Sometimes those closest to us make choices that, at the very least, are hard to understand. When they do, it’s never easy to shake the funk that follows. I recently found myself in such a funk.
And here’s where the beauty of the fire station kicks in: your co-workers are forced to spend 24 hours with you, and as such, we all become de-facto therapists for one another, unwilling to leave any stone unturned in our search to humiliate each other. JoBoo and I were soaking up the last of the suns’ rays yesterday evening out in the engine bay, keeping an eye on the barbecue grill as the flames were licking the walls of the firehouse, each of us wondering who would get up first and deal with it. We were discussing such issues, waiting for dinner and lazily noodling out ideas for improving our lot in life. As I sat there unloading my burdens on him, it struck me that what we really needed was a good house fire.
Now, let me be clear: I do not wish for someone’s home to burn down. It’s just a given fact that fires are going to happen, and if they’re inevitable, I’d just as soon they happen on my shift in our district. There’s nothing like a good worker to remind you why you signed up for this gig, why you spend a third of your life away from home, subjecting yourself to the whims and fantastic bureaucracy of local government.
When we finally sat down to eat, The Wife decided to make an appearance, coffee and kids in hand, knowing I could use a little uplifting. The boys were climbing all over the ladder truck when the tones struck for a house fire. This part was cool, since my boys aren’t at the station too often anymore, and what can beat tearing out of the firehouse, lights blazing and siren wailing – especially if you’re six. What I didn’t know was that she decided to follow the howl of the wind-up sirens and the column of smoke in the sky to the scene. And, as we rolled up and got to work, heavy smoke pouring out of the basement windows, The Heathens got to witness just what it is I do when I leave every third day. Chaos, smoke, flames and a cacophony of noises and smells and sights. After we had the initial attack set up and I was tooling around the pump panel, I finally noticed my family standing behind me. The look on their faces was enough to make all the other bullshit seem pretty irrelevant; I was never more stoked to be their dad than in that moment. No matter what my job on the fire ground was, I was part of something big in their eyes, and, when you realize how important you are as a parent to them, it’s pretty humbling. Heathen 1 came up to me, hugged my leg and said “Daddy, please be careful”. No worries, son…. I’ve got half a dozen jackass co-workers who keep me in line, even when I can’t. When we sat down to dinner at 9:15 pm, I realized that all things considered, this life is pretty damn fantastic.
I considered that victory #1 in my defeat of the funk.
Victory #2 came tonight.
The folks at CrossFit Springfield decided to host a social night with everyone toting in side dishes while a man named Jay smoked enough meat for a small army to consume in the snowing sleet-rain-crap we call weather in Missouri. It was nice enough to not have people see me in all my sweaty, nasty glory for once, but rather, showered, shaved and slightly less stinky. But, and this is important, it got my pitiful ass out of the house and surrounded by folks who are upbeat, positive and generally in a same mental reference in terms of getting slightly less fat. There was a copious amount of beer flowing, families mingling and, in the middle of it all, “Ryan” The Sadist, holding court and telling tall tales. A couple of other firemen were there as well, and, as ever, we gravitated to one another and immediately began regaling one another with bullshit and laughter. As each Guinness was cracked and another plate of delicious food was passed around, I could feel the mood lifting. These? These are the moments when we’re glad to have the friendships we do, and I’d be well served to remember these facts. Whether shooting the bull with JoBoo behind the rigs while sunning like lazy cats or in a group of one hundred, those moments we get when we’re in the company of good people? Yeah, that’s good stuff, and moments we need to treasure.
I might lose sight of that fact from time to time, but I hope you know this: I’m a grateful mo-fo for all that you bring to the table.