Someone Has To
Another summer weekend has come and gone.
Canadians know how to live their best lives in the few short weeks of summer we get. BBQs, floating on lakes, camping, quadding, hiking- you name it, Canadians are out there doing it. There’s a particular urgency in the prairies.. in a few short months we’ll be blanketed with snow, the lakes we cannonball into will be rock solid, and we’ll long for the long, hot days of summer.
I thought about that as I sipped my coffee, soaking up the sun early one morning, admiring my garden and smiling to myself seeing that the dill has spread everywhere, just like my grandma warned me years ago.
But there was pause after I smiled, as I looked at the empty seat next to me and wished my husband was there to steal a few peas with me, and eat them before the kids noticed. It’s our favorite weekend activity, like two 80 year-olds, we wander through our garden, coffees in hand, admiring the fruits of our labor, and sampling when no one is looking.
But, like many police wives, instead of making the most of his summer days, my husband was at the office, on his day off, trying to finish up a file, because someone has to.
As a mom there’s a lot I do ‘because someone has to’. Cleaning toilets, making the kid’s lunches, laundry, cleaning human excrement from weird and unusual places- it’s all part of what we do because someone has to. We all know that feeling, when you look around after one of your kids has thrown up, and you realize you have to clean it up, holding your own dry-heaving at bay, because you are the mom. There is no clean- up fairy flying to your aid.
Back in the days of my husband being on the watch, responding to calls, he would sometimes wonder about the places he would see, and the sometimes outright bizarre situations people would find themselves in. But as his duty required, he would help these people out of whatever predicament they had found themselves in, as messy and unbelievable as they could be, because ‘someone has to’.
I think nearly all First Responders follow their career path because they have a deep calling to help. Little boys and girls everywhere dream of becoming police officers because they have teams, they get lights and sirens, and they protect and serve their communities. They are called to a profession with little benefit, mediocre wages, at a time when public sentiment is waning, because they want to make a difference in their communities.
But, as their careers ebb and flow, and as the glean of a new badge wears off, some find themselves in diverging directions, in places where they are investigating the darkest recesses of humanity. Because, someone has to.
I can’t find a police officer anywhere that will tell you their job is as cool and sexy as a network television show would have you believe. The paperwork, long hours, and days spent in a grey office don’t make for good TV.
I know first hand that my husband- who now investigates homicides for a living- would love it if a snappy theme-song played as he walked with his team to a call, if there was a moment of absolute clarity of 'who dunnit and why' in every file he was involved in, and most especially, if it took approximately 60 minutes to wrap up everything that came his way. Also if we could afford the suits they wear and the cars they drive.
So, as someone who has a front row seat, certain I could never do this job, I often mire at them and wonder.. why?
And his answer? Well, they answer the call because someone has to.
Someone has to talk to abused kids. Someone has to talk to their abuser. Someone has to see terrible images and continue on because they are adamant they do the best job they can for the child.
Someone has to hold the scene at a horrific car crash. Someone has to tell people their loved one is gone. Somoene has to search all night, all day, all week, and never find a trace. Someone has to go to calls and rationalize with people struggling with mental health, take kids out of unsafe environments, and make split second decisions when multiple phones are capturing their every move.
Someone has to investigate death after death because despite being regular women and men with no superhuman powers, they are now professionals in their field.
Someone has to be unaffected when the grandmother of a victim fusses over them, making sure they’ve had lunch and a hot coffee. Someone has to sit through the autopsies of children. Someone has to face evil and darkness and write it down in a report. Someone has to be the last line of defence for people who can’t fight for themselves anymore.
Someone. Has. To.
But the thing I find people forget, because it’s easy to de-humanize the person behind the badge is that, it doesn’t happen with ease and grace. These people have families and loved ones they are often leaving at a moment's notice, to head out to these calls.
My kids know what their dad does, we have open and frank conversations about where he is and why. For police kids, violence is a part of how they know the world. Mom or dad leaves because someone needs help, yes, but they’re astute enough to know there’s inherent risk and danger. Just last week two Fredericton officers were killed responding to a call. Police kids know.
So as a family we talk about some heavy stuff, and we give up a piece of our lives every time he walks out the door to a call, because someone has to.
And yes it’s a thankless job, but to be honest, most jobs are indeed, thankless. (Unless you are my favorite Starbucks barista, because I will thank you ALL THE DAMN TIME.)
And yes, I can hear the critics now, reminding me of those who do this job poorly, or for the wrong reasons.
I hear you. Those married to police officers who do a good job, well, we abhor them the most.
But in this space, and in this moment, I’m not here to focus on them.
I’m here for the members and for the families that spend weekends apart, wishing they were together, staging surprise water fights for dad when he gets home after a terribly, awful week, just to see him laugh.
I’m taking a brief moment, out of an even more brief summer, to quietly nod to the other families like ours. I see you, and I’ll never stop shedding light on the people and the families behind the badge.
Because, someone has to.