Friday, March 28, 2014
I have just served on a jury last week – a most surreal experience. It was the first time I was ever called, and everyone assured me that I would sit there for two days, reading, while others were picked for juries and that I would then get to go home, never having been picked. Well, it didn’t quite work out that way. I’m not sorry I get picked, as it was definitely an interesting event unlike anything I’d done before. As I sat there in the jury box, my thoughts turned, as they so often do, to my dad.
Many years ago, when I was living with my first husband and Dad was still normal and lucid, he told me about his experiences being picked for a jury. (It is sometimes almost impossible for me to remember those times, between the period when my mom died and I graduated college and moved out of the house, and when Dad began to seriously lose his mind. There was a time there, maybe ten years, when life continued on as normal, and Dad went to work, and wore suits, and had his life, and the concept of dementia never entered my mind. It has attained almost mythic status – impossible to believe – since the current situation has been going on so long.)
Anyway, he was picked for a criminal trial that lasted several weeks, involving a stabbing and various other serious events, and he told me how fascinating it had been to hear the evidence, and see the witnesses, and watch the lawyers do their elaborate dance. He described working with his fellow jurors to figure out the evidence and the charges and it was obviously an experience he had enjoyed. If I’m not mistaken, he got called again and was picked for another, shorter, trial. He appeared to be making a second career out of being a juror. He seemed to really enjoy the process.
Several years later, when I was living with and caring for him, he got another jury summons in the mail. I guess having served a few times, he was put on the county’s short list. As I looked at the summons, and tried to figure out how to get him excused because if there ever was a hardship that keeps you from jury duty, dementia would be it - all I could think about was how much pleasure he had taken in serving his community and being part of something bigger than himself, and, most importantly, being a contributing member of society. He would never truly be a ‘contributing’ member of society again. As I dialed the number to talk to a court clerk, I was filled with regret for my intelligent, stricken father.
So that is why, as I listened to testimony, and watched the attorneys, who, let’s face it, looked like they were about twenty-two, then filed back into the jury room with my fellow jurors and attempted to decide on a verdict – I thought about dad, and tried to contribute on his behalf.