Nov 21 2012

Thanksgiving Memory

“Are you ready?” He smiled at me as I climbed in and he shut the door.

“Uh-huh!” I glanced at him so that he wouldn’t see the terror in my eyes. Calm down! He’s not taking you to jail.

And he pulled the patrol car out of the driveway.

“I’m probably not going to write any tickets today. It’s Thanksgiving.”

My terror turned to disappointment. Reinforcing an underlying belief that I thought myself crazy. Apparently, I felt someone should go to jail. Just not me. A shining humanitarian moment.

“Oh. Okay.” Attempting to mask my neurosis.

He pointed the car toward his beat. That stretch of road that he was assigned to cover for the day. He parked on the shoulder of the freeway. Giving himself a view. And then he started a conversation.

It was challenging to follow. An unfamiliar female voice kept chanting all manner of numbers and letters and random words. She vied for attention but he continued to talk. Zebra and Mary and King. What is she trying to say?

“Um, feel free to stop and listen.”

“Oh, don’t worry. I’m listening.”

To who? Her or me?

But the conversation continued. My senses were a bit maxed but I tried to hang in there. Nodding where appropriate and still trying to act natural. The profuse sweating of my hands distracted me from the issue of what position to put them in.

“Darn it.” And the conversation stopped. He started the car and pulled out.

Remember Clark Kent? He would duck into a phone booth? (Remember phone booths?) Anyway, he would rip the front of his shirt and in seconds be transformed from journalist to superhero. I’ve seen something similar. David went from normal conversation to police officer in a fraction of a second.

I sat rigid in the passenger seat as he pursued an SUV barreling down the freeway. Lights flashing. An electricity charged the air. The conversation was gone. He was focused. Alert. And I was no longer a companion. I was a spectator.

I watched in amazement at this man I thought I knew. His composure and calm was mind boggling as he confronted the unknown. I became acutely aware of my lack. My lack of knowledge. My lack of authority. My lack of courage.

What would I do if the driver shot him right in front of me? Could I ever marry a man whose job required him to put himself in such a precarious position?

And then an amazing thing happened. I saw it. The razor sharp edge of the thin blue line. Sending him off to work meant endangering a part of my soul. He had my heart.

There would always be a part of him that I could not follow. I could give him my heart but I could never control where he took it. Or the possible dangerous positions he would put it in. That was just going to be part of the deal.

That was over fourteen years ago. (Difficult to believe based on the above photo. That’s not really me by the way and that’s not the really the car. Just in case there is any confusion.) My first and I think only ride along. A lot has changed since then. Children, moving, and now retirement. Oh, and moving out of state. That’s a rather big change. But one thing is the same.

He still has my heart. And on this Thanksgiving, I’m truly thankful.

What are you thankful for?

 

 

 


Nov 15 2012

Back the Badge

 

I’ve written about being a part of the thin blue line. Joining the prestigious family of law enforcement as the spouse of an officer.

In those early years, I learned a great deal. Don’t leave the garage door open all day. Don’t answer the door during the middle of the day. Give my husband some room after work to decompress.

I also learned a few codes. The important ones.

51-50. Crazy person. I felt it was important to learn this one should it ever creep up during an argument. If he was going to call me crazy, I was at least going to know about it.

The other one I learned early on was 11-99. Officer needs help.

But last Saturday, after almost 14 years, I learned something new.

There is strength in numbers.

A fellow law enforcement wife, Rae Johnsen, felt it was time to bring law enforcement wives together and she was right. Spouses from many different law enforcement agencies came together, under one roof. She called us to Back the Badge.

Women came locally, from a hundred miles away and everything in between. A group of strong, independent women who support their law enforcement husbands.

It’s easy to tear a single piece of paper. It’s far more difficult to tear a phone book.

Over a hundred women gathered and put their pages together. We laughed and cried. And an amazing thing happened.

We didn’t stage a coup. Or start a crusade. We didn’t design our own flag. We didn’t talk politics or promotions.

We discovered common ground. 

And I learned I wasn’t alone. I am not the only woman who has learned and is learning to live in the in-between. That place where the stress of the law enforcement life and the isolation of the law enforcement life collide.

On those days when the stress is bearing down and the fear of the unmentionable looms large, all I have to do is remember that day. The smiles, the hugs, the knowing nods. I’m not alone. And even better, I’m not crazy. There are a whole group of women who get me and get a part of my journey.

A group of women who have been taught not to trust others, found each other. And we discovered there is strength in numbers. If you haven’t discovered that feeling yet, you should. And although there isn’t another Back the Badge event scheduled (yet), there are other ways to get connected.

Here are some options to check out:

Back the Badge (on Facebook)

Wives Behind the Badge (www.wivesbehindthebadge.org)

You have your spouse’s back, but maybe someone should have yours.

Have you found strength in numbers?


Nov 8 2012

The Invisible Blue Line

There isn’t a gold star pinned to my chest or a gun at my hip. I don’t carry handcuffs with me (although I have thought about it. Having three kids and all.) No one has ever died in my arms. I have never had to pick up a detached limb off the freeway.

But, I am part of the thin blue line.

The invisible part.

I am proud of my husband and the career he chose. He demonstrates honor and courage and compassion. But it’s not just him. Being married to a first responder means that I am called to demonstrate the same.

I am part of the thin blue line.

The invisible part.

I listen to stories. Comedic and tragic. I wipe tears and return smiles. I am a confidant, a cheerleader and a counselor. A partner.

I am part of the thin blue line.

The invisible part.

I don’t wear the uniform and I don’t see what he sees. But I am not numb to what he feels. The burden of the fatal he dealt with is shared. I’m not pretending to have experienced it. Not in entirety. But I do feel it.

I am part of the thin blue line.

The invisible part.

In a few weeks, my husband steps away from the thin blue line. But one cannot escape thirty years of experience. It is impossible to step away from the memories and the events. Those are the things that define him. He will still be courageous and full of honor and compassion. It has never just been about the job. Regardless of the uniform he wears or the title he carries, those are all parts of who he is. Parts that make up the whole.

And what will I do? I will continue to listen. To wipe tears and share smiles. I look forward to still being a confidant, a cheerleader, and a counselor.

I will always be a partner.

He will no longer be a police officer. The uniform will be retired. But the thin blue line cannot be erased fromour history or from our hearts. It will forever be a part of who we are. Only it will now be…

the invisible part.

 


Nov 1 2012

The Weight of the World

The annual Halloween party has come and gone. This year, it was held the night of our epic moving sale. Epic in the sense that all living room furniture is gone and all bedroom furniture from our bedroom is gone save our bed. I watched it all drive off to new homes. Saying good-bye to bearers of memories and probably a few lost coins.

With last vestiges of energy, I was tasked with transforming our eight year old daughter into a rock star and our nine year old daughter into an ice fairy. After makeup and clouds of colored hairspray, I had a few minutes left to figure out how to transform myself. This is not the first year I have tried to convince myself that haggard mom of three is actually a costume.

I thought I carried the weight of the world. 

And then my husband came to my rescue. “Here,” he smiled, “wear this.”

Moments later, clad in combat boots, bloused pants, a old tattered bullet proof vest and a cap, I was ready to go. From haggard mother of three to tattered security guard. All evening, I clod around in the twenty pound boots and pulled on the twenty pound vest, threatening to strangle me.

I thought I carried the weight of the world.

“Is it normal to suddenly feel like you can’t breathe?” I asked my husband.

“Yeah,” he said. “That’s normal.”

As we said our good-byes, I fantasized about getting home and taking off the heavy vest and the weights on my feet. And then it struck me.

I thought I carried the weight of the world.

But I don’t. I carry the weight of my own little world. Dishes, laundry, carpools. And it gets heavy. But my law enforcement husband, the one who puts on these weights everyday actually does carry the weight of the world.

The kidnapper, the car thief. The hostile woman late for work. The guy with the felony warrant who has a tail light out but pulls a gun because he has far more to lose than a fix-it-ticket. The accident scene where a mother realizes her baby didn’t make it. The notification to the parents of the teenager who was going to fast and struck a tree and wouldn’t be graduating after all.

I discovered a valuable thing. Yes, the boots and vest are heavy. Not to mention the duty belt laden with tools of the trade. But they symbolize something that weighs even more. The commitment to do the hard thing. To serve the public and keep them safe whether they like it or not.

A heavy burden.

I thought I was tired before the party. I thought carting around those boots and that vest was difficult. But in a room full of fairies and rock stars, my boots and vest were just a costume. I could set down the weights at the end of the party and simply hold on to the pictures. Fun reminders of a another year.

But for those who really do carry the weight of the world, they need no help to remember. Sights and smells are imbedded in their memories. And all those faces and all those incidents are difficult to forget.

It must feel like the weight of the world.

 

photo credit:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/infinitejeff/69254223/