Two police officers on a wellness check find three hungry children whose mom has been taken to the hospital and come to the rescue by making dinner.
What is a policeman’s job? Chasing robbers? Catching serial killers like in all the cop shows? Sometimes, a policeman’s job has very little to do with car chases and handcuffs and a lot to do with spaghetti Bolognese.
That is what police officers Paul Duchesne and Jeremy Sikten discovered when they were called for a wellness check on a Saturday night.
A woman had called and told dispatch that she had seen an ambulance take away her neighbor halfway through the afternoon, but all the lights in the house were still on.
The woman was sure the neighbor’s family was away, and that the children were with their grandmother for the weekend, and she was very worried that someone might have broken in.
Officer Paul knocked on the door and said: “Police! Please open the door!”
There was a long, long silence then a voice said, “Are you really the police?”
“Yes!” Officer Paul said. “We were called by a neighbor to check that everything was alright. Please open the door.”
The voice, which sounded younger by the minute said, “How do I know you’re REALLY the police? Mom said don’t open the door to strangers.”
Officer Jeremy, who was the father of four kids said, “We have badges. I’m Jeremy, and my partner is Paul. Can you please call the adult who is looking after you?”
There was an even longer silence, then the voice said, “We don’t have an adult. The ambulance took mommy away.”
“We?” Paul said to Jeremy. “There’s more than one kid?”
The police are an essential part of the community.
“Please open the door,” Jeremy said. “Look, I’m holding up my badge to the peephole.”
“I’m too short!” the voice on the other side said. “I can’t reach the peephole without a bench! Hold on!” There were sounds of little feet running, then a strange scraping sound.
“I’m looking!” the voice said, so Jeremy held up his badge again. “Ok, I’m opening the door…”
Another scraping sound told the officers the kid had dragged the bench out of the way, then the door opened cautiously. A six-year-old was standing there in jeans and a dirty T-shirt.
“Hi,” Paul said gently and hunkered down to be on the kid’s level. “I’m Paul. What’s your name?”
“I’m Anna,” she said. “Who’s that?” The kid pointed a sticky finger at Jeremy.
“That’s my partner. He’s a police officer too. His name is Jeremy. So tell me, Anna, how come you’re alone?”
“I’m not alone!” Anna said scornfully.”Brady and Jolena are with me.”
“How old are Brady and Jolena?” asked Jeremy gently.
“Brady is three, and Jolena is two,” Anna said. “I’m the oldest!”
“The neighbor said your mom was taken to the hospital,” Paul said. “Where’s your daddy?”
“Daddy works on a rig,” Anna explained. “But he only comes back next month.”
“Aren’t you supposed to be with your grandmother?” asked Paul, remembering what the neighbor had said.
“She brought us back this morning,” Anna said. “And mom was so happy to see us! But then she fell and hurt herself…” Anna’s little lips started trembling and her eyes filled with tears. “Brady and Jolena are hungry, so I gave them peanut butter,” she said. “But we are so hungry!”
Jeremy and Paul looked at each other. “Didn’t the paramedics — the ambulance guys — know you were here?” Paul asked. “They just left you here?”
“After mommy fell, I called 911, and left the door open,” Anne said. “Then I sat by mommy but she was really quiet and wouldn’t open her eyes. Then these men came, and we hid in the pantry…”
“You hid from the paramedics'” Jeremy asked. “But why, Anne? They would have sent someone to look after you!”
Anne shrugged and looked away. “This one little girl in my class?” she whispered. “Her mommy was sick, and they took her away and they never let her see her mommy again.”
“That is not going to happen,” Paul said firmly. “We will call your grandmother and she’ll take care of you.”
Anne looked relieved. “Do you think you can make us some food?” she asked. “I’m so hungry!”
“Let’s see what we can do!” Jeremy said. The two men followed Anna into the kitchen where Brady and Jolena were eating peanut butter out of a jar with the same spoon.
Both kids were covered with peanut butter, and Jolena’s blond curls were plastered to her forehead. “Oh my!” Paul said. “First thing to do is to go wash up!”
“Anna,” Jeremy said. “How about the four of us go to the washroom and you all wash your hands and faces?”
“Jolena needs a clean diaper!” Anna said and Paul turned pale.
“I don’t know how to do that!” he cried.
“I can do it,” Anna said proudly. “But I can’t get the sticky bit to stick so the diaper stays on!”
While Jeremy took Brady into the bathroom to clean up, Anna changed Jolena’s sodden diaper and cleaned her with wet wipes, and then Paul fixed the tape. “There!” Anna said triumphantly. “All done.”
Anna washed and then helped her sibling change into clean pajamas, and in the meantime, the two officers went into the kitchen. Right next to the wall phone was a list of emergency numbers.
While Paul started calling the children’s grandmother, Jeremy was inspecting the kitchen cupboards. He found a packet of spaghetti and a jar of Bolognese sauce. “We’re in business!” he cried.
Jeremy quickly washed the dirty dishes in the sink and put a big saucepan with pasta on the boil and started heating the sauce. Paul came back looking worried. “The grandmother is on the way,” he said. “But she will be at least three hours.”
Jeremy looked at his watch. “In twenty minutes, our shift is over,” he said. “I can’t leave these kids, Paul, but you go home.”
“No!” Paul said firmly. “I’m staying too!” While Jeremy cooked dinner, Paul tidied up the kitchen and the house. He sat with the three children and played with them.
Then Jeremy said, “Dinner’s on!” The children and Paul walked into the kitchen to find the table set and a big dish of steaming spaghetti and sauce.
Jeremy served the kids, tied napkins around their necks, and invited them to dig in. And dig in they did! It was obvious to the two policemen that the kids were starving.
After dinner, Paul went out and brought a tub of vanilla ice cream to the children’s delight. By the time their grandmother arrived, the three children were sprawled on the couch, fast asleep.
“Thank you, officers!” the grandmother said. “You’ve been so kind!” Jeremy and Paul replied graciously and left.
The grandmother saw the children fast asleep and smiled. She went into the kitchen and was astounded to see everything neat as a pin. The officers had cleaned everything and washed the dishes and pots and pans!
The next day, she came to the squad with Anna, Brady, and Jolena in tow. In her hand, she carried a huge sweet potato pie. She asked for Officers Paul and Jeremy.
The two men blushed when they saw the grandmother. In front of everyone, she said, “I’m so grateful to you two! You took care of my grandchildren, fed, and cared for them.
“As far as I am concerned, cooking and diaper changes are beyond the call of duty!”
Jeremy grinned and Paul said, “No, Ma’am! ‘To protect and to serve’ definitely includes serving spaghetti and dishing out ice cream!
What can we learn from this story?
- Police officers are public servants and neighbors just as much as they are law enforcers. Jeremy and Paul were there to help the children, which is as much a part of their work as catching bad guys.
- The police are an essential part of the community. For a society to function, we need to trust as well as respect those who enforce the laws.