Tales From the Tailboard

Do I dare tell them?

We tried very hard not to influence the career choices of our boys. We did have one requirement after high school: either a year of Bible school, or some type of ministry. After that we would support them in any direction they wanted to take.

Kip (son #1) served a year with Life Action Ministries and Rob (son #2) spent a summer in Papua New Guinea with New Tribes Mission. For both of them it was a time of growth spiritually, physically and emotionally.

Then Kip applied to the Sedgwick County Fire Department, and later Rob applied to the Winfield Fire Department and both were hired. These were not simultaneous hirings, and both were independent decisions. In retrospect, neither boy had ever known their daddy to be anything but a firefighter. And though he was careful never to push them one direction or another, Bob was very pleased that they saw his career choice as being something they wanted for their future.

But then those boys of ours got engaged, and it WAS nearly simultaneously. In fact, the younger beat the elder. And while they had no doubts–I did.

Never a doubt about their choices for life-mates. We loved both girls and knew God had chosen them well before the boys even knew they existed. But my question was how much to say to them about what to expect as a result of them marrying a firefighter.

Were they ready for the nights alone? Would their families understand holidays that would be celebrated either without them or on a completely different day? How would they handle every child in the family vomiting at the same time, while daddy was on duty? What about school function, church functions, etc., that would go on whether or not dad could be present? And would they be satisfied to live on the very, very steady, but never lucrative income?

I was the mother-in-law-to-be. Would I be disloyal to our sons by painting a negative picture, or would they consider me interfering?

In the end, I weighed it out, wrote it out, prayed it out. For you see, in reality all those arguments were a very tiny portrait of what it really meant to be a firefighters wife.

The big picture reveals shades of brotherhood that extends well beyond the men. What color is compassion? How could I ever portray the confidence that comes with knowing they will respond to a family’s need en masse? What hue do you give–giving? Or how can I sketch what happens when your child is gasping for air one minute, and at peace the next because the firefighter/ambulance men arrive? Is there a color given for dignity? What medium defines your husband’s love of his job? And to be brutally honest—some of the stories shared among the three firefighters in this family are a bit ‘off-color’.

Son #1 is now a Division Chief with the Sedgwick County Fire Department.  Son #2 is a Captain and paramedic with the Newton Fire Department, his dad’s alma mater. And I have no idea how our daughter’s-in-law would portray their lives as firefighter wives.

But for me,

On the 15th of this month, we will celebrate our 56th wedding anniversary, and I’d marry the man again in a heartbeat.


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