I didn’t know it at the time, but I met my husband 14 years ago. He and I were both young and fresh out of high school. I was in college three hours away in North Louisiana. He was hustling away working with his dad to earn the dollars and in his free time, he was a volunteer fireman in his hometown in South Louisiana. His dad’s girlfriend just so happened to work for my mother and she had a photo of me on her desk. One day when my husband stopped by for a visit..he was incredibly interested by the boss’s daughters photo.
I got wind of this little twitterpated fella and asked for a photo in return. We spoke on the phone..we met and all in a few short months, I packed up and moved down to the south to move back in with my parents and be closer to him. The first time we met was truly one of the most comical situations in my life. He was so shy and timid. We rode around and talked and laughed about everything and nothing at the same time. Something about him was different..a good kind of different.
He already had a tattoo of a maltese cross on his shoulder to give you an idea of his commitment to being a first responder. The longer we dated and the more serious it got, the more my parents pushed him to seek out a more stable and promising job. One that could support us both if we continued to be serious. And he did..after about a year of us dating, he joined the fire academy and began his training to start doing what he loved professionally. Time flew and we fell more and more in love. After about a year and a half of dating, we got engaged and then a year layer, we said our vows and promised each other forever.
I knew when I married him what his line of work entailed. I knew that he would encounter things and see things that were disturbing. I told him I would support him but I didn’t want to know the gruesome details. On the flip side of that coin, he would also save lives and be the reason someone is still living and breathing today.
What I didn’t know:
Being a fire fighter wife is like constantly living on hold. When he is gone…he’s just gone. It’s not the same as going to a 9-5 and if something comes up in between, he can sneak away really quick to help with this or that. His shift time is fully dedicated to his job. Not to himself, myself or our children. This has proven to be both positive and negative. Positive because it’s challenged me to become heavily independent. Negative because that challenge alone is really hard by itself and life gets really overwhelming at times and there is honestly nothing I can do to change those circumstances, except deal with it on my own.
Being a fire fighter wife is about taking the trash out yourself. Okay, so this isn’t the most awful thing in the world but ladies, hear me out..isn’t it wonderful when your husband does it? The overflowing list of to do’s is always so long and tasky. Having your husband around to do just one of those simple things truly makes my life so much easier.
Being a fire fighter wife is about saying the words,” I love you, be careful” in a more meaningful way. Of course, anything can happen to anyone during their day. None of us know what God’s plan is for our lives but in this line of work, these fireman are running straight into danger on purpose. It’s the most selfless thing any of them could sign up for and for me, it’s the most terrifying thing in the world. Despite him being trained on what to do in any kind of scenario, anything can go wrong in an instant. Knowing when I say those words, I could be saying them for the last time.. I am in a constant state of worry hoping that whatever call he is on day or night, he is safe and he will come home to me.
Speaking of which, being a fire fighter wife, you channel some strange telepathic magical powers. No, seriously. I can’t count how many times I woke up from a dead sleep in the middle of the night when my husband is at the station and I can’t go back to sleep. I find out the next day that my husband woke up at the same time to go on a call.
Being a fire fighter wife is about learning how to spend holidays and celebrations alone. Every now and then, his schedule aligns perfectly so he doesn’t miss much but then there’s years like this one where he misses mine and the kids birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, etc. It gets really lonely sometimes. Learning how to enjoy the times when you’re supposed to be with your loved ones is hard being that the one you love the most is away at the station.
Being a fire fighter wife is about learning how to not make your partner feel guilty for doing something they truly love. When they miss all of the most special things because they were on duty, it’s difficult not to hold it against them. We all know they can’t help it. It’s just hard doing everything alone all the time.
Being a fire fighter wife is about learning boundaries when your husband walks in the door. Did he sleep last night? Did he have to give CPR to an infant? Did he fearlessly run into a burning house to save someone? Did he have to cut someone out of a car to save their life? I think the hardest thing we have had to work through is the tragic plane crash he worked in Lafayette recently. When my husband walks through the door, I pay close attention to his mood. I gauge it so that I’m not throwing the kids on him or spitting out orders immediately when he walks in. For all I know, that might have been what his last shift was all about. I have to remind myself that it’s not fair to bombard him. I don’t know what he’s been through in the last 24 hours or if he can even handle the smallest of requests. We all need a minute sometimes and he deserves his minute too.
With that said, it’s all about being open arms when he’s had some rough calls to work through. Unfortunately, they have a hard time grasping the things they’ve seen and heard a lot of so it’s just important to be present and let them know that you are here for them.
Being a firefighter wife is about learning to listen to your children ask on repeat when their daddy is coming home. Thank God for FaceTime these days..sometimes just being able to see their daddy’s face and hear his voice is all they need to calm their little hearts.
Being a firefighter wife often means dinner for one. Sometimes it means driving to the fire house to visit or have dinner with the rest of the guys just so you and your kids can spend some time with him. And sometimes, as soon as you take your first bite, the fire alarm chimes and off he goes.
Being a firefighter wife can often leave you feeling empty and though I know I am not a single mom, sometimes the other wives and I joke that we are. The firefighter wives I have gotten close to over the years hold such a sweet spot in my heart. They say being a fireman is like a brotherhood and the same holds true with the women. We form a sisterhood and where our husbands cannot be, we come together and pick up each others pieces and fill in the gaps. Our bond cannot be broken just like theirs.
When I married my husband, I didn’t know how hard it would be to see him go in the mornings and wonder if he would come back home in one piece. I didn’t know how hard it would be to do so much life without him. There’s so many things I didn’t think about or truly understand until I started living it. But I also didn’t know how special it would be to hear our daughters call their daddy a hero either.