The other night I was laying on my bed with my husband – don’t worry, this story is rated PG – anyway, I was snuggled up next to him and we had our pretty little granddaughter sitting on my lap. We were just staring at her, mesmorized by her tiny little hands and her precious little smile. Suddenly I felt one of those tears escape. You know the kind, the bittersweet memory tears! I looked over at my husband and said “I wish we had more memories of moments like this!”
Of course, when I had my babies I adored them. I doted on them. I stared at them. But life was so much scarier back then. The pile of bills was so tall and I felt so small in the scheme of things. I didn’t think we’d ever get through the year I decided to stay home. When my Dyl Pickle was a baby, he had a host of health problems, including the surgery when he was 8 weeks old. I was this young corporate mom, trying to balance a budding career with a sickly baby.
My house was exactly an hour away from my job, but everyone assured me it was worth the commute. I worked for Dell Computers in those days, when it was still this energetic, dynamic company run hands-on by Michael Dell. It was exciting to be there and witness the growth and expansion of the company. I had stock options and they split, and then they split again! I sold 7, yes just 7 shares of stock and paid for my wedding and my honeymoon! I had health insurance and 401K and paid holidays. I had moved up from the entry level admin to operations. I was accomplishing big things. LIfe was good, but then, it wasn’t.
I remember driving in my car, crying every morning. I’d cry all the way to work because I had to leave my little baby, and I cried all the way home trying to get to him faster. I was gone 60 hours a week and the house showed it. My husband and I bickered. Then the baby got sicker, and he was on breathing treatments. Doctors started tossing around words like cystic fibrosis. I felt panicked all the time. I called in sick at least once a week.
Then one day I got a new manager. I remember he was tall and lean. His features were defined and I could tell the wrinkles on his face were new. He had sandy blonde hair and wire rimmed glasses. He was so naturally authoritative that he reminded me of my step-dad. I was completely intimidated when called me in his office. I thought for sure he was going to write me up or put me on some kind of probation. Instead, we had a conversation. It was the conversation that changed my life. Jim Gammage, if you’re still out there, you changed my life! His advice was simple. He had a son who was about to graduate, and I get the feeling he was staring at his son, wishing he had more moments to treasure, and he said to me “in twenty years, corporations like this will still be standing, and they will still need smart people like you to help run them, but your son will be grown, and you won’t get a do-over when it comes to how your kids turn out.” I took those words home with me, and slept on them for a night, and the next day, I took a leave of absence from which I never returned.
I remember how tough it was when I first quit my job. We had to live in a little trailer house that was at least 40 years old! Blondie and her baby brother had to share a room. The master bedroom barely fit our bed. It was “open the door and jump”! We didn’t have cable tv, or credit cards, or very many splurges, but I was home. My parents thought I was crazy, they didn’t know how we would survive without two incomes, and to be honest I didn’t know either. Many times we ended up needing a little help, but as the years ticked by we made adjustments.
We got a house and my husband steadily got better jobs and side jobs and I did little things like babysit or write for the newspaper. Any $10 I could bring in was food in the refrigerator. And I loved every moment of being at the classroom parties and the football practices. And now that sickly little baby is 6 feet tall and he towers over his father and me. We escaped the bigger scares; there never was any cystic fibrosis. He outgrew the need for breathing treatments and even though he is my bionic boy, he’s basically a happy healthy kid. Now, I stare at him and wonder how was he ever as tiny as this little grandbaby I love to hold?
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