by Robert Cubby
Oh God, how I hate that song. Why, you should ask? Everything that was sung about and wished for was, it seemed, forever denied me and my brothers and sisters in blue who had to work the holidays because police cannot simply close shop and be home with loved ones.
Oh, we tried making the best of a bad situation. I, fortunately, worked the midnight shift, which, if luck would have it, got me home in the morning in time to see the kids open their presents. Of course, that entailed losing sleep to be with the family, to attend church services and then, maybe, grab a few hours of sleep before getting dressed and heading out for our Christmas visits.
But even that had to be curtailed or pared down as I had to head out the door by a certain time to get the family home and for me to get changed and go back on duty the following night. Dragging myself into the district station house, it was good to see my second family in blue and partake in their little Christmas festivities. That is, if dispatch could spare us a few minutes, which was never the case.
It wasn’t as if the shift was uneventful either night. As much as I prayed for a nice, easy night so I had some energy or Christmas spirit left for my family, it never happened. Tragedy never takes a day off. The statistics don’t lie about this time of year having the highest suicide rate. Also, the family disputes and the drunken drivers who wipe themselves and others out after their night of celebrating. And I’m supposed to come home smiling, full of the Christmas spirit, when I’m actually full of images of broken bodies, death and destruction. But we know, all too well, how to suck it up and move on don’t we?
I remember one Christmas night. Heavy snows hit the area, nothing could get through anywhere. My partner and I had to handle two attempted suicides, both elderly mothers of first responders, which made matters far worse. The ambulances couldn’t get through, so we had to carry the victims through the heavy snow to where we could meet the ambulance. Heartbroken for our brothers in blue, but glad we were there to help them. A hug from our trembling brothers was enough to say thank you. Crying on each other’s shoulder said enough, no words needed to be spoken.
So we finally get back to our homes, bone dead tired, happy to be surrounded by the joy of Christmas. But we know it will be fleeting and temporary and, honestly, only in our dreams, as the song says. Because, unlike so many others, we just never really get to enjoy any holiday, knowing we’ll just have to go back out there on patrol and do it all again.
Now that I’m retired, I relish these moments. I can now immerse myself in the holiday the way I wished I could have done all those years ago. I think back, and wonder how I was able to muster that strength to get through those days and still be there for my family.
So for all my brothers and sisters who have to be on duty during these holidays, thank you all for making that sacrifice. Be there for you family, share those precious moments and cherish them. And please know that at least there’s one person who appreciates you and your protection. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
About the Author: Robert Cubby was born January 4, 1950. He attended Montclair State College (University) earning a BA degree in psychology. Shortly after graduation, Robert was sworn in as a police officer for the Jersey City Police Department. After attending the Police Academy, he was assigned to the patrol division. After seven years of working in two patrol districts, he was transferred to the Emergency Services Bureau where he was an instructor for the Police Academy. After 8 1/2 years, Robert was promoted to sergeant and assigned to the Property Unit. This was followed by assignments back in patrol as a sergeant, lieutenant, and captain. As a lieutenant, Robert was deployed to assist in the efforts during the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City. As a captain, he was assigned out of title 50% of the time as an acting inspector/city commander. Captain Cubby retired from the Jersey City police Department in 2011 after 38 years, 4 months of service. As the result of his service to the department, he was diagnosed with PTSD and continues to struggle with it on a recurring basis. Robert also appeared in the film, Code9 Officer Needs Assistance.