LEOs get in a groove… and there’s a big difference between a groove and complacency, however, one can lead to another for some. BL, is just a very matter of fact kind of LEO. He’s very rational when it comes to death and critical incidents and those bad calls that still make me cringe upon hearing about them. He rarely talks about calls, and being a negotiator he’s had some doozies. But it is his style, his groove, and over his seventeen years in law enforcement, it is how he has chosen to cope with what he has seen.
Over the years I have learned his groove. I have learned that not sharing is not the equivalent of him shutting me out. I know not to take it personally if I feel he is upset and I say “you ok?” only to receive a short “Yep…what’s for dinner?” in return. His groove is not about me, it’s not about my feelings. His groove is not about MY need to make sure I feel confident he’s alright. His groove is just that….his own coping mechanism which allows him to function in this life in a way that works for him.
I know his body language. I know when he sits in his chair, only managing to get his shirt and vest off, lingering in his boots (with plastic booties over them…we don’t do stranger DNA in this house), rubbing his forehead with his hands…. that’s a bad day. I know it without him saying a word. If he comes in the door on the phone, clearly dealing with a bad day that’s not going away, I keep my distance until he is done. I don’t impose family time while he’s still trying to finish work time. I don’t take that personally. I know he no more wants to be on the phone explaining to his Sergeant or whoever else he’s still having to talk to about the incident than I do… he walked in the door for a reason, because he’s ready to be home. I continue on with what I’m doing, I tell the boy child “daddy’s on the phone, he’ll be out here in a few minutes” and we let him have that time to be done, decompress, do what LEOs do, shed the gear, get out of the Kevlar, change clothes without the spouse and kids hovering……. I mean… is there any parent (mom’s particularly) who don’t know the struggle of just wanting to go to the bathroom in peace? I get it. I know he’ll join us shortly. If I don’t get the immediate satisfaction of “Acknowledge us, you’re home!”….yeah, I’m not that wife.
Likewise, BL and I would both regard ourselves as a cynical, sarcastic, completely politically incorrect couple… our affection is like a boy and girl throwing rocks on the playground kind of thing. He is sure to grab my a** before he kisses me. His motto has always been “when it’s your time to go, it’s your time to go. Shed a few tears, toss my ashes out the sunroof (uhhm..ewww..no…) and head to Vegas and have a drink knowing I did it my way.” We are not the mushy, gushy, crying kind of pair. We’re too old for jealousy or competition or petty bullsh*t. Drama in any form is not our thing.
So, when my LEO, who has a very well established routine and groove in regard to law enforcement, comes in the door as I would describe “ON FIRE!” literally unleashing a fully animated recount of everything that completely pissed him smooth off and upset him and left him shaking his head while on duty that day…… there’s a moment of “deer in headlights” coming from me. I catch myself in a “whaaat the whaaat? Who is this man?” blank stare before it registers…. HE’S TALKING! Crap! Pay attention WOMAN!
Yesterday was one of those rare days. BL walked in the door and unleashed a detailed account of what had him all riled up upon his return through that door. And he was walking and unleashing…. In and out of the master closet, words flying out of his mouth, you could see the brain was working overtime as he was himself deviating from his groove. I could hear myself thinking “gun…. your gun…in the safe… dude, take your belt off before trying to unzip your shirt” watching him in this off kilter dance that left me sitting on the side of the tub trying to find the balance between listening and knowing when to interject as I, myself, had to absorb the change in his groove.
At some point in there when he was rehashing the same thing he had already said, clearly needing to say it again, clearly trying to come to terms with it on his own, I found myself just staring at him, having my own conversation with myself. I found myself studying him, watching his lips moving but hearing a whole other conversation…. I found myself with a clear image of all the days and all the years this non talking LEO must do this very dance, INTERNALLY, without ever speaking a word.
In that moment, I found myself reminded of everything he deals with and how well he deals with it, which I take for granted because of the groove. He always comes home to a supportive wife, he knows he will never walk into a house of conflict. He knows this is his safe haven. He knows I will never chastise him for his groove and how he deals with his life on duty, but in that moment I was reminded of how much there is within that man, how much it must take for him to walk in our door, head to our closet, do what he does in those moments between 10-8 and 10-7. It’s not just a radio call. It’s more than going off duty. It’s not a switch. And yet, because of his groove, he has learned a way that works for him to enable him to transition from officer to husband and father and lover and friend when his day is done.
It did me a lot of good to be reminded of all he carries with him, whether he unleashes every day or whether his groove only allows him to overflow when he needs to, it is still all there. I’ve got mad respect for a man who can carry it all around and figure out a way to manage it all within his head and his heart and still manage to be the man he is on the home front. And, it makes me even more determined to make sure he comes home to a place that allows him to escape some of it, somehow.
That’s a choice for us both. A determined effort. For him to leave it and come home and LOVE his family. For him to come home and separate the baggage of the badge from the comforts of home. For him to keep separate the frustrations and emotions and turmoil from the streets from the love of his wife and children……..that’s his choice and it must take an effort, simply because of all there is to leave at the door. And he makes that choice, and he emerges after that decompression period with love. And it is my choice and my effort, regardless of my day, regardless of my struggle, to be there to embrace him and remember what he has had to let go of to then be fully available to me and our family.
We all have our grooves. In relationships we have to figure out and remember how to mesh the two and get our groove on together (so to speak). It you can respect each other’s grooves, chances are you’ll be getting your groove on together more often as well.
RESPECT THE GROOVE (but be ready for occasional curveballs).