It was a day like any other I suppose. I was in kindergarten, my sister Lauren in third grade, and my oldest brother John in 5th. I was your usual class clown, trouble maker per say, but at this young age, it hardly had me being called down to the principles office. Much to my surprise the office assistant Mrs. Laverty entered my classroom, with a note summoning me to the principles office. My teacher, Mrs. Poe, called me to the front of the class, and sent me on my way. Like any young child- my mind raced over my days, weeks activity that they could have finally pinned me for. By the time I had narrowed it down to about 10 possible punishable actions, we had arrived to the main office. I entered ahead of Mrs. Laverty, to find my sister Lauren, and brother John nervously waiting on the bench next to the principles office. We shared our mutual confusion and wonderment for a few minutes before we were escorted into Mr. Childress’ office. He asked us to have a seat, and we did. He then proceeded to tell us he had some very sad and unfortunate news.
“Children, I don’t quite know how to tell you this, but earlier today your father passed away in an accident.”
Before we had a chance to even begin to formulate a response, the door flew open as the assistant principle busted in yelling,
“You have the wrong John Lamb!.”
It turns out, there were two John Lambs in 5th grade at Scotch Elementary, and they had the wrong one. The other John Lamb’s father worked construction and fell several stories to his tragic death. While it seems in a situation of severe tragedy, the powers that be would take the necessary precaution to ensure that all measures of certainty were taken before disclosing to three young children that their dad had just died. This however, was clearly not the case. While the administration did their best “damage control” to comfort and convince us Lamb children that our dad was not dead, we were not so easily convinced. You see most children are under the impression that their parents will live forever. It is not until someone tells a child that their dad has died, that a child is actually able to conceive this reality. So there we were, half crying, half screaming to get our dad on the phone to prove he hadn’t passed. While the simple confirmation from my mother calmed both John and Lauren, my young mind couldn’t grasp the death and rebirth of my father in a matter of minutes.
They sent us home early from school that day. While on most days this course of action pretty much would have excused a lashing with a meter stick, on this particular day, it just didn’t cut it. Upon arriving home I discovered our porch decorated with gifts, flowers and baskets. Any calm that had come over me was most certainly out the window at this point. I sprinted into the house eager to find my dad and put an end to this nightmare. No where to be found.
“Mom!! Where’s dad!”
“He’s at work Kevin, don’t worry.”
I demanded she call him immediately. I was quite the punctual five year old. She dialed his office number, put the phone to her ear, and waited a few moments for an answer.
“Hey sweetheart, there was major mix up at school and Kevin needs to talk to you.”
She handed me the phone, I immediately grabbed it.
“You didn’t die did you!?”
“No Kevin, I didn’t die. I’m perfectly fine.”
“Then who are all the presents for?”
It turns out word traveled fast around town that Mr. Lamb died in a construction accident, so people around the neighborhood paid their dues assuming it was the Mr. Lamb at 6702 Windmill Lane that had passed. While most recall their kindergarten days and think of show and tell, finger-painting, and recess, for this 22 year old, it will always be remembered as the time my dad almost died. To this day I am blessed to know the pain of losing a loved one, without having to endured such loss. To bring the story full circle, and demonstrate this universes circular nature, let us fast forward 13 years.
I was a senior in high school, and it was two weeks until prom. I was on my way to pick up my tux, when flashing lights appeared in my rearview mirror.
“Son of a bitch”
It was my first and only time being pull over in West Bloomfield, my home, a suburb of metro-Detroit. I rolled down my window, reached for my license and registration, and nervously awaited my first traffic police encounter.
“License and registration”
“I had you going 55 in a 40, where are going in such a hurry today?”
“I had to pick up my tux before baseball practice sir.”
He read over my information while taking in my response. He suddenly stopped.
It wasn’t until that moment that I notice his name tag. John Lamb. My mind started moving faster than my mouth was able to react. So I took a moment to collect my thoughts. You see for years throughout my schooling people would learn my name and explain how they knew my older brother John, the Keego Harbor police officer. However, my brother John, was most certainly no officer of the law. A hippie? Yes. A Phish Head? Most definitely.
“Boy do I have a story for you sir”
I quickly shot through the scenario in the principles office, realizing I was using an indirect story of his father’s death to potentially get me out of a ticket, so I was sure to tread lightly. By the time I was done talking, an uncertain and misplaced look came over the officer’s face.
“Just don’t speed anymore kid.”
He walked away seemingly a bit shocked. Clearly confused how this everyday run in left him in such dismay. I am neither happy nor proud that I was another reminder of this man’s tragic loss of his father, but it most certainly reminded myself, of how fortunate my siblings and I were, for Scotch Elementary having the wrong John Lamb.