Get in, Sit down, Shut Up and Hang On!
License plate frame, California
It was Christmas Day when I realized our honeymoon was over. I hated our new apartment, I didn’t know a soul, and I commuted to work an hour and a half each way through Los Angeles traffic. This place was very different from the small town of Chico where I grew up. On top of that, we had no money, a Charlie Brown Christmas tree we bought for eight bucks at a hardware store, and one gift from my grandparents. Brent was learning his new job in a difficult part of LA, and he worked swing shift on Christmas Eve. Me? Except for the manager’s kids who came by to sing carols at my door, I spent it alone. Earlier in December Brent graduated from the California Highway Patrol Academy, which was then and remains a residential training academy. We were given a week to move downstate and get settled before he reported for duty as a rookie officer in LA. Our six month marriage was already experiencing a tough season.
We went from five months of weekend-only bliss to shift work and mandatory overtime. We left a small town of supportive family and friends to join a sea of unfamiliar faces and places. Our rent went up significantly, gas became a greater burden, and I had to work full time to make ends meet. We didn’t know anyone except other new officers in the same boat. This was hard to handle all at once. But something else bothered me: Brent seemed to be changing, and not for the better. Working on the streets of LA was affecting him.
Brent had been a pre-med student and a church intern when I met him. He was tender and idealistic, but after he became a cop, he turned tough and painfully realistic. He saw some really disturbing things and couldn’t share everything with me. His sweet demeanor was disappearing, and I didn’t know what to do. Suspecting I wasn’t alone, I gingerly approached another newlywed wife whose husband graduated with Brent.
“Have you noticed a change in Bill lately?” I asked.
“What do you mean?” she replied.
“Well, it’s hard to explain. Brent has kind of an edginess now that I haven’t seen before. Some language too. He seems frustrated and angry. Has Bill acted like this?”
She looked at me like I was purple and promptly shook her head. I walked away, sorry I ever mentioned it. Well, that was helpful, I thought to myself, embarrassed I’d made something out of nothing. Three weeks later I was stunned to learn this same gal returned to her mother’s home and filed for divorce. Obviously something was wrong, and she chose to shut up and get out. I wasn’t giving in so easily. I decided at that moment that I would hold on tight to my man and find help.
But help was hard to find. It seemed everyone was tight-lipped about their relationships. And many of Brent’s friends on the patrol were single. So I had to figure it out for myself. I wondered what I’d gotten myself into. Suddenly I was married to someone different, and it wasn’t what I had envisioned. But the one thing that carried me through this early season was the fact that I’d made a promise to Brent in front of God and everyone that I’d stay with him until “death do us part.” I had to make it work.