My husband Jeff began working for a southern bank based in Wilson, North Carolina many years earlier. He had gradually worked his way up to a Vice President position. There were frustrations along the way. Having worked in IT for Nortel, GSK, and Cisco among other giants, he noticed right away the bank's lack of "global" thinking within their IT projects. This is one thing he could never get too far away from. The bank "lifers," who were above him, noticed he had a different way of thinking, too. Never having worked anywhere else but for this bank, they couldn't (for the life of themselves) think outside the Winston Salem "bank box" where they were taught to do things a certain way.
For some of those boxed-in bank lifers, he became a challenge. I believe they thought of him as competition in a market that was shrinking as the economy hobbled through the whole loan crisis. One thing about Jeff is that he's a straight shooter, hard worker and has been in the industry long enough to understand your good name is attached to you. No matter where you work, you'll end up discovering someone that you worked with at another company will show up on the floor above you, the office down from you, or as a contractor working alongside you. He is always very personable, truly genuine, highly motivated, and very competent to produce excellent work. He expects the same of others working around him. No games, just honest teams working to get the job done, and done well. The lifers at the bank thought differently. Because they'd never worked anywhere else, their small-box view was limited to the size of the bank. And the only rules they knew or played well were to get ahead no matter who or what was in the way. Playing games to get what you want was something several of them had mastered. And Jeff was definitely in the way.
It was going to be a fun-filled Golden Wedding Anniversary celebration with boating, river-tubing, eating out and enjoying the quiet setting on a lake with picturesque mountains serenely surrounding the water. We were all looking forward to it until the phone call came in late on that Thursday afternoon. I can't remember if I told the kids anything after I hung up the phone. I do remember sinking into a couch on the screened porch and feeling like someone had knocked the wind out of me. This had happened before many years earlier when he had worked for Nortel. I remember being on vacation in Maine when CNN flashed that the giant had lost nearly a billion dollars in the previous quarter. I remember Jeff saying you can't lose a billion in a quarter and hold onto jobs, and getting on the phone to begin strategizing early. Even so, when the layoffs finally arrived, I think he was jobless for the rest of that summer. But this, this felt different. Although I couldn't put my finger on why, my gut firmly stated this would be a very different experience. He went through the first three stages of loss quickly: shock, anger at the disrespectful way in which he'd been let go, and definitely the "if only I had seen this coming."
We told family first and quietly finished packing for the trip. Suddenly, going to Georgia felt wrong. Going to Africa felt wrong, too. Going anywhere but behind closed doors to cry felt wrong. One amazing thing took place though. It was like the tiniest glimmer of hope. Just before we left to travel caravan-style to Georgia my mom handed me her tube of toothpaste. She suggested I try using her Colgate "Maximum Strength" Sensitive toothpaste. After meeting a corporate Colgate businessman on a flight somewhere, my parents were true believers in the "slightly different" formula this sensitive toothpaste had. I'd already tried two other similar toothpastes with no effect, but anything at that point was worth a try. I began by brushing with it and moved to wiping the aggravated tooth with pea-sized dots of it every few hours. Almost miraculously, the throbbing was cut in half in less than 24 hours. I continued taking ibuprofen three times a day and kept the tube of Colgate in my pocket. Looking back, when I scrutinize photos of that family vacation, I see deep concern etched in my face. Joy was definitely missing.