My brother and I grew up in the fire department.
My dad was a volunteer firefighter in our village for 39 years. 26 of those years he spent in the Fire Chief’s rotation. The way it works is that there are 4 chiefs in the department; one from each fire house. We have 3 engine companies and 1 hook and ladder company. All of the houses are filled with volunteer members and many of these firefighters are also part of the volunteer ambulance crew. Each fire house nominates a chief; hence the 4 chiefs. The Chief of the department holds that position for 2 years, and under that chief are 3 assistants. Every two years, they move up the “ladder.” The first time my dad was the chief of the department was from 1983-1985, and then he went around the rotation a few more times. When I was born, he was the 3rd assistant chief or baby chief. When my brother was born, he was the head chief. In 2006, while my dad was a Deputy chief, he died in the line of duty while directing operations at a house fire.
Yes, my brother and I grew up in the fire department.
40 years ago, in 1977, my dad became 3rd assistant chief of the fire department.
40 years later, on April 4, 2017, my brother became 3rd assistant chief of the fire department.
This was a bittersweet moment for me. My heart was sad that my dad isn’t here to see his son become a chief and follow in his footsteps. Is he really missing this journey, or is it that I’m missing see him beam with pride about his son? It’s probably me missing my dad being here because I know he doesn’t miss a thing. My heart is singing and I’m beaming with pride. My brother just amazes me. He is so dedicated to the department, does research to keep his “firematic” knowledge current, and he has this passion to make the department the best it can be. He’s basically been groomed for this position since he was young. After losing my dad, being a part of the fire department was painful for him, but as he got a little bit older, the fire was lit within him again, and I’ve never seen him more determined than he is today, taking on this role.
About 3 days before the swearing in ceremony, my brother texted me, “you and mom for my badge presentation on Tuesday, FYI.” I read this text, and immediately my eyes filled with tears. He wanted me to present him with his badge with my mom. When we lost my dad 4 months before my wedding, he’s the one who stepped up and took my dad’s place walking me down the aisle. It was now my turn to take my dad’s place and present him with his chief’s badge. So many emotions flooded my body. I was shocked, honored, and then anxious. How was I going to get up there, in front of all of the members, and speak about this moment without crying hysterically? I wrote and rewrote my little speech about 10 times. I’m an over-thinker, and that’s what I did for 3 days – over-think. The day of the ceremony, it just hit me. I didn’t delete the longer speech, I just knew I was gonna keep it short and sweet, with a little humor. My brother and I know how we feel about each other without speaking the words. Let’s just say, we’re better at writing from our hearts than speaking from them. So here’s my little speech (I think – don’t totally remember what I said):
I could stand up here and say all of these heartfelt words….but that’s not how we roll – So I’ll just text them too you later. Congratulations! We’re all very proud of you. You’re going to be very successful in this position, it’s in your blood. And yeah, that’s all I got! (as the tears started to roll down my cheeks)
I did text him my heartfelt words later that evening. He once told me (via text!) that he just wants to make dad proud and be half of the man he was. I hope that one day he will see how much he is like our dad and know that dad is beaming with pride.