You may have noticed that last Tuesday, there was no post from me. In short, we had a major power outage at my work, starting the Sunday prior, and being the only IT person, it fell to me keep the business running.
I left home Sunday evening, towards the office, and I was there until 3 A.M. or so. Then home for a few hours, then back to the office. I got maybe 45 minutes of sleep between Sunday morning and Tuesday morning.
This kind of thing has been a part of my life for a few decades now. It just comes with my chosen career.
That doesn’t make it feel “OK” though.
Truth be told, my current job is easy in this respect. After-hours work at the office occurs at most once or twice a year, in extreme circumstances. Five years ago, when Megan was still alive, my then employer had this ridiculous requirement that any outage whatsoever was “all hands on deck”. We worked every single holiday….Christmas Day, New Year’s day, Thanksgiving, and Easter just to name a few. If there was a power outage at one of the plants, every person in our team of 8 needed to go sit in the dark, waiting for the power company to restore it, with quite literally nothing else to do but talk. We were expected to provide “in-person” service after hours, even if the person we were helping was sitting at home in their pajamas. We would drive into the office in order to speak with them on the phone.
I spent a LOT of time away from home. I averaged about 50 hours a week during my “regular” schedule, and probably another 25 or so “on-call”. Add in another 40 hours a week sleeping, if I was lucky, and it didn’t leave much time for Megan and Shelby.
I never really thought that much about it, but now, I regret it. I was still basically a kid when I met Megan, and this type of work sort of evolved as I took on more responsibilities, promotions, and ultimately, pay. By the time I hit age 30, I spent more time away from Megan than I did conscious and with her. It goes without saying that Megan being hospitalized for half of the year just reduced our time together even more.
The little “incident” last week wasn’t really a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but it really brought these thoughts to the forefront once I had time to sit down and think.
Of the short time Megan and I had together, I had reduced it in half by chasing the almighty dollar. My day-to-day life revolved around my job. I commuted two hours, one way, for 6 years every weekday, because the pay was good and we had decent health insurance. I missed holidays, family events, Shelby’s first steps and countless good times because I was working.
Looking back. It wasn’t worth it. Sure, the health insurance may have had a hand in keeping Megan alive until 2014, but I didn’t get to be as much a part of her life as I should have been. I HAD to work. I spent even more hours by her side in the hospital with a laptop, dialed into work in order to ask some forgiveness for being out of the office because my wife was sick.
To what end? She still died, and I haven’t been “off” for any longer than two weeks since I was 15 years old. In the 12 year span we were together, 6 years of it were spent apart. Sure, I can feign some pride in that I was a “hard worker, caretaker, and provider”, but it’s simply a ruse. An excuse I tell myself to make it seem like I was doing the right thing.
Spending just a few hours in the middle of the night, at work and away from Sarah and Shelby only reminded me of the untold amount of time it was the same with Megan. I felt guilty for not being there to simply tell Shelby goodnight. Sarah had to retire to bed alone, while I was traipsing around a dark factory with a flashlight, concentrating on restoring a business to operation.
Those hours are time I will never get back. I am of the full belief that family time is ALWAYS quality time, even if all we would have done is wash some dishes and fall asleep on the couch watching TV. Sure, I saved the business from 18 hours of downtime, but my family lost 18 hours of time together.
Yeah, that paycheck is nice every other Friday, but having even just a few more hours with Megan and Shelby, and these days, Sarah would be worth so much more.