Knowing you're going to lose your job any day adds a bit of stress to your life. It's stressful to have to worry that any night might be your last and that the next day you'll have to explain to your children why you lost your job and you won't know what to tell them.
It's stressful, especially in this economy, and at my age, to face the prospect of having to look for a job again. And it's even more stressful to not know how you'll be able to care for children who are dependent on you. But this was happening, nevertheless. It was just a matter of time — that much I could be sure of. And I could be even more sure there was nothing I could do about it. Things were getting strange at work.
But then one night they got even stranger. One night my boss came to my unit and told me one of the strangest things I'd ever heard him tell me. He said he would not fire me if I sent Mary back to the group homes. That's right. He told me he was going to quit targeting me if I gave Mary to Blue Earth County Social Services. I'm not kidding. I couldn't make this up.
I thought he'd lost his mind. I really did. This topped anything else I'd ever heard coming from him. But he was serious, and very quick about it, which was odd. He blurted this out and then left — no discussion, no reason given. Nothing.
Whatever his reason, at least he had now acknowledged what I already thought to be true — that he was targeting me and trying to fire me. And even though he may have seen it as offering me a lifeline and a way to salvage my job, I didn't see it that way. Being told you have to sacrifice your child in order to keep your job is a very disturbing and troubling thought.
But it's even more disturbing when your boss refers to your daughter by name. His exact words were:
"If you send Mary back to the group homes you won't lose your job."
I couldn't make this up.
I didn't know what to think of this at the time, probably because I was in a rather desperate state of shock. But he wasn't just pulling things out of thin air to scare me. He was actually talking about something very specific, and his ultimatum sounded more like a set of demands from someone else rather than a reprimand of his own.
He had never said anything about Mary before. There were no discussions about her causing any problems for me at work or me getting her help for whatever problem she might have been causing. And there was certainly no talk about me having to give her away. This came out of the blue and was a specific request with specific consequences if I didn't follow through. It was very disturbing.
If Mary had been causing some problem at work, why didn't he suggest she go to her mom's house instead of to a group home? And how did he know it wasn't Grace who was causing problems? He knew I had joint custody of all my girls, and as far as he knew, Grace was still living with me as she always had been. Apparently, he knew more about my family than I had any idea.
And why was he suddenly offering me a chance to keep my job when he had been trying so hard to fire me? And why on earth would my boss want my daughter in a group home? How did he know Mary even could go to a group home? How did he know so much about my family?
There didn't seem to be any answers that made any sense, until I remembered that there was one other person who wanted the exact same thing: the social work supervisor at Blue Earth County, who, just over year earlier had also threatened me if I didn't…wait for it... "Send Mary back to a group home."
But like I said, I didn't think too much about any of this at the time. I didn't see any connection between my boss's threat and the County's threat. That would have to come later when my boss followed through on his threat and fired me, because I refused to give my daughter away.