He Knew How Dangerous It Was

In the mid 1970s, I was in my early twenties, a college graduate without prospects: no boyfriend, no job.  I was adrift, with little idea of where to go or what to do with the rest of my life. 


 I applied for jobs but couldn't get my foot in the door anywhere which shouldn't have been a surprise given that my liberal arts degree hadn't prepared me to actually do anything.  And to compound my particular problem, the mid 1970s were bleak in general, with years of seemingly endless 'stagflation.'  


 Rejection can wear a body down fast and after a series of failed interviews, I was pretty down. At that point, I think I would have taken a job anywhere, even out at K-25, X-10 or Y-12.  At least they paid well.


But Daddy wouldn't help me get a job at any of the Oak Ridge plants, even though as a Carbide Corporate Fellow and chief executive at K-25, he easily could have.  It would have taken no more than a word from Daddy and I would have been hired.  I asked him to help me, but he refused, with little more than a tight lipped 'no.'   


Since he wouldn't help me, I wondered why he was willing to help my friend, Becky.  He got her a job out at Y-12.  Why did he favor Becky over me? 

 My feelings were hurt; I felt slighted, and even rejected by my own father.  I was pissed.  I guess I stayed mildly pissed for a long time.  


*     *     *     *     * 

Fast forward 30 years: Daddy was dead; I was married to the love of my life, the mother of two fine sons and happily making a career for myself as a musician and songwriter. 


Then, one day, I was diddling around on the Elm Grove Elementary School website, talking to my old friends and classmates in cyber space, when I recalled how hurt my feelings had been when my Dad got Becky a job but refused to help me.    


A couple of days later, the phone rang.  It was Becky, who had read what I'd written on line.  "Martha," she said, "I didn't know you were upset when your Dad got me a job."  

"Well, I was,"  I said. 


"Oh Martha," she said, "He just didn't want you working out there.  He knew how dangerous it was!  He didn't want me working out there either, but he knew I had two children to support."


It's funny how sometimes you hear something that instantly transforms everything you've ever thought or believed, something that immediately resonates as truth, something so obvious that you wonder how on earth you could have been so stupid for so many years.  


"He knew how dangerous it was."  Transformative words!  I KNEW instantly that Becky was right.  Daddy wasn't slighting me; he was protecting me from a perilous workplace.


In retrospect, I feel sure that not only did Daddy refuse to help me get a job at one of the Oak Ridge plants, but rather, even took measures to make sure that my applications were buried and never saw the light of day because, as Becky said, "He knew how dangerous it was."  


Fast forward again.  It's now been nearly forty years and my friend, Becky, like so many others who worked at Y-12, has berylliosis.  And thanks to Daddy, I do not.   


From Wikipedia, the on line, free encyclopedia:  

Berylliosis, or chronic beryllium disease (CBD), is a chronic allergic-type lung response and chronic lung disease caused by exposure to beryllium  and its compounds, a form of beryllium poisoning. As an occupational lung disease, it is most classically associated with aerospace manufacturing, beryllium mining or manufacturing of fluorescent light bulbs (which once contained beryllium compounds in their internal phosphor coating). 

The condition is incurable, but symptoms can be treated

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