Back in 2011, my 83 year old mother was in the hospital twice. Once for a shoulder replacement and again for a quadruple bypass. After the shoulder surgery, she was really anxious to get home. But she had to spend time in a rehab facility to gain her strength and mobility first. Finally, after a few weeks, she got to come home.
Two days after she was able to return to the safety of her home, I got a phone call around 2 am. My sister, who was in town to help Mom, had called several times before I finally woke up. Someone had kicked in the front door and come into the house. I couldn’t believe what I heard. Was the person still in the house? Was anyone hurt? I got dressed and rushed to my parents’ house.
By the time I got there, the police had come and gone. My parents and sister were just sitting in the dining room waiting for me. All i could see was Mom sitting there and all I could think about was how badly she just wanted to get home. And then this happened. It just broke my heart to see her sitting there.
Apparently the man who kicked in the front door was a neighbor from across the street. He was a young man with a young teenage daughter. He didn’t seem to have a job other than working on cars in his driveway. Other than this, his only disruption to the neighborhood seemed to be the line of cars in and out of his driveway for repairs.
But on this night, he apparently or allegedly had a visit from a girlfriend. And sometime during the time she was there, they started drinking. By the time he kicked in my parents’ door, he was both drunk and high. So high, he kicked the solid wood door so hard he tore the door away from the door frame. He kicked in the door and wandered into the kitchen. My sister was the one who heard a man’s voice in the house…and it wasn’t my father. She got up and was shocked to see a strange man, in the kitchen, talking to the stove, in a strange language. She immediately started praying and asked him to leave. She then woke my father to tell him. When my father walked into the kitchen, he recognized his neighbor. And then he got his shotgun from the closet. He again told the man to leave. And he left as my father watched him walk across the street, open his screen door and walk through his own front door.
When the police arrived at his house, they said he was lucid enough to admit he kicked in the door because he thought he was at his own home. And he was unable to open the door and couldn’t find his key. So he kicked it in.
Over the next few months, I was with my parents as my father started propping a 2X4 under the front door knob until the door was fixed. Then, I saw him continue to use the board even after the door frame was repaired. Then, I saw him continue to use the board even after the door was replaced, with the added safety of a chain latch and double lock. Now, two years later, he still places the board under the door knob. Even after the guy moved away over a year ago.
And now, two years after the break-in, we finally had a day in court today. Since the break-in, the young man has moved out and moved on. Updates from the police have been occasional with no new news. But they had a warrant out for his arrest…as did other jurisdictions. And today, he appeared in court.
I wanted to be there but had to work. My mother wanted to be there but her legs were too sore to endure walking the halls of the courthouse. So my father represented us both. And we were both also represented in our victim impact statements. My mother and I both were compassionate when his probation officer asked what we considered justice. I suggested he receive a period of probation along with some rehabilitation or therapy. And my mother agreed. The police had instructed our family not to speak with him when he was still in the neighborhood. But he expressed his regret to another neighbor and to my uncle. And when the replacement door was being installed, he stopped the workmen and offered to pay for the door. Mom and I felt he would have a chance to get some help for whatever issues he was dealing with. We were looking forward to recommending probation to the judge so he could get help and also pay us back for the door.
My father is a different story. He wanted him behind bars, serving time. He didn’t like this guy. He didn’t like the traffic in and out of the driveway and in and out of this guy’s house. He didn’t like what looked like drug use occurring while the teenage daughter was there. And he for sure didn’t like this guy had kicked down his front door, entered his home and threatened the safety of his wife and his daughter.
So, two years later, the door closes. A cell door. He was sentenced to 5 years for breaking in my parents door. But he will serve an additional 15 years for crimes committed in other jurisdictions. The judge listed crimes such as burglary, driving without a license, driving while intoxicated, etc. The judge declared it was time for him to truly pay for his crimes. He had eluded the police and warrants. And he had exhausted probation as an option – hIs record shows he has been on probation over 15 times.
Being a victim of a crime is a traumatic experience. Being a person of faith helps when it comes to navigating the waters of anxiety, anger and fear. Up until today, I was hopeful for the opportunity for this young man to redeem himself. But after hearing about his crimes, I’m closing the door. He has had numerous chances to learn from his lessons. He has had numerous opportunities to be astonished at the grace shown him by the courts and God. Each time he violated a law, he had an opportunity to learn from his mistake and be a better man, a better father to his daughter.
There’s an old saying, “one door closes, another one opens”. But last year, I was introduced to a new version of this phrase. It’s the same phrase but with an addition to the end….”but it’s hell in the hallway”. This young man may have to spend 20 years in several hot hallways as he serves time in several different jails. But there’s a locked door he has yet to walk through. And he’s the only one with the key to unlock it. I hope he finds it in one of those hellish hallways.
I pray that you do.