I accepted a job at a small daily in the city where I grew up; where I knew I’d have the chance to learn so many new things and work through those initial rookie journalist days.
My dad had fought cancer during my final year in college and was scheduled for an out-patient surgery (to remove another lump) just days after I started my new job. I was nervous for him, but trying my best to focus on my job and give it my all.
I got a call on my desk line early that afternoon and answered as I always did, but I recognized the voice of my aunt on the other end.
She was in panic mode.
My grandpa, my mom’s dad, had died and my aunt was trying to get ahold of my mom, who was not answering any phones because she was in the hospital with my dad. My new boss was watching me as I was on the phone and as soon as I hung up, he told me to do whatever I needed.
I left work and immediately called my brother who lived in a neighboring town. I told him what had happened and that I was on my way to the hospital where dad had had surgery that morning.
At the hospital, I scrambled to find my parents; initially being sent to the oncology department on one of the upper floors. Once there, I was told that my dad had been released not more than 15 minutes before.
I called my brother again and he said he’d meet me at their place, but there was no sign of them at home, so we waited. Once they arrived, my brother and I broke the news and we dealt with everything as a family.
So as if those two emotional events on one day weren’t enough, the following week when I returned to my still-new job, came a third.
Shortly after my dad’s surgery and my grandpa’s death, a dog attacked my mom’s dog. As I tried to break it up, I was attacked myself. It’s a long story, but following a visit to the veterinarian’s office and the emergency room, I returned to work the following day with several fingers wrapped up, as well as bandages up my hands and arms.
Although I knew it looked bad—and I’d had one hell of a first week or so—I wanted to show my new boss I was dedicated and strong. But I really wasn’t. I was a wreck.
He sent me home, completely understanding.
I took a few more days to get my head in order, and to allow my physical wounds to heal a bit. I returned to that job, proved myself and learned the ropes. I earned the respect of my boss and coworkers, and spent 2 ½ years at that paper before moving on.
But I still have scars on my hands and nerve damage (I can’t feel portions of my fingers) to forever remind me of that tough first week at my first real job.