My family and I just spent a week at my parents’ house. They are retiring and moving away from the place I left when I married my fireman 14 years ago, so we went to help. While there, I also found the time to reminisce with one of my good friends from high school. I was flooded with memories of things that seemed so important once and now seem insignificant. One of the memories was a ridiculous career questionnaire that asked what I thought my future would be like in 5, 10, 20 years. I probably wrote down something about being a famous geologist, conducting scientific research on volcanoes and making groundbreaking discoveries along the way.
Twenty years ago I could not have fathomed that I would fail to pass college calculus six times before conceding defeat and abandoning my geology dreams.
I was goal-driven and career oriented, so it is ironic to look back now and realize that I have completely lost the desire for a career; or at least a stereotypical one. I have proudly become a fireman’s wife instead. Of course, it isn’t a requirement that every fireman’s wife give up her career, but it sure fits our family best. Over the years, I have crossed out career goals in favor of checking off family chores lists. I have swapped my visions of geologic discoveries for the earth-shattering joy of holding each of my daughters in my arms for the first time. I have traded in working hours for shift days, off days, buddy swaps and 2nd alarm all-calls. I have forfeited a paycheck for the love and adoration of my husband and our girls.
Back in high school I figured I would get married someday, but the specifics were pretty vague. I pictured my future husband as an adventurous type, like me; maybe even be a fellow geologist. But a fireman? No way! They’re supposedly all hot and with hot comes bothered. Any hot and bothered group of men living together and lifting weights of heat-packed testosterone would undoubtedly draw groupies. I grew up in a law enforcement family so I had a decent understanding of groupie infestations. I used to visualize them sort of like flies. They swarm around just waiting for an opportunity to land. Then they feed on the weak and fester until something is done about it. At least now I know that my 15-year-old view on some things was pretty accurate. I have since learned that groupies are an issue in the fire service, but they don’t have to be an issue for every fireman.
I have also learned that chance encounters sometimes change one’s expectations and one’s life forever.
Such as the time in college, when my best friend held the phone out to me and said, “My fiance’s friend wants to talk to you. He’s a paramedic and a volunteer firefighter…” My response was less than enthusiastic, but I took the phone anyways. We chatted for a while. He flirted like crazy and told me I would like him. I denied it and eventually we hung up. His confidence was irritatingly intriguing. He had an ability to make me laugh though and I liked his southern accent a bit too much. At 23, he drove a car and had started a career, which was more than I could say for the immature guys I had dated up to that point. Even still, I told myself there was no way I would actually fall for a fireman. His photo sat beside my bed and fantasy-type images flitted through my mind, but beyond that we never saw each other. We wrote letters and talked on the phone but I could not realistically see any future between us.
That changed with another chance encounter. My parents and I drove to South Carolina to help with my friend’s wedding. About 30 seconds after we pulled in the driveway, who pulled in behind us, but this firefighter-medic? He stepped out of his car and called to Apache, my beloved, crippled puppy dog. Apache hobbled to this complete stranger and licked him up one side and down the other. Unexpectedly, my heart melted at this open display of affection from my most-trusted judge of character. When the love fest came to a close, I was finally acknowledged.
On December 29th, my fireman looked at me for the first time, walked over and drew me in for a hug. I have no idea what he said, or if he said anything at all. But I distinctly remember thinking his arms are the only arms I ever wanted around me again. On New Year’s Eve, we shared our first kiss. On January 3rd, he got down on one knee. Six days after we met in person, we were engaged. Eleven months later, after a long-distance engagement, we were married, living in the same state and starting this completely unexpected life together.
We committed fully to each other and admitted we didn’t know what to expect, but we would hold on tight for our crazy ride. All we knew back then was that we wanted to be together and it was up to us to make it work.