Saturday, January 05, 2013

My close call: "family responsibility" could have ended my career early in 1999

On March 7, 2011 and then July 13, 2012 I discussed the history of my potential “conflict of interest” when I wrote a book (in the mid 1990s) critical of the military ban on gays (resulting in “don’t ask don’t tell”) while working for a company specializing in selling life insurance to military officers.

As I noted, I transferred to another subsidiary of the company that acquired us and moved (from Arlington VA) to Minneapolis in September, 1997.

At the time, I viewed this as a critical component of my personal integrity.  I was concerned about a policy which implied that I was an employee of a company serving a customer which regarded me as less than fully morally fit, partly because of my not having lived up to all that was expected of me as I was growing up.  (In fact, I had served in the military “without serving”.  Others had made sacrifices I hadn’t made.)

In 1999, my mother, back here in Arlington, needed coronary bypass surgery.  There had been a few medical episodes before which had glossed over her heart problems,  In fact, back in 1996, after her hip fracture, a particular medical resident had expressed some dismay at my lack of knowledge of her approaching condition. The 1997 “transfer” to Minneapolis eventually went very smoothly, although it appears that it might not have happened had physicians pursued her early warning symptoms more aggressively. 

The week leading up to the surgery was trying, as I got various calls in Minneapolis.  The doctors were first going to do just an angioplasty, but then suddenly decided it could not work.

I was concerned for about a day that they could refuse the operation unless I would come back or agree to move back, which, under the circumstances, was not possible.  I did not regard “Family Leave” as on the table.  Fortunately, from the time of a decision on Saturday, they moved so quickly to do the operation Monday morning that such a dilemma did not develop.  In a few days, they suddenly moved her to a skilled nursing facility, where the experience was not good.

Again, fortunately, we were able to hire live-in home health to care for her when she returned home.  I did make a week-long trip back the following month. (I had a pre-paid trip to Europe to make right after the sudden surgery.  I went.)

Had I left Minneapolis and lost the job, could I have gotten something else, given the big demand then for mainframe given the upcoming Y2K “crisis”?  One problem is that most such jobs were contracts, and tended to be in other cities, like in Richmond or in New Jersey.   (Oh, yes, I remember a woman telling me about fixing an ALC program with seven base registers!)   This would hardly have worked better than staying in Minneapolis.

So, yes, “family responsibility” could have meant the end of a career, and a life of interim jobs,  behind convenience store counters. Of course, you can make the argument that I should have ensured that my self-published book(s) would make money. 
What seemed to make this particularly troubling was that I had not founded a family of my own.  I could have the responsibility without the ownership.  That’s second-class citizenship.  That’s how I saw it.
As history would follow, I would stay at ING-ReliaStar in Minneapolis until the end of 2001, when I could get full severance after merger-related (and 9/11-related) cutback.  

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