I was leaning over the sink scrubbing dishes when you walked into the kitchen, weighed down with gear. Our baby munched happily on an assortment of peas, carrots, and apples in her high chair. As you approached she playfully smiled up at you and kicked her feet. With my back turned I heard you kiss her head and tell her “bye-bye” and “I love you so much my sweet girl” more times than my heart could handle. I hate the moments like these.
I don’t know why on some afternoons you lean in for an extra good-bye kiss with that expression on your face. It haunts me to hear you take a labored breath before finally saying, “See you in the morning.” You have admitted this before and I know that this is one of those times. But my dear Officer this isn’t the last time you will hear “bababa” or see her sweet, gummy smile. My heart feels heavy for hours following these particular goodbyes.
It is no wonder why I can’t sleep when you are gone and certainly caring for a baby could have been easier with less restless nights. Eyes shut, I think of you out there seeing what we don’t, safe in our beds. And a sigh of relief escapes when I hear your boots in the hallway before the sun is up. You met the main objective of your shift and came home.
I make myself a PBJ or a bowl of cereal for dinner and sit down to feed her before a bath and “night-night.” I hate doing this alone but I know that you hate missing it more. I see the packed dinner that you accidentally left on the counter and I don’t do my usual lecture via text message because I know that your heart was heavy when you left. You wondered momentarily if that would be the last time you looked at your precious girl or the last time you gave your wife a kiss. And even in a relatively safe jurisdiction of service, the future isn’t promised. Even the bravest are allowed a moment of vulnerability, it is what keeps you human amongst the inhumane.
The evening news is too much for me to bear, I don’t want to see what you and your brothers and sisters in blue face. I don’t understand why so many people look at you as an enemy or even think you are out to get them, because to us, you’re our defender. We know your heart and your cause. She tries to play with your badge when you hug her goodnight and you wear it proudly because you were called to serve.
So my dear Officer, tonight while we are playing on the floor and rocking to sleep don’t doubt that we will be thinking about you. And know that I see the stressed expression on your face as you constantly try to catch up on sleep during the daylight hours. I wish that I could make the world good but you are the one who is actually making that effort. I don’t know the burden that you carry on your shoulders but we support you. We will see you in the morning.
God Bless those who are proud to serve.