by Frank Pauc
We had stayed overnight in a Choice Hotel in Mount Vernon, Illinois. Karin was in our room packing up our stuff for the next leg of our journey to Texas. Asher and I went outside the hotel and left Karin to her task. Things seem to work more smoothly that way. Asher, our 19-month-old grandson, walked around and looked at the people and the cars in the parking lot. I followed him. The sun was barely up, but it was already getting hot. Once Karin had everything organized, we would all eat some breakfast. Until then, Asher and I were just killing time.
I watched a man carrying an overnight bag to his pickup truck. He was tall and fit. He carried himself like a military man. He had close-cropped gray hair and was dressed in black. His black t-shirt had “SORT” written on the back of it. The man was into some kind of law enforcement. He was carrying a Glock on his hip. He tossed his bag into his truck and looked at Asher. He said, “That’s a good-looking young man.”
I replied, “Yeah, he knows it too.”
The man smiled and said, “They all do.”
Then he asked, “Is he your grandson?”
I told him that my wife and I care for Asher full-time. He seemed surprised by that. Then he looked at us thoughtfully for a moment. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a large coin. He handed it to me. He said, “The little guy can have this. He’s old enough not to choke on it.”
The coin said, “SORT: Illinois Department of Corrections Special Operations Response Team.”
So, that’s what the man did. He was one of the guys who got sent to the prisons in Illinois when all hell broke loose. He was a member of an elite group. It made sense. He told me that he traveled all over the state. Clearly, he did not have a desk job.
We talked for a bit. I asked him if he had ever been in the service. He told me that he hadn’t.
I said, “You didn’t miss anything.”
He smiled ruefully, “That’s what I heard.”
I mentioned to him that we had a loved one who had been in prison.
He nodded and said, “I have family members who have been in prison.”
I had to think about that. That sort of thing must make for interesting conversations at holiday gatherings.
He shook his head and looked away. He softly said, “Drugs.”
Yeah. I get it.
I told the man that I was retired. He said that he had a few years left to go. I mentioned that it is important to have a purpose once you retire. I told him that Asher is mine. He responded, “I have things I want to do. No worries there.”
He got into his truck and wished us well. I said the same thing to him. He drove off.
Asher played with the coin for a little while. Then he forgot about it.