Life Sentences: Police Report

By: Fran LoBiondo

Photo courtesy of user RitaE.

I’ve always tried to adhere to this policy: “Never do anything that looks stupid on a police report.”

It does not always work. For instance, this morning, I had just sent my son, who is autistic, off to his adult program in a van.

It is Friday, so anything I don’t get done before 3 p.m. cannot be done until Monday. I had to set up a consulting appointment with Greg’s oral surgeon because he has a cavity.

That’s bad news to most parents, but a huge mess for me. Because Greg is sensitive to some sounds, he would not sit still for a drilling. He has to be put under anesthesia. And he needs a breathing tube, in case he gags or chokes while he’s out.

We have done this once before and it worked out fine.

All this is to say I didn’t recall how much prep there is just to set it all up. 

I needed to call the oral surgeon’s office, and I didn’t have the number handy.

So I called 911.

Right away I knew it was a mistake, and tried to hang up when I heard “Vineland emergency, how can I help …”

“Oh, I’m sorry, wrong number,” I said and quickly hung up.

A few minutes later, the police dispatcher called back.

“Ma’am, you sounded out of breath and you hung up before I could get more information out of you.”

I said, “Yes, I’m fine. I’m just trying to set up an appointment to get my son’s cavity filled, and I called 911 instead of 411. I apologize for the mistake.”  

Okay, so no emergency, I said, on the inside. No visual check needed. 

“Well, you sounded out of breath or upset, so I sent a couple of officers out to check on you.” 

Oh, my stars and garters, this was awkward.

I said, “How? I didn’t give you my address, and there’s no domestic incident going on here.” 

The doorbell buzzed. Two young and polite young officers were on my doorstep. 

I haven’t been this mortified since I tripped and fell on my face on a crowded sidewalk in downtown Millville.

“Please come in,” I said. They came in.

“Well,” I noted, trying to act calm as they looked around. “this is embarrassing.”

They tried to maintain eye contact with me while noticing the kick marks Greg made in the walls, sometimes with an elbow, sometimes with his head. Autistic people have bad days, too. 

When the officers left, I called my friend, Deb, the reporter.

“Ooh,” she said, “You hung up on the dispatcher? If you do that, it’s an automatic home visit from the cops. They think it’s a …”

“Domestic violence call. Yes, I know that now.”

Every friend I told gasped when they heard my story. But they got a good chuckle at my expense.


As I look out to our backyard, all is green and the sunlight sifts through the elm leaves in a lacy pattern.

But there’s something missing. For 15 years or so, the heavy-duty swing set and slide took up a corner of the yard, and we finally had it dismantled and hauled away.

It’s something I wanted to do for years, but now that it’s gone, I miss it. We have photos of a beautiful weekend afternoon with our youngsters crawling from it and swinging and bumping down its curvy slide. The uncles and aunts came with their kids, too, and the grandparents. We spread out beach blankets and sand chairs in the shade of a blossoming apple tree now dead and gone to someone’s fireplace. 

There are sunny memories of the kids in their Easter finery, smiling on cue in front of the ladder up to the second-story playhouse.

I climbed up there with my laptop sometimes to write. The air was clearer there, and the sounds of children did not distract me.

I do not wish to go back to the past, but I would give everything if I could look out into that shady green space and see my Mom out there again, jumping on our trampoline. She was in her 70s, but there was nothing she would not do for her grandson, Greg. If he asked her to jump on the trampoline, she would say a prayer and hop on up. She knew physical therapy was good for him.

Well, it’s time to look ahead. Forget past failures and plant some flowers.