusual amount of suicides during the holidays.) Officers would have to explain under The Georgia Mental Health Act that we couldn’t take a person out of the home unless they were a danger to themselves or others. We did have a Mobile Crisis Unit with an officer and a nurse riding together and answering evening watch calls at Center Precinct. Mobile Crisis answered calls involving citizens who called because they were off their meds and requested help, or a family member called because they were exhibiting violent behavior.
Because my husband was a firefighter in DeKalb County, we saw many of the same tragedies, such as loved ones killed in car accidents or in house fires. When I was a detective in the Traffic Specialist Division, a unit that handles fatalities, vehicular homicide, and hit and runs, one of my duties was to make death notification. During the holidays, I remember one notification where I drove to East Point, Georgia around 3 a.m. to deliver the sad message to an African-American woman. Her daughter had been hit head on by a car that jumped the median on I-20 near Candler Road. She was very calm and didn’t react. Most people go into shock or scream. I asked her if she needed for me to call someone to be with her, and she replied that she did not. She had been waiting for me because she had heard about the crash and the driver’s death on the news, and somehow, she knew it was her daughter. I stayed for a few more minutes to make sure she was okay. I believe we had a cup of tea or coffee together. As I left my card, the woman expressed concerned for my welfare, being out in the middle of the night, alone, and she wished me a safe journey home, a blessing from the bereaved. That woman’s strength, her acceptance of the limitations of life, and her kindness touched me, and I have never forgotten.
My sincere wish for a Happy Holidays to all who are lost, forgotten, or alone. Remember you can always call 911.