There's a real big elephant that walks around our house every day, and that elephant's name is Fear. His presence is often palpable. He lurks in the corners most of the daylight hours, preferring night time visits. He flashes across the TV screen far too frequently and once he straight up rang my doorbell. Just 2 hours ago he sashayed straight into the kitchen and sat on our chests.
My husband is a police officer. And tonight, an officer from his department was shot in the stomach 2 hours after Mike left work. Enter the elephant.
Mike decided to take this path in life while we were in college, and most of us found it somewhat strange as he looked like this at the time:
*now take a minute and enjoy that, and then mentally add on a pair of GIGANTIC HUGE SKATEBOARDER PANTS AND AIRWALKS. Y'all. There aren't words.*
But he meant it. His grandfather, his hero, was NYPD. Throughout his college years, he interned with the Athens PD and went straight into the academy after graduation. By that point, we were "maybe dating" after 4 years of friendship and I had to start thinking about if the life of a police wife was for me.
Thankfully, I have an excellent role model. My sister is also a police wife and mother of 2. She has a 7 year head start on me, and I have watched and learned from the struggles their family has faced. She told me often, "You aren't just marrying the man, you are marrying the job." And it is so very true. To separate the two is impossible.
Life as a police wife means, among other things:
-Having Christmas morning at 11:00 at night so he can see the kids' faces
-Sitting in restaurants alone, waiting for him to be cleared for a 20 minute meal break
-Sitting in restaurants alone with 2 entrees because his 20 minute meal break was cut short by a call
-Being schooled to sit in said restaurants so that he always is facing the door, even when he's off duty
-Family Fun Day being interrupted as he runs head on into traffic to help victims in a car accident that happened on our way to the park
-Trying to support his 230 lbs while he clings to me, weeping, after seeing the worst sides of mankind
-Having to switch gyms because too many people he's arrested attend ours and he feels that his wife and children are endangered
-Having plans in place for what to do in such endangered situations
-Knowing deep within my soul that if something were to go down, in a movie theater for instance, that my husband would kiss my cheek, tell me to stay down, and run straight at it
I don't know who created this, but it couldn't be any more accurate!
I spent a lot of our newlywed time staring at the phone while he was on shift, waiting for it to ring with bad news. I lived in fear of the doorbell, knowing that the day I open it to uniformed officers is they day I am widowed. But I couldn't stay there. Just couldn't. It's exhausting and it's non-productive. So I have adopted the "pray and press on" mindset... Pray as hard as you can every single day, and then press on knowing that it's out of your hands. Keep the elephant away at all costs. Or at least try.
But as I said, he sneaks in when you aren't expecting it. One day, home alone, I heard the doorbell and peeked through the curtains to see who it was. All I saw was the sleeve of a uniform with an Alpharetta patch on it. In an instant, I was on the verge of blacking out and barely able to open the door. It took me 2.7 seconds to process that it was a fellow officer who lives nearby, coming by to drop off something he had borrowed. But that 2.7 seconds was a reminder that the fear never leaves. As busy as we stay and as blissfully ignorant as we pretend to be, it lurks.
Tonight I watched Mike, as the confusion and misinformation about this evening's shooting swirled, knowing that he is every bit as aware as I am that it could have been him. It would be an outright lie to say that he's not afraid of never coming home. However, he doesn't let the fear follow him to work. To do so would be counterproductive and unsafe. He gets dressed every morning, putting on his Sheepdog patch and his cross shield necklace, kisses me and the boys while we sleep, and drives away. The fear stays at home. The fear stays with me.
Like so many other things in our lives, I can be crippled by it or I can conquer it. In this case, though, we're stuck in the middle. I know that the worry is never going to go away. Not ever. And that it will continue to sneak up on us, leaving us breathless and on our knees. Conquest is just not an option. I refuse to be crippled by it, so I suppose we are left with coping.
Praying and pressing on.
So tonight, please join me in praying for Mike's brother in blue, who from initial reports is expected to survive. Join me in thanking God for those who willingly stand between you and the darkness. Pray for their safety. Pray for their families. And yes, pray especially for those who have gone so far off track that their only recourse is violence.
"The sheep pretend the wolf will never come, but the sheepdog lives for that day!"