My house was full of neighbors and the porches were full of neighbors. I knew all of these people and I knew that they were sitting in my space because they cared for me. But then, I became engulfed with uniforms. These were not neighbors. These were not people that I knew. These were deputies from the sheriff’s department, firemen and persons from the Department of Natural Resources. They were strangers and yet they came as if they should be welcomed.
I have always lived a very calm life. I am the opposite of a drama queen. I have never been involved with emergencies. I have never been a party to a burglary or an automobile accident or an assault or anything else that would cause me to be associated with uniformed persons. My naive picture of the uniform is that of the kindergartener when the policeman is my friend. I did not associate this invasion of the uniforms as dangerous, intimidating or bearing bad news.
One of the uniforms was assigned to me. It turns out that his son had played at my house years back. He was good friends with my daughter’s good friend. In my state of mind, I did not remember him. It turned out he was kind, caring and had my best interest in mind. In the beginning, however, I did not have a warm fuzzy feeling about the uniforms in my house. The most uncomfortable moment came when one of the uniforms told me he had to look through my house. He had to do this to make sure my husband had not gotten out of the lake and was in the house somewhere. I got up to escort him for a tour of the house. However, he told me I had to remain in the presence of another uniform while he searched my house. I suddenly felt like I was a suspect. It was like I was being accused of hiding my husband in the house as I reported his drowning.
As I sat and wondered, reality filtered into my brain. No one remains living when they have been underwater this long. My brain started to let me know that there was no longer a hope of recovering my husband to come home and be with me. It was now finding him so we could confirm what was already evident. I remember saying to my uniform “keeper” that I understood that it was over, but I needed confirmation. I could not call my other four children without confirmation. I was calm; very calm. I was rational. I was reasonable.
As my neighbors sat vigil on the porch, they watched the boats of the uniforms searching the bottom with sonar. They would say, “I think they know where he is”. They would question, “Why don’t they send in divers?”. And we sat. Calmly sat. Our neighbors kept us in cool water as we sat and sat on this famously hot day. Until three hours later a young uniform came and knelt by my chair. He looked up at me and I knew. After introducing himself, (the uniforms all have such good manners), he said he needed to talk to me. I looked at him and said, “you have found him”. “Yes”, he said, ” I have him on the boat.” The invasion of the uniforms had confirmed my new reality.