Saturday, June 13, 2009

Rollercoaster ride

These last few days have been even tougher than the ones I last wrote about.

Let me back up a bit. My hubby? Is a cop. That's the job he worked forever to get and knew he always wanted to do. In his 6th grade yearbook each kid got a half-page dot-matrix photo followed by a blurb about what they wanted to be when they grew up and where they'd go if they could go anywhere on vacation. Hubs said outer space, but he also said he'd like to be a police officer.

I think there's something different about men and women who have jobs who's sole purpose is to save other people. There's a genetic difference...something hard-wired in their brains that allows them to run toward danger while everyone else is running away.

My hubby had that long before he actually got his badge.

I've never actually mentioned here what he does for a living cuz even before he was a cop he had dangerous jobs dealing with dangerous people and this site is, well, public.

But Wednesday afternoon there was a tragedy in the city we live in and love. Two police officers approached a suspicious person on a bicycle. The man struggled with the officers, and without provocation, drew a gun and shot one officer in the face twice, the other three times.

As the officers lay on the ground bleeding, citizens stopped to help. Another followed the suspect in his UPS truck. (You can read a detailed account of the event here.) Within an hour, police had arrested the man with no further shots fired and both wounded officers were at Froedtert Hospital. We later learned they were both expected to survive.

A scary and miraculous event like this can shake any citizen - make them proud to live in a place where we aren't afraid to help each other and remind them that any call an officer responds to could potentially also be putting his or her life on the line.

But for the wives of police officers, firefighters and servicemen, well, we're proud, but we're also reminded that our husbands (and wives) may not always make it home. Its something that we have to accept...our spouses do the jobs they do and they're dangerous.

Most days you can sort of forget, or let that fact be buried in the back of your brain, next to the recipes for foods you make only at Christmas time. But its always there.

Hubs and I talked about this incident - I was actually his source of the news for him, given that he had worked an overnight shift the night before and had slept through the events of Wednesday afternoon. He didn't know the officers who'd been injured, but knew many many other officers who did. It was only a "two degrees of separation" type thing.

Wednesday night he went in for his last overnight shift as a trainee. He started around 9 p.m., meaning he'd be done around 5:30 in the morning. The areas he patrols, however, are very dark and much more rural than his city counterparts.

Thursday morning dawned and I got up to do my thing. I brewed extra coffee, knowing that Hubs was going to stay awake to see Nick's pre-school graduation rather than going to sleep right away. His sister came over, as usual, to watch the boys in case Hubby didn't make it home before I needed to leave for work.

At 7:30 a.m., I left the house. Hubs was still not home.

Another lesson you learn when your spouse works in law enforcement: They will almost never be able to "clock out" on time. Again, you just learn to accept it. If you're going to lock up the bad guys, well, there's a lot of paperwork involved. If they forget to cross a "T" or dot an "I" in that paperwork, the bad guy could get off on a technicality.

At 7:45, I called from the car.

"Hey hon, its me. Hope you had a good night! I'm headed in to work - I should be at my desk in 10 or 15 minutes, so give me a call, OK?" I wasn't exactly worried. We always talk in the morning.

At my desk a half hour later, I realized he still hadn't called. I called his cell, and then again 15 minutes after that. Still no answer. Starting to be concerned, at 8:30 I called our house, hoping maybe he'd called his sister to say he was running late. No dice.

I kept calling him every fifteen minutes until 9 a.m., when I was starting to get panicky and left this message:

"Hey hon. Are you OK? Call me, please. OK? Nick has to be at school at 10:45 and I need to figure out how we're going to get him there if you're going to still be at work. Its his last day and I don't want him to miss his little concert. You were supposed to be done with work THREE AND A HALF HOURS AGO. Call me, OK?"

Every other time he'd been more than an hour off schedule, he'd called me.

I imagined him, shot in the face, lying in a ditch off a rural highway in the dark, where there weren't any citizens driving by to call it in or save him.

Panicking at my desk, I couldn't concentrate on my work. Working at this new job, I don't yet have any PTO time to take a day off, but I was wishing I could just go home. I continued to call him, trying not to call more than every fifteen minutes.

At 9:15 there was still no answer, and I told myself that if I didn't hear from him by 9:30, I was leaving work, pay or no pay, job or no job, and was going to make sure I could get my little boy to his the preschool concert he'd practiced for for so long.

I was near tears at my desk.

I decided that at 9:30, I could call the main dispatch, non-emergency line and not sound like a complete spaz asking if my husband was still alive.

At 9:27 I'd had enough. I dialed the number with shaking fingers. The operator answered.

"Hi, um, this is -- I mean, I'm wondering if -- my husband, Officer Wins, he was supposed to be done with his shift four hours ago, and um..."

"Officer Wins? Oh yeah...he's right here."

OH MY HELL. I almost sobbed in the guy's ear.

He transferred my call and Hubby picked up, wondering why I was calling.

"Oh my God I thought you were DEAD!" I tried to keep from screaming, but I'd closed my office door when I first went into panic mode, so that was the least of my concerns.

"I told you," he replied. "If anything ever happens to me they'll call to let you know right away."


My jaw dropped open and I tried to keep from hanging up on him. "I don't -- I can't -- WHAT?" That SO didn't put me at ease.

After that I don't recall exactly what was said, but I did slam the receiver down in his ear. And then I cried.

Big, shaking sobs -- because he was OK and because those other officers weren't. I cried because my life right now is one big uncertain mess -- and I have control over nothing. I cried because the weight of the stress I've put upon myself is more than I can handle, and I'm not sure exactly what I can do about it all.

Shortly after the tears subsided he called me again while on his way home. I let him know in no uncertain terms that NOT calling when you're four hours late is simply NOT acceptable, and that "they'll call if something happens" is NOT sufficient for communicating your well-being with your wife.

I let the issue go for the moment, simply because I was relieved I had worried about nothing, and because I had work to get done before I could leave to see Nick's little concert over the lunch hour. But later, when I called him to see where at the school I needed to go for the little show, he didn't answer.

I was going to be civil, dammit, in front of the crowd of mostly Mommies and a few Daddies who had gathered for the concert, but I was emotional all over again.

All of those Mommies? Knew each other. They saw each other twice a week for nine months when they each brought their kids for class. I was the only one in dress pants and heels and sensible jewelry. I felt like a heel for knowing that most of those families were going to go home and have a celebratory lunches for their little tykes and I was going to head back to my hole-in-the-wall office and miss out on that experience.

But I was not going to cry. My choice to work is just that - my choice. Hubby and I both work for many reasons that were discussed before Nick was even born.

Will, however, is cutting molars and was extra cuddly. He didn't want Mommy out of his sight, and insisted on being on my lap through the entire show. I think he was afraid that I'd leave again.

Out came the "graduates" wearing construction paper mortar-board hats in red or blue, complete with a black tassel and their hand print on top, sprinkled with glitter.

Iwillnotcry Iwillnotcry Iwillnotcry.
But sometime during "Ga-goon goes the little green frog", I looked down to see my sweet little two-year-old mirroring the hand movements of his brother and singing along.

The tears, they were a-flowing. I was so proud of them both, and it was just such...a day, you know?

We did celebrate that night, with a visit to Chuck E. Cheese's, but I was drained. I was so tired. I was up late the night before trying to empty the sink of dishes and make sure I had clean pants for work the next day. Add to it the fact that Nick then woke up after a bad dream and I think I may have gotten four and a half hours of sleep. It really didn't enjoy myself at all.

So, what's my point here? If nothing else, I took a chance on a job that I can do, but don't want to do any longer. All of these things suck, but have shown me where I really want to be.

the graduate


Colleen said...

I wish I could, like, wrap you up in a huge hug of Colleeness and try to make you feel better.

You can do this. You are strong.

Hang in there, kay?

Mary @ Giving Up On Perfect said...

Oh, Colleen, what a rough week!!! I'm so sorry to hear about what's happened to the police officers in your town. I cannot imagine being married to someone in law enforcement. One of my best friends' husband just joined the FBI, and even though I think it's soooo cool (like a book or a movie or a TV show), I know that for her, the reality is scary and hard.

My husband is a truck driver, and that scares me bad sometimes. Anytime a semi is involved in an accident and I hear about it - well, I just have to ignore the whole situation. Last weekend, I was online and he said, "Hey, will you go to Youtube?" I said sure and asked why. He said, "Look up FedEx wrecks." I informed him that I would do no such thing! If he wanted to watch something like that, it was up to him. I just couldn't handle it. Plus, that's weird.

Anyway, I am scare of my husband's job and I work a full-time job, but that does not mean at all that I know how you feel. So I can't say I know what you're going through or what will make it 'bout this instead - I'll send you a hug and a prayer right now!!!

Denise said...

Man, you got me on this one. My hub is no law enforcement officer, but he also has a new job, works long hours, and contributes to a lifestyle that stresses me out. And me? I'm one of the "sweatpants mommies" that drops the kids off at school every day, and gets to be there for every party, field trip, etc. Reason number 1,452 why I'm so afraid for next school year to begin ... when I'm wearing dress pants, heels, and sensible jewelry and trying to spread out my PTO so that I don't miss any of the "big" stuff.
I feel blessed to have been able to make the choice (and sacrifice) to stay home these last 4.5 years .... but man is it gonna sting when I have to give that up.
Sorry for the rant ... your blog, not mine ... I'll stop now.
Big hugs from someone who just gets ya!

maggie said...

Oh, my. I hate it when I can't reach someone in situations like that, and that's without as much reason. What a rollercoaster day, indeed. Am I reading between the lines that you are making some changes?

Tara R. said...

My hubs travels a lot for his job (he works in the defense industry) and I go nuts if he doesn't let me know he's arrived safe and sound. I guess it's a guy thing, but he will get all pissy if I don't answer my cell every time he calls.

I'm so sorry to hear about the police officers. I hope their recovery is quick.

A Mom Anonymous said...

Oh Big ((((HUGS)))! The grass isn't always greener but I get it. It's such a tough tough choice! I left a career to stay home with my kids and there are many days I regret it. I just think there's no real answer.
I would be livid at my DH for doing that too. Heck, I get livid at him for simply not calling me back and he doesn't have a dangerous job.
Way to go on the preschool graduation though! My youngest just did the same and I cried too knowing it was the last time I would sit through a preschool performance. sniff sniff

Zoeyjane said...

My heart was in my throat for most of the post, I kid you not. I'm sorry you had just a rough day.

Karen MEG said...

Oh hon, this post was had me feeling the frustration and the worry for you! My husband never calls either, but ack, he's not a cop. He does travel overseas about 6 times a year... maybe I'm just old and forget, but if he doesn't call for a couple of days, I'm like "uh, hey, your Dad hasn't rung yet". Cuz we've been together 4ever, I guess ;).

I think what your husband does is wonderful, by the way, he does have a very special calling.

But that certainly doesn't make it any easier for you. We have a good friend who is a cop, he's actually been injured on the job. I don't know how his wife does it; he doesn't talk about his work much.

And what a great photo of your boy, how proud.

Yes, life is all about choices. I'm like the Mom up there, I made the choice to stay home over 4 years ago, and there are days when I wonder too. We are only human, and I think we'd LOVE to be there to experience all that our kids are and what they're doing. But sometimes you'd rather be just, YOU. And that's perfectly perfect too.

You're doing a great job.

Colleen said...

I know this is a bit late, but big ol' hugs and lovin'. I'm constantly whining about Justin's traveling and lack of answering the dang phone when I call, but rarely do I need to worry about his safety like you and so many other spouses out there. So extra big hugs and thank yous for being brave enough to love someone who is that brave themselves.

Also, I love how his handle is Officer Wins...took me a minute cuz I was like "is THAT her last name?"...then I realized what was going on. yeah, I should probably go find another cup of coffee and wake up a bit more. ;)

Colleen said...

and you found ANOTHER Colleen? how cool!