It’s a fluid situation. The reporter covering the Jan. 28th HPD shootout kept repeating that phrase. In between phone calls with our friends who work for HPD we were glued to the coverage. It went on for hours. Finally, when we knew our friends were safe and no new information had come in for a while I had to turn it off. We went outside and played until it was our son’s bedtime. Then my husband and I stayed up and continued to watch the coverage. The next day when my husband went to work, our son cried while we waved bye and his dad drove away to work the night shift. Later that night, we prayed for his dad’s safety like we always do. Afterward, my son looked at me and asked, “are we safe?” My heart broke into a million pieces. For the first time, my son understood the brokenness of the world we live in. Confidently, I looked at him and said, “Yes, of course, we are.” Although at that moment it was true, it felt like a lie. Every night his dad has worked since, my son, my sweet sweet son, has asked me the same question. Every time it feels like a lie to say yes because I just don’t know. I don’t know what his dad is doing, if he is safe, and if he will come home in the morning. Every time it breaks my heart because I think my son knows this too. He is three. I thought we had more time.
Law enforcement isn’t easy. It isn’t easy on the officer and it isn’t easy on the family. We knew this. Yet, it was the life we chose together. After he got out of the military, my husband got a desk job at a bank. He was miserable. Although it was a good job, good hours, good benefits, with yearly pay raises and bonuses, he knew his life’s calling was not to be a banker. I did too. When he decided to become a police officer, I backed him 100%. I still do. After all, we did meet in college, where we both majored in criminal justice. Public service is important and entrained in both of us. Doing it from the front lines is where he feels most alive and where he thrives. Being a police officer is so much more to him than a profession. It is a calling. His calling. Me, on the other hand, my experience in juvenile probation opened the door to my calling. Social work. As a social worker, I will work with clients to help them overcome the ambivalence in their lives and help them to move towards change. I can’t wait to get started. Except, I can’t seem to resolve my own. Ambivalence is feeling two ways about something. There are many things in life a person could feel two ways about. For me, I am ambivalent about being a Law Enforcement Wife (LEOW) and family. My thoughts and feelings about this life we chose are ever changing. As the reporter put it, it is a fluid situation.
It is being immensely proud to be the wife of a police officer while also being immensely scared to be the wife of a police officer. It is telling your son that his father is safe while also knowing that his father may not be safe. It is wanting to know all the details of the things he does and sees on shift while also not wanting to know any details because the details make it real. It is missing him at night while also getting used to sleeping alone. It is hating him working extra jobs and overtime while also knowing those extra jobs and overtime are what has allowed you to stay home with your son and go back to school the past two years. It’s knowing he is doing such important work while also wishing he wasn’t missing all the important things happening at home. It’s knowing he is so tired while also hoping he won’t sleep all day. It’s wanting to share our life on social media while also having to make sure we don’t post anything too personal. It’s seeing friends and some family members post negative messages and knowing not everyone has had positive encounters with police while also trying to convince myself the post wasn’t a personal attack on my family. It’s wanting to text him about our evening while choosing not to do it because I know it’s a distraction. It’s wanting to be the fun parent while also understanding he wants to just enjoy his limited amount of time with his son. It’s knowing he loves our family more than anything in the world while also knowing he will go every time the phone rings.
During Hurricane Harvey, it was him asking me to take our son and evacuate so he wouldn’t have to worry about our safety on top of everything else. It’s knowing leaving was the best thing to do, what he needed, while also not wanting to drive away. It was being thankful to be in Austin, safe and with my family, while also feeling so helpless and wishing I was back home. It’s being so proud he spent the hurricane helping others and saving lives while also wishing that hurricane rescue wasn’t in his job description. It was waiting up with a friend and fellow LEOW to hear if it was her husband who was missing and presumed dead. It was being so relieved and grateful when we finally heard it wasn’t him while also feeling so much guilt and grief because it was someone else’s husband.
A couple of months later, it was getting the phone call in the middle of the night saying there has been a shooting. It is again being so relieved to hear, “I’m okay” while in the next breath being racked with guilt when he said, “but someone is dead.” It is wanting to support my husband and the other officers involved while constantly updating the news about the shooting scared the media fallout will land on our family. It’s being happy when the news stopped covering it while also being outraged the news dropped the story the minute eye witness interviews revealed the person shot had a gun. It’s feeling vindicated when all the investigations deemed this shooting to be justified while also knowing not all police shootings are.
It’s being scared my husband might be killed on the job while being even more scared he might have to kill someone else in order to come home. It’s wanting to help him process the horrors he deals with on a daily basis while also knowing I can’t relate to him. It’s trying to figure out how to help him while also trying to figure out how to process everything myself. It’s hoping he will always make the right decision while knowing he only has split seconds to decide. It’s reminding him to see the good in people while knowing he sees most people when they are at their worst. It’s hoping and praying he keeps a positive outlook on the world but knowing and seeing it has already started to fade. It’s knowing my husband is a good honest man and honorable police officer who takes the responsibility he has been given very seriously while also knowing not all police officers do. It’s wanting to believe he is Superman while knowing he is just a human man in a uniform and vest.
I can’t control my ambivalence. It will always be there. It will always be fluid. Maybe because there is no change I can work towards. This is the gig. This is what we actively chose to do as a profession and a family. Knowing it won’t get better but it might get worse. Choosing it because we know this is the life God called us to have. Although I feel ambivalent about a lot of things surrounding this life I am not ambivalent about that. I know this is the profession my husband was called to do and as his wife, this is the life our family was called to lead. So, I have no other choice but to embrace my ambivalence and know God will give me what I need when I need it. Most days all I need is the inner strength to smile while I tell my son we are safe and that he will see his dad in the morning. Other days, I need the energy and the courage to attend yet another birthday party, social function, or tee ball game alone (shoutout to single parents you guys are the true heroes). Everyday I need God’s grace.
Although I can’t control my ambivalence and I know our life could always be this uncertain and fluid, I can rest in the fact there is so much beauty in our chaos and there is solid ground in God.
*There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for another. John 15:13*