Monday, January 23, 2012

Five years ago today: A dividing day

One day you're this and the next day you are that. And it has to be a big thing too; not yesterday I had long hair and today I have short hair. We have thousands of those little moments.  I would say that becoming a mom is a big dividing day though it gradually creeps up on you; no big surprise when the baby is finally born but you are in for a whole lot of change from the baby's birthday on. Learning I had cancer was a dividing day; things would not be the same although gradually they are becoming more that way.

Five years ago, all 2100 of us co-workers were told to go to a mandatory meeting at noon. Since not all of us could be held in one place, we were split up by departments. Steve's department was bused off-site about 15 miles away; mine stayed on-site. Blocking the entrances were plains-clothed security guards; defibrillators were wheeled in. We were then told that our huge complex will be completely shut down, no time table was given and more would be revealed in the next few days but for now, we all could go home and process this information. And BTW, no talking to reporters as it might impact our severance package. Initial responses: tears, anger, disbelief. Some of the workers accused the management of 'coastism', the belief that intelligence only could be found a few miles in from either coast. We in the middle are just fodder.We were the most productive site; we provided most of the blockbusters despite our size. But life was not fair and this company especially was not.There was no one to blame in the room. Our local management fought to save us, I believe that.

Not everyone was crying, Steve was actually cheering although he had the good sense to keep this to himself. He was just sick of it. Work was increasingly causing more and more anxiety. Although we were fairly young to retire (53!!!), getting an extra two years of  salary and a promise to have health insurance until we were Medicare aged made things easier. Plus we could start collecting our pension although we would really take a big hit if we touched it before we were 60. Our house was paid for and we only had one kid left at home. Shanna and Josh were finished with school. Plus we were sure opportunities would present themselves after awhile, which they did though not particularly high paying ones.

Work actually was easier for me. I no longer needed to justify what I was doing. I made potential drugs that I thought might work and it looked like I was being very productive. I received a couple of bonuses for this. Because I was being so 'good' I was asked to stay on to the bitter end. Steve's department lasted longer, which was good so we didn't receive 2 mega checks in the same year. During this time, he was sent to England to work there for a month.

Previous to this, any of us thought we would have no trouble getting a job anywhere. We were presumably working for the best, we must be the best. And for those under 40, they still had a full dance card with multiple offers. But for the older workers...,not so much. You could feel the anxiety; months of looking with no prospects. Michigan already was suffering the downsizing of the auto industry. The bank/mortgage meltdown was about to happen. Meanwhile the company was by far, the city's biggest tax payer and the biggest contributor to various charities so even our neighbors would feel our pain.

So I no longer go to work; the world is my oyster; I could do anything I want. I no longer have to prepare absurd reports to justify my existence. The first thing I did was plan Shanna's wedding and then deal with the aftermath of my mother's death, just 3 days after my last day. We received a 'retraining' allowance to spent at an accredited institution of some sort. I enrolled in a summer abroad program in an Abruzzese hill town in Italy. How being fluent as a toddler in Italian will get me a job is yet to be determined. Fighting cancer, however passively, took up a great deal of time and energy. And although I never was a stay-at-home mom (excepting one summer), I am a stay at home grand mom.

The pension we receive turns out to be really small and our expenses turned out to be really big so Steve reluctantly returned to work although in a much more relaxed atmosphere. Plus he can quit at any time.

Back in the land of winter thunderstorms that kept me up last night, I am getting better. I tried to run just a little bit yesterday and it was a huge chore plus very icy in our neck of the woods. The warm rain put a dent into our uncleared streets so I gave it another try this morning. Much, much easier so it was a joy to be able to move again. Still not loving food, which may be a good thing. I went shopping yesterday and was having a hard time finding anything I could stand to eat. My formerly favorite red pepper tomato soup caused a reflexive gag just looking at it. It was the last thing I had consumed before my vomit fest a few nights ago.

I watched Ms. Maya while Naomi tried to straighten out the latest snafu with her benefits. It does not pay to get a job as it turns out. And Shanna received another demand for jury duty. Living in another state should be a good excuse. Being very pregnant, probably not. Last year, Naomi was supposed to do jury duty and found out that breast feeding is not a reason for exclusion nor was being a part-time student. She went anyway and was not selected at the last minute. I was supposed to start jury duty right before I was to begin radiation and was given less than a week to get a medical excuse meaning an extra hospital visit for me during a time I felt like death itself.

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