Before I became a mom, I spent years working in an office. I showed up to work (mostly) on time, did my job, and went home. Never once, did I feel threatened. Never once, when I stopped for coffee, did anyone hate me simply because I was an office manager. While I was often the first person in the office, I never walked into a dangerous or gruesome scene or a woman giving birth (though this did ALMOST happen once!). I never had to worry about someone hiding a weapon from me, never had to search someone for drugs. I’ve never watched a man take his last breath or had to hold a child, petrified of her own father, or a baby who only knew pain. I never had to deal with people screaming in my face while I was simply trying to do my job. But then, I’m not an officer. I’m the woman behind the man with the badge.
It’s hard for me to understand his life. You see, I spend most of my days with a 2 year old and a 4 year old, shrouded in innocence and good, where our difficult days consist of burnt bagels, or an errant pea that rolls onto the spaghetti side of the plate. I can’t imagine the things he sees, the fear he experiences, the atrocities to which he is the first responder. Together, we walk a fine line, delicately balancing his work life with that of our family. When he needs to unload, to cry or scream, or just stomp his feet in frustration, I need to be the one standing there beside him, I need to take that weight when he’s no longer able to carry it, and it’s hard for both of us. My heart can barely remain beating at the stories he unfurls, and it simply breaks me that this man, this honest, caring, faithful father and husband, has seen things no person should ever have to see. I sometimes hear him talking in his sleep, and I understand that even when he sleeps, he is an officer. His days do not end when his shift does, his nightmares wake us both.
Yes, he signed on for it. He knew going into this that there would be nights with no sleep. He was more than willing to sacrifice his time, his energy, his peace of mind, in order to make a difference. He wanted people to call him when they needed help, he wanted little kids to feel safer when they saw him, he wanted to take away the bad guys, to clean up the streets, to be on first name basis with the people who call Charm City, ‘home.’ The amazing thing is, he is doing all of these things, every day, and I could not be more proud of him. Each time he walks out that door, I fall to my knees and beg God for his safety, I pray that his Kevlar is not tested, that his gun remains holstered, and mostly I pray that he comes walking back through our front door, back into our oasis of innocence, where little legs run down the hallway, shouting for him, simultaneously demanding to be held, I long for our hallway to be filled with the echo of sweet voices whispering ‘I love you Daddy’, their sticky breath warm against his ear. I often stand amazed at this man whom I am honored to call my husband, he, who despite working upwards of a 15 hour day, is never too tired to hold our little girl, or toss our son high into the air, just to hear that giggle escape his sweet innocent soul. I want him to have a chance to unwind, to shower, to decompress, to just breath without a bulletproof vest on. I desperately want to give him that time, but I look into the eyes of our little ones, and I know that this love between them, it is everything. This love, it is what makes us laugh on the days we once thought laughter impossible. On days when they don’t even get to see Daddy, or when I have to try so hard to hold it together, to not show fear, or worry, when I haven’t heard from him. This love is what saves us, it is what makes us feel worthy even when we are at our worst. This love gives us strength when we are on our knees and casts light in our darkest hours. It drives away doubt, squashes insecurities and obliterates jealousy. This love is the most powerful emotion we are given. I chose to root my soul in it, to bask in its glory, to let that light shine through me and radiate to my children.
I often tell my 4 year old son that Daddy isn’t home because he has to protect other little kids who don’t have anybody else to do it for them. I used to wonder if he understood what I meant, but then, one night, when I was getting their jammies on, my daughter asked for ‘Dada,’ and my amazingly sweet, crazily charismatic little boy, without missing a beat, took my daughter’s hand in his own, and leaned down to her ear to whisper, “Hart, it’s ok, don’t be upset Daddy isn’t here. Remember we have to share Daddy, because he’s so brave, other people need him too.” Oh this love, you can’t measure it, you can’t quantify it, but sweet Lord, you sure can feel it. This love, it is EVERYTHING.