Thursday, April 03, 2014

Oh, be proud of him ['cause after all, he's just a man...]

In the last 13 years, I've had four jobs. Four jobs where I sit at a nice desk and type a lot, and one of the biggest irks is when someone empties the coffee pot and doesn't start brewing another.

In the last 13 years, my brother-in-law Shawn has had one job. And his one makes all four of mine, even added together, look pretty paltry.

After 13 years, he made his last run on an ambulance for the St. Louis City Fire Department this week, and tonight we celebrated. My sister invited M and me to Shawn's going away party, and we were there to see the steady stream of friends flow in and out to say hello and goodbye and congratulations. We got to meet his last City partner, who has been his partner for four years. They joked that by this point they are like an old married couple, and I can totally see how that would happen.

We got a peek into the STLFD family, and it looks pretty amazing. These are people who have seen shit that most of us never will, things that we couldn't even imagine. These people have stories.

And in that vein, I'll share my favorite story from Shawn. Now, it's way better to hear it told in person, and Shawn is really the person who tells it the best, but you'll just have to bear with me. Some of you have heard this before, I'm sure, since it's one of our favorites. Some of you have probably heard it multiple times.

Shawn responded to a call and arrived at the scene to find a large black man with a gaping head wound. He said it looked awful. So he and his partner did what they are trained to do: they got the guy patched up and on the ambulance to take him to the hospital. After making sure he was okay, while they were driving to the hospital, Shawn asked him what had happened. He had never seen a head wound like this before and he just had to know. Apparently the patient had gotten into an argument with his wife/girlfriend/baby mama.

"Da bitch hit me wit da smoov."
"The smooth?"
"Yeah, man. Da bitch hit me wit da smoov."

Shawn must have looked confused, because the man then went on to explain.

"You know, man. Da smoov. What you use to smoov out your clothes." He made a motion like he was ironing.

Shawn lost it. "Dude, she hit you in the head with an iron?!"

Yep, that's what happened.

Last year our family started a habit of saying a Hail Mary every time we hear sirens. We learned it from someone on one of our ACTS retreats and thought it sounded like a good thing to do. For a long time, I thought we were praying for whomever was being helped. After all, that's how it was presented to us.

But here's the thing: the people driving those ambulances and fire trucks and police cars...they need our prayers just as much. We go about our business every day, commuting to work and running our errands and bitching about a rough day at the office or the asshole who cut us off on 40/64. We don't usually give those people - the people driving the ambulances, fire trucks and police cars - a second thought.

Until we need them.

Then, they're there. They show up and they take care of us, no matter what color our skin is or what kind of car we're driving or what kind of clothes we're wearing or how much money we have in our pocketbook. The first responders are just that: the first ones in, and they very often risk their own lives to help people they've never met and most likely will never see again.

I looked around the room tonight at people who look just like you and me. They have regular clothes and they were drinking beer and they were singing karaoke, sometimes really, really well and sometimes not so much.

If you didn't know them, you'd never know they are heroes.

Hail Mary,
Full of grace
The Lord is with thee
Blessed art thou among women,
And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus
Holy Mary, Mother of God
Pray for us sinners now,
And at the hour of our death

Congratulations to Shawn on his new job. He'll still be saving lives; he just won't have the bat-shit crazy stories that come with working in the city. Let me know when you're ready to tell your tales, brother. I'll be your typist, editor and ghost writer. I love you.

(Today's pic is Shawn, belting out Tammy Wynette's "Stand By Your Man," because his goofy sister-in-law made the request. Ever the good sport, Shawn went up there and sang with gusto. "Sometimes it's be a woman...")

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