Life of a Fire Wife

An Update

The last few years have brought about MANY changes in our little fire family-hence my absence form this blog.

In late March 2013 Johnny was offered a captain position in a unit 500 miles from our home.  In his world you just don’t turn down an opportunity to promote, so he accepted it. (Yes we did talk about it first)  He was burned out being a medic and just really needed a change.  They told him it would be about 2 months before they could get the transfer completed and I just laughed.  Really?  No.  Not in this department, and I knew it.

Sure enough…..two weeks later we packed him up and got in the truck.  I went with him to see where it was. (And because MIL didn’t want him to go all alone and actually offered to keep the kids.)  It was Krissy’s birthday.   But she’s a fire kid and knows that sometimes birthdays are celebrated on different days.

So for the next 15 months Johnny commuted 500 miles each way.  He came home twice a month-when we could afford it.  Because that pay raise went straight to commuting costs.  So we made-do with seeing him about 4 days a month.

Those costs and the simultaneous end of my unemployment benefits caused a major financial uproar in our lives, and though we really didn’t want to (our son had just started high school) we decided to make the move-500 miles away from everything and everybody we knew.  If we stayed we’d lose our house.  My vehicle was on its’ last leg.  I missed my husband.

And so the kids finished off their school year.  Krissy was excited and ready for an adventure.  Kenny insists he will be scared for life and really seems determined to never let us forget it.  It was the only house my kids had ever lived in.  He’d played baseball and went to school with the same kids his whole life.

So the end of June 2014 saw us packing up a moving van with about 1/3 of our possessions (it took 3 trips since we’d lived in that house for 15 years and had WAY too much stuff) and again leaving our kids behind with Grandparents.  Kenny had to finish the All-Star baseball playoffs and Krissy was in a week-long day camp she’d registered for months earlier.  500 miles away to a town where I knew ONE person.  (We’d worked together in the early 90’s and kept in touch.  She actually found us our house!)

Now Johnny drives 90 minutes to work.  The schools here are FANTASTIC!  (They actually have programs for my gifted and talented kids.) This house is much more modern, a smaller yard to take care of and Johnny has his own separate PRIVATE 2 car garage for his motorcycle, guns, woodworking tools, etc.  I have TWO part-time jobs I enjoy, and Kenny….well,  he has found himself a girlfriend so maybe this won’t be so bad after all.

Earlier this month the short-sale on our old house FINALLY was completed and it looks like those 15 months of sacrifice are really starting to pay off.  That’s what fire families do.  We support our firefighter.

Navigating the Holidays in a Fire Family

As all firefighter families know, even though your partner’s schedule can at times seem like a dream, they don’t always get major holidays off. **Sigh** It comes with the territory.

It’s our life.

From the time I met him, my husband has never had a conventional 9-5 schedule. I remember the first Thanksgiving I spent alone – even before we were married. My family lives in another state, and my two kids from my previous marriage were with their Dad. “It’s just another day honey,” I said to him, “I’ll bring you a turkey sandwich if you get hungry.” (He was working as a medic for an ambulance company at the time and doing 24 hour shifts.) And later, when he was picked up full time after being paid-call for a several years and was gone for an entire MONTH at the academy? “I’ll support you in anything you want to do because I love you!”

A firefighter’s family (as well as other EMS and Public Safety Families) learns to adjust their way of thinking when it comes to those boxes on the calendar. We stop looking at Saturdays and Sundays in terms of a weekend and instead, replace our thought process with a new one that is made up of shift days and overtime and being “forced on.” These become your new normal.

Sure, weekends don’t exist anymore in the traditional sense, but they are replaced with long mid-week “weekends”. “Date Night” is replaced by having lunch together while the kids are in school! It’s a give and a take and like most things in life, you learn to compromise and make the best out of the time you are able to have together. We’ve been married for 16 years now, and I’ve been known to joke that since he’s gone half the time we’ve really only been married for 8. We even scheduled our wedding so that it wasn’t during NASCAR season. (He was working part-time at the race track.) We induced labor with our two kids on his days off.

This year, Johnny worked on Christmas Eve, but last year he worked Christmas Day – also his birthday. When you have family wanting to spend time with you during the holidays, the loss of even one day can make a big difference. It can make scheduling the holiday a real pain! And since Christmas is his birthday and it was the first one he’s had off in a long time, he wanted to do something different – after all, he was turning 40! So we took the kids to Disneyland for the day and celebrated Christmas on the 26th. That’s what he WANTED, so that’s what he GOT – although it wasn’t popular with his parents, to say the least. **grin**

We’re surrounded by loving and supportive people who claim to understand that it’s just the nature of the job, but I don’t think they really do. They’ve never had to experience it. It’s not a matter of “getting used to it” at our house. It’s more a matter of accepting it as a way of life. We’ve celebrated Halloween, Thanksgiving, Easter and Christmas at the fire station, and I even announced our second pregnancy by bringing in a cake with our due date on it. (The other guys got it right away – but he didn’t!)

So after we opened our gifts on December 26th I asked our 10 year old son what his favorite gift was and his reply nearly made me cry. “I don’t know. I just like it when we’re all together. I like spending time with my family.” He gets it.

Holidays are not a date on the calendar. They are special times spent with loved ones. That’s all that matters at our house.

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