After the unexpected death of my husband in February of 1987, my first and most important obligation was to stabilize the lives of my sons, to make them feel secure with me, their mother, their only parent.
We lived in Canada. It was the only home my children knew, even though the older two were born in the U.S.A. We immigrated to Canada before they were 3 and 4 years old. We had no blood family in Canada, but, it was our home. I loved it and wanted to continue our lives there but there was so much to handle after my husband’s unexpected death, — the family business was my first concern, after reassuring the children that we would be fine.
My late husband was a chemist who made/created new formulae for specialty paints which would adhere to plastics. Some of our customers were giant corporations, G.M., NCR, IBM… We also formed a second company which would spray paint the customer’s products with our paints.
Our staff was comprised of 47 souls who relied on their jobs to feed, clothe, support, educate and house their families. I was determined to keep the business running, but after our salesman was caught trying to sell Gerrit’s paint formulae to a competitor, who was honest enough to phone and tell me of this betrayal, I fired the salesman.
I did not attempt to replace my husband’s role as “superman” by placing any want ads. No one could replace him, nor his devotion to making our business a success. I did not know enough about our products to be able to sell, or create new paints with newer, better properties. I was not a chemist. My role was office-oriented — inventory, ordering, shipping, receiving, writing proposals, payroll, benefits, schedules, etc… I did not feel secure in my capacity to run the business, especially without the ability to make new products or procure new customers. I was lost without my husband in this adventure that was our shared dream.
After great thought, I met with a salesman and personal friend who had worked for one of the companies we serviced. Paul was growing tired of sales and considered buying my company — becoming his own boss.
Within a matter of months, the sale was closed. I did not walk away with great wealth, the company had suffered some setbacks during “Black Monday,” October 19, 1987. I was, however, happy to have sold the company, feeling relieved that my employees would be secure in their jobs, and that I could find full-time, permanent employment.
Although my résumé was professional and filled with experience, I could not find permanent office employment. My solution was to apply with Manpower, a temporary agency which sends workers to different businesses whose employees might be on vacation or maternity leave, or … whatever. I hoped and prayed that the women whose jobs I was filling would not return, and I would move right into their position. That was not the case. Women were not leaving their jobs. The economy was in bad shape. Jobs were nearly impossible to find.
As an employee with Manpower, I gained top recognition from the businesses for whom I served. I was one of Manpower’s best, most dependable, professional employees, yet, there was no future with them. There were no health benefits, (even though Canada had socialized medicine, one needed supplementary insurance) no accrued vacation nor paid sick time were offered when one works for a temporary agency.
As part of my self-promise to keep my family stabilized, I kept working as a temporary secretary four years, until my eldest son graduated high school, and son number three graduated from eighth grade. I would probably have better luck returning Stateside where I knew I would be able to find a lucrative job with benefits. Thus began my adventure to engineer the move from Ontario, Canada to Tucson, Arizona.
My first project was to re-paint all of the rooms in our home, replace carpeting, reface kitchen cabinets and re-side the outside of the home prior to placing it on the market.
Next, I had to make arrangements for son number two to lodge with a family since he would graduate from high school early in January of 1993. I wanted to afford him the opportunity to graduate with his classmates. The family was well known to us, their son played triple A hockey with my son, and the wife and I worked out the monetary arrangements. I made certain all of my son’s paperwork, medical records, passport, etc… were in an organizer and gave it to the mom for safe keeping.
Although my birth family was still in the Chicago area, I had no desire to return there. I loved Chicago, but, I was the black sheep of the family and had no desire to go back to playing that assigned role in their lives again. I had my own life, with friends and acquaintances who knew and appreciated me for who I was.
I took a plane trip to Tucson with my eldest, third and fourth son to assess the area as a future home. Gerrit had always wanted to retire in Tucson. He was my influence for choosing Tucson as our new home. I felt that in a way, he was with me, watching over me.
By November of 1992, our home was sold and preparations for the move jumped into full gear as packing began, a garage sale was held, vehicles were sold, plane tickets were purchased, hotel reservations were made for the few days we would be homeless after our home sold. Arrangements were made with the airport shuttle service to transport us and all of our possessions to the airport, as well as preparations with the moving company to store our furnishings until I found a new home in Arizona.
Packing involved large steamer trunks containing a month’s worth of clothing for each of us, an electric cooking skillet, coffee pot, hygiene products, an electric typewriter with which to compose a new résumé, and many other “necessary” items for living with bare essentials… including pillows, sleeping bags, and a pair of downhill skis. Yes, there are ski mountains near Tucson.
Within six weeks, we moved into our “new” home. It was a private sale and was without any problems. Finally, we could sleep on our own floors, in our sleeping bags while awaiting the arrival of our furniture, which would take two weeks for the 1,800+ mile transport.
Meanwhile, I scoured the newspapers and sent off résumés while registering the younger two boys for school. Our life began in a new place, loaded with many adjustments and changes ahead — good and bad, but, that’s life.
Fast forward twenty years to our last reunion, three years before Michael’s death. Little did we know it would be our last family gathering.
I am thankful for all of the adventures in my life, especially for having such amazing, strong, successful men, my sons, who made every adventure worth living.
We do not remember days, we remember moments.
For more interpretations of A Discover Challenge — Adventure