On being a cop’s wife

It’s Friday night, and I’m in my studio writing. Things are quiet except for my son’s white noise machine and the occasional shake of my dog’s head. The dishes are done and the kitchen is dark. The house is still. I can almost hear the candle burning in the corner. I love these nights.

From somewhere outside a siren cuts through the quiet. I wonder if it’s my husband responding to a call. It’s loud and close. I go to the window in time to see ambulance lights streaking by, heading upcanyon. I’m a little bit relieved it’s not a patrol car.

When I first met my husband and he told me his profession, I thought long and hard if I wanted to get involved with a police officer. There was the shift work to consider. There was the stress of the job. There was the dealing with potentially dangerous people. And there was the alpha-male stereotype that seems to surround the profession. Would he work nights and holidays? Would he be stressed out, like, all the time? Would he get injured on the job? On an interpersonal level, would he need to be in charge all the time? Would he care about my opinion? (He better damn well care about it or I was outta there.)

Despite my concerns, my apprehensions, instinct told me it was right, that he was right, and, three years later, we married. Four years later our son came, and then our daughter.

He works nights; he prefers them. He says that’s where the action is. That used to really freak me out. That same siren shrieking through the night would have hurtled me into the worst-case scenario: a routine traffic stop, only the driver has a gun and shoots my husband. Those things do happen. You just never know. Over the years my anxiety has abated. Not disappeared, but lessened. I know he’s had good training, and he’s been a cop for a long time, and I have to have faith in that. I count my blessings each day. Otherwise I’d go nuts.

He’s worked holidays. Last Christmas was the most boring ever because the kids and I just sat around. (We celebrated the next day, when my husband was off). He’s come home stressed because that day he had to forcibly remove a child from her home, and that child happened to be our daughter’s age. He’s described the scene of a car crash, where skull parts are lying on the pavement. He’s talked about how some people live, walking into a domestic violence call at a house where meth is cooked, the same place where kids are raised.

Maybe I’m weird, but I want to hear about these things. I don’t want to be naïve or ignorant in thinking about what can, and does, go down in this town. I want my eyes wide open as I consider what he deals with at work, what my children may encounter as they get older, social issues that exist in Wenatchee, and where I can invest myself to improve things. People ask me if my husband’s profession has made me more cynical of people. My response is always no, I was cynical before I met him. 🙂

After working all night, he arrives home as the kids and I are having breakfast, and then he sleeps until mid- to late-afternoon. (A welcomed recent addition has been his earplugs, so now the kids and I can commence with our dance parties and other shenanigans without worry.) Then we usually have an early dinner together before he heads off again.

His work weekends are long; often it’s just me and the kids. But I’ve come to appreciate certain things about his unusual schedule: his days off during the week allow me to write my book and attend critique groups and other artsy-fartsy things. It also gives us the ability to run errands at less crowded times, or get away mid-week.

My biggest struggle is an intellectual one. Being of liberal mind, I think about these national social movements, such as Black Lives Matter. I get it. I understand the anger and I’m sad for the loss of life. I do believe racism and injustice exist. Some anger out there scares me. Regarding the recent officer-involved shooting in town: even though my husband was not the shooter, after a while I had to stop reading the online comments. Being married to law enforcement forces me to consider all sides, and to see all sides as human. How do I reconcile things? Carefully. Beyond that, I have no concrete answer. It’s one of those gray areas of the human condition: loving my husband, respecting his coworkers, even when I believe their colleagues elsewhere have done wrong.

To wit, we are known affectionately among our circle of friends as the Cop and the Hippie.

It’s a lot. But it’s also rewarding, being able to make it all work. His profession magnifies our blessings. We also balance each other out. I should add here that I wouldn’t make it one day as a cop: I am not a multi-tasker nor a quick thinker. I’d probably spend my entire shift debating if I should arrest that one guy. My husband loves what he does (you kind of have to to be in law enforcement). Recently he had an opportunity to switch to day shift. But we’ve got a routine down. Although putting two toddlers to bed by myself is chaotic and not a little bit frenzied, I love having the evenings to myself. I love it even more when he comes home safe in the mornings.

 

(All Wenatchee World photos. 1) Credit: Mike Bonnicksen. Wenatchee Police Cpl. Brian Chance gives a sticker to Gerardo Quinones during Wenatchee’s 15th Annual National Night Out in 2014. 2) Credit: Reilly Kneedler. Wenatchee police close down traffic at Wenatchee Avenue and 9th Street due to an amonia leak in 2015. 3) Credit: Mike Bonnicksen. City of East Wenatchee police traffic officer James Marshall checks the license and registration before issuing a ticket to a driver he pulled over for doing 41 in a 30 on Grant Road in 2015. 4) Credit: Reilly Kneedler. Wenatchee police officers detain a person at the Value Inn on Wenatchee Avenue on Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2016.)

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