I’m not naive enough to believe that life is “fair.” I’m a grown up after all.
But it does feel especially unfair to have to pay my employer for the days I took off from work to be with Tom while he was hospitalized. I’m a hard-working, loyal employee–I would have to be near death to call in sick to work myself, ask my colleagues. Even with two paid maternity leaves in my work lifetime, the bank of sick hours I’ve accrued is enormous. Ridiculous, really. I show up. The occasions I do call in to work are for when my children are sick or have appointments during the day. Oh, and there was that time my husband was nearly killed a few months back.
I learned yesterday that not only did I get docked three days pay from my last paycheck (which I’d believed was being made right), I actually have to pay them back. I literally have to give them back another week’s worth of pay. I don’t get paid over the summer, so I have something like a negative balance, and will owe them money once I begin working again. I have to PAY MY EMPLOYER to get to work there, which is pretty much the opposite of how I thought this going-to-work system was set up. I owe them money. THAT, friends, is not right.
Every detail from the first call I got saying there’d been an accident to my wait in the emergency department before being allowed to see my bloody, broken husband for the first time to signing informed consent for neurosurgery to watching him suffer more intense pain than any man should have to endure to losing his personality and memory to regaining some of that personality and memory to the panic of watching him walk again to the sheer terror of being responsible for his care upon discharge to everything he’s lost and we’ve lost as a family has been running through my consciousness on this constant loop since I’ve come to grips with this ludicrous payroll information. I’m reliving my own real life horror movie, and I can’t stop crying. I do believe this is the part where I, at long last, completely lose my mind.
The truth? I was sick while he was in the hospital. It would not have been dishonest to have called in sick for me for every day I missed work to be with him My heart was broken, and I was disoriented. I couldn’t eat or sleep and my head hurt all the time. I was legitimately sick, but it was pretty obvious that the underlying etiology of this particular strain of illness was my husband’s accident. But because I didn’t call myself in, I’d exhausted my allotment of sick time allowed for the care of others per the employee handbook. So it’s my fault. It’s not enough that this nightmare accident threw our lives into chaos, there’s this added bonus of feeling like the fucking idiot for not knowing better. I’d hashtag “epic fail,” but I’m not feeling particularly cute about this. I’m beaten. I surrender.
The moral of the story apparently is this: Lie. Everyone else does.
I received hundreds of loving, supportive text messages while I held vigil over my husband in the ICU, but one keeps coming back to me this morning. A friend told me how unfair this all was, the accident and its fallout. I remember texting in reply to her, “Ain’t nothing fair about any of this.” Nope. Not one thing.