Flash forward a couple years and we were still dating and closer than ever, and starting to think long term - about maybe even getting married someday - despite that being another item on my list of things not to do, when I learned of a procedure that had shown great success correcting nearsightedness. Radial Keratotomy, a precursor to the now-common Lasik procedure, was becoming more widely available and I set my sights (get it?) on being lens free for the first time in over twenty years! I somehow convinced my insurer to cover the procedure and, with seven surgeries in just over a year’s time, I was soon enjoying the world with 20/15 clarity! Life was great, but a reckoning was ahead.
With the sole hurdle to a career in law enforcement cleared, an inevitable conversation had to occur. Althea pointed out the obvious elephant in the room, asking if going into law enforcement was still a dream of mine. I had to admit it was, and it was something I wanted to pursue and hoped she would support, and I was not yet ready to choose relationship over career. She was still adamant she could not be a police wife and - very long story made very short - we broke up so I could pursue my dream of being a cop.
That breakup - the only one we ever had - lasted less than 24 hours. Not ready or wanting to throw our relationship away, I scrapped the idea of going into police work altogether and recommitted to making the relationship work. I was having fun at work, took on greater responsibility, and moved into management. In 1994, we married and I also began applying to graduate school, and was accepted into the same MSW program Althea had already begun. Neither of us made much money but we were working toward our future. Then things at my work turned upside down.
Two new directors were hired from a large state child welfare agency and came in with a carte blanch mandate for change, and change they did. I was restructured right out of my unique, self-designed-with-the-blessing-of-my-former-bosses, management position and relegated to the role of a glorified night watchman. Eventually, that too was eliminated but I was offered a consolation prize by the Wicked Witches from DCFS: an office job, licensing foster homes for special needs children, in a downtown Chicago high-rise. It was necessary and important work, and even offered me my very own Dilbert-hole to languish in, but for me it defined monotony. I was miserable and depressed but hardly in any position to make a career move in my chosen field.
Althea could see I was depressed and miserable at work and remained supportive and encouraging that things would someday change. At the time, I just could not see it. I enjoyed grad school but had no real idea what I would someday do with the degree. Then one day Althea shocked me with a wild idea: Would I consider revisiting my old dream of becoming a cop? I was stunned, and a little worried (is she really serious and am I getting dumped again?), but she was serious and had given the idea a lot of thought and could no longer stand to watch me be professionally miserable. With reassurances she was behind me and her increasingly enthusiastic encouragement as I went through the hiring process, I started testing everywhere I could until finally being hired in 1996.
Althea attended orientations, studied up on the departments and cities I was considering, and provided thoughtful feedback at all times. She was very scared about what she had signed up for; having willingly sacrificed a part of her own dream of what marriage would look like for my benefit, but pushed through her fear to lend encouragement. When the process paid off, and job offers started arriving, she was excited for me and jumped into the process of deciding where I should accept. In the years since, she has been a steady sounding board and encourager, becoming the steadiest of police wives in the process.
Probably what would be the most surprising to the woman I married in 1994 - the one who could never be the wife of a cop - is how embedded she would become in the police culture herself; counseling, training, writing for and about, and befriending cops from all over while becoming always more encouraging to me. Her decision to support me, despite all the fears telling her not to, has led her to a personal and professional place she could have never expected.