Sunday, January 10, 2010

Things I Take for Granted

Every now and again, life smacks you across the face and says, “See how lucky you are?!? Now stop complaining!”

Over the holidays, I helped FireDaddy and his fellow firemen collect donations for a family who lost everything in a house fire a week or two before Christmas.  This family was low income, to say the least, and had NO insurance.  None. They lost it all and were on their own.  American Red Cross is very helpful to families like these, but this is only a start.  This single mother needed a lot to help give their family (her son and mother) a jumpstart. 

As I drove around one afternoon, collecting items from friends and shopping for gift cards and such, I talked to my girlies about what I was doing.  I want them to know what their Daddy and I believe is right – helping others.

Last night, it happened again.  This time, it was an apartment building across the firestreet from the school in which I teach.  Six of our families are displaced from their homes and starting from scratch. They have the clothes on their backs and, gladly, an empty apartment, hastily made ready for them by complex management.  The American Red Cross has them set up in a hotel for three nights and, at this I’m truly amazed, the local Ruby Tuesday has granted these families FREE MEALS for as long as they need it!  The road ahead is still very long for these families, though. 


But, that’s really just one thing I take for granted…

I also take for granted that my husband will go to work everyday and come home safely at the conclusion of each shift.  I must admit that, fairly recently, haunting thoughts have run through my mind as I kiss him good-bye as he leaves for work.  I always give him a big hug and tell him to be safe.  There’s a little, frightened voice in my mind, only about an inch tall, that whispers to me, “What if this is the last time?  What if today is the day something happens?”

Morbid, but true.  It could happen. 

Friends ask me how I stand it.  How am I not worried ALL. THE. TIME?


I answer them honestly: I don’t think about it.


Until the nights when I stay up to watch the late news after his evening call home, recounting the excitement of a good fire.  I proudly watch for his face on the television.  And, then I hear the details he cleverly omitted from his reporting…

“…live rounds exploding…grenades found in the home…”

Or like the night I heard about the shooting turned car chase turned hostage stand-off.  Yep.  He was there for it all.  What I found out later was that he was pulled by the SWAT team to go in closer with them as their medic…or something like that.  I’ve blocked most of it out. 

It is always after the fact that he reveals the true danger – and his fear.

Even simple, “innocent” stories he tells me remind me of how aware he is of the risks.  I hear it when he tells me about arriving at a call, realizing “something isn’t right” and calling police to the scene.  It’s not just the element of risk from accidents or fire – but the element of CRIME. 


And then there’s the other thing…him.  Even if he comes home alive and in one piece, he isn’t the same. 

I asked him something recently.  It occurred to me that when I see those “Drive Safely” signs on the side of the road, I think to myself, “Someone died there.”  When HE sees those signs, does he remember the night they died? Does he still see the wreck?

Yes. He does.

Every time he drives past this corner or that pillar of an overpass or that tree, he relives that scene. 

Every time he drives past that house, he remembers that call.

Every time he eats at that restaurant, he remembers the man that choked.  He remembers working on him, spread out in the middle of the tables, as families and diners sat watching, stunned and helpless.

Every time he drives past that parking lot, he remembers the young man that died there, a bullet in his head.

Every time.

Every time.

Every time.


He told me this summer, “You’d think it would get easier.”

I think it’s rather the opposite, in fact.


I take for granted that, since he came home safely in one piece, life goes on as normal.  And, since he doesn’t talk much about these things, especially right away, I often never know what is on his mind.  I am thankful for the days he comes home and says, “We had a bad call.”  At least then I know. 


On September 11th of his first year on the department, FireDaddy was on duty.  I met him at a local remembrance ceremony in which his department participated.  I stood by the ladder truck with all the guys on his shift and watched interpretive dancers and other such performers take their turn on the stage of the amphitheater.  We talked and joked and enjoyed the beautiful weather as the American flag, perched atop the erect ladder beside us, waved in the ocean air. 

At the end of the night, the dancers brought roses over to the firefighters and shook their hands in thanks.  They saw me standing amongst them and the lead dancer asked, “Are you a wife?”  I replied with a smile and a nod.  She hugged me tightly, presented a rose and thanked me, too.

At the time, I laughed and said, “Don’t thank me!  I don’t do anything!  They’re the heroes!”

I still think that, whole-heartedly.  But, after being the wife of a firefighter for nearly a decade, I also realize I sacrifice more than I think about.  More than I care to admit.


And then there are the good days. 

“I saved a life today,” he texted me last week.  CPR conversions are rare.  When they happen, it is a celebration. 

The call toned out CPR in progress at a doctor’s office.  They arrive on scene and none of the three doctors in the room were touching the patient…and it was apparent they hadn’t yet.  One of the three offered their help once the firefighters arrived, but it was refused. 

FireDaddy and his guys got busy immediately.  Thank God the woman let out a sudden gasp after a while and she, shockingly, “came to”.  FireDaddy later told me that he’d never seen anything like it.  In the case of those fortunate successful conversions, the patient is usually still very much altered.  This woman, though, was fully alert.  On this day, they walked in the office men and walked out heroes.  They saved her life.  They truly saved her life.

If there were only more days like those.


There is so much I take for granted.


  1. I think I'm going to cry myself to sleep tonight.

    This is a beautiful post. I think if we all spent a few extra minutes every day saying "I am grateful" it'd help all of us get over the rat race we live in. Well, maybe not "get over" but instead, move forward?

    I am thankful for your husband; for people who do the jobs I could never do because I am not brave enough, or maybe too proud to do. I am thankful for their families who live life a little more fearfully than I do (and Lord knows I have fears!) - because your loved ones go in to harm's way to protect us.

    I am thankful for family. For good friends. For new friends! For the food on my table and the roof over my head. For my sweet little boys and my wonderful husband and partner in all things. I am thankful for my health and my brain. I am thankful for my life.

    Oh girl - the places my mind will dance to tonight. Thank you for reminding us that we all have so much to be thankful for.

    Lots of love!

  2. I can't imagine filling your husband shoes -- or yours as you try to help him process and cope with tragedy and helplessness. It sounds as though you are doing the best anyone can ... appreciating and being thankful for what's good, and always remembering and honoring what's not.

  3. This gave me chills. I honestly don't know how you do it - or how he does. I'm so thankful there are people like your husband and their spouses who are willing to put their lives on the line for the rest of us.

  4. Jenny why must you make me cry? Between this post and your sisters post I've been tearing up over here.


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