It comes every shift but sometimes it’s farther apart when there are staffing patterns or wildfires raging. The dreaded goodbyes we say to our firefighters. The hardest part is watching the girls having to say bye to their dad. The “don’t forget your pillow dad” is something they love to remind him to get. Little do they know it’s that empty space where his pillow isn’t at that haunts me at night. They ask when he gets to come home and I always have to add “hopefully” in front of my answer. “Hopefully on Saturday.” or “Hopefully soon.” We have a waving tradition. As he drives down our gravel road they wave from the window. Smudgy handprints on the windows is something that will always be imprinted in my heart. They’re starting to learn but mostly my 5 1/2 year old grasps it. But she has also grasped the fullness of his absence. Making it that much harder.
Right now in California the wildfires are raging. It’s shaping up to be a crazy and very busy summer. Just when we were getting used to him being home more and not having to commute almost seven hours to work. This last shift wasn’t necessarily hard for me but it was hard for my daughter. He was gone 11 days which in the fire wife world is nothing. Trust me we’ve been through much longer. But, like I said my oldest daughter is really understanding the weight of daddy not around. So this last time around day seven she broke down and just sobbed. I couldn’t help but cry with her because knowing that pain of missing him is something I know all too well. She told me she missed him and wanted to FaceTime him. Fortunately, for her he was available and not on a call or fire. It was hard for all of us. Because it was all out of our control to help her feel better. As a parent seeing your child hurting like that is not easy. But we did our best to bring her comfort. We also had different families visiting that week and I think the having to say goodbyes added to her feelings. The next day though we were able to visit him at the station he was covering. I explained to her that evening that we were very lucky to have seen him because it wont always be that way and that there were other little girls missing their daddies as well. I didn’t want to upset her but teach her this is the reality of being a fire family. That night we prayed for other fire families.
Every day lately if he is home my littlest who is 2 1/2 asks “you go to the fire station?” The more she grasps the more I dread of having two little girls struggling. Right now though I just have the one who has these moments. My youngest loves the movie Cars and is a little bit of a Tomboy. She thinks everything about the firetrucks are amazing and still lives in this imaginary land where daddy just gets to play with the fire truck all day. She’s always been a mammas girl so she doesn’t struggle as much since I am always with her. So, for now it’s just something she thinks is cool and fun. But I know eventually she will understand there’s more to what daddy does. The medical aids, vehicle accidents, structure and wild fires. What being a hero looks like.
So, back to the goodbyes during this crazy summer. It’s hard for this mama as well. While he was gone I laughed cause I had texted him lists of things I kept forgetting to catch him up on. Like ordering trash service and some other little things that he wouldn’t even know unless I told him. The day before he went back on shift I cried laying there cuddled on his chest. Dreading the not knowing of his return. Dreading the emotions of a little girl who I am learning how to help through this lifestyle. I felt so silly for letting my emotions get the best of me because like I told my daughter there are so many families right now who have been apart a lot longer. I guess the fear of having him gone those long weeks sometimes just caught up to me. The lonely nights, having to hold down the fort and make little and big decisions. Sometimes when I allow myself to really feel the weight of it, it’s a lot to bear. He had to leave extra early before the girls were awake and so far they’ve been okay. The goodbyes are hard when we don’t know when we will see him again especially when there’s not much of a goodbye at all. And we will miss him every moment while he is away.
But, the night before and the morning of shift and every day after I cover him in prayer. I’ve been more adamant about praying for the families who don’t have their firefighter there and of course I pray for the firefighters. These goodbyes are hard but they’re our life, our normal, the thing that separates us. The strength of keeping it all together while he is gone. I wont stop helping my children understand the importance of his career and how as a family we can stay Fire Strong. Fire wives, you are some of the strongest women I know. You are doing an amazing job and I know there are days that are harder than the rest. Sometimes it can hit you at the silliest of times like it did for me this past week. But you’re not alone and like I have said in previous posts, I am here for you, cheering for you and praying for you.