October 1, 2006

Happy Birthday, Brad

Yes readers, today is my oldest son's birthday. My three kids' birthdays are within two weeks. Yep, if you do the subtraction the winter used to be a jolly time at the HB household. The boys were born a day apart, with five years (less one day) separating. By a strange coincidence I will relate another day, the wife had the same OB doctor for the both boys. Why is that strange you ask? They were born in different hospitals ninety miles apart. Anywoo, my middle child turns 18 today. Because of him I rearranged my family values. This is a story I am ashamed to tell.

I worked like a madman in those days. I worked at least 12 hours a day, often seven days a week. As an indication of this, from Thanksgiving the year previous to his birth until the following April, I had exactly five days off. That would include Thanksgiving, Christmas eve and Christmas, and New Year's day. I worked New Years Eve. I averaged 80 hours per week. All in the name of cash. I was paid very little as a management trainee, and I needed the overtime to survive. During the week, I worked days, often going in at three am and working until 3 in the afternoon. The company hired a weekend shift to help reduce overtime. These people worked 11 - 11 and were paid for thirty hours of work. It was a good deal. Of course there was a need for supervisors and support staff. On Fridays I worked my normal eight and sometimes twelve hours and returned at 11 o'clock pm to be a supervisor. I did the same on Saturday night. I got home at 11 am on Sunday and often had to be at work at three am on Monday morning, that was a big shipping day for the company.

I was a management trainee. I wrote about this before. I learned every job in the place and my only permanent duty was to manage the monthly inventory. Yes, believe it or not we conducted a physical inventory EVERY MONTH. From rags and bolts to raw material. Then the values were added and extended by hand. The results were faxed to headquarters within three days. If you have ever done an inventory you know how crazy that is. We had the system down to a science, we could even do a running inventory while the plant ran.

At about 5:00 am on October first, my wife told me she thought she was starting labor. I did not panic, I did not make a frantic dash to the car or scream about her "bag". I asked how far along, and she said the pains were still minor. I said I had better get to work to see if I could get the inventory started. In my defense, she had had some false labor previously. I told her to call me when the pains got serious or her water broke. A real prince was I in those days. I left her in labor to tend our two year old daughter. I suggested she call her mom or mine if she needed help.

I worked my ass off. I was trying to get as much done as possible. I did call home a couple of times, remember there were no cell phones in those days. My boss let me use the company phone instead of the pay phone in the breakroom.

Finally a little after five in the afternoon, my wife called and said her water had broken and her pains were pretty bad. I jumped in my beater truck and headed home. I stopped by the house and picked up the wife and headed for the hospital. Luckily the hospital was only a few blocks away. She had already called the doctor and we were expected. The baby was born at around 6:30 pm.

I had been there for only the end of the process. My wife suffered 12 hours of labor by herself. I went to work. As I held my amazing son in my arms I vowed that never again would I put work ahead of my family. I asked for a new job that month. I had to do a swing shift, but the overtime was reduced. I was home on the weekends. I finally landed a better position in a new company the following June.

I work hard. I have had to miss a few things due to travel. But I have not missed much. I have driven through the night to attend a school play or PTO program. I have flown the red-eye to get back for a game or dance recital. Now my job revolves around my family. Occasionally I find myself working -- looking at emails, calculating forecasts at ten in the evening. I look over at the pictures of my kids, and the look on the oldest boy's face reminds me of what is important.

Happiest of days son.

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