Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Job Situation

I've written about various family members but I've never posted much about me and my personal life. I guess it's about time. I apologize ahead of time for the length of the post.

A year ago I decided I'd had enough of my job and my boss and I walked out. I haven't worked for pay since. I worked for the same family for about 20 years. When I started I was hired to clean house and do laundry for an older couple. The couple owned 3 local drugstores and while he went to work every week day, she stayed at home and had always had 'help'. Their home is a 3-story Victorian full of antiques with full basement and large yard. They have 5 children but all of them lived out of state until the son moved back about 5 years ago. Theirs is the type of family where everyone came home for the Christmas and at times it was like working in a motel with up to 20 guests. If you can imagine, making up 6 double beds, 8 singles, 1 bunk bed, and cleaning 3 1/2 baths as well as the rest of the house.

Anytime I mentioned doing something, I ended up with more jobs at work. If I said I liked pets, I got to bathe the dog. If I mentioned my flowers at home, I got to take care of her numerous flower beds. I love my computer and she decided she should have one, too, because I could teach her. I actually thought that was a good idea so she could email and chat but I never dreamed that she'd never really learn how. She never really comprehended the difference between being on the computer and being on the internet. She never learned how to open email attachments or download things. Her kids would call her, tell her they'd sent an email, and she'd tell me to go see what they sent. She did learn how to play bridge on line but only because bridge is her passion. It takes a smart person to be a Life Master bridge player but she never put that effort into learning the computer.

I ended up cleaning which included polishing silver and furniture, waxing wood floors on my knees, vacuuming until I had blisters on my hand, ironing (including bedding), painting inside and out, gardening (both flowers and veggies and trimming hedges), weeding the brick patio, cleaning the 3 car garage, chauffeuring and cleaning the car, running errands, putting up and taking down all the Christmas decorations, teaching computer, writing letters, occasionally helping with cooking, and sometimes being nurse. The husband died about 10 years ago from cancer. He was home until about a week until he died and I helped with him. After that I had to teach her how to keep her checkbook, pay her bills, etc. She had never done any of that because he did it all. I did some of the cleaning in the many rental properties she had and even kept track of the rent payments. (For this I was given an extra $150 a month) I kept track of papers needed for taxes and talked to her accountant. I worked part time as a checker in her main store and did some cleaning there. I went with her to her lake property and cleaned and did yard work there. I helped pack it up when she sold the place. I hate to say it but she actually went a year without renewing her license plates. I never thought about her not knowing she had to do it. Her son moved back to our hometown and he lived with her for a while and added to the work load. He eventually took over all the rental properties so I lost that income. Even after he moved out I did his laundry at her house as part of my job.

She was generous in many ways and gave me money for my birthday and Christmas and she would bring me back small gifts like earrings from their many trips. She also bought me clothes that were usually not my style or my size but I guess it's the thought, right? After her husband died I guess she felt her own mortality and decided to do some things for people while whe was alive to see their enjoyment. She actually paid my way to visit my cousin in Juneau, Alaska! I have to admit that was the trip of a lifetime for me and one I'd never be able to afford on my own. But on the flip side, I had to fight to get paid a decent salary. The poop really hit the fan about 3 years ago when she hired a man to help me outside and he was getting paid more than me. I was to tell him and show him what to do, and he was earning more money than me! I had to threaten to quit and it took a week before she would agree to a raise - not more than him but equal to - only I got paid through her store with taxes taken out and he was getting cash so I still got less.

Along with the work I got contant 'lessons' in the best way to do things, how I should eat to lose weight, what books I should read, the best televisions shows, what I should do for cultural entertainment, and even how I should wear my hair. We had a few lively discussions. LOL Anyone else and I would have yelled, "Harrassment!" I always had to remember she was an old woman of a completely different generation and on a different income level. We disagreed about a lot of things of a personal nature, too. She would insult me and not even realize it. However, it got to the point where I felt guilty even thinking of leaving. Afterall, what would she do without me? I'm afraid my resentment just grew and grew.

Thirteen months ago my sister died. At the same time, my boss was having medical problems and needed more and more assistance just getting around. She was having extreme back pain and trouble walking. I had to accompany her to doctor's appointments out of town, cook for her, help her in and out of the bath, etc. I told her she needed to hire someone to give her more care than what I could do. I hated every minute of it and I never really had to time to grieve for my sister. The day she made me accompany her to the bathroom in the hospital and wait inside the room with her while she went, I decided I'd had enough. I just couldn't take it any longer and after agonizing over my decision for a couple of weeks, I told her I was quitting. Her response was, "You can't!" I had planned on giving her two week's notice but I realized as I worked that morning that she would be on me constantly if I continued to work and I ended up just walking out. I haven't talked to her since. I started out working 3 mornings a week from 8 - 12 and ended up working every morning and sometimes all day. The rest of the time I was more or less 'on call'. My last check I was paid $11.50 an hour and that one check had a 50 cent raise.

Gee, I'm long-winded - sorry. The reason I'm posting this today is my husband just got laid off from the company he's been with for 38 years. That's right, nobody's working in this house now. We've known things were bad since last November. A lot of the company's income depends on the homeowners and you all know how that is right now. People just aren't spending the money. We're hoping he's back to work in a couple of months at most but for now it's just wait and see.

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