My Problem

I had an inordinate number of contacts in my cell phone—they just sort of accumulated over the years and then when I switched from an Android to the iPhone, the program that transferred them made duplicate (and sometimes triplicate) entries for all of them. Android and Apple never did play well together, probably never will. But I discovered if you backup your contacts to Apple’s iCloud, you can easily edit them there, online, with your keyboard and full screen computer. And so it started.

It’s simple, but I had over 2,000 entries to review individually and so I took it gradually, one or two letters of the alphabet… when I had time… when the mood struck me. My problem reared its ugly head rather quickly. There are dead people on my contacts list. I just never delete entries of friends who have passed away. Maybe it’s silly, but when I run across their name, I remember them, in most cases fondly, for a moment before I go on with my business. But with more than 2,000 contacts, maybe it was time to address my problem head on. Ruthlessly.

By chance, the very first dead person was easy—an individual that I never really cared for and who had passed away many years ago. Highlight the name, click “EDIT,” scroll down, click “DELETE.” It was surprisingly simple. I was on the road to solving my problem. That is until I got to Danny. Danny, a longtime friend of my son, and our entire the family, had only been gone a few months. He has been mentioned twice on this blog, in “The Chill” and in “In Memory Of…” Danny was a cop. Danny committed suicide.

As I sat at my computer screen, my mind flashed back to a scene in this very room, over ten years ago.

Danny, a police recruit at the time, sat in the recliner with his semi-automatic pistol, holster and athletic sock. His holster was too tight—all new holsters are too tight.

“Get a sock Danny,” I had told him earlier. “Put the pistol into the sock and then into the holster. Work it in and out and then leave it like that every night when you put it away.”

So Danny had appeared at our door that evening to visit with our son, already a police officer. He brought his pistol, sock and holster with. He could work with it while he updated us on how he was doing as a recruit at the academy. Our teen-age nephew Ryan had also stopped by.

The weapon was in the holster now and Danny struggled to break it free. The holster was way too tight and maybe the sock was a bit too thick. He was a strong young man, but he fought, he grimaced, he turned red in the face as he tried to get the pistol free.

Ryan sat on the far side of the room, obviously uncomfortable, pressing his back against the couch as if to put some extra distance between him and the weapon.

“The gun’s not loaded Ryan.” I said. “I checked it myself.”

Still, I could read Ryan’s mind; This guy’s going to be a police officer?

The pistol broke free and Danny began to work it back into the holster. Maybe he caught a glimpse of Ryan, or may he just sensed the moment. Danny gave me a look that was both innocent and sincere.

“Am I ever going to be a good cop Mister Padar?”

“Of course, Danny. Of course.” I tried to sound confident and sure.

Danny did become a good cop, serving most of his career in one of Chicago’s toughest districts… until his untimely death.

I refocused on the computer screen and the bright red DELETE button. Then I moved the cursor to the SAVE button. Danny would stay in my contact list.

I came upon Mike near the end of the alphabet. Mike was a cop. Mike was my partner. Mike committed suicide. He had been gone almost ten years, but he was still in my contact list.

It’s hard to explain the depth of the partner concept to those outside the law enforcement arena. The closest non-police can come is the term currently in vogue; “work-wife.” That’s a good word and it does come close, but it’s not quite enough to describe the frank intensity of a good partner relationship on “the job.”  I tried to capture some of it in a story on this blog simply titled “Mike.”

My hand had memorized the sequence; highlight the name, click “Edit,” scroll down, click “DELETE.” The bright red DELETE button stared back at me expectantly. Nope, it wasn’t going to happen. I moved the cursor to the SAVE button and clicked.

So in the end, I had done very well. Over a thousand duplicate entries had been deleted along with most of the deceased. Just two remain, but that’s my problem

…but I am all right with that… I really am.


31 Comments on “My Problem”

  1. Peach says:

    I understand.

  2. Silvia says:

    Your story reminded me of an old partner, he died of cancer, but work-wife sounds about right.

  3. Janis says:

    Jim, I just love the way you connect your stories and am very happy to be receiving your blogs.

  4. Great story, Jim. When you hit “Save”, it wasn’t their phone numbers you were keeping, it was their memories. Don’t ever hit delete.

  5. craig says:

    I saw Danny’s name come up a few months ago while I searched my phone’s contact list for a work colleague with the same last name. It was only weeks after his death and it was like a slap in the face. I didn’t dare delete it.

    Now there’s a little satisfaction in knowing that his name will occasionally interject itself into the whirlwind of my day to day travels and responsibilities. And although I smile and sigh at the same time when the contact comes up, I can keep his name at my side in my (phone) holster.

    • jimpadar says:

      Well said, son. To those of who knew and loved Danny, both a smile and a sigh of sadness is indeed appropriate.

      Someone once said, ““People never die, as long as someone remembers them.”

  6. Tom Nangle says:

    Another great bit of writing, Jim…you have such accurate insights into city life and the human heart, and you’re so good at putting them into words that enrich the rest of us.

    I just read Dennis Banahan’s comment above, and he nailed it in 20 words. Perfectly said. Thanks to both.

  7. Chris Karney says:

    Once again, you have hit the nail square on the head. You got me thinking of friends of i gave worked with and have lost to their own hand over the past 26+ years.

    • jimpadar says:

      Suicide is law enforcement’s tragic secret. I have learned, with the help of my partner’s widow, that it needs to be met head on and not swept under the rug. It helps us to wrestle with it in the light of day and it might, just maybe, help someone else.

      As always, thanks for reading Chris.

  8. loadeddiceinvegas says:

    Not a problem at all. My partner is still alive (Thank God) and I will treasure the times we had together. If you are not a police officer you cannot even imagine the bonds between partners.
    It trancends any other relationship you have had or have. I could no more delete him for I would be deleting myself. And as I have stated previously, I judge no person for suicide. I don’t know why and I will never understand it but I I will not judge. God Bless all Active and Retired Officers. We do (did) God’s Work and I truely believe it.

    To you Jim and all your readers have a peaceful Thanksgiving and may HIS blessings be upon us.

    • jimpadar says:

      My tactical partner, from 100 years ago, and I do not see each other as often as we would like, but perhaps the best way I can describe him is “my other brother.”

      As for doing God’s work, I totally agree. I always liked Nangle’s line: “Sometimes angels come with lights and sirens.”

  9. Cindy says:

    Thanks for another bit of great writing, Jim. Now I have another way of looking at why I keep my mom’s email address in my contact list although she died 5 years ago. I fear the day I “accidentally” include her in a mass message and will see “This email address no longer exists.”

  10. Bill Blethen says:

    Gee am I still in the list?


    • jimpadar says:

      Yes, of course, why would you even ask? As a matter of fact, you and your wife had five entries before I consolidated things. See how important you were, I mean are? 🙂

  11. Ed Hammer says:

    Sorry, I could not read this. Russ my partner in the SOSIG recently passed away and I have not removed his cell phone number from my directory yet. My ex-wife passed away near Xmas 2010 after a 2 year battle with melanoma. I have not removed her number yet either.

  12. Rich Rostrom says:

    Crossing out old contacts… can be painful.

    On a wholly different note:

    Even if you were a very early adopter, how did you get names from 10 years ago into an Android phone? Was there some trick for moving them from a dumbphone?

    • jimpadar says:

      Leave it to my readers to keep me honest. BUT… there is an explanation. I have been using MS Outlook since the late 90’s for all my email and phone contacts. At some point I got a gmail account and imported my address book to my Gmail contacts. I can’t exactly remember which file I used, Outlook or Gmail, but at any rate I transferred them all to my Droid. Many of those go back many, many years… and now they’re all in my iPhone.

  13. Matthew Brown says:

    I can relate to your latest story. I too have deceased friends/family numbers on my list of contacts and on a couple chat room “buddy lists” too. Sadly some had taken their lives themselves. I do it to remember them and to hedge my bets. I figure if one of them calls me I must be dead myself! An early warning system perhaps? I enjoy your readings Jim and look forward to the next.

    • jimpadar says:

      Thanks for your comments… but try this on for size: Somewhere, somehow, down the line, one of those numbers gets reassigned, by chance to a real live friend of yours. That friend calls you and you see this ghost pop-up on your screen. You see the name, assume you must be dead and die of apoplexy. I’m just sayin’

  14. Mary Rita Shull says:

    Jim, I’m so grateful I had a chance to talk with you about this story….Dennis Banahan and Father Nangle’s comments are spot on. Your stories about Mike have touched people who knew him well and those who never met him. What means so much to me is that he and Danny continue to be remembered for their lives and not their deaths. Like others we have lost, keeping them in memory is honoring them….and your stories are a treasure for that reason. Thank you, Jim….I am blessed that you and Mike were partners and you are my friend.

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