My Father’s Job is Killing Him.
Some reflections on living in a world that values productivity and economic growth over actual human lives.
My Father used to be an incredibly handsome man.
Tall, with thick, black hair and warm, brown eyes, I could see just how easy it was for my Mother to once fall in love with this handsome stranger.
The best part about my Dad though, was not his thin, trim calves or his enviable head of hair, but his infectious joy and unending capacity to care for and love others.
I have countless memories of nights and days spent with my father, swimming and playing under the warm summer sun, sledding down the icy hills behind the school in the winter, frolicking in piles of fallen leaves, and dancing in puddles in the spring.
My Dad was an amazing Father and an even more amazing husband. His love for my Mother knew no bounds. It seemed as though the most important thing to him each day was to put a smile on her face. If he could manage that, then anything else he went through was worth it.
He loved to spoil her and to spoil my sisters and I. He spent the majority of his free time with us. We were the center of his world. And it was a very happy world for quite a long time.
That all changed with the financial crash of 2008 when my Father was laid off from his well paying job in the financial sector.
I watched the happy, carefree, loving Father that I adored crumble into dust, leaving behind nothing more than a shadow of the man he had once been.
I watched his face grow long and wrinkles carve canons into his once handsome, unmarked skin. I watched his hair turn gray and thin and the fat and muscle melt off his bones. I watched the smile crack and the light die in his eyes.
My Father looks like an old man now. He looks like the kind of person you’d see on the streets and call “Grandpa.”
I still love him, but I miss him.
I miss the man he once was. I miss the joy and the laughter and the love.
It’s gone now.
It’s been replaced by stress and depression. By anxiety and worries of money. By the constant pressures of his job and a demanding boss.
I think his job will be the death of him.
You see, when my Father was laid off from his well paying job, a job he mostly enjoyed with a great boss and wonderful co-workers, he was forced to take a lower paying job in a new industry just to pay the bills.
But his new jobs, with lower pay and less prestige, came with ever increasing demands on his time.
The phone would ring at 9 P.M. each night and endlessly on the weekends.
They needed him to work, they would say. The project needs down now.
I began to dread these phone calls, but the only one who dreaded them more than I was my Father.
I wished that I could cut the cord. I wished that I could pick up that receiver and yell and scream and say all the things I longed to to these people who seemed as though they didn’t need a Father the way that I needed him.
I wished that I could protect him.
I wished that I could give him back the life that he wanted, the life he had worked so hard for.
My Father lost so much. His autonomy, his freedom, his savings, his retirement. . All the things he had worked for for so long.
“I can’t even provide for my family,” he cried to me one day. “I can’t even support myself.”
My heart broke for him. But I couldn’t fix it. I couldn’t help him. I was just as lost and strapped as he.
Left with no other option but to keep his demanding, low paying job, I watched him slowly fragment.
I don’t recognize the man before me anymore.
He doesn’t look the same. He doesn’t sound the same. He is sick and tired and angry at the world. The flame and light within him died out a long time ago.
His job is killing him.
And I’m sure he’s not alone. I’m sure that my Father is not the only one working a job he hates at a company who has no respect for him and treats him as nothing more than a replaceable commodity because he has no other choice.
He’s paying the ultimate price for it.
He’s giving up his very life so that he can afford a house and food and shelter.
Watching my Father struggle, watching him die as a result of the system we live in, has been one of the most painful experiences of my life.
Worse is the thought that millions of other people will suffer the same fate.
We literally kill ourselves in order to survive.
And most of us think that this is okay. We think that this is just the way the world will always work and that we can never change it.
I’m asking you to dare to change it, for the sake of my Father and all the others like him. Dare to be the change. Dare to question everything. Dare to push and dream for more.
Until then, each night I ask myself, why, why God would ever be so cruel to have us live in such a world. A world teeming with abundance, enough food and shelter and water and houses and other goods for everyone to survive, yet we must compete for all of it in an increasingly harsh and cruel system.
Why must compete and die in the process all to fuel the greed of an ever decreasing few?
I hope that one day this system can change.
I hope that it changes before my Father’s mind and body breaks completely.
I hope one day we can all agree that the health and happiness of millions is more important than lining the pockets of a few hundred.
I wish that I could change the world for my Father. I wish that I could save him. I wish that he could leave his job now. I wish he never had to answer another late night phone call for them.
I wish that his sacrifices were worth it.
But sometimes I feel as if I would trade it all, a house, a car, food, and clothing just for more days with him.
I would trade it all to bring back the man I once knew and loved.
I don’t know what I will do when the day finally comes when he can no longer near another moment of this life.
I don’t know how I will survive it.
For now, I suppose I can only hope and pray and try my darnedest to change it all.
I hope that you will too.