The sadness in his eyes breaks my heart and when his smile doesn’t fully reach his eyes, one of the best parts of his smile, I know. I know something is wrong. Still, I welcome him home after a long 12-hour shift and make his plate for dinner. He has in tow a box of donuts for the kids’ breakfast in the morning, a bottle of my favorite wine, and a 4-pack of his favorite Dogfish beer (not a beer to take lightly with its 9% content). These things don’t often happen, you see. I can count on one hand how many mornings the children will have donuts for breakfast as it’s a very special occasion treat that we give them. He mentions how The Little recently spoke fondly of his love for sprinkled donuts and there it was, that sadness in his eyes deeply rooted.
I made meatloaf for dinner, a favorite of his, and he eats it with an obvious heavy heart. There are often times when his shifts do not go well, which I presume is the case for all EMTs and Paramedics, and sometimes I’m not sure I want to hear what tragedies he has had to endure.
He continues to eat and I ramble on and on about insignificant wifely and motherly duties I’ve done or dealt with throughout the day. A typical Sunday for me, my biggest complaint is that of annoying children visiting ours for play-dates. The television is on, more so in the background than for us to watch, but on the screen is a tribute to an actor who passed away this year and I see his eyes well up. It’s alarming and breathtaking. I’m nervous. What could make him cry, especially since he doesn’t often do it? In 20 years I’ve seen him cry only a couple handfuls of times.
I ask him what’s wrong and the pain I see on his face, deep in his eyes, shutters me to a stop and I know. It’s a child. Whatever horrible day he has had on his ambulance today, it involves a child. He tells me it’s nothing, though we both know it’s a lie. He tries to protect me from the horrible things that he sees knowing that my nerves/anxiety and irrational fears often cannot handle it. I have to be strong, I have to be supportive. He reminds me there are people with whom he can speak. I find comfort, always, that he has a support team but today I can see he needs someone now.
I ask a few questions and slowly he begins to talk. He goes through the last part of his shift, how he thinks he’ll be called in early, how he’s talking lightly to another medic who’s off today. Then the call comes in. It’s the worst kind of call and yes, it’s a child. (I won’t go into details out of respect for the family and for my husband, but I will say the baby was not breathing when they got on scene and it’s a horrible accident that happened at their home)
The husband recalls the scene, what transpired, what he can see now that he’s left it, recounts things that maybe should have been done differently – though in truth there was nothing that could have been done to change the outcome. He sobs and my heart shatters. I cannot fathom this loss; I cannot understand the terror and hurt of not being able to bring back such a young life. We cry together and I hold him tightly, words escape me. There’s nothing I can say, there’s nothing I can do to soothe him. It’s one of the most helpless feelings I’ve had in quite some time. So I just cry as he cries and I pray.
I continue to pray for him while he tries to come to peace with what happened. I pray for all of the first responders, for I cannot be more grateful of their gift and place on this earth. I pray for the little one whose time ended entirely too soon, and for the family from whom the baby was taken.
This post, it may not mean anything to anyone, but this man, this husband of mine is one of the greatest souls I know. We’ve been through some trying and very difficult times in our marriage and we’ve come out better because of them. Nights like these remind me of how special a human being he is, how courageous and precious he is, and how very lucky I am to have him as a husband. Being a wife of a first responder, an EMT in my case, is both prideful and heartbreaking.