Wednesday, November 29, 2006


Arriving home late, hauling a big bottle of red wine and a newly arrived beading book, the red light is blinking on my phone. Before I get a chance to check my voice mail, the phone rings.

It’s Iris, who is bubbling over with more news about Doc’s recent successes. He has become the darling of the governor’s office after helping, as a union representative during an election. He’d gone there, expecting to be pounding the pavement and knocking on doors, but instead, they give him an office and he organizes people in all the wards to pound and knock. Doc has a powerful intelligence and is a natural leader. He can read people at a glance. I wasn’t surprised he did it well.

He was buddy-buddy with the secret service guys and the campaign workers. They gave him the code to unlock the inner office and word was that he had the governor’s ear.

The other day, he was asked to help lobby for an increase in the minimum wage and when he arrived, one legislator said, “So. This is the living legend.”

But nobody knew Doc's past. Everyone, for the first time in his life, just judged him for himself.

He did alright for a guy who was down for 22 years. Doc is finished with his parole now – all the strangling ribbons that held him to the D.O.C. are finally cut. He doesn’t have to live with parole officers pounding on his door at 4:00 a.m., or calling him at work putting his livelihood at risk. He doesn’t have to live with the D.O.C.’s humiliating “mistakes” – like slapping him in cuff monitors after four or five years of spotless parole. He doesn’t have to look over his shoulder anymore.

But he does.

Doesn’t matter that he could have been the poster boy for the parole board. Kept a job and worked hard, went to church, volunteered, was faithful to his wife. Or that the time he went to visit his dying Aunt and witnessed a gangland shooting in the hospital parking lot he didn’t blow when the police dragged him in and abused him for 12 hours before they let him go. Didn’t blow when the remote to his car wouldn’t work and he called the police to ask what to do because he was in a white neighborhood and it was late. They came. With dogs to check his car for drugs. Didn’t give into need when he and Iris were hard up and he found a wallet with over $1,000 cash and new credit cards in it. He looked the lady’s address up, drove over and returned it. Not a single penny missing.

All that didn’t take the shadow away.

And now, he’s told the governor who he is and where he came from. Face to face and without skipping anything.

And it’s ok.

Integrity isn’t worth shit if it hasn’t been tested. And people whose integrity survive the kind of tests that Doc's been through, shine so bright that it’s the rest of us standing small in the shadows.

You’ll never read this, but you're my hero, Doc - and I love you.