For those of you who might find it easier to follow my story chronologically, I have provided the links–in order–on the page titled My Story-In Order. The links will open in another tab/window so you won’t be taken from that page and can continue clicking the links as needed. Hope this helps!
I had been fired 2 months when I received a call from my Sis. Mom had fallen a few times in the past few months. She was not seriously injured but bruised pretty badly this last time. Sis said Mom really needed someone to stay with her and help her out. Would I consider moving out to Texas and living with Mom?
Wow! I was bumfuzzled! I love my mother dearly and hadn’t seen any of my family in many years. I would love to go visit but to move there? I hated West Texas weather! The dry and windy days–no humidity to speak of, the dust storms, the tornadoes. Then I looked around my apartment and thought ‘Hmm, I won’t be able to live here after another 3 months. I can’t find a job, my savings is dwindling down. Where else would I go?’ So, I called Sis and Mom to talk over all the specifics and decided to go for it.
I went through all my belongings and sorted what I could sell at a garage sale. I was brutal, knowing I could only take what would fit in the car. I still had too much stuff. I shipped boxes of things to Mom’s, sold the rest at the sale, and donated all of my furniture to a Church that took care of the homeless.
A wonderful friend of mine offered to drive out with me and fly back at her own expense. It took us 3 days and was quite an experience for me! I’d never driven outside of my town, I didn’t even leave my neighborhood area!
It was wonderful to see Mom, Sis and my brothers again! I’m so happy that I made the move although taking care of Mom can be quite trying! We get along great, for the most part, but stumble here and there with general issues. We, so far, have resolved any issues in an amicable way that agrees with both of us.
During the 2 months that I was packing and sorting my life, I received an email from my sister-in-law…Rick’s brother’s wife… we have kept in touch secretly through the years. She wrote that Rick had died. He and his brother were celebrating his 54th birthday. The party of drinking and drugs lasted 7 days until Rick’s brother went into the living room that last morning to find Rick dead on the couch. Autopsy results revealed alcohol poisoning and drug overdose.
While I was shocked at the news, I felt a great relief! No more looking over my shoulder just in case he had found me, no stomach flipping/heart jumping every time I saw a truck that looked like his. I finally felt completely free. I could breathe again, I could stop being so nervous, I was totally free of him now.
Throughout the past 12 years, I have realized this experience has raised my spirit above anything I’ve ever had to do in my life. I have been forced to grow and to find a part of myself I didn’t even know I had. I am much stronger than I’ve ever been in my life!
I had made my plans to leave him and the plan worked. Yes, I had help from others along the way, but I made the plan, I took the steps needed to get out. I gathered the courage to move on with my life.
It is my fervent wish that any domestic violence victims reading this will please get out–Run! Make a plan, enlist help from others, even if it’s embarrassing or a shameful feeling for you, and get as far removed from your abuser as possible–even if it’s “only” emotional abuse. It will mean a lot of changes and it will feel scary–very scary! But, once you escape and are living on your own and you build a new life for yourself, you will feel such a sense of exhilaration, of freedom, of triumph! And you’ll never look back.
I did it–all by myself!
A little over a year ago, a new Director was hired to be in charge of all staff at the Retirement Home. Jamie was a perky little thing with dark hair and freckles spattered all over her face. She was 24 years old but looked 15.
When she first hired on, she seemed so friendly and outgoing. She seemed to really care about the residents. Many of the residents resented her right off as they missed Tom who had been the previous Director until he’d retired after being there for 10 years. They were used to the calm, wise, older man and thought of this new girl as a baby who was way out of her league.
Most of the staff liked her and she treated us well in the beginning. Within 6 months of hiring on, she changed to a power-hungry heartless woman. She changed rules, sometimes on a weekly basis, and was constantly upsetting us with these new rules. One week we were to do this, the next week it was “No, let’s do it like this.” We were never sure what policy was in effect and for how long.
She fired a server who had worked there for 3 years. The server was joking with one of the residents and Jamie overheard the conversation. She called the girl into her office and fired her on the spot–no warnings, no reprimand–nothing! She deemed the conversation disrespectful and not tolerated in her building. She escorted the girl out of the building, called a staff meeting, and explained that the girl had been fired and no one was to be in contact with her not even outside the building. She announced that was the new policy–there will be no fraternizing with former employees who had been fired. If she found out anyone had contacted one of these poor souls then they would be next in line.
What??!! We were friends with the girl and couldn’t keep in touch! What kind of bunk is that? We still did but kept quiet about it at work.
A week later, one of the housekeepers got fired. She had been with us for 2 years. She didn’t dust some window sills very well was the reason for the firing. She was also escorted out of the building.
The following weekend, we were working short-handed due to flu season. Normally there was 4 servers, 2 cooks, and a dishwasher. There were 3 servers that night and one cook and no dishwasher. This meant that I would have to do my normal duties plus be the dishwasher as the other 2 girls were under 18 and not allowed to work the dish machine. We all had to hurry rather quickly to get all of the residents fed in a timely manner. Then I had to bus/clean up my section then go back to do the dishes while the other 2 servers cleaned their areas and their part of the kitchen.
During all of this rushing, my hairnet fell off but I was too hurried and agitated about all that had to get done so I didn’t care. I never thought any more about it. We finished everything on time and went home–thank God! I was so tired from all of the rushing about that I went straight to bed.
The next day, I walked into work and clocked in. Jamie came to the time clock and asked me to come to her office. I thought ‘Oh-oh! What is this about?” I walked into her office, she closed the door, and handed me a paper. “Barbara, this is your notice of termination effective immediately.” I was stunned! My heart started racing, my stomach flipped, and I began shaking. “What? Why?”
“It was reported to me that you were working without a hairnet last night which is a violation of my policy and it is my determination to terminate you immediately.” I hung onto her desk for fear of my knees giving out and I started crying–more in shock than anything else. “Jamie please!!” I went on to explain what had happened and why my hairnet wasn’t on. She merely said, “I’ll escort you out now.” She was so cold about it and I think that was what shut me up. I saw there was no use trying to get another chance. The entire procedure took place in 3 minutes. Three minutes to have my job, my love, my life ripped from under me.
She walked me out of the building and watched until I was in my car and driving away. I was still shaking so hard I could barely drive. Good thing I only lived 8 blocks away. I ran into the apartment and burst out bawling–gut wrenching sobbing. The first time I had cried in the 12 years since I’d left Rick. How was I going to get through this? What will the residents think when they don’t see me? I was devastated beyond belief.
The next day I emailed Corporate pleading for someone to listen to me. Didn’t my 8 years there mean anything? In return I received an email with an apology that policy was policy and their hands were tied. It also stated I was not allowed to return to the building and I was not to contact the residents as that would just upset them. Upset them? They were already going to be upset when wondering where I was and what happened.
I composed a letter stating why I had to leave and how much I would miss all of them plus my phone number and address if any of them wanted to stay in touch with me. I had copies made and addressed all of the envelopes and mailed them out. Three days later, one of the dishwashers called me and told me the letters arrived on the same day and the residents got together and went to Jamie’s office in mass protest. It did them no good. Jamie sat very calmly and just repeated over and over again “I’m sorry you feel that way. But policy is policy and I had to do my job.” Several residents called her rude names and she just repeated the same phrase–cold, cold woman! To this day, I still get letter, cards, and phone calls from many of them. I still miss them dearly.
I have found out that all of the firings were women between 40 and 60 years old. They have all been replaced by 20-something girls. Jamie was systematically getting rid of the old and bringing in the new and the young. Age discrimination. Could it be proven? No. We had all ‘broken policy’ in one way or another. There was nothing any of us could do about it. Corporate always wins.
(I intended for this post to continue to my current situation, but I’ll have to finish in another post. This is too hard on me right now.)
It took me about 2 months to find another job. There was a Retirement/Assisted Living home about a mile from my daughter’s. I hired on as a full-time dining room server.
I loved, loved, LOVED this job! Within the first month I knew all 75 resident’s by their first names and learned their last names as time went by. I fell in love with them right away. Both sets of my grandparents had died when I was very young and, here, I had 75 of them! What a treat! I never realized how much I needed the love and wisdom of my elders.
Many of them became favorites and even good friends. I received much wise advice and a lot of love. In return, I gave them all the love I had in me. Love that was held back for all those latter years with Rick. The love I hadn’t expressed to my parents, siblings and, for many years, my children who had stayed away from me due to fear or hatred of Rick. His isolating me from all of my family contributed to that fact.
I found my own apartment and reveled in the solitude and being All By Myself! My workdays were filled with interactions with over 100 people and, much as I loved them, I was ready for peace and quiet and to just relax each evening and days off.
My life revolved around my job, it was my life! The second year, the company started an Employee of the Month program. The votes were made by residents only. I was named the first winner of this program and was so overjoyed! I hugged each and every one of those beautiful people until my arms ached. It was a very big thrill for me.
Did I get a “big head” from it? No. But my self-esteem and confidence bloomed even more. I felt stronger and more able to accept myself as a deserving individual. Four years into the job, I was promoted to Dining Room Coordinator. I was responsible for training servers and keeping the dining room and kitchen duties organized and completed on time.
I created place cards for the seating in the dining room. We did not have assigned seating but the residents always sat in the same place every meal. It is so hard for new servers to learn all of the residents names. This way, the names were at each individual setting and made it much easier on all of us. I have always been an organized person so this was second nature to me. Thus, the dining room operations ran smoothly and efficiently.
For 8 years, I led a most rewarding life filled with love, caring, and friendship. I loved my job with all of my being.
Sometimes, a resident would say “Don’t you ever leave me like all those young girls do when flitting from one job to another.” I always replied, “I will never leave here. I’ll be here until I retire, then I’ll move in and still be with you!” I always got a laugh with that line but I meant every word of it.
Then, one day, a young girl was promoted as the Director and she would turn my world upside down………
After living for 8 years in the middle of the woods, I experienced quite a bit of culture shock when I left the woods and flew to my daughter’s to live. Her family lived in a mid-size Midwest town and it was full of NOISE. Traffic, lots of people, children, all boisterous sounds of daily life in the city.
My daughter’s children were then 10 years old, 3 years old and newborn. All of them had loud voices, loud toys, TV’s were on 24 hours a day–all through the night. None of them could sleep without the TV on for background noise.
All of these sounds were so overwhelming for me. It took quite an adjustment on my part and while I did feel safe there, I was still very nervous and jumpy all of the time due to the excessive noise.
I was able to find a job at the local county Humane Society within 3 months of arriving there. It was within walking distance which I was thankful for as I didn’t have a car or money to buy one.
I worked at the Humane Society for 4 years and was able to buy me a good used car. I started out as a kennel attendant, promoted to Senior Attendant then again to Treatment Room Supervisor. It was my responsibility to care for the health of the animals as they came into the shelter and to maintain their health until they were able to be adopted out.
It was a very satisfying job and helped to build my self-esteem. I felt empowered by the job and my fellow co-workers. The last year I was there, I was named Employer of the Year for my campaign for change in the way pit bull dogs were treated. Whenever a pit bull was brought in, even if it was a puppy, it was immediately euthanized because of the belief that ALL pit bulls were dangerous killers.
I found that to be untrue. We had many pit bulls that came in and were very friendly and loving but they were still killed just because of their breed. I launched a campaign to raise the awareness of pit bulls who were loyal and loving by nature and only were mean when raised that way by owners who were using them in dog fight competitions. It led to policy being changed so that when a pit bull was brought in, it was tested for temperament and companionship and assessed as adoptable or not. The campaign saved many of these dogs from a needless death.
While working there, I had good health coverage so I went to get a physical–I hadn’t had one in all of my years with Rick. Doctors were usually men and Rick didn’t want any man to touch me. I was relatively healthy except for my anxiety/nervousness, which the Doc prescribed a medicine for, and one other health issue. I had an STD! A sexually transmitted disease!! Me!!! I asked the doctor if there could be some mistake–no there wasn’t. I asked if it could have been transmitted another way–by a dirty toilet or something–no it couldn’t!
I was in shock. I was so embarrassed and humiliated. I was given medicine for the disease, which cured it, and was sent on my way. All the way home I seethed in anger which evolved into angry tears and outrage. I cursed Rick, I ranted, I raved. I got home and told my daughter and we both cried. It was so hard for me to believe that, although I had been accused of infidelity all those years with Rick, I had remained faithful and it was HE who had cheated on me with another woman/women and had gotten the disease and passed it on to me. How unfair! How ironic!
I vowed then that I would never let another man touch me and I’ve held to that vow for over 12 years now. The way I see it–I make lousy choices, so I choose NOT to choose! It’s working very well for me!
I stayed with the Humane Society until new management took over. She made too many harsh changes that were not to the betterment of the care of the animals. Five of us walked out on the same day. Thankfully, I saved quite a bit of money that I could live on until I found another job.
My next goal was find a new job and find a place of my own. While I dearly love my daughter and her family, I needed to be alone. I craved peace and quiet and solitude. I was ready for another change in this new life of mine.
I recently bought a new cell phone and wondered what to do with my old one. No one in the family needed it so I searched online and found 2 places where you can donate your cell phone to be used for domestic violence victims at various shelters across the country. So, that’s what I’m going to do with my old one.
Would you please keep this in mind the next time you have an old cell phone you don’t know what to do with?
Please save these links for future use and pass the word on to others. A battered and scared woman will appreciate it one day.
Meanwhile, please take the time to read my friend’s poem on women and repression. It portrays such sadness, yet hope for women who are repressed around the world:
TO A VEILED WOMAN
Hands within her sleeves;
And behind her veil
She is a mystery,
Eyes dark as slate
Or gray as twilight
What of her lips,
What of her life;
Yearning to fly
Only may watch,
Only may breathe,
Keep ever strong
Time will appear;
When life may be lived