Updates and Stuff

Things have been crazy for the last few weeks. Quick snapshot – I may elaborate on some of these things later:

  • Mom’s health: still a mystery. Another trip to Mayo, another frustrating round of no answers. She’s on a super antibiotic now (just in case it’s an infection), and she’s made an appointment to see an OB/GYN (just in case it’s a female issue). She’s moody, short-tempered, and not a lot of fun right now. All of which is understandable, given the intense pain she’s been experiencing for nearly six months now.
  • Lauren’s speech: She has a handful of words that are clear and understandable to non-family. It’s an interesting mix of vocab that she’s using now. And some words, we’re not sure where she heard them (like, “b0ob” which is not a word we use in the house but she can use it and point to the appropriate place on her body).
  • Ethan: He’s looking forward to starting school next week. He’s finished with camp – the last week at camp was not a good experience. He had to change locations (all summer he attended camp at his school, which is now being cleaned so it’s not a viable camp location for the last few weeks). This brought about a whole new mix of kids and counselors – including one super mean kid named Pete. First day of camp, I arrived just in time to see Pete THROW Ethan into a steel pole. Ethan’s forehead and cheek hit the pole hard, leaving red marks and bruises for days. Pete’s an older, bigger kid – probably 11 years old, so it’s a little suspicious that he’s playing with the 7 year olds. (I expect it’s because kids his own age would kick his ass since he’s obviously not a nice kid.)
  • Mike: His ashes are finally buried. I didn’t invite his parents – it was just the kids and me (and my mom). We had a few minutes with one of the priests from my alma mater. Ethan struggled a bit with saying goodbye. He had some private time at the gravesite, and from the car, I could see him crying, holding his hands to heaven, and talking (but couldn’t hear the words). He spent about 10 minutes at the site, I sat with him for another 10, then he had another few minutes alone before deciding it was time to go. E seems to be in a good place since then. Hoping he found closure and peace, too.
  • Work: Started a new job yesterday. From agency to corporate to academia – lots of changes, but hoping that THIS is exactly what we all need. I’ll have a lot of flexibility, which I’ve NEVER had. I have a lot of work to do in the next two weeks before classes start, but I’m looking forward to it. I really think this will be the answer we all need.
  • Life insurance: Related to making the new work situation possible, the final life insurance check arrived. Now I just need to find a financial planner to help me sort through what to do with it. It definitely eases the financial hit of this new job, but I also need to be responsible and invest a substantial portion of it. Figuring out the money stuff remains on the to-do list (but now there’s hope that I can actually DO my to-dos!).


Taking Off the Golden Handcuffs

I learned the meaning of “golden handcuffs” today.

I was “walked down” to Human Resources this afternoon to discuss my resignation. It was about time – I submitted it 1.5 weeks ago, but it wasn’t turned over to HR until yesterday… It’s not like they were trying to convince me to stay; we didn’t mention it after the original I Quit conversation. Whatevs. (Sidenote: “Walked down” is employer code for an employee-HR meeting. They are not usually positive experiences.)

HR Chick opened a manila folder and pulled out my resignation email, quickly shutting the folder again. “I just need you to sign this,” she said, handing me a pen. I signed.

She opened the folder and pulled out another piece of paper, quickly closing it again. “This is information about COBRA and insurance. These are all the phone numbers you’ll need after your employment terminates.”

“OK,” I said.

She opened the folder, pulled out another piece of paper and turned it toward me. It was a regular piece of paper, nothing on it, except for a bright pink Post-It with numbers on it. “This is what you owe us for your relocation. If you’d only stayed on for a full year, this would have been reduced by half. But, you didn’t make it to the one year point,” she said.

I looked down at the paper. Two numbers were written with some words:

$5000 signing bonus

$81,657 relo

That’s $86,000. Eighty. Six. Thousand Dollars. Fuck.

I didn’t know what the cost for my relocation from St. Louis totaled. I figured it somewhere between $50,000 to $60,000. I was prepared to pay it back and walk away.



“OK,” I said. “Not sure what you want me to do with that.” I laughed a little, nervously.

“Well, some people just write a check on their last day,” HR Chick answered very nonchalantly.

“Yeah, that’s not happening,” I responded. Visions of numbers running through my head.

“What kind of repayment plan were you thinking?” she asked as if this wasn’t an obscene amount of money.

“I’m not sure. I’m just learning the total sum. I would like a break down of that total.”

“I’ll see what I can do about a breakdown and I’ll talk to accounting about options others have used to pay back,” said HR Chick

I was pretty upset when I left the room. But the more I thought about it, this isn’t about the money. If it was, I wouldn’t leave this ridiculously well-paying job. If it was about the money, I’d stick it out to meet the one year point, and have the amount reduced by half. If it was about the money, I wouldn’t leave – I’m not going to make this kind of money anywhere, ever.

I’m leaving this job because my family needs me. And you can’t put a price on that. Screw the golden handcuffs. It’ll get figured out.

On a related note, I officially accepted an offer yesterday night that will provide the level of flexibility with the family that I need. It’ll be a totally different work experience than I’ve ever had, but it’s something I’ve always wanted to try. I just always thought it would be toward the end of my career, not in the middle. Unfortunately, the pay sucks – but it’ll be enough to pay bills and enjoy life a bit, with some adjustments to our lifestyle. It’s also only a one year contract, but has the potential (STRONG potential) to become multi-year contract or even a permanent job next year. I can’t say much yet, but will give details soon. It’s an exciting, and a little scary, change.

The Last Decision

I heard from the cemetery guy this week. He picked out a “nice” spot, near a new walking bridge, close to the river, on the side of the cemetery closest to campus. “You can walk to Saint Joe’s from there,” he told me. I’m sure it’s a lovely spot.

We even settled on the date to lay Mike’s ashes to rest – August 17.

In my mind, I envision this as a very private moment for the kids and me. Maybe one of the college priests. And my mom, of course. In a way, I just want the closure. Just want it to be done. The bigger a deal is made of this, the harder I think it will be for Ethan, and that won’t be good. And, I really don’t think Mike would have wanted this to be a spectacle.


I’ve thought a lot about if I want to involve Mike’s parents. They ignored me at the showing and the funeral mass. They haven’t reached out to me or the kids (other than sending the kids each very impersonal card for birthdays). There’s no relationship between me and them or them and the kids. Hell, Mike didn’t even like them and made sure I knew it every time I talked to him.

Honestly, his parents were always assholes. There was a deep-rooted, one-way hatred toward my dad. (And my dad was the most laid back, likeable person you could EVER imagine.) It made my dad laugh, when Mike’s dad would start something with him. The laughter and trying to blow off the situation only infuriated Mike’s dad more. Which just continued the cycle of my dad irritating him and laughing. Over and over.

Things didn’t warm up with Mike’s “condition.”  They refused to come to St. Louis when I called them during Mike’s last binge. The blaming that started with the phone call telling me Mike died. The way they acted toward me, the kids and my family at the funeral. The planning of the post-mass lunch against my direct orders to NOT have a lunch.

I’m sure there’s NOTHING harder than losing a child, especially one who refused to get help. One you watched waste away, knowing there was nothing you can do to stop it, to change it. And I can’t imagine talking to my child, then finding him dead in the morning. That has to be the most difficult, awful thing imaginable.

Have I reached out to them? No. We didn’t talk when Mike was alive. They would call his cell phone – not the house phone – to make sure they didn’t have to talk to me. (Sidenote: when I say Mike hated them, this is a good example. He would let their calls go to voicemail every time. He would have to work up the strength to call them because he knew it was such an ordeal to have a conversation with those people. He usually wouldn’t return the call for two or three days, and when he did, Mike was a grouch in the hours before he placed the call and for hours afterward.)

I have no reason to reach out to the former in-laws – I am the mother of their only grandchildren. I am the keeper of the ashes. I hold the cards. And, I don’t have anything nice to say to them.


The question remains: should they be invited to the, what should I call it?, the ceremony (seems too great for what I’m planning), the event (again, too lofty), the burial (um, maybe). Involving them would only make a difficult day more awkward and painful than it needs to be. Ethan and Lauren really don’t know these people, and involving them would be weird. I don’t know how they would react to being there and part of it, so I can’t prepare the kids for what would be an amazingly dramatic performance, I’m sure.

Besides, after the mass luncheon fiasco, I can’t trust they would honor my request to keep this a very small, private, intimate affair. I imagine they would invite all sorts of random relatives who would like to spend a Friday afternoon at a rural cemetery ignoring me.

On the other hand, is it wrong to NOT notify them? Can I send a letter after the fact with the location of his remains? Am I stooping to their level of asshole-ishness if I don’t “invite” them? Does it matter? What if I sent a nice note with a map to the cemetery afterward?

I have a few weeks to decide what I’m going to do…