fire life

Current Thoughts of a Firefighter’s Wife

I don’t often write about my role as a firefighter’s wife anymore as it isn’t the main narrative in my life. For various reasons, I distanced myself from focusing on it as doing so caused excess anxiety.

Honestly, I struggle the most on the days my husband works his 24 hour shift. He remains a stabilizing, calming factor in my life. Moreover, even though I no longer listen to the scanner when he works, if I let it, my mind will run away with worst case scenarios. I try to stay busy when he works so I don’t have time to dwell on “What If.” One (ex-) therapist didn’t understand the rise in anxiety while my husband worked his shift. She didn’t last long.

Yesterday I attended the funeral of a retired firefighter with my husband the rest of the department.

I’ve wanted to go with him every time over the years, but until August I worked a day job that didn’t let me escape for three hours midday. Until this year, I also didn’t have a local childcare option if the kids didn’t have school on the day of a funeral. Now that I set my own work schedule and have childcare when I need it, I can attend with my husband.

As we gathered in the garage at the fire department, a fellow firefighter commented on my presence in a positive manner.

“This is what we’re missing these days: our families,” my husband replied.

One other firefighter wife attended.

I sat with our department, all dressed in their Class A uniforms, and watched as a beloved wife said her final goodbyes. I listened as a grown son told a room full of loved ones and firefighters how his dad was his hero. To say my heart felt heavy would be a gross understatement.

I sat in the funeral home knowing I might someday sit in that very same funeral home to say goodbye to my husband surrounded by a bunch of firefighters in their Class As. I also realized I will attend many, many more funerals over the years—not just for those firefighters who came before, but for the men who work, day in and day out, with my husband. The ones who joke with me at the VFW after a funeral, who love our sons.

At the cemetery, I stood alone as the firefighters stood in their two lines during the military rites and the final goodbye.

Last night, the two of us watched Burn, a documentary about the Detroit Fire Department. I can’t decide if it’s a must watch or a must avoid for fire spouses, but it definitely ranked as highly informative and well done. I didn’t know that the DFD fights the most fires per year of any city in the country. Detroit is literally burning down, with 95% of the fires they fight (as of release in 2010) being arson. That’s not okay.

In the documentary, we saw how one firefighter lives life as a paraplegic after a devastating collapse at a fire. I also learned that bath tubs fall through ceilings and air conditioners fall out of windows, neither a thing I’ve ever considered. The saddest part, however, was a man who loved his wife oh-so-much and couldn’t wait for his retirement to live his life with her; she died shortly before his last day of work.

I don’t know what life holds for me as a firefighter’s wife. The unknown of it all kind of pokes at places I don’t like to go very often anymore. I choose to live in the present as much as my tricky mind lets me. But yesterday made me think a lot about the fire department family, my personal skill set, and that previously mentioned setting of my own schedule. I may write more about being a firefighter’s wife this year as a new project seems to be forming itself. We’ll see.

For now, if you know my husband is working a 24 hour shift, maybe just check in on me or send me funny gifs or dog videos. I’m working hard on my coping techniques to remain in safe spaces while he’s gone, but sometimes they fail. Over the past year, I’ve realized how I need to ask for help when I need it. So. Here I am.

Current Thoughts of a Firefighter's Wife

Holidays Parenting

The Valentine’s Day the Fire Department Ruined

This post could alternately be titled: Or Why We Don’t Celebrate Valentine’s Day Anymore. (Kind of.)

BigBrother was not quite three months old and I was deep in the throes of postpartum depression. We had just bought the house but had not yet moved out of our apartment and into said house. As such, stress levels were high with the packing, decluttering, painting of the new house and general anxiety that comes with buying your first home. We were planning on moving the 16th of February, so by the 14th — Valentine’s Day — we were maxed out on stress.

But, gee, BigBrother was cute, no?

What are you doing over there?

The high stress made me a little bit grumpy — and that may be a gross understatement. I didn’t want to go to work that day as it was; I had so much left to do in order to get us ready to move. And at that point in time, I still placed some unnecessary, unrealistic, unatainable importance on Valentine’s Day. The winds of drama were churning, blowing my postpartum emotions about.

And then? C’mon fire partners, I know you know what I’m about to say next.

Yep. Fire!

A local restaurant caught on fire, thus creating The Perfect Storm for a Postpartum Rant. In my old blog, I tagged the post as “the valentine’s day the FD ruined.” Oh yes, it was Very Dramatic. It was kind of unfortunate regarding timing as I had to take BigBrother to FireDad’s grandparents’ house. Since FireDad wasn’t supposed to work that day, we hadn’t arranged for our normal child care. Emergencies and fires don’t really care about scheduled child care. As he ran out the door, I began to cry. Any hope of salvaging a Valentine’s Day went down the drain with my weeping snot.

A few days later, as I reread my rant, I realized that it was absolutely ridiculous. FireDad had no control over the fire at the restaurant. BigBrother didn’t care that he spent most of the day with his great-grandparents. Despite working a normal shift that day, we did eventually get packed and moved on schedule. I began to reevaluate my thoughts and beliefs about Valentine’s Day at that point in time.

What was the point of the rant? Of the hurt feelings? I mean, postpartum depression played into that scenario, but the whole tirade seemed rather pointless. Neither of us really placed much importance on Valentine’s Day to begin with, so why was I so upset? I began to see that we didn’t need to do that to ourselves. Also, having just over a year in at the Fire Department at that point, I was also realizing that our schedules are never truly are own; a fire can happen at any time, on any holiday. And, in fact, they usually do. I began to let go of Valentine’s Day after that unfortunate year of unnecessary whining.

Since that year, we have scaled it back. Way back. Meaning that we — as a couple — don’t do or give anything. We — as parents — try to make the day about Family Love, showing the boys with little activities and gifts and meals that we love them. A lot. This year they each got a book, a coloring book (SMURFS, you guys!) and their current favorite dinner — homemade fettucini alfredo with shrimp, broccoli and cheesy scones. We are taking some strawberry mini-cupcakes to the Fire Department for FireDad and his coworkers. And that’s about it. Low-key. No stress. No chocolate. No rants about the ruining of a day.

Just Love.

Oh, and I may have dressed them way cute today. And apparently neglected to brush their hair.

My Valentines

And so, Happy Valentine’s Day. I hope nothing ruined your day. I hope it was what you wanted. Ours? Just perfect.