In November of 2008, I was told by my employers that I would be laid off from work by the end of that year. That the construction lending had fallen through for our clients projected for the 2009 construction season.
I was not alone; many companies had been laying off their workers that year and it was not a big surprise to me at the time. It was all over the news that we were in a bad recession and I knew that it was going to get worse after the holiday season.
I had been through a few recessions in the late 1970s and through the early ’80s and ’90s. I had always worked through them, changing as I needed to from my many past versatile experiences as a carpenter, draftsman, builder, and construction superintendent for other builders.
I had always kept adaptable and open to change. But this time the economic indicators were different. For the first time in my thirty-year working career at forty-six years of age, I was laid off from work and unemployed with no work to be had. Like many millions of others.
I did prepare ahead of time, seeing the inevitable approaching, having been through recessions in the past. My credit was still great and I still had a corporate business that was still active from my previous business adventures, just in case I ever needed it to start a new venture.
At the time, I had two options: I could find another job, which was impossible at that time because no one was hiring. Or I could go into debt, to jump start my business to find a client with the cash to design and build their new home. The odds were not good at the time to find the needle in a haystack.
This was the last thing I wanted to do—go into business again and go into debt. I enjoyed working for other large construction firms and I was enjoying not having to worry about draws, meeting payroll, etc.
I was overseeing the construction jobs in the field as a construction superintendent to beat the deadline under time and under budget. I was enjoying the challenge of what I was doing.
I had gone on unemployment after my lay-off and started to receive
my unemployment checks regularly. My wife Sarah was still working as a waitress at the time and she had been a waitress for over thirty years, enjoying what she was doing for a living.
We could pay our mortgage but were unable to budget for my truck payments. So, I had to dip into my 401K to pay off my truck and some credit card debts.
After we settled into a new budget to save our home, we could pay all our household bills with $50 to spare each month. We could make it on unemployment and with my wife’s income until I could find a new client.
It was a very tight budget and I continued looking for work through the state’s unemployment network.
At the same time, my father’s health was failing, as he had been diagnosed with the lung disease pulmonary fibrosis six years prior. It was starting to take a toll on him during the winter months.
I soon found out that being laid off from work was a blessing for me, as well as it being so for our family. I was able to spend more time with my ailing father as we started to plan for the inevitable, during a very difficult time in our family’s history.
Starting with the remodeling of my parents’ bathrooms to be handicap accessible, I was available to help set up a new routine with Mom and Dad, as we planned together for the final outcome that comes with such preparations.
I also had a new drive in my life, a re-evaluation of sorts as I worked on my parents’ bathroom remodels. I cherish those moments I had with my father, who supervised the bathroom projects in a role reversal.
My parents’ stairway was full of family photos and each time I went up the stairs to remodel the bathrooms, I would stop and look at the photos. I was reminded of the great times that I had had growing up and of all that Mom and Dad had done for my brothers and I.
For in my youth, we had moved every four years all over the United States of America, from air force base to air force base. Up until the time I was twelve years old, I had started to relive all of the amazing adventures my family had been through in the 1960s and 1970s.
The family adventures we had and the encouragement we had all been given by my parents over the years as USAFBs was a story lost in time.
I started to reflect on my childhood with my parents growing up, and going over picture albums of all the great memories we had as a family.
All of us boys had started our own families years before, working and living our own lives to come back full circle to the beginning of the end of our father’s life.
Looking back, I believe that the freedoms that I had in my life experiences growing up may have held the answers to being happy in life.
Only then can you realize that in life as well as in death, that freedom is one of the greatest fortunes your parents can ever give to you and the grounded life of a good family upbringing is the icing on the cake.