I have to go back nine years ago when my husband first entered the police academy for Dallas…July 11th, 2007 to be exact. After a year of never ending tests, physical challenges and basically a boot camp style mental beat down–he finally got his badge. Later came his recruit stage where he followed another officer…then two man and finally one man where he could officially patrol alone. I was so proud of all his hard work and mental toughness, but then came the hard part where I had to be mentally tough. He started his career working deep nights and has never stopped which meant I had to get use to sleeping alone and being by myself at nights.
I did not start off being very good at it. In fact I was straight up paranoid. I would pace the house and look out each window. Turn the TV up loud so others thought there was talking..would jump at every sound especially when people would ring the doorbell and run (we had a few night of this-terrifying). I would have my Bible handy at all times, recite scripture and kept the phone glued to me. I was anxious, afraid and paranoid and had to get over it quickly or get sick from exhaustion. With lots of prayer, I got used to it and have ended up pretty good about it now. Many other wives tell me they could never fall asleep alone…but when you have no choice you learn to do it.
One way I learned to do this though came at a cost. I could not watch the news at night and I could not watch crime shows of any kind either. I learned that the hard way. I would have nightmares for days along with hearing noises, so I learned to watch happy shows or keep the TV off.
Jump to this week…July 7th, 2016. We now have a kid so my nights are not alone anymore which is helpful. But now instead of worrying for just my safety I have a little one’s to worry about as well. I always fear the “what if” emergencies, but for the most part we have relaxing evenings at home and do whatever we want. On this night, I was watching recordings of Million Dollar Listing while my son played with the Talking Tom cat app on my phone. We were going about our business happily until I took the phone to check for messages which I often do in case my husband texts while at work. I saw three messages so checked them real quick. All three were from friends or neighbors asking “Did Nathan have to work tonight? Is he okay?”
I had no clue what they were talking about and replied with those words of curiosity. They both seemed shocked and said turn on the news. One even tried to call and tell me in person, but I hate talking on the phone and avoided it. I turned to channel 8 and immediately saw what everyone was worried about…Dallas officers were ambushed and under attack. The city was in chaos and all you could hear and see was panic with officers in position to find a shooter. Now, my husband does not wear a uniform to work so I knew the ones in uniform were not him, but he could be anywhere in Dallas at that moment. His job requires plain clothes, but basically to do whatever is necessary and whatever is asked. This job ranges from the very safe to the extremely dangerous so to speculate if he was there or what he was doing was beyond me. I also had no clue when this all started, but I knew he had not contacted me whatever that meant. With shaky hands, but trying to be positive and strong I sent him the text “I see the news. Are you okay?” In what would be the longest minute of my life, he finally responded. “Yes…but can’t be on my phone right now.”
Those words were sweet relief followed by lots of questions that could not be answered for hours to come. I immediately started to let the ones contacting me that I heard from him and he is okay. I then went through the painful process of watching the TV to see what was going on, but not wanting to watch the TV because I had a son present that hears random things though is still too young to understand (thank God!). In between that, I kept in touch with worried friends and social media. Hour after hour the news stories, the death count, the injuries and the events of that night played everywhere. I kept watching for my husband not knowing where he was at or what he was doing. One officer put in nicely “That would have been awful to be at home not knowing what was happening…at least we knew what was going on.” Exactly!! An hour later I texted again…”I know you can’t be near your phone but keep in touch.” He would later tell me about more shots being fired and being in a car chase, but still okay. At one point, I did not hear from him in a couple of hours and all I could think is “If he is hurt, would he tell me?” He does a great job of shielding me from his job especially since he works nights and does not want me to worry. I began to doubt if I knew the whole story or what parts he would tell me…trying to accept what is happening while keeping your mind on things positive is hard. I prayed, quoted scripture and just thought happy things. When I had had enough of the news…we turned it on to Disney. Disney was our happy place…Sheriff Callie saved us.
A friend would later text that her husband spoke with him and he is good so that gave me peace of mind. Even though it was well after midnight…I could not sleep. Could not rest…felt so anxious and stiff with a knot in my stomach. Nothing made me feel better, but I still had a child to entertain and discipline when he sprayed Windex everywhere and broke a plate. He was a much needed sweet relief to the range of emotions I was feeling. Facebook was also a relief kinda…in between random opinions I would get sweet words of encouragement…all of our friends and family were checking on us-that is what is good about social media. My husband even posted he was good, but unable to respond–that brought lots of sweet comments. Finally, around 2am he texted he was going back to the station and might be home on time…then and only then I tried to rest. I eventually fell asleep, but when he came home I went in the kitchen and hugged him before laying my head down to really sleep…we all woke up the next day close to noon after such a long night. I was thankful my husband came home and I did not receive the dreaded phone call…but my heart ached for the women and families that were not so unfortunate.
Now here is where I get real. The main thought that kept going through my mind that night was “I did not kiss him goodbye.” On that dreadful night, we were on night three of a much heated argument. You see being married to an officer, working opposite work schedules in addition to already having a rocky marriage from past incidences..those that read my blog previously know what I am talking about…all that can weigh down a marriage. I have no idea how we have lasted 12 years with all the odds stacked against us…I do know how…Jesus and lots of him. But on this night, we had attended my son’s swim lessons, my husband was the parent in the parent tot class (yes, he did ring around the rosy with the other moms). Since we were not on speaking terms, at the end of the class I told him “be safe”..funny how you remember those details…then took our son home while he went to work. The entire night I kept thinking “I did not kiss him goodbye-I have to get another kiss. He cannot die tonight.” I am sure some might say “He was not likely going to die”, but I am sure the other wives thought that as well. A new rule in this house is no matter how mad we get-we kiss goodbye–no matter what!
Flash forward to today, the new challenge each day is walking the fine line between over-talking about it and not talking at all. I want our home to be his happy place and his normal knowing that he hears enough of it at work. The tragedy allowed us to talk a lot of things out and cry some much needed tears while recommitting to work harder to meet each other’s needs despite the tough challenge ahead of us. Him going to days is nowhere in sight and my job as a teacher does not work nights so we must make it work. I committed to listening more about his daily struggles without freaking out and he committed to opening up more-it is the only way officers can be able to do this job without losing it. We have watched the news together and kept up with current events including attending a funeral later this week. It comes down to I am here with whatever you need, but our home is base and it is safe. Talk as much or as little as needed…just know I am here.
I struggle seeing those officers’ faces knowing it could have been my husband, but by the grace of God was not. I also struggle to feel safe that if it is not him now..could it be him later? All those thoughts are real and just, but the truth is none of us know tomorrow so we must live for the moment now. We must love with full hearts and do what God has predestined us to do while we have the time to do it. I will never forget July 7th 2016. I grieve with Dallas and for the DPD. I am proud to be an officer wife and never more proud to be a Texan. This was easily the worst night for me being married to an officer, but also one of my proudest nights knowing he was serving and protecting our city despite all the what-ifs and oh nos.
The good news is: “Some people never get to meet their heroes; I married mine!