I knew as soon as I saw the light bar I was getting pulled over. A quick glance at the speedometer showed 70 and the two-lane was empty of vehicles minus mine and the Trooper’s.
I had my license, insurance, and a smile ready by the time he got to my window.
I was just excited I explained.
We were on our way to celebrating a weekend away for my boy’s birthday.
My eldest. My first-born.
Long weeks until we’d been able to finally get away, but we were all getting to go now and wasn’t I thankful for this family God gave me?
As I waited for the Trooper to run my information, I remembered back to my dispatching days when there was another time I’d been pulled over.
Just over fifteen years ago it’d been.
I was excited then too, and as my red truck came to a stop on the side of the road that day, I laughed at the irony of being pulled over by a co-worker on my afternoon off.
His big smile in my window had matched mine and I showed him the picture from the ultrasound appointment I’d just left and told him “I’m sorry JohnJohn. Are you going to give me a ticket? I didn’t even realize I was going fast, I’m just so excited.”
His laugh is still in my ear and he told me “Of course I’m not gonna give you a ticket. Slow down though, you want to live to see that baby grow.”
That day was two years before his life was cut short, and when the Trooper comes back with a smile and a warning I think of my fallen friend and offer up the unopened bag of chocolates I’d just bought at the store because it was the nicest thing I had to offer as a thanks for keeping me safe and a thanks for wearing the blue and a thanks for reminding me.
I want to live to see my babies grow.
He couldn’t take my candy back to the station, but he could take a thank you and I slow down for the rest of the trip and think of John and years and babies and gifts.
The baby that we were celebrating today was the baby I was carrying then and how does fifteen years go by just like that?
How do friends come and go and babies grow up and grow mustaches and muscles and compassion and how does cancer change lives forever and tragedy take loved ones too soon and how do wrinkles appear even as hair disappears while faith grows strong and steady and quiet and true, and how does it all happen in a way that makes you feel like you’re flying when you don’t even realize you’re going that fast?
And the only possible conclusion is the same now as it was then…
I was just excited.
But I’ll slow down again.
I’ll remember my reminders.
I’ll stop when I need to and listen to the warnings.
I’ll smile back at the friendly faces in my window.
I’ll cherish friends while I have them here.
I’ll show my thanks with what I have.
And for all the days I’m given on this journey…
I’ll live to see my babies grow.
In Memory of John P. Watson