Dark is falling and with it trouble arises. The officer puts on his kevlar vest and holsters his gun as little eyes watch from the next room.
“I love you buddy, be good and listen to mom, okay?” The officer stands well over six feet tall, but his voice is soft and gentle as he speaks on a bent knee.
“I love you too papa, I miss you, be safe!” His son chirps back. Be safe, a concept foreign to most four-year olds but not at all lost on this one in particular. With a hug and kiss they part, the officer kisses his wife and the small baby she holds in her arms, walking out of the door- leaving his family behind.
That’s the cue to cry. “I don’t want papa to leave!” The son shouts “I want papa to bring me to soccer!” This isn’t just about soccer though. His little heart is jealous. Jealous of friends that have their dads at all the soccer games, jealous that their friends get their dad to be home on holidays and birthdays, jealous that they don’t have to share their fathers with the community.
Mama prepares dinner, the boy’s current favorite: lasagna. The baby babbles and smears food about her face in the highchair as the boy sits at the table, contemplating his food. It’s all on mom for now, so she’s getting the dishes together as quickly as she can before sitting down herself.
“We never eat together as a big family anymore.” The son sighs, pushing food around his plate with one hand as his cheek rest on the fist of the other. “We will in a few days, papa has off in a few days.” Mama quickly replies. She’s tired, she wishes he were home too.
Out on the road, the officer stops cars and responds to calls. Mama worries about him and tries not to think about the what-ifs while papa is on the job. But the son . . . the son can’t stop thinking of papa.
He dresses in his own little uniform, mimicking his papa as best he can. He dreams of the day he can join his father on the road. In his mind he will be partners with his daddy, saving the world side by side.
“Officer help…” She complies as she cleans up the baby and highchair as best as she can. She plays along but in actuality she daydreams of her son becoming an accountant or physician. He doesn’t need to be anything fancy, she thinks to herself, just a safe office job will do. Her heart can’t take the worry of her husband, no less her son as well.
The officer does his best to check in with his wife throughout his shift. He knows she worries. They both know there is an unspoken understanding between the two. She worries and wishes he would do something safer, she knows that he would walk away from it all in an instant if she asked him to. But this is the only job he has ever wanted to do, he knows nothing else- and this job makes him happy. He is damn good at this job. But he loves mama, so he does his best to ease her mind and heart.
On the road the officer must stay alert and make judgements in seconds. Judgements that will save lives- possibly even his own. But at home is where his heart and soul stays. With his wife, with his daughter, with his son.
Back at home the children are read their bedtime stories in the boy’s room. Mama reads to them and talks to them about the day before she picks up the baby and bids the boy goodnight. They tell each other they love each other and will see each other in the morning. Mama turns out the lights and shuts the door. The son pulls his arm out of the blanket to examine his papa’s blue line bracelet. The boy snuck it off papa’s nightstand, wearing it to sleep. Yes, the boy found a way to have his hero near after all. All is alright, at home.