IN THE BEGINNING, BEFORE THERE WAS BLUE
I had to take a survey to find my husband. We met back in the stone ages when online dating was a bit more in-depth than just a quick swipe left or swipe right.
It’s been several trips around the sun since our first date in 2008. It was a hot Sunday afternoon in July. We agreed to meet at Caribou Coffee in Uptown, just down the street from Lake Calhoun. I showed up in a sweatshirt and skirt and he was wearing the most terrible sandals I’ve ever seen. My first impression was that he was genuine, a heck of a listener (great for a talker like me), and kind. I interpreted his dead-fish handshake as nervousness and as the most sincere form of flattery. Our new relationship was easy, sweet, and total happiness.
THE PHONE CALL THAT CHANGED EVERYTHING
I was sitting right next to him when he received the call from the Minnesota State Patrol that he’d made it into their academy. It’s really a special moment when you witness someone achieve a long-sought after goal. Maybe it’s a little personal to say, but I will never forget watching him throw his head back in happiness- or maybe it just fell back in relief? His trademark smirk was replaced with a genuine smile. The crow’s feet around his blue eyes deep with contentedness. I watched him take the months prior to the academy to prepare mentally, physically, and emotionally for what was in store. Excellence. Click.
With great pride, I pinned his badge to his tailored, new, and polished class A’s. His duty belt pulled tight around a trim waist. His boots clean and polished-just at the toe. He is always so careful to keep a lighter in his polish kit to get just the right shine. The wide brimmed hat drawn down just over his eyes making him look very official with a dash of handsome. Standing next to his older brother, also a Trooper, there was certainly an air of reverence for the achievements made by this duo. Respect. Click.
PINNING BADGES & PUTTING RINGS ON
After I pinned the badge in 2009, he put a ring on it, and we were married in early June of 2010. Almost a decade later we’ve brought home a puppy, bought a house, and given life to twin boys. For 9 years, we’ve housed a squad car in our garage, added extra air fresheners to our mudroom for the times the scent of “green evidence” seeps through the garage walls, and hemmed countless new pairs of maroon polyester slacks. As partners, we’ve supported each other through the birth and NICU stay of our twins. He was the one who discovered that gun-range ear protection comes in handy when you are working double-time to feed hungry and overly-tired babies. I can proudly say I’ve finally mastered the pattern his schedule follows and writing and speaking in military time is as normal as the scent of Caribou coffee on his uniform.
(Thank you to Julie Michelle Photography LLC for the beautiful Blue Line Ball 2017 photo.)
Life as a law enforcement wife is difficult to describe. You are equal parts spouse, woman, and caregiver. But you are also the hedge and barrier between law, order, and the fringes of society. A law enforcement wife is a keeper of secrets, keeper of intense fears, and a keeper of stability.
Every relationship ebbs and flows into the paths it carves out. Some of those corners sharper than others. Honorable. Click.
Over the last few years, there has been a distinct shift in the public dialogue about the role of police officers. A tidal wave of negativity, distrust, and apathy has reached even the smallest towns in Minnesota. All of this towards the men and women who suit up in the name of peace every single day.
Is it worthwhile to evolve and reconcile in the name of a peaceful democracy? Absolutely.
But what happens when the heart behind the brass is neglected, discouraged, and suddenly less polished? What happens when there is discord within the fraternity you’ve pledged life, family, and time to? What happens when the blue line feels less secure? Integrity? Click.
HE SHOULD BE HERE
I wouldn’t see a class A uniform in person again until this past summer. I had volunteered to distribute Backing the Blue Line’s signature blue roses at the memorial service for a colleague of my husband. When I signed up, I was under the impression that my husband would be also be attending the service. He in uniform and me passing on a tangible symbol of comfort to the family that knows every inch of the sacrifice that comes with a badge. On the drive to the memorial service, I called him. Reminding him that there was still time to change into his uniform. It was after one of his coworkers said to me very casually “he should be here,” that I realized we were in one of those sharp corners of our relationship.
THE SAME EYE CREASES AND SMIRK...AND A TINY BIT OF SALT
Those same eye creases are there. They’re just a bit deeper and little more worn. His smirk still makes my heart skip a beat, but for a time it didn’t quite fully reach the corners of his mouth. His sleep was restless, his appetite for distraction and escape a bit stronger than his willingness to invest in his work. And you never heard it from me: that his hair is a bit more “salt” these days than blonde. He was burning out. When I said the words “I will support you if you decide you no longer want to do this” I watched that same head fall back, this time with defiance. As a middle school special education teacher I know that look. It’s the same look I get from my students when they are struggling to find their place among their peers. It’s the look that says “I belong here. I am just waiting for the dust to settle.” Courage. Click.
THE PILLARS OF THE MINNESOTA STATE PATROL
At the beautiful memorial service, I was granted a moment’s access into the life and legacy of a wonderful man and family. It was a sincere privilege and honor that I was able to pay my respects and condolences to his family. Listening to the Colonel's remarks, I heard him recall the State Patrol’s pillars. The foundational cornerstones they seek out when adding Troopers to their ranks: Integrity. Respect. Honor. Courage. Excellence. The parallel lines being drawn between, the troopers (past and present) in front of me and the man I adore and his role as an officer were seamless.
Blue is blue.
Even when blue fades, a keen eye or microscope can prove its existence.
Like a leopard, it can’t change it’s spots.
A beautiful part of a relationship includes seeing and recognizing the things in another person they struggle to see in themselves.
EVEN ON THOSE DAYS
Even on the days his brass appears smudged, his badge a bit more heavy, the blue less vibrant, 9 years later and 99 years more, I know the heart beneath all of it still clicks every box.
About the writer: Caitlin is still in her rookie year as a Backing the Blue Line member. She is a member of the marketing committee, a SWAT attendee, and a professional "heart emoji clicker" in BTBL's 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 10 years. He is literally and figuratively the brakes to her lead foot. More of Caitlin can be found on her blog, Minnesota Gingham.