Fast forward to the ceremony. You’re sitting in the audience with your husband standing proudly on stage. You’ve changed into your best dress. It’s burgundy lace. The color matches your lipstick. This is it! When he walks off that stage he will be a Phoenix police officer. He will be an enforcer of laws; keeper of the peace; servant of the greater good. Listen closely now, his company commander, Sergeant Cota is speaking to the families. He’s telling you about the calling that your husband is entering into. This is not just an occupation. Only a select few make it through the process and the training to be standing up on that stage. AND, this is just the beginning. As the family, you will be expected to make sacrifices—sacrifices of time (you’ve already experienced the beginning of that when you finally had a weekend for just the two of you and a major storm came through and instead of a romantic evening with you, he ended up spending the night with his academy mates on the top of the mountain with the radio transmitters). Sgt. Cota explains the person you love will never be the same. The streets will change him. “What’s that suppose to mean,” you wonder silently. He continues telling you that he will experience things you will never know. He will share times with his squad that you won’t and can’t understand. Now your excitement is tethered with a veil of uncertainty. Your joy blending with trepidation. These mixed feelings, sweet girl, get used to them.
At times you will both love and hate your husband’s job. Often these feelings will extend to him personally as it’s easy to blame. You will be furious and frustrated. You will feel let down and left behind. You will be both extremely jealous of the closeness of his partners and also incredibly grateful for their loyalty to him. You will shed numerous tears and scream into your pillow especially when the job keeps him from you when you really need him and a break from feeling like a single parent and a widow. At the same time, you will have moments of extreme pride like the time he tells you about saving a 5 year-old girl’s life or running down a felon. You will feel moments of terror when all you want is for him to come home, take off his uniform and promise to never hit the streets again. There will be times when he walks through the door and you can’t get your arms around him fast enough and times when all you want to do is shove a crying child at him and hide under your blanket.
He’s taken the oath now. There’s no turning back. He’s in. You’re in. He walks off the stage and hands you his badge. You’re so nervous, you have a hard time pining it on. Other wives don’t seem to be having any problem. For the first time, those comparisons start; that competition where a sense of camaraderie should exist. Finally, it goes on and you wrap your arms around this person who will never be the same. Life will never be the same.
My advice to you…
Be patient. Be kind. Remember the man under the uniform. This new label, “cop” doesn’t define him although it does alter him. Listen, but also speak your peace. Be able to hear his stories and also the needs he expresses underlying the words. Be strong and gentle. Provide a safe place where he can process the pain of the world. Take care of yourself. Take time to pursue your passions. Read. Write. Reach out to others. Offer the arms that unconditionally love him even when he feels he failed. Love him, the man you married before you pinned on the badge. The weight can be a burden. Love him in spite of it. And, most of all, keep a sense of humor. You’re going to need it.
Your older self.
About The Author:
Michelle Perin has been a freelance writer since 2000. Her credits include Law Enforcement Technology, Police, Law and Order, Police Times, Beyond the Badge, Michigan State Trooper, Michigan Snowmobiler Magazine and Chief of Police. She writes two columns a month for Officer.com. Michelle worked for the Phoenix (AZ) Police Department for almost eight years. In December 2010, she earned her Master’s degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice from Indiana State University. Currently, Michelle works as the Administrative Coordinator at Jasper Mountain a residential psychiatric facility for children. In her spare time, she enjoys being the fundraising coordinator for the Lane Area Ferret Shelter & Rescue, playing her bass, working on her young adult novel Desert Ice and raising her two sons in a small town in Oregon.