I’d moved to the Bay Area to participate in the Stanford Gender program. I am, thank you very much, going to be fully, functionally, finally, forever, female in about three months time. Well as female as I can be. I’ll never have my own babies, and that hurts, but NOT as much as living and pretending to be a man…
“Yes, Baby Girl,” Daddy replied. “You sure as hell did. If you hadn’t a’ killed him, neither you nor I would be here today.”
All Rights Reserved.
This story is now expanded/updated/superseded in the full-length novel
Honor First, Honor Last, Always Honor
(I thought you might like to know (Smile))
Last Christmas I wrote of the struggles and fears that brought me to the Bay Area. It was a story of pain, and of recovery. I had run away from home, with the knowledge, and help of my therapist and psychiatrist. We agreed. For me to have stayed in the house of my birth family would have meant death. The man who was my biological father was not a very kind person. He knew what he knew, and anything contrary was to be stamped out. The day he learned I was transgendered would have been the day I died. You see, he would have beaten me to save me from myself. I decided I’d rather live. My doctor had started me on hormones as soon as he heard about the Stanford Gender Study.
Just before Christmas, I had moved to Palo Alto. There I met an incredible couple. She managed a motel, and he was a police officer. I think we were all desperate. They had not been able to have a family, and I did not have a family I could live with. We came together in the weeks before Christmas; but those events are in Between Christmas and Hell.
It was a wet, gloomy March day in 1974 and I was a woman with a mission. My advisor at the Medical Center suggested I might find friends at the Q Student Center on the campus of Stanford University. Still, it was way cool for me, a 19 year old to be here. I was told to look for it in the basement of the humanities building. The Q (gay, lesbian, and others) clubhouse had this cartoon of a very femmy gay man being kissed (uh, mauled) by a very stereotypical bull dyke.
The artist labeled it “The Den of Iniquity.” I wasn’t sure if I should enter, or run away! I entered. It turned out that as I was transgendered, it kind of made me an honorary member no matter my orientation. “Hey you,” didn’t do much for my self-esteem, but after a week or two, the inherent group inertia of the place kicked in. I wound up with a name button that had a picture of a very puzzled pelican delivering a baby. The pelican, with a big magnifying glass, was looking in the diaper of the baby. Under the picture was the name “Baby Dyke” followed by a bunch of question marks. Someone had started it as a joke, and then it morphed into this cutesy little name tag someone had made for me. I decided it was easier to let it go than to protest it, besides, I thought it was cute. I felt wanted.
Later on, when they found out, they decided it really WAS good for me to be around. Seems it was useful to have a cop or soon to be cop hanging around the Den. The group felt kind of like I was their own “get out of Jail free” card with the Palo Alto Police Department.
And me not yet twenty! I had two birth certificates, and both were legally recorded. According to one I was nineteen and male, but the other was the “official” one now. According to that one I was female and twenty-three. It was all a matter of perspective. When you are transgendered perspective is everything. I look, act, and have lived as a woman since the day before I moved to Palo Alto. It just “happened” that my first birth certificate got the details “wrong.” I was blessed to find a father who knew people; and some those were friends of my dad, and some of THOSE were the ones who recorded birth certificates. Kind of like the Federal witness protection program, only local and friendlier. So… thanks to my Dad I was legally nearly twenty three, and don’t forget female. Was THAT a giggle or what?
I’d moved to the Bay Area to participate in the Stanford Gender program. I am, thank you very much, going to be fully, functionally, finally, forever, female in about three months time. Well as female as I can be. I’ll never have my own babies, and that hurts, but NOT as much as living and pretending to be a man did.
Early along the way I met my parents. It truly was a Hallmark Momentâ„¢. I’d checked into a Motel on a Wednesday and “lightening struck.” Mom was running the place. She just looked up, did a double take, and kind of adopted me on the spot. Daddy took a little longer, you see he knew I used to be living as a guy, uh, like the day before, and didn’t want Mom to get hurt. It took him till the weekend, and my meat loaf recipe! We really came together as a family on Christmas Day, 1973. Mom wanted me to continue as her apprentice in managing the motel. Daddy had other ideas. He had sent for my school records. When he found I’d taken police courses, he offered to sponsor me for the police academy.
Being one of only two Captains in the Palo Alto Police Department Daddy got away with all sorts of things which were not standard operating procedure. NO ONE wanted to argue with my Dad. But, between Christmas and the resumption of classes I earned some real and some not so real college credits that Daddy taught or knew I could learn at home, with him and Mom. Most of those were about various emergency services and procedures. He took the time off from Christmas to the end of January to run me through a VERY accelerated course of study to be sure I could cut it when the new semester started.
For five weeks, two hours every day he required that I exercise alongside him. That broke down to stretching, followed by the Basic Ten (you all know what I mean, jumping jacks, setups, pull-ups, ad nauseum). Then we ran and if I slowed him down we kept on running. I was exhausted, but he didn’t let up on me. After the run it was fun time (his words, not mine). I’d taken some karate, in the Shotokan School. It’s a balls to the wall style that concentrates on quickly overwhelming your opponent, and putting them in their place, (ie: flat on their face). Dad’s teaching had no name, but I’ve never seen anyone stand against him.
To say my Dad did not cooperate with the known martial arts has to be one of the world’s great understatements. He’d stand there waiting for me to do something. Then, when I finally committed, he would maybe move his hand whereupon I found it impossible NOT to slam my face into the mat. It wasn’t easy, he was a master of some weird judo/aikido/karate hybrid, but I learned. I came to enjoy the half hour of running everyday with my Dad, or his hand-to-hand training, only one or the other each day, Please?? -sigh. Still, he never belittled me, never called me names, he would just help me up when I fell and push me to my limits.
On February 4, 1974 I entered a class of 40 that had been training together since September 1973. It was highly irregular for someone to join halfway through (much less a woman). I was tested, mentally and physically. The coach in charge of physical training “invited” me to lead the first run of the new semester. I asked how long and how far. The training coach told me five miles, no more than an hour, and as fast as I was comfortable with. I had scouted the area with a couple of runs with Daddy, and I set a brutal pace. I finished in just under 32 minutes. It took the stragglers the rest of the hour to trickle in. No one ever asked me to lead a run again.
On one hand, no one complained that Captain Pruett’s daughter received special privileges; everyone could see I worked hard, and trained hard; on the other hand no one wanted to mark me down. If I had a test come back with less than a “B” the instructors opened up after hours tutoring. It was optional, except for me, for me it was required. They kept me, going over the material again and again, until I could get a better grade. Mind you Daddy was not happy about low grades. It only happened a handful of times, and I heard about it for days, each and every time. He wasn’t pleased with me, and it was worth more to study harder and get less sleep. I guess that was his intention. Prioritize my time and use it wisely. He was even unhappy with the instructors who were coaching me — not that he stopped them. When I had a bad day, or a doctor’s appointment, the instructors cut me way too much leeway. Still, with Daddy looking over everyone’s shoulder I graduated (honestly) in the top 10% of the class on June 21, 1974. Two weeks later I went to work for the Palo Alto police department.
My Dad was a master at making the “system” do what he wanted. He helped sort out my draft status by enrolling me in the California Air National Guard. “Officially” I was to serve one weekend a month, and two weeks ever summer. Basic training was waved in lieu of the Police Academy. My college “degree” — the Police Academy, and later EMT training were smooshed together as the four year college requirement and was accepted as “sufficient,” to sneak me in the OCS program. Dad ran me through what I really had to know, and I was sworn in as a second lieutenant. In reality, I spent way more learning time than that. Essentially, I did whatever my CO or Daddy told me to do. What I didn’t realize was Dad and my CO had pegged me for para-rescue. Most of my training was focused on making that happen. I’d spend a week or two at some training event. Then it was back to work, uh, I mean my “real” work.
It was during this time that I found the Q. Outside of work I was wore a skirt nearly all the time; and the first few times I went to the center I got hit on by the lesbian crowd. Then I let slip I was in the Stanford Gender Program — but I didn’t say which way I was going. So I had some of the guys, and more of the girls wanting to go out with me (a year later there was no confusion, I’d grown into a set of beautiful “34B” boobs).
I just didn’t know who I wanted to be dating, so I tried to be an equal opportunity date. If I went out with a boy one week, I’d be sure to go out with a girl the next week. Not necessarily the same girl or boy. Not everyone who came to the Q was gay. I was so wrapped up in figuring out just who I was; the dating thing just wasn’t important. Let me clarify one thing; I’ve never thought I was pretty, or even just beautiful. ). In spite of my own doubts about my looks, I never lacked a date if I wanted one. Really, I just wanted a place where I could meet people; people who didn’t scream at me that I was “going to hell” for living the only life possible to me. On the gripping hand being popular was something I’d never been before; and I discovered I liked it, I liked it a lot.
I don’t want to leave you with the wrong impression. While I suppose technically I did spend more time with Daddy; I also spent as much time with Mom as I could. Most of what I did with Mom was softer, more feminine. That’s not really the right word, but it was very satisfying to my soul, and I didn’t have to prove anything to anyone.
If I wasn’t working, or behind on my school work I’d be helping her around the house or with dinner. I REALLY learned how to cook from her! If I had homework, as likely as not I’d be working the front desk at the Motel at the same time. Many nights I would cover for her so that she and Daddy might have some alone time together. That they were just a room away made me feel protected. Yeah, I know, that sounds terribly insecure, and there’s a simple reason. When I first got here I WAS terribly insecure. I was still scared that my biological Dad would find me, and beat the hell out of me, or kill me. So those first months, while I was still settling into a new life, I needed someone who would be there for me, to protect me. I found them, and I wasn’t letting go. I was certain no one would harm me. Yeah, I got a lot better, and faster than I would have believed possible. THAT was because my Daddy and my Mom WOULD protect me. If for no other reason, I would love them forever for that protection (and acceptance).
I learned most about who I am from my Mom. In retrospect, I learned what it meant to be a woman from her. She kept her promise and passed on to me things from her mother and her Mother’s mother. I learned from her things simple and complex. Things I’d never dreamed of before I left my birth family. Much of it was mundane, taking care of a household, some of it complex, like how to take care of a Motel. Some of it, like making a quilt, hid how to interact with others behind the façade of sewing. However simple or complex in appearance I loved the time we spent together. For Daddy, it was tediously complex and boring; I thought it was great! Whereas Daddy was the master of the open hand, Momma was the mistress of the open heart. She had so much love to give, and it was burning all the brighter because she’d long before given up any hope of having a daughter. Mom taught me of the love in the Bible, of Ruth, of Sarah, of Mary and Martha. Her lessons helped shape me as a woman of God.
I’d been unofficially adopted long before all the paperwork was done. Over the Easter week break Mom took me to meet her mother, my Grandmother. The memory of that meeting shines in my memory. We had flown to Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Grandma met us at the gate. She hugged Mom, then turned to me, and took my face in her hands. “So, you are to be my granddaughter,” she said. Then she looked straight into my eyes. I know it couldn’t possibly have taken hours, or even minutes, but she looked through my eyes and into my soul. Pulling me into a hug, she whispered in my ear, “Darling girl, there really is no boy in there, I was afraid there might be. I’m glad you found your Momma, and your Momma found you. You will always be welcome to me!”
Releasing me from her hug she loudly introduced me to my Aunt Mary, “Now THIS is a Granddaughter!” she exclaimed! I’ll never forget those penetrating eyes, nor will I ever forget her warm and loving introduction to the rest of the family. To this day I do not know if any of my 3 aunts and 2 uncles knows the truth of my birth. What I do know is from that moment onwards there was never any question as to who her granddaughter might be! That week was a loving break in my training. Perhaps that’s not right. Maybe it WAS training, in a very different sort of way. I instantly loved that woman who gave birth to my Mother, and I loved her to the end of her life, and to the end of her life, she loved me.
Professionally I split my time between patrol duties and more schooling. Daddy made me learn how to jump out of a plane; when I racked up 20 jumps I was sent to Fort Benning for more training, including HALO and some low altitude jumps. Then, once he knew I could get back on the ground if something went horribly wrong, he helped me get my private pilot’s license. Most of the time Daddy or Mom went with me when I went out of town; for the first time in my life I felt I really had someone who loved me, and was willing to show it to the world.
Starting in the fall the department ran me through the new paramedic training, and when Daddy told them I was SCUBA rated they paid for me to take the Scuba Rescue classes; by the following June I could save a life as well as take it.
Professionally, by the end of July, 1975 I was as well trained as the Department, my Air National Guard CO, or my Dad could want. That meant I spent a lot of my time working with other departments. The department decided to increase my pay and rated me as their one and only Para Rescue Jumper. It didn’t take long before I had my first rescue; and it was a bad one.
I was working the mid shift 1500 — 2300 hrs. I’d no sooner left roll call when the PA system called out for the “Para Rescue Jumper” to proceed with equipment to the heli-port. I admit; I was too new and too excited to know that information saves lives. I scooped up all my gear and headed to the helo. Dad had also suited up, and was in the copilot seat. The difference; Dad had picked up maps of the island I might be jumping onto. I learned a lesson that could have cost me dearly. As the helo spun up Dad was all business, “CoPilot to PJ (pj??) We’re 39 minutes from the zone. I suggest you get into your gear. Moffat had pictures of the island. It appears to have a rocky beach on the western side. Moffat sent pictures which I have on flimsies. The Coast Guard said there are bodies in the water; some are still alive.”
He called me to look over the maps. He was not pleased I hadn’t brought them with me. Barren, rocky, and filled with seals, the map labeled it as a restricted wildlife sanctuary. It was apparently a seal rookery. “Jumper, I’d suggest you go first. If the pictures are right we can both go down the wire and then land the equipment and the rafts.”
Dad agreed, “If we drop first, and stake those rafts as they come down, we’ll have a surface not covered in seal shit. You’ll have a “hut” for treatment and a “hut” for shelter. The rafts were new, and had a sort of tent over the top providing protection from the elements.
“While I do that, would you inflate the Zodiac and check the floating bodies? Chief, how long is your hook?” I asked.”
“I’ve 50 meters rated at 500 kilos PJ.
“Pilot, what about wind and Sea? “
“PJ the wind is driving out of the west at 4 knots-10 knot gusts, the waves are at 1 to 2 meters and waning, water temps about 64 degrees. And gee, imagine that, the air temps also 64 degrees.”
“Hey I didn’t know female lieutenants could talk like that.” The Pilot quipped on the AC1.
“Oh? And how many other female lieutenants do you know?” my Dad responded.
“Well, come to think of it none.”
“Hey, I’m only an ossifer in the chair force!” I protested. “Do we have other assets at this time?
“Sorry PJ but you and jumper are it. Coast Guard’s busy.”
“Roger that. Uh, busy doing what?” I giggled, earning a sharp look from my Dad.
“Lieutenants are NOT supposed to giggle,” he said, and then he laughed too.
By the time we approached the west side of the Island Daddy and I were ready. There weren’t any surprises. It looked like a great big cabin cruiser had run into the rocks. The pilot dropped to 25 foot.
“Jumper,” I asked, “do you want to go first? “
“Yes Ma’am,” he said. When I looked at him he was grinning, “can do, PJ,” then he was going down the wire and on to the rock.
Going down on the wire I asked “Pilot, can you light up the area for me?”
I started down, and suddenly, everything was in sharp relief. The big light on the chopper turned the darkness into bright noonday sun. Even so, every place I staked, I set a Snap light. A couple of the survivors helped and we strung a tarp upwind, and then popped the tabs on the inflatables to provide some minimal shelter.
Jumper had the Zodiac moving towards the bodies in the water. While he did that I helped 6 people from the edge of the rocks, and the boat, to my little work area.
When Daddy pulled up, he had a couple of guys who were seriously cold. He gave each of the girls a blanket and we put them in a raft “shelter,” with chemical hot packs. I began triage. We wound up with 8 people, 3 men and 5 women, two of which were DOA. Two were seriously cold, and one had a nasty broken arm. The men were all Hispanic or Oriental, and nothing seemed to be wrong with them.
The blond girl, the one with a broken arm was screaming in pain. It looked like when her arm broke, one end of the ulna broke through the skin.
I pulled it just enough to stabilize it while Dad held her still. I was afraid of infection. The little piece of rock they had chosen for their impromptu swim was horridly dirty. Apparently, seals don’t really care about wallowing in their poop. I washed it out using sterile water, then spread KlotQuik and an anti-bacterial powder over the wound. I gave her one of the large ampoules of Morphine, splinted her well, and then signaled the chief to lower the basket.
I sent her up to the chopper, and then the other two girls.
About the time the chopper nosed over to head back to Stanford Medical Center one of the 3 men went berserk. I hadn’t searched anyone so far. I mean there wasn’t anywhere those girls could have hidden a bobby pin — those bikinis were hardly there! I guess Dad didn’t either. This guy (I never knew what his name was), pulled a wicked looking little automatic pistol out and shoved it in Dad’s side. Daddy was going to get a serious ribbing for this! Anyway, the perp shoved the barrel into Dad’s side, and started shouting in broken English to get the chopper back, muy pronto! I looked in Daddy’s eyes; it was clear what he wanted me to do. El Pistolero was waving the gun back and forth, he pointed to the radio and pantomimed calling on it. I turned around as if to pick up the radio. As I did so, I reached into my jumpsuit and pulled my revolver out. I turned, and fired twice as Daddy dropped down and away from the man.
Now I am NOT a marksman, but at less than five yards it was hard to miss. Dad flipped over and kicked the gun away and came up in a crouch, ready to fight. Not needed. There were two holes; one to the center of the body, and one through the neck. He was dead before he hit the ground. Much later, when Dad reviewed the whole bloody mess he asked why the neck? Sheepishly I admitted that shot was a miss. I’d tried for the center of mass but I jerked the second shot up from the body. Dad quickly handcuffed the remaining two men and “helped” them into the shelter.
Then I started crying. It must have looked hilarious from the outside. A gnarled older man and a crying girl holding a gun sitting on a spray soaked rock in the middle of the ocean.
And I cried.
About an hour later the Coast Guard showed up.
I was leaning against Daddy, and I think I fell asleep. Dad woke me as the coast guard helo arrived. I just had time to run a comb through my hair and club it together at the nape of my neck. A Coast Guard Lieutenant Commander jumped down while the rotor kept spinning.
“Whose mess is this?” He barked. His attitude was anything but cordial, until he saw my Dad and me; then what he was, was confused. “Excuse me Sir!” He said, saluting. “I was told a local police department was handling this accident; not Air Force Para-rescue. Lieutenant Commander Hodges Sir,” he stammered looking suddenly unwell.
With perfect panache Dad answered him, “well Commander, I’m General Rex Pruett. The Officer In Charge is this PJ right here, Beth Pruett. Yes, she is related; She’s my... She came down the wire and I kind of tagged along. She’s a lieutenant in the reserves, and I’m retired, and work with the California National Guard. While we are both Air Force, we also work for the city of Palo Alto. This is the first incident she is OIC of. I “suggest” you to treat her with the respect she deserves. She earned a hog’s tooth tonight; if you know what that is. I know you guys do it different, but I can tell you, she lives the motto*. If you have any doubts, I call your attention to her jump suit. That hole, just above her belt is courtesy of the gentleman with the holes in him. The holes weren’t there an hour ago. She saved my life.” I looked down in horror, not having noticed the hole before.
“I have complete faith in her. FYI She’s made it through the pipeline for the PJ certification in the Air Force, and through a California Police Academy. She will follow that with either pilot training or combat FAC. She’s also Palo Alto’s only PJ. She is going to be one of the finest officers in the Air Force, even if she is my daughter,” he said with a smile.
I started studying my boot tops; I didn’t know there was a reporter there until his camera’s flash went off. Then another reporter tried to “interview me” there in the middle of the water on a pile of rocks slimy with seal crap. I can’t say I was very polite to him. Where do they get these people? The Coast Guard officer rescued me from the reporters.
“Well Lieutenant, show me what you did, and what your resources here are and how the Coast Guard can help.”
“Yes sir!” I gave him a short brief of the situation, including some suspicions. I’d noticed something white leaking out of the hole in the side of the boat. I suspected some kind of smuggling, but didn’t know what kind.
“Color me impressed,” he said. “You really shot this guy as he was holding a gun to your Dad’s side?” he asked. “How do you want to proceed from here? Do you want to handle the boat? If you like, we really are better equipped to handle maritime investigations.”
I looked over his shoulder and saw Dad barely nod his head. “That sounds great to me Commander, as long as you keep us informed. Uh, and someone should give these guys their Miranda warnings; I don’t think they understand English very well. Oh, and I think there’s something strange about the boat. The hull doesn’t look right to me, and there’s something leaking from the hole in the bow.”
By this time the Palo Alto helicopter had returned. One of the reporter said something about deadlines, and climbed aboard the Coast Guard copter which cleared out to allow “our” chopper to pick us up.
“Lieutenant?” the Coast Guard commander called, “you’ve really done a great job here. We’ll clean your equipment and get it back to you, along with copies of our reports. As smuggling is a Federal crime, we’ll transport the prisoners, and the bodies to the correct authorities.” He reached out and shook my hand. “I’ll be sure the other officers on Station will know about you. If you ever need us, I promise, we’ll be there for you. I apologize for my earlier attitude, normally local Police Departments aren’t very competent in handling maritime incidents. I truly regret my earlier attitude towards you. Will you forgive me?”
What the hell, was he coming on to me in the middle of the Pacific Ocean?? Dad of course had a beatific smile upon his face as, blushing furiously; I shook his hand, and mumbled something in reply, shocked to the bottoms of my boots!
“Commander?” Dad asked, “You’re welcome to call her at the Palo Alto Police Department, or you may have her home phone number, which is, conveniently, the same as mine.” Dad scribbled on the back of one of Mom’s business card.”
“Thank you General,”
With that I climbed aboard the helicopter, looked to see if anyone was looking, and snuggled up to my Dad and fell asleep.
We made it back to the station about 03:00 in the morning. By the time I’d washed and stowed my gear, typed up my reports, and signed out, it was 05:00 in the morning. I rode home with Dad. Breakfast and a very long, very hot shower helped relax me — and washed off the seal crap. Still the sun was up before I finally managed to get to bed. I think I was asleep before my head hit the pillow.
It was late afternoon when I woke; I had slept through my alarm clock! I scampered around the room; gathering clothes, and dressing on the run. Mom must have heard. She knocked and then entered, slowing me down and pulling me into a hug. “Shush Baby, shush; you’ve been given the day off. I turned off your alarm this morning, so relax Honey. Your Daddy told me all about last night. You are so very precious to me. Thank you so much, you’ve given me a gift beyond all measure; you saved your Daddy’s life. I’m so proud of you! Thank you thank you thank you.”
I’d started crying as soon as she started hugging me. Both of us stood there in the middle of my room, clothing, shoes and gun forgotten. Everything came flooding back to me. I started shaking at her words. I’d blocked everything out last night. I could see the gun jammed in Daddy’s side; and the silent signal he passed to me. The thought of saving my Dad, of having been in a gun fight, and having a bullet miss by an inch was overwhelming. I could see the man I’d shot crumple to the ground, and at the end of it all, my Dad looking up at me. About then Daddy came in and joined in the hug.
“I killed that man, didn’t I,” I asked.
“Yes, Baby Girl,” Daddy replied. “You sure as hell did. If you hadn’t a’ killed him, neither you nor I would be here today.”
“Why don’t I feel bad about it?” I asked. It was true, I hated last night; it HURT me. I didn’t like anything about what had happened, but I didn’t hurt about killing that man.
“Sweetheart,” he replied, “Most likely because you’re a bit numb right now. Your Mom was about to wake you to give you time to make yourself presentable. I called your P-shrink, Dr. Campbell, he’s coming over. I think you’ll be better in the long run if you go through it all with him.”
“Crap! I really don’t want to do that,” I replied.
“Yeah, I know. The first time I had to kill a man was in Korea, and I was flying a bomber from 25 thousand feet. It gnawed at me, gave me the willies. I finally found a chaplain who helped me work through it. You shooting that man from that close? You better believe I’m going to see that you have someone to help you through it.”
“Did you ever kill a man as a cop?”
“No,” he answered. “And that closeness makes me all the more certain you’ll be better off for it if you talk to Dr. Campbell tonight.”
“Honey, you need to know; the newspapers and television news have been making you out as a hero. They’ve even given you a nickname.” Mom told me.
“Princess, you’re a star. ‘The Angel of the Bay,’ is what the newspapers are calling you.”
“Oh, you have GOT to be kidding me!”
“I wish I were. It’s one of the reasons I called Dr. Campbell.”
“But I really don’t want to talk about it,” I whined.
There was no way around it, I went and took a shower, no bath for this girl tonight! Then I got dressed to face the world.
After dinner I met with Dr. Campbell. We talked it through, and I decided Dad was right. I didn’t want to let it fester.
We were wrapping things up when Mom joined us. She had clipped the articles about me from the papers and had started a scrap book for me. I was really uncomfortable about it, you’d think I was Mary Tyler Moore, Dr Kildare, and Angie Dickinson from ‘Police Woman’ all rolled up into one. Dr. Campbell laughed at my reaction; I guess I looked like a fish out of water with my mouth gaped open. “Who writes this drivel?” I asked, making them all laugh. I guess it was a bit funny, but I wasn’t certain I’d survive going back to work. As to work, Daddy told me I was to report during the day watch, and to “look spiffy.”
It was as bad or worse than I had imagined. For the whole week I had to play nice with the Newsies. I’d had enough when the woman from one of the Networks wanted to “interview” me in a “real life police women’s locker room.” I declined, politely. Then I walked in on the police Chief to let him know in no uncertain terms that I had “smiled for the cameras” and that I had “played nice” with the reporters, but enough is enough! He laughed, and put me back on patrol.
Roll Call the next Wednesday was nice though. Most of the department showed up. No one had told the reporters about it. The Chief called me up front, read out a departmental citation for bravery. I knew Daddy was well liked and respected. I don’t think anyone every complained that I received special treatment because he was my father. Still, it was touching; Daddy came up front. He had taken a bullet from the gun of the man I’d killed. It had been gold plated, and a 14k gold chain ran through it. , and then my Dad presented it to me, to the applause of the room. It was an old tradition, the round in the chamber of the gunman was presented as my “Hog’s Tooth.” It symbolized the bullet meant for me.
It was nice to be popular.
[Note to my readers. The last time I went to the Police Academy the fact was, in reality, 95+ percent of all police officers are never involved in a shooting incident. Of the 5 percent who are, 95 percent leave police work within 2 years. As for the “Hog’s Tooth.” This tradition exists. It’s normally a bullet from a sniper vs. sniper encounter; here it’s dramatic licenseïŠ]
The week after Thanksgiving I was surprised to be pulled out of roll call, and sent to the Captain’s office. It was Dad, of course. He had a civilian and a San Diego PD officer there. Dad had decided that I would accompany him to San Diego to pick up a woman who had implicated her boyfriend in several murders for hire. Cases the DA (the other guy in the room) wanted solved NOW. This wasn’t unusual. I kept a spare overnight bag in my locker. About all I needed to do was call someone in the Den to takeover providing snacks for the Friday night movie.
Still, it was always a treat to work with my Dad. So I signed out myself and the best car in our fleet, for the trip (knowing everyone else, still in roll call wanted it). Hee Hee Hee. One of these days I’m going to have a proper mad scientist’s laugh, then look out world!!
I tossed my ready bag in the trunk of the Crown Victoria, Checked that we had enough flares, first aid supplies and “sanitary napkins” in the trunk (you would be amazed at what all you can do with them!) I went in to the armory and checked out a Winchester pump action shot gun. I locked the 12 gauge in the car and went back for more. I caught up with Daddy at the armory. He was signing out the big yellow box of goodness (BYBG), which caused my eyebrows to try and climb up off my face. The box contained what passed for “tactical” equipment in 1974. Several kinds of grenades, (mostly gas), gas masks, a couple of flash-bang grenades, and two automatic M 16’s, and LOTS of ammo. Things were getting interesting. We locked all of THAT kit down, and Daddy went in for even more. He had decided we would carry a bloop-tube (40 mm gun) and a wide assortment of grenade shells. He also checked out two sets of ceramic body armor, and helmets. In my sweetest voice I turned to him, “Daddy, what the hell are we doing, starting World War III?”
That earned a stern “watch your mouth!”
“But why all the hardware? We have nearly half the tactical weapons and armor in the Bay Area!” (not really, but I thought it properly dramatic).
“I’ll tell you on the drive down to San Diego.”
Dad drove us first to Moffit Field, and picked up two new jumpsuits he’d ordered, one for him, and one for me after I made it clear I wanted a new one without the hole in it. We waited while Leather Velcro Pilot’s tabs were made for over the left breast. Daddy’s always surprised me; I knew he’d been in the air force, and that he’d been a pilot, but a general? a master parachutist? My wings just listed parachutist and Para-rescue jumper/diver, and dinky little airplane pilot (which sucked, but everyone else thought it was funny). We stopped briefly at home, so I could hug Mom goodbye, and so Dad could feed his face. I swear I don’t know where he puts it all!
Mom insisted I take a couple of “nice” sets of clothes and shoes. Dad insisted we take AF uniforms; It was easier to say yes than it was to argue with them. She also insisted I wear the locket I’d been given two Christmases ago.
We headed south on the 101, then cut over the mountains at Gilroy, and proceeded south on the brand new interstate 5. Daddy reached down and flipped the lights on. “Princess, why don’t you see how fast this thing will go, and how long it will stay there?”
No one EVER needed to ask me twice to go faster than the Federally mandated 55 mph! “Uh, Daddy, won’t we get in trouble with the CHP?”
“Don’t worry, I already cleared it as a training exercise.” He said with a grin on his face
“Okay, so tell me why all the guns and stuff?” I asked, stepping on the gas.
“Well Princess, I thought it would be fun to run a couple of gun courses while we were down South.”
“Do you know, you don’t lie very well, Daddy?”
“You’re left eye is twitching. It only twitches when you’re fibbing. Mom told me that a LONG time ago.”
“Damn,” he muttered under his breath. “Women!”
“You love it, and you know it!”
“Okay, here’s the truth. The woman we’re picking up is suspected of being part of the SLA (Symbionese Liberation Army). From the time we pick her up till we get her safely in our lockup we’re going to be armed, and armored.”
“Wow! That’s better.”
“Yeah, but there’s another reason. Your Mom and I have kept in touch with your birth parents through our lawyer.”
“What? After what they did, or would do to me?”
“Yes Baby, we wanted them to know you were safe. The first few months the letters from your birth father were pretty bad, but, in the last few months your birth Mom has been writing. She wants to see you. She wants to see you real bad. Your birth dad is dying.”
125 Miles per hour is not the time to have a panic attack. Instinctively I flipped on the siren and started slowing down, fast!”
“Hey, don’t lock up the breaks,” Daddy yelled
By that time I was at the side of the road, shaking uncontrollably. Daddy turned off most of the lights and the siren.
“That son of a bitch,” I screamed. “Everything in my life is going so well so he has to fuck it up. Daddy I don’t WANT to go and see him,” I growled through clinched teeth.
“Honey, that’s why your Mom and I wanted you to wear your locket, He can’t touch you anymore. Your Mother and I will protect you, your locket is your shield” he said pulling me into a hug.
I sat there crying and shaking. “But he’s always spoiled my life. He can’t stand the fact I’m NOT his fucking son!”
My real Dad just sat there, holding me. “Princess, I’ll never let him hurt you again. You know that don’t you?”
“How about I drive for a while?” He asked me.
“Just hold me a while longer, please?” I pleaded.
[[Author’s Note: Now this may not seem all that “professional,” or “grown up,” or whatever you want to call it. It’s my life. Like the first part, “Between Christmas and Hell” THIS STORY IS FICTION, but much is based firmly in who I am, where I’ve been, and what I’ve done. What happened wasn’t according to a script. I didn’t do things so people 40 years after the fact could criticize me, or fault me for crying. I was too busy living it. What happened is history; this story is fiction. Would I cry today? Damn straight I would. Hurt me enough physically or emotionally and I will cry. Blood is the essence of the body; tears are the distilled essence of the soul. Every tear I’ve cried, and every drop of blood I’ve shed are proof (to me anyway) of my humanity, and btw, the existence of God. EOS (end of sermon) sigh… ]]
That “while longer” was closer to an hour and a half. I’d stop crying, and he’d start to let go of me, which set me to crying again. Finally I was worn out. I felt like I’d run a couple of miles, with sweat running down between my boobs. Daddy got out, moved around to the driver’s side and I moved over.
He smoothly accelerated back up to a road eating speed. I just sat there staring at nothing. Sometimes I’d just reach over and lean against his arm. At Los Banos we pulled off the interstate and into the “Pea Soup Andersen’s” restaurant parking lot. I checked myself in the mirror, touched up my lips, and brushed my hair back into a low ponytail.
Daddy opened the door, “feel better?” he asked.
I nodded, “it still hurts, but I have a shield, don’t I?”
He smiled at me, “yes Princess, as long as I live I’ll be there to shield you. Your mother loved you the first time she set eyes on you. I loved you as soon as I tasted your meat loaf.”
“Beast!” I pushed at him playfully, we both laughed. We entered the restaurant, and I went into the ladies room. One nice thing men have is larger bladders. I decided this at least was useful!. Still, I was dancing in the stall, unbuckling my gun belt, and pocketing my keepers.
Looking back I’m glad I didn’t have then what I carry today when I wear a gun belt. No taser, no asp baton, only one set of handcuffs, sigh… those were the good old days.
I took care of emptying my bladder, put everything back on. Then I washed, and touched up using the mirror. My locket dangled between my breasts. I think that was when I realized what it truly meant. My Mom and my Dad would always be there for me; my Dad would kill for me. While I knew that, it was at that moment that I realized MY Dad had spent his life preparing to protect his family, and his nation. MY Dad had flown with atomic weapons hanging from his wings, ready to literally unleash Hell to protect what he loved. My birth father? “pfff!” He was a mere nothing. I would see him. I wanted him to see his daughter, and the love she had for the man who was really her Father.
Predictably, two other police, County Sheriff’s deputies were at the table with Daddy. All three stood as I approached. I smiled, and as we sat down the waitress delivered the soup. We talked shop, I really don’t much remember what was said. I’m not sure of what the two County Mounties thought about me. My para-rescue patch told them I couldn’t be an airhead, but I confess, I wasn’t thinking much about anything right then. I’m sure I made all the proper mouth noises, and impressed them with my feminine wiles, but it’s a conversation that was lost in the realization of who and what my father really was. Even sitting there, joking with the County Mounties’ it was clear who the killer in the room was. Oh my Dad was pleasant, and his usual friendly self, but no one else in that restaurant had the look that Dad had in his eyes. I’d never really noticed before. His face may have been smiling, but not his eyes; his eyes took in everything, and gave back nothing.
We made it to Escondido, in San Diego county about 9:00 that night We checked into a motel next to the “Wagon Inn” café (it’s still there, and the food is still good!). I felt sticky from the long ride, so I grabbed my swimsuit and jumped into the pool. 20 or 30 laps later I toweled off. Dad was in civvies’ so I went into my room and changed into jeans and a tee-shirt and joined him at the Wagon Inn. I slept well that night. We had adjoining rooms with a pass through door, which I kept propped open. It may sound silly or juvenile but I knew my Daddy would protect me from anything. Still, I left my 9mm pistol on the night stand.
I woke to the incessant knocking, knocking on my chamber door. “I’ll get ready was my cry,” quoth my Daddy, ‘nothing more.’ I pulled on my sweats and a cotton bra. I wore my gun in a custom holster that hung just below my boobs. I’d found it to be infinitely more comfortable than carrying it in the small of my back, covered by my sweatshirt. On a long beaded chain I wore my dog tags and my badge. This I tucked into my shirt.
He locked his room from the inside, and joined me in mine. He made little twirl around motions at me, so I obliged. He then did the same, “see anything?” we said about the same time. With a negative answer, we began our morning ritual. After an hour of running the city streets we finally caught the attention of the Escondido police. We showed them ID, and they drove us back to the motel, and joined us for breakfast.
Afterwards, we dressed for the day. I was going to wear a denim miniskirt, and a green scoop neckline tee-shirt and a pair of green canvas flats. Instead Daddy ordered me ORDERED me! to wear Air Force Khakis. Oh well, my shoes were well polished. And I could wear it with the top three buttons open. That was important to me. My breasts were up to a B+ cup, and I wanted them to be visible enough to eliminate any issue of my gender. I tried to get out of wearing my ribbons; they had gotten almost obscene after the smuggler’s rescue. Everybody decided it was worth the attention from the Ladies and Gentlemen of the PRESS. The department gave me a ribbon, the Air Force gave me a ribbon, Governor Moonbeam (Jerry Brown) sent one by certified mail, even the freaking Coast Guard gave me a ribbon for goodness sakes, but Dad insisted. “You’ll understand later,” he said. Three rows and I’d almost never left the state I was born in! Two years, almost, I’d been in the California Air National Guard, and I had butter bars (lieutenant’s rank badge). It was embarrassing! I carried a purse that needed to be polished. But it had a holster for my pistol built into it. It also managed to hold a can of mace and a pair of handcuffs inconspicuously.
Daddy was the impressive one. Two Stars on his shirt and five rows of ribbons on his chest bore testimony to whom he was, and what he had done. He looked spiffy. I sniffed and gently teased about having to beat the women off with a stick.
It had been two years; my surgery would take place in another few months. I lived in a world away from where I was going. Daddy had called, and my Mom was expecting us. I turned into the driveway, noting that everything still looked the same. Daddy came around and opened the door for me. Such a small gesture helped me to center myself.
We walked up the stairs to the open porch, Daddy knocked. I could hear my little brother yelling “I’ll get it,” He looked Dad over, then me. He was drooling over my breasts. I reached out and smacked him on the head and said. “My face is up here knucklehead.”
He looked back at me, my face this time, “You’re her, hey Mom, it’s that girl on the TV.”
My Mom walked into the room. I didn’t remember her looking this old; the roots of her hair showed gray, her face seemed to have aged 10 years since I had last seen her. Mom walked into the living room. “Where is she?”
I walked around Daddy and Jerry (my brother), and stood there, hands folded in front of me, I looked at her, “Momma?” I said tentatively.
“Oh my, is that really you Beth? You look so very beautiful.”
“Momma?” I said, searching her face for any sign of the rejection I just knew had to be there. Instead of the rejection that had justified leaving and never looking back, all I saw were the tears that began streaming down her face and dropping to the floor. Instead of anger, all I saw were the open arms. I had been wrong. I needed nothing more. I rushed into her open, and loving arms. We stood there, tears mingling, flowing, and washing away all the bitterness and fear I’d expected. I’d thought everyone in this house hated me, and that hatred was the armor I’d built around myself. That armor crumbled to dust. "I’ve missed you Momma,” I murmured into her ear, startled by the truth of the statement. “I’m sorry Momma, I’m so, so sorry; I do love you so much.”
The amazing thing was, as I was apologizing to her she was apologizing to me; she was saying nearly the same words to me.
I could see Jerry and Daddy talking, but I didn’t care, I was in my mother’s arms. All the pain of the last 22 years came pouring out. All I could say was “I’m sorry Momma.” Finally, when all our tears were done I took her by the hand, and introduced her to Daddy. “Daddy, this is my mother Chris, Mom this is my Daddy, Rex.” The absurdity of my words flew right over my head. I knew what I meant.
Dad looked rather sheepish, “Mrs. Williams, it’s my pleasure to meet you,” he said, reaching out to shake her hand.
Momma pulled him into a hug, “thank you so much for taking care of my Baby, and thank you for writing, especially after Doug was such a bastard in his letters.”
“Don’t worry about it. Her Mom and I love her very much, too. We legally adopted her, but you know about that.”
“She’ll always be my mine,” Mom replied with a sigh.”
“Momma, you just said ‘she,’ you knew I’m a girl!”
“Of course, you ninny. I’ve known for a long time.”
“Then why didn’t you say something?” I wailed. I don’t know where they came from, I thought I’d cried myself out, but the tears began to flow again. “I was afraid to tell anybody.”
“I’m sorry Baby,” Momma said pulling me back into a hug. “I was afraid of your father.”
I pulled back from her. “Well I’m not afraid of him anymore. Where is he? I expected him to be here”
“He’s not well; he won’t be going any place ever again. He’s dying.”
“He’s that bad?”
“Honey, he’s got cancer from working with asbestos all his life. He’s wasted away over the last six months. He had to quit working back in July, a medical retirement, thank God, and he went into the hospital two months ago. All they can do is keep him from hurting. The doctors tell me he won’t be in any pain in another three or four months.
“We’ll go with you to the hospital in a little bit. But what’s this “Angel of the Bay” that’s been in the newspapers.”
“Crap,” I said. “I’d hoped that silly thing wouldn’t be reported all the way down here.”
Mom pulled me over to the couch.
Daddy was smiling, enjoying my discomfort! The rat! “You can be real proud of her Mrs. Williams, she saved six, or seven if you include me, people’s lives. The newspaper guys got it right for once. She really is a hero. She doesn’t know it yet, but her actions have earned her the Silver Star. I’ll have a copy of the citations sent to you.” I stood there absolutely jar, well, ajar. Daddy called out “Attention to orders.”
Daaaady stop, please?” I asked, knowing he wouldn’t. Mom just smiled at me, holding my hand.
Of course Jerry had to get into the conversation. “Really? Is she really a cop and everything?”
Dad replied, “Everything and more! One of the bad guys had a gun pressed into my side. When he saw her, he shot at her, missing her but hitting her flight suit. Then she shot him before he could hurt anyone.
I poked him in the ribs, “You promised not to tell”
“What I promised was not to bring it up. He was asking all kinds of questions while you and your mother were hugging. He brought it up, not me!” he said, grinning like a Cheshire cat.
All I could do was glare at him.
He tuned to mom, “Confidentially, she really hates it when I bring it up!” He said. “Thank you Jerry for bringing it up.” Turning to me he said, “do you want to tell them the story or should I?”
“Okay, we were sent out to rescue a boat that was having problems. The boat ran aground on a pile of rocks. I sorted them into groups. The first group I sent were three women in pretty bad shape to the hospital on my helicopter. Then one of the men shot at me. I shot him, turned it over to the Coast Guard, then I went home. End of story!” I crossed my arms and sat back in the couch, hoping he would drop the subject.
“What happened to the boat?” Jerry asked, proving to the world, once again, that sisters have the right to pick on younger brothers.
We sat there till Daddy looked at me and asked, “are you going to answer or should I?”
He knows I hate to talk about it! I just sat back in the couch, snuggling between him and Mom, and I didn’t say a word.
“Okay Princess, fair warning, my turn, you can correct anything I tell them.”
I continued to glare at him, but my superpower eyes didn’t seem to be working.
He then told them the whole story; the only thing he didn’t tell them was about all of the seal poop on those damned rocks!
Jerry sat back, speechless. Mom was speechless too, looking at me in a new way, “Is that really what happened?” I nodded. “Wow, my daughter the super hero!” She giggled and hugged me again, “You just be careful, you understand?”
“Believe me, her other mother and I have every intention of keeping her skin intact. She wanted to learn to fly, so I made her learn how to jump out of an airplane, it’s little things like that to keep her safe. Where were we, oh yes, Attention to Orders: I’ll skip over a bunch of wherefores and whereases, Lieutenant Pruett then being seconded to the Palo Alto Police Department… hmmm.., here it is, ahem: it is my privilege on behalf of the President of the United States, and a grateful nation to present the Silver Star, for gallantry in action under fire exemplifying the highest traditions of the United States Air Force.
There’s another letter here from the Coast Guard, thanking you for doing their job by rescuing the crew and incidentally saving my life. The Commandant of the Coast Guard has instructed me to inform Lt Pruett she has been awarded National Defense Service Medal, but you knew that one. There’s more awards here, seems everyone wants to jump on the “Angel of the Bay” bandwagon. It must be slow at the Pentagon. Ah, here it is, the most important being that at the direction of the President that on the basis of your particularly keen sense of duty, and being incredibly cute, which is good for the TV ratings, it is the wish of the president of the United States to promote Lieutenant Pruett to the rank of Captain. My Gosh, you must look good on TV.” .
“Really Daddy? I mean General Sir.” Mom helped him add the latest ribbons to my uniform.
“And sweetheart, these bars were my first pair, they may be old, but I’d feel honored to pass them on to you.”
I started crying, again, with that gesture he proved again to me and the world why He’s my Dad.
Before anything else could happen, I excused myself and went into the bathroom. The face in the mirror was the same one I saw every day of my life. Sure, there were differences, my makeup looked great. I’d learned a lot in that short two years. The only things different from when I lived here were the makeup, the pierced ears, more fat on my butt, and a body in far better shape than the last time I looked in this mirror, oh, and the boobs. I took care of the reason I’d entered, washed up, and went out to find Mom in the kitchen. She was doing what she always did when people visited; making coffee and putting together a dessert tray. “Mom, stop! Please don’t make me feel uncomfortable to be here. Daddy isn’t here to make you feel guilty, or to cause trouble, or anything else. We’re actually down here on business, and Daddy sprang this visit on me on the way down.”
“You didn’t know?”
“No Mom, no one told me. I found out while practicing high speed pursuit on the way down here. I stood on the breaks and dropped from 140+ MPH down to stop. Then I started shaking. Daddy had to hold me for at least an hour before we could start up again.
“Mom, when I left here it was because I was afraid of Dad. If I’d even breathed a word to him a beating was the least I could expect. He might have killed me. Now I’m a happy, well-liked, successful woman. After the first few months I couldn’t have come home if I wanted too, my boobs would have let everyone know I had changed. I guess God really cares about us, at least that’s the only explanation I can find because I met Rex, my Daddy, and Noreen my other Mom the day after I left home. Mom adopted me that first night, and Daddy a couple of days later. I don’t know if I’d even be alive if not for them.”
“You’ll like them both,” I said, “and you have me in common so everything should be great!”
“What about your father?” she asked, searching my face.
“What about him?” I asked, instantly suspicious.
“Are you going to see him,” she asked gently.
“Yes,” I snapped, “I want him to see the daughter he could have had.”
“Honey, your daddy is real sick, I told you, he has cancer. I’m not excusing him at all for any of it. Did you know he beat me too?” That I didn’t know. I had to sit down real fast.
“All I’m asking is to keep your heart open; yes he’s treated you horridly. Still try to find some mercy in your heart.”
I didn’t think it possible, but her message of forgiveness was like someone turned a key in my heart. “He’ll never accept who I am. I’ll go, and I promise to not intentionally provoke him, unless he starts in on me.”
The drive to the hospital was excruciating painful. I wound up asking Daddy to drive. I just couldn’t sit there, casually observing the background of my life. Since my father was a veteran he was being cared for by the VA. I told Daddy how to get there. We drove by the old General Dynamics plant, and took Clairemont Mesa Blvd. We drove past one of my favorite places growing up; the Boy’s and Girl’s club, and on to La Jolla and the VA Hospital. Being in a police car has its perks; parking out of the way in the emergency spaces was one.
Being in uniform had its own advantages. It was like Moses parting the Red Sea, the people in the halls cleared a path before a Captain and a two star General. We followed Mom to my Dad’s room. I let her, then Daddy enter before me, and Jerry entered last.
The room was meant for two beds, but at that time only one bed was in use, my father’s.
He looked horrible. The fearsome man of my nightmares was wasting away. He certainly posed no threat to anyone. I saw his eyes light up at the site of my mom. Then he stared at my Daddy, and then at me.
“Do I know you?” he asked Daddy. “And since when has the Air Force made captains of teenage girls?” His rheumy eyes focused on our name plates, “I see,” he said, “keeping it all in the family huh? It wasn’t that he was trying to be insulting; he was just unable to keep up with the changes in the world.
I stepped close to the bed and looked at him laying there, “Dad, don’t you recognize me?”
His eyes grew wide with recognition, “Mike?” he sank further into his pillows.
“No Dad, my name is Beth, Linda Elisabeth Pruett.”
“Bah, rubbing lipstick on a dog don’t make a lady, I don’t care what your ‘oh so high and mighty’ shrinks tell you. You were born a boy and you’ll die a boy. Why are you here anyway? Did you come to gloat over an old and dying man?”
“Dad, please listen to me. When I left it was a 50-50 proposition whether I’d live to see the next day. Yes, most of that was you, well the fear of you anyways. Now I’m a Captain in the Air National Guard, and a highly valued member of the Palo Alto Police Department.”
He turned away, as though the words themselves were battering him. “I came to see you, to tell you of my love, and to grieve at losing the man who gave me life.” I turned to Daddy, “this is Doug Williams. Father this is General Rex Pruett. He and his wife took me in when I ran away from you. Mom, I think this was a mistake. I’d rather not cause him further pain.” I started for the door.
“No, wait” the wraith in the bed called out before I could leave the room. I walked back over to him. “Please sit, would you tell me all about this new life of yours? I may never have another chance to talk to you. I know I’ve been a miserable bastard all my life. It’s how my Daddy taught me. I wish I could do a lot of things over. I didn’t because I don’t know any better. Would you sit with me for awhile? You look a lot like your mother did at your age.”
I sat beside the bed giving thanks to God for opening my heart. He reached out and took my hand in his.
I found a father I never knew, and he met the marvelous daughter he’d never have let me be if I hadn’t left home.
I even told him all about the night on seal crap rock, and the amazing things I had done. I marveled when he smiled at me, he had smiled at ME.
All too soon it was time for one of his treatments, “will you please come back and talk some more? I looked at Daddy and Mom, and turned to him, “I’d love to Daddy.” Then I did something I would have bet money on my NEVER doing. I reached down and kissed him on the cheek.
He smiled, “you smell a lot like your mother too.”
I didn’t know it then, but I spent two more days, sitting with my Father. The trip home was peaceful. We left with our prisoner in the evening, and were back in Palo Alto by 8:30 the next morning. All the supposed threat disappeared. The DA was happy. The chief was happy. Dad looked at me, like he expected me to do something. If it were a cartoon, a light would have turned on over my head. I immediately asked for a week’s compassionate leave. Dad smiled; I’d learned about the system from the master.
Dad and I immediately went to the Moffit field where I picked up some things I’d need; a new ID card, and some things from the PX. While my new ID was being made, Daddy and I went by the PX. I went to the help desk, showed my orders, and asked for a new name badge, with wings this time. I was looking around, waiting for the gold leaf press to warm up (for the leather badges) and noticed they carried lab coats. I grabbed one that fit and hurried back to the service desk. The same clerk who’d made up the name tags the previous week was working, and I asked her if they did the name embroidery for lab coats. When she said yes I hatched a diabolical plan! I asked her to make a second badge, this time with the caduceus and with M.D. after my name, and oh, by the way, please embroider my lab coat the same way. She looked to Daddy (clerks remember two star generals, even retired ones) and he just smiled and nodded his head. The Legend of Captain Pruett, M.D. was born!
When we got home I asked Mom to go with me. She agreed, of course, and made arrangements for someone to work the Motel front desk while we were gone. I called to make reservations with PSA (Pacific Southwest Airlines — “the Only Way to Fly”). The two of us packed, then Daddy gave us a ride to the San Jose Airport (did I mention he loves to park where he’s not supposed to?). I was in uniform with my “Bomber Jacket,” and new name patch. If asked, I did think I looked awfully “spiffy” myself. I mean, three rows of ribbons, two sets of wings and a bomber jacket are just so de rigueur!
As we were boarding, the pilot noticed me. I was invited by to sit in the inspector’s seat. Mom said she didn’t mind. The stewardess seated her in the first row, and then came and showed me where to stow my purse. At 4:45 we lifted off, I was enjoying the heck out of this ride! Then the captain asked if I wanted to sit in the right hand seat! I hemmed and hawed, then admitted my pilot rating was only for “little dinky planes.” The two of them laughed as the co-pilot gave the pilot a $10 bill. Then the co-pilot asked if any of my uniform was real. I just pulled out my ID and my police badge, and told him yes, the rest WAS real. They laughed — again, but there was no venom in their laughs. The co-pilot got up and I was asked to sit there while he used the head. When he got back, I told them about who I was (NOT the transgender part!!), and they seemed genuinely impressed. 30 minutes later, I vacated the co-pilot’s seat, and strapped back in at the inspector’s seat. Two hours later, back on the ground, and after a short taxi ride Mom and I checked into the San Diego motel of the same chain as Mom’s motel.
The next day Mom met Mom (geez this is even confusing to me, and I lived it). The two became close friends. I pocketed my collar insignia, slipped in the M.D. insignia, grabbed my lab coat and my purse, and we went to the VA hospital.
I spent that week, and the next getting to know the man I almost never knew.
Captain Pruett became something of a fixture at the VA. I always had a smile on my face. The reason you ask? I met a wonderful nurse, Cindy Hayes, while visiting the VA. We actually went to dinner together (as just friends) several nights the first week I was there. I was smitten. She talked with me in a way I’d never known. She was (and yes is!!) wonderful. On the other hand, no doctor had ever paid her any attention before. One thing, as they say, lead to another. I think it was the third time we’d gone out I told her ALL about me. She was shocked, and wouldn’t talk to me for two days. By then, I was madly in love. Later she told me those were the longest two days of her life. (yes, after 2 years we were married — but that’s a different story!).
Things got totally out of hand when I was asked to sit in on a staff meeting. I tried to avoid it, but my cover was blown. The meeting was actually with the Chief of Staff (Dr. Ted Stevens) and the doctor caring for my Dad (Dr. Rick Byrnes). They said they had been suspicious since the day I’d arrived. They thought I looked way too young to be a doctor (duh…). But my genuine military ID, ribbons, and lab coat allayed their concerns. When I was asked to draw blood from my Dad, and did so competently, no one else said a word.
It was that damned “Angel of the Bay” crap that gave me away! It seems on the third day the Chief of Staff accidently came across an article in Stars and Stripes. That article was about a heroic paramedic rescue jumper named “Lieutenant Linda E. Pruett.” He started looking into my background. Things just didn’t add up. He called my C.O. who told him yes I was a highly decorated member of his staff, and that I’d just been promoted and my latest decoration was the Silver Star. He told him what I fine officer I was. When asked about what kind of medicine I practiced, my C.O. told him truthfully “emergency medicine.” He called the VA hospitals in San Jose, Menlo Park, and San Francisco; and, of course, no one remembered a woman named Dr. Pruett.
He called my Dad’s office at the Palo Alto Police Department, and Delores, my Dad’s secretary, told him I spent a lot of time working with the Department, and went on to tell him I was “unparalleled” in the practice of emergency medicine. He called the hospital I’d claimed to have done residency in (in Guadalajara, Mexico), and no one there spoke English that day. He kept putting one and one together and coming up with three. Nothing made sense. The “staff meeting” was a smoke screen to see if I’d tell them the truth.
I admitted the article was about me, and asked how much trouble I was in. My Dad’s doctor came to my rescue with this huge smile on his face, saying, “trouble?” Trouble for what DOCTOR Pruett?” Again, Fortune favored the Bold (and truthful). They had a good laugh over it. The Chief of Staff tossed my now “official” VA name badge and ID card across the table to where I sat. It was better for them (and for me!!) that no one else knew. There was a price to be paid; I had to tell them all about that night on the rocks, and the whole “Angel of the Bay” story. The Chief of Staff smiled and told me to stick with the Doctor story, it was more believable. I was told I could go anywhere, do anything I wanted; they just asked that I limit practicing medicine to members of my own family, or under their direct supervision! I actually took them up on it, making the rounds and asking lots of intelligent questions, with both doctors nearly every day of the second week I was there.
One week became two. Once my Dad opened up to me it was impossible to shut him up! He told me of growing up in a family of sharecroppers in a dirt floor hut. Of the delight he took in going into the bathroom at school. The flush toilets were so much better than the outhouse at his parent’s house. We talked of anything and everything. He delighted in the stories I had to tell. He may not have known how to love me, but he was learning fast. Most days I’d spend most of the morning with him, and then Mom and Mom and I would play tourist in the afternoons when he was taking a nap, or was in the midst of some procedure. I’d go back in the evenings for another hour or two — except for the nights I spent with Cindy.
This was in the days before advanced directives. What the patient wanted was almost irrelevant. If they could ease his pain and keep him alive they did it. Period.
I finally had to go back to work. The Chief was getting mildly miffed.
For me, life had come full circle. My Dad and I made our peace with each other. On Christmas Eve I left the hospital, and went straight to the airport. Mom and I flew back to the Bay Area. The doctors were wrong; he didn’t die until the end of April. I know my life would never have come to this place had I not left home as I did. Nor would it be as full and rich as it has become. I’ve been blessed. My last memory of my Father was the music. As I said goodbye to him Christmas carolers were roaming the halls.
“Joy to the World…”
All was right in my world; finally, I was at peace.
* That Others might Live
Note: A smidgen of editorial assistance and formatting provided by Andrea DiMaggio. Any and all typos and various and sundry errata are her sole responsibility
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