It’s been 319 days since I married a deputy sheriff and 319 days that I’ve been learning to not only be a wife, but to be a L.E.O. wife. The game is different than I expected, the rules change constantly and unknowingly. What I expected out of marriage was routine, schedules, date nights and a well-dressed dinner table. What I found instead is a calendar on the kitchen wall that counts out exactly how many days we’ll be in different time zones, homemade freezer meals so we can at least sit down for a ten minute dinner before he leaves, and “dates” that sometimes turn into watching a movie because he’s just coming off a three day shift and has no energy for anything else.
I don’t pretend to know a lot about marriage. We still learn new things about each other constantly and we work hard to have a happy home. But what I do know now, that I didn’t know 319 days ago is this:
I know how to lock up the house before I go to sleep at night. I know that the trash isn’t always going to be taken out on time, so I lug it out on my way to work if it needs to be. I know how to carry in a carload of anything when he’s not home and how to do it quietly when he’s upstairs sleeping. I know not to call him for every small “emergency”. I know how to entertain myself. I know how to celebrate holidays days before or after. I know not to get attached to any specific schedule because it can change overnight. I know how to eat dinner alone while he rushes around getting ready because he overslept. I know how to go days at a time without having a real conversation with him, and to just make mental notes of everything I want to tell him later. I know how it feels to go to special events alone, how it feels to be the odd man out with other couples, how it feels to worry when he’s been called out on a SWAT mission and I know it will be hours before I get even a simple text message from him.
I know why his back hurts. I know why his knees hurt. I know why he sometimes just watches me from across the table while I have a one-sided conversation and he just nods along. I know why he slipped a gun into my nightstand. I know why he wants me to use it properly and refuses to believe I’m “weak”. I know how heavy his utility belt and bullet proof vest are from moving them out of the way and thinking out awful it must be to have those hanging from your chest and hips for 12 hours at a time. I know that a bullet casing will leave a burn in the shape of a ring on his skin. I know that a bruised bottom lip means he wrestled someone to the ground.
I know that two tours to the war overseas made him a hero, but wearing a badge here makes him a public enemy. I know people look at him and see an enforcer, a pair of handcuffs and a ticket book. But they don’t see the hours he puts in, away from his family. They don’t see the dog he rescued from the side of the road with quills in its nose. They don’t see the SWAT raid that he spent with a scared child, asking to see his Batman costume to distract him from the commotion. They don’t see the welfare checks he does to see how an elderly person is doing, that no one has heard from in days, because their own children are too busy to care. They don’t see the roll of stickers he carries in case he meets a kid. They don’t see the bags of candy he stashes away to hand out for the kids who come up to him in the poverty stricken neighborhoods. They don’t see the midnight hunt through the woods he took to find a man with dementia who wandered off. They don’t see the extra time he gives to participate in the D.A.R.E. gradations or the faces of the kids who light up when they see him come out at the ceremony. They don’t see the practice he puts in to perfect an Honor Guard team to pay a proper respect at a memorial service. They don’t see how much it hurts him to hear the last call over the radio at a funeral for one of their own fallen officers.
I know that he’s always a law enforcement officer, even without the badge. I know that he is always looking over one shoulder. I know why he’s not easily upset. I know why he’s late coming home, why I’m driving somewhere alone, why he can’t be there every time I’m sick. I know what it’s like to be fiercely loved by someone who knows how short life is. I know what it’s like to have a husband with integrity. I know why he thinks before he speaks, why he doesn’t lose his temper and why he makes me feel safe. I know why we pray before he gets into his patrol car at night and why he holds me tight in the morning. I know that this life is nothing I expected, but is exactly where I’m supposed to be. I know I wouldn’t trade this life for anything.