Daddy Flashback: April 28th, 2008

In Uncategorized on August 4, 2009 at 2:08 pm

Note- This is the “pilot” Daddy Dispatch that was presented to the High Plains Reader just a month after I took on parenting as a full-time job.

Although there was snow on the ground it was a beautiful sunny day, and we encountered several smiling faces on our walk toward downtown Fargo (where all the action is, don’cha know).  All of a sudden, we saw a face that was definitely not smiling.  A man was hunched over in the gazebo in Davy Park, groaning and swaying.

My first thought was that he was drunk, and that we should hurry past.  Then he fell.  Now I was facing a serious moral dilemma…do we get involved?  On the one hand, the man may be angry or violent, and there’s no sense exposing a fourteen month old child to that kind of nonsense.  On the other hand, what if the man is hurt and needs medical attention?  And on my third hand, my gut instinct is to help, so we cautiously approached the supine form to see what we could do.

I parked Baby Boots a few feet away, just in case things got ugly, but it turned out that the man was not capable of speech, much less violence.  “What’s your name?” I asked, hoping to start a conversation that would go somewhere, but not at all sure of where it might go.  “Do you need help?  Do you have someone you can call to give you a ride?”

There was no response, but he did extend his hand, so I pulled him to a sitting position and told him to hold on to the nearby post for support.  He promptly fell back over.  I was starting to think police were the answer when the man strung together his first full sentence.  “Please, help me.”

I dialed 911, then the man said, “Please, don’t do that.”  Is it my place to get the police involved when the man has asked me not to?  My phone rang, ending all internal debate.  The 911 operator had called back, the call went through after all, so I did my best to explain the situation to the official voice on the other side of the line.  The questions I was asked in return surprised me.  “Is he intoxicated?  Did he ask for help?”  I had to admit that he did not ask me to call, but stated that I was not comfortable just leaving him lying on the sidewalk.  The operator said they would send someone to check on him, and Baby Boots and I retreated to a safe distance to see what would happen next.

Five minutes later, three squad cars pulled up and it was now out of our hands. I explained to Baby Boots that we sometimes have to make tough choices, even if we don’t know what the end result will be, but that we had made the right decision.

Despite my assuring simplifications, I am left with many questions.  Should I have called 911, or is there another resource I could have tapped for assistance?  Will the man be charged with a crime, or is being incapacitatingly drunk before noon punishment enough?  Did the police see the man as someone who needed help, or did they see him as a waste of their time?  More than anything, I wonder what brought the man to this fork in our path, what stories and experiences left him alone and falling down in a city park on a beautiful spring day, and what responsibility we all have for a world in which this story is not unique.

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