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jennifer-mabeeFeb. 23, 2012 - Family Day morning my family and I were enjoying breakfast out at a local restaurant when the pager went off. I held the pager up to my ear so I could hear what the call was, and then set it down on the table and turned the volume down so only I could hear it.

February 23, 2012
By Jennifer Grigg

Feb. 23, 2012 – Family Day morning my family and I were enjoying breakfast out at a local restaurant when the pager went off. I held the pager up to my ear so I could hear what the call was, and then set it down on the table and turned the volume down so only I could hear it. My younger daughter looked at me and said, “Why did you bring your pager?” to which I replied, “In case there’s a call . . . ” while noticing the look on her face that said, “But you aren’t going?”, so I continued, “that I’m not going to go to . . . ”

At this point you may be thinking that the reason I didn’t go to the call was because it was Family Day and I had chosen to stay with my family instead of going to the call. That is part of the reason, but not all of it.

I remember a time when almost nothing would have stopped me from making a call. I even wanted to leave my own wedding to go to a call. Since half of the guests were on the fire department with me and my husband (at the time), I can’t tell you how much I wanted to go with them when their pagers all went off. (I still say I could have tucked the dress into my gear . . . )

I also clearly remember wondering why I could hear the voice of a fellow firefighter in the room while I was in labour and about to give birth to our first daughter! (My husband had his pager on while we were in the delivery room!) So when I say that almost nothing would have stopped me from making it to a call, I mean it; our lives revolved around the fire department, as do most volunteer firefighters’ lives.


I thought it would always be that way for me. I assumed that I would drop anything and run when those tones went off, eager to help, excited to be there to do whatever was asked of me – especially now, since I’ve been back on the department for only a few months. So, what happened?

For the record, I’d like to stress that I am very proud to be a volunteer firefighter – proud like Jim Carey in Dumb & Dumber, busting through crowds and flashing his driver’s licence while proudly proclaiming, “I’m a limo driver!” (I’m not saying that I flash my pager at people and brag about being a volunteer firefighter, just sayin’, I’m that proud.)

Having missed another call today, I wondered why on Earth I was missing out on this thing for which I have repeatedly professed my love. Why did I feel somewhat detached at times, when just months ago I almost cried when I received the invite back to the department? I was so excited and overjoyed to be given a second chance to join the fire department that had been such a huge part of my life in the past. The department and the people in it had an impact on me on such a visceral level that I felt like a part of me was missing when I was away from it for those four years.

Well, let’s just say that I’m a little older, a little wiser and a lot more in touch with the big picture these days. When I was on the department before, spouse (at the time) and I had his parents on speed dial and as soon as the pager went off, we’d throw (not literally) the kids in the car and the grandparents would meet us at the hall and take the kids.

I remember when the kids would hear the pager go off, my (now 12-year-old) daughter who would have been four or five at the time, would automatically grab her toys and stand at the door, saying excitedly, “Fire call!”

Looking back now, I’m willing to admit that we may have been a little obsessed with the fire department.

I also remember more than one family member telling us, “You know, there’s more to life than the fire department”, to which we’d roll our eyes, as if they were the ones who didn’t get it. Oh, the irony of it all.

I recall sitting in the hall with a fellow firefighter at 3 a.m. one morning when we’d missed the rescue truck that had been paged out to assist another hall at an MVC. I was bummed about missing the call because it sounded like a “good” one, and he said to me, “It just wasn’t meant to be,” and “There’ll be other calls,” as if it was no big deal. At the time, I thought to myself, “How can he be so nonchalant about missing the call? We missed the truck! We’re missing out on something! I wanted to go! It’s not fair!” Mind you, he’d been on for several years, and I was probably in just my second or third year at the time and still had the “Omigosh-there’s-a-call, I-gotta’-go” mentality – kind of like my dogs are now when I say the word “walk”.

The point is that I understand (now that I’m older and wiser . . .) that the firefighter was right. There will be other calls and maybe it wasn’t meant to be for whatever reason. I did have a wonderful day with my family on Family Day, and I know that there will soon be a time when my daughters will have busier social lives than I do and won’t be so keen to go skating with Mom and be willing to hold her hand so she doesn’t wipe out and make a fool of herself in front of a rink full of people.

Life is all about balance, on the fire department and on skates.

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