Saturday, January 2, 2016

It's Only Me- Chapter 29- Family Life, A Baby and Jobs

With the honeymoon over it was time to find work. The first job that came up would lead me on to a 20 year career in Estimating. Sue saw an ad in a local paper for an Engineering Assistant. Applicant must be good at math etc. So I applied for, and got hired, as an Assistant to the Engineers at Gutshick, Little and Weber, an engineering firm located in Burtonsville, Md. I would check the calculations done by the Surveyors. From there I went into the field with the Surveying crews to compute the data as we recorded it. Most of the calculations were the same as taking star fixes for Lines of Position. It was at this job that I learned how to estimate Earthwork. It was the closest thing to Navigating as far as blending art with science. We even proved our position with a moon line and a shot of Polaris using a transit.

Sue and I spent the weekends taking the boys places and just getting used to being a family. I was a bit depressed around this time. I had stopped smoking pot and it was driving me nuts! With the added burden of the kids and another on the way I was doing all I could to hang on.

We had the boys in Little League, Cub Scouts and anything else that came along. So it was rush out in the morning, work, rush home and ferry the boys around, get home, do homework and then take care of ourselves. And it was getting harder not to notice that Sue was expecting.

In November we went to New York City. I wanted to show the boys where I grew up. We stayed at my Dad's place on Avenue R. He was living with Alice by this time and waiting for his lease to expire. It was cold and we did a bit of sight seeing. We went to Chinatown and the Staue of Liberty.

This was the 100th Anniversary of the Statue and so it was a long line just to get on the boat. A far cry from when I was a kid and there was never a line. Sue was frozen and so were the boys as we took the ferry to the Statue. We got to walk around and wait on line but never got in the Statue. They kept the boats coming even up until the last minute and then they told everyone it was time to close! We were disappointed but seeing the Statue up close was pretty good for the kids.

Chinatown was its' usual magic with sights and smells that were foreign to the boys. I really enjoyed having them see the places I used to go. This would be the last trip we would ever take as a foursome.

Christmas came and went. It was magical to be with Sue and the boys for the first time without the spectre of Ben hanging over me. It was the first Christmas I was there full time, all day and night like a real family should be. It was also the last Christmas we would celebrate the holidays without Sarah. We didn't have alot of time to bond before Sarah would be born.

In January we had a couple of feet of snow and Sue's car couldn't make it home from work. She got about a mile from the house and had to walk the rest of the way. She was 8 months pregnant at this point. To make matters worse, I was coming home in the same storm and my clutch was being destroyed by the trip. Somehow I made it all the way to our street before the clutch gave out at the bottom of the hill.

Also in January I went to New York alone and picked up a bunch of my parents furniture. My Dad let his lease expire and my 25 year connection to 1310 Avenue R was now at an end. I rented a van and drove the stuff back to Maryland in the snow. Our tiny house was chock full of furniture. Even the basement was full.

About 2 weeks later Sue ate some frozen seafood and got food poisoining. We rushed to the hospital and worried the whole time about losing the baby. We did not know if it was a boy or girl. We wanted to be surprised but we were hoping for a girl.

In January we purchased a home about 20 miles NW of Baltimore in Hampstead. We would not be moving in until June. It was twice the size of the Cape Cod we were in and had a huge backyard that stretched all the way to a corn field and a stream. We were going to be living in the sticks.

On February 13th, a Friday no less, I was shopping for groceries when I got paged in the supermarket. This was before cell phones. The manager said something over the PA that sounded like my name but I ignored it. Then I heard it again and went to see the manager. She looked at me and said- "Your wife is having a baby. You need to go home." I said okay and then started to put the groceries back on the shelf. The manager was freaking out! She said- "Leave that alone- you need to go home NOW!"

I ran out to the car and drove home. Picking up Sue and getting ready to leave for the hospital I told the boys that their Grandpa (Sue's Dad) was on his way over to get them. We were going to the hospital to have the baby. They were watching "Dukes of Hazard" and since we had been saying this to them everytime we went out they just ignored us.

We got to the hospital at about 8 PM. Sue's water had broken but she would not have a baby on Friday the 13th. Besides this was February and she wanted a Valentine baby. So we just hung out,with the midwife doing what she could to make Sue a little more comfortable.

Just after midnight the baby started to come. The midwife got her crowned and then went to wake up the Doctor. The guy comes in for about 5 minutes, guides the baby out, places it on Sue's stomach and hands me a pair of surgical shears and says, "Here dad,cut the cord." I did, but wondered why we were paying him! The midwife did it all! It was 12:51 AM on February 14th, 1987 and I was now a Father. We named her Sarah Ruth Williams, with the Ruth being a tribute to my Mom.

I stayed until about 4 AM and then headed home. I was sleeping at the wheel and woke just in time to avoid hitting the retaining wall on US 29. I crawled into bed and slept, well, like a baby.

I was overjoyed with the baby and thought she was the prettiest girl I had ever seen. It was hard not to get up and feed her when she woke at night. I liked rocking in the chair with her. But she didn't sleep through nights for 5 years. It ended up with her tonsils coming out. They had been causing her sleep apnea, not to mention the advanced aging on me and Sue!

I was still angry and depressed but I was active in every part of raising the kids. From diaper changing and midnight feedings with Sarah, to Scout outings and homework with the boys I was there. I don't know how good I was at it- but I did my best.

As far as smoking went I decided to go with the "do as I say" rather than "do as I do" philosophy. I was open and up front with them that if you did smoke it meant a bit less money for the extra things that make life worthwhile. And the guilt of using that money gnawed at me for years.

Early on Sue and I had it out when she came to a Little League game and smelled the smoke on me. I had foolishly promised to not smoke anymore and was sneaking a smoke every few months. I was clearly unhinged going from 90 MPH to smoking a hit every few weeks. Sue confronted me and asked if I was really willing to leave my family over drugs. I answered , cunningly, that I was not choosing to leave anyone over drugs- after all I wasn't asking her to do drugs, so why should she ask me not to? I must have made sense because it was never an issue again.

After about a year at Gutschick, Little and Weber I went to work as an assistant estimator for Jack Gaither at Anthem Corporation in Baltimore. He was a wild and crazy guy about 14 years older than me. He had a brillant mind and was a real literature buff. We got along great and he taught me so much about estimating earthwork.

I would go out and look at the proposed sites- sometimes I would take extra time exploring the area and learning the history. He was never angry about it- instead he would stop and we would talk about the stories and lore concerning wherever I had been that day. But he had another side, too.

He drank and played the horses. He bought me and Mel, his Vice President, new vehicles and then went out of business leaving us owing months of payments on the cars. Added to that was the fact we had run up high mileage in a short time, making the vehicles worth less than we owed.

I drove mine to New York. I ditched it in Brooklyn, setting it on fire. I took the subway to Manhattan and and reported it stolen on the West Side before I took the Amtrak back to Baltimore.

By this time we were living in Hampstead and Sarah was 2-1/2 years old. Being a Dad was a real challenge for me and even now I tend to dwell on the negative stuff rather than the positive. But she was a joy in so many other ways, too. Like the night I was showing her the full moon and hoping for her to say "moon." She just pointed and said, "Ball."

I was trying not to make the same mistakes as my parents did- pitting one child against the other, etc. But I wasn't always sucessful at holding my temper in check. Before getting married I was pretty easy going and adaptable. Now I was locked into a rigid set of scheduling and trying to obsessively keep one step ahead. I was driving myself nuts! But sometimes I did show great wisdom, in spite of myself.

One day Keith and Shane came home with their freind Lonnie. They were singing a song by The Beastie Boys with lyrics that went something like, "do it with her once, do it in her back, do it with your mother with a baseball bat..." I was shocked and my instinct was to kick some ass and break all Beastie Boys tapes open and scatter them to the wind. This is what my father would have done. Instead I sat them down and asked them what the lyrics meant. They were reluctant to speak so I explained that the song was about sexual assault including fucking their mother with a baseball bat. With their Mom looking on I asked them if that was something they should be singing about. I also told them that I did not believe in censorship but I did believe in knowing what you are talking about. I never heard any of that crap again.

My next job was at a general Contrators, NSC, Inc. located in Woodlawn. I was an Assistant to the Estmator who was a Hindu. His name was Prakash and was a great guy. We had to go to the red light area of Baltimore one day for a pre-bid conference. He had never been in a strip joint before but wanted to see one. So we walked in with him ahead of me. Right inside the doorway was a girl in baby doll pajamas- completely see through. Crooking her finger at him she said, "Come here Indian Boy..." With that Prakash did an about face in mid air and knocked me down getting out. I didn't stop laughing for days.

At this job I was approached by one of the most fascinating people I have ever met. George Edwards of Anne Arundel Excavating had noticed me at NSC. He asked them if he could hire me away. Since he worked for them on a sub contract basis he didn't want to make them angry. But they were very nice about it and released me to him. It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

George was from Huntersville, N.C. a place that I would move to years later. He had a 6th grade education and was the smartest man I ever met.

George was married to a woman named Anne and they had 2 children. The son, George Jr worked for his dad and was a great guy but a real pain in the ass. He had never worked anywhere else but for his Dad. He had gone to college for 4 years at his parents expense and came home with no degree and owing a pile of money. This drove George, Sr. nuts!

About 6 months after working there I needed a spinal fusion between cervical joints 4 and 5. I had been getting crippling headaches that drove me to tears. The recovery time would be 10 weeks long. George Sr., was an arch Conservative when it came to welfare, sick pay etc. and so I knew I was going to get hurt money wise with this surgery. I just wanted to know that my job would be there in 10 weeks when I returned. Although George told me not to worry, I did.

I have to tell you that every week for 10 weeks I got a check, either hand deliverd or mailed, for my full salary and another check for expenses. I called George and asked, "Why am I getting an expense check?" His answer is still fresh in my ears, "Well, you're home all day every day now- you got extra expenses. Like movie rental, the heats on higher all day. Just cash the damn checks."

George and I remained friends even after he closed up due to a tax problem in 1990 or so. But even then he remained in business under the table. I used to cash checks for him at an out of the way "connected" little place in Baltimore. They were set up like a convenience store but there was nothing in there to buy except soda in cans. The rest of the place was walled off by plexiglass and a guy stood behind the glass and took your check and gave you back 96% with no questions asked.

I was cashing checks for people all over- I would sign the backs with their name or business and then add DBA and my name with no Social Security Number. As long as the check cleared no one was in trouble. And these were guys that could make some trouble! I was getting a 2% discount so these transactions really added up. Most of that money went for smoke with an ocassional $100 going home.

Eventually George quit drinking and smoking cigarettes, all at once. But it was too late. His wife left him after he threw the Thanksgiving turkey out into the middle of Benfield Blvd. during a Thanksgiving dinner. He quickly followed that on Christmas by tossing the tree out the front door like a spear. After that Anne left him for good. That's when he stopped drinking, but as I said it was too late.

George kept working under the radar until his death in 1999. I was one of the few people who knew where we had sold his equipment,or hidden it. He had $100,000 in cash under the mattress at the time of his death. His kids didn't want to pay to bury him. They had him cremated and threw his ashes out the car window in Arizona somewhere. Maybe they knew something I didn't, and maybe they were justified in their anger at him, but me, I just miss the guy. I really loved him and he felt the same towards me, too. I only wish I had a photo of him....

The funniest thing was when I got ready to leave Baltimore I went to see him and told him I was moving to Huntersville, North Carolina. He seemed shocked and told me, "I was born in Paws Creek about 10 miles away. Have kin there. When I was 17 I hit a boy on a bicycle with my car and killed him. I was drunk for 35 years after that." Sometimes the world feels so small....

After George went out of business I took a job at another Construction Company as Estimator of Earthwork, Utilities and Paving. This was only 3 miles from home in Hampstead. The 2 bosses were jocks and avid hunters. They were completeley baffled by me, and I by them.

I always arrived at 7:35 AM instead of 7:30. One day I was called into the office and told that there were dozens of people waiting to fill my slot. If I hoped to keep it I neeeded to be there at 7:30 AM sharp.

The next morning I came in at 8 AM. Kenny called me into his office, incredulous that I was so late. "We just had that talk yesterday, why are you so late today?" With a straight face I answered, " Well Kenny, I had to fight my way through that mob of Estimators waiting for my job!"

At home we were all enjoying Sarah and her first winter. The snow was something she loved! And so we built snowmen and had our first Christmas as a family of 5. But depression and anger still lurked beneath the surface. Many times when I look back at some of the photos I dwell on the internal struggles that were going on within me and without me. It was going to be a long road but I never doubted that we would make it.

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