He dressed so precisely and with such purpose. A familiar, serious tone replaced the light mood of just a half hour before. It was a solemn atmosphere of preparation for the night ahead.
Everything was laid out on the bed, crisp uniform with his name plate and badge already attached. Socks neatly folded, boots just slightly to the right of the pants that hung from the dresser handle. The bullet proof vest stood upright, almost as if at attention, on the floor waiting to protect and serve its owner. Closing my eyes I said a quick prayer, as I did every night, asking God to watch over and protect him, to bring him home safely to his family. Lingering a bit, I touched his badge and momentarily wished that he did something else for a living, something safe and maybe even a bit boring. But the thought quickly went; I knew that his calling was to be a cop.
The sounds of him dressing could be heard over the percolating coffee maker in the kitchen. The ripping of Velcro, indicating he was putting on the vest, the clanking of handcuffs as he attached his duty belt and the final snap of his gun being secured in the holster. The sound of leather rubbing on leather announced his entrance into the kitchen where he took the stainless travel mug from my grasp. With a quick kiss he turned and was out the door, shutting it quietly as to not wake the children. I could still smell the scent of his shaving cream as I watched his tail lights disappear into the night.
My nightly routine began, checking all of the doors and windows, kissing the children goodnight and turning on the alarm that I hoped never was needed. Most nights I slid into bed, grateful to be able to control the remote and not have to suffer through football games or reruns of Law and Order. Tonight I wasn’t interested in television and turned off the light hoping to quickly fall asleep. But, we all know that never happens; when you want to sleep it escapes you.
Silly thoughts plagued my mind. Ticking off to do lists: pick up the dry cleaning, paper towels and school project supplies. Take my daughter to her play date. Call my mother. I tossed and turned yearning to drift off but realizing that was not in the cards. I was used to him being there, listening to the gentle sounds of his breathing, getting annoyed that when he turned over it was more like a steam roller waking me up than a move in position. I wondered what he was doing. My mind allowed scenarios to appear that I quickly cast down. How did he do this job? How do any cops do this job? I was scared of my own shadow and he ran down dark alleys and into abandoned buildings searching for people who were capable of things that most of us cannot imagine.
In attempts to end conflicts between others he becomes the target of their abuse. He is called names that are unmentionable. He has been spit on and kicked. He has been bitten. He has literally fought for his life, yet he still goes out every night and puts his life on the line for those he doesn’t even know; for those who criticize his actions and profession as a whole. He goes to the houses of those who hate him and tries to help them because it’s what cops do.
Its nights like this when I get myself so worked up, thinking these thoughts, that I know sleep is no where around the corner. I feel the anger begin to rise and I can’t hold it back, I want him home with me, with his family. I want to be able to go places and do things together and not feel like a single parent. I don’t want people to feel sorry for the poor cop’s wife, wondering how I do it. Am I always scared? Sometimes I am and sometimes I’m not. There are times when I wonder how I do it. But I just do, because it’s not about me, it’s about the kids and supporting him. So, I give myself a little pep talk when these emotions come to play, then I put my game face on and move forward.
I have to move forward or I would drive myself crazy. The long hours, the second and third and fourth jobs that he works to support us (lets face it people do not get into this profession for the huge paycheck and superior benefits). If I let myself, I would feel guilty every minute of every day because while I am at the pool or a cookout he is out there, making the world (at least our part of it) a better place.
The truth is I cannot imagine him being or doing something else. He’s good at it, other cops have told me so and I take comfort in that. So I calm myself down, knowing that the morning will come too soon and I will pay for this late night think session.
As my heart beat begins to slow and the haze of sleep begins to descend upon me, I look forward to the early morning sound of keys jingling as they unlock the door, signifying another evening watch is over. Then, peace.