Have you ever had one of those life changing moments? Sometimes you don't even recognized it as such. I was called upstairs to the president's office Monday morning. Mary, the secretary, directed me to go into the boardroom where the president, the two vice-presidents and all four of the other division managers were sitting. The three senior members looked at me and smiled as I sat down. The four managers never looked directly at me.
I thought, "Oh oh, this doesn't look good. The rumors are true then about the combining of some of the divisions." I surveyed the room as I sat there thinking. My thoughts continued, "Last one in, first one out, and--yes, that would be me!"
Jim Burns, president, spoke quietly. "Burt I'm sorry, but we, in the corporation, have had to downsize. We have looked at all aspects of our operation and it is our decision that we will be closing down the division you manage. We find that we can out source the work your division does and we can save several million dollars a year. Your position is being eliminated and we do not have a position for you any longer. This is a sad day for us. You have been here with the company since its inception.
"We do have a very attractive severance package for you and a few other perks to ease the pain of your termination. We wish you well and hope you find another position soon with another company. It is a sorry day when we have to treat a loyal employee like this and it wasn't my wish to have you leave. The board has spoken and it is my job to inform you, which hurts me more than you know." So there it was, a life changing moment.
I spent an hour with the comptroller receiving the details of the "wonderful" package the corporation provided. It did amount to a lot. Twice my salary for a year, a month's salary for every year I had been with the company, paid medical for eighteen months and an office to use for a job search. I acted calmly, as there was nothing to gain by being bitter and angry.
When asked where I wanted his severance deposited, I said, "Cut me a check and I won't be availing myself of the office you so kindly offered." I walked out the door at two-thirty that afternoon with a check for $827,540.00. Stopping by my bank, I put the check in the newly rented safety deposit drawer. I had a year to cash it and needed to make the decision as to what to do with the money. That could come later.
God I felt free. Then I started laughing as I had always managed the division in a quiet unassuming way. My mid-level managers, chosen by me, had made the division run smoothly under my direction. Just dropping anyone unfamiliar into anyone of the various segments would bollocks things up. The way Jim Burns spoke, most of the mid-level personnel were going to be terminated. Not bragging I thought, "They will be looking to hire me back in six months."
Driving out into the valley, I wondered if Cory was home. She would be surprised as I seldom arrived much before six-thirty and it wasn't even four yet. I parked my BMW on the left of the three car garage. I had to squeeze by an unfamiliar vehicle in the drive and noticed that Cory's car was already parked in her stall. I went in through the kitchen and into the dining room where Cory and a strange man were working on some papers spread all over the table.
Cory looked up when I entered. "Hi Burt, are you sick?"
"Nope, afternoon off."
"I'm glad you are here, then Bill won't have to return later. Here, look at these papers while Bill and I finish up with these figures."
I took the legal looking documents and sat down next to the window. Bill was nervously watching me. Opening up the papers I was surprised to see that it was a petition for a divorce drawn up for my wife. I read the papers thoroughly, noting the cause was for irreconcilable differences. Laying the folder on the couch, I went over to the sideboard and opening the wet bar made myself a scotch and soda.
Seeing Bill watching me, I raised the bottle in a question to ask if he wanted one. He quickly shook his head no. I went back to the couch and re-read the papers again and then sat sipping on my drink, waiting.
Finally, shuffling the papers on the table into some semblance of order, Cory spoke. "I'm divorcing you Burt. This is Bill, an accountant I hired to make sure things were split evenly. I have cut our salaries off at the end of last month, so anything you or I make this month is not involved. We both have well paying jobs, so I guess the divorce won't affect our lifestyle much. Do you want to look these figures over?"
"I'm sure they are what you say they are. I've always trusted you in everything. Do you want me to sign anything besides the divorce papers?"
Cory and Bill conferred. "Well if you want to, Bill has the forms here. He just has to fill in the blanks. Would you go get the neighbors, Paul and Kim Buford to witness our signatures? By the time you get back he'll have everything ready."
The papers were signed. Paul and Kim just witnessed, not knowing what the papers were. I poured them a drink. Bill declined and by six Cory and I were alone. Cory turned to me, "Well?"
I thought, "Another one of those life changing moments. I didn't see this one coming either."
Cory went out into the kitchen to prepare something for dinner. I made myself another scotch and soda. I'm sure Cory was going to tell me why she started divorce proceedings. I reflected on our life together. Thirty years of it. The two kids, Brent and Kim, were grown and off working at their own successful careers. Cory had started her own upward career ten years ago, working as an educator. She was now in charge of the whole school system here in the city.
Me, well I had moved up as high as I could in the corporation that had just fired me. I suppose I should feel sad about that, but I didn't. I guess the only regret I was going to have was to lose this home--not home, the house, I should say. Cory and I had designed it together, and put into it what each of us wanted. The completed home--damn, I have to stop thinking like that--had two wings. One was for our enjoyment and the other was for the kids to grow up in. The common area held a large kitchen, formal dining room, a huge living room and a spare bedroom for guests.
Cory and I had met in college, fell in love and after each of us had become established in our chosen field, married and started a family. My former company was the only company that had employed me. Cory was a stay-at-home-mom for ten years while the kids were small, but eventually returned to teaching.
I had poured all of my efforts into being a successful division head at work. Cory had taken over the managing of the household, including all of the financial details. At tax time I just signed my name. In the bedroom she was in charge too. I don't think I ever disappointed her. I think I gave her everything she wanted. Maybe not, though, that might be what precipitated the divorce. I would have to ask. No, she would tell me. Why change her system at this late date.
I could smell dinner still cooking. I had time. I went to the phone and called Roger. "Hey, Buddy, did you get the ax too?"
I listened as Roger gave me a run down on who had been terminated from the company that day. "Roger how about all of us getting together for a drink at The Spot--say nine or nine-thirty? Spread the word and I will meet you. I may be late, as I have some issues here at home."
Cory started to bring the food into the dining room. "Cory, just leave the food on the counter in the kitchen. We can eat there and it will be easier to clean up. I expect we won't be having Rhonda in as a housekeeper anymore. I'll be going out this evening. You put together dinner, and to be fair, I'll do the dishes, but I don't want to spend much time at it."
Cory gave me a surprised look. Never in the last few years had I ever told her what to do, or what I was going to do. "Okay, you will stay long enough for me to tell you why I am divorcing you, won't you?"
"Yes, of course. I am a little curious about that." I was feeling sarcastic. We ate in silence. Cory didn't look as if she was enjoying her food too much. As we finished our meal, I picked up everything and loaded the dishwasher. I wiped up and turned to face her. "Okay, I'm about to be divorced and you are about to be divorced. We have to have a hearing in court and there will be a waiting period of three months I think. You must have been planning this for awhile or you wouldn't have had all the papers ready today. Tell me about it."
Cory spoke with a sad look on her face. "We don't have a marriage anymore. We are just two people living in the same house. We have sex when one of us thinks maybe we should, but it is just an act we go through. We both make pretty good money, so neither of us is going to be hurt that way. I've been thinking about this for a few months and I just don't see why we are together anymore. We never talk or even discuss the weather. I have decided I want out, so I have done something about it."
"I grant you everything you say is true. Let me ask you, do you think so little of me that I wasn't worth being consulted?"
"Burt, I've made all the decisions in our life for the last ten years. Why would you want to change that now?"
"You have made all these decisions. Would you have wanted it any other way?"
"No, I suppose not. You never seemed to care though."
"It might have something to do with you being a manipulative bitch. Did you ever think of that?"
Cory, shocked, said, "Burt, you've been so good about this, you don't have to get nasty."
"Do you have someone in mind to replace me--or have you already?"
.... There is more of this story ...