a guest blog by Allison Ford
The pager makes its beeping noise,
The scanner comes to life.
You see excitement on his face
As he goes off to fight.
No matter what you’re doing
Or whatever the current plan,
All you can say is “Later Hon”
As he gets those keys in hand.
You say a little prayer
That God will keep him safe,
That with all the pride and bravery
No one will make a mistake.
You know those men are Brothers
And fiercely will protect
The lives of each other and others–
They will truly give their best!
You and your “man’s best friend”
Are both loyal and true.
You keep each other company
Waiting for him to return to you.
And when that front door opens
With “Honey I’m home” again,
You thank the Lord he’s back OK,
Your brave and strong Fireman.
I have been a firefighter’s wife/girlfriend for over 6 years now. Between the 20 other members of the Canadian Volunteer Fire Department’s wives, our tenure is collectively around 246 Years. That means collectively all of us have encountered the following: Long hours. A ‘second family.’ Stressful calls. Sleepless nights. PTSD. Interrupted communications. Your schedule not matching the rest of the world’s. Kid’s questions. Missed holidays. And that consistent smell of charcoal in their hair after grass fires. The list goes on. Through all of this we have survived the 24/7 365 days of the year notification that they are headed out. I have had many people say, “I don’t know how you do it.” Which, in a way, is comical because let’s be honest, do I have a choice? The answer is no. We knew when we agreed to marry our husbands, we also agreed to marry the fire department. We agreed to invest OUR boyfriend, OUR husband, OUR children’s father, OUR in-law’s son, OUR friend’s drinking buddy, and most of all, OUR community’s protector. There are a lot of things in life that aren’t fair. There are times when moments turn into life or death. The endless patience, understanding, sacrifice and backbone that is required of a first responder’s spouse is always worth saving the life of another.
There was a time last year that I would say has been the hardest time of being a wife of a volunteer fireman, to date. I would bet that this may be a moment for some other wives as well. It was March 6th, 2017. Andy and I were coming back from a baby doctor appointment. We could see smoke billowing for miles. I remember he told me to put my vehicle flashers on and to make the cars ahead pull over! Eight months pregnant in a white Honda Pilot, I just kind of laughed, but he wasn’t. I could feel his anxiety building. As was the routine, we got to the station and gave me a kiss flying out of the car. If any of you know my husband, there is almost nothing more important to him than being on the fire department. With that said, I pushed my own anxiety down and went to get my two year old son Hunter from daycare.
As trucks flew by and the wind howled, I knew it was going to be a bad one. Little did I know just how bad. Hunter, as he has many times before, asked where daddy was. When I took my vows on my wedding day, there was something I didn’t say in them. I knew when I accepted Andy’s proposal that I also accepted that if anything ever happened to Andy on a call, I would have to be the strength for our children. I told Hunter that Dad had to go on a fire and he was with his friends. Hunter pouted for 2.5 seconds and then moved on, as always. As the fires grew more intense I had a harder time listening to the scanner. Long through the night I waited for a message, phone call, or post that things were getting better. They didn’t. Then the messaging to other wives to check if they have heard anything happened. Finding out who is on what truck and where they were became a chess game. I remember communication with some of the newer wives. Some of us going to the station just to listen, bring food or just support each other in a time of uncertainty.
As the night grew dark, the smoke became unbearable. The fires switched and at one point I got a call from Andy saying the flames were just too big, they had to turn around. As I sat at home 8 months pregnant with a 2 year old who at the time had a wheezing cough I had to make a decision. Our son the previous November was diagnosed with asthma. I was pregnant and Hunter was becoming worse, so I called Andy and asked what to do. We made the decision that I needed to leave. I called my main support. The in-laws. My mother-in-law Debbie didn’t hesitate for a second. I told her I would pack the car, stop to see Andy and then we were off. There are some things you never prepare yourself for. I pulled up and Hunter’s cough was worse than ever. Andy gave him a hug and kiss and told home he would see him later. That mommy and Meme were going to go have fun with him. As you can imagine, Hunter got upset. With my stress and hormones at an all-time high, I tried to remain calm for Hunter and Andy. With a tear streamed face, I gave Andy a kiss, told him to be careful, and that I loved him. I will never take that moment for granted.
I called and texted a few of the other wives and told them what we were doing and that if they needed anything to call. The outcome of those days made me realize how much the fire department meant to me. How much I appreciate, care, and support the other men of the department and their families. Families fight, argue and pick on each other. They laugh, cry and smile. I know that being a wife of a fireman has good times and bad. To the wives that have been here for longer than I, I appreciate you and admire your strength. To the wives that have been here for less. I’ve been their girl, and I have your back.