Tag Archive: 911 Police Dispatcher

Cutting the Apron Strings

Three weeks ago, I packed up my 18 year old (baby boy) and chauffeured him down to college on the outskirts of Chicago.  He is attending Universal Technical Institute (UTI) for the automotive mechanic program with a FORD certification.  Austin was sick with a sinus infection on the way down (a six hour journey from where we live), so I drugged him up good with Mucinex Sinus Max and he slept most of the way.  Actually, saying that “he slept” is an understatement.  He was out cold the majority of the time.  Even my singing along to the radio didn’t seem to faze him.  I had imagined this trip in my head several times in the weeks leading up to the day of our departure.  I planned to take advantage of our time together and impart all my wisdom upon him in an environment which he could not escape.  He would have to hear me out, or risk serious injury from jumping out of a moving vehicle at 70mph.  It is difficult to impart wisdom to an audience that is asleep.  I was kind of sad that he slept, but knew he needed the rest to get over the illness.

  During the time he was awake, we talked a bit about this exciting opportunity he would have at UTI.  He didn’t appear to be nervous.  He was excited to go and didn’t seem to worry about being on his own so far away from home.  We talked about how proud Papa would be of his decision to go to UTI.  I stole glances at him from the driver’s seat and sometimes saw the little boy he used to be sitting beside me.  Austin was my first born.  He was an absolute angel as a baby.  He rarely cried and always woke up with a big smile – happiness radiating out like sunshine.  He was adorably cute with his brown hair and dark brown eyes.  He never ran off and always held my hand…. He has always had a sense of empathy and compassion for others.  He truly has a heart of gold.  At times, he gets hurt easily.  He expects honesty and goodness from those he encounters.  He has struggled off and on with making sense of how cruel this world can be.  I have always felt a strong connection to him; not just the mother/son bond, but something deeper I can’t put into words.  I see bits and pieces of myself in him.  He is a reflection of me on many levels.

All Grown Up

All Grown Up

 Austin his grown up to become a good man.  Wow, is it hard for me to call him that!  He is fiercely loyal to his family and friends.  He loves and adores his younger sister (even when she is a complete butthead to him).   He seems to have learned from his mistakes and has gained some insight and wisdom as he gets older and the years pass by.  He will be nineteen next month and for some reason that is much harder for me to swallow than it was when he turned eighteen.  I am so grateful he made it through his high school years without becoming involved in alcohol or drugs.  He was never a rebellious juvenile delinquent always in trouble with the law.  I am so thankful he never gave me that heartache.  We may have had our moments when we were angry and upset, but Austin has never called me vulgar names to my face.  He has never disrespected me in that way and often after an argument, he would come to my room to apologize, hug me and tell me he loved me. 

My Baby Boy

My Baby Boy

 As the miles passed, I wondered if I had done enough as a mother (as a parent) to prepare him for life as an adult.  I wondered if I had taught him all the lessons I wanted him to know before I released him into the wild on his own.  I couldn’t help but feel I needed more time.  Does he know how much I love him?  Does he know how much he means to me?  Does he know how amazing I think he is?  Does he know how proud I am of him?  Does he know that my heart aches to think of not seeing him every day?  Does he know that I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to let him go?  As the rolling hills of Wisconsin passed by, the memories came rushing back:  The joy I felt when I found out I was pregnant;  The first time I heard his heartbeat;  The first time I felt him kick;  The relief I felt when he was born healthy with ten fingers and ten toes;  Wondering how on earth something so beautiful and perfect came from me;  The contentment I felt as he slept soundly in my arms as I rocked him;  When he was learning how to walk; The way he held his arms up to me so I would pick him up; The smile on his face and the sound of his laughter when I tickled his belly and kissed his neck;  How he sat in the sand at the playground and played with his cars and trucks; In his highchair making dinosaurs with play dough; His first pair of glasses; How he played with Legos for hours; His first day of kindergarten;  Second grade; His tears when some of the kids were mean; His dad teaching him how to ride a bike;  Watching him play football/winning the championship; Watching him play basketball and being voted MVP by his teammates; Feeling so proud I thought my heart would burst; His first day of middle school;  His first girlfriend; His first time seeing the Grand Canyon; His first time playing in the ocean in Florida; His first trip to Disney World and Sea World; His first day of high school; Getting his driver’s license; His first truck; His first accident; Senior Prom; His first heartbreak; His first job; His tears when I told him Papa was sick; His sorrow when Papa passed away; The strength I found in his arms as he held me while I cried; High school graduation; His car packed and ready to go away to college… 

 I was grateful he slept through my tears…

 If I have learned anything in my job as a 911 dispatcher, it is how valuable life truly is.  How quickly a life can be taken.  I have tried to teach my children to choose their words carefully.  Words said cannot be unspoken and those words may be the last that person hears from you.  Regardless of how angry you are at a friend, lover, family member or even a stranger – be kind.  Find a way to say how you feel without being abusive or insulting.  Regret is a difficult thing to live with.  As morbid as this might sound, I ask myself frequently if something happened to my children and they were physically taken from this world – would they know how much I love them.  Do they know that I regret all the hours I have spent at work instead of being in their company?  Do they know that even though it appears my job means more to me than anything else, it is merely a way to pay the bills to support them?  Do they know how hard it is to support them on a single income?  Do they know that I realize they would rather have time with me than anything else?  Do they know that I have to work this hard just to put food on the table and keep the lights on at home?  Do they know that I am doing the best I can?  Do they know that I carry them with me, every day, wherever I go? 

 I have gone into Austin’s empty room one time since he has been gone.  I haven’t begun the deep clean that I know it needs.  I can’t bring myself to spend too much time in there.  Avoidance is my way of coping.  If I don’t go in his room, I don’t have to acknowledge that he is gone.  I miss him though; every day.  There is a void in my heart that can only be filled by his presence.  He still texts me and calls me, but it isn’t every day.  I long to be an overbearing mother who calls all the time, but I won’t allow myself to do that.  I know he needs his freedom to find his place in this world.  I find it strange that I can’t force him to tell me where he is going or what he is doing.  I worry that he isn’t eating well (enough) and that he isn’t taking his contacts out at night (he likes to sleep with them in).  I worry that he will oversleep and miss class or get sick and not know what medication to take to feel better.  I worry that he will go on with his life and somehow slowly forget about me.  I worry he will fall in love with someone and she will break his heart and I won’t be there (physically) to tell him how wonderful he is and that time heals.  I worry he will be afraid to tell me he screwed up or ask me for advice on how to fix the situation for fear that I will view him as a failure.  I hope he knows that he can always come to me and together we will find a way to “fix” whatever is broken or messed up.  I am far more interested in finding the lesson to be learned from a mistake than judging him for screwing up.  We all screw up from time to time.  Learn from it, move on, and try not to make the same mistake twice.

 I realize this does not have much to do with my job, but this is my confession and it is sincere and heartfelt.  This is a part of my life that I want to share with you.  I love this child more than life itself and I know he is going to do great things in this world. 


Back to School

At forty years old, I have decided to go back to school to get my Bachelor’s Degree.  My son, Austin, will be leaving next month for college in Chicago (Universal Technical Institute) and getting him ready kind of inspired me.  I’m not quite sure what I have gotten myself into.  I found an online program at Jacksonville State University (JSU) in Alabama.  I’m a little embarrassed to tell you their mascot is a Gamecock.  (Don’t laugh at me!) I will be majoring in Emergency Management with a minor in Public Safety Telecommunications.  The goal here is to increase my job opportunities when I become deaf, blind and too slow to keep up working as a 911 dispatcher.  I’m fairly certain I have hearing loss from people screaming at me on the phone through my headset.  The older I get, the more I find myself squinting at the screen.  And considering I have about 26 years left of my life to work, I need to make myself as marketable as possible.

 It has been twenty years since I was in college.  Just filling out all the financial aid paperwork (for both Austin and I) was difficult enough.  I feel like a fish out of water.  I felt like I needed a college degree just to comprehend all of it and I haven’t even started classes yet.  I have an Associate’s Degree in Corrections and quite a few of my classes transferred over to JSU.  (Yay me!)  I found out recently, after speaking to my academic advisor that I can’t take any of the fun classes yet.  I have to get through a few general courses first.  So, starting August 21, 2013, I will be taking English, American History and Basic Algebra.  For the love of all that is Holy, that sounds about as much fun as lighting myself on fire. (sigh)  I could have taken a placement test for the math section, but I have never been great at math and the “refresher” course might do me some good.  Austin has mad math skills, but he’s leaving me.  Something about starting his own life or some such nonsense.    So Taylor, who will be taking Algebra II in high school, will have to help me muddle through it.  She may hate me by the time this is over in December. 

 So I have been awarded my financial aid, registered for my three classes and ordered my textbooks.  I’m excited and nervous at the same time.  English should be fine and now that I’m older history really kind of interests me.  Algebra, basic or not, I am absolutely dreading.  I have never taken an online course before, but it sounds fun and I was hoping it might be easy.  WRONG.  To take my course online, JSU uses something called “Blackboard.”  It has (I’m not kidding you) FIFTY tutorials just to show how to use it.  I feel old.  Not only do I feel old, I feel overwhelmed and slightly stupid.  Eventually, I have to take Biology with a Lab.  How on earth do you take a Biology Lab course ONLINE????  How does that work?  It seriously boggles my mind. 

 The other fun part of going back to school is going back to working dogwatch.  Dogwatch hours are 9:00pm – 7:00am.  I haven’t worked dogwatch in years.  My memories of dogwatch include severe sleep deprivation,  exhaustion, constantly being woken up by the phone ringing, sunlight blazing through my curtains, dogs barking, kids laughing and playing, garbage men collecting trash and people generally enjoying life outside.  Ugh.  I am not one of those people that can get by on four to five hours of sleep.  I require A LOT of sleep to have a sunny disposition.  I’m not going to lie.  Sleep might just be my favorite thing in the entire world.  Seriously.  It takes a massive amount of effort to be nice to people when I am sleep deprived.   My family and coworkers can verify this.  So why would I put myself through the misery of working dogwatch?  Well, I’m thinking I might be able to get some of my schoolwork done when it quiets down at night.  That’s the plan anyway.  We bid shifts by seniority every four months.  So, if dogwatch is a disaster for me and everyone in close proximity to me, I only have to spend four months in hell (smile). 

 So I’m crossing my fingers and praying this adventure is challenging as well as enjoyable.  With any luck I won’t fall flat on my face and find that I’m way too old to go back to school.  And I wish the best of luck to my family, friends and coworkers in tolerating me as I adjust to dogwatch hours in September!

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