I hear the pitter patter of his purposeful little steps running down the hallway. I know the swan dive into our bed is imminent. “Take me to see a police car!” He’s 4 years old, he has bright blue eyes, and resembles his father. Just in the past few months, he has finally understood that his daddy wears the same uniform as the guys who drive his favorite toy cars and play his favorite characters on TV. He doesn’t understand the weight that comes along with his father’s occupation. In his world, there is only good. Bad doesn’t exist. He only understands love and acceptance. He doesn’t realize hate, rejection, and division is out there, too. People are just people. He doesn’t see them as anything other than his fellow human being.
She comes home from a long day of patrolling her beat. After the back to back calls, ranging from traffic stops to fatalities, her faith in humanity feels once again shaken. She puts her keys on the table and unvelcros her vest. That sound rings through the house and, like clockwork, she hears “Mommy is home!” Her little girl comes rushing down the stairs and shoots straight for her arms. By the age of 7, she is old enough to know that her mother plays an intricate part of keeping the streets safe but her understanding of mortality is limited. She can’t quite grasp the concept that there are people out there that hate her mother just because of the badge she wears. Even more so, she doesn’t understand that the possibility that her mom could answer her final call is very real.
At the age of 14, they have had many talks by now. His father has had to explain to his son about the consequences and liabilities of his line of work. He has explained to him that good men have died serving their communities, and even though they may have heroically fallen, the good guys always win. His father explains to him the hard truths of life and tells him that, if anything ever happens to him, to always take care of his mother and to know that he is extremely proud of the man he is becoming. In his eyes, his dad is invincible and better than any super hero on the big screen. He wants to follow in his steps and serve like his father does.
She puts on her cap and gown and takes one last look before she files into the auditorium. Graduation is finally here. Now that she is an adult, she has a full understanding of the real world. She has seen the depravity of man, first hand, as they laid her mother to rest. She wishes she could be there that day but her life was taken at a traffic stop that was anything but routine. She walks out and looks up at the crowd and her eyes fill with tears. It’s a sea of blue cheering her on and yelling her name. In that moment, she knows that her mother is with her and that the remainder of her family is standing in on her behalf.
He walks into the room and my heart drops. “Well, how do I look?” I brush the shoulder of his dark blue uniform, fix his tie, and straighten his name tag. “You look just like your father.” He has just finished the academy and it’s time for his graduation. He knows that I would never tell him that I didn’t want him to be a police officer but, he also knows that I would have rather him grown up to be an accountant. He sits me down on the couch and has the same conversation that his father had with him some years ago. He assures me that he is going to be okay but, if something were to ever happen to him to know that he always felt loved. As he walks away, I call out. “Have a good day at work, baby!” He turns and looks back with the blushing, sly half smile. My mind travels back to 21 years prior and I see the man who has shared his life with me but, this time, a different piece of my heart is on the streets and the nights of worry start all over again.
May God bring everyone of them home safely and may their good deeds not go unseen. Being the family member of any police officer requires true selflessness, sacrifice, courage, and understanding. May we always be their pillar of consistency when their worlds’ begin to feel a little too dark.