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Good luck quitting your job

I ducked into the unused rental unit behind our house to phone my boss to quit my job. The day before, I’d reached the conclusion that this was my only path forward.

I didn’t want Robert to hear my call or interrupt me. He wouldn’t have much to say about my decision. Unfortunately, Robert had long ago quit adding useful insights to discussions of our life plans. Perhaps I left the house to make the call because I didn’t want to face any further proof that I was on this journey all alone.

The kids are moving on

I’d built the granny flat for Maddie and our son-in-law, Trent. Sonoma County is impossibly expensive for new families, and I was worried they’d never own a home. I reasoned that if we built an ADU (Accessory Dwelling Unit), the kids could live in it for a few years, and by the time their growing family needed more space, Robert and I would move into the smaller house.

If I’m being honest, I desperately feared they’d leave us and the area. Jackson was away at school in Illinois, and I was starting to feel the fissures in our family unit. I didn’t want to find myself alone, without help, trying to navigate this unraveling of my life with my husband. 

But when our darling grandson, Lincoln, began toddling around, Maddie and Trent decided it was time to move into a home of their own. I understood and supported their change of plans.

Who moves during a pandemic?

By all accounts, the housing market should have tanked with COVID-19. Who moves during a pandemic? I told the kids as much, but their hearts were set on a change. They found a house in the late summer of 2020 just before workers in San Francisco and the greater Bay Area realized that since they wouldn’t be going into an office anytime soon, they could live wherever they wanted.

Maddie and Trent squeaked under the wire while housing prices were manageable and interest rates hadn’t yet gone sideways. Thank goodness they hadn’t listened to me. And they were just 4 miles away!

So two months after their move, I found myself in the middle of our empty ADU amid the scuffed walls and dirty windows looking at a half-assembled wardrobe and a bed in pieces wondering how I was going to get it rented, leave my job, and generally manage the coming years. Would Robert’s illness take me down with him? I honestly didn’t know.

The dreaded phone call

I set up an urgent call with my boss for 2:30 pm, the first (and brief) opening in his calendar. At 2:30, I dialed his direct line. Very uncomfortably, I explained that my husband had dementia. I didn’t want to share this with my boss. It was none of his business and frankly, in corporate America, we’re not supposed to let our personal lives interfere with work. We are supposed to manage the messes, the particulars of our lives before they get out of control, right?

I explained, truthfully, that I was having a difficult time managing the demands of the job and Robert’s care. It was all I could do to put together a reasonably coherent explanation of my circumstances without crying. 

I felt disembodied like I had come into the conversation, the shell of a person. Too raw to be present, I was a being vibrating on a channel all my own, completely disconnected from the day-to-day world.

Oh, there really are options?

My boss was not an ogre. He offered his sympathy and then quite reasonably suggested that I take a leave of absence to get care arrangements for Robert sorted. Perhaps a break was all I needed to right the ship? I had my doubts, but once prompted, I agreed to explore  leave under the Family Medical Leave Act.

In truth, what I felt was “Just make it stop, make it go away.” I could have walked away from the job, never spoken with my coworkers ever again, and been perfectly contented with the breach – that’s how fragile I was.

However, I committed to reaching out to personnel to explore my options. And maybe, just maybe, with some time off, I could lease the rental unit and slip that responsibility down a notch on my list of worries. I left the disassembled wardrobe where it lay, and gently locked the door behind me.

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