Thursday, August 04, 2011

The Winds of Change

I am amazed at how quickly life can change; how quickly my life changed. It all started with a telephone call from a very good friend of mine; a friend whom I havn't seen in quite a few years. I hung up the phone, stood in my kitchen and stared at the ceiling - dizzy. I knew that I had just been presented with a life-changing opportunity. I was relatively comfortable. I was happy in my profession. I loved what I did and I found meaning in my career; I worked so hard to get where I was at professionally. That telephone call however, forced me to realize something that deep down, I already knew and had known for a long time. I was tired and frustrated with the financial condition of my family and I was weary from fighting the battles that ride on the backs of financial instability. The ship that my family was on was barely floating and I was at the helm. I was the Skipper and I was derelict. A phone call presented with me with the possibilty of a new direction; a change of course that could set my family on a course to success and financial freedom.

It would require monumental change and sacrifice. It would require resignation from a career that I worked my entire young-adult life and adult life to obtain. It would require extensive periods of separation from my family. It would require me to return to Iraq. In a nutshell, it was a gamble. I was standing at the table, shaking the dice as my family watched. As if the house needed the odds shifted further in their favor, my decision needed to be made within a matter of days. My wife and I sought wise counsel. We prayed. We hoped. I let the dice fly.

Three days after that initial telephone call, I walked into my Lieutenant's office at the police precinct and asked him for a minute. I then handed him my letter of resignation. As I handed that letter to him, I knew it was a monumental moment for me. I knew that it meant that I may never wear the shield again. I stood in his office and I closed my eyes. I saw a young teenage boy. His uniform was pressed, his boots were shined and he carried a no-kidding police issue Mag flashlite! He was a Law Enforcement Explorer with the Portsmouth Virginia Police Department and he was proud. His name was Tim Johnson. Now, here in this moment this same boy, now grown into a man, was walking away from his dream. I heard the Lieutenant clear his throat. I opened my eyes and he was staring at me. His was a mixed look of astonishment and apprehension. I could tell he understood the gravity of this decision and I appreciated that. Everyone that I worked with and for knew the passion that I had for my career. In cop-speak, I was on the fast track. I had the potential for promotion, I was a seasoned operator on the SWAT team, I was a K9 officer and I was a mentor. And now, standing in the LT's office, I was walking away from it all.

In the days that followed, I faced a barrage of "whys" and "what happeneds". No one wanted to accept it. I wasn't sure if I wanted to accept it. Some understood and were supportive, others were skeptical and dismissive. Denial. The day I turned in my badge and gun though, it became real for all of us. I robotically counted my uniforms as I turned them in to the supply officer. It was surreal. I walked out of the back door of Police Headquarters marked “Officer Entrance Only”. As the sound of the door slamming reverberated in my ears, reality quickly set in…”I don’t have a key card to get back in the building anymore. I don’t have a badge. I don’t have a gun. I’m no longer a Cop.” I reached down to my side and rubbed my belt. I felt naked. I watched cars drive by for what seemed like an eternity as I stood there on the steps. I sat down and put my head in my hands. It wasn’t too late. I could still explain that it was a mistake. I envisioned myself knocking on the door and pleading my case. Surely they would understand. It wasn’t too late. I looked up and saw my patrol car sitting in the parking lot….the City of Suffolk’s patrol car. It stung. I stood up on wobbly legs and walked to my truck. My ride was over. At least for now.

I still had not faced one of my greatest fears. I had not spoken to my parents about my decision. My wife and I agreed that as a show of solidarity, she and I should go together to speak to them and inform them of our decision. I sat on their couch in the living room of their home and took in a deep breath. I inwardly said a prayer and quickly realized that I needed help. I couldn’t find the words. My parents and I have a very unique relationship. My respect for them is very deep-seated. And as any son should, I wanted them to understand why I was doing this. Their understanding of this decision was pivotal. I didn’t need their approval, acceptance or blessing. The decision had been made between my wife and I in our home; in the end, this is what truly mattered. It was done. The die had been cast. What would make this decision very difficult for me to live with should it fail however, was to not have the understanding of my parents. I needed them to understand why it was that I was walking away from my career; why I was voluntarily for the third time going to a war-torn country. My words were going to either garner their understanding, or my words were going to lead to confusion and disappointment. I needed help. I reached for the hand of my wife, for the hand of my Mother who was sitting next to me and I prayed aloud. Then, I began.

I began as delicately as I could. I wasn’t ready yet to drop the bomb. I presented it as an opportunity; as an option. Then, almost without thinking, I said, “I resigned from the Police Department yesterday. I’m leaving Monday”. I looked at my wife and she smiled at me. In her smile, I saw support and encouragement. I looked at my Mother. She gently began to cry. My Father, in his stoic nature, stared at the floor. I steeled myself for the oncoming barrage. “Son”, my father said calmly and pragmatically, “I think you would be crazy not to pursue this opportunity. I wish that when I was your age with a young family that I would have been presented with an opportunity like the one that you have been presented.” My Mother began to cry in earnest. “I am a Mother”, she said. “I don’t want to see you go back over there, but I think that you have some kind of unfinished business over there”. “I don’t want to see you go”, she said, “but I think you may need to for you.” “For me?” “For me?”, I thought. I searched her words for a deeper meaning. The very last reason I was doing this was for me. This was for my family. I didn’t want to walk away from a career that I worked so hard to attain; a career that I loved and would have done pro bono. This wasn’t for me, nor was it some sort of quest that I was on. It wasn’t about me. It was about my wife and daughters and our long-term well-being. I quickly realized that my Mothers words had a face attached to them. I heard similar words before from both of my sisters, and the face was the same for them too…They were seeing Adam.