• Erin Griffith

Confession Time

I grew up in the middle of nowhere, ohio. My father was a policeman for the City of Columbus and he spent time as a beat cop and as a member of drug enforcement; where, he and his partner, investigated and made a number large drug busts. Then, he taught firearms to police recruits at the academy. The bottom line is that my father's job made him want to move as far away from the city as humanly possible, while still adhering to the requirement that officers live only in counties adjacent to Franklin county (City of Columbus proper). So he moved to the literal edge of Delaware county. Which made his and my mother's daily drive to work 60 minutes each way, but put him(and us) far away from the city where he saw so much trauma, death, poverty, and dysfunction. He did this because of his furious and fierce love for my mother, and us. He never wanted us to experience the stuff he saw or himself right after work. I think the drive gave him time to process and transition from policeman to family man before he got home.

Mom and Dad

This is picture of my dad from the dispatch from sometime in the 70s during his drug enforcement days. Before you ask, yes that is cocaine and a lot of cash and YES he was a policeman and not a drug dealer. Undercover work required him to maintain a certain "appearance" at the time. When he went to teach at the academy he cut his hair and shaved his mustache and subsequently traumatized me as a small child as I had never known him without the 'stache.

The apple did not fall far from the tree because my grandfather was also a Columbus police officer and my uncle was a state trooper. The men on my dads side of the family possessed the fortitude and countenance required for law enforcement. Neither my brother nor I possess many of those characteristics, however, I like to think that the few cop-like traits that I do possess come in handy as a high school teacher. My brother (the big softie) went into investment banking which takes a whole different set of skills that I do not possess considering that I can barely balance a checkbook.

One of the traits that both my brother and I got from my father were his eyebrows. Heavy, thick, black as night caterpillars that, if left unchecked, will crawl across our foreheads to meet each other in the middle. Now most men can leave their eyebrows as is and nobody really cares. Me? Well, I had to learn plucking and waxing at a very young age to keep these midnight fuzzles under control. My point is, the eyebrows are a feature of my fathers face that made him a good cop (don't worry, I am going to explain).

My father is the very definition of stoic - never giving anything away through his facial features. You have to know his "tells" in order to gauge his emotions. He never forces conversation. Many potential suitors and friends found this a bit, unsettling. All except for my best friends, who had been around him so long that they just never noticed. One boy, that wanted to date me, came to meet my family and commented "Your dad is quiet. Like, axe-murderer kind of quiet." or "When your dad looks at me, I feel like I need to confess all my wrongdoings." He also has piercing blue eyes which, combined with the brows, can make one feel as though you are being analyzed and possibly interrogated at any given time, if his gaze falls upon you.

Now retired, he has pronounced laugh lines around his eyes, which indicate that he has smiled a lot in his life. But as a younger man, his laugh lines were in their infancy so his gaze was almost assuredly any criminals undoing. I know it was always my brother's and my undoing.

I can remember a few times that I came up with a really good lie, a whopper, a falsehood of epic proportion to explain some wrongdoing on my part; then, when confronted with that glower, that look of incredulity emphasized by those baby blues and punctuated by those black brows, broke down in a tearful puddle of truthfulness. He wouldn't even say anything. Just sit across from me, stare, and BOOM...truth ran all Usain Bolt out of my mouth (sometimes without my permission). It was around puberty when I realized that lying to either of my parents was futile and became the most forthright child a parent could ask for. I told them everything; sometimes more than they probably wanted to know. But I remember telling my friends that I would rather face a punishment for making a bad choice than face that punishment combined with a punishment for lying. OR, if something happened to me, watch my parents figure out "the whole story" from anyone other than myself.

Dad very rarely had to make behavior corrections verbally. My brother calls it "the stink eye." If we were doing something wrong, all my dad had to do was glance our way with "that look" and we stopped. The few times that we got "the look" and chose to continue the behavior, we received consequences that were usually not painful, but uncomfortable in some way. The punishments were always age appropriate too; so, being forced to stop playing and go to our room for a time with the door shut as small children or grounding from friends, phone, Nintendo, or computer as teenagers. The most painful punishment was always his disappointment though. The removal of his attention and smile were more painful than any punishment that we could have been given. So, it was not often that we chose to continue an undesired behavior.

The "stink eye" turned out to not be corporeal. When I went away to college, it followed me...two+ hours away. Many kids go to college and are like "Woo Hoo! My parents aren't here so I can do whatever I want!!" I, on the other hand, had a little "stink eye" on my shoulder that went with me everywhere. If I went to a party and there was alcohol (before I was 21), I never drank and would leave to find more legal and nonalcoholic persuits. I never tried to buy alcohol before I was 21; despite the loosey goosey nature of the servers at the bars and carry outs in the town where I went to college. I never tried drugs...not even once.

My worst offense was the occasional cigarette and even those were few and far between and usually to try to stay awake while studying or staying out late- and I felt the "stink-eye" on me every time I lit up. I felt it every time I skipped a class, even if I had a good reason. It made me conscious of what was going on around me so that I could make good choices for not just myself, but my friends also.

The "stink eye" became a little more forgiving after I turned 21. He was there, but far more understanding. I can count on one hand the times I have been well and truly drunk and it was always in a completely safe situation where there was no way that I could get hurt.

I have never been sky diving and the times that my friends tried to get me to go, the "stink eye" was there saying...nope, bad choice. Not the man, just his "phantom glare."

The best phantom "stink eye" story I can think of is the story of "Crackhead Mike." I met Mike in a creative writing class and he asked if we could go out sometime. He took me out to a very expensive restaurant and drove a really expensive car. He told me that he had lived in the dorm his freshman year, but bought a house in town for himself the next year. He did not have a job, so, I assumed, quite wrongly, that his parents were well off. He wanted to show me his house and meet his friends, so we went. We had not been there fifteen minutes before someone knocked at the door, then another, then another, than another. I finally told him that he seemed busy, so I would head on home.

My phantom "stink eye" was needling me and making me suspicious. I tried to argue with it. "But he is so hot and so nice!" I told it. It glowered at me. So I kept my guard up. On our third date, Mike confessed to me

"Erin, I really like you a lot and I want you to be my girlfriend" blah blah blah waxing poetically about how pretty I was blah blah could see us together forever blah blah and then...

"...but I sell drugs. That is where my money comes from. I just want to be open and honest with you about this. I don't use, just sell and I don't want this to affect our relationship. It is really not a big deal."

I took my napkin off my lap, wiped my mouth, stood up, and said "Mike, my father is a police officer. A former drug enforcement officer and this is a big deal." I made a scene telling him how he had put me in danger by just having drugs in the same car that I was riding in or in his house when I was there. That he could have ruined my career and his own. Then, I called my sorority sisters to come and pick me up. A group was in the area, and they swung by and got me. I like to think that "the stink eye" was proud of me, winking in approval.

My father is a very private person, and he will probably be giving me "the look" after I publish this post. But I love him and would not be the person that I am without "the look" and "the stink eye."

Brows up!


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