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He Believed in Me

September 20, 2008

Slice of Life Sunday is a meme dedicated to preserving the accounts of events cut out of the lives of average people just like you and me from all over the world. And like having ice cream with your pie, there is more to this meme than meets the eye – it’s a meme a` la mode. I hope you will join me and share a Slice of your Life.

 

He Believed In Me

 

At different times in my life, I experienced the wonderful fortune of having someone believe in me and in my abilities. I have come to realize these people were sent as angels to help me overcome the many difficult times when I felt like I was not worthy of anyone’s love or faith. I am not sure I would have made it past adolescence if not for my Grandma Martha. My childhood and teen years were plagued with all forms of abuse. Grandma provided a light of hope which helped me get through a dense maze of insecurity and self-doubt. During the first three years of high school I experienced success in both my grades and in forming friendships. The relationship with my mother clouded those successes, which ultimately led me to an early marriage at age 16. I knew on my wedding day this was not what I wanted for my life, but I “made my bed and had to lie in it.” During the first nine years of my marriage, infidelity and emotional abuse stripped away the strength I had gained in high school. I was headed in a downward spiral fueled by drugs until an opportunity of a lifetime crossed my path. My father-in-law stepped forward in a leap of faith to help me seize the opportunity, against the wishes of my mother-in-law.

Throughout our marriage we lived in rented apartments or homes. In 1976, we rented a farmhouse located well off the beaten path, the perfect place for the “hippie lifestyle.” Although I rarely worked outside the home, I had taken the H&R Block training class three years before and had worked in a local office each tax season. In November that year, I received a phone call from my employer informing me of a franchise office that had come up for sale. This was a very rare occurrence. The office was located in a town forty-five minutes south of where we lived. The owner of the franchise wanted $10,000 for the business but would except a fifty percent down payment with the balance due by April 15 of the following year. My employer assured me this was definitely a good price, “the opportunity of a lifetime.” The problem was I didn’t have $5000 and the three bankers I visited laughed me out of their offices. I was told no one in their right mind would ever finance that kind of money for “a business that did not come with real estate.”

I had all but given up on the thought of owning my own tax business when we sat down for Thanksgiving dinner at my in-law’s. During the conversation which usually consisted of football and exchanging names for Christmas, I mentioned my desire to purchase an H&R Block franchise. Before I had time to give all the financial details, my mother-in-law interrupted with, “a woman’s place is in the home, not buying a business. Only men own businesses.” Not wanting to disrupt a family holiday, I dropped the subject and took my place at the sink to wash dishes. When we were ready to leave, my husband went out to warm up our car. My father-in-law walked me out carrying my son and surprised me by asking me to join him for coffee the next morning at a local restaurant. He said, “I want to hear more about your business.”

The next morning I dropped the kids off at my grandmother’s house and joined my father-in-law for coffee. We spent almost two hours going over all the financials and discussing the possible problems of owning a business so far away. Finally he said, “I know this is a business you can do. But is it something you really want to do?” I told him I had not thought about owning my own business before but I knew I could do this. And yes, it was something I really wanted to do. He looked at me for a few moments and then told me to wait about ten minutes then order us some lunch. He then left. Less than twenty minutes later he returned and handed me an envelope containing $5000 cash. He did not ask me to sign a contract. “I believe in you ‘Cricket’. Your word is worth more than any piece of paper.”

I was twenty-six years old and I became the owner of an H&R Block franchise. I honored my father-in-law’s wishes and did not disclose he was my silent partner. I drove the long trip five days every week that winter. I would leave early in the morning and return late in the evening. My husband became irritated when I was able to “come up with the money” without “his” signature at the bank and quit his job right after Christmas stating, “Someone has to stay home and take care of these kids.” I ignored his comments of my not wanting to be a “good mother” and dug “my heels” in to make my business a success. And a success it was! I earned enough to pay off both my father-in-law and the previous owner by the middle of March while making a good living for my family. Although I loved the business, a winter blizzard convinced me it was too far to drive every winter for the rest of my life. I put the business up for sale in early April and sold it by the first of May for more than twice what I paid for it. I used the money I had earned to purchase our first home – a two-story farmhouse on five acres with a barn and free gas. We lived there for six years and both of my children have many fond childhood memories of growing up on “a farm.”

Owning that business gave me confidence in myself and my abilities for business management. I was to go on to own another tax franchise and later a restaurant. Further on down the road I was to be the director of a senior center, a manager of a hotel, and a human resource manager for Lowes. At this point, I have over thirty years of management experience which all began because one person believed in me.

My father-in-law died several years ago. Through my divorce from his son, my relationship with “the family” became quite strained, except with him. He always treated me with love and respect. We attended the same church in the late 80’s and early 90’s until it became clear my ex-mother-in-law was not happy with the situation and I left the church. I have an ex-husband and an ex-mother-in-law. I never had an ex-father-in-law. I went to calling hours several hours before the announced times for viewing so not to upset his wife. I had to say good-bye to the man who believed in me enough to go against the stereotypes and the discriminations of his generation and those before him. I love you Donnie. Thank you for believing in me.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. September 21, 2008 1:00 am

    You are a strong, determined lady to run your own business at a time when as your mother-in-law stated – a ‘woman’s place is in the home.’ I admire your tenacity. What a special man your father-in-law was. To have someone believe in you like that is one of the greatest things in the world. This is an inspiring story.

  2. September 24, 2008 1:07 am

    Such a beautiful tribute to one who deserved it. There is nothing more uplifting and inspiring than to have back you up and say, “I believe in you”.

    Thank you for sharing this! 🙂

  3. September 24, 2008 11:08 am

    beautiful! this was an amazing story! wow! I can’t put into words how wonderful it is, I’m glad you shared it 😀

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