Monthly Archives: August 2012

That lonesome feeling…

I have heard many LEOWs talk about being “married single,” the idea being that we are often left to our own devices to raise our children and socialize with our friends while our husbands are on shift, or training. I didn’t understand it quite as well when 354 and I were courting. How could I, when even though we basically lived together, we still had separate lives? After we got married, it became clearer. Married but not getting half as much time together as an average couple, having to fight to spend quality time together, having to adjust (and fast) to the stress of the job as it affected our relationship. With him on nights, it was exponentially harder – a newlywed couple, hardly together unless you counted being in the same house as “together.” He slept while I worked, and I slept (mostly) while he worked, only seeing each other in passing from one shift to another. There were nights I didn’t sleep, up worried because of the call he was on, while the dogs huddled around the bed as they sensed my worry. There were more times spent in anger or frustration that should have been spent in partnership or in discussion. I wasn’t the best wife – I never considered myself the best candidate for marriage in the first place – and I didn’t try very hard to compromise at first. There was a turning point, where both of us said and did things we knew we would regret, and we did, and we apologized. It’s hard enough to be married; it’s so many times harder to be married to someone in public safety. Human nature already makes marriage hard. The job makes it harder.

We spent almost two years out of public safety, as civilians. After he applied, and was accepted, to his current department, things went back to our normal. I’ve gotten used to having the bed to myself more often than not, which is only convenient since I have to get up at least once to feed the baby. I’ve gotten used to trying to do our chores and my projects around him asleep in our part of the house, which was easier when it was just us and the dogs (or maybe it was easier when I had almost an entire house to myself). I’m still getting used to having a car to myself again, and the ability to go places almost whenever and wherever I need or want to.

I feel the same sense of loss from my husband now that I did when we were first married, with the presence of our son in our lives. I understand more readily being married single, now that I experience it as a young mother and LEOW. My husband obviously loves our son, but there’s not much for him to do while Little Man is still… little. And worse than that, not that he means to spend so much time away at work, or asleep in the bed, but there are so many others in the home that are raising his son while he’s patrolling. We live with his parents until we get our feet under us, and a place of our own. There are always a pair of hands looking to take the responsibility of caring for our son – out of love, thankfully – when it should be me and my husband raising our child. Instead, it’s me and his parents and his aunt and uncle, with 354 kind of in the background. And it makes me sad to see him with Little Man, knowing how much he loves his boy, and knowing that the only time he gets to spend with him is the short time between sleep and shift.

It’s like being a part of two different households – two ships passing in the night, to borrow the cliche. I never knew how hard it was to be the LEO mom until now, and I suppose that’s a given. How can you know unless you’ve been there?

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A slew of LODD… How do you cope?

Today, Branding Nielsen and Jeremy Triche were shot and killed. Michael Scott Boyington and Jason Triche were wounded in a related incident. All four are deputies in St. John’s the Baptist Parish, Louisiana. Five suspects are in custody for the “ambush-style” attack in a Valero refinery parking lot.

Three days ago, a Brazos County, Texas constable was killed serving an eviction notice near Texas A&M. Brian Bachmann was 10-42, headed home to his family, and took the notice for another officer. Three other officers were wounded in the shootout. The suspect was killed.

67 officers have been killed in the line of duty, to date, in 2012. That’s obviously down from 2011, but it seems more lately that these LODDs are targeted murders of LEOs, not “occupational hazards.” Less traffic stops gone bad, and more IEDs strategically placed for maximum damage. I’m not saying that makes it worse, or that anyone should expect to die on a traffic stop any more than at a standoff with an armed suspect, but people are getting scarier by the hour. And I’m watching my husband walk out the door and drive away, knowing the possibilities.

I read about these officers like Triche and Bachman, and think of their wives getting that knock at the door. Sometimes, I think of what it would be like to be that woman, and feel ashamedly, blessedly glad that I’m not. I could be. Any of us could be “that wife,” the one who lost her husband in a gunfight with a repeat offender, or in a high speed pursuit of a DV suspect with his kids in the backseat. Thanks to God, my husband comes home and kisses our son on the forehead, me on the cheek and lips before he goes to bed.

I read about these men (and women) who are killed on the job and feel distantly sad, as if a small part of me has gone with them. We are a family, all of us on the blue line, mo matter how far apart. And yet the more I read, the more distant it feels. The guilt for feeling that way builds. These people died protecting me, just like soldiers overseas. Shouldn’t I feel more than this? Shouldn’t I be doing something about it, in my community, somewhere? They left behind families, children, parents who loved them and will never get to hug them until they all get to Heaven. How is that fair? And why don’t I feel more for their deaths than a distant ache?

I know if I cried over every LODD, if I mourned every on duty fatality, I would never get off the floor. It would paralyze me. Maybe my husband has worn off on me more than I thought. Maybe my faith is stronger than I know. Last week, I got a text from 354:

Hey I’m out on an IED call I’m 10 4 waiting on EOD call when I’m clear DO NOT CALL ME I will call you I love yall 10000s

A younger me would have chewed her fingers off with worry. When we were first married, there were nights I literally couldn’t sleep, knowing the calls he was on and the nights he patrolled. I stayed awake in the bed, waiting for him to pull in the carport, and fell asleep curled up against him. The woman I am now read that text, bit her lip, refused to worry, and prayed for his safety. I got a call a few hours later – EOD showed up and were working the call, he was fine but he was busy and would see us when he got home. Three years ago, I couldn’t have gone to bed knowing he was on a bomb call. Now, I rocked my son to sleep, said another prayer, and crawled into bed. 354 woke me up the next morning when he collapsed into bed beside me.

I don’t know if feeling distant at these LEOs is healthy, or wrong of me. I do the best I can. I am trying to make a difference in my community, sometimes in the name of those who died trying to protect it and sometimes in support of the ones they left behind. We never think it could happen to us. But it does. It has to happen to somebody, and we should feel something, however small, when it does.

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Walking the line.

The other morning in church, I was in the restroom “fixing” my son his early lunch. I came out of the restroom with him under a blanket, and met a woman with a young girl in tow. She had that “look” on her face, the one that says she’s headed to the parking lot, and someone isn’t going to be happy when they get back. The girl was trying not to cry; as Daddy called it, “sub-subbing” through the end of a fit. As they crossed the foyer and passed me, the woman stared me down as if daring me to say something. I smiled a little, and headed for the water fountain before I went back in the sanctuary. About the time they made it past my shoulder, the little girl said fearfully, “But I don’t want to go see Daddy.” I turned to go back into the service, just in time to see the mother, jaw clenched, grab the girl with one hand around her jaw and the other on the back of her neck, and jerk her into the ladies’ restroom. The girl immediately began to cry again, nearly screaming, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, Mama!” I heard the skin-to-skin contact even after the restroom door swung closed. My stomach knotted up. I was torn between going in there and saying something, or minding my own business. In the end, I walked into the sanctuary and took care of my son, feeling like a coward.

I am all for corporal punishment. I was spanked and thumped and snatched as a child, and I turned out fine. I think the reports of increased mental instability due to spankings are a load of shit, and the folks doing the studies are largely tweaking their findings to support the anti-spanking “movement.” As cliche as it will sound, my parents were spanked, their parents were spanked, and so on. I don’t have any axe murderers in my family, just a few crazies. And we all know how to use our heads and our manners, even the lead-than-stable members of the family. I think a lot of parents in my generation, and the previous one, are using corporal punishment as an excuse to get out of the scary parts of parenting – the discipline – and they are doing their kids a huge disservice.

That said, there is a distinct difference between corporal punishment and outright abuse. My husband saw abuse everyday at his old department. Domestic situations turned violent over something small, like a dirty sock or a book out of place, often fueled by alcohol or drugs. A child routinely coming to school with new bruises every time his mom broke up with another boyfriend. Teenagers out sleeping in vehicles, at friends’ houses, in the garage, or at the park – anywhere but at home in their own beds. Abuse goes beyond discipline. Abuse is violence done for violence’s sake, done wholly out of rage on a weaker individual because of their inability to retaliate. It appears in all walks of life, from the worst-kept projects to the highest-bid mansion. It doesn’t matter where it happens or who is doing it. Abuse is unacceptable, no matter what reason you can come up with to try and justify it.

Discipline is unpleasant, but it is not ugly. It is necessary, however unpleasant. Everyone disciplines differently, and that’s fine. I believe corporal punishment works, for one, because my father implemented it (Momma tried). I knew my limitations, and I knew where the lines were drawn that would get me a serious talking to, and the one that would get me a spanking. My father never beat me, or yelled at me just for the sake of it, or told me that I was worthless or stupid or a waste of space. He spanked me when I did something I deserved it, raised his voice when I raised mine, and told me that I wasn’t using my head, that I could do better, that I was wasting my talents. To this day, I respect my father for doing his best to raise a daughter as a single father. His methods may have not been the greatest or the most appropriate by current psychological standards, but he was effective. I learned manners, I learned right from wrong, I learned limits. I was not a kid that could be talked to, or reasoned with, for a long time. I required corporal punishment because I was hardheaded, and that was what got through to me. Not every kid works that way.

But that isn’t an excuse to take it too far.

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