Joel! Get out of there! QuickQuickQuick! The police are coming! 5-year-old Joel was in the campground’s outhouse as I saw a State Trooper car slowly approaching. But since it was first thing in the morning, there was no rushing Joel– not even for the police.
“Is everything okay, ma’am?” The trooper had stopped and rolled down his window, probably because I was frantically talking to an outhouse door. Yeah, we’re okay! My son is in there and he wants to be a police officer and I thought he’d like to see your car drive by, that’s all. “Oh! I can circle around and come back in a minute!”
And he did. Much to Joel’s awe and delight, the trooper even got out of his car to shake Joel’s hand, give him a “special trooper highlighter,” and encourage him in his dreams of being a police officer (or, from that moment on, an Alaska State Trooper).
My most prominent memory of that day was the look in the trooper’s eyes when he learned of his fan… I feel like, in that moment, I saw the little boy who dreamed of being the good guy, the hero, the big strong trooper. That’s now a look I’ve seen in Joel’s eyes as he uses his special highlighter to write down statements from fellow students on the playground after a punching incident at 0-recess-thirty; or when he passes a trooper on the road and yells “my brother in law!” That’s “brother in arms,” corrects Nathan… every time.
I believe kids see the world a lot more clearly than the rest of us. They see people for people, not for color or religion or political party. They know that there are universal things we all have in common…. scooping dog doo in the yard is not awesome, but cupcakes for school birthdays are. Kids know there are good guys and bad guys, and the good guys are heroes. I know now more than ever that the Alaska State Troopers are heroes.
Six months after our trooper meeting, Joel was diagnosed with cancer. A friend of ours, a former police officer, reached out to a State Trooper friend of his. “It would mean the world to him if you stopped by in your uniform… maybe even driving your Trooper car. It would make his day.” Trooper Hayes thought for a bit. You see, he was a recent cancer survivor. Cancer had been the most terrifying thing he had lived through and he wasn’t sure if he was strong enough emotionally to see a little kid fighting that battle. I’m so thankful he was.
The day we were expecting Trooper Hayes, Joel (only a month into his 3-year battle) watched expectantly out the window for his hero to arrive. There at no words for the excitement that erupted from our home when the expected one trooper car turned out to be this:
One by one, the Alaska State Troopers filed into our small living room and surrounded my son with strength and support that he drew from so many times in the years to come. Joel was presented with a flag, a signed hat, coins, posters…. and then, in his proudest moment ever, Joel was sworn in as an Alaska State Trooper.
As Trooper Hayes spoke, I don’t think he could possibly have grasped the weight of his words. Recounting his own battle against cancer, he connected with our son through a veil of tears. So many times, as Joel was afraid, or sad, or sick of cancer, we went back to that day. Joel, crying or being afraid does not mean you aren’t brave… Look at Trooper Hayes! Is he small? no. Is he weak? no. But he had tears, didn’t he? That’s because cancer is scary– even to someone like him. Being brave means you do what you need to do even when you’re scared.
Joel was presented with a custom-made Alaska State Trooper uniform, complete with a personalized Kevlar vest. Once he had his belt adjusted 12 times– steroids….ahem– he got to go sit in one of the Trooper cars that lined our street.
That smile was the first in weeks. Steroids made him feel moody, bloated, and vacant. But there’s something powerful about being surrounded by your heroes and being told you embody their motto: loyalty, integrity, and courage.
Thank you, Alaska State Troopers and Trooper Hayes, for giving a kindergarten cancer-fighter a heroic and selfless outlook for the battle he was facing. Thanks to this being shared on Facebook, Joel received patches and coins from all over the country from law-enforcement heroes looking to reach out and pass strength along to a little boy in Alaska. The sort of kindness shown to our family that day is what needs to be passed around on the internet. Let’s give less attention to the “bad guys” and encourage each other. There are good guys. Heroes. And they were once little kids who saw the world for what it was and wanted to grow up to be a hero. And in this house, that’s exactly what they are.
So what does cheesecake have to do with State Troopers? Well, I asked Trooper Hayes what some of his favorite foods were so I could share a recipe that would be related to him (donuts seemed too obvious). When Joel read through the list, he yelled “Cheesecake!” So there we have it. Troopers and chocolate cheesecake!
This is a recipe from my grandma. I think she found it in a magazine…. But despite it’s lack of rich history, it is the cheesecake to beat all other cheesecakes. Dark chocolate cookie crust, German chocolate creamy base, and a sour cream topping to add just enough tart to all of the sweet. Our favorite way to push it from “mmmmmmm” to “whaaaaaat?!” is by pouring raspberry sauce over a slice.
Chocolate Lovers’ Cheesecake
8 1/2 Oz package chocolate cookie wafers, crushed (2 C)
1/3 C butter, melted
1/4 C sugar
3 (8 Oz) packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 C sugar
3 Tablespoons flour
4 Oz bar German Baker’s chocolate, melted and cooled
2 Tablespoons half & half
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 C sour cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Heat oven to 400 degrees. In a small bowl, combine all crust ingredients and mix well. Press over bottom and two inches up the sides of an ungreased 9-inch “>springform pan.
In a large bowl, combine cream cheese, sugar, flour, and chocolate. Beat at high speed until well blended. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Blend in half & half and vanilla. Pour mixture into crust.
Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees and continue baking for 55 to 65 minutes or until filling is set. Remove from oven and cool for 10 minutes. Carefully loosen the crust from the rim of the pan by running a knife between the pan rim and the crust.
Combine topping ingredients and mix until smooth. Spread over slightly cooled cake. Cool completely; Chill.
So, no, I don’t have a picture of the cake. This is because it’s Thanksgiving and I’ll be making this for New Years Eve. (1/1/17: I did! And the picture is now below. But, I decided to leave this picture on here as well. Because, well… Eric face.) Until then (when I will put the picture in this post) know that I’ve made this many times and can guarantee the cheesecake will taste like this:
Okay, as promised, the cheesecake. And yeah, it rocked our faces off.