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It's different when it happens to you

By Debbie Leffler • Jan 16, 2020 at 12:00 PM

I was in the kitchen clearing the dinner dishes when I heard my husband’s voice on the phone, coming from the living room.

He was talking about a break-in at someone’s house.

This is not unusual, because he does criminal defense work and I thought he was talking to one of his clients about a crime they were charged with.

But something in his voice sounded alarming — it was not just a conversation with someone who was accused of a break-in. It was too emotional.

I rushed into the living room and found out he was talking to our younger son, whose place had been robbed.

“What happened?” I demanded. He put me on speaker, and before I could be more alarmed, I found out that no one was home at the time, no one was hurt, but the place had been ransacked.

So my reaction? First of all, relief. It was only a matter of things, not people.

Second: anger. This wasn’t just a random statistic about crime. This wasn’t just a court case involving someone I don’t know. This was my son. Like I said in my column last week, things take on a whole new layer of meaning when it is someone we know.

And how unfair. They live in Oakland, Calif., (in the San Francisco Bay area), where the rents are so high that his “home” is one room which was once a garage. He and April (his partner) and Ula (their dog) live in that one room. They have fixed it up beautifully, using every square inch of space, with shelving and boxes and very little extra. My son is a graduate student and April is a social worker. She helps homeless people settle into apartments and access social services. Talk about ironic.

Luckily, they had their computers and cell phones with them. Probably the most valuable thing in the place was my son’s viola, which at first he thought was stolen, but later he found it shoved way under the bed. But shelves were messed up, the whole place in disarray, his iPad gone.

Why steal from them? They don’t own much.

Whoever did it also broke into the house in front of theirs. That person discovered it first, called them, and said you’d better come home because your place and my place were robbed. Their dog was found in the house of the people in front. Not a guard dog, although who knows what actually happened and why the dog ended up in the other house. They were relieved that the door to the driveway wasn’t left open, so that they didn’t lose their beloved pet — a rescue dog from Hawaii. Ula is not young. They pay her veterinarian bills and take care of her like a child. But I digress.

Have you ever been robbed? Our car was broken into once when it was parked near our daughter’s place in Chicago. The upsetting part wasn’t so much the broken glass, or the things that were taken from the car  — an ugly sweater of my husband’s and some coins. It was more the insult of the thing — the violation, the feeling that was hard to shake that we could no longer trust the world — that bad people who steal exist in reality, not just in theory, and that one of them had decided — for no reason — to break into our car. Insurance covered the window repair, but insurance could never make me feel as safe as I once thought I was.

Debbie Leffler is a freelance writer who lives in Norwalk. She can be reached at [email protected]

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