While I was fast asleep and dreaming of nothing more than being asleep, my husband's pager woke me up in the wee hours of a September morning. He responded to the station to find out that the fire was one of the big buildings on our city’s version of Main Street. He scrambled to throw on some pants and put in his contacts. With a quick kiss, he was out the door.
I know better. I know better than to head out to the living room and turn on the scanner, to listen to the play-by-play fire chatter as everything happens. I know that the best thing for me to do as a wife and a busy mother of two little boys is to say a quick prayer, roll over and get back to sleep. I know all of this. Hard-headed as I am, I went against my logic and turned on the scanner. The last downtown fire involved mutual aid and more than 100 firefighters to fight the blaze. I spent three hours listening to the ins and outs of a fire, reporting various things like collapsing walls and general mayhem on my twitter. After two cups of hot tea, I was finally able to go back to sleep for an hour and a half before my older son woke up in tears because his daddy had promised to make him oatmeal in the morning and he was, of course, gone, fighting a fire as firefighting dads do. No consolation. My son was mad. I was tired and anxious. Not a great mix.
My husband borrowed a cell phone at nine o’clock in the morning to give us a call, to let us know that he was fine. I am thankful for that small call, that reassurance that my husband was fine. At that point, he had been gone for seven hours and yes, I was anxious. We went to church. We came home. No husband. Ten hours. We ran errands. We came home. No husband. Twelve and a half hours. I then decided, in my exhaustion, that fixing supper wasn’t a feasible option. Neither was guessing whether or not my husband was still okay. So we ordered pizza from the place closest to the fire site, said we’d pick it up and we were off. I put my younger son in the mei tai on my back, and we walked down.
And I’ve never seen such a beautiful site.
It’s hard. I tell other women who are considering the idea of marrying a firefighter that it’s not easy. Marrying a firefighter means marrying the fire department in various ways. It also means that there will be nights and days of not knowing, of not seeing or touching or having any help. In fact, my husband worked a 36-hour shift that weekend, coming home five hours before he was called out on the downtown blaze. The boys only saw him for a half hour all weekend. Mega-meltdown of epic proportions on the part of my older son that following morning; and why? “I Miss Daddy.” I do, too. To boot, my youngest got sick one night during it all and threw up on the both of us just as my husband was called back to the fire department. Yes, I cried.
I knew who I was marrying and what I was marrying into. That doesn’t mean I’m any less stressed with a fire of this size, a weekend in which everything seems to go wrong. We had plans, plans that never saw completion. We couldn't even go ahead and do what we were planning sometime the next week or next weekend because it was a one-time event. It happens. I knew that. I know that. But it’s hard at times.
The good news is that he is safe. The other firefighters are safe. No one was injured in the fire. Similarly good news is how impressed the boys are with their daddy as a result of our exhausted pizza trip. My older son had never been on the scene of the immediate aftermath of a fire. He was in awe, both of the fire and his daddy. As soon as we returned home from picking up pizza, they had to don their firefighter costumes and put out fires in the backyard. My older son reiterated, all evening, that he wants to be a firefighter when he grows up. And despite having been on edge all weekend, scared about the well-being of the man I love most in this world, I hugged my oldest son and said, “That would make Mommy very proud.”
I mean every word of it. Proud.