He comes home from work, drops his gear, and walks past the dogs and me to find a peaceful place to rest. The empty look in his eyes is all too familiar. There’s nothing left of him today. He has given himself wholly to his job and his team, but mostly, he has exhausted the remnants of his already tired soul on the offenders and wrongdoers whose paths he has crossed today.
These are the days, as the wife of a law enforcement officer, great kindness, compassion, forgiveness, love, and grace must be freely given, expecting nothing in return. These are the days there will be no expectation for him to be a participant in the household. These are the days where anything that is not an emergency will be placed on hold.
To see the person you love and share your life with appear so distant requires a learning curve. No, I did not become a LEOW the day we wed, but rather after seeing how the demands of the job can have such an immense impact on him, realizing there will be times he’ll come home and have nothing left to give. I remember asking myself in the beginning, “Did I do something wrong? Is he upset with me? How can he walk past me and not kiss me like he does every single day?” The answer is always the same. Because today, if you look into his eyes, you will see he is empty.
So I will go kiss him, hug him until I feel that deep breath and heavy exhale, keep the house quiet and peaceful, leave him undisturbed until dinner is ready, not say a word when things aren’t put away properly, avoid unnecessary conversation, do a few extra things to help him get ready tomorrow morning a bit quicker, and definitely leave a love note for him to see when he wakes to go to work again tomorrow, reminding him that HE IS MY HERO!
This hollow shell is not the man I married. The man I married is kind, generous, and full of passion, always ready to make others laugh and feel important. He will be back! Maybe tomorrow, maybe the next day, maybe not until he has had a much needed day off, but he will be back!
For now, my focus will be on freely giving space, love, and understanding to the man who may have seen or heard unthinkable things today. There will be no questions from me because he knows if he wants to talk about anything, I am here to listen. His silence may well be his way of protecting my innocence. There are countless things he sees and does on a regular basis that my brain cannot fully process, so his silence is often yet another generous gift. Even in a place where his eyes reveal his emptiness, he still has the capacity to show great compassion, and to be the protector he was born to be. Sometimes, the silence is his gift.
To the other men and women who love, and share their lives with, a law enforcement officer, remember you are not alone when you see empty eyes. Together we all “back the blue” and we help remind our loved ones of their own resilience after society, or individuals, try to tear them down. Our job is also an important one, and the flow of our love and compassion with our spouses will not only come back to us, but it will also surge through them, helping to fill their empty vessel, with the goal of creating a natural current of positivity.
So to you first responders who are donning those empty eyes, and to you who look into them, I see you. May your own vessels overflow with patience, resilience, honor, courage, and faith; and, “Thank you!” to each of you who gives so freely of yourself for the greater good. You matter, and I appreciate you.
Patricia Landfair – I’m the wife of a sheriff’s deputy, founder of State of Oregon Law Enforcement Support, certified in Animal Training and Enrichment.