The Police NewsBy Michelle Perin
Reflections of a Police Wife
Sewing a uniform item might not seem like an emotional activity. But for me, coming up to Police Week, so much more than stitches went into those Velcro straps.
I’m sitting on the couch, my husband’s bulletproof vest on my lap. The Velcro which holds his radio has slowly, over time gotten less and less sticky. At times, at the most inopportune times actually, the Velcro has failed and his radio popped out. Whether running or grappling with a suspect, this tool, this gateway to his back-up, his help, his survival, has been removed from him due to the failure of a small piece of sticky material. It is for this reason I sat there on a beautiful spring morning fixing something that might save his life.
Sewing Velcro sucks, especially through tough vest fabric. The head of the needle seems as if it would rather go through my tender finger than the pointy end through the material. And it does a number of times, once severe enough to cause a bright drop of blood to appear. It looked like I tried to give myself a CBG. After I removed the old, non-sticky Velcro from the strap, the small loop came off. I’m not really sure what it does but I reminded myself everything was on there for a reason. He may need that. It might be important. I’d better make sure it gets sewn back on. Of course that means for a quarter inch the needle has to go through four layers and it truly does not seem to want to. I break the first of three needles. I dug through the sewing kit to find the thimble. It’s awkward and never seemed to be quite right, on the right finger, in the right place. But I kept focused. I kept trying to get it right because this is important. His life might depend on the caution and care I show to this small task.
My mind wanders to Police Week coming up. I think about the hundreds of new names being engraved on that wall. I wonder if any of the widows sat on their couch sewing Velcro. I thought about the recent death of a Maine Trooper and his wife’s eulogy. My ears had been riveted to her words of loss but my eyes were glued to one of the Troopers to her right Older, with a face that showed his years on the streets, his head was bowed, his Trooper hat almost obscuring his eyes. His white gloved hands were clenched at his sides, his jaw set. He was controlling his grief, stoically protecting the side of the woman the hero had left behind. My heart ached for him as much as her.
I’ve never had the opportunity to go to Police Week, but I have friends who have and I’ve been told it’s incredible. Such a strong sense of connection, culture and unconditional regard and love. It brings everyone who stands with the thin blue line together. Not only to grieve the loses but to celebrate the wins. Statistically it is rare for an officer to be killed in the line of duty. When you look at all the officers, all over the country who went out, completed their shift and went home that is such a higher number than those who did not. But, does that really matter? Does that statistic decrease the pain and loss of those who made the ultimate sacrifice? Does it diminish the grief of their families, both intimate and bonded by blue? And what about those who lost their battle with the darkness? Those who stared into the monster’s void, got overwhelmed with the hurt, the ugliness, the grief, the trauma, the cumulative stress of being society’s protector? Those who could hold no more, had to shut the voices up, shut down the perpetual images?
All of these thoughts kept rolling through my head as I added the new Velcro. I’ve done hundreds of sewing projects in my life-hemming pants, sewing on sports patches, repairing torn, favorite shirts, darning socks-but none of those felt as important, as sacred as what I was doing right then. Even thought the fabric was tough, the stitching hard (cue broken needle numbers two and three) and the angles awkward (that pocket is perfectly snug for the radio, horribly confining to a hand trying to push a needle into just the right spots), I had to do this with care. I didn’t have the luxury of getting sloppy, letting the stitches get too big or loose.
An hour later the two new pieces of Velcro were securely in place. I thought about removing the tacking stitches for aesthetics but decided against it. A bit more security couldn’t hurt. I put his radio back in, careful to avoid hitting the red button on top. I’m sure there’s a dispatcher out there grateful for that as these unsung heroes die a little when that emergency button goes off. A hero needs me. I must get them help…NOW. I remember those thoughts and those feelings from when I wore the headset. Now, I am the one at home thankful for their care and protection of my husband.
The radio once again sat snug, the strap tight. It would no longer easily escape removing this lifesaving tool from his reach. I rested my hand on the center of his vest, feeling the trauma kit I had bought him. I took in the name tag and the badge. It was heavy, no t only physically but emotionally. For 19 years, he has worn this symbol of his dedication to helping people. He takes this responsibility very seriously. For him, it has never been just a job. He wanted this from the time he was little. He knew it was what he was made to do. Even though the weight was so heavy at times. His department has been chronically understaffed for years. He puts on his uniform each night and goes out to deal with a community that often criticizes and condemns him. He turns on the news, reads an article and hears over the radio how the divide between those who protect and serve and those protected and served becomes wider and uglier. I try to remember that these voices are just the loud ones. They don’t represent the majority who respect my husband and his colleagues. There are those, many I pray, who would come to his aid as sometimes his back-up is 30 minutes away. He must know this too because I can’t imagine why he would walk out our door night after night if he didn’t believe good people did exist.
I put his vest back on the table in his TAC room, a living shrine to his life of services. Marine Corps and police department memorabilia, awards and swag fill the space Weapon breakdown chars and gun supplies coexist with old MREs and books written about and by other heroes. His vest back in place, Velcro refreshed, I put away my sewing kit, rubbed my sore fingers and said a prayer for his safety. Tonight he will put that vest back on and I hope he can feel my touché and my love through the fabric. And I’ll be reminded of the small part I played in his safety when I hear that comforting sound of Velcro at 630a.m.