Family Values @ Work

Jerrilyn’s Story

Jerrilyn’s Story

May 24, 2014

I recently went through the death of my dad, who was 94. We do have FMLA on my job, but no one gets paid. My husband is retired and we’re on a fixed income. We’re not destitute but it’s tight. Every penny hurts.

My mom died when I was 15. It’s just been my dad and I all these years. We had good times and bad, but it was always him and I. Last fall he got sick – I was out a lot starting in November.  Then in December, my dad had a major heart attack. For six and a half weeks, I didn’t go back. I couldn’t work and take care of my dad.

I called my boss and said, “I’m an only child. There’s nobody else. I’m not going to leave my dad alone at this time. If you need to hire someone else, I understand.” I fall just short of the 1250 a year hours requirement for FMLA.

My boss said, “Absolutely not, you take all the time you need.” My company is wonderful because they allowed it and kept my job for me. I’m 64. We live in an employer’s market. Not too many people will want to hire me at my age, even though I’m really good at what I do. I give a lot to my job.

I was with my father all the time those last weeks. It meant so much for me to be with him, and I know it meant so much to him.

My mom died January 12, 1965 – my dad died January 11, almost 50 years to the day. That last day, he could hear what I was saying but couldn’t answer me. I said, “Hi, Daddy. It’s me, Sammy wanted to come but I wanted it to be just us today.” I talked all about the fun things we did. I left at 8:00 at night. They called me at 1:00 to say he had passed. I still feel guilty about this – you can imagine how I would have felt if I couldn’t be with him those last weeks.

I know when it’s my time to die and I think back about my life, I won’t give a damn whether I was at work or not, but I will care that I was with my dad, or a sick child. I’m not saying work is not important. Everyone has a passion for something- mine is organization. I love to problem solve, I love being an admin. Work is important – but not as important as my family, my children, my husband. Those are the things that count in life.

I’m Italian on both sides. My grandmother and grandfather came over from Italy; they both had nothing. They moved into a house when they had seven children. When they moved in, the place had rats and roaches. When they finally could buy their own house, the place was immaculate, not one bug. My grandmother took pride in that, and in her twelve children.

The scales are tipping, and not in my favor, even though I’m not destitute. It’s worse for other people who have young children and a sick parent or sick child – they need some type of pay.

I usually don’t volunteer for stuff like this but I feel it’s important. I’ve been married for 38 years, I have two boys, two grandchildren, I have a full, happy life. I’m very blessed.

But it was a hardship as far as money is concerned. My bank account was decimated. No matter what, you need money every day. Tell me a day when you don’t need money – especially today, when gas prices are outrageous. If I dipped into my savings, what would I do when I retire – eat cat food?

But I think about what do people do who are living hand to mouth and not able to support themselves if they have children. I worked for a company where a woman had a daughter who was 6 years old, they found a tumor on her leg, and company wouldn’t let her take off. And I know that’s not an isolated incident.

I would not expect my employer to have to pay for my leave. Basically everybody at that place is in the same boat. You’re not there because you want to make money – you’re there to help the kids. I’m not asking for charity here. I’m willing to pay into an insurance pool. It would be like social security being taken out. Everyone could draw from that poll when they had to take leave.

I had my dad for 94 years. I feel the loss very much. I’m fortunate that I was able to be with him when he was sick. Everyone should be able to do that.



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