Someone once asked me what lessons I had learned in being a spouse of an RCMP member. It was 20 years of my life, I am now an ex, and an ex in that club means you are out 100%. What have I learned?
I learned that a person can be pushed too far, it doesn’t matter who or what is at fault. It just is. Sometimes life and circumstances and experiences just pile on in ever increasing frequency and speed. Not just for my spouse, not just me but people. People like you and me.
I learned bad, horrible things happen to the best people, the worst people and you don’t have control. I learned to go on without worrying and being consumed by fear.
I had to learn to compartmentalize bad things, and “be professional” “have emotional boundaries”, “carry on”, be the wife of the face of the force.
I received this lesson by waking up to words of “decapitation” “gun complaint” ”officers down” “fatal collision” “sudden death” “NOK notification, “Blunt trauma”.
I received this lesson by learning that death by child abuse is “failure to provide the necessities of life”- another way to describe someone kicking their child in their stomach and then doing nothing about it.
I received this lesson by hearing about a guy drunk on hairspray having a shotgun to my lover’s chest and him talking his way out of it.
I received this lesson by seeing that local and my husband greet each other on the street a month later. What bothered my guy the most was that he had” almost had to shoot that guy” and then he played checkers with him the day after in cells.
I received this lesson by hearing of my love having to transport a dead baby wrapped in a blanket behind his seat in his police car. He lived it. He held that baby. He’d volunteered to do it, as we were the only ones in the detachment that didn’t have babies yet. The other “hard asses” were having a hard time compartmentalizing that one.
I received this lesson by spending a weekend in the city waiting for an attempted suicide (by repeated self-inflicted shots from a .22) of a senior to die. My guy had to wait and go to the autopsy. I learned about keeping continuity of a body.
I received this lesson by being woken up after he went to his first fatal. A drunk had fallen asleep and rolled his truck. I heard about the scene. He had to debrief. He could sleep after that. I could not.
I received this lesson by hearing our preschool babies say” ohhh when my dad gets called to work its cause someone died”.
I received this lesson by my elementary school baby having the terror in his eyes and begging for me to stay off the “big highway” after he’d heard his dad talk about the horrible fatal accidents.
My ex is an RCMP member. He went out did his job and the public got the best of him. He is an AMAZING member. The public often stopped to tell me how empathetic he was, how helpful, how caring, how thorough he was. It paid the bills.
I have joked that the bad guys keep us fed. Some spouse’s joke that if the member goes on a ladder they’d better wear the uniform “got to get paid the double life insurance!” “I’d be very sad, but I’d be very rich.”
I learned it’s not funny. A lovely boy we had under our collective wings early in his career didn’t get home to his family one night. Just like our family. “But for the grace of god” is a quote I learned from our first corporal. I didn’t understand it to the fullest extent. I do now.
The job overwhelms. It takes over. It had me waiting and waiting and waiting for my guy. Which the public got and I and our family seldom did. Until he was gone both physically and emotionally.
I’d asked how he could be all those things to the public and not to us. To us he was distant, except if he got mad. Mad over broccoli on the floor, mad I’d run out of dish soap, mad that I dared have our kid’s friends over… He would look at me like I was stupid and said “YOU JUST DON’T GET IT DO YOU!!!??!!” ”I’m paid to be all those things; if I weren’t there would be a performance issue in my work”. I am guessing he got the same lesson as me but amplified, with full Technicolor of blood, body parts, dead kids, dead babies and trauma.
I put up the barriers to stop my vulnerability so it won’t hurt as much. I regret that I learned all this. I regret that there’s nothing I can do to help him with it. So I regret, I regret, I regret.