Today I’m sharing the first half of Chapter 2 of Launch, an unpublished book I wrote a few years ago. Last week we met Cindy Clarke and got a look at her life. She’s in the middle of a launch from stay-at-home mother to the working world.
Meantime, her husband Ted is facing a huge work problem at his high-pressure job at Spring Technologies.
Launch – Chapter 2 – Part 1
Ted Clarke was running late. You could say it was a habit of Ted’s, being late. Today he was late leaving work, late getting onto the Expressway, late running an errand. Why does it even matter? He’d asked his wife this question countless times. The times when he’d arrive home and receive a frosty greeting. Years ago, he guessed it did matter because Cindy was depending on him back then. In the earlier days he could count on taking charge of five children almost as soon as he walked into the door, so that Cindy could finish making dinner. Every day, a nine hours a day, full of people wanting a piece of him, sandwiched between a grueling hour-long commute into Philadelphia. Then arriving home to a gaggle of children, pulling on him, jumping, telling him things, and competing for his attention. So much floor time back then, giving rides on his back, holding babies, playing dolls and cars. When he thought of it now, he was proud to say he’d done that, but he wasn’t exactly nostalgic. Those were hard days, exhausting days, full days of work and what seemed to him a full-time shift as soon as he got home.
Cindy was young back then and she could handle a house full of kids. That was her job and he’d always resented it a little that she needed him so much. She seemed to get through the rest of the day without him, why not just an hour more so he could unwind a little and have a nice dinner?
Ted wasn’t exactly sexist. He was just used to having things be a certain way and when you married and had your wife have her fifth baby just as your oldest was turning ten, it was already certain that your home life was going to be busy and crazy and loud. So maybe sometimes he was a little late getting home because he knew what was there and what was expected of him. And what he wanted was for someone to anticipate what he needed as he walked into that door.
Ted thought about those years as he sat in traffic. Running late was still a habit, but why? His kids were hardly going to charge at him now. Only his younger son and daughter were still at home, teenagers. The rest of the gaggle was out in the world. His oldest two, Teddy and Brian were out of college and working. Jessie was a junior at University of Delaware. If Katie and Kevin were even home, they were usually up in their rooms, or planted on the couch, deep in their own worlds, managing their lives through their phones.
Cindy didn’t exactly need him to help the way she did years ago, but she still bristled when he came in late. It was the one thing she could never change about her husband. And somehow, Ted, after fitting into every other expectation, after adjusting his life to accommodate the needs of these six other people, Ted held onto the one piece of himself that he could still control, whether he knew it or not.
It was almost 7:00 when Ted pulled into his driveway. Work had been extra grueling that week. He’d advanced up the ladder at Spring Technologies, but it hadn’t changed the climate of his job. Always busy, always some kind of problem, always a race to find a solution. Early that Friday, one of his best programmers had simply walked out the door and presumably quit with no explanation. It wasn’t until after lunch that people began to question where Anders was, and where the code he’d been working on was. It was part of a series of code the whole IT team had been working on, as part of a new accounting program for a client, due next week. Without Anders, by far the most brilliant programmer in the department, they would not reach their deadline.
Ted had spent the greater part of the afternoon trying to locate Anders, and then slowly realizing that they would most likely be on their own in trying to finish the code. Ted had never been a programmer and had become manager and then Director of IT because of his managing capabilities, not his technical skills. He was secretly panicking over the problem because he knew he couldn’t personally step in and fix the problem. It was up to some unknown hero and because of that he felt powerless. He’d dodged the early calls from the VP of Operations, Steven Colby, but by the end of the day, Colby was at the door to his office.
“Ted, you’ve been hard to track down – where have you been?”
Ted looked up from his desk and quickly assumed his look of control. He’d been promoted in good part because of his confident and easy air. People latched onto this look, because it made them feel good. If Ted has a handle on it, then it’s all good, no need to worry. This look had served him well, and as he advanced in his career, he started to realize it was his own greatest asset. But Ted knew that the look could only carry him so far and this business with Anders walking out was a big problem…
Thank you for reading.
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