Guns, Guardians & Gratitude
Editor's note: this is one of several posts about relationships/marriage by women of Backing the Blue Line. We are proud to announce our first ever Relationship Retreat where MN Law Enforcement couples will spend a few days in the north woods investing in their relationship with one another. Are you a MN Law Enforcement Officer or the spouse/partner/fiance/fiancess/girlfriend/boyfriend of one? Check out the event info about Bullet Proof Your Relationship on Facebook. Want to read more about law enforcement marriages? Click on the Marriage tag on this post to read other posts on this topic.
“You might as well be speaking to me in French.”
We were standing in the gun section of Scheels on a recent saturday morning.
“I have no clue what you’re even talking about.”
I said to him with laugh and a shake of my head as he mulled over which target to buy for some shooting practice.
I generally have no issue going to Scheel's with him. Or Cabela's. Or even Fleet Farm. But we both know I am really only there for the clothes, the kitchy seasonal stuff, or a fudge sample. So to ask my opinion on something gun related? Hard pass.
But alas, it was hunting season here in Minnesota and suddenly blaze orange isn’t just a color on a maple tree, but rather a socially acceptable fashion choice. Bucks and does in different area codes are suddenly the only thing on his mind. And of course, I’ve already busted out a bunch of “Ope! I didn’t see you there!” jokes when he wears his new camo hunting jacket around the house like a second skin. I think he’d probably turn off our furnace just for the chance to wear it to bed.
I gave him that same bewildered shrug when he came home with a new rifle from a recent gun raffle. So proud and high on his luck, he freely gave me the full scoop on the cost, the purpose, and the utility of the darn shooting thing.
I am not a city mouse, but I am not a country mouse, either. I grew up with guns in my home, family members who hunted frequently. But I also recall a terrifying fear of even touching a gun case. “What if it goes off? What if it is still loaded?” It never was. And they never did. But that uncertainty didn’t help cure my fear of loud noises and unexpected “booms.” (See also: I hate balloons). Now, I am married to a cop who carries one on his hip like a lawyer carries a briefcase. My children refer to it as a “blaster.” Even at this point in time, I am not totally sure they have generalized the word “gun” to the tools on Daddy’s duty belt.
The first time I ever shot a pistol was at his family’s farm early in our relationship. In attendance was my husband, my brother-in-law, and my sister-in-law. All cops. All very familiar with the procedures, rules, and idiosyncrasies of this loud, powerful tool. I recall my husband standing behind me, steading my arms, correcting my stance. “Take a breath and exhale before you pull the trigger.” And if you’re imagining the pottery wheel scene from “Ghost” right now, it wasn’t nearly as romantic. I didn’t like it. But I summoned some courage, shot a few rounds, and quickly surrendered my weapon. It was too much. Too much power, too much risk. I was also “that girl” who once upon a time innocently asked “Aren’t you trained to just shoot people in the foot?”
My husband loves to razz me about my jumpy nervous system. Anytime I get spooked, my instinct is to run and hide. Take the other day for example, when he waited for me outside of the bathroom just to blow his deer call my ear (Curse you, hunting season). His favorite is when I throw the covers over my head as if the bad guys or zombies or our ninja-quiet preschoolers aren't going to find me under there.
But natural inclinations, like our fight or flight responses are a funny thing. Behavior is interesting. As a teacher, I've learned and been instructed that behavior is communication. All behavior is communication. Behavior is purposeful. This year, the agency my husband works for took a leap and invited spouses and significant others to a resilience training. Never in our decade as a couple has his agency so publicly recognized the whole cop. Or in other words, the cop that stretches beyond the squad car or the street. By opening the training to spouses they offered new perspectives and conversations for relationships across the state.
(Photo by Jamie Cramble Photography) During the seminar, I realized something SO critical. Something I choked up trying to express to my husband. Something that finally connected the dots for me. My husband’s job is for me. I need him. Not in the like, he can reach the upper cabinets and he looks handsome in a uniform sort of need, but the need that satisfies an unalienable right as a citizen of this country. He, along with his brothers and sisters in blue are sworn to protecting every last one of us. Including me. I may have been present at the training, but there was a portion of the conversation that was not meant for me. The part that reminded all in attendance of the ancient and tribal need for guardians. Protectors. Individuals dedicated to the greater good. The sheepdogs. That is not me. It is not my calling. But it punctuated an important point: I need someone willing to fight. We all do. Someone willing to draw a weapon, diffuse a bomb, de-escalate an intense situation, smoke-out the ghosts, and run towards the threat. Someone who’s behavior protects my well-being.
(Photo by Johanna Jade Photography)
As a teacher, it genuinely terrifies me that there is conversation that includes arming me, too. It’s not my inclination. It’s not my primal response. It’s not my job. And I pray every single day my community never experiences something so unthinkable. As a women, there is no shame in having no interest in arming myself or even in wanting to participate in some shooting practice. And if you’re reading my reverence towards guns as apathy and ignorance, than you’ve missed the point. I may try shooting the darn blaster thing again someday. But until then, I rest easy knowing that his fight protects my flight. I rest easy knowing their fight protects our flight.
About the writer: Caitlin is a passionate Backing the Blue Line member and currently serves as a Sub Chair of the marketing committee. She's also a SWAT attendee and a fierce "heart emoji clicker" in BTBL's private Facebook group. She is a middle school special education teacher and chief chaos coordinator of twin boys. Her dream job would be a talk radio DJ. But only if she could talk about the fluffy stuff. Her husband, a Minnesota State Trooper, has been in law enforcement for about 10 years. He is literally and figuratively the brakes to her lead foot. More of Caitlin can be found on her blog, Minnesota Gingham. About the retreat: Bullet Proof Your Relationship will be held March 3-5, 2019 at the Arrowwood Resort in Alexandria. Kevin Norton, a 25 year Police Chaplain, will lead guests through John and Julie Gottman's Seven Principals for making marriage work over the course of six sessions during the retreat.