75: Security Matters

75: Security Matters

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Random Acts of Kindness

Security Matters

From caring comes courage.

~Lao Tzu

“Thank you for the opportunity to serve you,” the security guy, Matt, says as soon as I open my front door. As I live alone with my son, and my car has been broken into for the third time right in our driveway, I started feeling vulnerable and hired his company, ICU, to install security cameras.

Not only is Matt’s strict professionalism unexpected, his appearance is startling. This man has ice blue eyes, delicate features, pale skin, closely shorn salt and pepper hair, and an otherworldly aura.

If I didn’t know better, I’d think he’s an angel who’s come to save me. But I do know better — life is good and I don’t need saving. I’d like to believe my only problem is people breaking into my car.

“I should be thanking you for coming here on such short notice,” I say, as I launch into a description of the shattered driver’s window and my resultant frayed nerves. I then hear myself admitting that my twenty-one-year-old son Zach’s friends regularly climb over the side gate late at night. “My dog starts growling and barking and I hear the kids making noise in the yard.” I’m ashamed of my boy’s obvious disregard for my feelings and my failure in taking control of the situation. Matt nods and seems to understand.

While we walk the property, he both thinks out loud and educates me: “The primary objective of camera deployment is to provide 360-degree coverage. Points of ingress and egress must be visible from all angles. Placement is critical for optimal results.”

What is this guy’s story? Definitely military. I think to myself.

My ordinarily fierce “guard dog,” Leo, charges out of the kitchen and welcomes Matt into the back yard like a long lost pack member — licking him, loving him, and leaning into his leg.

“I’m sorry about the dog, he’s usually vicious. Leo! Give the man some space.” And I stand and watch this torrent of affection in awe. I’m now amazed and want to know more. “Since Leo already considers you family, do you mind my asking a personal question?”

“Not at all.”

“What kind of accent is that?” It sounds German, or Danish, or even Russian.

“It’s not really an accent; it’s cultural.” And with that non-response he walks off and resumes his measuring, Leo close on his heels.

“Cultural?”

The next morning at 8:00 a.m. sharp he arrives to install the cameras. I’m astounded at his speed of “deployment” and by day’s end, I just log onto my iPhone or iPad in order to see what’s happening outside. I do feel more secure, and the cameras are a welcome deterrent to both break-ins and midnight visitors.

Matt telephones every so often inquiring whether I’m satisfied with the system and whether it’s performing as it should. He always concludes our brief conversations with the reminder, “I’m here if you need me. Don’t hesitate to call.” I don’t know what to do with that kind offer but I do know it feels good to hear. Yet I convince myself his thoughtfulness is nothing more than business protocol; strangers neither say, nor mean, those things.

One morning, after enduring the longest night of my life wherein — dog barking led to — camera checking, which led to — seeing — and watching — my son smoking and drinking — alone — till dawn, Matt happens to call. Words rush out of me like water from a burst pipe: “I thought he didn’t drink alcohol… or do drugs… his father’s a recovering addict… I thought he knew better…” and I don’t stop until my distress and our family’s tragic addiction history have been told and re-told from beginning to end.

Matt listens and doesn’t interrupt as I rant about trust and betrayal and genetics. He says he’s “truly sorry that the cameras yielded these disturbing results.” He can tell from my concern that I’m a “good mom,” much like his own.

“I appreciate your faith in me,” I say, nearly at a loss for words. And then as usual, he asks if there’s anything more he can do. I hesitate and think Can you come over and talk to Zach? But, I say no and thank him for listening.

With each passing night, more is revealed. The shocking truth that my son smokes and drinks alcohol after I’ve gone to bed is plain to see, and my disbelief gives way to a sense of urgency. This can’t continue. This isn’t allowed. I must confront him. But what if he becomes enraged, runs away, hates me?

When Matt calls next, my nerves are frayed and I’m relieved to hear his voice. My words tangle into sobs. “My boy… has a problem… like his dad… and I’m scared.” I confess, hoping that in my telling these truths, he and his cameras will magically protect us.

“I have to talk to Zach tonight and tell him he can’t live with me unless he gets help.”

Matt asks me what time the conversation will take place.

“6:00 p.m.”

Then he assures me, as if he really truly knows: “Everything will be okay. You’re a good mother. You’re doing your job. You’ll give him what he needs to make the right choice.” And I cry tears of relief just from hearing those precious words.

“With your permission, I’ll park outside your house at 6:00 p.m. and hold the perimeter. If he runs, I’ll follow him to make sure he’s safe.”

I impulsively reject his kind offer. “No, I couldn’t ask you to do that.” I am an island. I take care of things myself.

“Barbara, it seems that you need help. I want to be there for you. I’ll be in my car, right outside, if you need me.”

What does he have to gain? I almost believe he’ll be there.

So my boy and I meet in the den at 6:00 p.m. and a silver Honda pulls up and parks right outside. I see the outline of Matt’s head in the driver’s seat. My body relaxes.

“Sit down, Zach… I have something to show you,” I say, and I play the videos, fearing both his reaction and my own. Whenever I start shaking, I look out the window and see the car — and its driver — right outside. I’m not alone. My backup helps me sit straighter in my chair and speak from a place of quiet strength and compassion.

“It looks like you need help, Zach.”

He stares at his hands. I check on the Honda.

“You can’t continue this self-destructive behavior and live here. There’s an outpatient rehab I’d like you to see.”

I check on the Honda and wait for Zach’s response. After a long pause, he says, “Okay, Mom, okay. I’ll go.”

We hug in a way that feels like a beginning.

“He agreed to go!” I text Matt. “I’m taking him in the morning.”

“Roger that. Well done. I’ll be leaving now. Don’t hesitate to call if you need me.”

And with those parting words, the enigmatic security man who provided me with hope, confidence, and a reminder that I am not alone, drives off into the night.

~Barbara Lodge

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