Sunday, March 24, 2013

Shedding the Fear

When I was 19 I fell madly in love with a classmate.  We married, had two adorable little girls, finished school, and entered the wonderful world of corporate employment.  He hated it, so we tried self employment. And for a while it worked for us. Then a local boy was killed in Iraq and try as he may, my husband, who should have been a 3rd generation serviceman with the armed forces, could no longer repress his innate desire to serve his country.

I was laden with guilt, which was not something a woman 7 months pregnant with her 3rd child in 4 years deals with well .  Early in our courtship he had expressed a desire to serve in the Armed Forces, like his father and both grandfathers.  I was frank, I was not willing to be a serviceman's wife.  I wanted a large family and knew that the two were not exactly compatible.  I was grateful for women who could hold this position, but I recognized that I was not strong enough.
 He chose me, 
and for the following 5 years he tried to fit into the mold I had created for him.  Work Monday-Friday 9-5.  Seeing his internal struggle I recanted my refusal to be a serviceman's wife.  I loved him and wanted him to be happy and at peace in his career.

He studied, prayed, and pondered. 

I dry-heaved with stress, knowing the decision had to be made before our baby arrived and fearing I would be raising these 3 tiny children mostly alone.

He came to the conclusion that while his current job was not satisfactory for a long term career, that a career serviceman was also not what God had in store for him or our family.

We began looking into becoming a police officer, it would allow him to serve his country but still be home at least a few nights a week, but their pay was so low that we would have lost our home.  We could not displace our children and so we waited until the Lord revealed his plan for us.  A few months later a local bond was passed increasing the pay of our local police to a more livable wage.  It was still much less than we were living on (and we live conservatively) but it would allow us to keep our home and feed our family.  He applied for the position. Six months later he was sworn in as a Corrections Officer.

After 5 years of marriage and job hopping my husband had found a job that fulfilled his over developed sense of community service.  Money was very tight, but for 2 1/2 years we managed, and then he got a 'promotion' so to speak, not an increase in pay, but more overtime opportunities.

Within weeks of becoming a Patrol Officer we found out we were pregnant with our fourth child.  He came as a bit of a shock as my health problems had led us to believe additional children would never come.

He was at Police Academy for almost my entire pregnancy.  He had a week off for our baby's birth, which was very difficult, before returning to training.  He took an additional couple days off when I was readmitted for a blood transfusion several days later.

My parents had moved away a few months before his birth, so I was largely on my own. Sick, recovering from a traumatic delivery, and caring for 4 young children.
That baby is now 2 1/2 and continues to keep me on my toes EVERY DAY! but is healthy.  My health has mostly improved and we were recently blessed with a 5th bundle of joy.  He was actually able to take paternity leave this time and I got to enjoy a newborn for the first time.

And so while my husband is in a career that fits his natural gifts and strengths it does not come without great sacrifice.

Our baby arrived just before Christmas and so for the first time in 5 years he was home on Christmas Eve & Christmas Day.  He had Thanksgiving off 2 years ago.  He has worked every other major holiday.

My children ask every morning if dad is home, sleeping, or working.  His schedule is so crazy that I can barely keep up with it.  In addition to the regular 50 hour minimum work week he serves as a negotiator, critical incident manager, and a translator.  He is ALWAYS on call.  I'd be annoyed with 2am phone calls asking for a translator, but I am usually up with the baby anyway.  Add to that trials that are scheduled often with less than 24 hours notice, which means we can plan a camping trip for his days 'off' and he will be called  in for court 6 hours after we leave, and that means our trip is over 2 days early.

But the schedule gets worse, because if I have a PTA meeting at 7pm and his shift is supposed to end at 6pm I still have to find a babysitter because inevitably some drunk dude will smack his girlfriend's kid around at 5:30, and the job doesn't end until the case is wrapped up.

Early in his career I planned a birthday party for our daughter at 3pm on his first day off.  This would allow him to come home, sleep for 6 hours, and then enjoy the festivities.  Somebody died an hour before his shift ended.  He worked a 20 hour shift that day(s) and missed the party.

I gave up having dinner ready for him when he gets home, cause I never know when that will be.

I have been stood up on dates, by my husband, many times.

I haul 5 little kids to 9am church by myself 75% of the time.

My kids regularly ask why daddy isn't home for a bedtime story.

"If dad comes home for dinner after I fall asleep will you tell him I said goodnight?"

We can't always call, because he can't always answer.

Our 6 year old will climb in bed with him during his nap, and ask to play catch, and he has to say no, even if its a Sunday afternoon.

When we have team dinners the men all talk about their cases and we wives (because try as they may our agency has yet to have a woman make it through the training program and still WANT to be a cop) joke about what it is like to be a cop's wife.  Because no one else can or will ever understand.  I'd say families of active military do, but really they have it much harder (but they also get more support Pray for Our Troops, Military discounts, etc...and their enemies are an ocean away)

We debate if it is best to wake our husbands from his nightmares or just let him suffer through them.

  Usually we take pity and wake them from their sleeping hell, and this is when the joking comes in, because if we actually took it as serious as it is we couldn't cope.  We laugh about how we wake them up, because depending on the dream they come up swinging, and some of those swings make contact.  My dear friend ended up with a black eye.

 "I stand 2 feet from the foot of the bed and poke him with the baseball bat" - mom of all boys
  "I throw socks at him"  - 911 dispatcher
  "I shout from across the room" - elementary school teacher
  "I snuggle in really close, so I am too close to get hit, hold his thrashing body tight, and whisper, 'You are safe, You are home, I am here with you" - my preferred method

and when they don't sit up swinging and gasping for air they sob and shake until they realize they really are safe.

Because you see, our Souls were not meant to see the things these men see.  
You can only see so much before it affects your ability to function in the normal world.

My husband made it through
*multiple domestic abuse cases,
*a suicidal 19 year old girl at the bottom of a canyon, below the tallest bridge in the region,
*a decayed diabetic woman whose fluids had oozed all over the floor after being dead for 4 days.
*beaten babies and children
*a hungry autistic child whose mom was too high to feed him
*taking a report from a woman who was so high she didn't realize she had been sleeping on her dead boyfriend, he had been dead so long flies had moved in.
*drunk drivers, in pieces, because concrete poles usually win.
*drunk drivers on mountain roads, because logging trucks just can't slow down that fast.
*calling a 22 year old man at basic training to inform him that his father had finally drank himself to death
*going to the memorial services of 'brothers' murdered in the line of duty
*knowing that every stop could be your last, praying that you make it home at the end of your shift
*being scared to be seen in public with your family because that drug dealer you busted just made parole.
*knowing your children go to school with the children of abusers you have arrested

The case that broke him was a death investigation of a female veteran.  She had killed herself, in her childhood room of her parents home.  They had to break down the door because she had barricaded herself before propping a shotgun.
I knew this case would break him.  He held strong till the investigation was over. And I waited, not knowing when or what would happen, but knowing he was crumbling.  He kept moving forward till he could no longer cope.  Because this woman could have been his little sister.  She is an Iraqi war veteran, with severe PTSD and self medicates with alcohol and drugs.

Sometimes the cases just get too close to home.
That is the day he sobbed in my arms.
That is the day he called his sister and expressed his love for her.
That is the day he called the Chaplain and they had a nice long visit.

Next time a cop stops you for having a tail light out, rolling through a stop light, failing to signal a lane change, or going 7 miles over the speed limit, know that they are just using that as probable cause to stop you.

They are really looking for signs of drugs, neglected children, warrants, and drunks because they don't care if you failed to signal a lane change at 11pm on a otherwise deserted road, but that is something a lot of DUII drivers do, they just want to keep the roads safe.  They want to get impaired drivers off the road before they have to scrape them off the road.

Next time you are tempted to tell a cop he is an asshole and should do something more productive with his time than harass soccer moms for having blinkers out, consider where he has just come from.  He may be a total prick, but if his last case was removing a battered child from a home he has reason to be amped up.

Instead think of all the work he does that you don't see.  Think of the 2 million worth of drugs he helped take off the streets and out of the hands of our teens.

And if you can't have sympathy for him, think of his wife and kids at home.  Because last night it got to be too much and I cried myself to sleep, ugly tears that left my eyes swollen and puffy.  Too much on my own, a baby and a toddler both in tears, the younger from teething, the older from getting hurt, both needing two arms to hold them and accepting the one I had to offer.  Too many times explaining why daddy isn't home, too much fear of how I would go on if he didn't make it home.

But so far he has always made it home, and he promises me he always will, because as he said last night, comforting me over the phone, between calls from dispatch, "I have too many people praying for me"

And we do pray, all 6 of us, every night, that our sacrifice will never be the ultimate.
And we will continue to make this sacrifice, because my husband feels called to serve in this capacity, and as I watch him change lives using his natural gifts I am unable to give anything less than my complete support.  As hard as it is and as great the sacrifice for him, for me, for our children, it is worth it,
because my Cop 
was Called to Serve.

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