For a law officer, it's all in a day's work

Published June 25, 2006

During the summer of 2004, the last summer of my 77-year-old husband's life, we had a very unusual occurrence in our life.

Bill's mind and body were wasting away from Parkinson's disease, and I could no longer leave him in the house alone, not even for a few minutes.

I came out of the bedroom about 11 a.m. on a hot Sunday in July, dressed to go out in our car.

"Sweetie," I said, "we need to go down to Mr. Coe's for brunch and then go up to the mall to do some shopping. I'm ready to go - are you?"

He was sitting in his chair, staring out through the window of the back door, and said in a low voice, "I'm not going."

"Sweetie, I need to do some shopping today. We're running out of things - okay? Are you ready?"

Again came that ominous "I'm not going" from hubby, still staring out through the door.

I started to feel anxiety symptoms coming on. I thought, "What do I do now? Who can I get to help me with this situation on a Sunday morning in the middle of the summer? I need to find someone to talk to him - but who?"

Soon a phrase that I had heard throughout my childhood came into my mind: "The policeman is my friend."

I thought, "That's it!" I wondered what the operator would think if I told her my situation. Would she think I was nuts? But I knew I had to try - my options were so limited.

I picked up the phone, dialed the non-emergency number of the sheriff's office and explained the situation to the operator. I said it was not an emergency but urgent nonetheless. I told her I could afford to wait for someone to try to reason with my Bill. She kindly agreed to send a deputy around.

In about 15 minutes, a knock came at the front door. I opened it up to see a starched, pressed, burly young man, who introduced himself to me. As we walked across the room to where my hubby was sitting, I gave the deputy a little background information. I told him how much my hubby loved to go out and explained that he had always wanted to get up and go - until today.

The deputy introduced himself to Bill and talked to him about promises made and kept, living up to one's word of honor, and that Bill should do the right thing and take his wife to lunch today.

"You gave me your word of honor, Bill," he said, even though Bill had never said a word. "You made me a promise, don't forget."

The young deputy turned and started for the door, and I thanked him for his help. When he was gone, Bill finally looked over at me and said, "I'm ready to go when you are."

We had our brunch, did all our shopping and returned home. About 4 o'clock, I called the sheriff's office and told the operator that I would like to speak to the deputy who had answered my call. He had left for the day, she said, but she could leave a message for him. I told her that would be fine.

"Just make the message read: 'Mr. Brown took his wife to lunch today!' He'll know."

Chris Brown lives in St. Petersburg.