Some nights are more difficult than others. When I send him away in his uniform, my customary parting words seem small, routine, and insignificant. Like mere words, and not like the almost begging plea and heartfelt love that I want them to be. "Be safe," I always say. And, "I love you."
Yesterday was a particularly deadly day in the law enforcement community. The final numbers are still not in. It has felt like this all year. I remember driving home from my in-laws' house on New Years Day to the news that a police officer and a deputy had been killed just one county over from where we live. On the first day of the year. And it has seemed rare that a day passed when a LEO wasn't assaulted or killed. On duty or off.
And after six incidents yesterday, I went to bed last night completely unable to sleep. I didn't want to bother him, but I sent a text anyway. Just to say, "I love you" again. And, "I miss you." It was hours before he had a chance to text me back. After more than a dozen years of this life, I know I shouldn't worry, but some days (and nights) are more difficult than others.
Tim sees the kids off to school in the mornings. He gets home just as they are all getting out of bed, we team up on a few things, then I leave. This morning, he was a few hours late. The boys were gone before he made it home. It's hard to anticipate what kind of days they will have, but I did my best to reassure them.
After the boys left, and Esther-Faith had asked about 100 times "Where is Daddy?" I asked her what she needed. She said she wanted Daddy to read her a book. So, I suggested that she sit by the window and watch for him. A dangerous suggestion when he's running late, but I thought she would get bored after a while and head back to her toys. She did not. She held a book ("Redheaded Robbie's Christmas Story") in her lap and sat still on the ottoman by the window.
There are few sounds in the world that make my heart sing. My children laughing. My mom reading a story. My dad singing. My mother-in-law laughing. Tim saying my name. The kids calling me "mama." But there is one sound that trumps them all. An ugly, loud sound that signals that he is home, safe, ready to be loved by his family.
Sometimes, when he tears the velcro of his kevlar vest open and he slips the heavy black piece of protection over his head, I don't wait to slip into his arms and wrap my arms around him. That sound, the loud velcro, means that he has made it home safe for one more day. It means he can take his daughter into his arms for a kiss and a squeeze one more time. It means he has parked his car and left the stress of his job to be with us for a while.
It means he is home.
Yesterday, some families did not hear that sound. Children will sit by the window, waiting for something that will not happen. Spouses will never slip into an embrace before a kevlar vest or uniform heavy with the tools of law enforcement have been removed. This scenario has been repeated 154 times this year. 154 times too many.
I am blessed that Tim came home this morning, tore off his vest, snuggled into his chair, and read his daughter a book before he crashed for some sleep. I am proud that he lives and breathes the core values of his agency--including officer safety. I am lucky he is part of an agency that believes in continued training and professionalism.
I am hopeful that what we experienced this morning--the sound of safety, the welcome home, the happy snuggles--will happen hundreds of more times for my family and other law enforcement families all over the country--that days like yesterday will be few and far between.