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Sunday, July 24, 2016

Living a very charmed life

Friday, August 31, 2012

It wasn't long ago I led a very different life. I was a division manager for a bottling company overseeing a territory that encompassed parts of three states and required at least one weekly overnight in a hotel.

They were fun times, my evenings usually spent in lavish ski-resort hotels and many of my days golfing on ridiculously expensive golf courses, that even then I knew I could never afford a regular membership at.

I don't know how many times my supervisor and I would be playing on some random golf course, marveling in its beauty and the fact that we were golfing on a weekday.

It wasn't always like that mind you, I supervised more than 40 people in three different sales centers and anyone that has been in management knows that for every day you spend entertaining clients, or even your boss on a golf course, you will spend at least three days putting out fires with customers, addressing highly stressful human resource scenarios or shouldering the workload of several absent employees.

The golf days certainly helped recharge the "supervisor" batteries, similar to how I previously referenced recharging our "parenting" batteries.

It was not uncommon on one of those golf days for my boss, who also happened to be my best friend, to look at me and say, "Charmed life, we lead a charmed life Bruce. There just isn't any other way to explain it."

I was always in total agreement, I didn't think it could get much better than those times. Boy were we clueless.

Eventually Declan arrived and his mother decided that what her and I had wasn't what she wanted for the rest of her life. She left just a few months after he was born and signed over full custody shortly afterwards.

We still get along very well and speak regularly, she was not pleased that I moved away with Declan, but she has always had faith that my number one priority was doing what was best for our son.

After finding myself unexpectedly in the role of a single parent, I chose to walk away from the career that had been such a big part of my life and have never regretted that decision.

My career had been the focus of my life for many years after my daughter, who turned 16 this week, was moved away following the divorce of her mother and I. Work served as a means of filling the void left when our family broke apart and if nothing else, it kept my mind so pre-occupied that I didn't spend my days in sadness over our failed marriage.

I dedicated a lot of hours to my job and rifled through one promotion after another as a result, soon finding myself in the very demanding division manager position.

When I made the change to shift my focus away from my career and place it on parenting, it didn't take long for me to realize Declan and I needed to be closer to my daughter, resulting in the move to McCook.

Not every aspect of the changes in my life were positive. My income is less than a third of what I made back then, yet my child support for my daughter remains the same, which is also at a level in excess of 10 times what I receive from Declan's mother in-kind. Financially, it has been a stressful change to say the least and has resulted in debt that will take me many years to pay off.

As most of us are well aware, financial woes can mount stress like nothing else and I have done my best to prevent them from trickling down to my kids. I remember my mother telling stories of our youth and reflecting on times when money was tight, she took great pride in knowing that her kids rarely had any idea of any of the "lean-times" we experienced as a family.

I strive for that with my children as well, but the older they get the more difficult it seems to accomplish, especially given the gadget-driven times that we live in. I had taken solace in knowing I could at least keep the little guy in the dark, until earlier this week that is.

Declan was proudly carrying around a pair of his dollar bills that had been left by the tooth-fairy and I asked him, purely for conversation sake, where he had gotten the money from.

He grinned in the most mischievous manner and replied "I stole it from your wallet."

It caught me off guard to the point that I almost believed him for a second.

"No you didn't, where did you get it?" I asked again, confident it was just his tooth money.

"I told you, I stole it from your wallet. That's why you so broke all the time, 'cuz I keep stealing your money from your wallet," Declan giggled hysterically at his own joke as he climbed up to his seat at the dinner table.

I laughed but was without a doubt flabbergasted by his comment. Maybe it was more difficult to keep the young man in the dark than I had originally thought and more importantly, where in the heck did the "broke all the time" comment come from? Declan provided no assistance in clarifying the background of his comments, as usual.

Friday morning the little monster and I will be traveling to North Platte to board a steam-engine bound for the Nebraska State Fair. A perk of my new career as a small-town news reporter. We will be packing an affordable sack lunch to enjoy along the way and I will keep our activities at the fair to a minimum. In spite of our limited means, I know at some point he will be looking out the train car window and I will say to him, "Charmed life, we lead a charmed life Declan," and he will excitedly smile at me in total agreement.

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Bruce Baker
Dinner with Declan