When I said, “I do” in 1984 to my husband he had already been a police officer for 11 years. I knew what I was getting into but that’s only because of the things I “heard.” I hadn’t actually experienced any thing….yet.
Our daughter was born a year later and my life changed once again. The woman who said she would never be a stay at home mom, cried at the thought of going back to work and so I was fortunate enough to stay home with our daughter until she was almost 2 years old. I went back to work because it was upsetting to see my husband work two jobs so I could stay home with our baby but i knew I had to figure out a way to make this work so the guilt wouldn’t eat me up. We did. I became a First Responder in the medical field and there were many times when my husband and I would respond to the same jobs. Those were the times that our marriage was tested. He wanted to protect me from the criminal element and I needed to do my job. I solved the problem by switching to a different unit but still, there were those times when my unit was needed in his PAR (Primary Area of Response) and so we had already set the rules, the boundaries, the lines that he was not allowed to cross if I was the EMT on the scene. For the most part, he did adhere to those boundaries but there were some days when the silence in the home was seriously deafening. But well…he started it, so there.
An accident would end my career and I soon found myself doing something else after a year and a half of recovery. And that is when I found how hard it was to be a police officer’s wife. I always knew it would be hard but when you are busy with a baby and you have other things going on in your life, you don’t pay attention. I had no choice now. I was the stay at home mom who did it all with our daughter including sit by the television at night after she went to bed and hearing the television show interrupted with breaking news of a police officer shot. Whatever I was watching was no longer of interest to me. I knew I could not call the precinct as we had already discussed that was one of the things I should not do. I didn’t want to beep him because if he wasn’t involved but he was in another situation the beep would distract him. So the waiting would begin. I flipped channels hoping another station would have more current updates. Until I heard from him, I would be frantic. I soon learned that I had to figure out ways to deal with this until that phone call came.
There was a time when I was all dressed to go out and had the Television playing in the background when I heard of an incident in a nearby hospital and how a police officer nearly lost his life while saving the life of a jumper up. That’s terminology for someone about to jump from a building; jumper down is someone who succeeded.
As I added the final touches to my outfit I heard the name of the hospital and I sat on my bed and slowly began to remove my clothes. I knew it was him. Just the week before we had talked about how to handle emotionally disturbed patients, especially jumper ups. His view was different from mine but once I explained why it would work, he understood. Once I heard more details of the incident, with no names being released, I knew it was him.
He called about an hour later and said,”I’m processing an arrest. I’m sorry about tonight.” I simply told him, it was free time for me as my mom had our daughter and I would make him a little dinner and wait until he got home.
I would read about the incident before he got home the next day. I woke up early that morning and went for a walk and bought the newspaper and there he was, being held by his ankles as he was keeping this man from falling. I walked in and he was sitting in the kitchen in contemplation. I just hugged him.
Then I smacked him on the head and told him, “A hero is nothing but a sandwich.”
We hugged, went to sleep and it was the best date we have had in a long time.
I would know about more situations that would involve his life but each time all I did was hug him, smack him and together we prayed to God for the gift of life. We didn’t second guess his actions, we were just grateful that he was able to save a life and still come home.
Fourteen years ago, I was stuck in midtown Manhattan when the planes hit the towers. I would hear from my husband and I would struggle to find a way back home to our now sixteen year old. Once I got home, I went into that world I had been in many times before but this time it was so very different. This time I knew that if he didn’t come home it would be different. I can’t explain it. I knew if he didn’t come home that it was because he died doing his job but it was still different. Notice I keep saying different? Because there really is no other word for me that can discribe those emotions. It truly was different. a different kind of different. When we talked about his funeral, it was my daughter who reminded me that without hope we cannot cope so if talking about a funeral continued we were, in essence, giving up hope. Well, I’m no quitter.
He did come home. But he wasn’t the man I had kissed the day before. He hasn’t been the same since. But he’s still my husband.
All of these years, I’ve talked about his life, his jobs, his experiences, including 9/11. Yesterday, I was doing my shift at the museum and a couple came to me because they were confused about something and a dialog began. As is usually the case, I’m asked, where was I? I tell them briefly my 9/11 story but this time the gentleman looked at me and said, “Wait, you were recovery? What did women do here?” He wasn’t being sexist. This I know. His idea of recovery was different. I explained what I did and what my husband did. And that’s when he told me he was a police officer as well. He introduced his wife to me and she hugged me. That’s something I’ve become very comfortable with although I wasn’t always in the beginning.
We talked more about life as a police officer and his wife began to ask me how it felt to be at home when something is going wrong in my city and I have to hold down the fort while my husband has to help others? I told her it was sometimes scary, sometimes easy, but I always made a point to let my husband know he could go do his job because things at home were just fine. We talked about 9/11 again and this time her husband asked me more questions and realized that I came down as a volunteer and his wife whispered… “she’s still here hun.”
WOW! She was right. I could have been standing where I may have stood fourteen years ago. I don’t recall. But she was right, its like I never left.
The he said….and I quote because it was that memorable.” First, thank your husband from one police officer to another one. Thank him for his service. I hope and pray he gets better. Thank you for STILL being here. I don’t know if I could do what you do, you have bought many of these artifacts to life for us. ” Then he turned to his wife and said, “Thank you, I’m sorry. I didn’t know, I never realized how hard it was for you every time I leave. You’ve made it easy for me. I’m sorry I had to come to American to hear it from an American police officers wife. It’s the same feeling every where. Thank you.” They hugged.
I tried to do the Hollywood cry that a friend of mine says I need to practice because when I try to hold back the tears, she says I look as if I’m about to have a stroke. But that didn’t work. The tears just came out. We hugged and they walked away, holding hands.
When they first came to me, she was on one side, he was on the other. They left together, holding hands.
Yesterday, the best part of my day was being thanked for being a police officers wife and for understanding their life. Most importantly, another woman knew my life. And we hadn’t met until yesterday.