A different sort of post from me.

If you are one of the two people who have read this blog for any length of time, you’ll note that I mostly stick to commenting on things external to me, rarely venturing into the realm of how I feel about something particular to my own life. Honestly I just don’t do that well. I’m not one to share a lot of touchy feely emotions. Maybe I have them, maybe I don’t. But now I’m going to tell a story about something that happened to me one time and how it made me feel.

In early January 2000, my wife Emily and I found out that she was pregnant with our first child. It was planned so it was rather joyous news in our household. We kept it a secret peculiar to us for the appropriate amount of time then we shared the news. We were living in North Carolina at the time so we had to make a flying trip to Alabama to share the news with Emily’s parents. Some things deserve to be told in person, we believed.

During that trip, Emily’s father, Charles, asked me to consider working for him at his company, Doors by Decora, here in the city I live in now, Montgomery, Alabama. I was surprised by that, and I took several months to decide. I was working in an industry that was slowly dying in this country, but on the other hand my Tar Heel (not the basketball team which I loathe) roots ran deep.

After seeking wise counsel and spending no small amount of time in prayer, I ultimately decided that it was in the best interest of our family to make the move. I was working on the second shift, from 3 until 11 pm. Remembering that our entire family was always at home in the evenings, I did not want to raise children with their father absent in the evenings. It just wouldn’t be fair to them, I reasoned.

We decided to postpone the move until after our baby was born. Emily was already established with an OB group in North Carolina and we really didn’t want to leave my parents just yet. This was in April. The baby was due in September which would put our move in the middle of October.

The company I had worked for since 1981 was Cleveland Mill Company, a textile facility that was part of the Spartan Mills Group. I had held a variety of jobs within the company, but the job I had then was as the second shift supervisor in our dying department.

Dying fabric is not something you can learn to do overnight. It’s honestly part art and part science. You have to know a good deal about chemical interactions, but you also have to have good color vision and know how to make use various dye to obtain the desired shade of fabric. You weren’t allowed to just be close.

Knowing this, I told my company officials shortly after deciding to move, that I would be leaving the company in mid-October. In one respect this was a stupid move on my part. But my motive was pure. I simply wanted them to be able to get someone trained to do the job so that my leaving would not be a burden on anyone else in my department. It was an act of loyalty.

On August 11, 2000, when my wife was eight months pregnant, I was summoned to the personnel office and told that my resignation was being accepted effective immediately. I was to receive a week’s vacation pay, but no severance pay since I was “resigning.” To my credit, rather to the credit of the Holy Spirit, I accepted my fate at that hour with a gentle heart. I thanked them for taking care of me and giving me a place to get a paycheck for 19 1/2 years. Then I walked out with my head held high.

One thing that helped me cope with it during the immediate aftermath was the fact that a girl I had grown up with and was currently attending church with had died tragically after a long and brave struggle with cancer. At her visitation that evening, I knew deeply in my heart of hearts that I no problems compared to the man she was leaving behind to raise two sons.

The next day I discovered the duplicity. It turns out the powers that be from Cleveland Mills had attempted to give my job to my work partner on the finishing side of the plant. They had made that attempt prior to ever letting me go. He told them to stick it. Actually that is probably a nice way to put it, but the meaning is the same. I urged him to reconsider. There was reason for him to be without a job. He was told take it or face unemployment. He stood firm and entered the ranks of the unemployed at the same time I did.  They had sold this whole thing as a reduction in force due to business conditions, but a few weeks later they hired a new person for the job I had been doing.

I felt betrayed. I guess I’m just an idiot because I believed that loyalty was a two-way street. I had sincerely wanted to take care of them by giving them as much notice as possible, but when it come down to it, there was no loyalty shown in return. They told me they had accepted my “resignation” but I had never tendered one. I only said that I was planning on leaving the company in the middle of October. But that was just a semantic trick to deny me any sort of severance pay. I was supposed to have received a week’s pay for every year of service I had with the company. They certainly didn’t want to pay me for 19 weeks.

I felt angered and cheated because I had harbored these fantasies about coming back for visits when I was home and just being able to enjoy being around good friends and former co-workers without the stress of trying to get a task accomplished. They had stolen that from me. I felt like after having served a company for 19 1/2 years I had the right to be able to leave and having good feelings about it.

My wife felt angered enough that she called up the personnel manager and blessed him out. You do not want to incur the wrath of the red-headed wife.

There was the concern about money. Fortunately that concern was taken away. The Sunday evening after this happened, we shared this news with our pastor, Eddie Brackett. Emily, myself, Eddie, and his wife Hilda joined hands on the front steps of the church and Eddie prayed for us. He specifically prayed that we would not have difficulty with finances and that we would not have worry concerning them. God answered that prayer immediately. I never worried for a minute after that and it seemed like money was never a problem in the interim period.

For weeks I let it fester. I burned with anger and feelings of humiliation.

Four weeks later my daughter was born. It was the most profound and moving moment of my life, holding an infant that shared my blood, only minutes away from being in the comfort of her mother’s womb. I wept unashamedly as I held that child. I was simply overwhelmed, humbled beyond all measure.

But in the days that followed I simply felt like I was the most inadequate person in the world. I had not been worthy of  having loyalty shown to me and here I was about to turn 40 with an infant. I had never been around babies much and had no idea what I was supposed to do. So I spent the next few weeks feeling sorry for myself. I’m really good at self-pity.

When we moved I had the triple whammy of turning 40, starting a new job, and having to learn how to be a father all at the same time. Again I just wallowed in self-pity rather than face any of them head on. I should have thrown back my shoulders and said, I’m ready world, bring on the changes. I’ve always said that change is good, but I don’t believe it even for a minute. The truth is, I hate change. I hate progress. I want everything to be like it always has been. And here I was facing a whole lot of change at the same time. Why me, I kept asking myself.

In time, all these feeling began to diminish. I was able to forgive Cleveland Mill Company for robbing me of what I felt like was my right to have. I slowly learned how to become a father and today I treasure the time I spend with my two precious children. God equipped me for being a father, and while I am by no means perfect at it, my children know that I love them. I spend time with them I tell them I love them everyday and always give them plenty of hugs.

There is one final part of this story. In May 2001, seven months after I moved to Alabama, Cleveland Mill Company abruptly shut its doors forever. Many good and decent people I knew and loved were suddenly without employment. Unlike me they did not have a place to go. God took care of me the whole time. I was just too short-sighted to see it until later. God gave me my time at home to experience the joy of a newborn baby and to be there for my wife. But sadly I was too ignorant to see that until it was too late. Sometimes we don’t embrace our blessings because we are too busy worrying about what we don’t have.

I wonder why God chose to take care of me in the way He did, but not others that I knew?  Well that’s something in which only He knows the answer. For myself, all I can do is thank Him and praise His name for it.


3 Responses to “A different sort of post from me.”

  1. Wow. I’m speechless…

  2. How beautiful Maurice.

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