Friday, September 19, 2014

Little Black Dress

Today, I will put on my funeral dress. Yes, I have a funeral dress. The last few years of my life have seen a good bit of family and friends taken from me, and at each occasion I found myself turning to the same black, knee length dress. Add the pearls and the tiny, black heels, and you have a perfectly appropriate outfit for mourning.

When I bought it, it was my favorite new "grown up" dress. As a short twenty-something, it is hard to find outfits that don't make me look like a flippant teenager or a child trying to dress too old for her age. But this was it. The perfect middle ground. Something that actually made me look my age. Praise, Ann Taylor and its petite section.

I'm not sure how it started. My guess is that I wore it out of lack of time to find something else, but I found myself wearing it to every funeral I attended. I put it on each time and psychologically let it bear the weight of my grief. Afterward I take it off, along with my sadness, and hang it in the guest room closet. I leave it there, so I don't have to be reminded of the loss it represents. I leave it there until, I need it to bear the weight of another sad day. Like today.

This will be the first police officer's funeral I will attend. In my heart, I hope to never see another day like this. But I know this is, sadly, unlikely. Each day I send my officer out to do his job, knowing today could be the day. But each day, you just pray like hell it isn't. Anyone who has ever lived this life understands this feeling. The ones that have not are the same people who ask me "Oh, did you know him?" No. I did not know him. I did not know his favorite foods or the names of his parents. I did not know what his favorite thing to do on his day off was. I did not know where he lived or even the date of his birthday. But I did know him. And I know his wife. And this is why I attend the funeral of our fallen brother.

Natalie Stahl, a police wife, wrote on the Facebook page of the Arizona Auxiliary of Wives Behind the Badge, Inc:
When an officer dies, the question is always, “Did you know him?”, like somehow it can diminish the pain of a fallen officer if you had never met them. As the spouse of a police officer, I get that, as well – with an added, “Do you know his wife?”
My response? Yes. I know her.
I know that she finds herself alone a lot. I know she spends a lot of time explaining to family members, friends and co-workers why her officer husband is not with her. I know when someone asks what her husband does – she may have an alternative answer like ‘he works for the city (county or state)’ or ‘he’s a trash collector’, yet someone in the room always clarifies for her – he’s a cop.
I know she probably has an alias on her social media profiles in case a suspect decides to find their arresting officer’s family. I know she’s proud of him and wants to put LE stickers on her car, but won’t because she’s worried about getting run off the road or targeted. I know she looks into every police car she pulls up next to. I know when he speaks to her in number code, she answers him in English.
I know she cringes every time she hears the words “officer involved” and HATES the words “routine traffic stop”. I know she spends a lot of time defending her husband’s career choice and sometimes realizes that her silence is necessary. I know the justice system frustrates her, yet she relies on it anyway. I know that people feel it necessary to tell her of every contact they’ve had with LE – especially if it was bad, yet never seem to remember to tell her when they saw one do something nice.
I know she sleeps alone a lot, spends her birthday, anniversary and her children’s birthdays wishing he were there. I know “date nights” on Wednesdays are better than a Saturday every single time. And I know when on that date, he will have to sit facing the door.
I know when they do get a chance to go out, she’ll let him drive so as to not have to hear about her “escape route” or recite portions of the traffic code. I know that he’ll always recognize someone somewhere that he’s arrested. I know they probably have a ‘code word’ that means grab the kids and head the other way – I’ll meet you at the car.
I know when her children are little they are proud of their super hero. And as they grow into teenagers, they no longer offer what their dad does for fear it will make them unpopular. I know high school boys don’t want to date cop’s daughters.
I know that she finds things in her washer that most people don’t have in their homes – from blue gloves to bullets – and thinks nothing of it. I know she’s picked a handcuff key out of her dryer more than once. I know she has learned to ignore the smell of his vest in July and buys Febreeze by the gallon. I know her biggest load of laundry is black (or tan or blue). And they’re usually washed separately to make sure that any bio-hazard he’s come in contact with doesn’t end up in the baby’s clothes.
I know that she wants him to eat better, but knows a ‘good day’ for him means more than one trip to QT. I know that she buys Tupperware by the case to store leftovers in hoping he’ll eat a ‘real’ meal when he gets home. I know she’s watched him age, his hair gray and the sunspots show up on his left arm and neck.
I know she has a hard time scheduling vacations because shift change is coming. I know that when one of his brothers is hurt – his vacation time will probably get donated to him anyway. I know that when it’s his regular day off, he will probably still get called to court – even if he worked all night.
I know that a text message with two words – I’m okay – is like a sonnet or love song to most... especially when we see “breaking news” flash on our TV screens.
I know that her favorite sounds are the garage door and the sound of Velcro. He made it home safely. And I know she can tell by the sound of his boots on the floor whether or not to ask how his day was.
And I know that even though she knew his job had risk, and officers are dying in the line of duty – she never TRULY believed it would happen to hers.
Do I know her? Yes. Have I met her? No.
But when I do – you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.
Note to Self: Original post by Natalie Stahl, here. Rest In Peace, brother. We'll take it from here. 

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