A few months ago, I posted about what real, everyday love looks like – in real life. One of the stories was too long to include so I told her I’d be giving it a full post of it’s own. Here’s Mary’s real-life love story.
At 21 I became a wife, 22 a mother, and 23 a college graduate. All I ever wanted was to work and make a difference. Life wasn’t going exactly how I expected but now I was ready to begin my dream and impact the world. I applied for teaching positions but in the early 80’s, jobs where hard to find. Desperate, I answered an add for a group home supervisor. I didn’t even know what a group home was much less have any experience. After weeks of pursuing this group home position. I was hired. A fellow employee later told me it was my good looking legs that landed me the job.
I was employed as a supervisor and then manager for over 10 years. In addition to managing 6 group homes I developed new homes and services for that company. The environment, however became increasingly more toxic. My unhappiness and concerns were evident at home. My husband, I thought, should have helped me make a decision to resign. Instead he encouraged me to stay. I was making a very good salary and we liked the income. I was not a quitter and was determined to handle the situation. Eventually, out of desperation, I began to pray. I wanted out but didn’t know how to leave.
God answered. One day I was called into my boss’s office and offered the option of continuing employment at a 50% reduction in my salary or taking a severance package. Sitting across from my supervisor, I was unable to catch my breath. It was as if I were falling from a 10 story building and no one was there to help me. Even then I knew God had heard and answered my prayer but I never anticipated it would be in the form of termination!
Eventually panic turned to despair and depression. I had given everything to my job and now I was humiliated, rejected and left with nothing; no plans, no ideas.
My husband suggested I start my own business; open my own group home. After months of preparation and pursuit, I was selected to provide a home for 4 men who lived at Fairbault Regional Treatment Center. They had severe disabilities and were in wheelchairs (a population with which I had no experience). I trained myself and volunteered at nursing homes to gain experience. My husband and I deleted our savings to purchase and furnish a home for these 4 men. Eventually my husband quit his job to work full time with me running our business.
Over the past 20 years our one home company grew to 2 then 6 and today we have 11 homes.. We serve 41 men and women in our homes and have over 80 employees. Our company is a leading provider with a strong reputation for caring and quality services. But running a business 24 hours a day, 7 days a week took a toll on my husband, myself and our marriage. Whether we had 1 home or 11, we dedicated our lives to providing the best care possible. This often meant living, breathing and sleeping group homes. After almost 30 years of serving people with disabilities, setting up group homes, hiring employees, training and retraining staff and management, I found myself exhausted.
About 2 years ago. my husband and I were in a little café listening to music. As I watched the musicians play and sing, I was consumed by one thought and desire. The more I ignored it the more it rose inside me. With tears streaming down my face I realized it was time for me to retire from my position. To leave the company I had invested my life creating. I had no plan. I just knew it was time.
The last song ended and my husband and I walked to our car. He was completely unaware of my thoughts and feelings. I was able to muster up the courage to ask him if I could tell him something. He cheerfully responded “sure.” Between tears and fears I blurted – “I want to retire.” The next moment was miraculous. My husband didn’t ask why or lecture me on how this was not going to work, what would he do, how could he run the company alone. He simply said “ok.”
I was the one who argued it was not possible. He assured me it was and we would make it happen. Weeks later my husband announced my retirement date to me. ” Your last day will be March 31.” Of course, I thought, fiscal year end. That’s my always practical accountant husband.
In a moment of saying “ok” my husband showed his total, complete, unselfish love for me. True love. As Christ loves the church kind of love. Each day I see him struggle with work and the many issues that arise. I think of the love he shows me through his gift of saying ‘ok’ and I’m so grateful.
Retired at 53.