My officer is not the same man I fell in love with, and that’s okay. I’m not the same woman. I know that in law enforcement we hear so many statistics of divorce, broken homes, distant spouses, and struggling families. I know we talk a lot about the hardships that come with blue life. And don’t get me wrong-becoming a blue family was hard, and continues to be hard-but it’s also been one life’s biggest blessings so far. Blue life has changed each of us and our relationship in both tangible and tiny ways. Yes, scheduling sucks. Yes, shift work is a struggle. Yes, having a dangerous job can be gut wrenching and heart dropping. Yes, this climate and the media and the overall temperature of policing is so, so hard.
But in the grand scheme of things, blue life has made each of us and our marriage stronger. More than 12 years ago, I fell in love with a cute teenage boy who had distant dreams of being a police officer. Now, we’re living that dream. Does life feel like a dream- “the dream”-everyday? Of course not. We argue and run out of coffee and get tired of sticking to a budget. I get sick of wrapping up an uneaten plate of dinner because he got stuck at work and discouraged cancelling plans for the 400th time because he got called in yet again. But on some quiet evenings like tonight, after my officer has gone to work and most everyone else in the world is in bed, I look around our still home and think about how far we’ve come in the past dozen years.
Being an officer has made the boy (now a man) I fell in love with stronger, braver, steadier, more self-assured, and more outgoing. Yes, the job has hardened him (and us) in some ways, but it’s also softened us in others. We cherish our time together. We’re gentle with one another. We’re more patient. We’ve learned to let the little things go, and have been reminded of what really matters. We treasure each goodbye kiss, because we know it could be the last. We’ve become each other’s safe place to land, even when-and especially when-that landing isn’t a smooth, scheduled touch down but more like an emergency crash landing. Blue life may have hardened us towards certain parts of the world, but it’s softened us towards each other.
One day, in a dozen or two dozen or three dozen more years, when he’s retired or changed fields and blue life is just a distant memory, we’re going to look back and miss this. We’re going to talk about the weeks we went without seeing more than five seconds of each other because our schedules were the complete opposite, and how good it felt when we finally had a day off together. We’re going to remember the times I rodealong with him, making those shifts our month’s date night, his noisy and dirty patrol car our own little paradise. We’re going to reminisce on the times he slipped into bed in the morning after getting off shift and I stayed in it just a few more minutes before going to work myself, so that we could feel like more than passing ships in the night. I’m going to do a load of laundry without finding a single bullet or pen or belt keeper and smile thinking about the hundreds-thousands? -of loads I used to do of dirty uniforms and endless black socks. I’m going to walk out into the garage without tripping over the stinky boots I always tolerated, because they meant that my officer had made it home safe once again. We’re going to get used to celebrating Christmas on December 25th and laugh about all of the years we ate chili dogs for our traditional holiday dinner, because they were quick and easy and different and could be eaten on the run. I’m going to sit down for my quiet time one morning and think about the times I used to hit my knees, alone, in tears, fear gripping my heart, pleading with God to protect my officer and bring him home safely to me, as news of another downed officer flashed across the screen of my phone.
In the midst of the tough seasons of blue life, when we’re treading water and just praying to make it out the other side, life outside of law enforcement seems shiny and perfect. But I know that when that time comes-whether it’s tomorrow or in 30 years-I’m going to cherish these days and the storms we’ve weathered, just as I cherish the distant memory of the teenage version of my husband that I fell in love with. Nothing stays the same forever, and that’s okay. Blue life has changed us, but I wouldn’t change it back for the world.