Article by Billy Galvin originally posted on uniformstories.com.
You may have married a firefighter, raised a firefighter, or lived with a firefighter. You, of course, feel like you know him or her pretty damn well. That may be true, but I'm here to tell you that there are a few things that you can't possibly understand.
1) We need sleep.
My wife, who I love with all my heart, drives me nuts with this. “Why are you tired? Did you have a fire last night?” Like, why is it that I have to be fighting a three alarm inferno from hell to be granted the right to drag ass the next day? The reasons we are tired could be numerous. We may have been on an accident, or a trash fire, or some complete bullshit. Who knows. The point is, you had to get up and once you’re up it’s tough to get back to sleep.
2) No, we don’t know every firefighter.
I'm not trying to be rude right now, but why do people automatically assume that all firefighters know one another? Like, do you think we have these special meetings on the weekends? I had a lady ask me if I knew her grandson. It made me laugh because she didn't know what department he was on — just that he was a firefighter. Of course I was friendly to her. I wasn't going to explain that there are a lot of people in our trade and that there’s a slim chance, mathematically, that I would know him. (Funny thing was that I did end up knowing him...so maybe I am a dick. Nah.)
And there’s a common misunderstanding that all firefighters like one another. Now, firefighters are fine. If you gather them in a common setting, things will be civil and friendly. But take us out of a group setting and things are different.
3) Sometimes the normal stuff at home can seem less important to us.
A couple of years ago I got myself hung up in an attic in this nightmare of a fire. It was scary and I got out, but no one wants to be in a mayday scenario because that’s when things get real and we face the fact that this is a dangerous job. When I got home I was just happy to be alive and didn't plan on sharing this story with my wife for obvious reasons. I literally just stepped out of my car when my uncle (who lives next door) pulls up in his car. “Hey, that tree limb has been hanging low like that since that storm we had two weeks ago. You going to take care of that or what? What are you tired from watching ESPN all day yesterday?”
He had no idea — none of them do, and it's not their fault.
4) You really don’t need to know everything.
My wife gets mad because I keep my work stories to a minimum at home. Truth is they don't need to know about the things we see and the things we do. My kids don't need to worry, and neither does my wife. And I get it — don't bottle up the bad shit, but what I do is vent with my brothers at work and square it away before I walk in the door at home.
And as for the close calls, my wife Cristina always knows right away. How, I don't know. Maybe the hugs are a little tighter, or I kiss the kids a little more… I really don't know how, but she knows and nothing is said.
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