100: Election Day Setback

100: Election Day Setback

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Count Your Blessings

  
Election Day Setback

To succeed in life, you need three things:
a wishbone, a backbone and a funnybone.

~Reba McEntire

I’d just driven away from my elderly client’s home late in the afternoon when I noticed I had a missed call on my cell phone. It was from my husband. “Uh-oh,” I groaned. That could mean only one thing. I waited until I arrived home to call him back.

“Hi honey,” I said as cheerfully as I could when he answered. “Sorry I missed your call. What’s up?” I had a feeling down deep in my gut that I knew what he was going to say. He’d been having trouble at work for several months. Ever since a new set of managers took over his department. Men who seemed bent on getting rid of him.

“It’s over.”

I think my heart stopped beating for a second or two. “It is?”

“Yep. I’m unemployed.”

On that crisp November day—the same day Barack Obama made history by being elected the first black president of the United States—my husband was fired from a company he’d been with for more than twenty-three years. He’d worked there since he graduated from college. Since before we were married.

Somehow I didn’t collapse in a puddle of tears right there on the kitchen floor. He certainly didn’t need to deal with a hysterical wife. “Why don’t you take some time to yourself before you come home,” I suggested, knowing he probably wouldn’t feel like facing the boys or me just then. He took me up on my offer and we hung up.

My heart was racing as I stared out the window to the backyard. Anxious, angry thoughts whirled through my mind.

That stupid, stupid company! Those stupid, stupid people!

One person in particular came to mind. My husband’s former supervisor was also a longtime friend. How could he have been involved in this? How could they fire my husband, without so much as a penny of severance? After twenty-three years of being a dependable, hard-working, trustworthy employee, this is what he gets? The whole thing was simply too surreal to fathom just then, yet there were some very real matters we needed to face.

Like telling our two teenage sons.

I called the boys into the living room. I thought it best to prepare them before my husband came home. He wouldn’t exactly be in the mood to explain things in a calm, soothing manner.

“Boys,” I said, taking a deep breath. “We need to talk.”

They both stared at me. It was obvious they knew something was wrong.

“Did Grandma die?” my fifteen-year-old asked, referring to my eighty-two-year-old mother who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and was not doing well.

I shook my head. “No, no. It’s nothing like that.” Although, in a way it was. The feelings and emotions that come with losing a job are very similar to those we experience when a death occurs. Sadness. Anger. Depression. Add to that the feelings of betrayal, and you’ve got a whopper of emotional baggage to sort through.

The boys kept staring at me. I decided to just blurt it out. “Dad was fired today.”

Silence.

“We’ll be okay,” I reassured, knowing in my heart we would, but at the same time wondering how things would play out in the coming months. I work part-time. My husband was the main breadwinner. His job also provided our health and life insurance policies. What would we do now?

“Will we have to move?” Again, my youngest son, the worrier, voiced the question. My seventeen-year-old son, the one who rarely shows his emotions, stayed quiet. Much too quiet.

“No, we aren’t going to have to move,” came my firm, certain answer.

I hope not anyway, I worried silently, but who knows what might happen in the next few months. Our area hadn’t suffered as many job losses as the rest of the country, but there are no guarantees when it comes to unemployment and securing a new job. I didn’t share that concern with my sons though. There was no need to put unfounded fears on the table just yet. With both boys in high school, the prospect of moving was not something anyone in our family wanted. It made me sad they had to worry about such things now.

The tears came then. I hated to cry in front of the boys and I reined in the traitorous wetness fairly quickly, but it was obvious to them that I was worried. And hurt. But I also tried to be as optimistic as possible.

“Dad will find a new job. You know I’ve wanted him to leave that company for a while now. Maybe this is God’s way of giving him something new. A better job. A job where he’ll be appreciated.”

With all my heart, I prayed that was true. The boys went back to their rooms and I waited for my husband to come home. When he walked in the door a short time later, I put on a brave smile to greet him. I even had some confetti to toss at him as he came into the kitchen.

“Hooray! Welcome home! You’re free! Free! Free at last!”

He gave a slight chuckle. I’m sure he thinks he’s married to a loon. “I’m free, all right. Free and unemployed.”

Later that night we grew more serious. We talked about the immediate future and how we planned to make ends meet. We talked about résumés. We talked about the boys. We talked about all kinds of things.

And we prayed. God has a plan in all of this. Years down the road we’ll look back and see how it all worked for our good. Right now, however, it didn’t feel so good. It felt scary. Like being lost in a pitch-black cave without a flashlight. I don’t like being scared, so I shoved thoughts of uncertainty away.

“Well,” I said, trying to lighten the mood in the room. “Look at the bright side.”

“What’s that?” my husband asked.

“You don’t have to get up at 4:45 A.M. anymore. You can sleep in!”

He actually smiled about that.

I found a few more things to add to the bright side list. He wouldn’t have to eat leftovers for lunch every day. He’d save gallons and gallons of gas since he wouldn’t have to commute into the city. And he’d be home a lot more, which was good for me and for the boys. He’d worked so hard for so many years, he’d missed a lot of time with the family. It would be nice to have him around.

“You know,” I said as I gave him a big hug and settled in for the night. “I think I’m going to enjoy your unemployment. Just think of all the things you can do around the house while you’re home. The yard needs some new mulch, and the trees need to be trimmed, and the bedroom ceiling needs to be repaired, and … ”

He got the idea. “I hope I find a new job before you work me to death.”

“Yeah,” I grinned. “You will. But until then, you’re all mine!”

~Michelle Shocklee

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